Category Archives: children

Family Friday: Roller Coasters

stock-photo-silhouette-of-wooden-roller-coaster-70910776This past summer, my family and I traveled up north and visited Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania during our vacation. In addition to Hershey Park, we also visited Washington D.C., Mount Vernon, Amish Country, and Wheatland in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Now, a couple of months later, my four year old twins still talk about the day at Hershey the most. I’d like to hope some of those glorious historical sites planted some seeds of love of history and stories, but that will remain to be seen down the road. They want to go back to Pennsylvania, stay in the hotel, and go back to Hershey. The day at Hershey, though, showed me some insight into the members of my family.

     Wonderful hubby. Let’s start with my wonderful hubby. I like to think we balance each other. He’s my rock, and I remind him to buy deodorant with antiperspirant instead of just deodorant. This day reminded me why he’s great at strategy games and planning. He wisely chose to purchase the add-on fee to park next to the park entrance. With twin four-year olds, it was the best spent money on the trip. By the end of the day, Cupcake was tuckered out, and wonderful hubby and I were each carrying a twin out to the minivan. I was so thankful he indulged with that nearby parking spot.

     Kath. It’s hard to believe that the little girl who twirled on the fireplace hearth is now in high school. Her boyfriend lives in Pennsylvania, and he accompanied us to Hershey. They toured Zoo America on their own and also went on some of the roller coasters while touring the park on their own. Kath still talks about her reaction to the dips and turns of one of the coasters, but she participated in the rides without us. In two years, she’ll head off to college, and she’ll live in a dorm away from home. Hershey Park drove that concept into me, but we all still ate meals together and we all laughed together. But she’s now grown up enough to take that first step into her own life by riding the roller coasters with someone other than her parents.

     MJ. My tween son talked nonstop of the roller coasters prior to the trip, but then the moment came when he actually saw the roller coasters. Up close. He had no problem with the bumper cars or the Screamer. The Tilt-a-Whirl and the Pirate were right up his alley. But he discovered he’s not keen on roller coasters. I still don’t know what to make out of this. On the one hand, I want all of my children to live life to its fullest and face any fears they have. On the other hand, maybe this is a sign that my tween son is starting to develop some common sense that will guide him through his teen years and beyond. If something doesn’t feel right and some little worm of doubt grows within him, that might help him later in life. So as hard as it was to watch him not to get on the roller coaster, we had to go along with what he felt was the best choice for him.

     Cupcake. The most fearless of the bunch. She went on every roller coaster the park allowed her to ride. The Super Dooper Looper. No problem. If it was a roller coaster and she was permitted to ride it, she was there. She not only rode every one she could ride, she rode some of them twice. (We were very fortunate to go to Hershey the first week after school ended in our neck of the woods while school was still in session in Pennsylvania. As a result, the park wasn’t crowded and we literally walked onto many of the rides, especially toward the end of the day.) She loved the roller coasters. She came back and reported every wonderful second of the ride to her twin brother and her older brother. She might look sweet and she might cuddle up to you, but this Southern belle has a spine of steel. 

     Chunk. Cupcake’s twin brother didn’t cotton to roller coasters like Cupcake. He allowed his sister to go with Daddy on the roller coasters while he went off to another ride with MJ and Mommy. But the roller coasters were always in view. And by the end of the day, he wanted to try riding one. And then, he loved roller coasters. In the last hour, we rode two roller coaster before ending the day with a Tilt-a-Whiril ride and a final twirl on the Screamer. That’s Chunk. A little cautious at first, but then full steam ahead. 

     The whole day was fun. From the wonderful ice cream dipped cone to ramming into Kath, Kath’s boyfriend and MJ in the bumper cars, it was a great day. 

     What are some of your favorite family vacation moments? Let me know.


