Sunday, April 29, 2012


Climbing up rock walls, running through tires, crawling through tunnels and wading in the river.  This is how I spent my afternoon yesterday.  No, I did not quit my teaching job to sign up for Basic Training. Jack and I signed up for a 5K obstacle run called Run-A-Muck. 

I'm beginning to look for more ways to connect with Jack.  He prefers to talk to Paul about sports, his friends about girls, and noone about school.    Lately I find that my conversations with him resemble, well, nagging.  "Have you practiced your guitar?"  "You can watch TV after you take the time to tackle that math."  "Could you please help me set the table for dinner?" "Don't forget to brush your teeth."    Recently I chaperoned his middle school field trip and I had the nerve (in front of his friends, the agony!) to ask him to walk down the aisle of the bus instead of climbing over all the seats to get to his spot.   In Jack's mind, "Mom" is synonomous with "Fun Crusher."  I know this because he told me so.

When I heard about Run-A-Muck, I decided this was the perfect opportunity for a little mother-son nag-free bonding time.  We asked our friends Allyson and Lane to join us to make a team of 4.  Then we headed to Target where we let the boys pick out the most outrageous get-ups they could devise with a  $20.00 budget.  They found lots of bright colors on clearance and Team Neon was born.

The day of the race was COLD.  Luckily spirits were high and the DJ was loud.  We danced around to warm up and laughed at the other team's costume ideas.  My favorite was a group of guys dressed entirely in white.  They were Team Clorox. 

When the race bagan, the boys immediately took off together at a much faster pace.  Allyson and I talked as we ran behind them.  Yes, we had planned to stay together.  But to do this, we'd have to spend the entire event reminding them to slow down, be careful, pace sorta sounded like nagging.  So we let them run ahead into the unknown without us.   And when we got to the final mud pit, they were there, already covered in mud, cheering us on to the finish line.

Even though Jack and I didn't exactly run together we had a lot of laughs.  He's already talking about next year.  Have I gone from "Fun Crusher" to "Coolest Mom Ever?"  I doubt it.  But it's a start.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

Hair Crisis!  Has this ever happened to you?  I don't usually give my hair that much thought.  A quick blowdry in the morning on days when I work, a ponytail tucked in the back of my baseball cap on the days that I don't.  My hair wasn't special but it was just fine.  Until it wasn't.

One morning I wake up and I have a hair crisis.  The grey is showing.  The split ends are showing.  The frizz is showing.  Aaak!  Everything is showing! 

Sometimes in my life I have to deal with a real crisis.  It is stressful, emotional and out of my control.  It takes time to resolve.  That's why I love a hair crisis.  Instant fix!

I call my stylist for an appointment.  Turns out the salon isn't equipped to deal with my hair crisis.  They can fit me in three weeks from Thursday.   That's when I tuck my tail between my legs and call Sarah.

A little background--I have no loyalty when it comes to people who cut my hair.  I have really unrealistic high expectations that my hairdresser should be able to turn my thin, fine, scraggly hair into a Cindy Crawford look-a-like mane with a few snips of the scissors.   I also have trouble speaking the language of hairdressers.  "Tapered bob?"  "Shaped layers?" Sometimes I have a picture in my mind.  Sometimes I even bring in a picture.  But my feeble attempts at communicating usually find the end product not exactly what I imagined.

A few years ago I tried Sarah.  She gave me a really great haircut.  It was amazingly cute and trendy.  It just wasn't me.  Think Victoria Beckham's asymmetrical look.  I spent most of my day pushing my asymmetrical bangs out of my left eye.   So I abandoned Sarah and decided to grow my hair long.  For the last two years it has been growing out.  Until one day I look in the mirror and realize, this just isn't me either. 

I call Sarah.  After hearing "hair crisis" she can fit me in today.  She doesn't ask where I've been.  She stands behind me holds up my broken frizzed ends out. "How short do you want to go?" she asks.  

"Shorter than Cindy and but longer than Victoria," I tell her.

So here's the new me.  The new Allison.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

That's Gonna Leave A Mark

Jack is up to bat.  Thwack!  I was hoping to hear the crack of the bat hitting the ball out of the park.  Hey, I'd settle for a long line drive.  Instead the sound was the pitch making contact with Jack's thigh.  "That's gonna leave a mark," I think, as he shakes it off and takes his base.

