Fan Fest Has Arrived

Y’all know me and most of you know me well.   My blood isn’t your typical red, my blood runneth orange.   If you’ve read my blog in the past, then you should know this.   I’ve even had a couple of nurses tell me my blood has an orange tint to it!  Ok, perhaps, I’m pushing it just a bit, but for most people who’ve met me, it’s pretty obvious I’m a diehard Clemson fan.

Clemson 3
The Clemson Occulus.

Yesterday, my husband and I took our boys to Clemson, SC to visit the illustrious and intimidating Memorial Stadium, better known as Death Valley where the Tigers play.   It was Fan Day, an opportunity that allowed for the chance to meet the football team and to get their autographs.  It was also a time for mama here to reminisce about her so-called “glory days” and to get my boys drawn into that wonderful culture with seas of orange and purple.

Davey clemson 1
They loved seeing all of the huge tiger paws everywhere.

We’ve been to Clemson before with the boys, even taking them to a couple of football games last year.   Davey and I have been to see the Homecoming floats on Bowman Field well before the days of Henry.   Davey’s even been to a basketball game in Littlejohn, all be it, still in the womb.   It’s something I’ve dreamt about since I first became pregnant, getting my boys inundated with Clemson early, and getting them to love it as much as I do.   Yesterday was just the key to that!

Clemson 11
Davey in front of the Tiger at Gate 1.

When we arrived in Clemson, I giddily navigated my husband around town, pointing out various structures, in total awe at the number of new buildings being constructed and even shedding a tear for Clemson House, which will soon be demolished for more student housing.   My boys were anxious to get out of the car, to be on that sacred Clemson ground to explore, so we had to find a parking space quickly.   We managed to arrive three hours early, but that didn’t seem to be good enough as most people had been there two or three hours more!   We walked around the stadium, pulling out our map before making our way to the West End zone, where we’d hoped to get in line and get an autograph from Deshaun Watson, our star quarterback and I’m convinced Heisman winner for this season.   Unfortunately for us, it was apparent that you needed to arrive by 5 AM if you wanted to get Deshaun’s autograph.   The line snaked from the gate at the top of the hill, winding is way down the hill, beneath the occulus, towards the police station, before looping back up the hill and towards the cemetery.   My husband and I dutifully waited in line, in the ravaging heat, while our boys made friends and played soccer.    A little side note, it makes me extremely happy and proud to see my boys able to go up to children who they don’t even know and start playing.   It makes me feel as if I’ve done something right.

Clemson 1
The line for Deshaun.
Clemson 2
Davey making friends.

Checking out Howard’s Rock and Death Valley.

Asweat drenched hour later, a member of the football staff began walking the line and at a cutoff, literally five people in front of us, he informed us that it was highly unlikely we’d get Deshaun’s autograph.   My husband, appearing a bit dejected as he had hoped for that signature on the boys’ footballs most of all, began to reevaluate our situation.   We walked around the stadium again, enjoying for the first time what felt like a nice Fall breeze, and surveyed the lines at the other gates before deciding to stay in the shade and wait to meet the linebackers.   So for an hour and a half, while our kids ran up and down the steps of Gate 9, and played Angry Birds, we waited.

Clemson 4
Checking out Howard’s Rock and Death Valley.

Finally, at 2:30 precisely, the gates swung up and the wave of fan crashed and spilled through, like water rushing through broken levees.   Dave took Davey and immediately got in line, while I threw Henry on my shoulders and surged forward towards the free autograph books and the posters.   A few moments later, after finding Dave we got in line and waited once more to finally meet some of the players.

Clemson 5
Getting autographs.

Dave give each of our boys their footballs and we explained what they needed to do.   Henry took to the task at hand, quickly placing his football in front of each player before moving on.   He made me smile.  He had been given a job and he was doing it with much perseverance, even at times trying to usher those in front of us along, my efficient little boy.   Davey; however, was a bit more meticulous and careful with his job, gently placing his football in front of the players and at times showing where he wanted each signature.  He’s a bit OCD like his mother.

Clemson 6
A future NFLer, Christian Wilkins.

We only had the opportunity to make it through one line, as the lines were atrociously long.   The sky has also begun clouding up, with dark gray clouds coming in off of the lake.   We knew our time was limited and I’d promised my boys they could do something.

Clemson 8
More autographs.

Since the first days of Davey watching Clemson play, he’s been enamored with the hill.   For those of you who are unaware, there is something called The 25 Most Exciting Seconds in College Football.   Our players get off a bus at the top of the hill in the East Endzone.   They then rub Howard’s Rock, a rock given to Coach Frank Howard from Death Valley, California by one of his former players.  It’s a bit of a good luck piece and a reminder from Coach Howard, “If you’re going to give 110 percent, you can rub that rock.  If you’re not,keep your filthy hands off of it.”  After rubbing the rock, the players then run down the hill into Death Valley to the Tiger’s fight song, Tiger Rag, the song that shakes the southland.  Any and every time, Davey gets the opportunity to see this, he stops and watches.   At two, he told me, “mama, I run down that hill one day.”   I’m not going to lie, it brought a tear to my eye.

Clemson 10
I’ve waited to have a picture like this for a long time. Me in my happy place, with one of my favorites.

