Monday, July 18, 2016

boys (almost) only weekend

So while the girls are in South Carolina with my mom for two weeks, doing all kinds of girl things - like getting manicures and pedicures ...

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We've been having a great time with the boys.  We've been watching a lot of superhero movies, and this weekend, we went to the batting cages.

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Watching Charlie up at bat, took me back to the day 25 years ago, when I first played softball with him on the Gneiss Guys intramural Geology Club softball team.

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He could tater it now, just like he tater'd it back then.  Swoon! 

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Then we went on the Go-Karts.  Charlie drove with Henry as his passenger, while I was William's passenger.  "This should be fun!" I naively thought as I hopped in to the Go-Kart with my son who has never driven anything in his life, except for his little John Deere tractor that went 0.5 MPH down a steep hill.

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But then the Go-Kart started to move and William was swerving all over the course and unintentionally cutting people off, and after he t-boned in to the guardrail, I grabbed the wheel and steered us back to safety.   I'd never really considered the terror that awaits me as our children all learn to drive (at approximately the same time), until that moment on the Go-Kart track.  Meanwhile, William was telling me how much his hands hurt from gripping the wheel for dear life, and what's with all the crazy drivers - several of whom were driving with their cell phones out, videoing the course?!   I'm smiling because he's just told me that he doesn't want to get his license until he's 30.

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We concluded our afternoon of fun on the bumper boats.  From a distance, it seemed like it was a pretty mild little ride, float around in an inner tube powered by a tiny motor - bump in to each other - there's a little squirter on front that may or may not get each other wet.

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Oh, what little did we know! 

The ride starts and because I was the first released from the dock, I got in to a position where I could immediately open fire directly on Charlie and he got so soaked, he couldn't even see out of his glasses.

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I was off-limits for a few seconds while I snapped off these pictures, and then I, too, was fair game and proceeded to get drenched.  But not as drenched as our boys, who kept finding themselves trapped - at just the right impact distance - between their two parents.

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We had so much fun, all of us laughing like mad, water dripping off our faces as we stood in our puddles contemplating if we should cancel our dinner reservation, or just bring a roll of paper towels with us in to the restaurant?

(We opted to pick up a pizza and go home to watch Iron Man.)

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I was talking with some colleagues today, all of whom have toddler daughters.  My message was that as wonderful as little girls are ... there's a special place in this world (and in my heart) for little boys who after a weekend of watching superhero movies with you, doesn't think twice about going out on bumper boats...

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Dressed up as Clark Kent.  (Swoon again!)

Saturday, July 09, 2016

r-e-s-p-e-c-t ... find out what it means to me

Four weeks ago yesterday, my mom and Aunt Grace flew in to Texas.

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They were with us for a weekend, and then we flew to Puerto Rico for a week, with Elizabeth (more on this later...).

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My Aunt Grace flew home the following week, and my mother stayed for three weeks to help me with the children, while Charlie and William were away at Boy Scout camp in Colorado (more on this later...).

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We have had a wonderful time together, and I'm so, so hopeful that Mom will consider making a move to Texas to live near us (more on this later, too).

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This afternoon, the seven of us drove to Houston to meet up with a good friend.  Our friend is a brilliant single mother whose equally brilliant 8-year old son threw an out of control temper tantrum while we were out at lunch.  He wanted ice cream and his mother wasn't going to get it for him at that moment, because the line at the ice cream stand was at least 20 people long.  So this amazing little child threw a fit and punched his mother, and pushed his mother, and tried to yank her pocketbook out of her hands so he could get to her wallet.

My mother was with us and for the first 60 seconds or so, we tried to ignore the behavior - looking the other way and talking to each other while hoping that the mother had it under control and would stop her son. But she didn't.

Instead, she put her arms out to her sides and leaning back in her chair, said to him, "Stop! You must stop!  You're in time out, sit down next to me and stop!" 

He sat down. But He Didn't Stop.  He kept throwing himself backwards in to her, with tears streaming down his cheeks as he sobbed, "I want it! I want it!"  

