The cooler fall weather calls the the grandchildren to come out and play. Even10 month-old Katie whines when she has to come inside for a diaper change.
“She cries every time I close the backdoor with her inside,” her mamma said.
When I visited, the baby stood in a red plastic wagon watching the other kids play around her. She had so much more to see out there: the trees, the clouds and her big sisters and brother. Five year-old Daisy brought her a dish of Cheerios to eat then ran off to a “let’s pretend” in the fort on the top of their swing set.
When I arrived I was told, “Come in this other door. That way is a landmine of danger.” She indicated the row of chairs draped with blankets under the shelter of the three-sided garage. No car could park in the garage now that cooler weather beckoned the children to come out and create their own personal Occupy Village. Eli, 10, pointed out, “This one is mine. That’s Caroline’s and that one is Daisy’s.” The forts stayed intact at the end of the day. Imagination had dibs over tidy orderliness and neatly parked vehicles.
My son’s family lives on a dead end street across from a middle school. When the teachers and students leave, the three grandchildren have the entire parking lot and two huge fields for riding bikes, flying kites and playing soccer. Which is exactly what six-year-old Sam did Sunday morning. He put on his red soccer shirt, dark shorts, shin protectors and soccer shoes and took the red, white and blue kick ball to the field. He ran and kicked.
I came out to watch. There stood a four-feet high child in his soccer regalia, kicking the ball into the big net on the middle school’s field. One small child in a large field kicking the ball into the big goal. He came back to tell us all about his game and left the red, white and blue ball on the far end of the green field.
“Wow! What a game! I guess you had better go get the ball,” I said.
He looked out there, Such a long ways to back to the ball. His shoulders slumped.
He sighed, took a deep breath, grinned and his imagination clicked. He was a soccer player again, chugging along like the Little Engine That Could. A colorful red shirt in the middle of the green field, kicking a red and white and blue ball.
Three year-old Henry came out with the water blaster gun his mom had found during her shopping the previous day. He proudly lifted the blaster, pumped it and squirted a blast of water on the garden until he emptied the gun and had to go inside to refill. He refilled it many times as he washed the sides of the car and watered the cement sidewalk.
He pointed it at me.
“No, you don’t shoot people.” I said. He turned around and blasted the tree instead. He watered everything in sight while his mom fixed dinner. She came out and watched him obsessively pumping water, “He will be doing that for the next week,” she said.
Big sister, Sophia, 8, joined the water brigade for a while. Her interest waned long before the 3 year-old’s did. She grabbed her scooter and rolled down the sidewalk.
Outside. It’s where it happening this fall, I realized, as we returned to our quiet house where the kids no longer return home at the end of the day and we began planning another visit with grand kids.
It was the best of all times. It was the worst of all times. And, Debbie Kelley can not remember anything that happened on Christmas Eve 2014. She knows she gulped yet another round of pain killers before driving to town to buy rum and diet coke to get through the day. The next thing she remembers is waking up in a strange place and yelling “where am I? What’s going on?”
“Lady, you are in Union County County Jail. You don’t drink, take Xanax and drive. You hit a car going down 167 South and sent four people to the hospital. You kept on driving. We arrested you in your driveway and brought you to the jail.”
Only then did Debbie realize she had a problem. She thought she needed prescription drugs to be normal. Besides, she was a Christian, “I can’t be an addict.”
She thought wrong. It began with the failure of her 17 years as a stay-at-home mom and wife and church lady. She knew where to find relief from her misery. The pain medications leftover pain medications from 13 surgeries.
She never again had leftovers. “I made sure I always had hydrocodone and now I needed Xanax or Ativan for my nerves and Ambien to help me sleep.”
At 43 sipped her first alcohol and soon drank a glass of wine each morning to relax, followed by a pill to get going and more to keep going. She pushed God out of her life with pills and alcohol.
