KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 8

Life is better in flip flops.  –author unknown

Probably not the first song that comes to mind when one puts together a summer playlist, “Island in the Sun” by Weezer made the list simply for its juxtaposition of bliss and melancholy.  When I hear this song I think of summer longing…a desire to escape not necessarily because you’re in a bad place, but simply because.  It’s a love song of sorts…two people who get away for what seems like a never-ending vacation where there are no worries, no cares and no responsibilities.  Sounds like a summer destination to me!

Making the song extra catchy is its straight-faced “hip, hip” background vocals and the almost monotone lyrics.  Not Weezer’s most famous song, still it did manage to earn a place on several music charts overseas.  Also interesting, the band made two (very different) videos for this tune in 2001.  The first depicted a Mexican wedding where the traditional festivities carried on around the band as if they didn’t exist.  The second video shows the band interacting with wild animals at a refuge (actually somewhere in California although they do a good job making it look like Africa.)  The latter, receiving the most air time on MTV.  Personally, I love the wedding–those deadpan faces among the happy-go-lucky bride and groom get me every time!

This mellow, California vibe is perfect for a lazy, daydreaming sort of summer day.  The kind of day where if you’re lucky enough to own a hammock you can “wish” yourself away to your own personal island in the sun.

Up Next:  SONG 9…”it’s a cruel, cruel summer….”

 

 

Advertisements

KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 7

Summer is a state of mind.  –author unknown

College radio.  It’s not for the faint of heart!  Ok, I’m not trying to be dramatic but the eclectic nature of college radio makes it barely palatable for a large chunk of the “listening” population.  That being said, I still find myself tuning in occasionally for the sheer randomness that it offers.  I “worked” at my college radio station…sure it was in the news department, but the news is flanked by programming and a lot of that programming is music after all.  This opened the door to a wide variety of music genres and styles and for whatever reason (at least for me) it opened the door to a gem of a group called Sly and the Family Stone.

By the time I “discovered” them, a greatest hits CD existed…and boy did I love it!  Optimistic, upbeat, socially progressive, soulful, it quickly became one of my favorites and “Hot Fun in the Summertime” stood out above the rest.  I’m not sure what I like better…the way the song builds, the creative use of strings or the horns (probably the horns.)  The song just oozes good times.  I found it interesting to learn that this tune actually came out in August of 1969…at the end of summer.  Sly and the Family Stone performed it as part of their set at Woodstock helping to propel them to stardom and push the song to the No. 2 spot on Billboard Hot 100.  The song is also listed on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 of all time and is considered by many to be a “summer anthem.”

Jamming out to this song reminds me of summertime in good, ol’ Lawrence, Kansas…cruising up the hill in my little red car blasting the CD (I’m sure my music choice turned a few heads!)  I was tickled to learn years later that the group hailed from the San Francisco area…my absolute favorite city for summertime fun!  I still enjoy their greatest hits collection today and if you listen closely you just might see me blasting their music again…this time in my red swagger wagon!  Not as cool, but just as fun.

Up next:  SONG 8…”hip, hip.  Hip, hip.”

Shooting Stars and Passing Cars (A Panting Dog and the Occasional Meow)

I’ve loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.  Galileo

A “cool” Mom would have packed the kiddos in the van (snacks and blankets in tow) and strategically driven into the darkest part of the night to view this summer’s Perseid Meteor Showers.  But I never said I was a “cool” Mom.  So instead, I mandated the offspring turn off their devices, shuffle out into the backyard, and plant themselves on carefully arranged patio furniture (all under threat of a grounding if they took ONE look at their tablets or phones.)  “Your eyes,” I said, “need several minutes to adjust.”  It was shortly after midnight…and just two days before the first day of school.

Perseid Shower Star Guide from Sky & Telescope

Perseid Shower Star Guide from Sky & Telescope

We should have already been a week into school night “practice,” but we weren’t.  So putting respectable bedtimes on hold (yet again,)  we looked to the sky.  We were on a mission to see a shooting star…or at least I was.  Prior to that summer evening, we had spent several nights staring at the heavens.  I had studied a constellation app and was armed with lots of information–some I learned as a kid, some I had just recently found on the internet.  It was still super warm outside and oh so humid!  Aside from the crickets, the only sounds at that late (early?) hour included two passing cars, our dog’s crazy panting (not sure what her deal was) and the occasional meow of the neighborhood cats. So on this particular night, starwatching was an exercise in patience.   I’m not sure what you know about the Perseid Meteor Shower, but I heard upwards of 30 shooting stars per hour!  WOW!  That, however, did not happen.

