Category Archives: Appetizer for Life

Pizza? Bedtimes? Whatevs, We’re on VACAY!!!

As you could tell from my latest posts, we’re on vacation. What started this 1,000+ mile tour de Midwest was my family reunion in Kansas City, Mo. I delegated to my husband to plan our trip. Next thing I know, a long weekend away turned into an eight-day adventure.

The boys outside Cracker Barrel.

But I’m not complaining, this escape from everyday is fun. I’ve spent much of the trip in the back seat between my boys. Not to mention all of the people who have seen my boobs by now. (Truckers along I-70, the old man at Cracker Barrel and Mizzou college students: You’re welcome.)

We left last Thursday and stayed the night at my best friend’s house in suburban St. Louis. Then we had lunch with my niece in Columbia, Mo. and moved on to Kansas City. After a few days there, we spent three days in Columbia. Hubby and I met at the University of Missouri, so we visited our old haunts, and bored Logan with stories of our youth.

Now we’re in St. Louis and will be here for a total of 3 days. The kids are totally off their schedules. We all go to bed around 11 p.m. (some nights as late as 1 a.m.!) and we have been getting up late in the morning. But we haven’t been stressing, just saying “hey, we’re on vacation!”

Same thing with eating. Pulled-pork sandwiches? Sure! We’re on vacation! Pizza? Yep! We’re on vacation! Dessert anyone? Uh-huh, we’re on vacation!

I’ll worry about getting the kids back on schedule and the excess calories later. I can’t think about it now, I’m still on vacation.

A Family Reunion: Laughs, Dancing and A Lot of Love

Ahhhh family reunions. Meeting new cousins, listening to stories about your parents/aunts/uncles and older people asking you “do you remember me?” The answer is always no and I never know how to politely say that.

I had my 96th Annual Tyler Family Reunion in Kansas City, Mo. last weekend. I can’t remember the last reunion I attended. Each year it’s in a different city, always on the Fourth of July weekend and it draws people from coast to coast. This year I thought that since it’s in Kansas City, about two hours from my hometown, let’s go!

It was Hubby’s first experience at a black family reunion, well any family reunion. (It’s not so popular to do those in Norway.) More than 200 people registered for ours and while walking through the Westin Hotel, if you saw someone black, we’d wonder, “Am I related to you?”

Logan was excited to meet new cousins because kids at his school have grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who live near them, but he’s noticed that he doesn’t. After the interesting drive to Kansas City, we got settled and connected with my uncle because his grandkids were staying in his room and the youngest was Logan’s age.

Shortly after walking in their hotel room, we hung out with those three kids and I fell in love with them. Two girls and one boy, between the ages of  7 and 4. There’s a total of five of them, but the two older girls were off hanging with the other teenagers.

With the 7-year-old, I tried my new thing of talking to young girls about subjects other than their looks. I got the idea from a piece on the Huffington Post about not talking to girls about how pretty they are, but for their thoughts and accomplishments. This was a rewarding venture that led to the 7-year-old reading One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. I’ll always cherish that moment.

I’ll also cherish spending time in the hospitality suite with my aunt, grandma and an older cousin. I talked about how it was a tough transition from career woman to motherhood. They nodded and smiled. I talked about my current work situation and the challenge of balancing family and a career that I love. They nodded and smiled wider. They looked at me like I was a teenager talking about teen angst. Listening compassionately, but with a look of “This too shall pass.” I didn’t find it patronizing, but it was comforting.

Some of the lighter moments include taking Logan to the dance, where my boy worked it out so hard, he got into a dance-off with another kid and my mom went upstairs to give him a change of clothes because he sweat through his outfit.

At the same party, there was another dance-off that would put Step Up 2 to shame. My favorite move was when a girl jumped in the air and looked like she was firing a shotgun, kickback included. Then a woman entered the ring who was in her early 60s? (Hard to tell with us, black don’t crack…) and she schooled all the young dancers. It was amazing.