“I thought I was just feeling and acting normal. I liked how Ambien made me feel. I had to have more to sleep. I became addicted to more Hydro, Xanax, Ambien and alcohol.”
As the need increased so did the cost until, “I was writing hot checks, lying, not paying bills and stealing from my husband’s wallet so I could buy more. I felt guilty and depressed but I could not stop.”
She rationalized, “I need this to feel normal. I am using prescription medications, not street drugs.” She prayed that God would supply her needs and thanked God when she got more pills.
Then, “God truly supplied my real need.” He put her in jail. Released to her husband she called her sons to apologize for messing up Christmas.
“They were hurt and disappointed, but my youngest said, ‘Mom you’re not ruining Christmas, this is gonna be the best Christmas ever we are gonna get our mom back.”
“I didn’t think they even knew anything was wrong.”
The local paper and news channel made her hit and run accident the day’s headline story and everyone knew.
Kelley dumped all her medications. Through the holiday, she detoxed at home and waited for insurance approval to enter a private rehabilitation program in Camden.
“At first I thought, ‘I don’t belong here. I just use pills and alcohol and that’s legal.’ I was the oldest one there.” Other patients called her ‘soccer mom’ because she did not look like an addict. She spent 26 days learning addicts look like everyone else.
Follow-up guidelines included attending meetings, calling in daily, submitting to surprise drug tests and reporting to the prosecutor on her progress.
The last 22 months Debbie has learned to turn to God instead of pills and alcohol in hard times. She chooses to seek Him and His way of escape in hard times. She now says, “I never want to go back to that way of life again.” So, on her worst day an accident and arrest changed her life, which made it, also, her best day ever.
“Look a deer!” and our car slows as if we have never seen deer standing beside the road. I’ve seen plenty of deer out in the wild. I barely look **really**. My husband points with excitement every time. As did our German visitors when they followed us home from the airport**,** and we passed a small flock standing along a dark stretch of road.
“That could be dangerous!” they exclaimed. Bemused we agreed. “Deer have jumped in front of us.”
Mostly we enjoy the deer as a serendipitous moment breaking the monotony of long drives. One such moment came when we started to pass a semi-truck with an empty flatbed. I glanced out the window and did a double take.
“Look! It’s a Tonka truck tied down with blue straps.” The large toy barely made a blip on the back of that truck.
“I wonder if he is making a big deal of giving his kid a Tonka truck,” I said and added, “Slow down, I want to get a picture of that.” I reached for the camera, focused it on the toy swaddled in blue tie-downs and shot a few a frames before we drove ahead of the truck.
The big and little trucks brought a smile during a long drive, as did the bear driving a car. My husband spotted it in a car passing him on the Interstate. Okay, it was a huge, stuffed teddy bear at the wheel of a car being pulled by a van. It tickled his fancy and kept him alert looking for other oddities.
Those were the first and last time we saw toys on the road, but armadillos are another story. Years, ago we drove from our snow bound, northern home state to NASA and saw an armadillo waddling across the median. We had never seen an armadillo outside a zoo or a book. So we ignored all the signs forbidding us against slowing down or stopping on the NASA highway.
I reached for the camera. The children scrambled to the window to see this rare creature in its natural state. An official looking car saw us, turned and headed our way. I quickly snapped another frame of the small creature. It was too far away to fill the picture. That did not matter. We had seen an armadillo.
Then we moved to southern Arkansas where these shelled creatures litter the highway every spring and I haven’t taken a picture of one since.
We did take a picture of the strange looking car leaving the off ramp of the four lane. I spotted it first. It had some contraption on the roof of the car.
“What is that? Follow it” I urged my husband.
He revved the engine to catch up with the unusual car. We followed until we were close enough to identify it as the Google Street car. Perhaps it came to do an update of the city streets and its full street view camera mounted to the top of the car recorded us following it.
We grabbed a cell phone and took several pictures for social media, “Look what we saw: the Google car. It was decorated with Google insignia and had a 360 degree camera fixed to its roof.”
