Let him fly . . .

I am in the inexplicable position of having to watch my oldest child go off and be an adult. I say “inexplicable” because there is no possible way that 18 years has flown by so quickly. I know it’s a cliche to sit here in stupified silence, reminiscing that an oldest child is “of age,” but here I am.

My oldest is a “textbook” oldest. He is the most stubborn person on the planet. He likes to control the show, not be a spectator. From the time he was a toddler, I knew I was in trouble. Looking back on home videos from his toddler days, there were many times when I would be telling him “NO” when he’d reach for something and he would just turn and look at me with that sparkle in his eye, seemingly saying, “Oh, yeah? Try me.” My bookshelf began to get overtaken with self-help books about parenting a strong-willed child.

This trend continued throughout elementary, although it also meant that he would get to know the principal’s office quite well. Keep in mind that I am a teacher; therefore, my son has that “teacher’s kid” label on him . I was horrified every time I got a call from the principal, telling me that my oldest got sent to the office for talking, messing around during class, whatever. I would beg and plead with him to pay attention. I took away privileges. Soon, school became a freaking nightmare as it seemed to be a place of negativity rather than a place of positivity. Others around me urged me to put him on medication for ADD/ ADHD. My gut instincts, however, told me that was not a good solution. He didn’t have a problem learning. He just had a problem learning the same stuff everyone else was and at their pace. He tended to want to teach himself how to learn before that information was presented in a classroom, and the kid retained information like a sponge.

He loved learning, in fact. He could rattle off all the states and capitols by age 4. I remember him declaring in 1st grade that he was bored with math, so he was going to teach himself multiplication. And he did. Then when his class actually DID learn multiplication, he was bored. So he fidgeted . . . and got sent to the principal’s office for disrupting class.

Truthfully, I wanted to cry. “You are a teacher’s kid!” I would say to him. “You cannot be doing this at school!”

Then, halfway through elementary school, a miracle happened: my son was assigned to a male teacher. It sounds insignificant, right? However, it really wasn’t, and here’s why. That male teacher had kids of his own. He understood how some boys learned – and it certainly wasn’t by being passive and quiet in a desk. To hear my son tell the story, he says it was the first time he didn’t feel like something was wrong with him. (If that doesn’t break a mama’s heart, I don’t know what will. ) Rather than getting sent to the office for being fidgety, my son had the best school year of his life.

To see my son today, you’d never guess that he was a fixture in the principal’s office. He is calm and focused. He is goal-driven. He went on in school to grauduate in the top 1/5 of his class. I truly believe that teacher came into his life at the right time. Rather than thinking of school as a place of torture, my son started looking at school as a place of opportunity.

That teacher retired this year. I wrote a letter nominating him for Teacher of the Year, and he won. What that teacher did for my son is what all of us teachers hope to do in our careers: make a difference – even if it is just to one kid.

Among my son’s many goals were to get an apartment as soon as he graduated high school. He has always been a forward thinker, and he knew what he wanted to achieve after he graduated. He is on his way to getting a criminal justice degree, then off to the police academy he will go. If that part isn’t anxiety-producing in today’s political climate, I don’t know what is.

My son found an apartment near the town where he would be attending school, and last weekend he got the keys to that apartment. A week later, he is gone. I am still adjusting to that extra quiet that exists in this house – including the lack of peanut-butter-covered spoons in the sink. (Protein for his carefully planned diet, y’know.)

I still see that fierce toddler in his eyes – that gleam mischief as he reached for something he knew he shouldn’t touch. Life stretches out before him like a desert highway. Like all mamas have done since the beginning of time, I just have to take a deep breath and pray that he has a good life and makes good choices.


A most colorful fall

Fall is my ultimate favorite season, and this year we are having a storybook fall so far in regard to the weather and the colors.  The past week we’ve enjoyed mild temps in the 70s and virtually no wind, so the trees are holding their beautiful hues.  Some years we’ve barely had a fall, as the cold weather moved in too quickly, or the wind blew all the leaves off the trees.  After the extraordinarily hot summer we suffered through this year, it’s nice to have some mild temps and an incentive to be outside.

Yesterday was a perfect fall day.  My boys had football games in the morning, so I had the privilege of watching elementary kids play games against a backdrop of fall foliage.

I have an added incentive to walk my Jack Russell, Nick, during these beautifully mild days, as the scenery just cannot be beat.

This is the first fall that I have had Nick with our family, but I think he likes it quite a bit.  🙂

Normally around this time, I’d be heading back to South Dakota to enjoy some of the bounty of my parents’ apple orchard.  However, this summer left no chance that a non-irrigated orchard was going to produce anything, so I’ll have to wait patiently until next year.

This is the season of leaves, colors, apples, pumpkins, bright blue skies, and coziness.  Enjoy it!



Places for the retro-lovin’ soul: The Surf Ballroom

I’ve lived in Iowa for twelve years now, but it took me eleven years before I finally visited one of the coolest retro buildings around: the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.  Doesn’t sound familiar?  It’s known as the last place that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper played on the Winter Dance Party tour before their fateful plane crash on February 3, 1959.

The building is open during the day for tours, and the tours are totally self-guided.  The first time I was there, my friend and I were the only people there.  We wandered around for close to an hour.  This time there were some other tourists there, but not enough to ruin the cozy feel of being inside the Surf.

The preservation of this building was done with the utmost care, as retro-loving people are struck by all the great art deco and Midcentury elements that the building and decor still exhibit.  Visitors will begin noticing these elements as soon as they walk in the door.

The coat check area has all the great qualities of early Midcentury design.

What’s really neat (and a little creepy) about this building, as I’ve mentioned before, is your ability to wander around the building at will.  No one is directing you where to go.  You can sit in a booth and look toward the stage and try to envision all of the famous acts that have played there over the years.  The ballroom area is kept quite dark save for the lights of the stage.  My camera lends far more light to this picture than will appear to the naked eye.