Our four kids were stunned.  Not at any time in recent memory, have they been exposed to a fit like this.  And my mother, unable to contain herself, finally leaned across the table and asked our friend, "Good heavens! What are you going to do about this? This is terrible!"  And the overwhelmed mother said, "I, I ... I honestly don't know what to do about this!"

Taking that as my cue (rightfully or wrongfully - I haven't yet decided), I leaned in and loudly said to the little boy, who wouldn't make eye contact with anyone,  "Did you happen to notice how Henry is missing his front teeth?" He ignored me as he rocked back and forth, slamming in to his mother.   I continued with my voice raising slightly, "I'll bet you think its because his teeth fell out on their own.  Can you believe that I actually knocked his teeth out?! Me!! His MOTHER!" 

That caught his attention.

He stopped thrashing and looked at me uneasily.

"Of course it was a terrible accident," I continued.  "But I can tell you right now that I wouldn't put up with your behavior - not for a second!  Who do you think you are sitting here throwing a fit like this, in public? You are too smart of a child to be behaving this terribly!"  My voice raised even more as I pointed my finger to an empty chair at the next table and said, "You get up and you go sit over there and knock it off right this instant.  Don't you say another word."  

He sized me up, surely wondering what I'd do next, but quickly retreated to the table next to us, when I squinted my eyes at him and engaged my maternal laser beams.

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Meanwhile, my mother was talking to his mother and saying, "You cannot tolerate this kind of behavior! This is abuse! He is abusing you! And you need to get this under control immediately because it's only going to get worse as he gets older!"  

I nodded in agreement and added,  "Listen.  It's up to you.  You have to teach him what is acceptable - and what isn't.  THIS is not acceptable behavior and can not be tolerated, if it is - you'll be on course to raise a monster."  Then I diverted my stare back to the gasping boy who was sitting with his tear-streaked face looking down at his lap and asked, "Who is in charge around here?  Are you in charge?!" He shook his head no.  So I asked, "Then tell me, who is in charge?" And he quickly pointed his finger at his mother.

"That's right," I said. "Your mother is in charge. She is the boss ... and don't you disrespect your mother like that again.  Your mother is a QUEEN and you will treat her as such. Got it?"  He quickly nodded yes.

We finished our lunch and as we were walking out, with the little boy was now acting like an angel - my mother and I both said to his mother,  "Please, don't ever let him do that again. You've got to nip that in the bud and not let him get away with that behavior.  It doesn't matter where you are, you make him mind you!" 

His mother seemed extremely grateful for the intercession, but she might have been mortified that we interfered. Who knows?  All I know is that at minimum, he won't act like that around us again.

But it got me to thinking ... respect isn't something that just happens, it's something that is taught and those teachings begin at home.   "These days" it really seems that there is a fundamental lack of respect in our society, and in our world.  Has it always been like this? Or does it just seem worse in recent years with live-stream technology that feeds the media beasts?

I'll need to write more about that later, too.  Much like I'm unable to keep my mouth closed with severely misbehaving children, so too am I able to stifle opinions on things like politics, promiscuity on college campuses, and simmering racial tensions in this country.

Our house is very quiet for the next two weeks, so hopefully, I'll have some time to sit, reflect, and write.

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Mom flew back to South Carolina tonight with our extremely well-behaved Carolyn and Elizabeth. This is the first time they have ever left home without us, but I know that next to ours - they are in the absolute best possible  hands.  My mother and Aunt Grace will love them - and make sure that they stay in line.

Or else! 

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(Just about everything I know about parenting ... I've learned from those two.)

Monday, July 04, 2016

... and then he was nine

Today, this little one turned nine-years-old:

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The intense feelings, I can't quite explain.  But if had to, it'd be some kind of cross between joy and longing, elation and melancholy. Predominantly, excitement and extreme gratitude for having him in our lives.

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(With a heavy dash of wishing that all of 'em would stop growing up so darn fast.)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

a heave and a ho ... and away we go

Last month, I flew to South Carolina to be with my mother for a few days.  The intent was that I would be there for a week, but on or around Day 6, I decided to stay for a few days longer.  When my Dad died last year, there was no surviving spouse, so I hadn't really considered the shock to the system when after the funeral, everyone who has gathered, returns to life and things get "back to normal."