So, yesterday, with the breeze kicking up and the thunder rumbling in the back ground, I took the boys to the top of the hill and let them run down it, not once, but twice.   For Davey, I think it was truly the greatest.   For Henry?   Well,right now, whatever big brother does, he feels he must do as well.

Clemson 9
Henry waiting his turn.

With that little treat out of the way, we began to leave the stadium just as the announcer came on and told people to get inside the stadium concourses, lightning had been detected only a few miles away.   We made it to our car just as the rain started coming down.   Not eager to leave this place I love so much, I told my husband I would take over the driving, and I used the opportunity to drive us through portions of campus, allowing waves of nostalgia to crash upon my heart’s shore.

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Carlos Watkins was a favorite of both boys.

As we drove by various buildings, I would call them out to the kids.   “Look that is Fernow Street Café.  Mommy used to eat lunch there, and that building over there, well it was my favorite, it’s Cooper Library.  And that building, why it’s Hardin Hall, where mommy had all of her history classes and the one right next to it?  That’s Brackett Hall, where I took all of my political science classes.   And look at that big clock tower, that’s Tillman’s Hall.   Do you know they have something like a huge piano inside where you can play Tiger Rag for all of Clemson to hear?   We then made our way downtown, where I pointed out Judge Kellar’s General Merchandise store, that’s been around way longer than I have, and Tiger Town Tavern where I spent most Friday afternoons.  I showed them where I used to live and how you could get a pizza and PBR at Backstreets on Monday nights for a $1.   There was the old movie theater, where I first saw U571 for $1.   While I enjoyed Fan Fest, this was truly more exciting for me, showing all 3 of my boys about the few years of my life, that rank as some of the greatest.

signed footballs
Our task complete.

Our day in Tiger Town complete, we decided to make our way back home, the giddiness starting to wear down and wear on me.   Truth be told, I was like a kid at Christmas all morning, much like I am every time we are going to Clemson.   It’s a magical place, full of wonder and excitement, adventures and memories to be made.  Joe Sherman was right when he penned “There’s Something in These Hills.”


Goodbye, OCD

There are things in life that must be a certain way.   Cabinet doors and drawers must be closed at all times.   The fat fold of the towels must be facing outwards in the closet and beds must be made.   These are my criteria for my house.  I don’t think they’re absurd, but to many these are difficult goals to attain.   I’m told that I have a bit of OCD, but I don’t think so.   I think I’m just your normal, average, every day person who likes things her way.   I’m human.  Well, yesterday I let that “human” persona slide away just for a little bit as I allowed Davey to have his very own Christmas tree in his bedroom and I allowed him to decorate it.

I blame this side of my personality on my mother, not that it’s a bad side, but it is a side that I perhaps should let fall by the wayside at times.   My mother has her own way of doing things.  She’s very particular and she prefers doing it herself.   It’s faster, it’s easier, she can blame herself if something goes wrong, and then there’s the sense of accomplishment with doing something on your own.

As children, my brother and I were never allowed to decorate a Christmas tree.   Christmas was, and still is, my mother’s favorite holiday.   She loves to decorate her house, erecting numerous trees for every room of the house, even providing each room with its own personal theme.    We weren’t allowed to help decorate because there was the concern we would break things, but mostly I think it’s because as children we didn’t understand the necessity to separate out the ornaments when placing them upon the tree.   We basically wanted to put them all in the same place.

Placing the first ornaments.
Placing the first ornaments.

Last year I allowed Davey to somewhat help me with decorating one of my trees and I encountered the same thing…his inability to see the full picture, or er tree.   He wouldn’t even walk around the tree, he just seemed to zero in on one spot, pulled in by the force like that of a magnet.   It was as if there was only one place for the ornaments to go, one place on a seven foot tree.   I had a hard time with this last year and my patience, or lack thereof, took over and I shooed him away.  This was definitely not how I saw my family decorating a tree.

He's so intent.
He’s so intent.

This year I decided that I would let Davey have his very own tree and since it’s in his room which no one really ever sees, then he could decorate it however he wanted.   The only stipulation was that he had to use a tree with decorations I already had or else make his own.  I think the thought of making his own and the time involved bummed him out.   Like his mommy, he doesn’t have much patience, and making ornaments would have delayed the erecting of the tree.   So, he chose to have my Clemson tree in his bedroom, a perfect choice considering his bedroom is a sports theme.

As he and Henry ate their lunches, I put the actual tree itself up, checking to make sure all lights were working and that there was an easily accessible power outlet.   Once that was completed and Henry was fast asleep for his afternoon siesta, Davey and I began the process of decorating the tree.   And true to his previous form, he wanted to put all the ornaments in one location.   And going against the grain, I stood back and let him.

My sweet boy.
My sweet boy.

Truth be told, it was a lot more fun than I thought it would be and probably the fastest I’ve ever had a tree decorated.   For me, it was nice to quickly mark that one off the list of trees that need to be put up.   For Davey, it was easily one of the most exciting times he’s had.   For every ornament he put on the tree, he would step back and say, “mom, come take a look at this.  Did I do a good job?”  I loved that he wanted to please me, but it also saddened me a bit to know that he was seeking out my approval.   I don’t want him to do everything to please me, especially things like decorating a Christmas tree.   I want him to really enjoy it and I want him to have these memories as he grows older.

