memories to last a lifetime

my son went to summer camp. he returned today after five whole days and nights away. this was his third time attending (last summer, and this past winter) with our church. he had such a wonderful time. he's sitting on the couch reminiscing and researching some of the songs he heard and shared with his camp family. he shed a tear (a huge alligator tear) for the friends that he made, the times they shared, and for the overwhelming good time.

i explained that his feelings were normal and a sign that camp did everything it was supposed to do. these are memories that he won't ever lose or forget. camp is a memory that lives in perpetuity. it lingers on and on always bringing a smile.

we are fortunate enough to live just a half hour away from the mountains and the grand hospitality of Forest Home. the staff and facilities are top notch and geared to make a ten year old boy wish for camp — just minutes after having arrived home.

the three pictures above are courtesy of the Forest Home site. they do not allow electronic devices or phone calls (unless an emergency of course), which allows the kids to completely disconnect and take in the beauty of the world around them. the camp is faith focused and shifts the children's understanding of Our Savior Jesus Christ into a deeper yearning and learning. my son is already discussing his future as a counselor.

what more could a mama ask for? his prescription medication was loaded electronically into their site and administered daily by a nurse. their app: Forest Home Adventure Guide allowed me to receive updates; including when medications were administered, the plan for the day, the focus of the lesson shared, and my son's "camp store balance" (as cash is not accepted).

a faith based focused dedication on the Majesty of the Lord!! three allergy-free meals a day. mandatory hydration is required at all meals (drink two glasses of water). a safe yurt-like structure to share with his camp mates. a camp store in which to spend (his whole $15) frivolously. clean and accessible restrooms and showers. and all of the chaperoned and safe fun a ten year old can handle for six days. i am forever in debt to our church Immanuel Baptist, our children's ministry director, numerous dedicated chaperones, and the capable and trustworthy staff of Forest Home.


that picture and the gravity-defying toss are courtesy of our children's ministry director: Jaime and our church orchestra leader/director: Mr. Mike. thank you!

chasing crystal cove

it’s no secret that my son and i spend a majority of our time with our best friends: affectionately referred to as the bestie and the babies.  last weekend we made our seasonal debut trip to the beach.  we’d talked about it for weeks and were finally able to bring it to fruition. an afternoon with three kids and two snackin’ SuperMamas can run pretty costly so if and when we find something budget friendly, we’re in.

we all love the water.  our trips to the beach have become pretty status quo over the years. visiting at least two or three times in the summer months.  kids are so amazed and enamored with the sea. i have come to discover that my own love of the sea is long standing and strong. i have always been attracted to the sound, the sand, the shells and the animals. we have previously visited more popular and populated beaches… where finding your own sand station for the day is challenging. with the magic of four wireless digital devices a few traffic setbacks and this:

the “are we there yet?” trio. available in loud, louder and screeching.
SuperBoy, SweetHeart and The MadMan respectively.

we were steered to crystal cove. a state park.

after paying what we thought was an enormous amount to park and speaking with a very pleasant but slow talking park representative, we were advised that the beach itself was about an approximate half-mile walk away. we pressed on.

we decided to take a tour first to determine whether or not we wanted to set up camp. we gathered the children and the keys, trekked through the tall wildflowery path and voiced our skepticism and hunger along the way. there was a vantage point that allowed us to survey the cove itself.  it was quiet and serene. there were beach-goers, but plenty of space.

we decided to set up camp. i went back to the car and gathered everything we had determined to be necessary and required (remind me never to volunteer for that duty again).

with the help of passersby i managed to navigate the hill in the picture below with a packed ice chest, duffle bag, back pack, two more bags, two buckets, an over-sized shovel and all the while, wearing flip flops. this is also the main reason that our little camp is located right here. right in front. we didn’t realize it then, but we were right in the way of the state park beach cruising truck.

the hill of death. and that’s our camp. and that’s callie: my SweetHeart.

after setting everything in it’s place, applying sunblock and giving the sand toys, the kids scampered off until we managed to make our sandwiches and set everyone up to finally be able to eat. and we all ate. some of us (us mamas) standing, some of us (our babies) sitting and most of us quiet as a mouse.

turkey sandwiches, cheetos, grapes and gatorade.
it’s what future CHAMPIONS are made of.

we were all so happy that we stumbled upon this little place.  we had a great time.  i don’t really have a lot to say about it because i think i took some good pictures.

