Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Father's Day weekend was a blast. It was so fun, in fact, that the boys and I had a spontaneous mini-vacation that only ended this afternoon.
We celebrated with Neil and his dad on Friday night...and Saturday morning, after his flight to Colorado left (his band has been playing for a church youth camp all week), we headed up to my hometown to visit with my family. Whenever I'm back there, I have this urge to just stay - there's this wonderful mix of past and present that I don't have anywhere else. There are aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents - it's an entire community of family that sort of makes coming back here to our house seem a little lonely. And, of course, eating Sunday lunch made by the hands of my grandmother, mother, and my mom's sister makes anything I attempt to cook seem colorless and just plain sad in comparison. If I could commute two hours every Sunday for that meal...I'm telling you it'd be worth the cost of the gas.
As the boys get older, it gets easier to travel - when they were more on the side of babyhood than toddlerhood, it felt like every road trip was a precarious, daredevil experiment (will they cry all night in someone else's house? will they spit up on some one's carpet? will they scream every time someone picks them up?). But now interruptions in routines don't bother them as much - during the past two visits, as a matter of fact, they've barely paid any attention to me at all. They love playing with my little cousins and wrestling with my uncles, talking to my aunts and grandmothers, running through the yard after the go-carts and looking at my grandparents' apple trees and grape-vines...and I love watching them discover how fabulously fun and lovable our family members are.

And now...I haven't posted any pictures in a while, and I borrowed a few from my mom's digital here are some faces to accompany all of the names.

This is Sean, loving the Mexican food that my aunt and Mom made on Saturday evening. It really was a forget-about-the-fork-and-just-eat-it-by-the-handful kind of good.
Christian felt the same way about the Oreo cake we had on Sunday. You can see that Sean's anxiously waiting for his piece back there.

This was during our last visit - Christian was trying to help my brother out after the go-cart ran out of gas. He's my Hercules.

My siblings - Mandy, Jeremy, and Hannah. Aren't they good-lookin', all dressed up for church?

A few months ago - Sean and my mom.

Quintessential Dad humor. This picture cracks me up.
And I'll leave you with a few big smiles...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Generation Gap

My little brother is spending this entire week with us, which is a lot of fun. My parents are away for a church conference, my youngest sister is with an aunt and uncle in order to babysit their kids during work hours, and my other sister is busy with her job (this is definitely the first time the younger set has all been separated like this - I'm sure my mom will be happy to have her little flock whole again!). It's cool to have Jeremy here - Sean and Christian love playing with their uncle and I'm having a blast getting to have one-on-one time with him. I haven't spent this much time with him since before I left home - which means he was about three years old. He's ten now, so you can be sure that his interests have changed. For example, he no longer gets excited about Blue's Clues and he can take care of his own bathroom activities. Sometimes change is good. Hee.
Anyway, I'm still unpacking boxes here in the new house, and yesterday I found my yearbook from my fourth grade year. Since Jeremy just finished the fourth grade, I thought he might find it interesting to look at my fourth grade picture...he did think that it was pretty funny (I'm definitely all big glasses and feathered bangs).
Here's what wasn't funny: he looked through some of the pages and pointed to a candid classroom shot. In total disbelief - "Your teachers used chalkboards? How old is this yearbook?"
Uh-huh. Thanks, little brother. I suddenly saw myself through his eyes...and he made me recall times in elementary school when my friends would talk about their older brothers and sisters who were married and had kids...and I'd think man, those people are old.
(Deep, deep sigh) Yep. Officially - that's me.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Another Example of How the Best Things In Life Are Free

When I was a kid, my dad was one of those people who would tune his radio in the car to (groans and many rolls of the eyes by my former teenage self) am radio. AM. Talk shows, interviews, weather, music (without words!). And even if he stayed on the FM dial, he'd listen to public radio stations. I can't say that I minded the classical or jazz stations - I've always been a music lover, whatever the style, and my favorite pieces for the piano were the classical ones...however, I felt it my fourteen year old duty to declare myself bored to tears by the rest of it.
Of course the older I got, the more I began to actually listen and enjoy what I was hearing. And now I am officially an addict of the beautiful NPR.
They have a little bit of everything - check out the website and I'm sure you'll find something in your line of interest.
But - here is my new source of bliss. When I'm busy with my hands or fed up with the circles my own mind spins, I can listen to incredibly talented actors read short stories to live audiences...they always pick wonderful stories, both classic and contemporary. I've never been one to listen to audio books (I'd rather have the book in my hands), but these are perfect for chores around the house. Instead of grumbling because I'd rather be reading or doing something beneficial for my brain than mopping the floor, I can happily bring out the mop. Now I can clean and 'read' at the same time.
It's a beautiful, beautiful thing. NPR and Swiffer are just making cleaning downright fun. (And so when an old friend asked me on the phone the other day if I'm being a good housewife [she's a rather compulsive cleaner who branded me as a hopeless closet slob during our dorm-room experience in college] I could smile and truthfully answer - why, yes, yes I am. I've become an absolute Donna Reed.)

