Monday, August 3, 2015

BE WHO YOU ARE

 Chris: "At the end of the day, which memory do you want to have? The one where you were too scared to do what challenged you or the one where you kicked its butt?"

Life is full of choices. In fact, lines at an amusement park are full of life lessons. Observation is the key, and honestly, who doesn't like to take in a good people watching session?

First up are the Thrill Seekers. They are buzzing from their last conquest of the highest roller coaster in the park. They are on top of the world and can't wait to go back to do it again once their stomach returns to its proper alignment in their bodies. They'll convince anyone on the edge of trying it to just do it. You only live once and you never know until you try!

Behind them are the Ghost Riders. Their faces tell their story. They are the ones who tried it to say they tried it, but will never get within 200 yards of the entrance to the ride again. And if you try to ask them about it, they'll stare blankly at you for a few awkward moments before answering, "It was the scariest thing I've ever been on, BUT, I'm glad I did it."

Next up are the Planners. They sit together talking about their NEXT big adventure in the park while waiting to complete the one they're waiting to start. Always looking one step ahead, never fully enjoying the moment in which they are standing.  

Then there are the Hemmers and Hawers. They sit and listen. If someone mentions one of the rides they've been carefully considering for hours, they'll ask about it. "How was it? Scary?" The danger for these people is their decisions are be based on the general concensus, rather than searching within themselves.

Finally,  there are the Naysayers. They stay on the same two rides all day.  They know every twist and turn that will be thrown at them. They're ready. So, to spice up their day, they rebelliously sit on the handrail and don't get down when it's asked of them 20 times over the scratchy sound system.  

So, as we entered King's Dominion with our 48 inch girl and 53.5 inch boy, we were ready to take it all on together. We are the Thrill Seekers. Well, three-quarters of us were that is. Always keeping us guessing, our "finally able to ride the big roller coasters" girl was not having it. She appeased us by going on the first coaster called the Grizzly. When it finished, she joined Team Ghost Rider.


To be honest, as the parents of the girl who took on The Tower of Terror at age THREE with such confidence and sass, we were completely baffled. This was also the child who cried watching her brother go on roller coasters last year, begging us to stuff her shoes to boost her the final two inches she needed. Now, the moment she waited for "her whole entire life" was here...and she was frozen. Switching teams on us. 

After trying to talk to her about it, rationalize her fear, reassure her she would not get hurt, remind her of how much fun she had in past and how sad she was she missed those adventures, she would not budge.  We urged her to actually sit on one of the coasters with the option of walking through if she couldn't do it. That happened multiple times. She had made up her mind. And so we let her have her moment. 

But, then, my husband said the above words to both the kids. It stuck with our 53.5 inch boy (one-half and inch too short for the tallest coaster in the park). All day he rode the top level thrill rides with excitment and ease. But, being a sensitive guy, he also empathized with his sister's new found fear. So, he took the time to go on rides WITH her as well. We warmed her up. We started small. He helped us rebuild her confidence.


After an hour of this, Chris and I decided to switch off and ride some of the restricted-to-our-kids coasters. As we waited for him, the kids and me found a ride that was a step above the others. The Bad Apple. It was high. It twisted. And most importantly, it was HER decision. She was hooked. When we got off, she was ready.

Something clicked. So, we went with it and let her lead the way to her next conquest. Much like the Bad Apple, she chose The Scrambler. It was fast. It jolted you around violently. It was a blast!


It was her favorite...UNTIL...


The Stunt Coaster. This was her first attempt on another coaster after the Grizzly...and many hours. It seemed harmless. There were no big drops, no loops, no rickety motions. However, it was FAST. And once the speed started, it didn't let up for the full course. Sitting behind her and Chris, I couldn't see her face. When we finished, she threw her arms in the air and screamed AGAIN! Her brother wasted no time convincing her that if she could do that one, she could do The Anaconda (his favorite at the time). 

She considered it for a minute, and then repeated what Chris had told her earlier.
 
"Okay, Tuck, I'll try it. Cause if I don't, I'll never know if I would have liked it." 


After one time riding The Anaconda, she was back to team Thrill Seeker. Four times later, she was leading the way. Not only did her bravery really make an impact on us, but also her brother. Our 53.5 inch boy had been going back and forth about one ride in particular all day.  A 305 foot tower drop. He was tall enough, but not sure he had the guts to do it. I think watching his sister really inspired him, because not soon after, he announced, 

"Okay. I'm gonna do it. I'm going on the Drop Tower." 

With that, he marched himself into the line. Chris followed in amazement and off they went. Soon they were loaded onto the ride and after they were checked and double checked by the park employees, Tuck mouthed to me, "I can't believe I'm doing this." 

 I watched them rise up higher and higher. I was dying from anticipation waiting to see his reaction after the release and free fall. I didn't have to wait long. 


He got off the ride screaming, "YES! YES! I'm so glad I did that!" 



We soaked in every single minute of that park's open hours. At 9:45, fifteen minutes before closing, we ran to our final ride. There we sat on the Stunt Coaster, where all four of began together as Team Thrill Seeker, ending our day in absolute victory. 

