Jamie Patterson Managing EditorEverything had been properly labeled. Every box of crayons, every folder with Spiderman and Mustangs on it had his name neatly written across the top. His book bag had been cleaned out and loaded with an assortment of pencils, markers and glue sticks.
I did it about a week ahead of schedule, but our son James was ready for his first day of “big school.”
All his school supplies sat in the corner of the dining room. Everything was ready for his big day. But as the days dwindled down, I realized that it was me who wasn’t really ready.
For weeks, my husband Jason and I talked to James about kindergarten. We covered everything from making new friends to taking his nap to paying attention to his lessons.
We even prepared him for the earth-shattering idea of his baby sister Elsie going to daycare without him.
We thought we had all our bases covered.
But it was the evening before his first day of school when I lost it. I was an emotional wreck.
Grabbing his book bag, I wanted to try it on James to make sure everything was fit and snug.
“Let’s see how you will look for your first day of big school,” I said, slipping his Cars book bag over his shoulders.
As if he were a catalog model, he showed off his ticket to “big boyhood.” And then he looked up at me and grinned.
I immediately dashed into the living room. The tears began to roll down my cheek. I didn’t want my little boy to head off to big school, even if it’s just 4K. I wanted him to stay a little boy.
“Are you serious,” Jason asked, looking at me from the couch.
“It’s sad,” I blubbered. “He’s growing up, and I don’t like it.”
Poor James just stood there in silence with his book bag still on. He wasn’t sure what kind of emotional rollercoaster Momma was about to embark on.
But I wiped my tears and got back to my senses. I even started to brag about how handsome he looked in his new gear.
Later that evening, we started our new routine. We all sat down to supper, got James in the tub, brushed his teeth, read a bedtime story and tucked him into bed. Turning on nightlights and giving final hugs and kisses, the Patterson home rested.
But at 5 a.m., the alarm clock started blaring. I normally would sleep a little later, but preparing breakfast and getting a kid ready for school called for extra measures.
I somehow managed to get myself ready rather quickly. I put James’ breakfast on the table for him. I made sure his book bag was nice and neat. I got his clothes out for the day.
While he ate, I even had time to get Elsie ready for her solo appearance at daycare.
We were so ready for school that we were ready about half an hour before it was time to leave.
“We are getting ready too early,” Jason said, with his eyelids halfway down his face. “I’m sleeping an extra hour from now on.”
James has been at big school for about a week now. And we are starting to adjust to the new routine.
But that same feeling hits me every morning when I drop him off.
My stomach falls to my feet. My eyes water up just for a second. I want to grab him back into the car and take off for a day at the zoo or snuggle time at home.
But with a quick hop and a tug at his bag, James looks back at me and smiles.
I watch him walk into the building, down his own little path.
As I drive off toward work, I anxiously await that afternoon pickup. I’ll even start counting down the minutes to get Elsie shortly afterwards.
Watching them go doesn’t seem as hard if you know they will always come back.
Jason Patterson Editor & Publisher“Daddy, that’s the funniest looking phone I’ve ever seen.”
That was the reaction of my 4-year-old son James to the telephone in the beach house we rented for our vacation last week.
It was a much more modern version than the yellow rotary model that was on the wall of our kitchen for most of my life. But it had a cord, and it was plugged in to the wall. It occurred to me for the first time that these are things that James had never seen before.
Mom and Dad’s phones fit in their pockets and have Internet access and email. Most of our friends have phones that are much more advanced than our outdated Blackberries. James probably knows more about touch screen phones than I do.
It took a while to convince James that the phone in the beach house wasn’t a toy. That was an amusing reminder of how much things have changed in the last decade.
It was about 10 years ago that I reluctantly purchased my first cell phone. For about a year I left it at home just like it was a regular phone because I just couldn’t stand the idea of not being able to be out of touch for a little while.
Eventually my job as a newspaper reporter demanded that I be accessible at all times. It took a while for me to get used to the idea, but now it has just become a part of everyday life. Now people get bent out shape if they can’t reach someone immediately. With the addition of email capability, it’s even worse. It’s like being expected to check your mailbox around the clock.
All of these things offer some great advantages. I would have loved to have had a cell phone on the many occasions when my vehicles broke down in my younger days. It’s going to be great as a parent to be able to reach my kids at any time when they’re teenagers.
But it’s easy to go overboard with the new technology. It’s strange to see two people in a restaurant totally ignoring each other while they play with their phones. Their conversations have been replaced by posting photos of the meal to Facebook and texting others about what they’re doing. Perhaps some of them are texting each other instead of talking.
But last week our beach house was in an area that got no cell phone service. A week with no phone calls, Internet or social media might seem unimaginable for some people today, but it sure was a nice change of pace for a little while.
