Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Amazing Artist

Lee recently turned 9. For at least the past five years he's produced hundreds of drawings on white computer paper. He's entered his artwork in the Salt Fork Arts & Crafts Festival Student Art Show the past two summers. He's won awards. He's received O's (outstanding marks) in art class at school.

Lee's creativity amazes me. His father, the Old Man, is artistically inclined and still has many drawings from his youth. I am not.

Our oldest son, Christian, 12, was as interested in art as Lee at a young age but sadly he rarely picks up a pencil anymore. Middle son, Will, 11, also likes to draw and exhibits talent but he tends to navigate toward using only wide ruled notebook paper which annoys me to no end.

Lee's artistic ability has surpassed any expectation I ever had for him. I think he's a genius. His imagination is wild. He surprises me every day. And yesterday was another gift.

First we took his Letter to Santa to the post office to mail it.

Then we went to Big Lots to get some big boxes of cereal at big savings and there he asked to buy a cheap set of T-shirt markers - 10 colors for $2. I rarely turn down a request by him to buy art supplies. At the store I told him he could use an old white T-shirt from his pajama drawer on which to draw.

We arrived home and within a half hour he had created a most amazing holiday shirt with a theme of lava and volcanoes.

"don't think about lava
think about Christmas"



Monday, October 31, 2011

The Last Pumpkin

Imagine that you are a pumpkin - the last pumpkin in the field. The nights are getting colder and there is snow in the air. Won't someone come and take you home to a nice warm house? You hear voices and see someone coming toward you ...

I'm in a pumpkin patch. I've been dreaming for this day for months. I see a teen-ager with his dog. The dog is a black lab. He is sniffing me. His nose felt so wet and moist. He walked away. His dog didn't want to go. Then he jerked the leash and the dog went with him. I saw him looking at the other ones. Just then I was getting tired. I tried to keep my eyes open. Then I saw him. He was coming toward me. He picked me up, took me to his house, put me on his porch, and lit me.
Written in October 2010 by Will, 9, as part of a fourth-grade writing assignment.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"L" is for Lisa and First Love

My fifth grade son has a girlfriend. The last week of school, this past May, he announced he was going to kiss her, but that never materialized.

The two did not correspond or see each other over the summer. She lives on the other side of town.

Last week he mentioned her again. School resumed two weeks ago. Apparently they are still “together.” Two nights ago, as he kissed me good-nite, he said he was going to try to hug his girl the next day. Yesterday morning he ate his breakfast and ran upstairs to brush his teeth. That’s when I heard the shower running – 10 minutes before we had to leave for school.

He came downstairs smelling like Axe.

On the way to school he said that not only was he going to try to hug her, but also kiss her and hold her hand. After that I must have lost consciousness because my friend, who was dropping off her child at the school too, said she waved to me but I did not see her.

My son came home from school. He said he did not get a hug, a kiss or a hand-holding session. He said that he and the girl talked at recess. Asked what they talked about, he replied, “Business.”

I believe this girl may be my son’s First Love.

With all of these feelings surfacing from my dear boy, I started thinking about my First Love.

His name was Tim.

Tim and I were classmates. It was the third grade.

I don’t know whose mother made the arrangements but Tim ended up at my house, in my backyard, where we played on my swing set until nearly dark. Then he stayed for dinner. My first “date.” I don’t remember what we ate, all I remember was Tim was at my house and all was good. I don’t know if it was that day but at some point during that school year Tim gave me a present. I’m sure his mother picked it out – it was perfect. The initial “L” on a chain. My initial. Beautiful. I still have that gold necklace. Here it is.

Tim’s mother lives in my town now. Tim lives just down the highway between the town where we grew up and where his mother and I live. My First Love was not a physical relationship. I had feelings. I’ll bet he had feelings too. In third grade we did not act on those feelings.

In fact we never acted on feelings but we continued to be friends. I remember going to my first co-ed party at his house, for his birthday. He lived just on the outskirts of town where his house, located at the base of a cliff, was surrounded by a small wooded area. There were grapevines intertwined among the trees. We swung on those grapevines and I remember this like it was yesterday.

