Sixth grade was probably the height of my awkwardness. At least physically.
I remember that I seemed to be uncomfortable in my own skin. Almost like it was too big, or too small.
Either way, I felt suffocated and weighed down all at the same time.
Yearbook pictures were never fun. Ever. I always wondered why my parents even ordered any.
I remember, even at the age of 11, the moment that I had to face looking at myself in a picture.
It was a sickening feeling.
I felt the envelope in my hand and looked down at my image peering back at me through the cellophane window. I was standing in the door of the library opening the envelope and trying to desperately to turn the picture upside down so that it would not be viewable to others.
Before I had successfully made the rotation, I remember a classmate coming up to me in the hallway wanting to see them. We weren't that good of friends and she was everything I wasn't: tall, lean, incredibly athletic, long, smooth, straight hair, big eyes, and clear skin.
"Nah!" I laughed. "They're terrible. Really."
"They can't be that bad", she claimed.
My nervous laughter was followed by, "No. Really. They are."
She laughed and kept putting on the pressure.
(I didn't blame her. Pictures are pictures. Really there aren't bad pictures as much as bad moments captured. Unflattering moments. But generally, almost without fail, you do look like yourself in the photo.
Maybe you in a less than stellar moment, but you nonetheless.)
Always being one to please and never good at deflecting pressure or standing on my own, I ended up flipping the picture over for her to see.
I knew the truth.
I didn't need her to tell me.
Part of me expected the usual, "Awww....it's not that bad."
(That is always what the pretty people say.)
As her eyes scanned the photo and the peered directly into mine, even with all my self-loathing, I was unprepared for what she said.
"Kim, really. Just think about it. You're young. I probably won't look good when I'm older. It's like the ugly duckling. You know how it grew into something beautiful. You might, too."
She was sincere. She truly was. I knew when looking into her face that she was trying to be nice, in her way. A little bit of truth mixed with a tad of encouragement.
She meant well.
At least I think she did.
I looked at her and laughed as I always did and said, "Yeah... I am sure one day I'll be beautiful. Sure. Can't you tell?" as I motioned for her to take me in. All of me.
As I shrugged my shoulders, the laughter coming out of my mouth was still the self-depreciating kind, but I noticed it hurt a little more than usual.
As I turned to go to class I didn't turn back to look at her....
Friday night Steven and the kids picked me up from work and we went out to eat. While eating the kids noticed our close proximity to the park and started thinking back to all the fun that they had on other occasions when they had went with Loriell and Sissy.....
They pleaded with us to let them go.
And since it was Friday night, and despite the fact that it was 5 p.m. and 100 degrees outside, we went.
They had fun running around, up and down the playground equipment. Steven even moved once from his position in the shade to push the kids on the tire swing.
I, still being dressed in my black dress pants and high heels, decided that moving from the shade was not an option.
After arriving home, L and I jumped in the pool and enjoyed the time talking about girl stuff. Daddy came out to the pool and mentioned to me in hushed tones that he had contemplated taking L on a trail ride the next morning and wondered what I thought.
I knew that L had been asking her daddy to go on a trail ride all summer.
Almost every day.
There was no way I could say no.
So when Steven told her that he was going to take her on a trail ride, just less than an hour from our home and they would get up and leave just shortly after 5 a.m., she was over the moon with excitement.
Only few moments later she exited the pool, stating that she needed to get to bed and get a good nights sleep.
It was 7:00 p.m..
Although when they had spoke of going on a trail ride before, I imagined them travelling farther and camping overnight, L couldn't have cared less.
She didn't care where they went, just that they were going.
Isn't that like most kids?
It is us adults that tend to place high expectations on things. Kids are generally happy just to have the experience and the time spent with their parents.
In fact L was so excited about the experience that she was up at 4:30 a.m. just patiently waiting for the alarm to go off to wake her daddy. It was a weekend, after all, and Steven had been getting up and 3:30 to 4:00 a.m. all week and wanted to "sleep in" until 5.
However, once he got up it didn't take them long to get out the door.
I grabbed a couple of quick pictures before they left trying not to cringe because L was wearing jeans that were about 3 inches too short.
She didn't care. She wasn't going to make a fashion statement....she was going to have fun.
(And, like she, and B, told me a few days ago, "We don't live in New York City".)
She posed for me to take another shot or two and I purposefully cropped the bottom of her legs to avoid the obviousness of her too small clothing.
