The Kool-Aid Mom

I have a confession: I always wanted to be the Kool-Aid Mom. You know, like in the old commercials. All the neighborhood kiddies playing and having a great ol’ time hanging out at our house. Then I'd sweep in with the overflowing tray of drinks and snacks. Everyone would take a break from all that incredible fun to gather round and chow down. Oh yeah!

Image from: faithfulnessfarm.blogspot.com


That's what I wanted. But I never got it. And it wasn't my fault. It was my oldest child's fault! Okay, okay, it wasn't her fault either. It's just that the conditions were never quite right.

First of all, in order to be the Kool-Aid Mom, I needed a neighborhood that actually had kids in it. Our neighborhood never really had the numbers necessary to fulfill my fantasy. Also, those neighborhood kids needed to be the right ages--somewhere in the vicinity of my own kids. Again, didn't happen.

But there was an even more important factor necessary for me to become a real Kool-Aid Mom. You see, I also needed a Kool-Aid Kid.

Our oldest daughter is an awesome young woman. She’s beautiful and smart, well-adjusted and talented (yeah, okay, I’ll stop now), however, she was never a Kool-Aid Kid. During her elementary and middle school days, she was perfectly happy hanging out at home with her nose in a book.

Of course, I was constantly pushing, “Why don’t you go to the movies with a big group, then come back here for pizza?” Or “Hey, why not have friends over after school on Friday?” or “Let’s plan a pajama party!” While these ideas occasionally came to fruition, more often than not, they were met with a smile and “Good idea, mom.” Then the nose went right back into the book, and the suggestion was conveniently forgotten.

I used to worry about her. I mean, sure she was active in sports and dance, and she had a few nice friends. But I was concerned she would eventually become lonely or depressed. I couldn’t understand why she didn't have the burning need, that I apparently thought she should have, to maintain a busy social life. Looking back now, with that perfect 20/20 vision only hindsight can provide, I can say in all seriousness…

Boy, was I ever a Type-A, first-class goof!

My kid turned out just fine, with perfectly normal social skills and everything! Fortunately, before I completely messed up her psyche, I did realize that being the Kool-Aid Mom wasn’t what was important. The healthy development of my children was. And once I embraced this fact, I was finally able to abandon my Kool-Aid Mom fantasy.

Ironically, that’s when it came true. Sort of.

See, when our girl entered high school, I witnessed her social life begin to blossom. And by her senior year? Fuggedboutit! Instead of begging her to go out with friends, I was begging her to stay home. “You’re so busy all the time. Wanna have a family game night, tonight?”

“But mom,” she’d explain, not without sympathy. “I already made plans with so-and-so to do such-and-such.”

“OOooookkkaaaayyy,” I’d pout.

“But we’ll all come back here afterwards, okay?” she’d add with a quick hug before heading out the door.

And it was okay. One thing my hubs and I did and still do, is make our home available for teen gatherings. Rather than me being a Kool-Aid Mom, together we’ve become, er, “High School Kool-Aid Parents.” Even if it’s last minute, our kids know their friends are always welcome. So instead of having little kids playing tag in the yard, we have teens playing music in the basement. But just like in my original dream, they’re still laughing, talking and eating snacks.

As my regular readers know, our oldest is now off livin’ the college life, but her teenage brother is still here. So I get a few more years of being a High School Kool-Aid Parent.

Oh yeah!

Are you, or have you ever been a Kool-Aid Parent?


Image by: The Shifted Librarian

The Fiesta Fiasco

Since both our teens are driving now, we've had loads of discussions regarding safe driving behavior, proper car maintenance, driving routes, etc. As parents, we've naturally built up years of driving-related experience we willingly share with our kids. (Whether they want to hear it or not!) All this chit-chat caused an automotive-related flashback to a lesson I learned the hard way during my college days…

(Imagine watery flashback visuals here)

It was summer in the mid-1980s. Feeling the thrill of victory, I circled a classified ad with my highlighter: Ford Fiesta. Good condition. Manual transmission. $1800 FIRM.

I’d been searching for a car for months. Learning the owner lived in a nearby city, I went in search of my younger brother.

