I will never forget the last time I went trick-or-treating. It was the year it finally happened – my Mom said I was mature enough to be trusted to wear my Dad’s army uniform as my costume! I was giddy with excitement. I had looked forward to those words for a long time.
I was going to wear a real army uniform.
I was going to wear a real army uniform that belonged to my Dad.
I was going to wear a real army uniform that belonged to my Dad who died when I was 3.
It had been 10 years since my Dad passed and I only had one clear memory of him: sitting in bed with him watching Perry Mason, which was our nightly ritual. My only other vivid memory of my toddler years was that of walking into our church’s sanctuary, as I’m sure I did most Sundays, but this time everyone turned to stare. I saw tears running down many cheeks. I grabbed my Mom’s hand tighter as I suddenly felt very scared. And sad. But I didn’t understand why. I had no idea at the time what “funeral” meant. Ten years later I understood all too well.
Since I had so few memories of my Dad, I cherished any connection I could feel with him. He wore his uniform many, many times and now I would get to wear it too!
When Halloween arrived, I could barely contain myself until time to trick-or-treat. This was going to be the. most. epic. costume. ever. I meticulously tucked all of my hair into the hat, smudged my face and carefully put on the uniform.
I was fully grown to my current height of 5’8″ in 7th grade and in that authentic uniform, I could have easily passed for an actual army recruit headed off to boot camp. But I wasn’t. I was just a kid who was proud to be closer to my Dad for an evening. And excited to get candy, of course.
I met up with a friend who lived in my neighborhood and we had started our door to door quest, when it happened. She happened.
We rang the doorbell at a house and before we could even get out any words, the lady across the threshold scoffed, “You are too old to trick or treat!” And slammed the door.
We stood there in silence – the huge grins that had been there moments before were instantly wiped away. The magical evening I had anticipated was ruined. I no longer felt pride in parading around in my Dad’s uniform.
I felt stupid. And embarrassed.
You see, up until that very moment, it had never crossed my mind that I was too old to trick or treat. Not once. But after that night things changed. I stopped doing “childish” things. Because the last thing one needs during that already awkward tween to teen stage is feeling ridiculed.
My Dad’s uniform never left the closet again. I never went trick-or-treating again.
All because of one slammed door.
All because of a two cent piece of candy.
I welcome any age to ring my doorbell on Halloween. Most are just looking for a treat, and a few might even be looking to play tricks. But maybe, just maybe there’s one with a reason that All Hallows Eve is more of a hallowed eve. One who has more to her story.
One who feels like she’s trick-or-treating with her Dad for the first time.
My kids all have very different taste buds so most dinners range from a solo whine to a full out chorus of complaints.
When I cook something that all 4 will happily eat, bells and whistles sound and fireworks go off. This meal is one of those rare moments.
Since it is a family favorite in our house, I thought I’d share it with you!
We actually refer to it as Panther Pizza Pasta because it is my go-to dish for the high school football team pasta dinners. I triple the recipe but always bring home an empty dish!
The beauty of this recipe is that you get the entire food pyramid in one dish! Plenty of protein from the sausages, beef and pepperoni, bell peppers give you your veggie serving, pasta for grains, dairy is taken care of by the mozzarella and the tomato satisfies the fruit group. Yes, a tomato is botanically a fruit regardless of what the supreme court ruled way back when! 😉 Mushrooms are really none of the above, but they are still good for you.
This is one of those recipes that I usually don’t measure ingredients but I did this time…just for you! You can use different “toppings” every time you make it – it will seem like a different dish and you’ll never get tired of it!
1 Additional cup of Mozzarella Cheese, if desired.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cook pasta per directions for al dente.
Dice Peppers and Mushrooms.
Cut half of Smoked Sausage and Pepperoni into small chunks.
Cook Hot Sausage and Ground Beef in a skillet on medium-high until brown.
Add chunks of Pepperoni and Smoked Sausage and add Peppers and Mushrooms.
Cook until Peppers are soft.
In a large pot, combine the Rigatoni, Spaghetti Sauce*, Meat/Veggie mixture and 3 cups of Mozzarella Cheese.
Cut other half of Smoked Sausage and Pepperoni into slices.
Put in large casserole dish and top with Mozzarella Cheese and sliced Smoked Sausage and Pepperoni.
Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.
*Make it a bit saucier than you think you should...because it dries out some when it bakes.
*You may notice that there is no pepperoni in the photo…because I missed that item on my shopping list. Oops! But just goes to show there are many variations for the recipe, right??
I shopped for my ingredients at Safeway. Did you know they have eliminated the need for paper coupons with their J4U program? I always have good intentions when it comes to couponing but I either (1) forget to bring them with me or (2) try to use them after they have expired. With J4U, you can get eCoupons linked to your Safeway card that will be deducted from your bill. No paper, no cutting, no organizing! No brainer!