In high school I went to a couple of big parties at his house. We were getting older and the parties were getting more mature. There were no grapevines to swing on then but there were cold beverages consumed. My parents learned about that party and my behavior, and I was grounded for a month.

I see Tim's mother from time to time and we speak – catch up on Tim and his wife, and my husband and three sons. And though I only see him every five years at our class reunion, I remember the boy, my First Love, with fondness.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fill in the blank

Will, our fourth grader - the one who nearly two years ago decided that "Old Lady" would be a suitable title for me on our blog - recently received an assignment.

I asked him to fill in the blanks and complete these sayings, or idioms as they are commonly referred.

Anyway, here are some keepers.

You may have seen these other places, but never like this.

Remember, I gave him the first part ; Will's answers are underlined.

  1. Honesty is the best when in trouble.
  2. The grass is always greener when you're good.
  3. A penny saved is a penny earned.
  4. A woman's place is in the house.
  5. It's always darkest before the day.
  6. Crime does not solve problems.
  7. People who live in glass houses should not break down.
  8. You can't teach an old dog how to walk.
  9. Where they're smoke there's trouble.
  10. Never underestimate the power of God.
  11. Love all, trust everyone.
  12. Two is company, three is family.
  13. Don't bite the hand that helps you.
  14. If you lie down with dogs be careful.
  15. No news is fun.
  16. Fight fire with power.
  17. You can lead a horse to water but not a cat.
  18. When the cat's away, stay away.
  19. Children should be seen and not heard.
  20. A fool and his money are funny.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hopalong Cassidy’s Creed For American Boys and Girls

Two years after I started working at the paper, I came to know William "Hopalong Cassidy" Boyd. Of all the cowboy memorabilia I've been exposed to, his "Creed For American Boys and Girls" has appealed to me the most.

I couldn't wait to have children to share this with them.

My sons now have a copy of these good words to live by.

1. The highest badge of honor a person can wear is honesty. Be truthful at all times.
2. Your parents are the best friends you have. Listen to them and obey their instructions.
3. If you want to be respected, you must respect others. Show good manners in every way.
4. Only through hard work and study can you succeed. Don’t be lazy.
5. Your good deeds always come to light. So don’t boast or be a show-off.
6. If you waste time or money today, you will regret it tomorrow. Practice thrift in all ways.
7. Many animals are good and loyal companion. Be friendly and kind to them.
8. A strong, healthy body is a precious gift. Be neat and clean.
9. Our country’s laws are made for your protection. Observe them carefully.
10. Children in many foreign lands are less fortunate than you. Be glad and proud you are an American.

Organizers are gearing up for the 21st Hopalong Cassidy Reunion this weekend at the Pritchard Laughlin Civic Center in Cambridge. William "Hopalong Cassidy" Boyd was born in Hendrysburg, in neighboring Belmont County, and went to school in Cambridge before his family moved West and he took up acting. Area resident Laura Bates, in 1991, set out to honor Boyd and started a Hoppy Fest, which evolved into a fan club that at one time had 500 members. The festival has waned over the years and more recently turned into a reunion held at the local civic center. Events start May 6 and run through May 7. For information, Call Bates, (740) 826-4850.

There will be another event in downtown Cambridge this year organized by former rodeo circuit promoter Art Postlethwait, called "Western Days," in which his newly-purchased authentic stagecoach will be featured in a parade in town on Saturday morning at 10. A western street fair with vendors, games, contests, demonstrations and public horseback riding runs til 5 p.m. Proceeds from the event will benefit the  American Cancer Society's Relay For Life. For information, call Postlethwait, (740) 255-7052.

Giddy up boys and girls!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Meet Maddie

Last summer I met Maddie and her family, and I've never been so touched.

A "button" on a friend's blog has lead me down a path I did not know existed. It's a cross-country relationship with people who do not know me.

Welcome to the world of blogging.

