New to the Rodeo

When you become a parent, all of your senses become heightened. This is a fact. Ask any parent the following questions, and I guarantee you he or she will answer a resounding “yes!” to every one.

1. Can you distinguish pain and hunger solely from your child’s cries?

2. Can you lift a baby, sniff his bommer, and know immediately what type of diaper you’re dealing with?

3. Can you differentiate the various shades of green on your child so that you know exactly when you need to pull over for him to yack when he’s carsick?

 This list could go on and on, but the most important sense that becomes heightened when one becomes a parent is one’s intuition.

 Parents just know when something’s not right with their child.

 I knew something was not right with Tucker for a good 3 years before we finally received confirmation that he is dyslexic.

 When he was barely 3, he could write his name, but at first he’d switch the crayon back and forth between his right and left hands. Sometimes he’d hold crayons in both hands and write letters with both hands simultaneously (“T” with left hand, “U” with right hand, etc.). This just isn’t right. “Don’t worry! He’s not determined his dominant hand yet,” educators would tell me when I asked about it.

 From age 4 and on, after he’d been capable of writing his name for a solid year, he began to mix up the sequence of letters in his name. Some papers or artwork would come home with “Tcuker” on them, others with “Tckr” on them. Again, this just is not right. “He’s fine!” educators told me. “He’s just experimenting with sounds.” 

 Once he began kindergarten, he would not write his name with a capital “T”. So then papers came home saying “tcuker” or “tukcer”. “We’re not worried,” educators told me. But of course, I still worried.

 I worried even though we’d met with Tuck’s teachers and the curriculum development head at his old school. They heard me out as I spouted pedagogical theory and other nonsense but then insisted that children aren’t even assessed for dyslexia until they are at least 6. I worried when his teacher said she’d “caught Tucker writing with his left hand.” I worried when Tucker would struggle to sound out words in a BOB book that were nowhere close to the corresponding letters in print. I worried that I, an English major and attorney, had somehow produced a non-reader.

 But worrying gets you nowhere, so we plugged onward, even though by this point, my intuition was screaming at me on a daily basis.

 Day after day, I fussed and chided Tuck about not capitalizing the T in his name. Day after day, I was on his case about making the most of school, especially in the morning when he’d come into our room at 5:30 a.m., crying and with an upset stomach because he dreaded having to head off to school later that morning. Night after night, we read books before bed, me forcing him to sound out words or to read every other word or just to read one single word. Our happy, happy child was spending more and more time crying or hiding or avoiding books altogether.

 Again, this just was not right.

 Finally, his teachers suggested he pay a visit to the Learning Specialist at his school. She gave him a few assessments and immediately recommended we meet with an Educational Psychologist.

 Tucker spent 2 entire days with the Educational Psychologist. During this time, he completed 13 separate assessments, each consisting of multiple parts. Tucker also told this paid professional that words come off the page and go into his brain just fine, but then someone–God, or maybe Zeus–tells him to say the wrong thing. Yes, he actually told his doctor that he might be a demigod. Trust me; we all had a good laugh about that one (thank you, Rick Riordan, author of the great Percy Jackson series), and his doctor used it to prove a point. To him, the way his brain works is magical. Frustrating, but magical.

 Tucker’s doctor called me back to her office at the completion of the 2nd day’s worth of testing and told me what I’d suspected for well over 3 years: Tucker is a gifted dyslexic. A few weeks later, we received the full 17-page report; while Tuck has deficits in orthographic processing, retrieval, rapid naming and fine motor ability–difficulties that have been a source of anxiety for him and are impacting his confidence and self-esteem–he is quite gifted in math, spatial awareness, and perceptual reasoning. And his spoken vocabulary is off the charts (see demigod reference, above). Mother’s intuition was spot-on.

 I couldn’t help but think back to those frustrated nights of sounding out words, those days of me harping on capital “T”, and morning after morning of us trying to explain that he would be going to school for a long, long time, so he better buck up and accept it. His troubles and disgruntlement and non-cooperativeness weren’t due to him being a bad kid or having a bad attitude (things I’d never, ever even considered). He was trying to tell us something just wasn’t right.

 After we met with the psychologist and were walked through the report in its entirety, I spent the afternoon weeping. At and about everything. At the flood of information I needed to wrap my head around. At the fact that my child had a learning issue. At the fact that it’s not “curable”. And especially when Frances England’s song “Tugboat” came on KidsPlace Live. I was a weepy, emotional mess of a mom…for one afternoon. Since then, I’ve gone Mama-Bear all up in here on this stuff. Bring it, dyslexia. Bring it.