The booth tables are still sided with aluminum and still have the original reservation instructions.

Visitors are free to roam up on the stage to see what the view has been for decades of performances. (I assume there had recently been a wedding dance here, hence the row of tables and chairs at the front part of the stage.)

To the side of the stage is a little room for bands to get ready for their performance.  The walls are covered with signatures of all the people who have played the Surf over the past few decades.

Even the bathrooms are cool!

The more you wander around the building, the more your mind starts to work overtime to imagine all the scenes that have unfolded on the dance floor, the stage, the booths, and at the bar.

The best part of about the tour is noticing the little architectural and decorative detail.

The Surf also has a hallway of pictures that is rather fascinating.  It contains pictures of the various bands who have played there over time, along with some of the history of the Surf Ballroom itself.  You can read more about the Surf and its history here.



Atomic flatware

A few months ago I received some pieces of Mar-crest Citation flatware as a gift.  I had fallen in love long ago with the starburst pattern on the handle, but I figured that actually finding a set of such flatware was going to be nearly impossible or ultra expensive.

Oh, how wrong I was.

It started with that set.  I noticed some other small bunches of starburst flatware on eBay or Etsy, but being the impatient person I was, I wanted a full set instantly.  There were a few auctions for brand new boxes, but you can imagine how much THOSE went for.  <sigh>

Fast forward to last Thursday, when my significant other and I went thrift shopping for the express purpose of finding some good retro stuff.  What we found were a whole bunch of pieces of starburst flatware, and by the time it was all said and done, I had a pretty good set of it going.  At ten cents per piece, it was a bargain!

I took a brief glance at the flatware in the store, but I was just so excited to find this stuff that I just instructed my significant other to grab all the pieces he could find and call it good.  It wasn’t until I got home — no, wait … it wasn’t until I started to write this post — that I realized how many different pieces I actual had.  What I thought to be two different patterns going on actually turned into seven.  Yes, really.  How many different styles of starburst flatware can there be?

A lot, actually:

The more I looked at these patterns, the more confused I became.  The pattern on the left was what I was sure was Mar-crest Citation, but the the one second from the right looked like the same thing.  There was a subtle different in the style and placement of the starburst, but neither one was marked.  And what about the others?  None of them had distinctive markings except for a couple that just said “Japan Stainless Steel.”  Doesn’t help me a out a bunch.

After some research, I’m fairly certain that the second from the right is indeed Mar-crest Citation, and the one on the left is an imitation. I thought one of them might be a pattern by Wallace called Bright Star.   Here’s a page from a 1958 catalog from John Plain & Company.

Four stars on the handle.  But once I started looking at all the patterns on the knives, none seemed to match exactly.  So no Bright Star.  <sigh>  So I try to identify each piece individually.  There’s what I think is the Citation:

Then I have a smattering of others.  This first one I have found identified as Utica Silver Sheen:

This next one is Everlasting EV2:

The next one I found some pieces of from an Etsy sale, and that information identifies this pattern as Americana Star.

I think I’ve given myself a headache from squinting at pictures on the internet trying to identify these pieces.  Anyone know what these are?



Dog days of spring

Yes, this is another dog-related post, because as I wrote about last time, I happened to acquire a dog that has become a respected member of the family.  He wags his tail when he sees me.  The boys play with him outside and have a ball.  I’ve started to learn his little quirks and have become aware of just how “interesting” owning a Jack Russell can be. Continue reading “Dog days of spring”


New! Improved! …. and old?

I will admit.  I am a sucker for retro design.  And yes, I have also been known to purchase products that have retro design even though I really don’t need the product.  Here’s example one.  Here’s example two, although that sack did hold a bottle of wine and I’m pretty sure I needed that.  However, I did make a point to visit one particular liquor store for that wine because I knew that they would put it in that awesome bag. So that, my friends, is how I will go out of my way to buy retro-looking products. Continue reading “New! Improved! …. and old?”


Mildly horrified. No, really horrified.

So I dropped by my blog today to check something and noticed my headline from yesterday: “It’s never to early to think about Christmas.”



Did I really commit one of the most annoying grammar errors ever?

I flog myself even as I write this.  I should know better than to write a post when my two boys are chasing each other around the house, one wielding a Star Wars light saber and the other screaming, “Give it back to me!  It’s miiiiiiiiiine!”


1955 inventions that never caught on

This continues my perusal of the 1955 American Home magazines. I have been delighted by some of the finds, aghast at some of the decorating ideas, and plain ol’ astounded by some of the products.

I have always marveled at the need for hiding our basic entertainment components. I grew up in a house with this feature; one did not see a TV in any room but the basement, which usually wasn’t occupied by guests. No TVs existed in bedrooms, either. TVs were essentially out of sight, and possibly out of mind. I always found it a curious habit, as if families were content to live in denial: nooooooo, they didn’t watch TV! How preposterous that you might think so!
Continue reading “1955 inventions that never caught on”


Time flies when you’re NOT having fun, too

I know. I know! It’s been a week (or two) since I last updated this blog, but once you hear my tale of woe, I think you might feel a twinge of pity for me.

Seventeen days of school left, and our internet at school has been on and off for about three weeks now. Mostly off, which means that all those internet-related duties that are now associated with my job are impossible to do: entering grades, lesson plans, and grabbing videos, etc. for content enhancement. Email is also down, which means that communication has been sporadic and sluggish. How did anyone pass information along “back in the day”? I know the answer, of course, but it’s interesting how a disruption in technology can make one ponder how it’s changed the daily chores of this profession. Continue reading “Time flies when you’re NOT having fun, too”