Writing Tuesday: What I Learned About Rejection From a Play Area

      Summer vacation. Just those two words elicit different reactions from your perspective. To an elementary school student, those words mean freedom from schoolwork and an invitation to sleep late. To a teacher, those words mean freedom from students and a couple of months of downtime or a different job. To a parent, those words mean freedom from agendas (if you live in a school district like ours that requires a parent to sign them nightly or the student gets in trouble) and an invitation to try to figure out ways to keep your child active without breaking the bank or breaking your patience.
      As a write-at-home mom of four all still living at home, summer vacation is a mixed bag. I’m enjoying the last few years before Kath goes to college. Kath and MJ are both old enough to have figured out the wonderful joys of sleeping in while Cupcake and Chunk still rise with the sun. For the four of them, summer is a relaxing time filled with summer fun: vacation, fireworks, swimming, hose fights, and video games. For me, it’s a time when I can enjoy them without a constant schedule of planned events occupying every minute of the day. But it’s also a time when I can’t adhere to my school calendar year time of writing while they are in school. So I’ve been squeezing in time to write wherever I can find two minutes to think. But sometimes when I least expect it, something happens to teach me a lesson about my writing career.
      A couple of days ago, MJ was away at a Boy Scout event. Kath, Cupcake, Chunk and I headed to a local mall where a preschool play area beckoned. I figured if Kath is technically old enough to drive (although she legally cannot because she only has her learner’s permit), she was old enough to shop with her cell phone at her side and reporting back to Mom every twenty minutes. Cupcake, Chunk and I headed to the play area ready to run and play on different preschool-size soft plastic ambulances, fire trucks and bridges. One problem: every other parent around seemed to have the same idea. Although the mall posts a maximum height for playing, many parents ignored the height limit and allowed their older children to run in the same area, free from the heat, humidity and smog of the outside.
      Within minutes, Cupcake ran over to me with her lip quivering and tears welling at the corner of her eye. When she reached me, she went into full crying mode. Someone had stepped on her hand on the bridge. After cuddles and a couple of Mommy kisses, Cupcake went off to brave the world again with some admonition to stay away from the bigger kids who might run into her.
Some more minutes elapsed. I read a page of my book and then would look up to find Cupcake and Chunk and assure myself they were hopefully being nice to the kids around them. Then Cupcake headed towards me again, lower lip jutting out. I held out my arms and she ran into them. A big kid bumped into her shoulder and it hurt. After cuddles and some more Mommy kisses, Cupcake returned to play and started chasing Chunk.
      Of course, before I read another page, Cupcake came over in full crying mode. One of the big kids kicked her chin. A red mark showed that she had indeed come in contact with someone’s foot. I cuddled her and tried to figure out how to get Chunk to put his shoes back on so we could leave. Instead, Cupcake dried her tears and forged right back into the melee. I blinked. She wanted to keep going back. I put away my book and watched her. One more incident and we’d leave.
      A little girl walked over to Cupcake, an Aurora doll in one hand and a Maleficent doll in the other. She asked if Cupcake wanted to play with her. Cupcake nodded, and the little girl handed her Maleficent. They headed under the bridge with the little girl’s arm around my daughter. I watched as Cupcake played with Maleficent, laughing with the other little girl.
      As a “pre-published” author, I’ve had rejections. I’ve had my share of kick to the chins, but sitting on that bench while I watched my daughter, I had a feeling of hope. No matter how many times my work gets rejected, I’ll keep writing. When I keep writing and editing and seeking ways to get better at my craft, I’ll keep putting my writing out there. To my critique partners. To judges. To editors and agents. Just as Cupcake went through some rough moments before making a friend, I’ll go through some rough patches before getting published. But she stayed at that play area. She didn’t want to leave. I’ll keep writing. I have too many stories and characters that I need to write. My little girl ended up teaching me something that day. The power of perseverance. The power of getting up and sticking with doing something you love after a kick in the chin. The power of hope.

      What about you? What spurs you on after a rejection? For you writers out there, what kept you on the writing path after rejections? For others, what helped you after a tough kick to the chin? Let me know.

Wacky Weekend: Family Vacation

Have you heard this old joke? What’s scarier than Friday the 13th? Saturday the 14th.

Okay, so now you know the reason I’m a romance writer and not a comedy writer scouted by the likes of Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey.

There are things that sound scary (my children naming the snakes in our front yard) and things that are scary (the fact that there are snakes in my front yard). I don’t know about you, but six members of a family (in this case, to be more specific, Mom, Dad, 16 year old Kath, 11 year old MJ, and twin 4 year olds Cupcake and Chunk) in one hotel room for a week can inspire a couple of chills. But we all survived. And not even five minutes into our vacation, we heard the line that will forever mark this vacation (keep reading!)