The whole weekend was fun. My husband’s favorite part was looking around at the family picnic and just taking in that everyone who you see is a part of your family. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Trying Not To Kill My Child On Our Family Road Trip

It was around mile 454 that I first had the urge to strangle my child. It was Day 2 of our weeklong family adventure on the open road. I was in the backseat, sandwiched between two car seats, my feet were perched on a carton of juice boxes and my eldest was tapping my arms.

I logged many miles sitting in this seat between my two boys.

Incessantly tapping.

On the surface, tapping someone on their upper arms doesn’t seem so bad. Then 30 tappity-tap-tap-filled minutes go by and I start to wonder if my husband would mind if I break our no-hitting policy. (We don’t spank.) Tap tap.

Then I wondered how much time I’d serve for wrapping my fingers around his scrawny neck. Tap. Tap. Tap.

I threatened to take away his iPod and put him in time out. As the words left my lips, I knew it was an empty threat. Tappy-tap-tap.

The whole reason I was back there was to keep my overtired 6 month old from shrieking. (T-t-t-t-taaaap.) Following through on either threat meant that we’d soon have two screaming banshees in the backseat as we torpedoed down Interstate 70. That, tap, also was not a sustainable option.

Yet there I sat trapped like a caged rat, in the back trying not to kill my son.

“I have an unwarranted amount of rage right now.” I told my husband. He laughed. His son tapped.

“C’mon. You pride yourself on creative parenting solutions. Come up with one!” A little voice in my head said.

“Why do you want to tap my arm when you know I don’t like it?” I asked in the fakest nice voice that I have. (It was either that or hissing through clenched teeth.)

“Because your armies are so softy and I love to touch them.” (He calls my arms “armies” and is always petting, kissing or, as in this case, tapping them.)

I sighed. Then asked him if he could rub my arms instead since I liked it when he did that. “If you don’t want to rub them, then I’ll go sit up by Dad where you won’t be able to touch them.”

The tap-tap-tapping stopped, he kissed my arm and slowly stroked my bicep. We both smiled. I was still cramped in the back seat and my feet remained atop the carton of juice boxes, but at least I was no longer plotting my child’s death.

Families By The Numbers: How Does Yours Measure Up?

Do you know how many families are just like yours? We’ve all got aunts who can easily be referred to as the Cat Lady, or uncles and/or cousins who try too embarrassingly hard to be cool.

But how many U.S. households look like yours? Didn’t know if you peeped the graphic in The New York Times recently that gave us a glimpse inside our homes. The link of it is here.

After futzing around, I found that 8.1 million homes are similar to my own, meaning a husband, wife and two kids. Most of us have incomes between $75,000 and $150,000 and compared to other groups, a higher proportion of Asians live in these households.

Of course the graphic doesn’t factor in that my husband’s a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy from Norway and I’m a brown girl from Kansas. I’d love to see the interracial numbers though.

According to the U.S. Census, the number of interracial marriages has risen 20 percent since 2000 to about 4.5 million. And that number continues to grow.

The stereotypical nuclear family is constantly changing, what will it look like in the future?

With New York’s historic approval of gay marriage, I’m sure it won’t be long before other states follow suit. The New York Times’ family-o-meter now shows there’s 18,654 households with two men and two kids. Ten years down the road, what will that number be?

I love that our society is constantly evolving. It wasn’t so long ago that marriages like my own were illegal and people proclaimed that the Bible was against interracial relations. (The U.S. Supreme Court declared such unions legal in 1967.)

So I ask again, how many households look just like yours? None. We’re all unique and come with our own formulations. What we do have in common is beyond the numbers. It’s the good stuff, things like hope, love and happiness. And thank God for that.

Confession No. 48987: I Never Mailed My Father’s Day Cards

My Dad’s Father’s Day cards are still on my dining room table, about 500 miles from where he lives. Sad, ain’t it? But it’s typical me. For some reason I am unable to mail anything on time.

Every birthday and Hallmark holiday I simply cannot get the cards into the mailbox. I’m great at buying them, but that’s where my greatness ends.