I didn’t miss any earth-shattering news, and all of the emails that piled up in my inbox did just fine waiting for my return. Perhaps we’ll intentionally schedule future vacations in areas with no cell phone service.
Phones that plug in to the wall won’t exist anymore when my son is my age.
So he probably won’t understand what I mean when I tell him to “take it off the hook” while we’re on vacation. At least he can look it up on his smart phone.
Jamie Patterson Managing EditorThe annual family vacation has arrived once again.
By the time this column hits the press, we will be with my husband’s family on the beach for a week of sun, sand, water and fun.
And I couldn’t be more excited.
James has grown enough to have a little more bravery when it comes to getting into the water. He is now ten feet tall and bulletproof. With his latest obsession with sharks and other sea life, I am sure he will be “on the prowl” in the waters of the Gulf this week.
Baby Elsie has also grown into a full diva since her visit to the beach last year. At only a few months old last year, she spent most of her time in my lap under an umbrella. She went up to the beach house for quite a few feedings and naps.
But now I have got a feeling that she is going to be running full speed over the sand. I expect sudden rushes toward the water. And sitting with Momma is gonna be the last thing on her mind.
I’ve got a feeling that I won’t get much reading done this year. I’m gonna be chasing babies around.
But the one thing that I am not excited about is the sense of urgency to get to the beach from my husband Jason. Refusing to let anyone else drive, he takes it pretty serious.
Like most men, he won’t take the time to print the map out.
“I’ve been going here my whole life,” he says. “I don’t need a map.”
Oddly enough, he will ask me hundreds of times what exits or routes the maps says to take. But he will never make visual contact with the map I have stashed away.
And when he does take the wrong exit, I will get blamed for it.
“I’m taking over with the directions,” he says. “You have failed in your duties as navigator.”
Jason also has problems with letting people take bathroom breaks. He has an obsession with “making good time.” I don’t know why because we can’t even get into the beach house until his mother arrives with the door key.
Jason promises James the world with candy, toys, juice, radio songs and so forth if he can wait to use the bathroom for another five exits.
But don’t let Jason see an Arby’s or Stuckey’s. He will run people off the interstate to get to the exit. One year, James’ car seat titled over in the back seat because of the sheer force Jason used to make the exit.
But I am very happy to have a getaway with my family. We enjoy watching the kids with their excitement. We are thankful for grandparents and aunts and uncles who allow us to have one date night while they entertain the kids. With the postcard worthy scenery, sitting on a back deck is heaven on earth with the waves in the distance.
And with Jason at the wheel and two excited kids in the backseat along the way, it will be one wild ride to get to it all.
Walter Patterson Herald ColumnistThe news just keeps getting worse, especially on the economy.
Our economy grew only 1.5 percent during the last quarter, and this is a disaster. Because of this lack of growth, there are very few jobs, and nearly half of our people are on some kind of government relief.
Over half of this year’s college graduates cannot find jobs, and if you are a parent having invested literally thousands in your child’s education, this news is not comforting.
An economist by the name of Nouriel Roubini, known by his peers as “Dr. Doom” told CNBC that “My perfect storm scenario is unfolding now.”
In May, Roubini predicted four elements – “stalling growth in the U.S., debt troubles in Europe, a slowdown in emerging markets, particularly China, and military conflict in Iran – would come together to create a storm for the global economy in 2013.”
What are our political leaders in Washington doing about our economy? Anyone who pays attention to what is happening in our economy knows that we are in serious trouble, yet our leaders in Washington, the Democrats in particular, want to “tax the rich” and impose a entitlement program on the American people known as Obamacare. “Crash the economy at all costs,” is their motto.
Democrat Harry Reid is more worried about where the Olympic uniforms are made than he is about the $17 trillion debt that is dragging this nation’s economy into the gutter. Reid, also, makes the false claim that Mitt Romney, a free market capitalist running for president, has not paid income taxes in the past ten years.
This is the voice of a desperate man who knows that his president is in deep trouble with the American people and is trying every trick in the Democrat play book to find some way to discredit Romney. Try not filing income taxes for the next 10 years and see what the IRS does to you. Reid’s lies will not work. The Reagan Democrats, for example, are moving to Romney by as much as 20 points in some polls.
Yet the Democrat insanity continues. Obama refuses to allow drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and he is yet to approve the Keystone Pipeline, a project that could employ as many as 200,000 citizens. Mr. Obama continues to ramp up regulation on small business owners, and Obamacare, in addition to putting people who do not comply with the heavy handed mandates of the act in jail, has small business men and women literally handcuffed, unable to move, unable to hire new workers, unable to invest in their business because of the uncertainty brought on by this socialist act.