Within the first five minutes the complaining began.  I decided to impress the kiddos with my knowledge of constellations.  We picked out the standards…Big Dipper, Little Dipper.  I taught them how to find the North Star.  We saw several planes fly through the night sky.  And finally we moved on to Cassiopeia and the story of Perseus himself.  I should be happy that the children politely listened to my little lesson, but it wasn’t very long before they shifted back to their “we’re bored” posture.  Convinced they were outside for no reason at all–we finally saw a shooting star!  And what a shooting star it was….

It’s not like my husband and I had not seen a shooting star before.  We had.  But despite all the time we had spent stargazing this summer, the kids hadn’t been so lucky.  But right then and there we had finally witnessed one…and it was a good one!  Very dramatic, very bright and especially long-lasting—given the fleeting nature of shooting stars.  It streaked across the night sky right above our heads!  It was a spectacle to behold and an experience we will never forget…for several reasons:  1) because all four of us saw it together, 2) because everyone made a wish, and 3) no one told what they wished for (not even a hint.)  The last part was sort of a surprise.  We had never talked about wishing on a star and yet, it was the first thing we all instinctively did.

As we looked to the sky I couldn’t help but wonder what everyone had wished, especially the kiddos.  As a child, I can remember wishing for lots of things…everything from new shoes to a “good” hair day to getting to go someplace special.  As I got older, my star wishes moved on to passing a tough test, getting a certain boy to notice me and making it through college.  Nowadays, my wishes are typically for others…and especially for my kids.  But I wouldn’t necessarily call them wishes…because they’re more like prayers.  That night as that star streaked across the sky…the wish on my heart was really a silent petition to God.

Later, after everyone else had gone back inside, my daughter asked if I thought wishes came true.  We had seen two more meteors that night.  She said she was pretty sure that she had wished hard for a flat screen TV one Christmas, but she didn’t get one.  It was the start to a long conversation about magical versus miracle, God versus “genie,” and the incredible power of prayer.  Thank you, Perseid Meteor Shower…for one last summer hurrah!  Under that night sky, when we should have been fast asleep, the heavens opened the door to something truly amazing…a blessed conversation.  An answered prayer.  I honestly could have stayed out all night.

I’m already looking forward to more sky watching.  I hope that someday the kids will share their wishes (and prayers!) with me–because if (when) mine comes true…you know I’ll be the first one to tell.

The only difference between a wish and a prayer is that you’re at the mercy of the universe for the first, and you’ve got some help with the second.  –Jodi Picoult, author

 

 

 

 

Summer’s Last Hurrah! (My Top 10–This Just Got Real)

Vacation Flashback: S'mores with Aunt Tricia

Vacation Flashback: S’mores with Aunt Tricia

Every summer has a story.  –Unknown

Summer never looks so good as it does on the last day of school!  Like a brand new penny, summertime is all shiny, a token of possibilities just waiting to be spent 🙂  Back in May, we anxiously awaited days of unscheduled fun and endless adventure (not to mention the joy of “forgetting” to set the alarm clock!)  In so many ways I was more excited about summer than my kids…the monotony of pick up/drop off and the constant scheduling/rescheduling of  team practices, medical appointments, school projects, etc….  And while it’s not my favorite season of the year, summer was sure sounding pretty good!  In theory, I was willing to overlook the scorching temperatures, bugs and the chaos that is the spontaneity of summer.  I planned (funny, huh?) on enjoying it all and loosening the reins of my control freak lifestyle.  Feel free to laugh at me….

10169327_641862025902970_6005348305437044508_n

Oh yeah…THE SNOW CONE!

Now that the end of July has rolled around (and the school supplies have debuted at the local stores,) I realize that this summer has been anything but the relaxing, carefree season I imagined.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m NOT complaining.  I spent the better part of the summer watching my children grow and learn on the baseball/softball diamond.  We’ve squeezed in sleepovers, sports camps, swim lessons, and Vacation Bible School.  My “Camp MOM” program has netted the children a few prizes while propelling (okay, FORCING) them to look at Scripture in a new and exciting (?) way.  We’ve easily eaten our weight in Dairy Queen ice cream and discovered the addiction that is THE SNOW CONE!  We’ve managed to eke out a little pool time (NEVER enough for my kids.)  And we made our way to Grandma and Grandpa’s for a little family visit.  All very good things!  Still, I feel a little incomplete.  The busyness of summer has me feeling like we missed out on the lazy, less hurried parts of the season.  Frankly, we’re running out of days and there’s still more on my list.