This year it’s going to be different, I told myself weeks ago. I purchased the cards well before Father’s Day, thinking having them in my possession early would increase their chances of making it into my Dad’s big strong hands. Alas, no.

It’s a shame really because my Dad’s pretty cool. Well, he can actually be kind of a dork, but isn’t that part of being a dad? He’s like a big teddy bear, with a James Earl Jones-type voice and bratty sense of humor. I get my sense of humor from him, but that’s not all he gave me.

I have only one sibling, a sister who is eight years older than me. I remember as a young girl I used to grill my Dad on whether he wished he had a son, and not believing him when he said he was fine with having only daughters. I decided to be Dad’s son and do “boy things” with him.

After a few arrowhead-hunting trips, fishing excursions and hikes in various brush, I realized I actually liked these “boy things,” so I started doing more, including shooting things. Guns, a bow and arrow and my favorite, a crossbow. Yep, me and Van Helsing have something in common.

During these little trips Dad and I would talk about anything and nothing. He taught me how to find out which way was North, South, East, West. He tried to teach me how to tell time by the sun, but that failed miserably. (Now’s probably a good time to tell you that my dad grew up on a farm in Kansas.)

Now that I’m grown, I miss that time we spent together, but we still talk each week about anything and nothing.

Wordless Wednesday: When Going To The Mall, Leave Your Guns At Home

The doors to the mall in Manhattan, Kan.

Semper Fi: A Marine’s Run

Looking to change up my exercise routine, I ran a race Sunday that honored those in the military. The real honor came at the end when I cheered for Yuyri Zmysly, a man who doctors said could forever be in a vegetative state.

Image from Salute, Inc.

It was Salute Inc.’s “got freedom?” run. My crazy-runner-MILF friend texted me on Friday to see if I was running it. I smirked, running it, ha! I hadn’t even *heard* of it. At 5:30 race morning, I decided to give it a go.

I left the boys at home and headed out. At the starting line, I stood there, feeling pretty proud of myself for leaving the boys to go run a 5K on a whim. (There was a 10K option, which naturally I didn’t do.) Then the starting gun went off. And we were off.

The weather was cool and it was strangely foggy. I felt good the whole race and there was a quaint sense of community as several event volunteers were local high school kids or Girl and Boy Scout troops. Also, many people stood in their front lawns with their pajamas and morning coffee cheering us on. One woman even turned on her garden hose to mist us.

Soon the race was over. Me and my crazy-runner-MILF friend (who ran the 10K) were gabbing over bananas, when we noticed the crowd at the post-race party grew quiet and shuffled over to line the last few blocks of the course.

We followed suit and heard shouts of: “Here he comes!” “There he is!” Standing on my tippy toes, I saw him. He was in a wheelchair, his body was thin, his fingers were slender and gripped the air. Wow. I wonder what happened.

He had a mini-entourage around his wheelchair. Well before the finish line, they all stopped and a burly man stood in front of the chair. The man helped Yuriy to his feet, held out his arms for support as Yuriy took a step. We all held our breath.

His feet shuffled, his upper body jerked and he moved forward and onward and onward. We were clapping and cheering  and after Yuriy passed us, we crowded the course and circled him. The finish line was still about a block away.

I looked at the 6-foot-tall, ripped man next to me. The tears in his eyes matched those in mine. He gave me a faint smile. I kept clapping. Yuriy kept walking.

The finish line seemed far away, this wasn’t a ceremonial finish, Yuriy was grinding out the end of this race like the rest of us did. He was willing his body to do what he wanted, he was pushing its boundaries.

With each shuffle, we got louder in our cheers and our tears were now freely flowing. Then he did it.

Retired Marine Cpl. Yuriy Zmysly, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, finished the 5K. He did it just five years after suffering a brain injury at a military hospital that left him unable to speak, see or walk.

Yuriy Zmysly walked crossed the finish line, showing that the human spirit is unconquerable.

Thank you Yuriy and to all the servicemen and women for their valiant hearts and sacrifice.

(For more information on Yuriy and his amazing story of love and triumph, click here.)