The "are you a friend of Maddie" botton shows a picture of Maddie, a bright-eyed little girl in yellow wearing a grin that reminds me of my son when he was a baby. I probably could find a photograph of Will that mirrors Maddie's expression. After several visits to my friend's blog, I pressed that botton and arrived in California, where I read about Maddie on her website -

It is an understatement to say I was shocked to learn she had died.

No one was home but me. For hours I sat right here and read. I read and read and read and I cried and cried and cried. I was stunned. That day and in the weeks that followed I physically mourned the death of Madeline Spohr.

It's been two years exactly since Madeline Spohr died from complications of a severe respiratory illness.
Her mother, Heather Spohr, and father, Mike Spohr, and baby sister, Annabel, live near Los Angeles.

Yes, I met them on the World Wide Web. Me and thousands of other readers daily follow their blog -

The Spohrs were blogging before Maddie died and have continued, sharing their story along the way.

Isn't that why we all blog? To share a story, a piece of advice or an opinion? Theirs is a sad story, one that has affected me deeply. But it is also hopeful.

Daughter Annabel was born on Jan. 22, 2010, and within the past couple of months has started walking. By all accounts Annie appears healthy and is being raised by wonderful parents who just happen to have lost their first daughter ... parents who are trying to hold it together.

I have never commented on their posts but I think about them every day and especially today as they continue to grieve the loss of precious Maddie.

Maddie was born a day shy of 29 weeks on Nov. 11, 2007.
She spent 68 days in intensive care. Her premature condition left her lungs scarred.

In the days that have passed her family has raised money for the March of Dimes and also for "families of critically ill babies in an effort to help ease the transition into NICU life and to be be an ally until the end of their child's hospital stay," according to

I invite you to meet the Spohrs.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pot o' gold


Superhero son, 8, definitely has developed a sense of humor. The Old Man and I got a kick out of this. Tomorrow is April Fool's Day. If the boys come up with any good ones or are the recipients of any good ones, I'll post them here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Donner Party, Women’s Lib and me

My fascination with the Donner Party began a couple of years ago after reading Ethan Rarick's novel "Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West." This book was given to me by a colleague who thought I might like it.

And like I did.

Since then I've been quietly drawn to this group of American pioneers who set out for California in a wagon train. Having had no memory of this event in U.S. history class, I became engrossed in the story of the Donner Party's ill-fated journey West, particularly the women and children. I mourned those who perished and rejoiced that anyone survived. And still I can’t get over the fact that this all happened in 1846-47 - less than 175 years ago! This is history, yet so near to us.

Earlier this year, via National Public Radio's Book Notes, I happened upon another book, which filled me with more information about the Donner Party, and also gave me a sense of personal peace as a working mother. Gabrielle Burton's 2009 memoir "Searching for Tamsen Donner" gave name to what I’ve been feeling for several years — a yearning to change the dynamics of husband-wife roles.

Until I read this book it never occurred to me that my own desire — to make married men whose wives work outside of the home more accountable in raising the family — may already be part of the Women’s Liberation Movement.

My husband and I more than once have said in jest that we need a wife. To me it is not a laughing matter, however. I REALLY could use some regular help. Animosity creeps in my relationship with my husband when I compare my workload to his. Sometimes the grocery shopping, meal preparation, laundry, housework, children's homework, setting and keeping doctor appointments, etc. overwhelm me, and I ask, "Why aren't husbands sharing equally in these tasks?"

Since hiring a “wife” — a housekeeper, personal assistant, nanny, cook, etc.— is out of the question, I believe sharing half of the responsibilities of raising our family with my husband would make ME happy.

It seems right. I believe ...

Then I realize that there’s a guilt that accompanies my idea, like my loyalties would be divided. If I were to relinquish some of my duties, I would be going against something that all of the women in my family have had to endure for decades. I also cower because my husband does help with some of the chores and the children, and I appreciate that.

So for a while I put it out of my mind. But it always resurfaces.