So here and now, I’m putting out for all to see MY Summer Wish List…because summer break is all about the parents, right?  Forget about the kids (not really!)  Here goes nothing:

1.  Catch fireflies in a pickle jar.  Might as well be specific 🙂 Don’t worry, catch and RELEASE!

2.  Stargazing.  My opportunity to impress my kiddos with my vast knowledge of constellations.  Yeah, right.

3.  Drive in movie.  This is a tough one because I don’t really like sitting through movies…it’s a huge time investment.  Equally problematic is that I’m REALLY picky about the movies that I watch.  Cross your fingers.

4.  Road trip.  Okay, if you know us…then you’re already aware that we’ve been on the road for baseball tournaments this summer.  Those don’t count.  I want to go see nature…(I can’t believe I uttered those words!)  I’m thinking State Park adventure 🙂

5.  S’mores.  Enough said.  Throw in a couple of campfire songs and we just might call this one EPIC!

6.  Eat outside.  I don’t know why, but I love to picnic.  It goes against my ant phobia, but it’s really true.  I enjoy dining outdoors.

7.  Professional baseball game.  This is already in the works!  Hooray 🙂

8.  Read three GOOD books.  I’m sort of a nonfiction junky…and those are typically long reads.  Managing to get through three would be heavenly.  I’m still on book one.

9.  Visit Lawrence, Kansas.  Stroll down memory lane while reminding my kids that they can choose any college they want (as long as I approve of it.)

10.  Go to the zoo.  Because it’s fun and I like Orangutans (a lot.)

Okay, people.  There it is.  And since time stops for no one, I needed to get started on this list YESTERDAY.  Because while summer technically goes through September, my kiddos start school in mid-August.

Summertime is always the best of what might be. -Charles Bowden

UPDATE 8/2014:  Completed 9 out of the 10.  Not bad 🙂

Summer List Pic

 

Utilizing the Walk-Up Song (A Baseball Tactic for Real Life)

Baseball is a lot like life. It’s a day-to-day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life.  -Ernie Harwell

kiddos at ball game

Baseball fans for life 🙂

When you park your back-end on a bleacher for a good chunk of the summer, your mind occasionally wanders.  I think it’s a by-product of the summer air, sunshine and warm nights, and the endless possibilities stretched out before you as a favorite player/team take the field.  This magical time at the ball diamond lends itself to reflection and contemplation.  And as a result, I’ve come to appreciate the game on an entirely new level this season.

If you’ve played the sport (or you know someone who has,) you’ve heard the adage “baseball is 90% mental, the other half physical.”  While I’m not sure exactly how the math adds up, I do think there’s a lot to be said for the mental game.  Everything from practice and coaching to adequate sleep time and game day meals, contributes to and sets the tone for a player’s performance during a game.  From little league to MLB, players have their own unique rituals–special socks, flavored sunflower seeds, eye black design and even music…e.g., “the walk up song.”  Sure team’s have been playing tunes in the locker room for years.  Music selections that inspire and pump up the crowd are blared from the speakers at numerous sporting venues.  We’ve all seen images of ball players from every sport getting off the team bus with headphones/ear buds playing their favorite jams.  This attempt to block out the world, focus on the task at hand, energize the athlete and ultimately get him into the zone, have been going on for decades.  For a non-athlete like myself, the process is fascinating!  And thus, the baseball walk-up song has been at the forefront of my mind this summer…so much so that I’ve been experimenting with the concept on my children (how’s that for parenting?)

Before you starting thinking that I must have a lot of time on my hands (or that I’m an insane baseball mom,) let me explain.  I’ve always thought of sports as a metaphor for life:  work hard, practice and learn the basics, prepare, be a sponge, respect the coach, LISTEN, try your best, believe in yourself, be a team player, never blame the officials, realize that there will be both good AND bad days (and the bad days don’t define you), stay coachable and finally HAVE FUN!  Baseball teaches these concepts, but there’s one more notion that I had somewhat overlooked (until now,) and that’s attitude– you know, confidence and the mental game. When our children are young, I think we focus on fundamentals and rightly so (there’s only so much teaching that can be absorbed at that age.)  As they grow up and develop we can add the nuances, the fine distinctions that play a big role in success and in the long run, enjoyment and satisfaction with one’s efforts.  Accomplishing a goal in any area of life hinges on these details.  And if the details include being in the right frame of mind (and not relying on luck, superstitions or circumstances) then the baseball walk up song makes a lot of sense.