Now go check out these other great recipes in the Hillshire Brands and Safeway Blog Tour! I am definitely making the zombie and mummy ideas for Halloween!
I was honored to be asked by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility to help promote their program for Teen Driver Safety Week. I Know Everything is a program designed to encourage conversations between parents and their teens to help teens stay safe while behind the wheel. Please check out my public service announcement below – otherwise known as my first ever vlog! (And don’t ‘cha just loooove the screen shot it chose for the video preview? Duck face gone wrong?? Also, if it is just a blank screen when you press play, expand it to full screen.)
Please take time this week to have conversations with your kids. Below are the four questions to get you started. Perhaps ask one per day and then make up your own! Would love for you to comment with the scenarios you come up with!
The I Know Everything survey results show why these conversations are crucial:
25% did NOT know how to handle a passenger who is drinking in the car
27% do NOT know how to safely get home when their driver has been drinking
38% are NOT sure how to handle a friend distracting them while driving
Half (53%) of teen drivers say sometimes they find themselves in a situation behind the wheel they are not prepared for.
And I know I said it in the vlog, but it is worth repeating…Motor vehicle crashes remain the number one killer of teenagers ages 15 to 20, even though underage drinking and drunk driving among teens is down across the nation.
Even though it is illegal for people under 21 to drink any alcohol and drive, one-third of all teen drivers killed in vehicle crashes had a .01 BAC or higher in 2011.
Everyone shares the road – teens, adults, law enforcement, first responders – and we believe this education effort will save lives, making the roads safer for all.
When Jimmy was a toddler, he became quite obsessed with Halloween. One day he announced that he wanted to have the scariest house in the neighborhood. I took that challenge and ran with it. I started stockpiling terrifying and gruesome décor.
November 1st became my “Black Friday.” I’d be up bright and early ordering discounted items online and waiting at the party store when it opened to clear out their clearance section.
I finally had to curb my enthusiasm for buying all things Halloween – because my storage room was full (and my bank account empty!). But we still look forward to the most spooktacular day of the year.
After shopping for all things scary, I prided myself on being the bravest “Mummy” around, but once when I reached in this bin to grab a decoration that was under some costume capes, I was turned into a total scaredy cat!
What do you think had me so terrorized???
No, it wasn’t the monster hand that frightened me.
It was something
The not-so-scaredy cat, Mushu, wasn’t startled at all. He was just annoyed that I woke him. That’ll teach me to make sure it is JUST black capes before I stick my hand in next time…
Filed under the “things I never thought I’d have to say” category…
“Don’t hit your brother with the cat!!!!!”
Don’t worry, it isn’t Mushu.
Mushu may not have been afraid when I reached in the bin, but I think he met his match.
I always loved the “spot the differences” game.
Brownie really enjoyed this scratch behind the ears.
She just didn’t know it was going to cost an arm and a leg.
She still owes us the leg.
Notice anything unusual in this “Trunk or Treat” photo? No, not the flying white witch. Or the giant cockroach. Or the freaky looking face to the left of Greg (although I don’t remember that being there when I took the photo…hmm…). Check out Eric’s “bag” for collecting his candy.
Yes, it is an empty ravioli box. Not decorated, not disguised, not even tucked in flaps. Just a ravioli box.
Buying a costume for trick-or-treating is always a highlight of the season but some costumes can cost an arm and a leg (and not the kind used for Brownie’s back scratch!). I’m sure one or two of you has heard of a little movie called Frozen. 😉 I’m also sure it will be THE costume of choice for most of the younger set this year. My kids are unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how many times I’ve avoided hearing “Let It Go”) past the Frozen infatuation. While they are more into chilling thrilling zombies than chilly silly snowmen, I know many of you are knee deep in Elsa-and-Anna-land, so I’m teaming up with Kandoo and some of my favorite bloggers on Instagram to co-host an epic Frozen Halloween costume giveaway. What Elsa could be better? (ba-dum-ching) And there’s a gift card prize too – for all the thawed boys and ghouls.
We’re giving away three Frozen Halloween costumes and a $100 Amazon Gift card! I can hear the squeals from here!
Complete the form below to enter. Four winners will be chosen to receive one of the prizes. Must be 18 years of age to enter. Giveaway ends at Midnight on Saturday, October 11, 2014.
Be sure to Instagram your kids in their favorite Halloween costumes using #FrozenHalloween. We’ll see you there!
Even if I am 100% sure that my balance is paid off and/or I have sufficient funds in my bank account, I am always convinced that my credit or debit card will be denied when I’m paying at a store. Always.
My fear stems from two nightmare trips. To Costco. Yes, COSTCO! Yes, Costco BOTH times!
The first time was my fault.
While paying for a huge cart full of wonderful “necessities,” I swiped my debit card, entered my pin, 5978*, and then it happened. The dreaded message flashed on the screen. “Incorrect. Try again.”
