Archive for July, 2009

h1

Trip Gifts

July 20, 2009

As John and I are joyfully anticipating a trip to King’s Island for my birthday and our anniversary this weekend, I am reminded of the many family trips we experienced growing up. The destinations my parents chose are for another post – I do not have the stamina to relive those memories right now. But regardless of where our trips took us, they always started in the same, wonderful way.

My mom instigated the tradition of trip gifts. After the car carrier was loaded and locked on top of the van and all family members were tucked into their corners of the van with pillows, snacks, and backpacks scattered around, we would bow our heads and pray for safety and quality time on the vacation. Then, Mom’s eyes would begin to gleam as she excitedly pulled out a gift for everyone in the car. We all got something special, just for being there.

Probably the best and most memorable trip gift Mom gave out was a Nintendo Game Boy for each of us kids. I cannot adequately express how much we treasured those things. Our Game Boy systems and battery packs were necessary companions on all future trips. Often, Ben and I would load the Super Mario Brothers game at the same time and race to see who could score the most points, get to the furthest level, or simply complete each level fastest.

At other times, Mom doled out gifts that were simply cool but completely unrelated to travel. I received a full manicure kit one year, and I think I still have some of the components in my makeup drawer. Often, we received books by our favorite authors or cute outfits to wear while sight-seeing. It really did not matter much what we got – we just loved the tradition!

Prior to family vacations, the three of us kids would sometimes whisper to one another, “Do you think Mom got us gifts this time?” She never once forgot.

Shannon and Ben – do you remember any other gifts that Mom gave us on trips?

Advertisements
h1

Just call me Miss Kitty

July 15, 2009

As a Family Studies Master’s student with an emphasis on parenting and child development, I place enormous importance on socio-dramatic play, or as I referred to it as a young child, “pretend”. Make believe play is a way for children to practice life, to develop social skills, and to learn about the world and relationships. It requires a good deal of creativity and imagination, unlike television and even some books do. All right, enough of that – you get the point.

(But if you are my child reading this twelve years from now, you should know that reading this blog is a quality way to spend your time, and you should feel free to read all of the archives. Afterward, however, get your hind end outside and participate in some imaginative play.)

My parents placed tight restrictions on TV and computer time when we were young, and, thinking this was normal, we spent an extraordinary amount of time playing outside. Our games took on many manifestations. At times, we played the politically incorrect version of Cowboys and Indians. We had some inedible berries on our property that, when smashed, doubled as excellent face paint. We played a game we called Prairie Days, because we were overexposed to Little House on the Prairie during the home school years. Sometimes, we just played Pretend Sarah is a Princess and Ben has to Rescue Her. Regardless of the scenario we enacted, I donned flowing gowns that were much too long for me and shawls that bore the stains of overuse. Ben would strap as many plastic weapons on his body as possible, using belts and strings and holsters.

All of this is a mere backdrop, however, to the real issues we had to resolve before pretend play could even begin. The single most important task was to determine what our pretend names would be. If I remember correctly, Ben most often chose Derek for himself – Prince Derek had such a nice ring to it. I unintentionally went the slightly more skanky and ridiculous route, for my favorite pretend name of all was Kitty, short for Katherine. My reasoning was that a) Katherine is a beautiful-looking name, and b) Kitty is even better. I am almost certain I got this idea from the character Katherine “Kitty” Brydon in the 1994 release of The Jungle Book. She was gorgeous, and she got a savage who was raised by wolves to fall in love with her. If only something so wonderful could happen to me, I thought.

Fifteen years later, I am now able to laugh about my foolish, overly romanticized ideas. While I honestly do still like the name Katherine, I am fairly sure that John will not stand to name any of our children Katherine, since I am not sure we could separate that name from the mockery he makes of my former pretend name. I do have to admit, though – a very small part of me still likes that cliche, ridiculous version of The Jungle Book, though perhaps for different reasons now. Cary Elwes as a bad guy?

Meeyowwww…

h1

Fireworks and Action Figure Martyrs

July 3, 2009
Now I call this patriotic

Now I call this patriotic

July 4th is always a fun time for our family, because it falls right in the midst of forty-eleven family birthdays, which means we are all in a celebratory mood already. Since our home state allows small-scale fireworks, Mom always buys one of those big Wal-Mart fireworks sets. I recall getting scared out of my wits on a couple of occasions when Dad managed to sneak up and pop some of those little snaps right at my feet. Snaps are definitely the most fun Dad has on Independence Day.