Players will tell you that a certain degree of thoughtfulness goes into their walk up song choice.  The selection is used to invoke baseball nostalgia, entertain fans, instill confidence, set a tone for success and maybe even intimidate the opponent.  Above all, it gives the player a moment to focus, be still, assess the situation, breathe and maybe even smile.  The value of the strategy is obvious.  So, why leave this mental game method strictly to secular areas like sports?  Imagine if we purposefully approached our daily lives in this manner?

For years, I have used scripture and music as a source of peace, to call my spirit into focus, and essentially to put myself in a good mood.  When walking into a job interview, the doctor’s office, approaching a loved one with a difficult situation, in parenting, ministry, and countless other situations… this practice has proven helpful in preparing myself for whatever lies ahead–both good and bad.  And I know that it works!  Psychologists often refer to this approach as “visualization,” a mental technique geared to create success and/or positive outcomes.  While all of this sounds pretty heavy, I think there’s a place for it in both serious and less weighty scenarios…and you may already be using this strategy without even realizing it.  Here’s how it works:  You’re all set for a night out on the town with your friends–you know the right music will set the tone.  Family road trip?  You create a playlist that incorporates a little something for everyone in the car.  Special date night or anniversary…a little Sinatra never hurt anyone!  You get the picture 🙂

So here’s where it comes full circle….  My baseball musing went from the bleachers to my favorite players–my kiddos.  These competitive and determined little league players often put a lot of pressure on themselves.  As a parent, we want our children to have SUCCESS as well as FUN and having a good attitude plays a key role in that.  It wasn’t long before our pregame routine included a couple of walk-up songs.  Sean has two or three songs that he looks forward to hearing as we cruise over to the ball park.  Casey enjoys listening to her own personalized playlist before games, but also before practice as well.  Look, I’m not saying this tactic is the missing link between Losertown and Winnerville…but it sure has led to high-spirits, less pressure, and a lot more smiles!  Ultimately, I hope it’s a game plan that the children will carry with them as the grow up, not just where sports are concerned, but for life.  Setting the tone truly can make a difference!

We have a choice in how we approach, prepare and deal with every situation that comes our way…and the mental game has a lot to do with just how successful we will handle both the highs and the lows.  And personally, I welcome any positive strategy that sets us up to “win.”  I’ve even claimed my own walk-up song, a little ditty that rolls through my head as I’m pouring coffee in the morning.  Because come on…we could all use that extra something (especially at 6am!)

 

May Daze? (5 Suggestions for Summertime Sanity)

A lot of parents pack up their troubles and send them off to summer camp.  —Raymond Duncan

In case you were wondering, I just might have an inside track on why this Mother’s Day thing lands in May.  This made-up homage to matriarchs across the country is every Mom’s safety net for surviving this crazy month!  End of school activities, assignments and field trips, music programs, award ceremonies, graduations, and even sport practices and games…managing each of these calendar fillers is no small task.  And, sorry fellas, many times this falls on a Mother’s to do list.  So it makes sense that Moms everywhere get this ONE day…filled with cards and sentiment, meals prepared in our honor, flowers and gifts.  We are conveniently recognized and fussed over just before the ax drops–that’s right…I’m talking about SUMMER break!

Back in the EASY days of summer.  May 2009

Back in the EASY days of summer…when a “doggie” sprinkler could make them happy. (May 2009)

Don’t get me wrong…school’s out!  Thank goodness.  I mean, I know the kids are happy…and I’m pretty excited, too.  No longer will I be a slave to the alarm clock.  I’m done packing lunches for the time being (the occasional picnic aside.)  I don’t have to arrange appointments, pick-ups, drop-offs, meetings, haircuts, etc… according to the school calendar.  We can linger over lunch and enjoy late dinners.  Yes, it’s summer and that’s a good thing…at least it is on most days.  Because in reality, summer is a lot of work .  Hear me out…I love the idea of having the kids home with me.  It’s our chance to hang out together, talk and reconnect, try new things and visit favorite places.  But we’re less than a week in and I’m already starting to notice a few things:

First, I might be in control of this ship but my crew has pretty loud opinions about where I’m leading.