After the second shot or so, she felt like something was up."Mama? Did you get my whole body and how I have my foot out like this? I think it looks cute."
And so, I went ahead, and took the whole shot. And it was cute.
And when you're wearing denim on denim, I am not sure anyone really notices your "too short jeans" anyway. Plus, it isn't like we live in New York City.
(Think Pace Picante Sauce commercial and hear, "New! York! City!")
I sent L with her camera and told her to make sure to get some shots for me.
And then I told her to be safe approximately 1000 times because she and her daddy are a pair.
A pair of risk takers.
And while I went back in the house and started my morning with visions of snakes causing the horses to spook, or a rare bear making itself known, or runaway horses, L and her daddy were having the time of their lives.
And they were eating.
Yes. Let's not forget eating.
L wanted to put to use her saddle bags that she got from Mi Mi and Pa Pa for her birthday and had brought them in the house for me to pack and while she and her daddy were getting the horses loaded.
Steven said they made it about 30 minutes into the ride before L decided it was time to stop and eat.
As a rule, the girl could care less about eating.
But eating is so much more fun when done on a trail ride and when you are eating food that you are carrying in your saddle bags.
Such an important responsibility....the carrying of the food.
I think that once they were done, and started loading up for the day, she had already started planning their next trip....as well as what food she would pack in her saddle bags.
I knew that B and I should take advantage of this time and go on a date of our own. B chose the location of our last date back in the spring and "took me" to Incredible Pizza.
This time, I chose the location.
I knew that he had been wanting to go to the nearby Route 66 museum.
You see, B loves all things "old-timey" and he especially loves Route 66, even sitting and watching documentaries about it on our local public television station.
This is probably not typical for a 6 year old, but it IS fitting for B.
When we walked through the doors he ran to a whitewall tire and said, "Momma, take a picture!" I was glad that I had stuck my small camera in my purse because I wouldn't have wanted to miss capturing the excitement that he had, running from one display to the next.
Around every corner he would say, "Look at that!" or "Look at this!". He read some of the information to me and other times I would read it to him.
He would always say..."Oh, I want one of those sometime...."
...and one of those.
After we left, we stopped by Subway to eat some sandwiches of our own since I failed to pack us any.
It was there in that Subway booth that we debated the qualities of old, antique man-powered push mowers and how he believed that they did a better job cutting the grass.
(I am not sure how he would know.)
(And, of course, he wanted one of those sometime too.)
That night we were all exhausted from our day's activities that we ordered pizza, rented a couple of movies and called it a night.
The next morning we went and ate breakfast at Mi Mi and Pa Pa's.....
and watched a Little House on the Prairie marathon.....
and took turns standing on our heads.....
(This is my 56 year old father.....)
(This is my 56 year old mother.....)
(L perfecting her stand...)
(And B doing a head twist (?) )
Your family doesn't do that?
I like to think that we keep the "fun" in dysfunctional.
Which is also why we capped off the night with another weenie roast in 100 degree temps.
But I'll admit there are times that I hear about exotic, or all-American (think Disney World), vacations and I think that we should do something similar.
There have been summers that we have went, seen, and done.
However, more times than not we end up staying pretty close to home during the summer months. Steven claims that it is because we have more in our backyard than most people have. Our children, therefore, have more opportunities for adventure right at home, and don't need an exotic- or all-American- vacation.
I think that although he is right, it fits rather nicely in his anti-social, avoid-touristy-things-at-all-costs, attitude.
A few weeks ago, the week after the 4th of July to be exact, we went camping at a nearby lake.
(We purposefully went the week after the 4th so as to not appear "touristy" and to avoid large crowds.)
Although I delight in all the "setting up the campsite" festivities, Steven was all for minimal packing and minimal preparation this time around.
We threw in the...um....necessities:
Bikes Hersheys Marshmallows Graham Crackers Firewood
Once we were there it didn't take long (think minimal packing) for the kids to get their suits on and be ready to hit the water.
On the way to the lake shore the kids were excited to see that the park ranger station was open. They had always wanted to go and we never seemed to hit it at the right time.
This time - 98 degrees outside and the inside was air-conditioned - was the right time.
The ranger was extremely nice giving the kids many different learning activities to do.
They enjoyed using an old Native-American method of drilling holes.
It took a lot of time and even more patience.
Long after L had become bored with the process, B kept on, determined to make it all the way through.
