Monday, October 22, 2012

The Weekend Raced By

A couple of years ago my mom's name was drawn at work to go, courtesy of them, to the Kansas Speedway for an Indy car race.  Her work has four seats that they "own" at the speedway and they put their employees names in for each race to determine who gets to go. In May of 2010, mom took B, Steven and I, knowing that B loves all things "boy" and all things fast.

He loved the cars and he loved the race.  

His only complaint was that there weren't any wrecks.

(See what I mean about loving all things "boy"?)

You see, NASCAR is more his speed.  Wrecks. Drama. "If it's not rubbin', it's not racin.".

(Read:  Testosterone)

And for reasons still not known to us, he chose 24 as his number.  Although Steven and I have watched local stock car races, we aren't what you would consider avid race fans.  We recognize most drivers names, but don't really have a favorite.  However, a few years ago B decided he was a Jeff Gordon fan, all based on the fact that he liked the number 24, and Jeff happened to be the driver.

So when this spring mom's name was drawn for this October's NASCAR race, mom knew that she was definitely sharing the experience with the closest thing to a race fan our family has: B.

We drove up the night before and grabbed a bite to eat and some zzzz's.  B was almost as enthused by getting to eat at the "Big Boy", which was celebrating it's 50th anniversary, as he was about getting to go to the race. 

The next morning B, armed with his Kansas Speedway flag, that he had kept from his visit two years ago, jumped in the car and counted down the miles until we met our destination. 

To say he was excited would be an understatement.

Once inside we thought that we would use our complimentary Track Passes and head down to the track area and fan walk.

Of course, as the roar of engines filled the air, the boys were found with their noses up against the fence, getting as close as they could to the action....and the cars.

B made his way to the winners circle and found his place on the stage......

(It was about this time that my point and shoot camera bit the dust, leaving me to rely on my iphone camera.)

B was fascinated with all the action that was taking place all around him.  As we made our way towards the pits, we were unsure if we were actually allowed to go up close to the crews.  As we were trying to find our way to the #24 pit stop, we asked an employee guarding the gate if we were, indeed, allowed in.  She assured us we were.  With a little spring in our step we decided to walk the entire pit row, only to be stopped a few feet later and were told by a different 'guard' that we, in fact, did NOT have proper credentials.

So, we did what anybody would do.....

We went back in the direction of the the guard who let us by, and walked by half of the pit stops in pit row.  One, incidentally, being #24's.  Luck was with us and a crew member was gracious enough to pause and take a picture with B. 

Although B was super excited for the race, and was ready to go to our seats 3 hours prior to race time, we convinced him there was more to be seen outside of the track. 

Here is where I am going to insert shameless bragging about my kids....  My kids take pride in themselves being "cheapscapers".  They have given themselves this name and like to find ways to save money.  However, since the whole race experience was free, I thought that he might enjoy having a souvenir to take home.  On me (of course).  We stopped outside of the Jeff Gordon trailer and he thoughtfully looked at all they had to offer.

"You want a shirt?  That one's cute!", I encouraged.  After some deliberation he finally took my hand, shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't really want anything other than to see the race...." and he walked away.  I looked at my mom with my eyebrows raised and I am sure that she was thinking what I was thinking....

There was NO way that, as a child, I would have EVER turned down an offer for something.  Anything.  Yet here he was, simply satisfied with what he had. 

As we all should be.

None too soon for B, he and Steven made their way to our seats while mom and I went and grabbed our coolers full of drinks and snacks.  He didn't want to miss a thing and apparently didn't notice by all the empty seats around him that there was no big rush....

A little while later, succumbing to the lure of walking on the track, we made our way down to the track and infield, where B paused to write his name on the start/finish line.

We thought we might get a glimpse of Jeff Gordon when they introduced the drivers and decided to wait and see.

Despite resting for mere seconds, we didn't have long to wait before we made our way to take our stand by the pits.

B waved his flag to all the drivers as they passed by, but never as enthusiastically as when Jeff Gordon was within his sights.

We made our way back to our seats in plenty of time to savor the moment he had been waiting for......   "Drivers, start your engines...."

The roar of the crowd was but a whisper in comparison to the roar of the engines.  B's excitement built with each lap and I would often glance at him and see him tense his body in anticipation to the point of shaking.  At lap 124, his driver was in first.  I pointed at the tower displaying the leaders and he nodded his head, unsurprised and said, "Yeah.  Makes sense.  Lap 124 and #1 is 24."  Yeah.  Perfect sense. Why didn't I think of that?