I followed the instructions and tried again, pressing 5978, but harder this time. Incorrect.
I entered the numbers very slowly and deliberately…5…9…7…8. Incorrect.
I could feel my face getting hotter and hotter and I’m sure I was as red as a beet.
Even though I KNEW I had entered my correct pin I kept frantically trying to enter it over and over. And over. Incorrect. Incorrect. Incorrect.
As I looked behind me and saw the line stretched to the back of the store (or so it seemed), I wiped my sweat covered brow and admitted defeat. The cashier cancelled my transaction and painstakingly slowwwwwwly re-loaded the items into my cart. I stood by the cart for what seemed like an eternity, waiting for Jim to come with backup funds.
About a minute before he arrived, I realized the problem. I had loaned Jimmy my debit card. And I had borrowed Jim’s card.
I was entering MY pin correctly. But it wasn’t MY card! I should have been entering JIM’S PIN!!! I wanted to hide in a corner for a week but I had to relive the embarrassment all over again when I explained to Jim what happened. I felt like such an idiot. Oy Vey.
The second time wasn’t my fault, but that didn’t make it any less humiliating.
This time when I swiped my card, the cashier gave me the raised-eyebrow-judgy-Judy look as she said “Your card has been declined.” My jaw dropped and I’m sure my eyes were as big as saucers. Of course, I prolonged the agony by asking her to swipe it again. And again.
Just like the first story, I had to stand there while she cancelled my transaction and slowwwwwwwwwwwwwly re-loaded the items. So there I was, standing by my cart – again – avoiding eye contact with the exceedingly long line of people behind me (because there’s ALWAYS an exceedingly long line at Costco!).
This time instead of calling Jim, I called my bank. And found out my card number had been stolen.
I wanted to shout out to the cashier and everyone else in the store “Hey! It wasn’t my fault! I had money in my account! Really!!!” but instead I was a tad more subtle – I just loudly repeated portions of the conversation with my bank such as “CARD NUMBER COMPROMISED” and “ACCOUNT FROZEN FOR SECURITY REASONS” to make myself feel slightly less embarrassed. Very slightly.
Jim ended up coming to the rescue again with his debit card. And he actually entered HIS pin number…so it worked!
I still get the shakes every time I enter Costco.
Recently, compromised accounts have been in the news a lot, fanning the flames of my check-out-a-phobia! The most recent I’ve heard about is the millions of card numbers stolen when Home Depot had a huge data breach. WTOP just published 5 Ways To Protect Yourself from Data Breaches, and #1 on the list states “Any technology that avoids you having your credit card in your hand in a store is safer.”
That’s where Verizon’s Softcard comes into play! Softcard™ is a mobile wallet! It is an app that lets you pay with a tap of your phone, save with special offers, and store loyalty, membership and rewards cards.
With Softcard, you can add eligible payment cards to pay for purchases and get all the benefits and protections you would with your physical card, or setup a prepaid account and add money to it with your preferred debit card, credit card or U.S. bank account.
Softcard also holds offers and stores loyalty cards, so you can get savings and loyalty points without having to carry around a bunch of cards and coupons.
I must admit I was a bit leery about security at first. Although I’ve never actually lost my phone – there are usually a dozen times a day where I THINK I’ve lost it. I wondered if I did lose it, what would happen to my payment information?? But once I found out Softcard not only has a security pin number, but also a “Remote Wallet Lock,” my worries were eased. One phone call or visit to a website instantly locks the entire mobile wallet.
There is a Referral Program which will give you up to $150 in Amazon gift cards for friends who activate ($10 per friend). Plus your friend will get a $10 gift card too! And here are offers for Softcard users (terms may apply):
Get $1 back on each purchase of $1 or more up to $50 per month with Serve credit (ends 12/31/14)
If you sign up for “My Coke Rewards,” your first 3 Coca-Cola drinks are FREE. After the first 3 free drinks, if you buy 10 more, you get another 1 FREE (ends 12/31/14)
White House Black Market – $20 off $80 (ends 10/31)
This week, my fellow sick bloggers and I were asked to answer 30 questions. And by sick, I don’t mean “Dude, your blog is sick, yo.” The questions are for “Invisible Illness Week.”
Hopefully the answers will help spread awareness of problems caused by chronic illnesses that are unheard of. And unseen. An invisible illness is one that may wreak havoc on the patient but to the rest of the world will elicit a response of “but you don’t look sick!”
1. The illness I live with is: I have two – Chronic lyme and lupus. I won’t give them the power of using capital Ls in their names.
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: “Lucky” ’07.
3. But I had symptoms since: Possibly since I was in middle school. My doctor thinks when I couldn’t straighten my knee for months in 6th grade (and was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis after they couldn’t figure out why) that it could actually have been when I contracted lyme. I teeter between believing that theory and thinking that it’s crazy.