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A week after Jim passed, we definitely weren't back to normal.  Pearl (my sister's dog) and I both sensed it.  From Pearl's perspective, every time my mother would sit down, she would prop her soft head on my mom's feet and stay there.  And if this isn't an endorsement to add a sweet Golden Retriever to your family post haste, I really don't know what is...

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While I didn't prop my head on my mother's feet, I did sleep next to her for the next seven days and we did all kinds of important things together like re-arrange furniture, clean out closets, go to the DMV, swim at the YMCA, and sit in steam rooms.  We also had a healthy dose of retail therapy when we bought mom a new computer, Apple TV, and dress:

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And on a particularly melancholy day, we opted to stay in bed as I taught mom the art of live-streaming movies. Here we are watching one of mom's all-time favorite movies, "Cinema Paradisio."

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Now way back in April, around the same time Carolyn and I had attended my Aunt Ann's spectacular 90th birthday bash, I had asked my mother if she would be interested in joining me on one of my quarterly business trips to Puerto Rico.  Perhaps I would take another one of the kids, and they could have some quality time together while I worked?  Mom agreed - and invited my Aunt Grace - and earlier this month, less than one week AFTER I had returned to Texas from South Carolina, my mom and her sister arrived in Houston:

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They flew in on a Friday and we left on Monday for Puerto Rico, with Elizabeth in tow.

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This trip was awesome, and will be the subject of a separate blog post.  But what's important to note is that after a wonderful week in Puerto Rico - my mother decided to extend her trip to Texas for a few more weeks because Charlie was heading out of town on a Boy Scout camping trip with William - and I would be running solo with three of the kids.  With school being out for the summer, and a particularly busy work schedule, I would gladly welcome my mom's help.

We arrived home from Puerto Rico late Friday night, and by Saturday night, Elizabeth had a violent case of the stomach flu.  After staying up all night with her on Father's Day - I thought perhaps (please God, please!) it would be contained to *only* one child. She seemed better on Monday, and Tuesday morning, Aunt Grace flew back to South Carolina - while my mother, good to her word, remained here with us in Texas.

I continued to think that Elizabeth's illness over the weekend was an isolated event, until Wednesday afternoon when at around 1:35 PM - it hit me.   As my insides were trying to get to my outsides, I wondered if maybe the two bouts were related?  I didn't wonder long.

That evening, while Charlie was away at a sleep study for address what turns out is a severe case of obstructive sleep apnea, my mother came down with it.

(I call this mask, "Horton Hears A Who!")

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Unbeknownst to us - my Aunt Grace came down with it in South Carolina at approximately the same exact time as my mother.  By early Thursday morning, Carolyn had it.  By Thursday afternoon, William - who was still at home and planning to leave for his camping trip Friday morning - came down with it.

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By Thursday evening, only Charlie and Henry were unscathed. As I've written before, when your whole family is laid flat by the flu, and you're not ... well, it's kinda like staring down the barrel of a loaded shotgun.  Unless you happen to have a Captain America'esque immunity force field that surrounds you. Which it would appear - as of this writing on Sunday night - Henry indeed does:

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Friday morning rolled around and William was feeling better, so with fingers crossed, he and Charlie took off (in their own quarantined vehicle, as opposed to riding in the Boy Scout vans) for their nearly two-week camping trip to Colorado.

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Whew, what a month! 

I'm so grateful for the incredibly serendipitous timing of all these events ... our trip to Puerto Rico, the flu that wrapped up just in the nick of time to not prevent William's trip to Colorado, mom's ability and desire, to stay in Texas and help.  

Although being here is a lot like being in a viral petri dish (as unfortunately, both my mother and Aunt Grace can avow), this house is also brimming with energy - love - and laughter.  I'm hopeful that this grandchild-rich environment, along with bland foods like Saltines [the only food some of us can still tolerate] - is precisely what my mother needs.  And if all else fails, Henry has promised that he'll live-stream Marvel movies with his Noni.