The MadMan, enjoying his own section of sand…

we ate, we played, we danced in the water. we fought off a very aggressive fearless seagull that pecked his way through a few paper towels (my guess is he was looking for crumbs and scraps, but all he got was paper — and probably some mild constipation).

the boys and i started the most non-sandcastle-like sandcastle compound, but the princess of the pack decided to completely mow over our hard work to construct a sand turtle safe ground:

sand turtle safe ground complete with seaweed retaining wall

eventually the sand got boring and the waves got interesting… the water was NOT hot, or even warm, but that doesn’t deter children very much. they ran into and out of the waves, with goosebumps on their arms and legs and teeth a-chattering. cute as can be.

watching the waves and poised for their attack!

look at him (AJ on the left), bent down low like a mouse-chasing cat! ready to pounce.

The MadMan never let the water catch him.. not once. but he had insurmountable fun waiting for the waves to TRY. and he threw sand at it. i still haven’t figured out why.

they got cold from time to time and i created a nice little “warming station”:

on a warm towel, under a warm towel, refueling with some fruit
(and sand “what’s crunchy, mommy?”)

or we buried them… … what? why are you looking at me like that? oh, ha! yeah, we BURIED THEM in the sand!

isn’t that the best expression? he looks like he heard the same thing “let’s bury him”… withOUT the “in the sand” part… 😀

that was pretty much our entire day. shannon took the kids down to the tide pools to see the sea critters. i held down the camp and had words with some birds. the SuperHeroes saw some things, touched some things and mistook a crab for a rock!! we all got sunburnt and the ride home was 300% quieter than the ride there. but what a day. and now… for my three favorite pictures:

seagulls. about every half hour for the duration of our stay…

via instagram: my SuperBoy just absolutely enjoying himself.

via instagram: my “disney” photo finish. the MadMan had just warmed himself in the sand next to me. when he jumped up and ran away, i got this shot. ❤ it.

the only thing i can’t really share is the look on their faces as they ran from the waves, shared with me the amazements they saw in the tide pools and how much it made me melt. they are all such good kids. these are the moments that will never leave our minds. “the little things”. a trip to the beach, some sand castles and free waves. it’s times like these that prove how amazing friendship can be and precious it is. we are all blessed.. and i will never let them forget it.

father’s day stinks. period.

this is my father.

Kenneth Howard Ware - 1956 ~ 1977

this may very well be one of the last pictures taken of him. it was taken in october of 1977, outside of the house i grew up in. my father’s name was Kenneth. that is also my son’s name. did you notice i said “was”? i guess his name is still Kenneth, but he is no longer. the fact is, in october, he will have passed away thirty-four years ago. i know, a total bummer right? yeah, for me too. trust me when i tell you that if i could enjoy and celebrate the day known as “father’s day” i would. but for me, it just pours salt in a very, very old wound.

i was only two when he died, and he was just twenty-one. we were taken from each other far too soon. in that photo he is leaning up against his motorcycle. a twenty-first birthday present from my grandmother just two months prior. that is the motorcycle that he crashed on. a crash that eventually ended his life. i have tried, really tried, over the years to find a reason, any reason, to celebrate on father’s day. but no matter what, i end up mourning. even now that i am a mother and my son has a father, i still can’t get into the swing of it. i have known some wonderful father’s over the years and i appreciate them for all that they are worth. but they are not mine.

i’d be a liar if i said that everyday felt this way. i have outgrown the “poor me” portion. i have moved beyond the anger, the disappointment and the general depression that come with not only losing a parent, but losing one that i didn’t get the chance to know. i hope this doesn’t sound too harsh, but i am thirty-six years old. he died when i was two and i can honestly say that i don’t have any memories of him. i only have photos and the stories that others have shared with me. i don’t remember what it felt like to look in his eyes and have him look back. i don’t remember his hugs or his kisses good night. i don’t remember him at all and perhaps that is the worst feeling ever. i don’t just have a missing parent, a missing family member. i have an emptiness that never EVER seems to fill. it won’t close, it won’t divert and worst of all it sometimes feels deeper and darker than the years before… mostly on father’s day.