Davey and the Christmas tree.
Davey and the Christmas tree.

I loved watching him as he would study the tree, walking around it a couple of times, looking for just the right spot, which like I said seemed to be right next door to the previous ornament he’d had.   I loved how he would stand back, after placing the ornament, and smile, proud of himself for what he’d done.  I loved how he didn’t want to handle the glass ornaments, but instead handed those to me, wary of himself actually holding them.   I loved how he wanted to just sit on his floor in the dark, looking at his lit Christmas tree.   I could see the sense of accomplishment in his eyes and it made me happy.  Happy that I had the ability to create another memory with him.

And…I was happy that I was able to cage up the OCD monster at least for this memory.

Christmas is a special time for everyone.   Some of the greatest and most treasured memories are made during Christmas.   I’m trying to keep that in mind this season as my boy’s are anxious to help Mommy do the decorating.   So, OCD, you’ll need to take a holiday from these holidays.

Family Day in Death Valley…Why Not!?!?!

First off, I’m talking about Death Valley, SC, otherwise known as Frank Howard Memorial Stadium, home of the Clemson Tigers.   Of course, taking both boys to the real Death Valley may have been just as painful and definitely not painless.

At the last minute, very last minute to be exact, my husband’s boss called him up to see if we would like tickets for this past Saturday’s Clemson vs. Georgia Tech game.  If we were single, no kids in tow, we would have immediately jumped on the tickets.  Our situation being as it is, we hemmed and hawed before finally deciding we would go IF his boss had tickets for the boys as well.   Turns out he did, much to our overwhelming dismay, I mean, er, excitement!  Yes, EXCITEMENT!

So I’m being a bit dramatic.  Truthfully, I was excited.   I was going to do something I’ve always dreamt about since my days of matriculating at that beautiful University.   I can recall the days when I was student, tailgating in the free spots (these don’t exist anymore) and seeing all the little kids dressed up in their Tiger uniforms, be it football jerseys or cheerleading outfits.  I used to think to myself, “I’m going to do this with my kids one day.”

On his way to his first Tiger's game.
On his way to his first Tiger’s game.

After having my boys, and experiencing first hand, the overly exhausting work of not just raising them but also keeping them AND me alive, I decided that the ole dream of spending a day at a Clemson game with my family would have to be shelved for later years.   I don’t know what it says about mine and my husband’s parenting skills or perhaps the demeanor of our two boys that we CAN’T go to a game and tailgate like all the other families.   Surely, something somewhere must be amiss, right?

Davey's face should have forewarned us of the storms ahead.  He didn't want Henry to go along.
Davey’s face should have forewarned us of the storms ahead. He didn’t want Henry to go along.

At the start of the season, we were given four tickets to a Clemson game.   After much debate, my husband and I decided we would take Davey and leave Henry with my parents.   Surprisingly, the day went spectacular and I suppose it provided us with a false sense of security where sporting events are concerned.   So, when the opportunity presented itself this past Saturday, and us without a babysitter since my parents were out of town, we decided, what the heck!  Let’s take both boys.    Apparently, my husband and I are a glutton for misery.

Why on earth would someone want to bring their kids, especially two boys aged 4 and 22 months, to a Clemson football game on a rainy Saturday for possibly one of the biggest games of the season?   Why?  I wish I had that answer.   I wish I had the answer as to why we didn’t hesitate to say “yes”.  I wish I had the answer to “where were our heads?”   But really, I want to know the answer to is why does it seem that everyone else can bring their kids to tailgate and a game and still enjoy themselves?   Why can’t we?

50 yard line seats.   Would have been even better if we could have enjoyed them.
50 yard line seats. Would have been even better if we could have enjoyed them.

One minute and five seconds into the game, Clemson drew blood, and I was already to the point of wanting to slit my own wrists.   I can’t even recall how Clemson managed to score because I was much too busy trying to keep Henry from picking up random pieces of food on the ground and eating them.   By Clemson’s next scoring drive, I really just wanted to get drunk, just to numb the pain of Davey punching Henry, Henry slapping Davey, and both boys wanting to run around like a pack of wild banshees.  My husband and I spent the better portions of the game holding the boys and trying to serve as referees between the two of them.  It was quite literally the worst experience I’ve ever had in my beloved Death Valley, worse than any of the losing games I’ve sat through.

Moving forward, when my husband and I are offered tickets to a Clemson game, and we don’t have a sitter for the boys, we won’t be asking the question, “why not?” but instead “WHY?”  To all of you parents who are able to go these games with your children I secretly despise you and loathe the ground you walk on, but I’m also envious of your magical abilities to get your children to cooperate.   Please, tell me your secret.

And while we left knowing Clemson had won the game, we put the boys to bed early last night and watched an entire replay of the game just so we could really see how well Clemson played because that’s how my husband and I roll with college football.

Our first family game at Clemson!
Our first family game at Clemson!

Go Tigers!

There’s Something in These Hills

And so goes the words of Joe Sherman, Clemson class of ’34.   If you’re a Clemson grad, then you know those words.  They echo with a soft, but firm voice through your head when you cross paths with tiger paw prints on your way into campus.  When Mr. Sherman wrote those words, he embodied the true feeling of Clemson, the city, the University and the mountainous valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains that seem to protect Clemson in its own little shell.