Thanks, King's Dominion. We came. We made memories. 
We challenged ourselves. We kicked butt!

Goooooo, Team Thrill Seekers!







Thursday, June 11, 2015

LIFE LONG LEARNERS

Mags: "How do you always know the answers to everything?"
Me: "Google. And college. And Daddy. But mostly Google."

Graduation. From Pre-K to Doctorates, these major milestones fill my social media feeds. Within these moments, come epiphanies that stick with us. They may even sway us toward a specific direction in our lives. 

As I watched the seniors in my school practice walking across the stage today, I had some wisdom of my own to impart on them. 

Over the years, these are the things that have stuck:

1. Just do it. Ulcers never met a procrastinator they didn't like.
2. Speak carefully. You can never take back what comes out of your mouth.
3. Live within your means. It makes a difference.
4. Splurge every once in a while. The memories will be worth it.
5. Laugh and smile. Those wrinkle lines are a sign of a life well lived.
6. Hydration is key. Reach for the water before the sugar or caffeine.
7. Take a hike. Fresh air and a humbling view can do wonders for the spirit.
8. Choose wisely in people, situations, challenges and words.
9. Listen to someone with experience, even when you don't want to hear it.
10. Be silly. But not obnoxious.
11. Give a firm handshake. It shows you mean it.
12. For every negative, find twice as many positives.
13. Quality not quantity. Especially time with people you care for greatly. 
14. Reveal your vulnerable side to at least one person in the world; the one you trust the most.
15. Make mistakes. You'll never be a lifelong learner otherwise.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

IF I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW

Me: "Okay, ready. Here we go. Gonna go into the house I grew up in  all my life."
Chris: "Oh, wow. Look at these pictures on the wall. That's your brother, right? 
Me: "Yep."
Chris: "Who is in the picture next to him? Do you have a sister?"
Me: "That's me."
Chris: "Oh, wow! That's...wow. Your hair is...wow. I'm glad I met you now."
Me: "Thanks?"

So, I wasn't a beauty queen. I had braces, head gear, bangs that could challenge Mount Everest, and a school uniform. Hard to believe? Nah. 

Today, my sweet high school friend, Lorrie,  reminded me that it was the 20th anniversary of the day we graduated from high school. TWENTY. YEARS. How could that be? I was just 20 years old. Really. I was. Like...17 years ago. Damn. 

It got my brain thinking. If I was Marty McFly and I could go back, these are the top five things the 2015 me would say to the 1995 me...(keeping it short and sweet is always best)

1. Challenge yourself. You could easily take all Honors courses. Well, except for Geometry. You never will pass that class. Ever.

2. Stand up for yourself. Knowing what I know now...if you stand up to that bully...she/he will back right down. And it will save you a lot of embarrassment, self-doubt, and tears. 

3. Wear a bikini. Trust me. Just. Do. It. 

4. Don't cut your hair. Or curl your bangs. And for the love of jellybeans, PUT THE AQUANET DOWN! I know it's "the style" and all, but simplicity is best. (However, looking back at the pictures will be make you and your friends laugh pretty hard.)

5. Save your money. Don't buy more AquaNet or get another perm. Just take your summer job money and put it in the bank. Right. Now. 

Most of all, I'd like to say that I'm proud of you. You faced some pretty big challenges. You fought through them all. And, with a lot of determination 
and hard work, you found me a happy place. 
You got me to where I belong.
You brought me HOME. 


Thanks, Lor, for snapping this pic for me! 








Monday, May 18, 2015

Out of the Mouths of Babes and a Giveaway

Mags: "Mama, why do we have Memorial Day off from school?"
Tuck: "It's to remember all the veterans who were in a war."
Mags: "Don't we have a day for veterans already?"
Tuck: "Yes, Mags, but there are so many and they fight so hard, they deserve more than one day."
Me: "And that is why we have Memorial Day off of school. Well said, Tuck. Well. Said."

Out of the mouths of babes. The above conversation actually prompted me to look up some facts with kids about Memorial Day. That way, they would know the origin to make it more meaningful. The following are a few of the interesting facts we found while researching. (I learned a few new ones myself.)














We also read a speech from Ronald Reagan given at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day of 1986. The kids and I agreed that the following excerpt was a perfect way to summarize what the subject.


Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It's a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It's a day to be with the family and remember."


It's quite humbling to live among such brave men and women. There are many ways to celebrate, honor and remember. 


In fact, I was contacted by my friends at Grace Hill Media about promoting the DVD release of American Sniper.  Just in time for Memorial Day,  GHM generously sent me a three copies. One for me, one for a friend that is a veteran, and one to give away to a lucky reader. 

I'm making it as easy as possible to enter. Simply leave a comment on the blog or on my According to Mags FB page.  





One more thing! Warner Bros. is donating a dollar from each sale, up to $1 million, to the Wounded Warrior Project, a program that enlists public aid and provides direct services to meet the needs of our injured military personnel. To order American Sniper from Amazon.com, click here.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

An Open Letter to the SOL

It's State Testing Week in our school this week. In Virginia, it is called the SOL. How appropriate. In my high school, there's an anxious buzz in the air.  So, to entertain the kids in English class, my team teacher assigned an "Open Letter" assignment. I wanted to write one as well while the kids were working. I had the perfect topic.