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: I’ve had to accept that I may need to cancel plans at the last minute. My symptoms are more unpredictable than the weather and they can come and go like a storm system. I always have to be prepared to take cover (under my covers) when hurricane lyme throws me for a loop (or lup?). I hate inconveniencing others so backing out on something at the last minute makes me cringe.
5. Most people assume: I’m fine. Because that’s what I tell them when they ask.
6. The hardest part about mornings are: Feeling hungover. At least with a real hangover, you get to enjoy yourself the night before.
7. My favorite medical TV show is: Scrubs. I watch TV to zone out and forget about my medical problems, so I don’t want serious medical shows that remind me of them.
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My computer. I can plop it on my lap and stay connected via social media even when I’m in bed all day.
9. The hardest part about nights: Both lyme and lupus are the ones that “party” at night. Staying asleep is always a challenge. It’s a big complaint of many patients, but I don’t know the cause. Terrible night sweats is one symptom that interrupts a good night sleep for me but even when that goes away temporarily, deep sleep is difficult. I can’t remember the last time I slept for 8 hours straight. As I’m typing this, it is 2am.
10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins: This varies. It has probably been as high as 30-40 because the dose of many supplements is more than one at a time and more than once a day. But then I get tired of taking them, rebel and take none. Right now I’m taking none and I can tell it’s taking a toll.
11. Regarding alternative treatments I: Used to be the biggest skeptic. I still fight with my skepticism when my doctor mentions some new and wacky sounding treatment, but I’ve learned that the alternative treatments are necessary and beneficial. And expensive.
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: Invisible. I like being able to seem “fine” when I’m out in public. I don’t want to be known as the pitiful sick lady.
13. Regarding working and career: There’s no way I would have the energy or cognitive function for a full time job.
14. People would be surprised to know: How much time I have to spend in bed. When I’m out, I look fine – and for the most part, I AM fine at that moment. I’ve learned what I need to do to “plan” for outings – how much rest is required before so I can make it through without showing any symptoms. Unfortunately that means many hours of resting before and after, plus staying home a LOT when I’m not up for putting on a façade. Some people comment on how busy I am, but would be shocked to find out how little I am actually able to do on a daily basis.
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: The type of Mom it has turned me into. I always wanted to be June Cleaver, not Peggy Bundy.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: Hmmmm. That’s a tricky one. It’s easier to list what it prevents me from doing, not what it’s enabled me to do. But I guess it has allowed me to be able to say I’m one tough cookie. Multiple doctors have commented on my high tolerance for pain.
17. The commercials about my illness: I don’t think there are any.
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Being spontaneous. I feel like I have to plan out every minute task or activity based on how much energy it will require.
19. It was really hard to have to give up: Now here’s the easy question. I had to give up wanting to be the “do-it-all” Mom. Deep down I’m the annoying Mom who wants to pack heart shaped sandwiches on Valentine’s day and make personalized hand-stamped Christmas cards and thinks I have to bring made-from-scratch desserts to pot lucks. I love being room Mom, team Mom, PTA Mom…Super Mom. But really what I am is just Super Tired. I forget to even pack lunches many days and I haven’t sent Christmas cards in 5 years. But I DO still bake from scratch on occasion and can’t help but say yes when a coach or teacher is asking for help…knowing my body will make me pay the price later. I’m my own worst enemy.
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: Blogging!
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: just do all the normal things that most people take for granted. Take a long shower without the heat wiping me out. Go grocery shopping AND unload the groceries without needing a nap in between. Make dinner without a foggy brain causing me to forget ingredients or burn it. Oh, and I’d also run and run and run some more. I can remember the exhilarating feeling of running full speed. Now some days just walking is a chore.
22. My illness has taught me: To prioritize what’s most important in my life. I’m still not good at saying yes to the right priorities. Too many days I spend all my energy on the wrong ones because I am terrible at saying NO (as shown in #19). But I do try not to sweat the small stuff as much.
23. One thing people say that gets under my skin is: That chronic lyme doesn’t exist. I don’t understand how thousands of people can report the same ongoing symptoms, yet part of the medical community treats us like we are insane. One big reason I hesitate to talk about my problems with lyme is that I know there are people out there that don’t believe it is a real thing. And on top of that there are people in the lyme community that don’t believe I have lupus. They attribute all the problems to lyme (you’d think after being doubted themselves, they wouldn’t doubt others). While many of the symptoms of lyme and lupus are very similar, I have a few that are specific to lupus.
24. But I love it when people: Force me to occasionally accept help. I will say I don’t need it when asked, will almost never ask for it and generally hate being the helpee instead of the helper… but every once in a while it seems to come when it is needed most. During a particularly fatigued week, a friend texted me “I’m dropping off dinner on your porch in 20 minutes. No argument!” I hadn’t told her I was having a rough week, but it was like she had some way of knowing that my fridge was empty and the menu choices that week had consisted of “who delivers.”
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” God thinks I’m a badass.