Tillman Hall, welcoming everyone back.
Tillman Hall, welcoming everyone back.

I grew up a Clemson fan.  No one in my family ever graduated from there, but my grandfather did attend.   Unfortunately, he had to leave when the Great Depression hit and he never returned to finished his education.  My blood has runneth orange for as long as I can remember.   There is no better place in my eyes than Clemson University.

Henry enjoying the last days of summer on Bowman Field.
Henry enjoying the last days of summer on Bowman Field.

When I drive into the City, I find myself reminiscing over days at Pixie and Bill’s and Calhoun Corners, the parties at Golden Woods and my apartments off campus.   I think with great fondness to the nights of eating gravy fries at The Huddle House or devouring some of the greatest sandwiches I’ve ever had at The Pot Belly Deli.   As I drive through Main Street, I look back with affection on the year I lived downtown, how convenient it was to hit up any of the local spots.   The Thursday night dance parties at TD’s, and the Monday night $1 Coronas at the Esso.   I made wonderful friends and created lasting memories.

Davey playing soccer on Bowman Field.
Davey playing soccer on Bowman Field.

As I continue to stroll through, I come across Bowman Field, with the beautifully bricked structure of Tillman Hall behind it.  The bells chime a wonderful tune and I’m immediately transported back to Fall afternoons walking through campus, the leaves blowing around my feet, playing peek a boo with the list of names of graduates from years past that are imprinted in the sidewalks.   I can smell the hot humidity of the summers, the juicy crispness of the falls, the heaviness of the winters, and the awakening vibrance of Spring.

Henry's new kicks.  Fitting for our adventure.
Henry’s new kicks. Fitting for our adventure.

I can remember all of my classes, my professors, walking to class with roommates, eating at the Student Union, waiting in lines forever with heavy books to purchase, and my all time favorite place…the library.   When I remember all of this, I have a sense of longing, of sadness, and happiness all bundled together.   Those years, at this wonderful University, were some of the best years of my life.

Getting his first ever tiger paw painted on his face.
Getting his first ever tiger paw painted on his face.

When my husband moved South from NY, I didn’t give him a choice of college teams to pull for.  If he wanted to date me, then he was a Clemson fan.   No questions, no debates.   That was the stipulation.   He didn’t argue.   Naturally, I’ve made sure my boys are Clemson fans as well.   I bought them Clemson gowns, hats, and booties to wear home from the hospital.   Their first stuffed animals were Clemson tigers.   They’ve had overalls, t-shirts, socks, jerseys, and hats.   I’ve even stood in line to get an autograph from C.J. Spiller for Davey.   My boys are Clemson all the way around.

Davey and Daddy enjoying the day.
Davey and Daddy enjoying the day.

This past Friday, my husband and I took them on an adventure.   We decided to go to the First Friday Parade.   We arrived two hours early, but traffic was still horrendous.   We parked down town, which allowed me the opportunity to visit some of my haunts, even if only through the windows.   From the moment we left the car, I listened to the bells of Tillman Hall chime a tune.   Louder and louder they rang as we walked closer until finally the beautiful tower was within my view, peering around overgrown oak trees.  I felt as if it were smiling down at me and saying, “Welcome home.”   Resting comfortable at its feet was Bowman Field, the original field for the football team, but a place now for sunbathers, Frisbee throwers, and picnickers.

Our future defensive line man.   Coach Swinney needs to check him out.
Our future defensive line man. Coach Swinney needs to check him out.

We set up our picnic in the shade of the trees right in front of Holtzendorff Hall.   I sat back on the blanket, camera in hand, and smiled as I watched my husband and sons, all decked out in orange, run and play on the field.  I clicked away, documenting the memories on my camera.   I took a brief respite from the picture taking to just really take things in, to tilt my head back and breath in that beautiful mountain air.   I was home again, well my second home, and it felt good.

Three of the most beautiful flags I've ever seen.
Three of the most beautiful flags I’ve ever seen.

I watched the new students walking around, briefly thinking that technically I’m old enough now to be their mother.   Yikes!   But really, I just smiled with happiness over being able to share this wonderfully magical place with not only my husband, but also our sons.   When I was a college student at Clemson, I NEVER wanted to have kids, so I never could imagine being back with two potential future Clemson students who shared my blood.

First Friday 2015.
First Friday 2015.

The parade was everything I remembered.  It was oozing orange, inflated with the spirit of Clemson University.   Tiger Rag and Clemson Cadence abounded everywhere.   Davey even managed to start his own cadence which everyone followed.   I could never put into words my overwhelming happiness from Friday.   Those of you who don’t know this university, or even those of you who hate it, will never understand how something like this can create such a sense of pride, happiness, respect, and fun.

Henry loved the band.
Henry loved the band.

Yes, Mr. Sherman, you were right…There IS something in these hills.  And I’m so glad to experience it.


Cole Stoudt is MY Son and MY Son is Cole Stoudt

Cole Stoudt is my son and my son is Cole Stoudt. I watch him struggle. I see his frustration, his anger and impatience when he’s pushing himself so hard to achieve his goals, but still falls short. I know he’s his own worst critic and I know his self-deprecating personality. I know it all, because I’ve experienced it all. It comes from me, a nasty little gene he inherited from his mother. He doesn’t need anyone else to say they’re disappointed in him, he’s already disappointed in himself.