 As for our Tucker-Bear? He is a new child. You can visibly see that a weight has been lifted off his shoulders. He recognizes that we are helping him. He understands what is going on in his magical brain, and he’s begun to tell us things, things he never could figure out how to explain before. Like this one:  “Mama, I cannot get my pencil to make a big T when I’m writing my name. I know it starts with a big T, but my pencil will not do it.” This isn’t because he’s lazy or is not smart enough or is defiant. It’s because he is dyslexic. Or maybe a demigod.

 Our son is dyslexic. 

 We may be new to this rodeo, but we’re going to be roping this steer in no time.

 And what once was just not right, in the end, is going to be just fine. 

Oh, no, Tucker…you are wonderful; you are the best.


lyrics by Frances England

I may be little

I may be small

I may be young

I may be green 

I may be raw

But I’ve just begun

To understand what’s inside of me

To know all that I can be

And I’ll be your tugboat

Guide you safely back to our home

I’ll be your tugboat

Know that you’re not alone

When you’re blue, I’ll be the sunshine

When you’re down, I’ll pick you up

Like a tugboat pushing overdrive

I’m stronger than I appear

And I want you near

And I’ll be your tugboat

Guide you safely back to our home

I’ll be your tugboat

Know that you’re not alone

A Hunk, A Hunk of Burning Love

Once you hit your 40’s, weddings are few and far between. It seems you spend the entirety of your 20’s and part of your 30’s attending wedding after wedding after wedding and then, all of a sudden, the wedding wave crashes, and your social calendar instead becomes populated with things like “Birthday Party at Chuck E. Cheese” or “baseball practice” or “Back-to-School Night”. None of these things feature a band or an open bar.

So when a wedding pops up, you jump for joy. And when it’s the wedding of your super awesome cousin, you jump even higher.

Cousin Kate’s wedding is what took us all to Washington, D.C. this past weekend–from San Francisco to London, folks flew in to celebrate the big day.

My cousin Leigh Ann and I are both only children, and our cousin Kate only has a brother. So these gals are my sisters. We have had so many laughs over so many things through the years. I wouldn’t trade these cousins for the world.

Proof that at one point I was taller than these two.

I used to spend Christmas Eve at my Mama B’s house, wishing so badly that I had siblings. The inside jokes my dad and his 3 brothers share are priceless. And now that I have 3 boys of my own, pictures like the one below make my heart swell. It’s a rare moment when my dad and all of his brothers are together, so Leigh Ann and I made the most of it, snapping pictures of them whenever they were in close vicinity of each other.

Then we’d show each other the picture or tag it on Facebook and both wind up teary eyed.

Brotherly love, I tell you, is hard to match.

Tucker loves a good party as much as his mom does; Kate and David’s rehearsal dinner did not disappoint.

Tuck’s had one too many Shirley Temples at this point…

The venue, PJ Clarke’s, was walking distance from our hotel, and it was packed with all the folks who love Kate and David. It was a perfect warm-up to the main event.

Tucker had the best time hanging out with his Uncle Beardy (my dad’s brother David) and the rest of his family who had flown in from London. Tuck was absolutely enamored with David’s son Nick, who not only tops out at 6’5″ but who also sports the novelty–to Tuck, at least–of a British accent. When he wasn’t climbing on cousin Nick or badgering him to death to play “Where’s My Water?”, Tuck was doing this:

Sweet Uncle David didn’t seem to mind.

Best cousins on a Friday night, post-rehearsal dinner toasts (and Tucker in the background, riding his Shirley Temple buzz like a rock star):

That would be tall Nick on the right. And short Laura on the left. Tucker is behind Nick, staring up in admiration.

January 12th finally arrived. I think Tucker was equally as excited as cousin Kate was.

Kate and David were married in the gorgeous sanctuary of St. John’s Church in Lafayette Square. Interesting tidbit, regardless of your politics:  the Rector who married them is giving the closing prayer next week at the Inauguration. He is a phenomenal speaker and gave a terrific homily during the service. St. John’s is known as “The Church of the Presidents” because every U.S. President since October of 1816 has worshipped here at some point during his tenure (starting with James Madison). 

The church is gorgeous, of course. Filled with vibrant stained glass windows and individual prayer kneelers instead of a kneeling rail, it exudes history. It demands reverence–which is possibly why our clan cracked up when my Uncle Bill bumped his head on a dangling, multi-faceted chandelier which then proceeded to tinkle and chime all throughout the opening prayer. He was just making his presence known, that’s all. 

The first chill-bump inducing moment of the evening: Kate and her bridesmaids headed out of the hotel while we were all in the lobby bar enjoying a glass of wine (we’re Bedingfields, you know). She and her bridesmaids were all singing “Going to the Chapel,” which echoed brilliantly off the marble floors and pulled everyone out to the lobby to cheer as she headed down to St. John’s. It still gives me chills. Such a perfect start to a perfect evening.

Mr. Kate enjoyed his last few minutes as a bachelor with us.