Speaking of Obamacare, one of the unintended consequences of this act is that it will bring about a doctor shortage. Already, 83 percent of practicing physicians have considered retiring from medicine and finding work elsewhere.
In an article published in Money and Policy, it was noted that “In the Island Empire, an economically depressed region in Southern California, President Obama’s health care law is expected to extend insurance coverage to more than 300,000 people by 2014. But coverage will not necessarily translate into care.
Local health experts doubt there will be enough doctors to meet the area’s need. There are not enough now. We might want to ask, “What does this mean for the Delta region of Mississippi. Will there be enough doctors to meet the need?” Of course not.
Unfortunately, Mr. Obama, a community organizer, does not have the knowledge to turn this “depression era” economy around nor do his cohorts in the Senate and House. There we have a collection of the most incompetent, inept, and corrupt individuals this country has ever seen. Some of them no doubt had their fingers crossed when they took the oath of office, because it is clear that they do not intend to “protect and defend” the Constitution of the United States.
If we can survive for another 90 days without economic collapse, we have a fighting chance. A new president who understands free market capitalism may be able to begin the long journey back to prosperity. But this group of Democrats love power more than life itself.
Don’t be surprised if Mr. Obama, in a desperate attempt to stay in office, initiates a war with Iran. If he does, you can “call the dogs and pour the coffee on the fire.” We’re done.
Jamie Patterson Managing EditorIt was the middle of the night when my husband Jason darted out to my truck. He had to grab the only thing that would calm our son James.
His name is Jeppie. He is about a foot tall with a chubby belly that sticks out over his tiny feet. His once white hair is slightly turning darker and darker with the dirt it collects. His nose comes to a sharp point, and his black eyes shoot right through you.
That stuffed penguin has been James’ favorite toy for the past three years. It’s his best friend, his partner in crime. And there was no way he was being left out in the darkness when his place was in bed next to James.
We bought Jeppie at an aquarium in Tennessee during a family vacation. He went nameless for about a month until finally James came up with the name “Jeppie” on his own.
It can be very annoying at times when we have to turn the car around because we accidentally leave him at home. We always remind ourselves to pack him for our overnight visits or week-long vacation.
But despite our aggravation at times with routing our schedule around Jeppie’s location, it is kind of sweet the love that James has for a $10 stuffed animal.
Jeppie’s place in always against the pillows on James’ bed. He is an excellent traveler. And he has seen the majestic views of mountains and the breathtaking scope of the ocean all from the backseat window of the family car.
He always agrees with James and is usually open to any game he has in mind.
He has been transformed into a pirate. A dinosaur has taken him down in battle. Monster trucks have rolled over his tummy. He has even been thrown into a ceiling fan every now and then, but he survived to tell the tale.
He has been the only one who cold calm down a tantrum. And he is the perfect sick buddy when a cold or fever takes over a good play day.
Jeppie is James’ best friend. And he has been through thick and thin with him.
James has plenty of other stuffed animals. He has a tiger named Cotter. There is a soft elephant named Ellie. Our daughter Elsie’s penguin Pinky has even made an appearance or two.
But there is just something about Jeppie.
I had a favorite stuffed animal named Piglet. It really was an animal designed after Winnie the Pooh’s best friend, Piglet.
Piglet has been in my life since as far back as I can remember. He isn’t really filled with cotton stuffing but rather those sandy, bean-like fillings like many older dolls and animals. He had a red and white striped shirt with green pants. Two small pig ears stood straight on his head. And he had two black eyes right above his snout.
I still have Piglet to this day. Somehow he managed to keep up with me in this journey of life.
However, his filling is a little looser these days. His once vibrant shirt is faded, and his green pants are starting to look more yellow. His perky ears tend to flop more against his head. One black eye fell off but a grandmother’s sewing needle put it back on, even though it’s not quite balanced with his other eye. And there is a huge coffee stain on his face that never washed off.
He may look rough, old and tattered to some children by today’s standards. But to me, he is still the way I imagined him.
His ragged appearance is the sign of a toy that was taken everywhere. He was repaired when needed. He was brought to the dinner table. He was shoved under bed sheets. He was left outside a time or two. He was loved.
James had Piglet out on his bed the other day. Being a rough boy, he was tugging kind of hard on Piglet’s leg.
“No, don’t do that to him,” I said, picking up Piglet. “He’s too old for that. Maw Maw and Paw Paw gave him to me when I was a baby.”
Placing Piglet on top of James’ dresser, I smiled at his crooked eye. Maybe Jeppie will remain with James into his adult years.
Leaving the room, I glanced back at Piglet. And for a second, we had an understanding.
And with that, James pulled Jeppie tighter into his chest.