Cole Stoudt is my son and my son is Cole Stoudt. These are my thoughts as I sat surrounded by my fellow Clemson Tiger fans on Saturday afternoon to watch our heated rivalry with the USC Gamecocks. We’ve lost 5 straight to the boys from the midlands, our season hasn’t panned out the way we’ve hoped, and the one who was to be our starting QB disappointed us on game 1 of what we had hoped would be a championship season. We needed this win yesterday to maintain our bragging rights and to be able to stomach another year.

Cole Stoudt is my son and my son is Cole Stoudt. Talk ran rampant all week long about who would be our QB. I listened to some of my own family members laugh at our back up, who at times had become our starter. He’s a good quarterback. He’s smart, he’s athletic, but he’s not as good as the one who was chosen to be our starter. This doesn’t make him bad, it doesn’t make him subpar. It makes him HIM. And for every football fan and critic out there, the ones who questioned his masculinity, called him names, and degraded his athleticism, I implore you to go out on that field and try to do what he does.

Cole Stoudt is my son and my son is Cole Stoudt. I can’t abide the way adults tear apart children. It angers me how so many will push another person’s child around, destroying what little bit of confidence they may have. If this were your child, listening to the incessant boos when he walked out onto the field, the horrendous name calling and foul language, how would you feel? As a parent, tell me, how would you feel? No one deserves to be treated the way Cole Stoudt is treated. NO ONE.

Cole Stoudt is my son and my son is Cole Stoudt. I see this already day in and day out with Davey. He’s an overachiever. He pushes himself, strives to not disappointment, to make us proud. I watch his anger and lack of patience when he can’t accomplish something that a 5 year old should be able. He’s three! Why should he ever, or anyone for that matter, expect himself to do something that an older child can do? Why should he be compared to other children? Why should he compare himself?

Cole Stoudt is my son and my is Cole Stoudt. I spent an entire football season watching a young man struggle to seek the acceptance from fans who couldn’t possibly do one ounce of what he does. I watched him beat himself up. I watched as with each jeer and each boo, his confidence slowly was stripped away. I watched as drunken fans high-fived and toasted each other on their clever words of ineptitude. I listened with disgust as some threatened his life. The life of another person’s child, an innocent, over a football game. A game, something so trivial, something that no one has enough stake in that would encourage the happiness of ending another person’s life.

Cole Stoudt is my son and my son is Cole Stoudt.
I bow my head in shame and disgust as I type this out. Why? Because in my younger years, full of drunken follies, I actually resorted to the low level name calling of some of the same people I write about today. I treated another human being like he was less than me, not worthy of sharing the same air as myself, not worthy of experiencing the same happiness. I was once that fan, but now I’m a mother. I am a mother of two boys, one of which I can see feeling like Cole Stoudt at some point in his life, and it pushes me to be a better person.

Cole Stoudt is my son and my son is Cole Stoudt. He is a human being, folks. He bleeds the same as you and I. He breathes the same air, walks the same wonderfully green earth. He is not more and he is not less. He is a child, a person, who chose to play a sport. He is someone who found something he loved, football, and decided to play. We, as a society, have perhaps robbed him of not only his self esteem, his confidence, his wit, but also that passion. We, as a society, have helped to tear him apart piece by piece and for that I say, “SHAME ON ALL OF US.”

Being a mother has forced me to look at things through a different set of spectacles. It’s no longer about me, but more about my children and what makes them happy and what I can do to encourage them. I like to think about Cole Stoudt’s mother. I wonder what she’s experiencing as she listens in the stadium and then is forced to endure replay upon replay on television. How must she feel as she watches her son being stoned to death with the vile words of others?

I implore all of you to just STOP IT! Stop it all! It’s football! You’re not out on the field. If you think you can do a better job, then please step into the shoes of one of our children. Not many adults can withstand that pressure. Most I know would crumble. Think of how you’d feel if this were child. Think of how you would feel if this were you. Don’t do this anymore. Don’t demean our children just because he or she may not help us win a game.

Cole Stoudt is my son and my son is Cole Stoudt.

Musings From a Rivalry Football Game

My husband and I awoke this morning a little earlier than normal. For me, I couldn’t sleep. Today was the day of the Palmetto Bowl, the biggest rivalry game in the state of South Carolina. My beloved Clemson Tigers were home and squaring off against our rival, the Carolina Gamecocks. We’ve lost to the Cocks for the past five years and I told my husband that this couldn’t go on forever. So, I refrained from my normal trash talking, as I was a little nervous about rocking the boat.

As we got on the road this morning, I noticed how much things have changed for us when it comes to tailgating and going to a football game. Before our boys, we’d eagerly go to Clemson just to tailgate even if we didn’t have tickets to the game. We’d prepare food the night before, get the coolers packed with beer, and head out at 6 am for a 12 noon game. Today? We got on the road at 9 am.

On our way to see the Tigers play!
On our way to see the Tigers play!

The first real thing to change for me is the choice of breakfast and breakfast drinks. Back in the olden days, it was a mimosa or bloody mary. These days it’s Starbucks and one of their breakfast sandwiches. My oh my how times have changed. Don’t get in the way of me and my coffee, or more specifically my venti mocha latte light!