We followed for a while. The Google car driver didn’t pull out his cell phone to snap a picture of our glee, nor did the truck driver with the Tonka Truck or the Teddy Bear co-pilot. But we still keep our eyes peeled for strange sights. It keeps us alert if nothing else.
He stretched out on the couch, remote control in hand and turned on Monday night football.
“You aren’t going to watch the debate?” I asked this guy who will discuss politics at the drop of a hat (and football, too for that matter).
“No. I know what they are going to say.”
I looked at my phone. A Facebook posting asked, “So who else is waiting breathlessly for the debate to start?”
Not us. The game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints in the Super Dome held more promise. The announcer said this game came on the 10th anniversary of the team’s return to the stadium after the restoration from the destruction during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
A long overdue restoration of the craft room called my name.
During the first commercial break he called, “Did you want to watch the debate?”
Maybe. I wandered back to the big screen.
He changed channels. I glanced at Facebook and read, “I know some of you won’t be watching the debate, but this is so important to our country, so, here I sit.”
Within minutes the two contestants were talking over each other, refusing to stop to let the other finish a thought.
“Where’s the remote? You can watch the football game.” I picked it up and flicked the recall button before reading another Facebook comment, “I really tried…. I made it 12 minutes before I could not take either of them. Can I write-in a candidate?’
A touchdown and the station went to a commercial break. I punched recall and switched back to the debate. Good manners had returned. We actually heard a plan for recovering the economy which followed the party lines of the last decade. We listened to a more restrained exchange of ideas and wondered, “why does he call her Secretary Clinton and she calls him Donald.”
I hit the recall button. The football announcer again rehashed the momentous 10th anniversary of the Saints return to stadium. No one mentioned that on this momentous anniversary, the Saints had fallen behind. Facebook fans cheered touchdowns and yardage … and said nothing about the political debate.
For the next half hour we switched to the debate during football commercials and heard nothing new. We switched back to watching the Falcons score rise to the level of ‘no way they can beat us.’
I worked on my laptop computer. The game watcher restlessly stood up and checked out the fridge.
Facebook postings alternated between those celebrating touchdowns with Monday night football and those moaning about the debate.
In the third quarter, with its lopsided score, the couch potato stood up, “No way the Saints can win.” He left the room.
The debate reached an equally tepid level of interest. The television went silent.
During the bedtime snack, the TV snapped onto the re-run channel with Hogan’s Heroes. Once again Hogan concocted some devious undercover plan to fool Schultz and Klink. The pretty lady spy played the double cross game. Hogan, as always, had a plan that ultimately would succeed right under the noses of the Germans. Hogan may as well have called Klink “Donald.” No need to watch the whole show. The television went black again.
Monday night football failed to excite. The debate failed to enlighten. The rerun failed to entertain. And, Facebook encapsulated friends’ thoughts on the evening’s electronic offerings.
The evening was not a total loss however. I did clear some clutter from the craft room, completed some computer work and realized anew why I prefer to read for entertainment and information.
The wheelchair and walker have left the house. The disappearing cane forces me to hobble around searching for it. Back on my feet and walking, well, okay, limping I definitely have reached the end of my intense, initial phase of healing after a complex fracture of my leg.
I still enjoyed a few at home privileges of “the invalid” until Saturday morning when my husband woke up with the worst cramp ever. His crippling pain declared my healing time had finished. It was payback time. The pain worsened as the day progressed. Double doses of over the counter medications did not help. As the moon rose, so did his pain. Rolling in pain and misery he needed relief in order to sleep.
We found my misplaced cane for him to use. This time I drove to the emergency room. Bent over the cane he hobbled to the door. The male nurse took one look and offered him a wheelchair to the examination room. Hubby collapsed into the chair with a sigh of relief I well knew.