His perseverance paid off.
After finally drilling his way through the shell, he agreed that he had worked up enough of a sweat (even in the AC) to deem that it was time to head to the lake.
The kids contemplated their approach before finally getting in. Although Steven and I were settled in nicely, under a shade tree, the kids decided that this spot just wouldn't do and we headed over to the swim beach.
That would be the swim beach without a shade tree.
The kids had fun playing and I told them that I enjoyed playing with them, too.
They informed me that sitting in a lawn chair, with my feet in the water, didn't quite count as playing.
Steven and I enjoyed the time watching the kids and talking about the things that you normally don't have time to, in day to day life.
We contemplated our lives and where we would be if so many things would have went differently. Many times Steven seems to go back to "Where would we be if I hadn't had my bull riding accident?" Although one correct answer would be "without a huge hospital bill", another one is a little less obvious.
That, however, isn't my story to tell. Not today, anyway.
But Steven himself acknowledges that it cost him far less than what he's gained.
After the kids finished swimming, we headed to a local hot spot: a drive-in that seems straight from the '50's.
We ordered our food and I enjoyed the fact that there was no clean-up required on my part.
At least that is what I thought....
As the ice cream rapidly melted, L found herself bent over trying to prevent it from getting all over her.
B, however, had already finished his and had cleaned his face up. His shirt was excluded from the aforementioned cleaning.
And Steven, ever the comedian, tried to strike a sexy pose for me while enjoying his ice cream.....
Sexy, huh? Looks more painful to me.
Try not to be jealous.
Later in the week we visited a friend of mine in her new...and very beautiful and extremely organized...new house.
After getting the tour and catching up, we gathered the kids and took them to the local pool to go swimming.
(As you can see, I had also been using my summer to learn some new photoshop skillz courtesy of YouTube.)
After returning home, I couldn't get visions of organization out of my head.
I only wish I were joking.
My kids, on the other hand, had been talking with their daddy and couldn't get visions of being cattle owners out of their heads.
Steven put in a call to our friend that works at the regional stockyards and told him we needed some cows. He planned on picking the kids up some cow/calf pairs that week.
The kids were less enthusiastic about the reduction of their savings, but L was optimistic that they would make it up by selling their calves down the line.
B had different plans. He thought he would resale his cow immediately for $100,000.
I think he might be expecting a tad too much.
Saturday morning Aunt Sissy came over to spend the day. She reluctantly joined in on the "Closet Organization 2011" that had commenced after my trip to Joy's.
B went with Steven to pick up the cows and L stayed on to help with the task at hand.
It didn't take long for me to notice the striking similarity in L and Aunt Sissy.
They were both clothing nazis.
If one wasn't saying, "When was the last time you wore this? Seriously?!? Get rid of it!", the other was saying, "If you have wore this recently then you shouldn't have. It's awful! Get rid of it!"
Once B and Steven arrived back home, L ran out to see what her new investment looked like.
I pulled away from the mountain of questionable clothing that laid on my bedroom floor and went outside to take a picture of this monumental moment.
And so it begins.....
When looking at my children on that joyous day, I couldn't help but think that they had some "questionable clothing" of their own.
And so, we began cleaning out their closets.
Of course, they still chose to wear their clothes inside out.
You have to pick your battles, friends, and that is not a battle I chose to pick.
I was too busy organizing.
After finally completing our task(s), changing into clothes that made the cut, and putting them on right-side-out, we attended the 94th annual ice cream social at our church.
It is a community wide event and one I can remember attending as a small child.
As can my father.
Starting early in the morning, ice cream is hand cranked throughout the day, so as to serve up enough for all that come that night.
And with the temps near 100 degrees, ice cream was going to be a "hot" commodity.
We hadn't been there long before the kids ran off to go play games and win "treasures".
The kids weren't the only ones playing games.
I was participating in some cut throat BINGO.
I just knew I was going to win big. Sarah thought she was too.
Turns out we were "half" right. We "bingo'ed" at the exact same time!
What were the chances?
My $5 prize was split to $2.50, just like that!
The kids more than made up for my "loss".
They would play a game, win, and run and put their prizes in Uncle Jason's lawn chair, run back, win again, and place prize in lawn chair, over and over and over again. We didn't come with these prizes, but we were leaving with them.
(This sure put me back a few steps in all the organizing progress I had made.)