i changed my profile picture on facebook to that of my mother, to honor her for mother’s day. almost everyone did and it was so nice to see. we left them there for the entire week and changed them that following monday. today i noticed the photos changing to that of the dad’s. i did it too. to show my pride and to honor him, but every time i looked at the picture i felt that salt again. and boy did it hurt. it was only there for a few hours, and i actually had things to do and left the house. but that picture didn’t ever leave my mind. as soon as i returned home i changed it back to a picture of me. it’s just too painful for me to see his face over and over. writing about him now has brought me to tears. and oddly, i always try to hold them back thinking “there’s no need for this”. no matter how hard i cry today or tomorrow, father’s day will bring a whole new bout.

i have tried to ignore it. i have tried to channel it and i have even tried to actually celebrate it, but my heart’s never in it. all i really wanna do is curl up in a ball and say “why me? why me?” but no matter how many times i ask, i never get an answer. even if i did, i don’t think it would make me feel any better. i recognize the importance of celebrating the people that we have loved and lost, but i would rather black out the day on the calendar and sleep right through it. i’d rather not see the signs posted to “not forget” or the advertisements for ties, tools and daddy related stuffs. this is one particular holiday that i could really do without. so yeah, father’s day stinks. period.

here are my favorite pictures of him. i left them just the way they were when i scanned them. discolored from the magnetic photo albums, the sun, the dust and the photo frames. i have preferred to leave everything of his… just as it was. i did the best i could to keep them in some sort of time sequence according to what i remember of what my sweet granny told me. i could be off a little, but you’ll get the picture…

here, at just a little over a year old..

my dad and his grandma: Annie Pearl

decked out in a three-piece suit WITH bowtie

the little conductor, at christmas. my gramma said he was ecstatic to have received his train set.

my dad and my gramma. i still don't know why he looks so scared.

i think this is my favorite of all time. i think it was from a christmas morning.

my dad on the far left. always tallest. this photo was in the newspaper. i don't know why.

all of the potential in the world...

a man and his guitar. i still have the guitar.

his last driver's license. issued june 1977.

and here are the only pictures of us, together:

daddy and daughter.

he had surgery for his horrible fallen arches. arches he passed on to me. and we are next to his beloved GTO (i think).

lovin' his baby girl. my gramma said "he never could get enough of you."

i've been told that whenever he was near me, braids and barrettes came out and the afro was picked, plucked and shaped. like daddy, like daughter.

so this, my lovelies, is why father’s day stinks. for me. i hope i didn’t break your heart. mine will be broken for all time. to you i say: love your fathers! LOVE YOUR FATHERS!! love your uncles, brothers, cousins and husbands. love your children’s father. love them because you can. even if you’re hurt or angry, love them. know that on father’s day i will not be happy or cheerful. i will not pretend to be something i am not. i am a daughter without her father and i will always be this way. missing him is my way of life, but it doesn’t get any easier. ever. you’ll forgive me if i don’t change my profile picture or come to your barbecue, won’t you?

a little goes a long way

i have known my best friend for more than thirty years. her name is shannon. i am six months older but she is more mature. way. together we are gorgeous, neurotic and hilarious. we share common interests; including entertainment, clothing, accessories and sweet tooths. especially the sweet tooths. we have been through the thick and the thin, the better and the worse and we still love each other. she is my sister, my mentor and my therapist. i love her dearly. when our relationship started, we were little girls. we have survived childhood, adolescence and have grown into women. we have weathered the storms of other friends, boyfriends, the birth of each others firsts and the death of loved ones. we are part of each others families and we wouldn’t want it any other way. while we have been many places together and share many memories, we have always had the best time doing absolutely nothing… besides being together.

we grew up across the street from one another. i would go to her house for days on end. she had a swimming pool, snack drawer, little brother and a gramma much like my own. her mom introduced herself to my gramma in the grocery store. the rest is a lifetime worth of memories and good times. we have walked, biked and roller skated through the city of grand terrace a hundred times over. i have probably spent years of my life at her mom’s house. we used to hunt for ladybugs, ride anything with wheels and spend hours a day in the backyard. we would sit up at night in the kitchen; snack on everything and giggle about anything. as we got older we continued with these same activities, even after we moved away from our parents and grandparents.  we have always snuck out of the house to see each other when we were sick and not supposed to go anywhere. we also used to call each other and say:

“i’m bored.”

