Monthly Archives: August 2010

Last Gasps of D-fly Glory

Female blue dasher dragonfly rests on a plant.

What has amazed me most about this past summer has been the amount of dragonflies that have populated our front yard landscaping.

Li’l Blue D-Fly hangs around.

There’s really nothing special about the plants and weeds growing in our front bed.

Li’l Blue D-Fly from behind (I never tire of this view!)

But for some reason, blue dashers (like Li’l Blue D-Fly and the red-eyed dragonfly) have enjoyed their stay here . . . much to my photographic gratitude!

A damselfly visits.

Every day I look out our front door to see if any flyers are paying us a visit. Recently we had a couple newbies stop by.

Where’s Waldo? The damselfly blends in.

This damselfly, a dragonfly cousin, caught my eye with its wide-apart pair of peepers!

Waldo? Waldo?

The critter was so tough to photograph amid the mulch, but that does allow it to stay safer.

The big guy rides into town.

On the same day that I spotted the damselfly, a large, brown dragonfly also made a short stop. It settled on a rose bush, allowing me to get a close look with my Nikon D300, Nikon 70-200mm lens, and Nikon 1.7x teleconverter. Ain’t it a beaut?

Look through any window to see a dragonfly.

When I went back inside the house and into my office, I glanced out the window and could still see the big dragonfly hanging around. So I grabbed my Nikon D700 and Nikon 105mm macro lens and snapped off a few more pix though the glass.

Adult dragonflies don’t have a long lifespan—after just a few months they’ve met their maker. It gladdens my heart that some of them prefer to spend some of those short moments in our front yard  . . . making me smile.

Our New Normal

My #2 son has a new bed . . . his brother’s!

My friend Deborah B. recently Facebooked (yep, it’s a verb in my dictionary) that all of us parents whose kids have moved on to college are living a “new normal.” And she’s absolutely right!

Now when I check in my #1 son’s room in the morning, his bed is filled with his younger brother’s still-growing body—my #2 son has moved his beloved University of Houston blanket from the top bunk and has taken over his older brother’s lower bunk bed. I must admit that it startled me at first to see someone else sleeping in #1’s spot (after checking on him there for a decade). But now it’s our new normal.

Simply Lemonade and Simply Limeade remain on Walmart’s shelf.

We also have a new normal in our refrigerator. The top shelf used to have several bottles of my #1 son’s favorite drinks, Simply Lemonade and Simply Limeade. But now those bottles are gone, replaced with my #2 son’s Gatorade and flavored water. I will buy a bottle of the lemonade for this weekend when #1 visits. But after that, our fridge will once again mourn Simply’s loss until Thanksgiving.

The game room displays the Houston Texans’ football game on its TV.

Our new normal in the game room gives me pause. Yes, my #2 son still plays his favorite video games there, but it seems lonely without his older brother and my “third son,” Chase. I’m hoping to hear their laughter and excited chatter this weekend when both return home.

I must admit that it’s the little things in our new normal that make me sad: Every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday night thinking about when #1 will be home from work . . . and then remembering that he doesn’t really live here anymore nor does he work; watching “Wipeout” without him and missing his witty wisecracks; not seeing him read the comics in the “Houston Chronicle” every morning as he eats his watermelon chunks.

I have my #1 son’s favorite drumsticks in my office. He would always use them to drum on the seatbacks in the car when his dad or I was driving. He said he wouldn’t need them at college, so he left them at home.

Home . . . where the new normal still includes me missing him every single day.

Conversations With My Younger Son

My son’s track clothes and compression shorts . . . now clean

When I picked up C.J. after cross-country practice earlier this week and asked him how his day went, he didn’t mince words.

“I was so mad at you twice today!”

Now, I’m used to being blamed for just about anything and everything by my three guys, but this time I couldn’t remember what I might have done to raise my younger son’s ire.

Me: “What did I do?”

C.J.: “First, you didn’t wash my track clothes and put them in my backpack. Coach yelled at me for not having them. And then you didn’t give me any compression shorts. I had to run three miles during track athletics (last period) and three miles during practice in my boxers instead.”

Me: “Ouch! Sorry to hear that. Refresh my memory . . . at what point yesterday did you ask me to wash these track clothes?”

C.J.: “I put them on the washing machine!”

Sidebar: Last time I checked, our washing machine doesn’t feature an alert that lets me know when something placed on it needs washing. Anyone have one of those?

Me: “Did you tell me they needed to be washed?”

C.J.: “I think I did.”

Me: “Not only did you not tell me, but there were no clothes on the washing machine when I did laundry today.”

Sidebar: He actually had put them in the laundry hamper; a nice feat in itself, of course.

C.J.: “Well, I thought I did.”

Me (switching modes from listening to lecturing): “Next time let me know in advance when you need something washed. And at age 15, you’re old enough to pack your own compression shorts.”

Sidebar: I think C.J. automatically goes into eye-rolling mode when I pull out that “at age 15 . . . .” chestnut.

Me: “Are you still mad at me?”

C.J.: “Yes! I’m willing to take some of the blame . . . .”

Me: “No, you need to take all the blame!”