Yes, the kids were heading home with numerous inflatables, candy, small toys and a cake won at the cake walk-and I was now faced with the challenge of finding "homes" for it all.
I'm really not complaining. Honestly, I wouldn't change a thing.
As I looked at all that had gathered in this small community, and watched as the kids ran freely around-playing ball, playing games and eating hamburgers and ice cream, I knew that of all what Steven said rang true.
We truly do have more in our "backyard" than many have. We are so blessed.
I wouldn't turn down a trip to Disney World if I got the chance.
Who am I kidding?
I wouldn't even turn down a trip to Lowe's.
(I might even pick up some stuff help me organize while I am there!)
It was the first time we had ever been there and it happened to be the last day of a special promotion that admitted kids free of charge when they brought in their grade cards showing they had made good grades.
I thought that it was the perfect time to give it a shot!
We arrived just after the park opening and tried out several different rides, getting our grips on the place and figuring out what we enjoyed doing the most. After deciding that it was time to refuel, we headed out to the parking lot to grab our lunch that we had brought. All the picnic tables were full, so we found ourselves sitting on our towels beneath a tree.
We packed a picnic lunch consisting of PB&J's and some chips.
No fancy, smancy picnicking going on here.
Just tupperware, ziplocs, towels and soda pop.
And smiling kids.
We watched as our "neighbors" eating their lunch on the rock pile took out slices of meat, cheese and doctored their sandwiches with condiments...pausing only to grab some homemade chocolate chip cookies.
I looked back at our PB&J's and ziplocs filled with chips. I felt a little better when I saw some cheese sticks and yogurts I had packed in the cooler. At least there was something healthy....if not homemade.
I grabbed a yogurt and asked the kids, "who wants some yogurt?"
They both enthusiastically nodded.
As I pulled out the yogurt tubes and tried to open them, I was met with more resistance than I had bargained on-made worse by sunscreen slickened hands.
"Guys, I can't get your yogurt opened. I'm sorry I didn't pack a better lunch."
L, always one to see the bright side of a situation said, "Our lunch is fine. I like PB&J's. Plus, they (nodding towards our picnicking neighbors) have to take time that they could be inside swimming to BUILD their sandwiches. Ours were already ready."
I smiled and nodded and began to convince myself that speed had been my angle the whole time. Not wanting to waste any more of that precious time, we hurried back inside to play some more.
Despite my lack luster meal preparation skills, they apparently got all the energy they needed to enjoy the rides.
Some they rode over and over.
Oh yeah, I rode them too!
But as the kids got a little more brave, they allowed me to stay at the bottom and take pictures of their adventure.
They were all smiles when they reached the bottom....
....and they only paused long enough to say "I want to go AGAIN!". As I watched them make their way back up the hill and to the end of the line, I found myself actually feeling the weight of a passing mother's comments made to me just a few hours earlier in the day. She had paused only long enough to say, "Enjoy this! Soon they'll be like mine and they'll run off and leave you and you won't see them again until it's time to leave."
After watching them ride a couple of times by themselves, and catching a few pictures, I grabbed their hands and ran back to the locker to put the camera up and join them in the fun once again.
We were all laughing as we hit the water.
I think that L summed up both of their thoughts about the park when she said, "This is not a 'one time place'. We HAVE to come again!"
I loved having the entire day, and both kids, to myself. We laughed and enjoyed each other's company. Although I originally thought I would see if anyone (friends, family) wanted to come along, I have to say that the day worked out perfectly. I was thrilled with being able to completely devote myself to them. I loved being in a place where there were no constraints on me or my time. I didn't have to do anything other than enjoy my kids.
And I think I tend to agree with L. "This isn't a one time place."
Saturday I spent time cooking in preparation for the 4th of July festivities we were attending this past weekend. I then spent more time than I care to admit trying to find the correct exposure settings on my camera while photographing the cupcakes I made...
(Yeah, I tried the Lemonade Makin Mama's cupcakes. Except I used a chocolate cake mix. My sister and I both agreed that no one ever complained that something had TOO MUCH chocolate.)
(This is all riveting material, I know.)
Anyway, I think we can all agree that I never quite got the exposure right.
I later decided that my ISO setting might have been too high. Or low. Or my aperture was too wide. Or too small. I think that if I would have tweaked my shutter speed and made it just a little faster...or slower. Or maybe I should have taken a picture of the awesome looking oreo hot fudge sundae dessert or chocolate pie topped with toffee pieces that I made. I am sure THAT would have made the difference.