Tests, exams and a shot of morphine relieved the pain. “If it was pain at a level of 10 when I came in, it is now at a level of three,” he declared to the ER doctor. With midnight approaching, we left with a sheaf of papers and prescriptions for stronger medicines.
Following his day of pain, bed never looked so good, until he tried to lay down and the pain returned with a vengeance.
“Go sleep in the lounge chair,” I demanded. “You need it.” I ought to know, I spent many hours in it after I fell in April.
He took charge of the lounge chair before I could retrieve my piles of books and entertainment stored around the lounge chair.
For months I had owned the remote control. That weekend I lost it to the new invalid, and the TV blared with football announcers for hours instead of my favorite shows.
By necessity, I began to reclaim the kitchen as he called, “Would you get me a hamburger? Hand me my medicines. Would you please bring me a glass of water?”
I hardly could say, “Do it yourself.” His pain seared away his usual energy. What could I say, but, “sure.” After all he really had willingly complied with my requests from the lounge chair through the spring and early summer. He washed dishes, cleaned house, made meals and reheated leftovers while I exercised, slept, read and watched television.
I owed him big time.
So I paid, as long as I could. As the weekend wore out, my still rebuilding muscles demanded rest. Flopping onto the couch, I looked across the room him in lounge chair and laughed. “We are a couple of old codgers today, aren’t we?”
He laughed and nodded. We just wanted to get through the day and the pain.
A couple days of pain and exhaustion restricting both our movements and suddenly I understand how the elderly accumulate a stash of pills, magazines, water glasses and snacks on the table beside their favorite chair. It just takes way too much effort to put everything away only to take it out again a couple hours later. With two of us groaning at the thought of walking to the kitchen to get a glass of water, the routine of housekeeping took backseat for the weekend. Later, when we feel better I will deal with all that.
Meanwhile, I am quite happy to relinquish the lounge chair to him, and I relish the freedom of walking and driving again.
The Calverts took a vacation, once. They do not want another.
Bobby and Paula Calvert left southern Arkansas and went to upstate New York with their special needs daughter Kelly to visit their married daughter and her children. The two weeks lasted five days. Then Kelly became ill, dehydrated and nearly died before she reached the hospital where she stayed for 15 days.
Kelly had a bed. Her parents searched in vain for visitor comforts: No chairs, bathrooms or vending machines.
Looking back Paula says, “I have to believe, it all happened because there were to be two people in the hospital room that needed me.”
First, Paula watched a nurse begin placing a back brace up-side-down on a child after her back surgery. From years of observing others during Kelly’s many trips to Shriners Hospital in Shreveport, La. Paula had to speak.
“I can’t let you do this. You are putting it on upside down.’”
The nurse did not see the difference and started to continue.
“You need to get the person who made it to come up here,” Paula insisted. She figured to herself, “if I am wrong, no harm, but if I am right, we had avoided harm.”
She was right. The child went home wearing the brace correctly.
A couple days before Kelly left, another girl entered with severe appendicitis. One of eight children, all born at home, it was the first hospitalization for the family. The child’s appendix was about to rupture. The intern came with all the papers the mother needed to sign. The mother read the possible side effects to anaesthesia, “She can die?! I am not going to sign that.”
The intern slapped the papers down on the night stand, “Whenever you get ready, I’ll be back” and he walked out.
“I had had seen Kelly through 47 operations. I had to do something. I prayed, ‘Okay, God, I’ll do this,’” Paula said.
Paula went to the mother, “I know how you are feeling. My daughter has had 47 surgeries. Sometimes we just have to know all the bad that could happen. But mostly what happens is good and is necessary. It’s like going down a stairs. There is always the possibility something could happen. Usually it doesn’t, and we know we are going to go up and down the stairs.”
“Chances are everything will go perfect in the operation. The one thing we know is that if the appendix ruptures, she will die. Or they can take out the appendix with a slight possibility of danger of danger from anesthesia.”
“I think I talked with her for 30 minutes. Finally, the mother said, “so if it was your child, you would sign, … oh stupid question,” the mother stopped.