Don't get in the way of me and my Starbucks!
Don’t get in the way of me and my Starbucks!

We slowly crawled through Easley before finally being able to hit the open road of Hwy 123. About 5 miles out from campus, we hit a dead standstill in traffic. Eventually, the inside lane began to move faster than us and my husband and I watched as an SUV passed by with a grill on the back trailer. Were they nuts? Why would you wait this late in the morning to come to Clemson for a 12 noon game with a grill? My husband commented that they may just be tailgating and didn’t have tickets for the game, which is even crazier to me.

5 miles from campus.  Horrendous.
5 miles from campus. Horrendous.

Look, there was a time in my life, pre kids, when I would gladly tailgate for a game I had no intention of going into. These days, it’s going to take a lot to tear me away from my boys. I’m not wasting my energy or time to tailgate at a game of which I’m not going in.

We met our crew at their tailgating spot 45 minutes prior to kick off. It took us 2 hours from the time we left our house until the time we got to Clemson. We live 45 minutes away. I know. Ridiculous. And once we arrived at the tailgating spot, I wanted one beer, nothing more. So very strange. I was once able to chug beers like it was my job. I could actually beat the majority of the boys. Why do I seem proud about this? I’m not.

We entered the game just in time to see my Tigers run down the hill, otherwise known as the 25 most exciting seconds in college football. We stayed until halftime, when we then left and I had another beer. Again, so very odd. Before kids and when I wasn’t quite so mature, I would have snuck in my liquor or even bypassed the rest of the game just to have beer and party. Not so much these days. I anxiously paced back and forth while looking at my watch, in the hopes my husband would see how eager I was to return to the game.

25 Most Exciting Seconds in College Football
25 Most Exciting Seconds in College Football

I found that this time around I down swear while watching the game. I don’t call the refs evil names, and I can actually stomach some of the fans from the bad team. I legitimately watched the game. Again, my oh my how times have changed.

Going to the Esso Club afterwards no longer holds the same appeal as it did 5 years ago. Getting drunk and dancing isn’t exactly my forte, but stopping at Dunkin Donuts on the way out and getting another large coffee is the way to go.

I had a wonderful time today and I’m so thankful my husband and I had this opportunity. I’m just amazed at how much I’ve changed or the experience for me has changed.

Any oh, by the way…my Tigers broke their losing streak with USC. We won 35-17. Next to the birth of my two boys, this is probably the greatest thing in the past 6 years.

May The Force Be With You

I’ve waited for this day. I hoped it would come, but I didn’t want to push it.

I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan. As a matter of fact, I made a video of myself acting and actually submitted it to Lucasfilm back in the 90s when they were seeking to cast the prequels to the original Star Wars movies. My younger brother operated our old JVC video recorder, interchanging it from tripod to his shoulder to make sure he got my best angles.

Saturday night, Davey wore a new pair of pajamas. They were fleece with Darth Vader on the shirt. As my husband was putting him to bed, he told Davey that we had the movies and if he was nice we could watch them one day. So, on Sunday morning when Davey awoke, he ran downstairs and asked, “Mommy, can I watch Star Wars?”

Now, there have only been two times in my life thus far as a mother in which something my child said brought a tear of joy to my eyes. The first was last year at the age of 2 when he exclaimed that he wanted to play football for the Clemson Tigers and run down the hill. And then there was yesterday, when he asked if he could watch only my all time favorite movies.

I didn’t hesitate. Star Wars is easily one of the best movies for Davey to watch. It’s not that gory. The worst foul language we have is “hell”, and there’s no nudity. It has everything a young boy could want…action, adventure, strange animals and creatures, light sabres and blasters, space ships and Ewoks.

Davey enjoying a morning snack and the movie Star Wars.
Davey enjoying a morning snack and the movie Star Wars.

As we sat down to watch Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (the very first Star Wars for you oblivious wookies out there), I had an old excitement about me. The only problem I encountered was the fact that my son is none too happy about the fact that I provide my own voice-overs for all the parts.

“Governor Tarkin. I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board,” I said in my best Princess Leia impersonation as she was to witness the destruction of her home planet Alderaan.

My husband gave me the same glaring look and exclaimed, “we all know how big of a fan you are. No need to ruin this for your son.”

Humpf! No one appreciates my true acting capabilities.

After we finished with Star Wars: A New Hope, I brought Davey into the office where I pulled down a pile of books for him. I explained to him how I’ve read practically every Star Wars book written. I told him how wonderful I feel the Timothy Zahn trilogy is and how excited I am to one day pass these books onto him and let him read them. He smiled and said, “ok, mama,” before walking off and leaving me with a vision of my son out in his clubhouse in the woods, a pile of Star Wars books alongside him. After he reads them, he’ll take to the woods like his Luke Skywalker himself. Then I thought to how these books could inspire him to want to be a writer, after all they are what interested me into writing.

My partial collection of books.
My partial collection of books.

Until then, I’m just super excited that I can re-watch all of these movies with him and patiently await the production of the next three installments. Perhaps I can get Davey casted as an extra in one of them. A young jedi in training at one of the schools Luke Skywalker is a master? A mother can always dream.

Today we’re going to enjoy my favorite of the movies…The Empire Strikes Back.