And although I am not a die hard NASCAR fan, I am a complete fan of my kids and an enthusiastic, cheering spectator to their lives.  I have never experienced a high like watching my child experience theirs.  It is a show like none other.  And although the race tickets were free, I would pay top dollar for front row tickets to that show, my child's "show", every. single. time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tell me 'bout the good ole days

My Grandpa M passed away at the end of last month at the age of 93.  Although he had been living in a nursing home, and unable to drive, since he was 90, he had very much been active and present in our lives. 

At Easter he enjoyed watching the great grandkids shoot their new b-b guns.

This spring he came, at L's request, to cast his approval on her new horse.

He made an appearance in the traditional 4th of July parade.

And this summer he enjoyed the kids when we visited him before guitar lessons...and they enjoyed him.

As I think about my grandpa, I think about the things he experienced, the things he saw, and the changes that came in his 93 years.

I am sure many changes were for the better.

I am sure many changes were not.

When I really think about this, my mind can not even comprehend it all.  However, when I start dissecting it, I realize all the changes that I, too, have seen in my 36 years.

VCR's.  DVD's. Cordless phones.  Cell phones.  TV remotes.  Computers.


The list goes on and on.

Although these changes make me appreciate what luxuries I do have, I think I appreciate even more deeply the things in my life that haven't changed.

It was during our town's annual Community Days that I felt myself appreciating my small town with more vigor.  Pushed to the background was the old, deteriorating houses and evidence of old businesses that have been long gone that can be found littered throughout town and, instead, brought to the forefront was the people and beliefs that make this town what it is. 

A community.

Although many things have changed in 36 years, many things about this town, and this tradition, have stayed the same.

There is still a parade.

It still starts in the same place.  And, as it was when I was a kid, the majority of the parade is made up of farm kids and farm equipment.

In fact, kids in general make up the majority of the parade. The community places a real importance on that...and kids are not only welcomed, but encouraged.

Enthusiasm on the kids' part is not hard to find.  Of course, feeling like a celebrity fosters that, and cheers and hollers of recognition is as close to being a celebrity that most of us get.

It is always a family affair.....

And relatives are met on almost every corner....

Another tradition of Community Days?  The turtle race.   In my mind it serves as a reminder of a time before video games, ipods, and constant stimulation.  A simpler time.

Personally, I think we could all stand for times to be more simple.  And if the crowd at the turtle race is evidence, I am not the only one.

When a previous all time high of 60 turtles had been recorded, this year's record of 107 spoke for itself.  107 kids, and turtles, that enjoyed good old fashioned fun.

Ok.  Maybe the turtles didn't enjoy it as much as the kids....

The kids might have also enjoyed the $1 they received to participate, but I maintain that the excitement was primarily over the simplicity of the day, and the event....

And the excitement was most definitely not over the prospect of winning $5 more, if your turtle won the heat race. 

No.  The excitement was about:

And how some things never change. 

Oh how I hope some 'things' never do.....

Monday, August 06, 2012

Joy, joy, joy, joy....down in my heart

I would like to think that I am a person who is driven by my heart.

I am familiar with the ache that comes from emotions that are constantly under the surface.  Emotions about my kids, or husband, or the homeless guy with the sign, or the moms in the Olympic commercials, or the tragic story someone posted on facebook.  Emotions that come with just living.

That ache leads me to believe that my heart must be in the driver's seat; my heart is in control.

However, last night, I decided that, unfortunately, that ever responsible, rational, matter-of-fact personality was showcased as evidence that my mind is MORE often in charge, while my heart is having a pity-party in the corner of my soul.

This is NOT a good thing.

After spending the Sunday afternoon doing the countless things that moms still have to do on Sunday afternoons, all while trying to regroup from the 3 hours of sleep received the night before, I walked outside, grabbed a lawn chair and watched the kids shoot their b.b. guns at old pop cans.  Steven was sitting on an old piece of wood and had been coaching them on their technique while I was inside. 

I watched my husband and marveled at the fact that despite the long hours he works, or the high temps he works in, or the other things he 'needs' to do, he always spends time every day doing something with the kids that they love.

He takes B to the "back" (the back: noun. A place where the woods behind our house meets a field; the place where all of Steven's junk/B's treasures reside), he rides horses with L, he plays games with them using whatever object is around-making up rules as he goes along.  Most of the time, while he is doing that, I am doing whatever it is I do.  Cooking?  Cleaning? Straightening up?  Sitting on the sidelines watching?  Who knows?  I guarantee whatever it is that I do will need to be done again tomorrow..... It never ends.

Last night as I walked outside with Steven to go watch the kids, inspired by the Olympics race around the house, he gently said, "You know, I think L would love to spend more time with you."  A little shocked, but more than a little guilty, I said, "Why?  Has she said something?"  He shook his head and said, "No...I just think she would." 