Mom has yet to see Thor.

Monday, June 20, 2016

he floats through the air with the greatest of ease

One month ago today, we said goodbye to our sweet Jimbo.  He had been transferred to a hospice unit  earlier in the week, and on Friday evening - just as the sun was preparing to set as it had on so many wonderful days during his time spent in Florida - so it set on his amazingly wonderful life.  Mom said that she knew Jim was close to letting go, so she climbed up next to him, and holding him in her arms - whispered in his ear how much she loved him.  And that is how Jim took his last breath... wrapped tightly in the arms of someone who absolutely adored him.

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My plane left early the next morning, and by Saturday afternoon, my mom was tightly wrapped in my arms - and the arms of so many others.  Loved ones from all over the country descended on Greenville, South Carolina that third week of May - and it was amazing.  Mom had wanted for Jim's funeral to  be a happy celebration of his life, and so we pulled together an Irish Wake style-program that included singing and dancing and libations.  Mom believes that it is barbaric to view the deceased, so although Jim's body wasn't there - his spirit most definitely was.

After the eulogies, the whole congregation joined together to sing some of Jim's favorites including, "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" and "The Man on the Flying Trapeze."  And then we closed with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" which was most fitting, seeing as Jim - in the words of our pastor - was born in the Grandstands... as the grandson, nephew and son of professional baseball players.

This is a link to the photo tribute that I'd pulled together which we shared with everyone at the service (it starts with Jim's grandfather, uncle and father playing ball!) And this is the eulogy that I delivered (which was just one of several; so many had kind words to share about the one and only Jim!):
I first met Jim Cooney when I was 10-years old … it was a Sunday morning at 7 AM and he and his wife, Pat, were playing tennis with a group from the Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship down in Cleveland Park.   Back in 1981, the tennis courts were just in front of the zoo. Between the thump and whack of tennis balls, we would hear the lions roar – as they woke up for the day.   That was 35 years ago, when the GUUFs were a small group that met at a house on Buist Avenue.

Jim and Pat taught me how to play tennis. They would patiently stand on one side of the net and toss me balls, one after another, while instructing me how to step in and follow-through on my swing. They say that tennis is the only game where love doesn’t count, but I’m sure it was largely because of the love that the Cooney’s showed me on the tennis court, that I made the varsity tennis team in high school; earned a tennis scholarship to college, and met my husband, Charlie, when we played each other for the intramural tennis championship at university in California.  
 
Jim and Pat Cooney were not only PRESENT in my life, they were PRESENTS in my life.  They were present at my high school tennis tournaments; they were present at my high school graduation. And when I married, they were present at my wedding. In my vocabulary, their names are synonymous with friendship, generosity, kindness, loyalty, and love. 
I’ll never forget the day Pat presented my mother with a brand new graphite Prince tennis racquet. Up until that point, mom had been playing with an old aluminum racquet and that Prince made all the difference in her game.  I’ll also never forget the day when a year after our beloved Pat passed, Jim and my mother drove from South Carolina to California to spend Thanksgiving with me and my husband.  And thus began a wonderful companionship between Jim and my mom.  
The way I see it, Pat actually gifted my mother two Princes … one was a racquet.  The other was Jim.  And like the tennis racquet - he too, made ALL the difference in her game.  He made a difference in ALL of our games.  I am so grateful for the love and companionship that Jim has given to my mother … for the love and joy that Jim has given to my mother’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  Jim really has been a gift for our family.  Even when he beat us diving to the bottom of the pool for quarters, whipped those of us 40 years his junior on the tennis courts without breaking a sweat, and swiftly defeated us a in a game of cards, he promised he’d never played before in his life. 
Every. Single. Time. He said – “Oh, it’s just beginner’s luck!”  
These past 15 years have been an amazing adventure for my Mom and Jim, and for all of us who had the privilege to witness their devoted companionship.  My mother was so proud of her handsome husband, and I know it was such an honor for her to be with him.