“Dude!” I said excitedly, finding him busy as usual with one of his electronic gadgets.

“Yeah,” he replied, distracted.

“I need your help.”

“What for?”

“I think I found a car!” Sudden interest sparked his brown eyes. “Since I don’t know anything about cars, can you come check it out with me?”

“Sure!”

We met the owner, and I listened intently to his description of the positive attributes of the little car while my brother checked under the hood and inspected the tires.

“Want to take it for a test drive?” the owner asked.

Being “directionally challenged,” and uncomfortable in this unfamiliar territory, I begged my brother to test drive it for me. He did. Afterwards he told me the car handled great and seemed a good deal.

We returned the next day and I bought it with every penny I had saved.

“O’ darling brother of mine," I said, turning to him. "Would you mind driving it home? These streets are confusing and I want to get used to driving it around our house first.”

“Okay!” he replied, clearly excited to have a new toy to play with.

Once we got home he parked it, handing me the keys.

I was SO excited! I slipped behind the wheel, put the key in the ignition and stretched out my foot to depress the clutch. And stretched…and stretched. My body was inclined at a 45-degree angle when my foot finally made contact. “Hey bro, the seat isn't adjusted forward,” I said yanking at the lever.

“Uh, yeah it is, Hol’.” He looked concerned.

He was right. The seat wouldn’t budge. I’m only five-feet tall and it had never occurred to me I might not be able to reach the pedals. I sat stunned as the reality of my situation hit me.

Oh. My. Gosh! I had just bought a car I couldn’t drive!

I began to hyperventilate. “W-w-what a s-s-stupid thing to do! Why didn’t I t-t-test drive it? What am I going to doooooo!”

He patted me consolingly for a few minutes, then said, “I’ve got an idea.”

Getting behind the driver’s seat, he raised up both of his legs and began ramming his feet against the back of my seat.

“W-what are y-y-you d-d-doing?” I hiccupped, jiggling with each impact. He continued the relentless pounding as my seat slowly inched forward until it was permanently jammed further than it was ever meant to go. My foot hit the clutch.

“You did it!” I screamed, leaping up and tackling him with a hug. “I can reach, I can reach!

I hopped back in and started the engine. Never mind that the seat was probably totally illegal now. Never mind that now only a five-foot-tall person could drive it. Never mind that it was the hideous color of a lima bean. It was my car—and now I could drive it!

I rolled down my window and grinned at him. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he grinned back, then walked whistling into the house.

I flicked on the radio. Katrina and the Wave’s “Walkin’ On Sunshine,” blasted from the speakers as I backed out of the driveway and took off down the road.

The end.

Oops! Oh yeah…. lesson learned: Don't ever be too afraid to take your own test drives in life. And always wait till you're over 40 years old to share these types of stories where you parents can read them. Heh, heh.

 
 
Ford Fiesta Image by: Jonathan

Quote of the Week

"While we try to teach our children all about life,
our children teach us what life is all about."
~ Angela Schwindt ~

A Slice of Summer


We were recently blessed to spend four glorious days in Orlando, Florida with my brother and his family. While we were there Orlando had unseasonably warm weather, much to resident Floridians' dismay and much to our delight! We walked around in shorts and sleeveless tops enjoying temps in the eighties.

This was our second "family" vacation without our entire family. Our college girl's break didn't coincide with that of our high-schooler, so we once again had a vacation without her. (Sniff, sniff.) We dealt with this issue for the first time last year, when as a high school senior, Ashleigh took a spring break road trip to Texas with one brave mom and four of her best friends.

But this time was especially different. This was the first time we went on a trip that in the past, we've always done as a family. We all missed her presence—and sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get used to this parental/family transitioning stuff. I know we'll have to go through an even greater change in a few years when our youngest graduates from high school, but for now I'm determined to enjoy every second with him. Whether he wants me to or not. Cue the eye-rolling and dramatic sighs.

Anyhoo…

We did manage to have a lot of fun on our Ashleigh-absent Florida adventure, and enjoyed a great time as we always do with my brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephew.