My mind held images of L and Steven off on another adventure on horseback and how theirs is a connection they will always have.  My mind scrambled trying to think of something that L and I shared that was our own.  Only ours.  And I came up empty...... I take her places, I tell her she is special, we talk and listen and share....but usually in the midst of life.

Life.  It never stops....until it does.  And then it is too late.

Steven continued..."I think she would love to get to see you be YOU, instead of the mom/wife duties that you fill.  You know, all too soon they will be gone and the rest?  It will still be there."

And he is right. 

I thought about L and her eyes, and B's too, and how they light up with excitement when we play basketball together, or work on a craft, or simply play a board game.  As I returned to the conversation I nodded my head and said, "I am not good at playing. I didn't even play when I was a kid....."

But that isn't my kids fault, is it?  Just as I don't care if they are great basketball players or the best artist, I just love their joy. 

They would love mine too. 

I want to exorcise the part of my mind that says, "Yes, you can do (insert activity here) as soon as you pick up this, put up this, get this done...or after I fix supper..or..." and then the next thing you know, the day has passed. 

Over 9 years worth of days have passed for L, and over 7 years worth for B.  The days that I have taken a break and given myself, mentally, wholly and completely to them, are too few and far between.  I am sad.  I am discouraged.  I want to change the way my mind works, but I can only change the way I respond to it.

I know the love I have for them, and that I never question.  I smother them with kisses and vocal declarations but they'd rather have my time. 

Uninterrupted, completely in tune, time. 

And I want to give them that too.  What a failure I would be if two amazing children that have made me know levels of love and joy that I have never known before never saw the absolute joy they gave me?  Joy in a form that they understand; in the language they speak.

In less than 9 more years worth of days L will be grown. Considered an adult.  My heart aches at the very thought of my children being grown. My mind recognizes that the future is coming upon us at break neck speed, causing me to squeeze my children tighter each time they slip their hand in mine, or run and grab me around my neck....knowing that each time could possibly be the last before childhood is gone and adolescence crashes the party.  Adolescence isn't nearly as forgiving of parenting mistakes as childhood is, and I pray that I still have time to show them who I am....and how much I love them.

And, last night with the conversation still in the forefront of my mind, as I stepped up to the starting line made by L and B, with Steven competing at my side, I knew that running this foot race against Steven, just as B and L had just ran theirs, was just one way to remember what it was like to be a kid, and to be free, and to have fun until someone came and told you it was time to go to bed.

I want to be the one outside running the race with them.

I don't want to just be the one telling them it is time for bed.

And although Steven denied it, he totally let me win.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tried and True

The 4th of July parade has been a tradition in our community since July 4, 1879.  It is the longest running 4th of July parade west of the Mississippi river and both President Harry Truman and President George H. W. Bush have participated in the festivities.  Local news stations cover the event and people come from all around to take part in, or simply watch, this piece of history in action.

Our family, along with thousands of others, has taken the responsibility very seriously in keeping the tradition going.

Most people in our area have memories of the parade rooted deep in their upbringing.  Steven has a picture of him in the parade as far back as the late 1970's and and recent as 1999.  I have pictures of my own throughout the years and can only remember missing one parade, in 1994, when I had to work.

In fact, on the way home from the parade, my husband asked me "Do we go to the parade because we like the parade, or do we go to the parade because that is just what we do?"

After considering the record heat this year......

I decided that it is just what we do

Traditions are traditions.  Enjoying them isn't ALWAYS a requirement.  Being with family is.

Although I am pretty sure my grandpa, who is 93, immensely enjoyed the tradition in the air-conditioned comfort of his "float".

And the kids immensely enjoyed seeing themselves on the local news that evening.

Of course, I always knew they were stars.....

Friday, July 06, 2012

Village People

This summer seems to be flying by.  It always does that.  I spend the latter part of winter and early part of spring dreaming of days that are spent idly in, or by, the pool, hanging out with kids and soaking up the leisure of summer.

And then reality sets in.

And the reality is that summer is not leisurely.

Of course, B's birthday falls in the middle of the summer madness.  He couldn't decide what exactly he wanted to do to celebrate and ultimately, he ended up deciding to just have his friends over to play.  I thought that this was a brilliant idea.  What is life without friends?

We decided that water would definitely be part of the occasion. 


B had decided that coke from a glass bottle was also essential to his celebration and he wanted all of his friends to be able to take their bottles home, although I don't think that they were as excited about that as he was.  Most 7 year olds aren't concerned with nostalgia and the way things used to be.

But B is.

And his friends know that.

I overheard many telling him, "You can have our bottles if you would like."

In the spirit of turning 7, and being friends,  they had a toast of Coca-Cola and Root Beer.

(I love this kid.)