Jim was a humble man – who took such pride in his appearance - always presenting himself so well.  His shirt would be tucked in, and his waist belted.  His loafers were clean, his pants pressed.   Jim never bragged about his own accomplishments, but was so proud of his roots – and his family.

Jim was a decent man - who never let a lady open her own door, and the last time I saw him, he still insisted on carrying MY luggage.  Jim was never loud or offensive, but always soft-spoken and kind.  Well, except for when there was a game to be won and someone had a ball in their hand.  
Above everything else, Jim wasn’t just a gentleman, but truly a GENTLE MAN.  In his obituary it read that among other things, “Jim loved children.”  The longer I live , the more I know that the greatest testament to person’s character is the way that they respond to children.  Jim really did love children.  And all the little “Sport-o’s and Kid-o’s” that crossed his path, really loved him, too.

Before I step down, I know that my mother would like for me to thank so many people who have helped them and given them such strength the past few years. My sister Marylou – who never stops giving.  My Aunt Grace and the Finnell’s; Jon and Marion Grier, Bo and Suzi Boghani, Pat Dillow, Jackie Weddington and the entire UU community, your friendship means more than words can convey. 
 
Now Mom, I know that Jim and Pat would also like for me to THANK YOU: for the love and devotion that you showed to the two of them.  Just as Jim gave you so much these past few years, you gave Jim so much, too.  No one could have cared for Jim like you did – and he was so grateful for you.  You held him in your heart, and last Friday at 6:00 PM, at the exact time the two of you would have been toasting a sunset at the end of another wonderful day in Florida – you tenderly held him in your arms and lovingly made sure he didn’t leave this world alone.   
Mom - you are an amazing gift to every soul you touch!

He was Jimbo to all of us, and because he was so deeply loved, he will be so deeply missed.  At 92-years of age – the toast that Jim always gave, “Salud Dinero – Y Tiempo Para Disfrutalos!” was something he achieved in his own life.  Jim had health, he had wealth, and he had the time to enjoy them.  But he also had mucho amor …. So Much Love.   And of all the gifts – that is the greatest of all!
 
Dear God, may we will all be so lucky to have such a wonderful, healthy, love-filled RICH life as our beloved Jimbo!   
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(AMEN!) 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

he is the greatest generation

It's been a while since I've written about our beloved, Jimbo.

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Last year at this time, Mom and Jim were residing in Florida.  They made the decision to return to South Carolina in August, because as much as they love Florida, my mother really needed some additional support to care for her husband.

At the age of 92,  our former WWII Navy pilot, could still come up with answers for just about any crossword. But his mind has been slipping, and what started as a difficulty remembering where simple things were - like his wallet or car keys - has slowly evolved in to a general confusion about where he is, what he's doing, and when he's going home.

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Despite his confusion, Jim would almost always win in cards. And if you sang a tune from long ago, he'll know every lyric.  When we were with Jim a few years ago in Florida, and he started reciting the poem "Casey At The Bat" from memory, the lot of us that had gathered around him, were gobsmacked.

As I've written before, Jim is from a long line of professional baseball players.  Jim's Dad actually played with Babe Ruth for Boston in 1917;  before playing for several other teams - including the Chicago Cubs. It was with the Cubs that his Dad made an unassisted triple play, which landed him in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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Jim's Uncle played professional baseball, too. As did his grandfather, who Jim says is the one who "died at first" in the famous poem.   Jim would tell me that those were the golden days when ball players played not for some multi-million dollar contract, but for the love of the game.

(Although, he adds, it sure would have been nice if his family had made millions doing what they loved!) 

Jim has always had an insatiable love of sports, and would watch games on TV - any games - just so long as there was a ball involved. Baseball, basketball, football, tennis ... golf.

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Over the past few years, my mother has been Jim's primary caregiver as dementia has slowly taken over his brilliant mind.  And while Jim has always remained the consummate well-dressed gentleman, with a bright smile, and joyful expression of "Hi-Ya Kiddo!", Jim's demise has been painful for everyone, especially my mother.