The Importance of English

I get a lot of gripe these days from random folks. I hear things like, “he’s only two,” or “poor kid, he’s just trying to express himself.” I’ve been told I need to lighten up. To these people I say, “it’s never too early to teach your child the importance of speaking properly.”

One of the three degrees I have is an Associates in English. I love to read and I love to write. I always have. That’s part of the reason I studied English post high school. At that point in my life, I had not a clue what I wanted to do, but I loved the English language.

Once I entered Clemson, I transitioned my major into Speech & Communication Studies and Political Science. There was a fascination on my end with the spoken word and how just one small slip of the tongue could turn an extremely intelligent person into what could be construed as an illiterate moron. I put a lot of effort into how I speak, even now, even though I don’t necessarily need to for a job. I do it now because I don’t want either one of my sons to sound un-intelligent.

I’m amazed at the effort put into NOT focusing on grammar or spelling or speaking properly. I suppose we’ve become dependent upon computers to help “fix” any of our errors. These computers have become our crutches in the world of the spoken and written word. I’m guilty of relying on them a lot more than what I should. I try to be cognizant of what I write and say and how I convey myself, and I’m trying to instill that in my boys, even little Henry who just turned 9 months old.

My pet peeve these days with Davey is when I ask him a question he responds with, “huh?” I cringe each time I hear that word spill out of his mouth. It’s almost like the sound of nails scraping down a chalkboard. It’s taken a while, but I don’t hear “huh” quite as often and should it slip, I raise my eyebrows and refuse to answer Davey until he corrects himself.

I try to convey the importance of tense to Davey when speaking and the correct use of pronouns. I’m simply appalled at the number of children older than Davey who say “her is coming”. Are the parents just not listening to their children or do they not care?

I don’t discipline him and I don’t scold him. I just simply take the time to correct him and explain the importance of speaking correctly. And the funny thing is that Davey gets it. He truly gets it. It makes me chuckle when he says with perfect alliteration, “Mommy, I sound intelligent.” Yes, my son, you do.

These days a lot of effort is placed upon the Common Core method of learning. The method has its pros and cons and I’m not interested in turning this blog into a forum about whether or not Common Core is best. What really shocks me; however, is the number of people who are in support of Common Core yet they can’t even understand when to use “which” vs. “that” or “whose”, “who”, “who’s”, “whom”. These same people spout out their so called “intelligence” on the matter and yet they can’t even write properly. Instead they use acronyms and short cuts in order to convey their message. It’s sad. There are run-on sentences, phrases, and comma splices. Heck, I know I’m guilty of the occasional one, but I do try to proofread whatever I’m writing in the hopes to NOT make the constant and common mistakes I see within our society.

What’s even sadder is the fact that so many children these days come out of school without being able to write the appropriate business letter, or type, or even draft a proposal using proper English. For people like me, it’s frustrating to see our children this way.

How many of you spend the time actually speaking to and with your children? How many of you put forth the effort to make sure your children are speaking correctly? It’s never too early or too late to start, and it’s definitely a nice “ace” to have in their pocket.

Justifiable Self Pity or Pregnancy Hormones? You Decide.

My oh my! I just looked at the date of my last post and it’s been over a month! What was I thinking letting this blog go for so long without an update or post about the waning few weeks of pregnancy? Well, what I was thinking was absolutely nothing! I honestly think I’ve started spending the latter few weeks of my pregnancy spinning into a downward spiral of negative emotions.

From the start, this pregnancy has been the complete opposite of my first. That’s nothing unusual. No two things in life are the same. I’ve experienced morning sickness that seemed to completely steer clear of me while pregnant with Davey. I didn’t have the emotional breakdowns I’ve experienced while carrying Henry (speaking of, what if there was a mistake and Henry isn’t a Henry???). On the plus side, I haven’t gained as much weight as I did with Davey. Of course, I’m attributing that to the fact that I’ve been a lot more health conscious this time around. As a matter fact, when I took my glucose test with Henry, I had 25 points to play around with, while I almost failed with Davey!

But one thing I’ve dealt with that was completely obsolete to me with Davey is contractions. Two weeks ago, I drove myself to the doctor with lower abdominal cramps and lower back pain. I had just dropped Davey off at school and had errands to run. I couldn’t exactly stand straight, but I told myself to power through! This was the only time I could run errands…when Davey was in school. After running my errands, I called the doctor and while I was on hold (don’t worry I have blue tooth in my car) I began driving in the direction of my doctor’s office.

My first thought was that I had kidney stones! I’ve had these before, albeit 12 years ago, but the feeling is something you don’t really forget. I had a few tears trickle down my cheek as I prayed to God to not let me have kidney stones on top of this pregnancy. Surely He wouldn’t do that to me, right? Fortunately, it wasn’t kidney stones, but instead contractions! What was that? Contractions? Surely you gest, I told the doctor. No, she informed me, she was not joking. Huh! So that’s what a contraction feels like? Yeah, I’m pretty certain I don’t like them.

I was informed that I needed to be off my feet. So, what does that mean to my 2 year old? That the poor child is now forced to succumb to the same level of cabin fever that I was soon to develop. Off of my feet? I’m not an “off my feet” type of person. There’s too much to do around the house and outside of the house. This was not and is not boding well for my sanity.