Second, we don’t necessary have the same idea of fun anymore.  It wasn’t long ago when the local library provided a lot of our summer entertainment.  I have one child (who shall remain nameless) who is balking at the notion that reading is fun.  It goes something like this, “DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH READING I HAVE TO DO AT SCHOOL?”  Followed by a look of exasperation and disbelief 😦

Third, hanging out in the backyard with bubbles and sidewalk chalk doesn’t cut it.  Since when?  I’m an adult and I STILL love bubbles and sidewalk chalk!  But no, apparently this isn’t cool anymore.  I’m learning that the only permissible backyard fun includes water balloons and half the neighborhood.

Fourth, boys and girls.  I’m still trying to figure this one out.  Sometimes it’s acceptable for boys and girls to hang out together.  Other times suggesting such an idea will garner a look that turns you into stone.  If somebody has the lowdown on this one…please let me know!

Fifth, here’s a newsflash….  Gone are the days when my children choose each other as their best playmate.  Instead, every activity must involve FRIENDS!  I know my kids are getting older (middle school and upper elementary,) but can’t they at least fake getting along with each other?  And how about throwing this into the mix:  My brother advised me just a few weeks ago that having people over at your own house is the BEST way to keep tabs on your kids and their friends.  This win-win scenario (???) means that we get to be the “fun” house and maintain some kind of control over our kiddos and their activities.  I’ll have to get back to you on that one….

photo (7)In an attempt to make peace in our house, I’ve established a few Summer Rules.  Gentle reminders that (honestly) are always in place, but managed to make their way onto the kitchen whiteboard for emphasis.  Look, I have good kids…but let’s face it, we’re all works in progress.  I heard a radio program the other day that suggested that parents should focus more on raising GOOD PEOPLE rather than SUCCESSFUL BRATS.  Sign me up!  I bought the t-shirt on the proud parent thing…wore it a few times and put it in a drawer. It’s not that I don’t think my kids are the greatest (I do), but these days I’m opting for a more realistic approach to my “momness.” More like a, “Yep, those are my kiddos–good and bad.”  Indeed, we are in this for the long haul.

So here’s my plan for Summertime Sanity.  It’s not rocket science and we all probably know these things, but sometimes putting them out there helps the cause.  So here goes:

1.  Pray, not just often, but more like ALL the time.  I’m not really all that concerned with being the perfect parent, but I do want to honor God in my role as a mother.  I believe He has blessed me with two precious children and I want to do all that I can to show them God’s love and grace through Jesus’ example.

2.  Remember that it’s okay to say NO!  Sometimes it seems easier to give in…especially after a long (long) day.  It’s at this point that I try to remind myself that I ultimately know what’s best for them.  For the most part, they know that asking repeatedly will not change my mind.  When they were very young I would tell them that begging was absolutely unacceptable and it would equate to not only NO right now, but NO in the future as well.

3.  Less is more.  We don’t have to fill up every single second of summer with activities.  Many parenting experts have warned us about the hazards of over-scheduling.  I know for myself that it’s in these unscripted moments where I find my kids singing silly songs, making up games and otherwise just getting along (even if it’s only for five minutes.)

4.  Look for the lessons.  The more time you spend with your kids, the more opportunities you have to be the teacher.  Some of my favorite moments with my kids have occurred in front of the TV, at the movies, or while listening to the radio.  I like to ask them what they think the show/song is trying to say, what they know about the actor/artist, and I encourage them to put on their “God goggles” and find a spiritual message in whatever we’re watching/listening to.  Sure, they sometimes cry “buzz kill,” but other times it sparks some pretty interesting conversation.

5.  Love on them.  Extra time together means extra hugs and kisses.  Extra moments to sit next to or across from each other.  Extra hair ruffling (for my son) and extra hand-holding (for my daughter.)  Time is precious…do not let these moments pass you by.

I fully anticipate an eventful summer…one with both ups and downs.  There will be ballgames, swim lessons, Vacation Bible School, youth group events, and small getaways.  We’ll get along, not get along, all out fight and occasionally enjoy each other’s company.  Sometimes I’ll say no, other times yes and we’ll all move on.  I’m not interested in being a BFF, but instead I’m focusing on being M-O-M…plain and simple.  I will anticipate the best and get over everything else.  I can’t promise complete flexibility, but I will try hard not to be a total control freak.  And when fall rolls around I fully believe that we will be able to  point to shared highlights and lots of good memories.

Here’s to the best summer yet!!!