For those who don’t know me, my new running gag is that I’m the mother in a YA romance novel. My 16 year old, Kath, is dating an 18 year old who lives in a different state. As a mom, I’m great with her dating someone who lives five states away. This spring, 18 year old (shall we give him a nickname? Let’s not ask my wonderful hubby to provide this nickname. Let’s just call him-KB for Kath’s boyfriend-I know all of you will now line up to buy my first book with something as creative as that.) KB graduated from high school. Kath thought his graduation party &/or his Eagle Scout party would be taking place during my wonderful hubby’s vacation so we all decided to take a 12 hour car trip to Pennsylvania to visit KB.

We all decide 5 A.M. is a good time to get the party started. By some miracle, we are actually all loaded and in the minivan by 5 A.M. At 5:05 A.M., Chunk utters the words, “Mommy, I need your iPad.” We were barely out of the driveway and Chunk is already bored with the car ride.

At our first rest stop at the SC Welcome Center, Chunk runs his fingers through the grains on top of a garbage can: that’s right. The ones used for cigarette butts. He did not want to stop playing with the big ashtray. At least he was keeping Kath and MJ entertained.

We make it along the first leg of our trip, all the way to Virginia where we spent the night. When we arrived at the hotel, MJ discovered he forgot deodorant. For the good of everyone in the car, we pile back in the car and go buy him deodorant. You’re welcome, Kath, Cupcake and Chunk.

The next day we all go to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. When we pull into a parking deck, we were asked to open our trunk for security purposes. What we didn’t know was that our can of raisins ended up back there. The poor security guard who opened our trunk door had the can of raisins gush out of our car onto a sidewalk. They promptly waved us through.

Chunk enjoyed touching a cannon fragment in the display before the Fort McHenry flag. He kept wanting to go back there the most. The rest of us did enjoy seeing treasured pieces of Americana. I especially liked Miss Piggy. And I also marveled at how small Bette Davis’ waist was when I saw the dress she wore in Dark Victory.

It’s a beautiful city, and I’m proud of our nation’s Capitol, but we were happy to start the next leg of our journey. Especially Kath. She’d get to see KB the very next day.

So we proceed to PA. We crammed a lot into a week: the State Museum of PA, Wheatland (our 15th President, James Buchanan’s house), a pretzel factory, Hershey Park, Zoo America, lunch at an Amish restaurant, Hershey’s Chocolate World, the York Emporium, and miniature golfing. Chunk provided our first ever visit to a medical first aid station at a theme park (the EMTs and staff at the Hershey Park First Aid Clinic were exemplary; I told Chunk to enjoy having two beautiful women fawn all over him). Cupcake made friends wherever she went, MJ liked making his own candy bar and Kath loved spending time with KB, including seeing The Fault In Our Stars with him on opening night.

I’m used to the stereotype that we Southerners take our time to get from point A to point B. I didn’t quite know what to make of being chastised up North for walking on an escalator. I normally don’t like labels, but I have to laugh at this Southerner getting chastised for trying to get somewhere in a hurry. But let me hasten to add, that Northern hospitality is underrated and was wonderful. I kept apologizing everywhere I went for the loudness of my kids. People gave me an understanding look and said they were fine. Thank you, Pennsylvania.

One morning at breakfast, my kids were particularly quiet (this must have been the day after Hershey Park). A woman came up to us and complimented me on how well behaved my kids are. Thank you, ma’am. I don’t know how you caught them at that moment, but we have a reputation for being a loud house. A friend of mine called this week and asked if he and his wife could come over, hastening to add “We won’t mind the noise.”

On the way back, I decided to wear my “Careful, Or you’ll end up in my novel” t-shirt. I am after all a write-at-home mom. On the trip up to PA, I edited my work in progress. While in PA, I kept up with my homework from an online writing craft class (A quick thanks to the wonderful and awesome Cheryl St. John for a great class). On the way back, I edited more and worked some more. My wonderful hubby knowing what a history buff I am surprised me with a side trip to the gorgeous and very historical Mount Vernon. If you haven’t been to this national treasure, I recommend the trip.

So sometime shortly after midnight, we pulled into our driveway. Safe and sound. Full of little adventures and little stories. Full of memories that we’ll talk about for years to come.