Friday, June 08, 2007

For Your Fancy

In the course of researching my current work in progress, there are a few key areas that have captured my imagination.

My favorites, if I had to choose, would be the legends that revolve around a certain section of Chapel Hill. When I attended UNC, my dorm was on the very edge of North campus, across from a wonderful historical district (another side of the dorm had the marvelous Paul Green Theatre, site of my work-study job, and the other had the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery - a most fascinating stretch of history). Anyway, my dorm-mates and I would cross over to go walking/jogging/procrastinating in the historical district on this stretch of residential dream-fodder...stately old houses, friendly old trees, and amazing gardens...but all sort of naturally grown. There is none of the immaculate, matching, obviously methodically planned feel a lot of modern neighborhoods have.

One day we kept following the path at the end of Gimghoul Lane until it went uphill into the forest...which immediately makes you feel as if you've stepped far away from Chapel Hill, NC. Wikipedia says that Glandon Forest is a mystical place inhabited by knights and miscreants...there's an actual cliff - a plethora of trees and flowers - and a castle.

Obviously, this is something you don't stumble across every day of the week. My mind began spinning and I had to know - how does something like this castle fall in the midst of small-town North Carolina?

It so happens that this castle was built in 1924 (legend has the stone was put into place by French artisans) at the wish of the Order of the Gimghoul...a secret society founded in 1889 and made up of UNC's most prominent male students and faculty. The Order was founded on the principles of Arthurian chivalry and knighthood....and most importantly, on the tragic story of Peter Dromgoole.

There's a large, flat rock close to the castle - large enough to comfortable seat a few people - and it's covered with a red stain. I know it's there - I've seen it myself. Where did the stain come from?

It started with a young student from Virginia attending the university in 1833. His name was Peter Dromgoole and in the spring of his freshman year, he fell in love with a beautiful girl named Fanny. They'd meet on the wooded cliff near campus, sitting on 'their' rock and whispering all of those things people newly in love whisper...and everything was going just as planned until Peter noticed a friend of his looking a little too closely at his Fanny. Jealousy and indignation took Peter over as this friend began to make his feelings known...and a duel was planned.

They met at midnight on the cliff, their friends all there to bear witness - but things spun out of control and Peter was killed. They hastily moved his body from the rock where he lay bleeding and buried him in a shallow grave.

Fanny had no idea what had happened - daily she would return to 'their' rock, wondering where the red stain had come from - her heart breaking when Peter failed to meet her.

Legend says that the lovers haunt their rock and their forest...and I wonder if they ever run into the other famous ghost of UNC, an Irish writer named Jack who died in the 1930s of alcoholism and is said to roam down Gimghoul Lane and through the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery looking for company.

So a secret society was founded on the tragedy of young love...and the castle is a tangible memorial to that long ago's enough to keep my imagination spinning!

If you'd like to find out a little bit more for yourself (there are actual public records available on the Order of the Gimghoul, which reveals those first members), click!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sometimes it's All I Can do to Not Fall Over

Neil took his four day motorcycle course this past weekend, which means that he's finally able to ride the bike that has been sitting in the garage for a few months now and that I am finally able to have the (predicted) cold sweats when he decides to zoom away with nothing around his body except air. It didn't help that when he bought the thing, pretty much everyone I told (including his own father) immediately said - he has life insurance, right? Yeah. Thanks for the reassurance.
So yesterday he decided that he wanted the boys and me to watch as he rode down the street and back...Christian is absolutely fascinated by anything that has wheels and moves, so he was ecstatic. However...Sean is a different sort of child - the kind that is leery of anything too loud or too fast. (In other words, he's just like me.)
We were all about 'hey, watch Daddy on the motorcycle!' and, once the engine was turned off, 'hey, watch Christian sit on the bike with Daddy!'
This is when Sean walked up to the motorcycle and said : "Hey, I've got a great idea! Watch me leave it alone!" And he walked back into the garage.
Three years old and a developed sense of sarcasm. My work here, good people of the blogosphere, is obviously done.