Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A reminder of the best moment

I love going to weddings. I know, it sounds strange for a guy to say that, but it's true.
Since I graduated from college I have been taking photographs of weddings. I've photographed more than 25. To this point it has all been word of mouth. Family, friends, friends of friends and colleagues.
Some of it's about the money — it supports my camera and photography habit — but it's more about the feeling I get every time I see two people standing in front of God, family and friends to profess their love for each other.
Seeing two people make that commitment to each other reminds me of the bond I forged with my beautiful wife on June 12, 1999.
So, the last two weekends have been extremely special as my wife and I drove to Liberty to watch her roommate from college get married and then back the second weekend for the reception.
Dawn, my wife, one of my good friends and I spent a lot of time our freshman, junior and senior years playing euchre — I'll leave it to your imagination as to why I left out the sophomore year.
We had a great time watching Dawn marry a man who seems to be exactly right for her. We stayed at their house for a night (not the night after the wedding of course) and got to know him pretty well.
Just being at a wedding is heartening, but to have my wife there with me these last two weekends was even better. I did the photos and she was the matron of honor.
Part of the reason I like weddings, I suppose, also has to do with my profession. I see all the divorces that come through. I read stories about marriages gone wrong and hear about discord on a daily basis.
One of my great pleasures is reading the 50th, 60th and occasional 75th anniversary and imagining what that will be like for my wife and I — assuming we both live that long of course.
Being many years away from such a feat, however, my current great pleasure is going to weddings and recording in photographs the beginning of a marriage.
Congratulations Dawn and Gary.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bonding at the office

When Big Sister was younger I took her to work with me all the time. A journalists schedule is relatively flexible, so there were days I would go pick her up from grandma's house and we'd spend the afternoon with me.
She'd play with toys or watch movies, or sometimes tag along on a photo shoot. The photo shoots were the best. She was really shy, so she'd hang on my leg so I couldn't hardly move. Eventually, I figured out that she was light enough I could sit her on the camera bag on that was hanging around my shoulder. People would oooh and aaah and laugh at the photographer carrying his daughter on the camera bag around his neck.
I didn't care. There was a lot of bonding there.
So, when Little Sister had to spend the day with daddy earlier this week I was excited. I was afraid she wouldn't be, though. For one thing I don't cover as many events as I did then. I was managing editor of the Mooresville-Decatur Times then and am now managing editor of the Martinsville Reporter-Times. The two jobs have much different duties. Sitting with me can be boring these days. Big Sister also made sure to tell Little Sister how much fun daddy's work is.
"Uh, oh," I thought. I was starting to have some real expectations to live up to.
We were anticipating the day for a while, so when it finally came we were ready. I had the bucket of toys in my office and the extra laptop cued up to laughing babies on — Little Sister thinks the laughing babies are hilarious and will giggle at them for hours.
I was excited when my Beautiful Wife came striding into the office with Little Sister in tow, nervously hanging onto mommy's leg.
Mommy left and Little Sister started playing with her toys. She didn't say a word for two hours. Then, it was to say she had to go to the bathroom.
Finally, I had to go to my Rotary meeting and we packed up and headed off. She was good there too. She ate the spaghetti I put in front of her and she was quiet the whole time. When her mommy called to say she could come get her, Little Sister said she wanted to stay with daddy.
So, I guess she had a good time and she was really good.
The real test will be the next time, which is in two week.
Regardless of how she acts, I'm really happy to have the couple of hours to bond with Little Sister the same way I bonded with Big Sister.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Activity overload