But he wouldn’t, of course. Sometimes it’s best as a mom to just let it go. He won’t have an ulcer; I will.

Mom can’t do anything right

C.J.: “I was mad at you at lunch, too.”

Me: “Why was that?”

C.J.: “They sold cookies today.”

Me: “Good thing you had the $3 I had tucked into your lunch bag!”

C.J.: “Yes, but I didn’t see the third dollar and thought I only had two dollars. After I bought two packs and sat down to eat, I saw that I had another dollar.”

Me: “So you saved it for next week?”

C.J.: “No, I went and bought another pack. But the cookies didn’t taste as good.”

Me: “And you’re mad at me because . . . .”

C.J.: “Because I thought you only gave me two dollars!”

You know, it wasn’t worth continuing that conversation. But I’ve got to admit, I like that my son thinks about me while he’s at school!

Having a Ball!

My #2 son is about to catch the squishy football.

Whenever we travel, my athletic #2 son always brings something that he and his older brother can toss around.

The football approaches my #1 son.

Sometimes it’s a mini disc. Other times it’s a ball.

#1 makes like a young Brett Favre.

This time when we drove to San Antonio last Saturday, my younger son had packed a squishy mini football just in case there was a little down time.

Hey! #2 thinks it's funny to fake out dear, old mom.

Of course, there was! While we were waiting for the Mister to join us outside the motel, the brothers tossed around the ball for the last time . . .

My bratty boy finally cooperates.

. . . for awhile.

Everyone Moves On, Day #2

UTSA welcomes my #1 son.

Tomorrow came, like it or not! That meant that after a night filled with tossing and turning (well, at least by me), the Mister, our #2 son, and I picked up my #1 son from his UTSA dorm and headed straight for the nearby Walmart.

My #1 son pushes the shopping cart.

Us and thousands of other crazies—they were trying to take advantage of Texas’ annual tax-free weekend; we just wanted to buy essentials to make my #1 son’s stay in San Antonio easier (e.g., Lean Pockets and ice cream) and possibly (but not probably) cleaner (e.g., bathroom cleanser).

Could my son find himself on a school banner with the roadrunner mascot?

After putting the groceries and supplies away in his dorm room, we walked to campus (which takes about 10 minutes) to find his classes. All five are in only two buildings. One of those, the Humanities and Social Sciences structure, houses three of his classes.

Seems easy-peasy, right? Wrong! We felt like we were on a wild goose chase (or wild roadrunner, in this case) trying to find rooms that were on the same floor but nowhere near one another. I’m glad that he has an hour in between each class, because he might need it to figure out which to go!

The two brothers walk and sing a Flight of the Conchords song together.

Even though our on-campus time purportedly was meant for looking for classes and picking up a few books at the bookstore, it definitely had a more-important purpose: It allowed our family to be together one last time at the place where we hope our firstborn son will receive a good education and mature into an adult who can depend on himself to make the right decisions. We hope he finds the confidence he needs to function in the real world.

One last smile from my #1 son as we prepare to drive back home.

When we got back to #1’s dorm and prepared to say our goodbyes, my firstborn actually was smiling! I’m not sure if it was the small taste of independence or his looking forward to moving on with his life. But it did gladden my heart.

My three favorite guys!

Still, I cried when I hugged him goodbye and told him how much I loved him. I was too choked up to say more than that. Where’s Winnie the Pooh when you need that silly, old bear to speak for you?

#1 walks away from us . . . just like he did when he learned to walk at 11 months old.

I did laugh when he called me within a minute of our parting to make sure I had given him something he needed. And we did some texting back and forth (mostly trying to solve internet problems) during the three-hour ride home.

But my #1 son has shown us that, at age 18, he’s ready to move on and see what life has in store for him. Knowing that he’s starting to gain some much-needed confidence, it’s easier for me to accept that he’s at the right place for his continued growth.

Oh, how I miss my firstborn son! But, oh, am I happy for him, too!! All of us are moving on.

My #1 Son Moves On—Day #1

Could my #1 son be dreaming about his independence?

As I type this, my #1 son has been away from hearth and home since last Saturday. Somehow we got all his necessities into the Mister’s Honda Odyssey along with a hand truck from our company and set off for the three-hour trek to San Antonio by mid-morning. We only had to return to the house once to retrieve a few important yet forgotten items. Fortunately, we were only 15 minutes down the road.

Being well-organized has never been our family’s strong suit!

Moving #1 into his dorm at the University of Texas at San Antonio was easy—it helped to have the four of us plus two strong alums and, of course, the dolly. Wheels make everything move better! It was very much appreciated in the almost-100-degree heat that we only had to make one trip from the car to the room.

#1 uses his MacBook Pro at his dorm desk—just like home!

My #1 son is very fortunate that he’s in a relatively new dorm that’s like an apartment complex. Much to his relief, he has his own bedroom.

The twin bed is up high to fit drawers underneath it.

No longer is he sleeping in a bunk bed. No longer will his younger brother be annoying him from the top bunk. No longer will he hear me yell from my office, which shares the wall with his bedroom, that the two of them need to settle down and go to sleep.

My #2 son makes himself at home.