What about you? What family vacations stick out in your mind? If you are a writer, have any incidents from your family vacations made it into your books? Let me know! 🙂


Family Friday: Eleven Hugs and Kisses

Eleven hugs and kisses. Whenever I leave my home to go somewhere else to write, my youngest son, Chunk, asks for eleven kisses and eleven hugs. His four year old self stands there while I bend down and deliver a kiss and a hug, a kiss and a hug, and so on until I reach the number of eleven. He makes me count out loud in case you think that I might be able to get away with only five or even ten. As soon as I reach eleven, he runs off, secure in the knowledge I will come home and give him more hugs and kisses.

My family is a little unusual in that I have a wide age gap between each child. Kath turned 16 this week, MJ is 10, and Cupcake and Chunk are twin 4 year olds. When Kath and MJ were younger, I stayed at home with them and enjoyed it. I volunteered at school, went on field trips and picked them up from school. Now I am attempting to launch a writing career. On days when my wonderful hubby is off from work, I head to a library or a restaurant or anywhere I can go to try to write without kids coming into my room with a little office in the corner and asking questions. Life is different now. Cupcake and Chunk are growing up with a mom who writes. As a result, they make sure I kiss them and hug them before I go write. It’s a new experience: going off to work and leaving them at home (with my wonderful hubby who is also a wonderful father).

Of course all of this makes me think about how each of my children is different in terms of affection. Kath, my oldest, dictates the terms of affection. She gives out lots of hugs and kisses but on her own terms in her own time. MJ, the middle child, loves to cuddle. For a long time, he was the baby of the family and we had lots of time to cuddle and read books together. Now he scoots into a cuddle, having figured out that sometimes he just has to assert himself and dive right into a hug. Cupcake, the older twin, likes to cuddle in the morning and asks for Cupcake Cuddles. Chunk, the younger twin, spreads out affection through the whole day and puts his whole body into a hug.

I don’t mind giving Chunk the eleven hugs and kisses because being the mom of a teenager, I know how quickly the years pass and that soon enough, he won’t be asking for the eleven hugs and kisses anymore, but for now, I like knowing that we are starting a little ritual. I’ll let you in on a little secret: those eleven hugs and kisses help me get through my workday a little faster and a whole lot sweeter.

Do your kids have any goodbye rituals before you leave for work?

Family Friday: Movie Theater Candy

ImageMy wonderful hubby and I don’t go to the movies very often anymore. When we started dating in college, we went to the movies all the time. We were both members of a cinematic group at our college and if we helped with the showings, we received free admission. Pre-marriage, you could find us at the college theater most nights of the week. We feasted on classic movies and newer ones. Pre-kids and post-college, we still went to the movies although not as often now that we had to pay theater prices. I remember being eight and three-quarters’ months pregnant with Kath and going to see As Good As It Gets with my wonderful hubby. Amazingly, I didn’t have to leave to go to the bathroom once during the movie.

Now that we have four kids and I’m a write-at-home mom who hasn’t been published yet, we don’t go to the movies as often. The last four movies we’ve seen together as a couple are Harry Potter 7A, Harry Potter 7B, Skyfall and last week, we went to see a retro classic showing of Holiday Inn at a downtown movie theater (that was simply dripping with personality-wonderful scarlet and gold draping in the screening room, a huge sitting room outside the bathroom with a little Christmas tree and big, comfy chairs). While we were buying our tickets, I looked down at the display case holding the candy. I realized that each of my four kids are like different brands of candy.

Kath is a little like SweetTarts. She’s sweet and tart at the same time; you might have figured out from the As Good As It Gets reference that she’s a teenager. One minute, she can be waxing eloquently about her bunny or something else that she loves. The next she can deliver a zinger and you wonder when she changed from the dancing figure on the fireplace mantel to the slightly sarcastic teen that she is. Nevertheless, she throws her whole heart into certain endeavors that she still reminds me of SweetTarts.

MJ is probably most like Raisinets. He’s a preteen boy (do I need to say more, but I will write more). On the outside, he wants to be slightly tougher now that he’s growing up. On the inside, there’s a gushy layer that still wants to stay little for a little while longer. He still likes his stuffed animals but wouldn’t admit that to his classmates. Another way that he’s like multi-layered candy is that he doesn’t like showers and he has a multiple layer of dirt attached to his ears that comes off when I pester him so much that he finally takes a shower. MJ does have a sweet side that made sure that he took his own money to school to buy his siblings presents for Christmas. There’s hope for him yet.