April equals the start of baseball season in our house.  This is Jack's last year in Little League and last weekend was opening day.  I have to admit, I have a hard time watching the games at the Major League level.  I loved T-Ball when everyone ran the bases and we didn't keep score.  At some point the game became less about fun and friends and more about skill and winning.  Jack's been hit with several pitches and the beating in the batter's box is rattling his confidence.  He's in a self-proclaimed batting slump.  It is nerve-racking to see Jack frustrated with his contributions to his team--especially when it is a tough game. 

I'm proud of Jack for sticking with baseball.  He's not as tall or fast as some of the other players, true.  Yet he keeps showing up, keeps trying and keeps cheering on his teammates.  He has a real passion for baseball but passion can't be sustained on a daily basis.  It is his commitment and determination that keeps him going to 3 practices and 2 games weekly throughout the season.  So we lost the first game 4-5.  Tomorrow is a new team and a new game.  And maybe, just maybe, Jack will hit the ball this time instead of the other way around!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lessons From Captiva Island

Disclaimer: After our last vacation, I wrote Lessons From Ireland reminiscing about our amazing adventure.  Our Florida trip just couldn't compete.  However, as you read these lessons you may think I had no fun on my vacation whatsoever.   I want to assure you dear reader (Mom!) that there were bright spots, laughs and happy moments during the week.  Maybe some other time I'll tell you about  the three books I read, the seashells I collected and the family bike rides.  But not today...

Lesson Number 1: Read the fine print.   Millionaires Thurston and Luvey Howell would have loved being stranded on this island.  But the added costs were frustrating  for an average family on a budget.  Take tennis, for example.  The resort charges $15 per adult and $10 per child just to reserve a court.  You want racquets too?  No problem: $10 per person.  Wait, you need balls? For just $10 you can rent some of those too.  Maybe the resort thinks our addled brains are too fuzzy from drinking pina coladas by the pool to do the math and figure out that it would cost a family of four $100 to play tennis for an hour!  Shoot, I wonder how much these pina coladas are??
At least the pool is free!
Lesson Number 2: Apply and reapply!  When you take your pasty white bodies down to the Gulf of Mexico for some sand and sun, do not trust your children's insistence that they've slathered every inch of their bodies with copious amounts of sunscreen.  Believe me, they missed a spot.  Maybe several.  Ouch.
Lesson learned-we're covered up.
Lesson Number 3: Check your blind spot.  Especially if you are driving a rental car.  Especially if you are in a hurry to beat the Spring Break crowds and secure a table at the famous Bubble Room for dinner.  If you arrive at the parking lot at 4:45 p.m. and there's only one spot left, do not frantically try to wedge yourself in next to that pole.  Crunch.  Trust me, the food's not worth it.  Next time get a dessert to go and eat it on the beach.
Lesson Number 4: Stick to the shrimp.  Lots of great seafood in Captiva but one night we had Mexican.  I thought the meal was delicious but my stomach had other opinions.  Around 2:00 a.m. it started fighting back and I spent the next 12 hours in my own Mexican nightmare.  I won't go into details but I am happy to report that the resort didn't charge for ice chips.
The hats are fun but stay away from the sour cream!
 Lesson Number 5: Learn from the animals.  The "Ding" Darling Nature preserve was a short drive from our resort.  We spent the morning at the visitor's center learning about the wildlife there.  The Park Rangers really knew how to appeal to the kids.  "Wanna see some owl vomit?" one asks.  "Cool, huh?" Another Ranger talked all about farting manatees.   We were excited to take the loop hike through the mangrove forest for some animal sightings of our own.  Until we realized the wide gravel path provided no shade at all.  Until we realized that hiking 4 miles in the 90 degree midday sun was rather uncomfortable.   Along the way it was quiet.  Too quiet.  There was not an animal in sight.  They were all hiding in the shade questioning the common sense of humans, I suppose.  Finally we saw an alligator cooling in the mud, but not before Jack had declared this the worst day of his tortured, sweaty life.
Hiding in the shade
Lesson Number 6: Savor the sunset. So far my vacation report has been less than glowing.  My last lesson is a bright spot, literally.  Captiva Island's beach is aptly named Sunset Beach.  Its westward view of the horizon makes for perfect sunset viewing.  Whatever trials and difficulties the days held, they all seemed to melt away as we watched a perfect yellow circle of sun melt the sky into a rainbow of hues.
How long before the sun sets?