Our foremothers were expected to carry the burdens of the home and children, while their husbands labored outside of the home. It was hard work then and it is hard work now, for women — especially women who now work outside of the home. Times have changed.

In mid-1977, five years after being introduced to the Donner Party's famed heroine Tamsen Donner, Burton and her family set out on a six-week cross-country trip tracing the path of Tamsen. Burton had become obsessed with Tamsen, making parallels between her life and Tamsen’s. Tamsen was mother to five daughters (three were her husband George’s daughters from his first marriage). Burton and her husband Roger have five daughters.

During that summer and the years that followed Burton's writing trip (that never materialized into a Donner-related book until now) she takes us through a “personal odyssey,” telling how her children’s needs threatened to swallow her, reliving the guilt and personal conflict associated with wanting to have an identity other than a mother and wife. She struggled to be both a writer and a mother "and vice versa, giving equal weight to both, as men do."

Burton, unlike me, quickly identified her dilemma and joined the Women's Movement. She became filled with knowledge and inspiration about what could be.

Burton, in her book, says that women are still fighting the same battles as 35 years ago. "We're still the only industrialized nation not to have government child care; most employers haven't changed to accommodate their workers; and though fathers are doing more parenting, for the most part the bulk still falls on the mothers, employed outside the home or not."

Somewhere along the way, the dynamics of Burton's family's roles changed.

“Roger and my daughters allowed me to be a writer. I don’t mean that they gave me permission, I mean they didn’t consume all my time with their demands … the nicest husbands and children will eat you up alive if you offer yourself on the plate, and they’ll ask for second,” Burton said.

I don’t know yet what I will do with my discovery made through my preoccupation with the Donner Party.

At least I am feeling some peace about my idea — peace knowing that at least one other woman has struggled with the same feelings and survived.

Will I join a women’s lib group? Will I make my husband read this blog and will it make any difference?

For now I think I'll just keep on blogging and reading — my rewards.

Burton has a just-published novel that I am currently reading called "Impatient With Desire," which is written from Tamsen Donner's point of view.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

An 8-year-old's Wish for 2011

I wish there was peace on Earth just like Heaven. No pollution. No devil. No harm. No madness. No revenge.

From superhero son's second-grade January Journal.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Shrinky Dinks for Webkinz

It's been many, many years since my first Shrinky Dinks experience but tonight superhero son got his first taste of the craft and said, "They're awesome!"
Shrinky Dinks, according to its website (, first appeared in October 1973 and since has created and marketed more than 250 activity and craft kits.
Today the magic plastic comes in large sheets that fit in your ink jet printer, allowing digital or computer images to be recreated.
Shrinky Dinks shrink to about a third of their original size and become 9 times thicker.
I purchased a Shrinky Dinks kit from eBay after trying to find a creative and durable way to make personalized name tags for superhero son's Webkinz.
With some of his Christmas cash he bought Reindeer, which he aptly named Donner, the Barred Owl (Brownie), Tie Dyed Puppy (Rainbow) and an Apatosaurus (Rex) (see picture).
Upon receiving Owl in the mail, superhero son announced he wanted to put a name tag on the bird.
Brownie received a length of jute twine around his neck. Secured to that was a paper tag stating his name with crayon illustrations by superhero son.
This tag lasted about a day.
Next was another paper tag decorated by SS that I laminated and cut to size. SS was insistent that the tag be folded in half like a little book, so it was and then a hole was created using a paper punch and the tag was attached to the twine.
That tag lasted about a week.
During a comprehensive search online to find a solution to SS's tag dilemma, I ran across the Shrinky Dinks and had to sell the idea to SS since he was insistent the tag had to fold like a book.
I simply told him these tags would be better.
Together we watched the Shrinky Dinks curl, shrink and then flatten in the oven. Excited to touch the tags we both burned our fingertips! LOL (not badly)
To complete the project, I purchased toy dog pet collars and attached the Shrinky Dinks tags to the collars.
Now SS's Webkinz have real, personalized name tags.
SS loves the Shrinky Dinks! And so do I.