Cupcake (who is the 4 year old twin of Chunk) is like Sno-Caps. She’s sweet when she wants to be. In the morning, she wants Cupcake Cuddles until she is hungry and then she wants her breakfast that exact moment. She does have those little extra surprises that stay with you for a little while after you finish your first bite of candy. Cupcake is the more physically adept twin, but sometimes she’ll make little comments that make you realize she’s listening to every word you say. She also remembers a lot of little things. If I start a word game or a number game to help get through the morning traffic on their way to preschool, she’ll ask me to play it with her for the next two or three months until something else catches her fancy.

Chunk is like a Hershey’s chocolate bar. At four, he’s usually the most straightforward of the four kids. He loves food; he was so happy when Santa brought him a watermelon. He likes to cuddle, especially when he’s sleepy. Usually what you see is what you get, especially like a chocolate bar. It’s not the fanciest type of chocolate, but it’s dependable and you know what you are getting. Yes, he’ll get frustrated when he doesn’t get something Cupcake has, but he’s still relatively distracted if you try to get his mind focused on something else.

As a mom of twins (and singletons), I was asked (when they were babies) how do I tell them apart? I’m not lying. People would ask me how I tell Cupcake and Chunk apart. Although my mind wanted to say that I just take off their diaper, I usually politely reminded that person that one is a girl and one is a boy. The important thing with my family is that each member is unique and brings something different to the table. Just like there are so many varieties of candy in a movie theater display case, our family has unique voices that each strain to make themselves heard.  As a mom, I just have to remember they are each different and I hope I make each of them feel unique and special.

What about your family? Do any of your kids remind you of different types of candy even though they aren’t necessarily sweet all the time? Let me know.

Family Fridays: “What I Really Want For Christmas is…”

stock-photo-close-up-of-fresh-slices-of-red-watermelon-112684349   When you think you have them all figured out, kids can up and surprise you sometimes. Take Christmas. One of my favorite Christmas specials is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I love the Charlie Brown tree, especially when Charlie Brown says, “Aargh, I’ve killed it.” I love the kids dancing, especially the twins (this year Cupcake and Chunk danced like the twins in the video and I cracked up). The whole special is well, pretty special, the way it blends awareness of the commercial aspect of the holiday with the resonating delivery of the religious aspect of it as well.

As a mother, I always start worrying in October what my kids’ lists are going to resemble. Will it look more like our weekly grocery list with item after item after item? Will it be full of unrealistic expectations like a fleet of real airplanes and a yacht?

This year, I’ve received Christmas lists from three of my four children. Kath has asked for a WebKinz and a few surprises. Cupcake has the longest list, but it’s pretty reasonable. Haven’t received MJ’s list yet. Chunk is the one who was the inspiration for this post. Along with a dump truck and some chalk, he wants a watermelon and donuts from Santa. Especially the watermelon.

Chunk told me that he’s willing to share the watermelon. He gets the first piece. I get the second. His twin Cupcake gets the third piece. MJ, his brother, gets the fourth piece. His Daddy gets the fifth piece while his oldest sister Kath gets the sixth piece.

Chunk’s reminded me that sometimes the simplest things that we can share are the most special. It’s time together with the family this year that means so much. It’s sharing special gifts with those we love that can bring the best memories, ones we talk about years later.

When I was in eighth grade, my family didn’t have much money, but I wanted a record player stereo more than anything. I knew we didn’t have the money for it, but I dreamed of hours of listening to music on it. Early Christmas morning, my mom walked me into my grandfather’s bedroom and sitting there was the record player stereo. She worked overtime to make it happen. That memory returned to me as my kids surprised me by not asking for super expensive items. It turns out I was the one who expected and received something expensive and I projected myself onto my kids.

Christmas morning hasn’t come and gone yet so I don’t know if Santa will bring Chunk his watermelon yet, but I do have a feeling I’ll be eating watermelon on Christmas Day and loving it.

What’s the most unusual thing your child wants this Christmas? Let me know if it brings as much laughter to you as Chunk’s request for a watermelon.