I used to look at parents funny when they would complain about how many things their children particpated in.
Most people have had the conversation with someone.
"I can't believe I'm so busy, I have to take Johnny to soccer practice tonight, football practice tomorrow, swimming the next night ..." and on and on.
I always wondered, why don't you just say no? Tell Johnny he has to pick two and leave it at that.
But now that I have a daughter of the age to join things, I see that it's not that easy.
We always said we would never let Big or Little sister be in more than two things at a time. There are only two parents, so we should keep it down to that.
And we've kept to that so far. Suddenly, somehow, though we have three things this fall.
Big sister is in soccer, ballet and Daisys.
Wow. How did we get into three things? Oh, yeah, we started dance class and it would be a shame to let what she has already learned go to waste.
Well, she was in soccer last year, why would we keep her out this year?
Of course her mother was a Girl Scout, so we have to be involved in that.
I'm not arguing with any of that reasoning either. But I have much more understanding of how parents get sucked into doing so many activities with their children. It happens slowly and involves compromises you can't take back.
We did tell her no to swimming lessons this fall. That would just be too much.
Now, however, we're wondering how things are going to work once Little Sister is old enough to join activities. She's already in ballet and sees big Sister going to soccer and everything else.
She is ready to join too.
I know we'll have to say no to some activities — there just isn't time for everything — but it sure breaks your heart.
I'm guessing I'm going to be really busy for about 14 more years.

Friday, July 30, 2010

White coats cause trauma

I've been in pretty good health most of my life, so there haven't been that many trips to the doctor. Maybe that's why sitting in the waiting area, sitting on the table in the patient room and that knock on the door when the doctor is finally ready to see you cause the blood to rush so much.
My blood pressure at the machines in the store is always pretty normal. But you get a nurse in the room and suddenly it shoots up.
My beautiful wife calls it "white coat syndrome." She said her mom has it and after going to the doctor with Big Sister on Tuesday, I'm sure she has it. The doctor visit was part of our ongoing investigation into what is really at the root of Big Sister's food allergies.
It was a pretty good day. I stayed home from work, so we got out of bed and got ready at a pretty leisurely pace. We had breakfast and I even took the girls to the park to play.
We dropped Little Sister off at grandma's house because she wasn't going to sit around in a doctor's office all afternoon.
The three of us took a short shopping trip to return some shoes and search for back-to-school deals.
But after an hour or so of procrastinating and eating lunch, it was time to go or risk being late to the appointment.
My blood pressure was up just trying to get there as they changed the names of the roads around the hospital in the two months since the office sent us directions. I drove around looking for West Drive, a road name that no longer exists.
We rushed up to the desk, hoping that being exactly on time wasn't late since the directions said to get there 20 minutes early. We were fine of course and took a seat in the waiting room where the Beautiful Wife and Big Sister pulled out "Ramona and Beezus" to pass the time and take the edge off. They are reading the book before they go see the movie. I think they had to go back later and reread a few pages, because Big Sister wasn't paying much attention.
We got the call to go into the doctor's office after about 10 minutes. We sat in the patient room and, luckily, they didn't make Big Sister put on a gown or anything.
She was nervous and it showed. Finally, that knock came. The doctor walked in and Big Sister got really quiet.
I think she might have a great future as a mime because every question was answered with hand gestures.
We got through the appointment. I'm not sure if the results will reveal why Big Sister gets hives with so many foods she eats, but it did show off her full-blown case of "white coat syndrome."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tastes like childhood

So many of my happy childhood memories revolve around apples — making apple pies, picking apples, apple cider, the Applefest my church used to put on every fall.
Nothing reminds me of growing more than applesauce though. And I'm not talking about the thin homogenized and overly processed gruel you buy in a jar at the store.
The apple sauce I remember often came out of a jar, but it was put in the jar by my mother. She made it herself over a hot stove after having picked up bushels of apples off the ground at the orchard she owned with my father before he died in a farm accident.
She made gallons of what I remember as tasting like sweet heaven and it would last all year long.
I missed apple sauce for a lot of years after I left home for college. In part because mom stopped making as much of it. It was a lot of work for one thing to make so much of it. So she would make a few jars full and then pull them out for special occasions. Eventually she stopped making it, I think. She'll call me and tell me after reading this blog if I'm wrong on that account.
Finally, though, about two years ago I got a real hankering for moms applesauce. I bought a couple different kinds thinking, surely some of the brands labeled natural would be good.
I was wrong. Nothing tasted like mom's applesauce.
It wasn't just something I wanted to taste either. I wanted to share that childhood experience with my girls. I wanted them to see someone make something fresh that tastes unbelievable.
So, I set out to make fresh applesauce — not as much as mom did, just a couple of quarts. Of course I didn't have any of the tools mom used and I remember it being a large job that took multiple days. I also didn't have access to an orchard where they would let me come in and pick the leftovers off the ground for free. The owners of the orchard mom used to own with my dad would let her do that, at least I think she told me they were free.
I bought a couple different kinds of apples and cut them up and boiled them just like mom. Since I didn't have the right kind of collander with a pestle I improvised. It didn't work. I just made a mess. And the applesauce didn't taste right.
So, I finally broke down and called my mom and told her what I was doing. She laughed and said I was overthinking. She used the collander and pestle because she made so much it would have taken way too long to peel and core all those apples.
She also told me I was waiting too late in the season because she always used Transparents and they were ripe at the beginning of July, not the end of August.
After that I made some decent applesauce with Granny Smiths. I just peeled them, cored them and boiled them in some applejuice until they were soft enough to puree with a stick blender.
Pretty good.
This year, I remembered to go buy the Transparents and last night I made applesauce that tastes just like my childhood. Now maybe someday my children will call me and ask, "Dad, how did you make that applesauce again. I could really go for some right now."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Oh, how the ball bounces