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Well, I will first answer with what I DONT like to tell them. I don’t like to tell them too many details about my journey because they don’t need to hear a worst case scenario. I do tell them to talk to their doctor about every single weird symptom they may be having. Nothing is too small to mention because it may help connect the dots for a complete diagnosis and determine the best treatment.
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: How it has turned me into an academy award worthy actress. I amaze myself at how well I can hide how miserable I’m feeling sometimes.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: When I was first diagnosed, I got a PICC line for IV antibiotics put in my arm. I got a blood clot (thanks to a Lupus related disorder) so the doctors had to put a new PICC line in my neck (my Frankenstein era). The doctor restricted my activity so a friend came by multiple times, picked up my DIRTY LAUNDRY, took it to her house and brought it back clean and folded. That’s true kindness to let me literally air my dirty laundry.
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: Of #17. These illnesses aren’t in the mainstream media. But they need to be. Now that I have a voice through my blog that can reach many, I feel like it’s my responsibility and duty to talk about it. Even if I have to figuratively air my dirty laundry to do it.
My 5 year old maturity level is making me chuckle at the fact that I just said doodie.
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Thankful. Hopeful. And vulnerable.
And while I intend to start discussing lyme and lupus more online, I still find it hard to talk about in person. So if you see me in real life and ask how I’m doing, let me continue to answer “fine.” My version of fine just happens to be different from yours.
We sometimes have an odd way that we clean our kitchen floor. We turn it into an ice skating rink, except instead of ice, we cover it with water and instead of skates, we use paper towels. Yes, paper towels!
I pour a bunch of water all over the floor, wrap the kids’ feet in paper towels and let them slide around the room until the floor is (mostly) clean and (mostly) dry.
We don’t do this often because it tends to end in someone wiping out or getting out of the designated “skating area” and soaking the adjoining hardwood. Plus, the scooting usually causes the paper towels to rip pretty quickly so we end up going through multiple rolls! But when I DO let them do it, it’s always a lot of fun. Until the tears and/or yelling begin.
When Viva Vantage asked me to try out their paper towels, I thought I’d give it the floor skating test. The boys were already asleep so I did the test myself. No wonder the kids laugh so loud – skating around the kitchen was quite entertaining (and I didn’t even fall)! And the best part – I didn’t have to keep rewrapping my feet because the paper towels stretch, so they didn’t rip!! I only went through a small part of one roll during my test. Score! Speaking of score, maybe I should give them hockey sticks next time they skate the floor clean. Or maybe not.
While I was “skating,” I had a bright idea. I need a fun, cute yet simple treat idea for Eric’s football team. The texture of the paper towels reminded me of a football so I decided to really put their stretchiness and durability to another test by making them into candy pouches!
Now I’m not a super crafty person, so they aren’t fancy! I’m pretty good at the ideas, but I’m too impatient during the execution.
1. Draw a football outline just slightly smaller than one sheet of the Viva Vantage select-a-size roll. (A template would make it a more precise football shape, but – you know – impatience.)
2. Paint the opposite side of the paper towel. (You’ll notice I didn’t do that and realized the paint was covering my outline. I had to cut out the football and then paint it, which was harder than painting the uncut paper towel.)
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for a second football.
4. Once the paint dries, add white out tape “stitches” to both footballs.
5. Use double sided tape or glue around the inside edge of the two footballs to attach them together, leaving one end open. (You may need to trim the edge if the two footballs don’t line up exactly when you tape them together.)
The night before I took Jimmy to college, I couldn’t sleep a wink. When I couldn’t stand another second of tossing and turning, I got up and wrote him a letter. I didn’t initially plan to post it, but here it is.
As I searched for a wrestling photo to include with this post, it brought more tears. I have such wonderful memories of Jimmy’s wrestling tournaments and will miss them greatly. Not just watching him wrestle, but the many hours we spent traveling together. Often it was just the two of us driving to the off season tournaments. Those trips brought us closer together and I wouldn’t trade that time for the world. My love of wrestling definitely extends way beyond the mat. And after reading this letter, hopefully Jimmy understands why.
I’m preparing myself to take you to college in a few hours. Those words sound so surreal, but they are all too real. When I came to your room to say goodnight to you earlier, there were so many things I wanted to say about the thoughts swirling in my head, the memories I was having, the advice I wanted to give… But my mouth must have been directly connected to my tear ducts, because every time I opened it, the waterworks started flowing and the words just wouldn’t come.
It’s probably just as well, because words couldn’t do justice to the emotions I was/am feeling. And I think as we sat there in silence, we knew what the other was thinking.
There are some things I feel I must say to you though as you venture out of the nest. So I will let the written words be my voice.
One day before you started high school, someone convinced you to go to a wrestling practice. I truly feel that that day had a big influence on the course of all your high school days…and will have impact way beyond. You instantly fell in love with the sport and your dedication and perseverance throughout the next four years was nothing short of amazing.