And you know what you start doing when you turn 7?

You shave.

Ok.  Not really.

But they did enjoy playing in the shaving cream.....

Is that a beard  and chest "hair" already?  He is growing up too fast!!

I am not ready for this......

After playing, B opened his gifts.  He had asked for money to be given to our school's backpack program, but some friends had generously sent gifts as well. 

I am so proud of B, and who is he is growing up to be.  His sister, L, has donated money from her birthday for the last few years, but B wasn't really there yet.  He had still wanted 'toys' and 'presents' and a big party, and I remember being the same way. 

But this year there has been an obvious shift in his way of thinking.  Although he still has moments of self-centeredness, which is typical for a boy his age, he is having more moments of thinking about others.  I can not take credit as his parent. In fact, I credit the many good examples that my children are surrounded with for this growth; good and caring people that exemplify that life is not about what you have, but who you have.

And that makes me happy.

He makes me happy.


Also typical for boys his age?

The desire to build, construct, make things work....

.....and to goof off.


That evening, after his buddies went home for the day, we loaded up picnic supplies in the truck and went down the road to my cousin Johnny's campground where our family, and friends that are like family, were going to join us for B's birthday hot dog and weenie roast. 

Johnny had been working on clearing out a bluff by his house for some time.  He had built restrooms and other facilities to accommodate his friends that would come camp out, play music, and have a good time.  B loved visiting the campground and had wanted to have his birthday party there for sometime and this year seemed perfect.

Everything about Johnny's house was just fun.

For the last few years B has enjoyed going down to Johnny's house and 'visiting' an old race car that Johnny had acquired.  Someone had brought the car to Johnny's house for keeping and had pulled it out in the area beside his shop and left it for dead.  Weeds had grown up around it, but this didn't deter B.  Steven or I would take B down to Johnny's and pull behind his house.  B would jump out and go sit in the car and pretend to race, while I would cringe and hope that a snake didn't come out from under it.  From the excitement that B experienced, one would never know that he wasn't actually racing and that the car never moved.  He swerved and wrecked and had stories for each dent in the side.  Johnny would wave, knowing what we were there doing, and often times, he would come out and visit, and talk to B about the race he had just driven in.

Johnny's imagination is as big as B's.

Johnny had told us ahead of time that he planned on pulling the old car to the campground so that B could sit in it and play in it during his birthday party. 

Little did we know that not only would the car be at the party, but that Johnny would drive it there.

You see, a few days before B's party, Johnny called and alerted Steven that he had something he wanted to show him.  As we loaded up the car, headed to the kids' ballgame, we turned towards Johnny's house, only to meet him, and his wife, Kathy, IN THE RACE CAR.

B's eyes nearly flew out of his head.  He never imagined that the car would ever run again.

Truth be known, neither did Johnny. 

But with excitement of a kid, Johnny had went to work, pinpointing what was wrong with this old, stationary car, and within an hour, had it running.  B inspected it and got the low down from Johnny on the in's and out's of it.

It was then that B received a gift that he would, in B's words, "remember for the rest of my life".

Yes.  Johnny fired up the car and took B on a ride. 

A wild ride.

While B crouched in the back, holding on to roll bars, Johnny drove to the bottom and 'stood on it'.  I was too nervous, and shocked, to even think to take a picture, much less a video.  I squealed in delight, and fear, as Johnny cut donuts across the bottom at speeds that seemed much too fast.

I worried that B would be scared, but as the car came back into sight, the "thumbs up" I saw through the side window set my mind, and heart, at ease.

(The quilt mom made for B)

After roasting hot dogs and B's belly was filled, he asked Johnny if he would take him on a ride again sometime.  Johnny said, "Sure!  Let's go now!"  And for the second time in the evening, B experienced the stuff his dreams were made of. 

Upon his return, my mom, B's Mimi, jumped in and wanted to go on a ride of her own.  During her ride, the car experienced some difficulties and had to be jump started.

Riding on the enthusiasm and energy of the evening, B and Steven were quick to respond, running and jumping in our old Ford Ranger and heading out across the bottom with hazard lights flashing, horn honking, all while doing some donuts of their own.  There wasn't one person there that wasn't laughing uncontrollably at the show going on before their very eyes.

After being jumped with help from the pit crew, Johnny limped the car back to the campground with promises of getting it back and going again soon and B thanked him, earnestly, for giving him the time of his life.....

And then we ate the cake Linda had made for B that was topped, appropriately enough, by a picture taken two years ago of B standing proudly along side "his" race car.

I really think we all had the time of our lives that night and I am continually amazed at the way that we are blessed by those around us- our friends and our family.  It really does take a village, and fortunately, our village is a great one to live in.