“I would have signed it an hour ago,” Paula assured her.
The mother signed. Paula took the paperwork to the intern and slapped it on the counter in front of him, “Your patient is ready for surgery.”
Later she took the intern aside and explained how he should have handled the situation.
Looking back, Paul says, “I believe Kelly had to go through all that for those two girls.”
“Most people would say, ‘It is not my business. They would have chosen to not get involved. I can’t not get involved, no matter what they think of me. No one else came to talk with the mother. If I had not been willing to get involved, she would have died.”
Even with that perspective of the time, Paula still says, “We don’t volunteer for vacations.”
Kelly made her appearance with seven birth defects all related to spina bifida and quickly left for Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. Within five weeks, she had nine surgeries
At times the infant fussed and cried. Not from the surgeries. No, she wanted her bassinet near the nurse’s station. “She loves to watch us talk on the phone,” the nurse told her mother.
“By the time she was 3, she had had 20 surgeries and Shriner’s Hospital in Shreveport, La. became Kelly’s second home. “She just loved that place,” her mother reported. She made friends with everyone. She found humor in everything. The staff even asked to keep her an extra day or two to keep up another child’s spirits. She would pray with children before their surgery, saying, ‘Thank you Jesus, you are going to make them well. Thank you they are going to breathe in a bag.’ And proceeded to list the whole process. By the time she finished, the child was ready for surgery. Everybody would sleep better that night for her having prayed,” her mother said.
“That was when she was three, four, five years old. She had a great faith. She had much to be thankful for. She made a profession of faith at eight and was baptized in the baptistery while in her wheelchair.”
At five, she had surgery to enable her to wear reciprocal walking braces. Following surgery, she arrived at her special education classroom in her wheelchair and wearing a body cast from chest to ankles.
Kelly never wore the braces. A young classmate, not understanding the danger, tipped her wheelchair. Kelly landed on the ground, damaging her ankles irreparably.
She developed an infection that put her in the isolation ward next to the nurse’s station at Shriner’s. Only able to see the nurse, she again cued into the nurse’s activities. Each morning Kelly reported to the doctor the details of the night: which child was up, who had called and who needed extra medicine. The doctor dubbed Kelly, ‘Barbara Walters’ because she gave such a complete breakdown of the news of the night in correct chronological order.
“The doctor loved to be entertained by his hospital newscaster,” her mother recalled.
Loved at the hospital, bullied at school.
“Students repeatedly emptied classroom pencil sharpeners into her backpack with her books and supplies. She would come home with her face, hands and clothes blackened. It took us hours to clean her books. We had to replace the backpack and supplies and completely scrub down her wheelchair. She never knew who did it and did not want us to pursue it. I was hurt to the core and angry that no friends or teachers tried to find out why she was covered in black, but Kelly chose to be forgiving,” her mom said.
She persisted, finished high school with a basic diploma and tried a couple classes at the Community College before staying at home with the assistance of home health aides. They helped her, she helped them by teaching them long division so they could get a GED and a better job. She filled her days calling people to wish them a happy birthday or just to talk.
At 35, she had her 50th surgery to deal with routine repairs. Her heart arrested three times in the operating room and a couple times after that. At her funeral, many recalled her reaching out to them and her refusal from the first to allow her circumstances or people to discourage her. She touched many lives. An excellent eulogy for a wheel chair bound child from the special education classroom.
Good-bye to “Bridezilla”, “Yes to the Dress” and “Wedding planners”. Lay aside the pamphlets on destination weddings, forget the pricey wedding invitations and leave Vera Wang at the shop. Engaged couples consider “A Diamond is Forever and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration.” The 2014 paper by Emory University economics professors Andrew Francis and Hugo Malone, reports their study of 3,000 first time marriages, the amount each couple spent on their wedding and the longevity of their marriage.