You came home at the beginning of wrestling season Freshman year and announced that you were going to go to the state tournament before you graduated. You never wavered from that proclamation, no matter what life threw at you.
Freshman year, when you competed against opponents 20 pounds heavier and several years older than you. You said it made you stronger.
Off season Freshman year, when you wrestled hard core opponents who, many times, tossed you around the mat like a kitten with a ball of yarn. You always walked off talking about what you learned.
Summer after Freshman year, when you attended 14 days of the hardest wrestling camp in the country. You wanted to compete against the best.
Sophomore year, when you injured your shoulder. You worked your tail off at physical therapy to get cleared in time to wrestle in the district tournament…only to break your hand 5 days later. You never let it break your spirit.
Before Junior year, when you flew across country to attend the 28 day camp where you didn’t know a single soul. That took a lot of balls, as you would say.
Junior year, when you broke your nose during the district finals. You still advanced to the regional tournament but had to wear that lovely Hannibal Lector-esque mask. The mask was good for your nose, but bad for your vision. With limited peripheral view, the state tournament was not in the cards for you that year.
That was the tournament when YOU taught ME a lesson.
I had always prided myself on being a “try your best and have fun” Mom instead of a “be the best and win, win, win” one. As the state qualifiers stood on the coveted podium, I sat with my arms crossed, fuming and pouting. On that podium stood 2 wrestlers who had LOST to you before your injury. All I could think was how unfair it was. But after the ceremony I looked down and saw you sitting in a circle with some of your teammates AND the 2 wrestlers who were going to states instead of you. You were congratulating them and chatting and laughing. You were having fun. And you tried your best. You were doing what I had spouted at you for years. But I wasn’t.
I learned from you that day how to be a good sport. Sometimes the teacher is the student.
After the tournament I told you I was sorry you didn’t make it to states and you responded “It’s ok. I’m glad Connor made it because he’s a senior. I still have next year.”
Ah, next year.
“Next year” proved to be the worst of them all.
Senior year rolled around and with only a month until wrestling season, you got mono. Not just your run-of-the-mill mono, but the worst case your doctor had seen. Wrestling was completely out of the question. One wrong take-down would have taken OUT your enlarged spleen. And just getting out of bed most days was out of the question. After 9 WEEKS of misery, you were finally cleared to return to normal activity, but you were very weak from being sick. Most people would have thought trying to wrestle after months of being too ill to function was hopeless. But you didn’t. You worked so incredibly hard to gain back your strength and get back on the mat.
Unfortunately what we found out the hard way during your first match back was that you had developed viral induced asthma. You were so sick for so long that your airway was a mess. It was pretty scary – terrifying actually – watching you gasping for air before you slumped down against the wall next to the mat. I’m pretty sure you passed out for a short time. Each match you wrestled brought the same results – getting too winded or having any pressure on your chest would send your airway into a fit. But you went out there time and time again.
This was supposed to be your season to shine, but you were barely glimmering. After a difficult loss at a home meet, you were beyond frustrated. It was the first and only time I’ve ever heard you say you hate wrestling. You were still trying your best, but you weren’t having fun that day. The next day though you were right back out on the mat, remembering what you loved about the sport.
Right before the district tournament, you finally got a break (and NOT a bone this time). The asthma attacks went away. You were back and on fire. You beat some tough competition at districts to advance to regionals.
When the big day arrived for Regionals, you were feeling (mostly) like your old self again and ready to rumble. Qualifying for states was so close you could taste it. Unfortunately the cards were not only stacked against you again, they may as well have been stacked ON you.
I remember that second match so clearly. When your opponent grabbed your arm, your elbow turned ways an elbow should never turn. Your scream could be heard throughout the entire noisy gym and you dropped to the floor, writhing in pain. My heart raced as I watched you in so much pain and it sank when I saw the trainer mouth to your coach “He’s done. I’m going to call it.” But then we all heard another scream. It was you yelling “NO!” and jumping to your feet. You wouldn’t let the trainer forfeit the match. I got chills (and a bit of a panic attack). You finished the bout with one functional arm. And won.
I don’t know if you have any idea what the reaction in the stands was that day. Everyone was in complete awe of your drive and determination. I can’t remember how many matches you wrestled with one arm after that, but you kept winning. It was like The Karate Kid when he hurt his leg but kept going, finishing with that dramatic karate pose.
It finally came down to THE match. Four years of blood, sweat and tears came down to that one contest.
Winner would go to states; loser would not.
You left every fiber of your being on that mat, but came up a few seconds shy of a take-down at the end. And one point short.
My heart broke for you at that moment. If anyone deserved that win, it was you. You worked so hard for it. You were the epitome of “gave it your all.”
You didn’t get the happily ever after ending like in the Karate Kid, but what you didn’t realize – and probably still don’t – is that you were the biggest winner of all that day.
