It’s been 25 years since my first concert with this lady. We were 12 years old when my dad took my best friend and me to see Dwight Yoakam in San Benito, Texas. We stood behind a group of rowdy teenage boys who were drinking Miller Lite and swearing like sailors when my dad stepped in and posed as a TABC agent. That’s the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and I wouldn’t learn until a few years later that the acronym alone struck fear into the hearts of beer-drinking high-schoolers where I grew up. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for those boys to act right. We got to see Mr. Yoakam again recently – this time in Austin – and his inimitable twang took me right back to that show in 1992. If there’s a statute of limitations on impersonating an officer on behalf of your tween daughter and her BFF, I hope it’s run out by now.
Somewhere along the way, logic kicked in. Critical thinking showed up. And competitiveness planted a firm stake in the ground.
They went from hiding behind their father’s thighs to, “I want my own YouTube channel.” Excuse me? You cannot tell the nice waitress what you want to drink, but you want to host your own online show? For the love.
The little boys are twins, but sometimes I refer to them as Big Brother and Little Brother even though they’re approximately seven minutes apart and Little Brother is approximately 1 inch taller than Big Brother.
Today they’re 10. This age marks my fifth year as their bonus mom, which means I’ve already known and loved them half their lives. The last five years have presented a rainbow of emotions, but I reguarly feel my heart lift up out of my chest when when I get to witness the emotional growing pains of childhood. When I get to watch confusion turn to comprehension. But also (and equally as important), when I have to stifle my laughter at conversations like this:
Big Brother: “Can I tell you what I learned today? To put other people first.”
Me: “Well that’s an important lesson. What are some ways we can do that?”
Big Brother: “Not thinking I’m the best one in the world.”
That’s a start, son.
At 6, Big Brother began a steadfast vegetarian stint — his own decision out of the clear blue.
“Is crawfish … meat?” he asked me one Saturday afternoon at a crawfish boil. I confirmed it was true. He kicked the dirt, but the boy did not give in. Little Brother wanted to know why they were losing precious playtime to this pouting, and Dad answered without missing a beat: “Your brother is struggling with his new lifestyle.” (That man slays me on the regular.) The meat strike lasted 3 months. Impressive.
Around 8, I watched Big Brother blossom into a voracious reader after a year of wrestling with fluency. This kid went from tears and slamming doors and “I hate books!” to Harry Potter’s No. 1 fanboy. Did you know there are approximately 1,840,000 words in books 1 through 7? He’s read every one. That boy does not mess around.
And let’s talk about Little Brother, who once suggested we donate some money to children in Africa, “where many kids are born with a disease called claustrophobia.” God love him.
At 9, Little Brother vowed to have his future wedding at McDonalds “if his wife is cool with it.” He’d be a good husband, too, because he forgives quickly. Take this afterschool declaration, for example:
“I’m never forgiving Japan for bombing Pearl Harbor!”
(1 day later)
“I wish I lived in Japan because their candies are so good. Also, they have SO MANY vending machines there.”
Mercy, I tell you.
These tweens are incredibly self-aware, big-hearted and FUNNY. They’re creative, sensitive, and opinionated. But they’re also very very different. One loves dancing and baking and books. The other is all about Legos and football and fidget spinners.
In a world of raging sound bites, theirs are really the only ones that matter. Happy birthday, my sons. Embrace the masterpieces you are.
Years ago, Mr. Wonderful and I decided to take an annual trip on our anniversary. It’s our way of honoring and acknowledging the date, of course, but also an investment in our marriage. Adventures are the elixir for passion after all. This year, we hopped a plane to the Caribbean and made Caicos our home for a few days.
On 7/11, we spent the afternoon on a floating tiki bar mesmerized at the electric blue water below, and I had to pinch myself. Is this real life?
Our captain, Mario, and his sidekick served up cold rum cocktails on board while navigating down the coast to a steel drum-filled soundtrack of island tunes. Our little vessel floated east along North Caicos toward Little Water Cay, also known as Iguana Island, and home to the endangered rock iguana.
We took a break from the Caicos Passion Punch to admire a friendly southern stingray in the transparent waters below. A couple of egrets and pelicans tolerated our pointing as well.
What a gorgeous day to celebrate this adventure.
PROVIDENCIALES, TCI — Turk’s Head is the first and only craft brewery on the island, open since 2001. This is their light draught, but they produce several different types o’ suds — some with fantastic names, like I-AIN-GA-LIE Lager and DOWN-DA-ROAD IPA. Like the owner said, when tourists come to an island, they want to try the local beer. Check.
PROVIDENCIALES, TCI — When it comes to Bahamian cuisine, the keyword is conch (pronounced CONK.) It’s a mollusk, not unlike oysters, mussels or clams – though these snail-like creatures take shelter inside the recognizable coral-colored shells with the spire. You know the ones. And yes, you can you hear the ocean if you put it up to your ear and listen.
Conch is the name of the specialty game here in Provo, as the locals call it. Fried conch. Conch fritters. Conch chowder. Conch ravioli. I tried it all, including the quintessential dish of the island: Conch salad. It’s a veritable ceviche with diced peppers and I was expecting the consistency of poke or sashimi. Conch is tougher though, more akin to octopus or cuttle fish. This one was prepared like pico de gallo. Not bad. We also loved the conch chowder, a hearty tomato-based soup with chunky conch and carrot.
PROVIDENCIALES, TCI — The Internet warned us that food here on the island would be expensive, but I still found myself bug-eyed at the grocery store, when we picked up a small package of ground coffee for $11 and a box of Honey Bunches of Oats for $8. Cherries? $10 a pound. Oy. I knew these prices were a telltale indication of similar sticker shock at restaurants, and as an avid foodie on a budget, this pained me. I live to travel. I travel to eat. My circle of life.
I conjured my childhood summers at South Padre Island, where we’d pack a picnic and spend the whole day on the beach grazing on bologna sandwiches, Lays potato chips and grape soda. Those days I could care less what we consumed, so long I could lay contentedly on a neon pink inner tube, weaving through the waves to my heart’s content. Hop out. Build a sand castle. Throw a Frisbee. Munch on a plum. Write my name in the sand. Collect the tiniest “bow tie” seashells. Hop back in.
Enter reality check. Wisdom eventually shows her knowing face.We procured some floats. We packed some sandwiches. And I gave a nod to the ocean as Mr. Wonderful plucked a tiny conch from her seabed. Namaste.