A few family shots outside the hotel before we headed down to the church:

I love this shot. I love the angle, the wintery feel to it, the solemnity of it. It’s like bottled excitement. It’s a herd of Bedingfields off to a wedding.

Uncle Beardy and his awesome hat. I don’t think I saw him without this hat the entire weekend. I’d always thought our Papa B was the only one who could truly carry a fedora…until now. 

I broke the “no iPhone usage” rule while up in D.C., and Tucker took full advantage of it.

And once you break one rule, what the heck, right? Here Tucker and I break the “no photography allowed in the church” rule.

And again we are rule breakers, living on the edge in the House of God. But this was important. Here Popster is trying to convince Tucker to let him pull a loose tooth.

During the bus ride to the reception, Tuck sat with Popster and let him do it (don’t worry; the tooth was about to fall out already). Tucker’s response? “Mama, are you sad you didn’t trust Popster enough to ever let him pull out one of your teeth?”

What does one who trusts her daddy with all her heart say to that? I told him I was proud of him for trusting his Popster as much as I do.

But what I was thinking was this: It’s not about trust, son; it’s about pain. And tooth yanking ain’t up my alley. 🙂  Check out that permanent tooth growing up through the middle of his mouth…told you the tooth was wiggly!

Highlight of the evening: Kate and David’s first dance. I already knew these two had some moves, but I doubt anyone was expecting the marvelousness that was their dance. Elvis was smiling down, that’s for sure. I’ll never hear “Burning Love” again without picturing them breaking it down on the dance floor.

The picture below is easily the best photo I took this weekend. I absolutely love that you can see Kate’s parents in the background, and Aunt Dana’s hands clasped across her heart is such a simple, beautiful expression of love for her daughter. My Uncle Sid is standing behind her, and David’s mom is the stunning one on the far right, also clasping her hands. It was beyond obvious that both sets of parents were thrilled with this marriage.

Tucker’s dance moves are a little less graceful than his older cousin’s.

Kate and David with our brilliant Aunt Debbie, the reason Uncle Beardy was wooed over to London.

Let’s see: 1, 2, 3…4! Yes, all 4 there; better grab the camera.

Our Uncle Sid is the best speaker. Here he gives an incredibly touching toast to Kate and David. Referencing Seinfeld, he called the evening our own Festivus (though I doubt any of us had any grievances to air at that point). And then he spoke of how very proud he was of all Kate’s many amazing accomplishments. He was glowing just as much as Kate. He had the crowd in his palm, just as he should. His toast was exemplary. The two other married-off girl cousins gave it mad props. 

Aw…it’s the love birds, standing in the snow.

Photo booth time. It’s a good thing Tucker hit the wall a few minutes after this or else Leigh Ann and I likely would have spent the next several hours in the photo booth, assuring that Aunt Dana and Uncle Sid were getting their money’s worth on that thing. Good times, to say the least. Man, why wasn’t there something this fun to use for a wedding guest book instead of what I used close to 10 years ago?

The photo below shows only about 1/4 of the venue. You know that looks like a good party. Trust me: it was.

Back at the hotel post-festivities, Tucker had a mild panic attack about the Tooth Fairy. We had the concierge send up a fancy glass in which to put his tooth (because that would help her/him with her/his navigational skills; T was rather concerned that the TF would hit up our house in Atlanta and not the Sofitel. Such little faith in the Tooth Fairy!). The woman who brought the glass thought we were 100% insane.

The Tooth Fairy, however, appreciated the extra effort.

So now my sisters are all married off. I don’t look at them as little old married ladies, and I never, ever will even if they start wearing yoga pants everywhere and fixing hamburger helper for supper. If they wind up hosting their child’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese one day, I will shake my head at them, but still know they are only following the wishes of a small miraculous person whom they created, not selling out to the stereotypes of being a wife. They are both way more confident, intelligent and secure to do that. Neither Kate nor Leigh Ann will ever be swallowed up by being wifely. They know they are in a partnership, one for life.

But if either of them ever needs me, I can jump on the Ride-Ride and get there…eventually. And then we’ll poke holes in each other’s sandwiches, look for tornado magnets, take random road trips just for the heck of it, yell “souvenir!” in New Haven, CT, and sleep on Beulah’s cot. And all will be right with the world once again. Because sisters like these don’t come around too often (particularly with them being southern cuzzin-sisters and all). Life is so, so good.

cousins on Kate’s wedding night
cousins on Kate’s rehearsal dinner night
cousins at Mama B’s house, December early 1990’s

Thanks, Uncle Sid and Aunt Dana, for including us all in such a spectacular event. I’d relive it again this weekend in a heartbeat. The love and pride and dedication you have for your children is displayed by your every action. Well, well done. Thank you for being such good teachers, role models and friends.