I’ve cried about missing my beloved Clemson Tigers play on a Thursday night, when my husband and I were to have an adult night and Davey was to stay with my parents. I’ve cried about the fact that I’m now forced to rely on my husband to pick up the slack around the house (not that he’s not capable, but it’s really not fair). I can’t even go to the gym anymore and get on the bike. Technically, I could have used all of this spare time to write my blog, but I’ve felt indifferent to the whole thing.

I’ve managed to allow myself to slip into an emotional state that almost feels like depression, but it’s more like self pity. So, what’s happened today you ask? What’s happened to encourage me to write a blog now? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because Thanksgiving is just around the corner and in spite of my self pity, I do have a lot to be thankful for. Maybe it’s because my husband decided to go into work late today so that he could take Davey to school and I could just stay home. Maybe it’s because I got a good night’s sleep. Maybe it’s because I feel like I can breathe again (since my husband spent the weekend cleaning our house). Whatever the reason, I feel like I’m back. I have two and a half weeks (maybe less) until my scheduled C-section. I can see that light at the end of the tunnel.

I worry that I may suffer from post partum depression after Henry arrives. I worry about this just because of my recent emotional state. I’ve felt like I’ve been suffering out of body experiences, but for the first time in months, today I feel like I can have it under control. Today it feels like a good day!

All You Have to Do is Dream

I can’t recall much about any dreams I had when I was a child. I do have little images that flash through my mind, almost like little flutters. For example, I can recall how I wrote my first book at the age of six and at that point I knew I wanted to be a writer. My book was only about 6 pages long and told the story of a little brown bear who was trying to find his hat so he could go outside to play. It even came complete with pictures I drew myself.

And then there were the years when I was in elementary school and I knew that I was going to be a television news reporter. I would take my toy box, which could also serve as a bench thanks to the back and sides that provided a place to rest. I would pull the wooden beauty out from the wall and spin it around, then I would I post a map of the world on the wall behind me. I sat on my knees as I took The Weekly Reader, which was nothing more than a four page little paper flyer created specifically for elementary aged children in order to keep them informed of the events of the world. I would take my fake red glasses, put on one of my mother’s scarves, and throw my hair up into a bun and introduce myself to my audience before going into the news events of the day. I just knew I would be a news reporter one day. I just knew it, but it didn’t happen.

These days, I find myself wondering about my son and his dreams. He seems to have a lot of them and all of them seem to surround athletics or something that’s going to give him an adrenaline rush. Every football Saturday, he informs me that he’s going to play football one day for his mommy’s beloved Clemson Tigers. What an awesome dream, but is that mine or his? I’m quick to at least instill in him that if he’s going to do that then he needs to be a defensive lineman, they’re least likely to receive concussions and more likely to cause them.

Then there is the desire to fly planes one day. That dream always resurrects itself when we go to the Aviation Park or the Runway Café (which by the way, if you haven’t been you MUST go. Davey and I LOVE their homemade pimento cheese), so basically that dream is an every week thing. Last week, Davey; however, added a completely new dream into his book. He’s decided he wants to be a “racing car driver”. As you can see, I already have the feeling my son is going to be an adrenaline junkie.

My uncle and my cousin race cars at Greenville Pickens Speedway, it’s a short track race that is affiliated with NASCAR. I’ve gone to the track for as long as I can remember, but haven’t been since my younger brother died about six years ago. My parent’s house is approximately 3-5 miles from the track and I have fond memories of the sound of race cars lulling me to sleep on summer nights. I actually used to sit by my open window as a child and listen to the cars.

Last week, Davey and I made a stop by my aunt and uncle’s house to have something welded for my husband. After my uncle took care of the initial task, we went out to his garage where he had both his race car and my cousin’s, both on jacks, both without wheels, and both with the hoods up. Davey’s eyes lit up. He reminded me of the kids from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

He walked into the garage slowly, first going to one car and gently running his hand along the body of the car. He stood quiet for a moment and then almost as if speaking to the dead or the sacred he said in an awe inspiring whisper, “racing car”.

Inspecting the underbelly
Inspecting the underbelly

He walked over to the other car, squatting down briefly as if to inspect the underbelly of the beast. He rested his hands on his knees as he pointed out little things and said, “What that?” My uncle came over and explained in adult terms (which I love) what each part was. Davey listened intently as they both walked around the cars. Then without the slightest hint of shyness about him, Davey stood up and asked my uncle, “I help fix?”

Fixing the car.
Fixing the car.

My uncle gave him a couple of wrenches and Davey got busy “fixing” the race car. After his task at hand was complete, Davey then turned to my uncle and said, “I drive racing car.” I suppose since he’d “fixed” the thing, he felt he was entitled to “drive” it. My uncle picked him up and put him in the car, then attached the steering wheel. Davey sat in the big bucket seat attempting to steer the wheel and change gears all while making the sound of a racing car. After a few minutes, Davey was all done.

His "reward" for fixing the car.   The chance to drive it.
His “reward” for fixing the car. The chance to drive it.

That afternoon, on our drive home my son informed me, “Mama, I not fly plane, I drive racing car one day.” Guess we’ll find out this week what his latest dream will be. I can’t wait to hear it or any of the others that will surely follow in the future. Dreams are wonderful gifts to have.