Their findings defy years of advertising that the perfect wedding, with no cost spared, lasts happily ever after. “Quite the opposite,” the professors said, “The more spent on a wedding, the less likely the couple were to remain married.”
The delusion begins with the promise that “a diamond is forever. Those who paid more than $2,000 for an engagement ring were 1.3 times more likely to divorce than those who spent $500 to $2,000.
Many chant, “It’s my day” as reason enough for making the average wedding cost $30,000. Yet the Emory University study found that spending more than $20,000 on the wedding increases the odds of divorce by 3.5 times compared with couples whose weddings cost between $5,000 and $10,000.
Perhaps because a modest expenditure lays the groundwork for beginning life together with a realistic financial view of the world for the young couple. After all, spending beyond their income drives many couples to divorce. If the couple pays for their own wedding, celebrating within their means ensures they do not enter marriage with a burdensome credit card debt.
Sometimes the whole affair needs a practical mind. One father told his engaged daughter, “I will pay for an elaborate catered reception and wedding or I will pay for a down payment on your first home.” The couple looked at their future finances, took the house, had a simpler reception and began their marriage with a boost toward a strong financial future.
Such pragmatism runs contrary to everything the wedding industry promises, “Spend a lot, make it a day to remember for the bride and groom. Don’t skimp. They deserve it. Show her how much you love her, guys. Weigh down her hand with a big diamond.”
The commitment in the months preceding the expensive wedding too often focuses on making one day “the best” and focuses primarily on the bride while the couple’s relationship moves to the background. It becomes a day to flaunt. For instance, consider the cost of the nationally recognized epitome in a wedding dress: A Vera Wang designer gown. Consumer Report asked 143 men and women to price five gowns with similar designs. Only two priced all of the gowns correctly; 41 percent correctly labeled the $10,000 Vera Wang and 42 percent failed to identify the $500 gown.
The Emory study found one more twist in the facts and figures of the wedding day. Those with more friends and family at the wedding, tended to stay married. So, cut back on the amount spent to feed and entertain, instead recognize the important role each person played in making the day and the marriage. So say good-bye to the costly, fairy tale event, and hello, to a less financially and emotionally stressed bride and groom and their families.
It’s time for a reality show about family and friends who join together to lovingly cook, clean and decorate as they welcome another couple into the realms of married life. Each person investing time for the day communicates their prayer for the two to stay married. Which is the whole point of the wedding ceremony: a lifetime of commitment no matter what the cost.
One man never worries about hauling his junk anywhere other than to the curb. A passing driver always stops and picks up his tossed item. The day he dragged a storage compartment to the curb, both a van and a car pulled over.
The van driver walked to the door and knocked, “is it alright if I take that storage unit?”
“Sure. I know that when I put something on the curb, someone will pick it up within 15 minutes.”
The compartment storage unit sold a few days later on a Facebook yard sale site for $25. One man’s junk provided extra funds for a young family where the mother wants to stay home with her children. It was not her first curb to cash profit. Previously a lightly used, electric, lift lounge chair caught her eye. She checked to be sure the owner no longer wanted it.
“Oh honey, you just take that thing,” they assured her. She took it,wiped it down, noted that it looked nearly new and sold it for $300 on a Facebook yard sale site a couple days later. “So many people were interested in it, I probably could have gotten more,” she mused afterward. “It’s God’s way of stretching our budget.”
She had discovered thrifting. Thrifting simply means going to garage sales and re-sale shops (or the curb) and picking up items to flip for a profit via Facebook, Craigslist, newspaper want ads or Ebay. Selling locally requires her to take the item and meet the buyer in a public place. Posting items to sell on Ebay connects her to buyers around the world and greater profits. It also means keeping a supply of boxes, tape and packing material. As the auction for a framed, vintage needlework piece neared an end, she spied a box outside of a shop, leaning against the dumpster.
“I did not want to get the box from the dumpster, but God said, ‘It is there for you.’ It was still there later. I turned around and loaded it into the car, hoping no one noticed me on that busy street.”