“me too.”

“well come over here and be bored with me.”

isn’t that hilarious? and we would do exactly that. just be in the same place. bored and usually eating. we simply enjoyed the company. we don’t get together as often as we used to because.. well…. because we’re adults, we have families, jobs and other obligations. the days turn into weeks and months before you know it. it took me a long time to realize that it didn’t matter if we had elaborate plans, simple plans or if we actually did anything at all. just being together and sharing is all the good time we needed.

shannon has two children and they are both my sweethearts. callie is my original sweetheart. she is shannon’s first. she is my first as well. i experienced that pregnancy with shannon, including nausea, weight gain and sobriety. the three of us (shannon, alfonso and i) were connected at the hip during that time. we went to shannon’s appointments together, we painted the house together and we even went to lamaze class as a happy family; just the three of us. i was enamored with this little girl and she had yet to take a breath. she had a place in my heart, my home and my new car. she happened to be born on my saturday. at that time i had three consecutive days off. i took two extra days off just to be close. i was so excited to see and meet her. when shannon returned to work three months later. i kept callie for one of those three days off. i had my own supplies including car seat, bathtub, towels, clothing and eating supplies. she always made me happy. when i felt bad, i went to see callie. when i felt depressed, i went to see callie. whenever i needed a pick-me-up, i sought callie. she loved me too. one day she sat on my head and when her mama inquired as to what she was doing, she responded:

“i love herrrrrrrrrr.”

years later, when i was pregnant with my son, i saw her almost everyday. they lived in between my work and home. every night i would stop by and give her a bath. we had fuuuuuun. this carried on until my prego belly was too big to accommodate. i was unable to find a comfortable way to bathe her and still be able to breathe. not to mention, my son had his hard joints pressed into every rib. yes, bathing my darlin’ became a chore and i had to resign. she was N. O. T. happy. not at all. she cried the first night. she refused to allow shannon to bathe her. she wanted “neeeeesshaaa to doooo itttt”. she didn’t even stay in the bathtub, she got up, stomped down the hallway to the master bedroom and sat sulking on the floor of the shower.

my son, kenneth, was born a few months later. shannon was present and pacing in the delivery room. moments after he was born, i dismissed my cheerleader and fan club to get some much-needed rest. the next morning i received a phone call from her asking:

“can you have four-year-old visitors? can you please ask? she’s dying to see you. she’s been crying about it.”

my poor sweetheart was tortured knowing that kenneth had made it into the world and that she hadn’t seen him yet. she came to the hospital laden with gifts, goodies and curiosity. she even wore a new outfit! she climbed up in the bed beside me and looked at him with awe. she inspected his fingers and toes. his not yet formed belly button. she commented on how hairy he was. she was so excited she could hardly contain herself. a week later, we all (alfonso, shannon, callie, mike, kenneth and i) went to big bear for a couple of nights. it was during that time that callie found out that newborns were not as much fun as she had hoped. they don’t play, they don’t cooperate and they usually have something going in or coming out of them. that did not hinder her interest in him at all. she was attendant at every diaper change and she asked every question under the sun. she loved kenneth. she kept tabs on him and she made the idea of nursing him utterly hilarious.

“why he cry, neesha?”

“he’s hungry sweetheart.”

“what him wants, neesha?”

“he drinks milk.”

“oh, want mama get it ?”

“no sweetheart, i have milk for him.”

“where?”

“well. hold on, lemme ask mama something.”

“shaaaaaaannon!”

“what?”

“callie wants to know where his milk comes from.”

“tell her.”

“ok. well, sweetheart, his milk is in my boobies.”