Obviously, I have this whole "shooting on manual" thing down pat.
In between the cupcakes, pie and ice cream dessert, Aunt Sissy and I took some time to swim with the kiddos.
Judging by the white faces I think that one can say that we take sunscreen seriously around here.
Although, if they saw Aunt Sissy's legs, they might disagree.
Later that night, Steven decided that 100 degrees wasn't hot enough and we went ahead and built a "campfire" to roast hot dogs over.
You can't forget the smores.
The kids wanted to go camping so badly, but the night was closing in, as was our time to get the camper and ourselves ready, only to have to be back home the next morning, so we opted out of going camping.
We, however, made the best of it.
That's not unusual for this girl.
In fact, I would say that would be "her nature".
B, apparently, was already pretending that we were out in the wilderness....and no 'facilities' were available......
100 degree weather and a campfire..... could it get any hotter?
Why, yes. Yes, it could.....
(Typing that made me laugh. Steven usually does that to me. You know? Make me laugh.)
So, considering we didn't have enough time to prepare and it was obviously TOO hot to camp, we improvised:
Or maybe I should say the kids improvised.
Sunday, after church, the kids went swimming again.
They also fine tuned their jumping skills with the help of uncle Jason.
My husband also brought something to the house that he found while digging a trench because he thought I'd like to see.......
He thought I'd like to see them?!?!?!?!?!?
I swear! Sometimes I don't think he knows me at all!
Or, maybe he knows that he just has to flash those beautiful eyes my way and all is forgiven.
Sunday night we gathered with family and friends at my mom and dad's and celebrated each other's company.
I want to pinch those delicious little cheeks....
My two favorite men.
And we can't forget to give attention where it's due......
B had been begging for fireworks ever since the first tent went up. While waiting for darkness to set in, B busied himself playing with them in MiMi's shop.
To say he was excited was an understatement.....
Come to think of it, L was pretty excited to. She could hardly contain herself.
Unfortunately, for the kids, it stormed, therefore, preventing them from shooting off their fireworks.
However, it didn't rain on their parade.
July 4th it is a tradition in our family to go to the parade in town. This year it was the 132nd annual 4th of July parade.
We haven't been there EVERY year, but it seems like we have been there for almost every one.
When we first arrived I ran into my cousin and got to see this cute face:
The kids found their places, and had their Wal-Mart sacks ready to score some good candy.
After an hour in the hot sun, the kids were parched and thus the great deliberation regarding how much of the Dr. Pepper each one got to drink began.
B: "I will drink everything BELOW this line."
(Isn't he nice? "Helping" her to drink up?)
(Further discussion over which line was the correct one....)
Soon after an expert was called in to further assess the situation and determine the appropriate "line" that would fairly divide the drink in half.
That would be me.
After L got her fill and re-dehydrated herself, she went to work keeping uncle Jason cool.
In the heat it really was a full time job.
One with no pay.
After the parade we all went to eat and then stopped by the nursing home to visit my grandparents.
My grandma S, my father's mother.....
and my Grandpa M, my mother's father.
Jason and Steven promised to take care of my mom when she gets old and gray...and even practiced taking rides in Grandpa's wheelchair.
We left before we could get kicked out of the nursing home.....
Afterwards we went to my boss's house-who also happens to be a friend, and family. The kids loved playing in their pool.
They both exclaimed "We could live here!"
I think as much as Mi Mi liked the water, she could have lived there too.
Dad in the midst of telling a story.....
I'm not sure, but going by the look on Jason's face, I think he might have heard it before.
Since our fireworks got rained out the night before, and we had promised to take L to the rodeo, we went to town to take in both activities.
B didn't want to leave the house without his hat.
L was in her element surrounded by horses.
And for the first time ever, they BOTH participated in the calf scramble without Steven or I helping them.
Although neither one got their ribbon, you wouldn't have been able to tell it by their smiles.
Maybe I should clarify.
Aunt Sissy DIDN'T participate in the calf scramble. She was just happy.
.....and you would've thought that B's happiness would have lasted a little longer. He had, after all, been begging for fireworks for weeks and the appointed time had arrived for the city's firework display.
Unfortunately, B experienced a quick change of heart.
At one point, he even uttered the words, "I think I might freak out."