More and more, I've become aware of articles and news stories that highlight the very real issue of caregiver stress, and after witnessing it in my own mother - I know how frightening and crippling it can be.

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The exhaustion from sleep deprivation due to round-the-clock care; the frustration and depression from the exhaustion and inability to do things for yourself; the guilt that you think about doing things for yourself - and the worry that no one can take care of your loved one like you can.  Add to that, the stress over the expense of care should you even consider it - can run thousands per month.

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Mom had resisted putting Jim in to a nursing facility not because of the expense, but because she loves him and treasures his companionship.  According to mom, "Jim gives me purpose, and he is always so happy.  I hate to do it to him ... he is such a kind and wonderful man!" 

And he is. 

But a few months ago, mom was at a breaking point. Every time we would talk with her, she would collapse in to tears because she was so tapped out.  And finally, she took the advice of what every doctor, nurse, and health care professional had been telling her ... she sought help and put Jim in a facility where he would be cared for, round-the-clock.

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It hasn't been an easy decision for mom, and several times she has mentioned taking him out and bringing him home.  But since Jim has been in a nursing home, mom has been able to spend some time on herself, which it turns out has been critically necessary.

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Mom, who tries to make the the best of every possible situation, has started singing when she goes to see Jim. According to my Aunt Grace who has witnessed this before, residents will light up when my mother starts singing, and people who were moments earlier, sitting in a comatose state - will begin tapping their foot, clapping their hands, or singing along.

With the gift of music, it seems something deep in their minds is sparked.

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"Your mother has such a gift with people," my Aunt has told me.

Indeed, she does.

I know it.

And Jim knows it, too.

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This past weekend, our beloved Jimbo had a stroke.  After spending the weekend in the hospital, the decision has been made to administer comfort-measures, only.  He was transferred to hospice today, and mom is with him - by his side, holding his hand, and nurturing him.  Today when I called, she was tucking blankets around his chin, fluffing his pillow, and keeping the phone near his ear so people could tell him how much they love and appreciate him.

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When I spoke to my mother yesterday, she told me that when she went in to his hospital room - although he could not speak - Jim's eyes made contact with hers, and she said that his eyes were so full of love, and gratitude.  She said that it honestly felt like his soul connected with hers, and their souls said to each other, "Thank You."  And when I talked to my mother tonight, she said that Jim had been trying to lift her hand up to his lips so that he could kiss it.

The thought of these sweet gestures make me weep tears of gratefulness.

Oh, what a gift these two have been for each other!

Jim's first wife, Pat - who was also a dear friend of our family - passed away in November of 2000. And for the past 15 years, Mom and Jim have been together.  They've traveled all around the United States, and spent more than a decade in Florida.  They've laughed together, danced together, swam together, done crossword puzzles together, played cards together, and of course - sang together.

I am so grateful for the role that Jim has played in my life, a close friend to our family for the past 35-years.  And I am so grateful of the grandfather that he has been to our children.   Almost all of our children's memories of Jim involve the beach and laughter.  (And getting whooped in cards.)

But mostly, I am so grateful for the love that Jim has brought in to my mother's life.  I am so grateful that for the past 15 years, Jim has been my mom's best friend - someone who unexpectedly has given her so much purpose, joy, and adventure.  I'm so grateful for this intelligent, gracious, kind, patient, sports-loving, well-dressed gentleman, who has adored my mother and treasured her for the gift that she is; just as she has treasured him for the gift that he has been to her.

Yes, this is the face of companionship...

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It is my prayer that Jim, and my mom, feel all of the love surrounding them.  And that for Jim - there is no pain... just peace, and comfort, and faith.

Faith that he he has his toes in an ocean of love...

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And the tide is rising.

(Pam, Stan, and Kimball - you, too, are in our hearts. xox) 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

here's to growing up

When we lived in Virginia, there was a little boy who lived down the street from us, and one afternoon, he went for a bike ride with his mom.  To hear his mother tell the story, "He was riding his bike, just in front of me, and I could see that he was heading straight for a parked car.  I kept waiting for him to swerve to miss the parked car, but instead, he slammed in to the back of it, and flipped over the handlebars.  When I rushed up to him, he was curled in a ball on the ground crying.  I asked him, 'What were you thinking?!' and he said, 'Now I know. Don't ever ride your bike with your eyes closed!" 