“oh” she said with a very curious look on her face. we all know it was a concept too complex for her to understand, but she attempted to. every time he cried after that she said:

“i think him hungry. i think him wants you boobie.”

priceless! she is still just as curious and candid today. i love her very much. she is absolutely beautiful inside and out. she is very considerate and helpful. she got to be big sister for kenneth and that turned out to be excellent training when the MadMad showed up almost two years later. i was not as close in proximity when shannon was pregnant with AJ. she gave birth to him quietly and without me as a screaming cheerleader. we did not start out with the same relationship that i had with callie. however, we have since made up for it and he is my friend. he comes to me when he’s happy, hungry or hurt. he sometimes calls me “neesa”. and sometimes he calls me “mama”. i’ll take it either way. he’s a lot of fun and i adore him just as much as i adore his sister. i have given birth once, but i have three children. they rock my world.

now, with ALL of that said, we are two women, two friends, and we share our three children. we are close in ways that cannot be explained. hopefully the friendships of our children will stand the test of time and they can blog about each other in the future. we had a sleepover recently. simple, yet astounding. shannon and her little man, my friend “the MadMan AJ” came to pick us up. apparently, AJ had inquired as to our whereabouts first thing in the morning for two days in a row. he’d asked for us and we were available. the boys are always excited to see and play with each other.  they pulled up into the driveway and as shannon opened her door, i could hear AJ chanting:

“kenneth. kenneth. kenneth?”

his voice makes me smile. he’s a happy little man. he has the most expressive eyes and boy, does he know how to use them. i peeked inside the car and when he saw me those eyes opened wide and he squealed:

“neeeessa! kenneth? kenneth? kenneth?”

“he’s coming sweetheart, hold on.”

“kenneth?”

we made a few stops and when we got to the house, the boys busted out of the car faster than you could imagine. they ran straight inside murmuring about choo choo trains and went into AJ’s room. he came out shortly with a puzzled look on his face:

“neeesa. help. choo choo train.”

i pulled all of the train related items from our overnight gear. they just wanted to hold a train each and watch the thomas the train dvd. two peas in a pod those boys are.  they rip and run until they are worn out. they get testy with one another and have been known to hit. but if you separate them, you’ll be sorry. they have to have eyes on each other at all times. my son asks for AJ constantly. you would think they were separated at birth. good memories and a great friendship are being formed. it warms my heart.

so we watched some movies, snacked (of course),  and then it was bedtime… until “g’morning!”. we were going to make breakfast. WERE. we had pulled the waffle iron out and all sorts of things, only to realize that the dishwasher was going to be installed and the magic man that would do it was already on his way. plan change: to zorba’s i went. with breakfast retrieved and the boys seated, we served them and fed ourselves standing, the way most moms do.

we didn’t have any plans, just to be together. we often take the kids for walks. to help expend some energy, to get them out of the house, to enjoy the world and all of the critters it has to offer. so, we walked to the park. they had so much fun. all three kids were on the swings at the same time. i was being ordered around:

“mama, push me.” from my own.

“neesa. fwing. help.” from the MadMan, and

“neesha, can you push me higher?” from the little miss.

they were ecstatic. it was amazing. they were laughing hysterically and for just a second and it made me laugh too. they were so happy and it didn’t cost a dime to take them to the park. they were swinging with each other, laughing at one another and enjoying life. callie and i agreed that swinging barefoot is the bees knees. if you’ve never done it, i suggest you do it. i took so many pictures. i just wanted to stay there and watch them. freeze time. they grow up so fast and time breezes by.

this friendship, between shannon and i, this life long friendship was based around these same types of outings. going for walks, bike rides and swinging at the park. when we were kids, shannon almost always took me with her, wherever she went. we have been everywhere together. her family has always included me and treated me as a family member. back then, we didn’t have money or cars, we just had each other. someone to talk to and laugh with. we were blessed that our families came to pass one another. and our children are also blessed because of it. they are able to visit, interact and love one another as often as we can get them together. granted, groceries, water for fun and baths, along with something damaged and/or broken are not free. they are a luxury, but the time together is free, and the small cost is worth it. our friendship and theirs are effortless and rewarding. just us. just them. it’s essentially us all over again, but this time with an audience.

i have come to appreciate this friendship on a whole new level now that we have children and they are able to interact. i have some very dear friends from my childhood and from my different places of employ, but my thirty year friendship with shannon is one to be recognized. we have been through a lot, and even when separated by distance, we have always been there for each other. i hope that our children are able to foster the same type of relationships with each other. we have laid the ground work and provided an example. we talk to each other, laugh with and at each other, and we love each other. we share, we care and we make room for each other and our kids. we don’t always make plans or have a place to go. we just need to make room and be prepared. yup, a little goes a long way.