We witnessed NASA's final launch of the space shuttle Discovery.


And we made it to one of our most favorite places to go in Orlando. That's right…Gatorland! Oh, wait. You thought I was gonna say Disney World, didn't you? Ha, ha! We have a tradition of visiting Orlando's Gatorland on our Florida trips.


This time we opted to participate in an exciting Gator Night Shine excursion which allowed us a semi-private tour of the facility. Among other things, we all got to hold a baby gator, which had surprisingly smooth skin…


And snakes!


The highlight of the evening was when we all received flashlights and hot dogs, then headed out to the marsh to feed the gators. We shone our flashlights over the water and when the beams hit those gators' eyes they glowed like orange flames in the night. It was so creepy fun to have those blazing orbs coming straight at you in search of a nighttime snack!


For our final day there, we went to a restaurant right on Daytona Beach and ate the best clam chowder ever as we sat on the terrace, soaking up golden sunshine and listening to the susurrus of frothy blue-green waves sliding up and down that hard-packed sandy shore. It was so beautiful!




We even saw jellyfish washed up on the beach…


Of course my brother couldn't resist touching them to show us all that the dangerous parts were no longer dangerous. I still don't believe it and I'm NOT touchin' one, bro! Get it away from me!


It was a sunny slice of summer in an otherwise overcast winter week. Now we're back in our snow-covered house, looking out at our snow-covered yard with our bald tree branches, and dreaming of the spring that's just around the corner.

Quote of the Week


(Now this isn't the case with my own hubby, but I still like the idea behind this quote...)

"What no wife of a writer can ever understand
is that a writer is working when
he's staring out of the window."
~ Burton Rascoe ~



Image by: Liz Grace

Author Interview: Taylor Stevens


"She closed her eyes and relaxed, ready for what she sensed coming. Adrenaline flowed, and euphoria followed. Irregular footsteps. Metal on metal. A hand reached for her shoulder, and with celerity she grabbed the owner's wrist and forced his arm backward until she felt the snap, and in that same second slammed a fist into his abdomen. When he doubled over, she picked up his knife from the ground.

'That was a warning,' she said, and fought the urge to pummel him."

Excerpted from THE INFORMATIONIST by Taylor Stevens, Published by Crown, Copyright 2011 Taylor Stevens (c)

I recently had the honor of interviewing Taylor Stevens, author of the debut thriller, THE INFORMATIONIST. (If you missed the review, click HERE.)

HB: All right, Taylor, I know this interview is about your new book, THE INFORMATIONIST, but your background is fascinating so I've got to start with this question: How long were you in the Children of God cult?

TS: The Children of God/The Family International was the cult into which I was born and raised. My issues with the lifestyle, and with its leadership and beliefs, started when I turned fourteen. It took another twelve years before I was able to internally process my experiences to the point that I was able to separate what I had been taught my entire life from what I felt inside. It took another few years before the desire for something—anything—other than the world I knew, became stronger than the fear of what living on the outside would bring. I was finally able to cut ties permanently when I was 29.

HB: Did you write any novels before THE INFORMATIONIST?

TS: I wrote a bit when I was a young teenager, but those handwritten notebooks were eventually confiscated and burned by cult leaders and I was told to never write again. THE INFORMATIONIST is my first completed work of fiction of any size.

HB: You are really effective in evoking the heat, the smells, the feel of Central Africa, as well as its political scene. Was this the result of research or personal experience?

TS: I actually lived in Africa for four years during my adulthood, so the memories were very vivid. I was in Equatorial Guinea for a little over two years and also spent several months in Cameroon. My initial desire in writing THE INFORMATIONIST, even before I had characters or a plot, or any idea really of what I would write, was to bring these foreign and exotic worlds alive for readers who’d never and might never have the opportunity to visit.

HB: How long did it take you to write this story? How many revisions?

TS: Too many revisions to count. When I first started, I had no idea what I was doing. I’d never taken a writing course, never even got through sixth-grade English. I didn’t know how to plot, how to build characters, and learned everything as I went, which meant a lot of re-writes just to keep the first parts of the book consistent with the latter parts as the quality improved. In all, it took about two years, while I juggled being a full time mom.