Thanks, to the Kieve crew, for hosting the jam-packed and super-fun Rehearsal Dinner. You all were troopers to allow children; thank you so much for that gift. The South Georgia bunch gives a big “Hi, Y’all” to you all, all the way out there in San Francisco. Come see us or we’ll send you some onions.

To David Kieve, for being Kate’s prince, the one who gets to take our Kitty home every night. You write fantastic thank you notes because you write from the heart; I know that this is how you will live your life with Kate, too–by giving her your all, your 100% from your heart, to make sure she is happy. What a gem she found when she found you. And bonus! Look what a fun family you married into! 🙂 (After the party, it’s the hotel lobby. Toot toot! Beep beep!) 

To Kate the Great, thanks for making me want to get married again. With Russ’s and my 10th year anniversary coming up in a little over 2 weeks, seeing you and David and witnessing the energy and passion you have for each other, the pure love and admiration you share…it’s good stuff. It’s the elixir of a happy marriage. So glad I was able to dance around it a bit and be reminded of what simple goodness it is to wake up next to your best friend every single morning. Always keep yourselves–your marriage–at the forefront, even when (or if) the children come along (name of 1st girl? Kairee, of course). The marriage is what binds it all together and truly makes the family. I am so, so proud of you on so many levels, Kitty. I’d give you more f-ing blood any day, sister, even if it was due to an injury sustained while running through the screen door of discretion. And, unlike Leigh Ann, I would not put you in the yucky spot on the cot.

Sir Edmund Spenser wrote a beautiful pastoral poem entitled “Epithalamium,” which describes the celebration and joy we–bride, groom, attendants, spectators–should feel at the conclusion of a wedding.

Now al is done: bring home the bride againe; 

Bring home the triumph of our victory: 

Bring home with you the glory of her gaine; 

With joyance bring her and with jollity. 

Never had man more joyfull day then this, 

Whom heaven would heape with blis, 

Make feast therefore now all this live-long day; 

This day for ever to me holy is. 

Poure out the wine without restraint or stay, 

Poure not by cups, but by the belly full, 

Poure out to all that wull, 

And sprinkle all the postes and wals with wine, 

That they may sweat, and drunken be withall. 

Crowne ye God Bacchus with a coronall, 

And Hymen also crowne with wreathes of vine; 

And let the Graces daunce unto the rest, 

For they can doo it best: 

The whiles the maydens doe theyr carroll sing, 

To which the woods shall answer, and theyr eccho ring. 

Ring ye the bels, ye yong men of the towne, 

And leave your wonted labors for this day: 

This day is holy; doe ye write it downe, 

That ye for ever it remember may. 

[Well, lookie there! You just read some Middle English!] The last stanza of this verse has always been one of my very favorites and was even used in my own wedding program. This weekend was holy, not just because of the nuptials, but because of the reuniting of families, and all the vivid, palpable amounts of platonic, philanthropic, familial, and passionate love witnessed by so many on so many levels.

This day was holy, and now I have written it down. I will remember it forever.

The oatmeal will be heading your way next January 12th, Kate. 

A million congratulations to you, BedingKieves!!! We love you both so very much!

At the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ 

So they are no longer two, but one. 

Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.

Matt. 19, 4-6

Working Backwards

It’s a new year. I love new years. I love new beginnings. I love new resolutions. Then again, I also love Lenten obligations (and saying “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” on the mornings of the firsts of every month).

But as much as I love the idea of overhauling myself, I’m actually pretty terrible at it. Each year, I start out like a gangbuster during the first few weeks of January, exercising more and eating better and being happier and being nicer, but then by the time February rolls around, I’m back to my same old self, just facing down another birthday with a brave face and waiting for Lent to begin so I can give myself another jumpstart.

This year is going to be different. This year, I’m going to work backwards. I’m making a map of where I want to be on December 31, 2013 and I’m heading out for it, one step at a time.

Where am I going to be in 365 days?

In better shape and maybe a few pounds lighter.

Sitting on a pile of at least 40 books which I’ve read since January 1st.

With a few new road race t-shirts.

With more family photos and in more family photos.

With a de-cluttered and simplified (and possibly new) house.

With a better grasp on the Bible and my own spirituality.

Advocating for dyslexics.

Writing a lot more.

Worrying a lot less.

Practicing more self-discipline.

Hugging a 9-year old, a 5-year old and an almost 8-year old (and a 45-year old) as much as I can.

Sounds like a great destination for December 31, 2013.

Where is 2013 going to take you?

Our 2013 has already started out perfectly. It’s over 70 degrees here in Florida, we just enjoyed a terrific lunch, and we are about to head out to the beach taking our own Lazarus-Dog, Henry, with us.

The longest journey begins with the first step.

Bring it, 2013.

We’re ready for you.