I wish I had recorded the comments the other parents and spectators said about you. You had everyone’s highest respect. Including mine. What you accomplished with what was thrown at you was nothing short of astounding. Many would have given up after the initial mono diagnosis but you never stopped giving 100%200%.
No, you didn’t go to states. But the life lessons you learned will stay with you long after the state medal would have tarnished.
Whew, I got long winded there. You are now probably REALLY glad I was speechless in your room. But let me get back to my reason for the wrestling reminiscing: the life lessons.
Being a good sport is greater than being good at sports.
Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan.
Quitters never win but sometimes you don’t win even if you don’t quit.
Sometimes nice guys do finish last. Or fifth.
The journey can be more important than the destination.
You can lose, yet be the true winner.
You will truly appreciate success only after a failure.
Hmmm…those sounded much more uplifting in my head.
My wish for you is that you always find “wrestling” in your life. Not literally. But my hope is that you always find something that brings you that sheer joy and unflappable determination that wrestling did. And if you don’t have anything that makes you feel that way, keep looking.
I know you are going to be just fine at college. Your wrestling journey has prepared you in case life throws you a curveball (or “if life pins you down” may be a better metaphor).
College is going to be more fun and exciting than you can imagine, but it will also be stressful and scary at times. Know that I’m only a phone call away and ALWAYS ready to listen when you need it, help when you want it and stay out of it when you’ve got it covered. Just remember when you are feeling overwhelmed that things WILL get better.
And, finally, you knew it was coming. My college advice for you:
Go to class. Seriously, go to class.
You will feel very lost at times, literally and figuratively. From directions to a building to learning a math concept, if you need help, ask!
You may really like your roommate. You may hate him. You may feel both on the same day. Or within the same hour.
Free time and Netflix time are not synonymous.
If you realize you hate your major, do something about it. Better to be inconvenienced now than to spend years in a job you don’t enjoy.
Take full advantage of everything the school has to offer. Climb a rock wall, join a club, try a new food.
Real men wear pink (which is handy to know when you accidentally wash your whites and reds together on the hot cycle).
Try not to come home for the first month. I know, I know, this one is shocking coming from me, but you need to give yourself a chance to get settled in. It may be tempting to retreat to the comforts of home when things get tough, but just scream “NO,” jump up off the mat and stay in the match.
And last but not least – let your mother come visit whenever she wants, even if it is every weekend.
The “Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” back to school commercial has always been one of my favorites. I am the mean Mom who usually taunts my kids by singing that song as they are grumbling about the dwindling days of summer. They looooove me for it.
This year is different. I honestly haven’t given “back to school” much thought yet. I’m completely pre-occupied by “off to college.”
The past school year was full of “lasts” for Jimmy. Last homecoming, last football game, last wrestling match, last day as a “child,” last prom, last day of high school, last trip with high school friends. Each last made me sad.
Soon there will be lots of exciting firsts for Jimmy. First night with a roommate, first time in the all-you-can-eat dining hall, first college lecture hall, first frat party, first time putting quarters in a washing machine. And that makes me happy(except maybe the frat party).
There will also be firsts for me. First night not being able to say goodnight, first time having an empty bedroom in the house, first time saying “party of 5” in a restaurant, first time not needing the 3rd row of seats in the car… I realize it’s not actually the “first” time for those things, but they were the exception. Now they will be the norm. And that makes me sad.
As the “to buy” list gets smaller and smaller, I feel like the “makes me cry” list gets larger and larger.
You know it’s getting really bad when a song called “Ain’t It Fun” brings me to tears every time it is on the radio.
“Ain’t it fun living in the real world
Ain’t it good being all alone
Ain’t it good to be on your own…
Don’t go crying to your mama ’cause you’re on your own in the real world.”
I’m trying a new technique to help with my separation anxiety – chunking time. Instead of thinking about Jimmy being at college until next May, I will only let myself think about how long until I see him next.
6 weeks until parents’ weekend.
Then 2 weeks until fall break.
Then 5 1/2 weeks until Thanksgiving break.
Then 2 1/2 weeks later, winter break will bring him home for 3 1/2 weeks!
Then 9 1/2 weeks until spring break.
Finally, less than 6 weeks until he’s home for summer! That will be my new “Most Wonderful Time of the Year!”
See? Nothing but single digits! Piece of cake, right?? Wrong. But it is helping. A little (said while a tear is running down my cheek…).
It’s still going to take everything in me not to burst into a big old ugly cry right in front of his new dorm-mates. But I’m determined to give him a hug, tell him how proud I am and how much I love him with a smile on my face*. And leave him to his firsts. And unfortunately me to mine.
Since everyone else IS already thinking about back-to-school, I’m teaming up with Boogie Wipes to offer an awesome Back-to-School Giveaway for kids and moms!