I absolutely love that story.  There are certain things that kids just have to figure out on their own.

Now that William has joined the Boy Scouts, he goes on a full-weekend camping trip once a month.  For the past several months, Charlie has joined him as they leave on a Friday afternoon, and return home Sunday afternoon.  

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This past weekend, William was slated to have a camping trip to a beach on Corpus Christi, approximately five hours south of us.  Until 3:00 PM on Friday afternoon, Charlie was planning to go with him - but at the very last minute he decided, "I really need a weekend at home." 

So we packed William off on his own - his first time ever - and after arming him with a cell phone and strict instructions on how to behave, and sunscreen to apply, etc. etc. we bid our son fare thee well a while.

William texted us along his route - they stopped for dinner  and gas - they were driving again - now he was sipping a root beer and nibbling snacks!  At 11:30 PM they arrived at the campsite and he wrote to tell us that he'd be setting up his tent and going to sleep.  Everything was going swimmingly and Charlie and I, feeling content that our son was doing A-OK, went to sleep.

At 1:17 AM the phone rang.

I answered it, and on the other end was a very distraught William.  There was sand IN his tent. There was sand everywhere.  He was miserable. Please, could we come get him?

Um, let me think about it for a minute ... NO!

I told him I loved him very much and that he needs to put the phone away and go to sleep.  "Goodnight" I said, as I hung up the phone.  Less than two minutes later, the phone rang again.

"MOM. You don't understand. THERE IS SAND EVERYWHERE AND I AM MISERABLE.  Oh, and also, Dad forgot to pack my sleeping bag."

Whaaaa????

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For nary a brief millisecond, the thought flashed through my mind that I'd drive south and rescue my son, five hours south of us at nearly 1:30 in the morning. Once that moment of insanity passed, I nudged a groggy Charlie and handed him the phone, as I rolled over on my side and tried to smother out their conversation with my pillow.

This is what happened next:

Charlie flew out of bed gasping, "What do you MEAN you don't have your sleeping bag?! William, we PACKED your sleeping bag. It's in the support trailer!!  I'll tell you what happened, you arrived and were goofing around with your friends and not paying attention to what you had and what you didn't have and now everyone's asleep and LO you don't have your sleeping bag.  I love you little man, but this one's on you.  You need to go to wrap yourself in a towel and go to sleep. Find your bag in the morning." 

My husband hung up the phone and less than five minutes later, it rang again.  I could hear William's bellowing on the other end of the line, "DAD! YOU FORGOT TO PACK MY SLEEPING BAG! I CANNOT SLEEP! COME GET ME RIGHT NOW, PLEASE!!! I'M MISERABLE!!!" 

And my husband, God Bless him, held his patience and said, "Son, I love you more than life itself. But there is no way I'm driving five hours because you can't find the sleeping bag that I packed for you. Use your towel, wrap yourself in it, and GO TO SLEEP.  You're in south Texas in the middle of May in a tent. The temperature will not drop below 75 degrees tonight. You'll survive until morning. Sleep well. I'll talk to you tomorrow, I'm hanging up now. GOOD NIGHT!" 

The next morning at 7:00, William called and said he was feeling GREAT!  He was able to go to sleep and when he awoke this morning, there was a beautiful sunrise.

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Also, he found his sleeping bag.

Imagine That?! 

Nonetheless, this was a wonderful experience for us - and him - and his siblings who heard all about it, because part of growing up is problem solving.  This was the first time he'd ever had a "problem" that wasn't immediately solvable by his parents ... and it was a good thing.  For everyone.  

My final word of warning was to make sure he put on sunscreen every 2-3 hours.

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When he arrived home today, he was burned to a crisp and he now knows that just like I told him - it is critical to reapply sunscreen throughout the day.

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Much like riding your bike with eyes open, some of these life lessons you just have to learn on your own.