The box fit the framed piece perfectly. “God provided what I needed. I just had to be willing to get it,” she said.
The learning curve for how to sell on Ebay can be steep. To help, thrifters post tips on Youtube and Facebook pages dedicated to thrifting.
One new seller posted a link to her sale of combined Lego, Mega Bloks and other blocks asking why it had not sold on Ebay. Brutally honest answers followed.
“Don’t combine Legos and Mega Bloks and others together.”
“No one buys Mega Blocks.”
“Your title is too long and has too many odd characters in it.”
“Eww! The picture shows Legos on the floor. Dog hair, cat hair, dirt could be mixed with the blocks. Put a sheet down first.”
“The font size is too small for a phone.”
“Take a separate photo of any mini-figures.”
Just reading the answers would help less bold, new sellers.
Besides asking for help, thrifters inspire each other with stories of items that cost pennies and sold for mega bucks. Those are the bonus sales. For most, like for the young mother just wanting to be home with her babies, buying at the thrift stores and selling for a profit online covers a few bills, buys some groceries and pays for extras such as dance or swim lessons. After all, $10 here and $30 there makes a big difference in a tight budget, even if sometimes it means pulling the treasure out of another person’s trash.
Joan Hershberger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Eli has one Mean Momma. He had barely escaped the torture of school last spring when Mean Momma announced, “You will be doing math work every day this summer. You need to know your math facts.”
Forget about Common Core for Math. This kid needed automatic responses of basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts with no more finger counting. He would learn the math facts, all of them.
Eli thought she had declared a three month course of torture to ruin his idyllic days of summer.
He grumbled and complained.
“You will do these every day. You will memorize the multiplication tables,” his mom insisted.
He protested. She persisted.
He screamed, “I can not do this.”
She insisted he could, and he would.
Mean Momma assured Eli that if he refused to get the worksheets done each day in a timely manner, he would continue with the worksheets even after school began. “Prove to me that you don’t need anymore practice.” She also promise that if he could beat her designated time to do the math drills he would receive a long coveted Lego set.
For multiplication, she began with the tables for one, zero, two and five.
A week later Eli called his grandmother to proudly rattle off those once impossible multiplication tables without once screaming, “I can’t!”
Summer vacation also involved a couple weeks of Daily Vacation Bible School. He had to go every day. Then he had to return home and do his math sheets before he could go out and play.
He joined a swim team. He had to get up early, go to swim practice and give up a couple days for swim meets and practice math while he waited his turn.
Every day before he could play with his electronic toys or watch television, he practiced math. Free afternoons came only after he made his way through a grueling regimen of the math facts.
As the summer of torture wore on, he assured his Mean Momma of one thing, “I am not going to school the first week. I have already done everything they do in school the first week.”
The summer ended with a week long car trip. The first day, Mean Momma handed Eli a new set of math sheets. Longer, harder stuff that included a math sheet with facts he had not practiced before.
He screamed. He cried. He dawdled. He complained. It was a long morning in the car. Mean Momma ignored him. He did the math and he beat the clock.
Summer ended. He was up at 5 a.m. the first day of school working on assembling that coveted, hard earned Lego set. School began and yes, Eli went the first day of the first week. His mom captured his first day report on Facebook, “Eli was BEAMING when he told me that he was the first one done with math today ‘that’s the first time it’s ever happened,’ he said.”
A hard fought parental victory. She tortured that child the entire summer with math facts and flash cards. No long, leisurely days of play at her house. She knew his weak math skills needed three months of summer home schooling focusing on one topic.
A summer of protests and screams of agony that he could not possibly do this and “Why should he?” Yet, in spite of himself, because he had a Mean Momma who insisted, Eli he proved he could.
This year, he says,”Math is going to be my best subject.” It will be ‑ or next summer he will hear again from Mean Momma about the facts of Math.