Three lucky winners will receive a backpack stocked with school supplies (and Boogie Wipes) and a Mommy Clutch – full of everything moms need (including gift cards!)
How to Enter
From following Boogie Wipes on social media to instagramming a picture of your favorite Boogie Wipes products, there are dozens of ways to enter – and a few ways to enter every single day.Complete the form below to get started.
Giveaway is live Tuesday, August 5, 2014 until midnight on August 22, 2014. US and Canada residents only (excluding Quebec). Three winners will be randomly chosen and notified via email. Momopolize received no compensation for sponsoring this event, and is not responsible for the delivery of the prize. Prize delivery is the sole responsibility of Boogie Wipes.
Warning: Insect harmed in the making of this blog post. But he totally deserved it.
After a long day of whining, I grabbed a glass of wine, gave the boys the look that said “Don’t bug me!” and retreated to the front porch before I ended up flying off the handle.
It was a perfect evening – not too cool and not too swarm. I began surfing the web and next thing I knew it was dark. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun.
I was minding my own business, completely beehiving myself when I looked up and saw this ginormous winged creature heading straight for me. The fact that I could see it coming at me IN THE DARK should tell you how big it was.
It was so huge, I thought it must be a moth but as it approached, the loud buzz proved it was gnat what it appeared to be. It seemed to be in slow motion, yet fast enough that I didn’t have time to flea from my chair before it smacked right into my shoulder. I screamed “Sweet moth-er of…it’s ON me!!!” as I flung off the sweatshirt I was wearing and ran inside screaming.
Jim retrieved my shirt from the bushes and told me I had to come see what he found. I was expecting him to be laughing at me freaking out over a tiny little insect, but what I saw was unbeelievable.
I was so freaked out, I’m surprised I didn’t break out into hives. A quick search told me it was a stag beetle, but the size told me it should be called a Volkswagen beetle. With pinchers. Pinchers!
With insects, I have a “you leave me alone, I leave you alone” philosophy but this guy obviously crossed the line. Talk about a buzz kill.
It was either “live and let live” or never step foot on my porch again. I chose the lesser of two weevils.
I went back in the house screaming and let the Jim be the Don and whack the wise guy before the bugger got us pinched.
Jim squashed that sucker as flat as I Love Lucy squashed those grapes at the Italian vineyard.
The soda is for size reference. Trust me, it doesn’t do it justice.
Make sure you notice that the entire back of the bug is squished to the point that it is gone. GONE!
I went to bed with visions of beetle chum crawling in my head. But knowing he was punished for his cruel ant-ticks took the sting out a bit.
What I found when I woke the next morning, however, was beeyond comprehension. No, not the fact that I was a litterbug and left the can on the porch all night. LOOK AT THE BUG!!!
It had not only regenerated its body – it had turned around, walked…and was still alive!!!
I could have sworn I heard a voice say “Stag Beetle, astronaughty. A bug barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic bug. Stag Beetle will be that bug. Better than he was before. Better…stronger…faster.”
How will I ever feel safe on my porch again? What is the ant, sir?
Perhaps I will have to call in the swat team.
Or perhaps I should hope Bugzilla will come to the rescue. If you thought this post was punny, you MUST read about my encounter with Bugzilla here.
Or perhaps if Bugzilla doesn’t make another appearance, I should just drink a lot more wine. Then I won’t care if I have bionic bugs living in my yard.
Luckily O Wines sent me wine so I can calm my nerves. O Wines provided the wine, but I am providing the opinions.
O Wines put a great spin on the wine business by providing college scholarships for low income women and has raised $300,000 through their Opportunity for Success Scholarship program. Maybe the recipients can study moth-ematics and figure out a way to get rid of the unstoppable (unstompable?) stag beetle!!
I’m not much of a red wine drinker so Jim sampled the 2010 Columbia Valley Red Blend and said it didn’t have that bitter bite some reds can have. He really enjoyed it, even as a non-traditional pairing with the salmon we were having for dinner. He said that O Wines blend of Merlot, Carbernet Sauvignon and Syrah resulted in a smooth-like-butter(fly) taste.
I tried the 2011 Columbia Valley Chardonnay (well, Jim sampled some of that too!). With it’s pear aroma, I’m guessing it would have paired even better with the salmon, but I am the odd bird who prefers my wine withOUT food, so I saved my test for after dinner. Its not-too-sweet fruity taste wasp the bee’s knees!
And with that, you are probably ready to tell me to stick a cork in it.
Do you know another way for me to worm my way into your lives? Social media! I’m praying (mantis) you will follow me…
I’m also on Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn but I know you won’t click more than 4 links. 😉
Also make sure you subscribe in the upper left corner via email or Bloglovin’ to get notifications of new posts. Facebook only shows my posts to about 5-10% of my page followers now (because they want pages to pay for views) so the best way to see what I publish is to subscribe!
(For you young’uns out there who have never seen The Bionic Man, go watch an episode online. Now.)