Dear SOL,

Look at you.  I mean, I wish I could believe in myself like you. Go on with your bad self.  Thinking you are just so generous with your detailed directions and assorted choices. I especially enjoy the way you add a simple s to the end of a word in your directions to throw each and every kid into an eternal panic. "Which of these statement(s) are true?"  Cute. Real cute.  

How about we talk about the God complex you carry around in your thinly papered, dreadfully drab booklet? I mean, if you’re going to hold a student hostage for hours upon hours, don’t you think you could pep up the experience with an uplifting color palette. Or snacks?  Or water? Even prisoners get food and water during their stay. Perhaps with all the money you bring in, you could attach a care-package…a goodie bag, if you will, to the tissue-paper-thin booklets.

 I mean, what’s up with those things? You’re a multi-BILLION dollar industry and you can’t afford better paper that doesn’t rip at the slightest grasp. But thanks so much for allowing us to write in them. WOW! That is so "green" of you to repurpose the booklet as scratch paper, too. But maybe, just maybe, you could rethink the quality like I stated in the above sentence. Since your tests are so daunting and picky, I obviously have to take the time to work out calculations and such. Eventually there will be a moment that I will need to erase if I worked a problem incorrectly. Due to your water-soluble pages,  I end up making a crater-sized hole in it even before I start to get serious. NO worries. I didn’t need to see the ENTIRE calculation I just did. No, really. I like to start from square one when you’ve already thrown my stomach into a blender. I know, I know. I have ALL DAY. How thoughtful.

 On the topic of your thoughtfulness, thanks so much for telling me I’m worth earning my graduation status if I reach YOUR set score. Four-hundred points and you’ll allow me to move forward? How can I ever thank you? But what’s up with the grading? Those 399’s are a maddening. I mean…really…ONE point short. You can’t just give me the one point? Even convenient stores will loan me the penny from their plastic “borrow a penny” container. Perhaps you should consider having a “bank” of contributed points. Kind of like the “sick bank” at work.  That way, if my friend knocks it out of the park with your coveted 600, she could lend me just ONE point. Who needs a perfect score anyway? It’s not like you send me a party in a bag if I score a 600. Please. You can’t even print the booklets on something that can maintain solid form for more than a testing period.  Or a snack. Or water for heaven’s sake.

Perhaps you need  to look up what the word "worth" means. In my book, my worth is measured by those that KNOW me. Those people that see me each and every day. Those people that cheer me on in all aspects of my life. Those people that guide me in school and make sure I don’t burn down the Chemistry Lab. Those people who take the time to read what I wrote. Those people that are in awe of my woodworking skills. Those people who come to my games,  ask how my weekend was or just listen about my bad day. Do you know that? 

NO. All you know is that your scores prove I’m not the best writer. Or a historian. Or a chemist. Congrats! But are you able to see how I’ve work tirelessly with teachers in order to achieve the ridiculous goal you’ve set? Do you know that I have a plethora (bet you LOVED that word) of qualities, that if added all up on a point scale, would blow your 600 out of the water?  Nope. You don’t. You think my worth is a number. A score. 

Your narcissism is overwhelming.  

All I ask is that you take you eventually disappear into thin air. You don’t need to let us know where you’ve gone. Just go.  I can’t say I’d miss you.  At all. Like, EVER.

Thanks for the memories.

Every High School Student in Virginia

Saturday, May 9, 2015

An EGGcellent Day

Tuck: "Mama! Mama! There's an egg! There's an egg!"
Mags: "Ooooooh! Lemme see it. Can I hold it? Where is it? Please show...OH NO! There's POOP ON IT! No one told me there would be POOP on the eggs."
Me: "It's okay, Mags. We'll just wash it. See? No big deal."
Mags: "So...wait. Does that mean the eggs come out of their...bum?"
Me: "Yup. It's called their 'vent.'" 
Mags: "Oh man. That can't feel good."


Big news: 

One of our hens laid her first egg AND we learned how (and where)
 the egg come out of the chicken. Everybody wins!

Now, who wants an omelette? (A very tiny omelette) 


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I'M ONE WITH THE TURTLES

Me: "Watch out for this hole in the grass, Mags." (falls in hole)
Mags: "You okay? Just laugh it off, Mama." (falls in hole I just fell in AND warned her about ten seconds earlier)

Once upon a time, I was a pretty decent runner. But now ... I'm a supportive runner ... for my kids (and my very weak Achilles). I "ran" a 5K with Mags today. We walked, talked, almost cried, laughed, drank water, threw the cups on the ground (the mom in me was tormented), tied our shoes a trillion times and, at one point, fell over each other. But guess what? We finished. We made memories. And we actually did sweat a little bit. 


This shirt sums up my running status at 37 years old ... 
and I'm finally proud of it. 

http://teespring.com/peanutbutter