#1 is a free man . . . as long as he makes good grades, of course! Now he has a new set of responsibilities and priorities.

But he wasn’t worrying about that last Saturday. Getting his room set up to his liking, as well as filling his half of the drawers and cabinets in the bathroom and kitchen he shares with his roommate, Ben, took center stage. He would spend his first night alone as a college man in his room . . . while the the Mister, our #2 son, and I cooled off at a nearby motel.

Personally, I was too exhausted to become emotional at the thought of leaving my beloved #1 son behind the next day after we shopped and walked the campus. As Scarlett O’Hara so aptly said, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

Back to School . . . For One

My #2 son tries hard not to smile for the camera.

For the first time in a decade, I only said goodbye to one son this morning, the first day of school.

Only one child got out of bed (his older brother’s, to be exact) and prepared for what always is such a big day in our house.

Hope #2 notices my little lunchtime message!

Now that my #1 son is away at college (seems so odd to write that!), I only have one child who needs a lunch. Fortunately, my #2 son’s lunch always has been easier to prepare than his older brother’s. I must admit I won’t miss sweating to get both of their reusable bags filled on time every morning.

#2 checks his fantasy football team on the iMac.

My #2 son won’t miss sharing the iMac with his internet-hogging older brother. He has the computer all to himself now.

The bus swings past at 6:52 a.m.

He might willingly give up that perk, though, if his older brother would just come home and give him rides to school so he doesn’t have to endure the dreaded bus!

The Final Day

My #1 son and his beautiful blue eyes

Tomorrow we’re driving my #1 son to his new life in San Antonio. College looms in the form of the University of Texas branch there. Today I hope to savor the 18 and a half years I’ve shared with my son amid the flurry of packing and trying not to forget anything important (UTSA is three hours away).

#1 in his role as the Honorable M.D. Dr. Judge (glad I have his videos to watch)

Yesterday my sister-in-law Fran asked if I was in that “I can’t wait ’til you leave, please don’t go” stage with her nephew. Quite honestly? Not at all! I’ve never been anxious to have him leave, so this is such a bittersweet moment. I’m thrilled and excited for him as he starts his adult journey, but I’m sad for myself because I’ll miss him so much.

My New York Yankees fan

What am I really feeling as I think about #1 being away at college? I believe that Winnie the Pooh said it best:

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together . . . there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart . . . I’ll always be with you.”

My beloved #1 son, you always will be in my heart. I would write more . . . but I suddenly can’t see the iMac monitor through my tears.

Going Steady

Love those wings!

As much as I’ve liked all my recent dragonfly photos, I knew I needed to be steadier to get better clarity.

I can’t get enough of these shimmery wings!

I’ve scored my best, close-up results with my Nikon D300, Nikon 70-200mm lens, and Nikon 1.7x teleconverter. But that’s a heavy combination, and it’s hard to deliver crisp pix hand-holding that load even with a fast shutter speed.

The wings look good at every angle.

I tried using my monopod that is my mainstay for outdoor sports photography with my long lens. But one leg isn’t steady enough.

It’s Li’l Blue D-Fly!

That meant I needed to pull out my tripod, which is reserved for camcorder duty. It’s the perfect solution for having a steady camera.

There’s the face I’ve grown to love!

There was just one problem: I didn’t have a ball head for it, only a pan-tilt head. Which meant that I couldn’t mount my camera on the tripod so that it could move up, down, and around. So I ordered an inexpensive ball head from and used it for these photos. I still need to get a better plate for it, because the one it came with doesn’t anchor tightly enough. But I think the ball head-tripod combo made a big difference in the quality of my photos of Li’l Blue D-Fly.

Hello, gorgeous!

I think I’m really going to like going steady!

Life Lessons Learned While Bowling

Who knew bowling could be so dangerous?

Every summer just before school starts, I take my sons and a friend or two bowling. Yes, it can be expensive and potentially dangerous apparently, but the air conditioning is great, and the kids always have a wonderful time.

The ball heads down the alley courtesy of my #1 son.

Plus I have the photo challenge of snapping decent photos when most of what I see are backsides!

My #2 son brings the bowling ball back as he approaches the pins.

Oh, how I wish I could put a remote camera above the pins so I could get pix of the guys’ faces! Of course, then I’d have to worry about it getting smashed by my #1 son, who throws the bowling ball so hard you’d think he envisions the pins as his enemies (nagging moms excluded, hopefully).

Cody sends the bowling ball flying.

This time my #2 son’s good friend (since first grade) Cody joined us. He’s easy-going with a good sense of humor, which all the guys need when they’re bowling without the security blanket of bumpers.

Could it be a strike for my #2 son?

Without those rubber rails there are far more gutter balls than strikes and spares. Good training for lives that hand us disappointment along with great times. Yes, there are life lessons to be learned along the well-oiled alley!

Cody and #1 celebrate strikes.

Such as be sure to enjoy your successes, big and small. Gutter balls often are followed by spares and even strikes if you work hard enough and enjoy what you’re doing.

#2 celebrates with Cody.

And never forget that it always lightens your load when you share good times and bad with your friends. The fun is taking the journey together . . . even if you barely break 100 while bowling.