I loved small rubber bouncy balls when I was a child. I loved bouncing them on walls, seeing how high I could get one to bounce and of course dunking them in the lowered basketball goal.
My mother hated the things and I never understood why until I had children of my own.
They look to be harmless enough -- most are less than three inches in diameter. So, how much damage could they do. In the theory of a child, they are harmless.
I mean, what’s wrong with throwing this projectile as hard as I can in the house?
The problem is that in the small uncoordinated hands of a 3- or 7-year-old, they are unpredictable bullets that ricochet uncontrollably.
Case in point, the other day little and big sister each had their own bouncy ball. One threw it down the hallway. The ball bounced and nearly knocked a mirror off the wall. That ball is now hiding where she can’t find it.
Next, there is a fight and a screaming match to see who controls the remaining bouncy ball.
Big sister gains control and throws the bouncy ball. It jumps around the room, finally coming to rest squarley on the face of Little Sister, knocking her glasses onto the floor.
Glasses aren’t broken, crying stops after about two minutes. No harm, no foul. But the ball still finds its resting place in my bathroom closet.
I’m starting to learn why my mother sighed so much. Maybe it’s because even today, I’m not much better at controlling the bouncy balls. Using them outside like they are intended only means the children are continually chasing them down the driveway until I scream, “stop, don’t go in the road! I lost it, I’ll go get it.”
I think maybe I’ll go put my bouncy ball in the closet with theirs.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Don't let up, it will pay off

My children constantly teach me about persistence. They show me that no matter how many times you fail, you should keep trying and don't ever accept a "no" for something you really want.
Anyone with children knows what I mean about not accepting "no" for an answer. Big sister will ask 20 times in an hour if she can play with the neighbor girl even though we have already told her no 20 times. She always thinks that upon request 21, we will relent and change our minds. Occasionally we do, which is probably why she keeps asking.
Little Sister is at the stage when a no answer is almost devastating. She'll ask for a piece and candy. I'll tell her no and she'll go open the closet door and look longingly at the candy box, hoping upon hope that I will change my mind.
This persistence pays off in other ways as well.
Big Sister for one has been taking swimming lessons on and off for three years now. We started at the park pool with Red Cross lessons. She didn't quite get it.
Then, we tried lessons at the high school through a different program. She learned a little better, but we still weren't comfortable with her being in the water without a life jacket. So, we decided to try one more time (at the persistent request of Big Sister) with lessons at the school.
She finally got it. Instead of flailing about aimlessly, she started swimming. She is now a real honest to goodness kick-with-your-feet and stroke-with-your-arms swimmer. We're very proud of her.
And last, but not least, Little Sister's attempt at ballet beginning to shine. This one hasn't taken quite as long. We just put her in lessons in February.
The beautiful Wife and I were never sure what she was getting out of the class. When we would go in the room to observe, Little Sister got very shy and just stood in the middle of the room looking at the floor. It was no done deal that she would do any kind of dancing when it came time for a mini-recital on Saturday.
But, she put away her shyness in front of the crowd and followed along with the motions of her dance.
Now, I just hope I can remember the lessons of persistence my children are teaching me.