HB: I understand THE INFORMATIONIST is going to be the first in a trilogy, was that your original intent?

TS: Well, again, when I first started, I had no clue as to what I was doing, and getting published wasn’t even on my radar of possibilities. I was writing in order to take back what was taken from me, to prove that I could do it, and so that I wouldn’t get to the end of my life wondering what might have been if I’d only tried. I think it was about half-way through THE INFORMATIONIST, when the characters had pretty much developed into who they are now, that I first realized that they were destined to live on in other stories.

HB: Clearly Munroe is a beautiful woman, yet can effectively pass for a man. What inspired you to make your main character so androgynous?

TS: Unfortunately, a large part of our world is still very much a man’s world. I’ve experienced many of the cultures through which Munroe navigates, and it made no sense to me that a woman, who is blatantly a woman, accomplishes what she does. Therefore, who she is and her characteristics are a direct response to the environments she has been thrown into.

HB: Do you create an outline before you start writing?

TS: I do now! I learned the hard way that I benefit from at least having a general idea of where the story is going before setting out to write it. The second book, The Innocent was complete in six months.

HB: Would you describe your social networking platform?

TS: It wasn’t until I’d sold THE INFORMATIONIST that I began building an online presence, and I still don’t really have much of a “platform” per se. I have a website (www.taylorstevensbooks.com) and a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/taylorstevens) and that’s about it. I believe most of the excitement surrounding THE INFORMATIONIST has come from word of mouth by those who’ve caught glimpses of it, or have read it.

HB: Any advice for new writers?

TS: Don’t listen to the people who say you have to know someone or have connections in order to get published. I wasn’t in a position to attend writers’ conferences or meet agents in person to pitch a book. Neither was I well read enough to track down the agents of authors whose books I liked, and my one favorite author was already dead. I couldn’t even afford the postage to SASE. My only option, really, was to cold query agents by email, which, if you believe the naysayers, is impossible.

Thanks, Taylor!

Click the title to purchase a copy of THE INFORMATIONIST.

The Octogenarian

Okay, my blog, my rules! It was my dad's 80th birthday last week! I cannot believe he is 80! So in honor of this major event, I'd like to share some cool stuff about my dad.

He is a genuinely sweet man with an amazing heart. He loves my mom and even though my brothers, sister and I would really prefer it if they'd stop all that yucky smooching in front of us, they never have.


He's a wonderful listener. He has this way of completely focusing his attention on you when you're talking. He makes you feel like whatever you're sharing is the most interesting thing he's heard in a long time.

He never swears. I don't believe I've ever heard a curse word come out of his mouth. I remember once when I was a kid, I entered a room where he was doing some hammering. I had just started whining, "Daaaaaaad," (you know, that really grating way kids do?) when the hammer whacked his thumb instead of the intended nail. I froze. But all that came out of his mouth was, "Dad Gum It!" (His favorite exclamation of frustration.) Then he turned to me and said in a completely normal tone of voice, "What did you need, Holly?"

I know, right! Pretty amazing!

He's an artist. He recently began painting watercolors, and already a talented woodworker, he took up chip carving several years ago. None of that laser-generated stuff. He does all his work by hand. Check it out:


Actually, here is a link to his website if you're interested: Wood 'an ' Crafts

One more bit of bragging and I'll let you escape. (I'm like those moms who insist on showing you their unbelievably-talented-amazing baby pictures, aren't I?)

My dad is a fencer! He fenced at Wayne State University and was a three-year fencing letterman there. He was ranked second in the Midwest in 1955 for epee. He was the NCAA individual foil champion two years straight in 1957 and 1958. He was nominated to the United States Olympic Foil Squad. And he was inducted into the Wayne State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1980.

Here's some recent video taken of my dad who now teaches at a local fencing club where he lives. (He's the guy in the blue sweats):


video


Did I mention he is 80?!!!


Happy Birthday, Dad!!! XO
(And don't worry Mom, I'll do a special post about you on your 80th birthday! ;o)