You may be surprised to read that the most important and memorable tradition for our family on July 4th is actually not the fireworks. As exciting as the green smoke bombs and unpredictable fountains of sparks truly are, they do not come close to the thrill of watching Ben set up and destroy a random action figure each year. He started out with G.I. Joes that he didn’t need any longer, but as the years progressed, he moved on to bigger and better targets. My personal favorite was the year of the Incredible Hulk destruction. If my memory is correct, we had to use a shovel to remove the green mess from our driveway.

Significant planning and concentration goes into each action figure kill. Ben selects the necessary fireworks early in the evening but waits until all of the other fireworks are gone before preparing his annual masterpiece. There is often some sort of harness involved to keep the action figure steady while sparkling rockets and sprays of fire melt him away. Ben is also the director of the most intricate step of the process, which consists of lighting all of the separate wicks simultaneously. Our store of lighters gets maxed out as three to four family members assume stations and begin lighting at the count of three.

Inevitably, however, one person’s fuse is quicker to light than anyone else’s, and the moment something catches a light and begins to burn, we all desert our posts and scatter faster than roaches at the switch of a light. In reality, this setback is a benefit, because it draws out the process and allows us to take stock of the damage after each blast.

Reader, if you are beginning to suspect that we are savages with rather sadistic tendencies, please give us the benefit of the doubt. I promise we are harmless. Mom, Shannon and I can’t even watch the torture scene in The Princess Bride, which means that somehow we are able to compartmentalize this tradition and keep it from influencing any other part of our lives or time of year.

At the risk of turning this post into a glorified photo album, I will post some photos from one of our more memorable Independence Day Debacles Celebrations. I really cannot help myself. Enjoy!

Action Figure Setup

Its going to be a bad day for this green beret.

It's going to be a bad day for this green beret.

The bike is in for it just as much as the army guy. Notice the thoughtful placement of all of the fireworks.

The bike is in for it just as much as the army guy. Notice the thoughtful placement of all of the fireworks.

Bombs away! We really hoped this guy would fly up high, then land conveniently close by so that we could see the effects of his firy trip.

Bombs away! We really hoped this guy would fly up high, then land conveniently close by so that we could see the effects of his firy trip.

I am reasonably certain that there could not be any more fireworks attached to this guy.

I am reasonably certain that there could not be any more fireworks attached to this guy.

The duct tape you see in this photo stretched all the way up to the rim of our basketball goal. This gives new meaning to the phrase, My brain is fried.

The duct tape you see in this photo stretched all the way up to the rim of our basketball goal. This gives new meaning to the phrase, "My brain is fried."

The Carnage

Getting it from all sides

Getting it from all sides

Motorcycle man is toast.

Motorcycle man is toast.

Another angle, for your viewing pleasure.

Another angle, for your viewing pleasure.

The Shower.

The Shower.

The combustion has turned the soldier a lovely shade of gray...

The combustion has turned the soldier a lovely shade of gray...

A Family of Patriots

If there were an award for Most Patriotic Family Member, Uncle Mike would get it. He brought his own CD player this year with a CD of patriotic favorites.
If there were an award for Most Patriotic Family Member, Uncle Mike would get it. He brought his own CD player this year with a compilation of patriotic favorites.

Need proof, you say?

Note: If you have trouble viewing this video, try following this link directly to YouTube.

Mike and Tom, taking a brief break from discussing politics and religion.

Mike and Tom, taking a brief break from discussing politics and religion.

Aaron and Mike, both with some of their best facial expressions

Aaron and Mike, both with some of their best facial expressions. I know I never leave home without my copy of Cornerstones of American Democracy, which I believe contains reprints of some of our nation's foundational documents.

Pat, Colleen, and Tenille - I have no idea what was funny here, but I love to see my family laughing.

Pat, Colleen, and Tenille - I have no idea what was funny here, but I love to see my family laughing.

Misha will probably never experience another American holiday quite like this one. Love you, Mish!

Misha will probably never experience another American holiday quite like this one. Love you, Mish!

Gram may be experiencing some disbelief at her grandchildrens antics.

Gram may be experiencing some disbelief at her grandchildren's antics.

Thug life...

Thug life...

Happy Independence Day!