Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Alligator Wrestler: Part 3

We landed with a thud.

"Woo hoo!" I yelled as I wrestled my way up the alligator.

"Isn't this awesome?" Billy yelled, who was vying for a better position on the alligator. He made it up to the top and we wrestled to see who the master of the alligator would be, but were torn from our place by all the other boys. Travis, who I could now see in the middle of the group, slid up onto the alligator and took over our spot. I began to swim around the alligator, looking for a place that I could grab hold when something else caught my attention.

It was the girls…the minnows in the shallow end. They were still talking like they were before, but they were doing something else I didn't notice before. They were watching the boys. Some stared. Others pointed and giggled with delight.

"They're watching us," I thought to myself. But then a light blinked on in my head. They weren't watching us. They were checking us out!

Suddenly a new thought occurred to me. This wasn't a game anymore. The addition of the admirers of the opposite sex had changed this from a game into a way for young boys to display their strength and power. This was the true alpha-male extravaganza and all the girls had front row seats to the competition. I needed to get back in there! I couldn't let the girls just see Billy and the others in their macho display of strength. They needed to see ME! It now no longer mattered if I had white legs, wore an old swimsuit or was one of the smallest boys at the party. I needed to show the girls that I was the man. The one. The only. Alligator Wrestler!

I quickly grabbed hold of someone's leg and got back up onto the alligator. But as soon as you would get back up on to it, someone would pull you down and the cycle would begin all over again. The war waged on for what seemed like an hour until it was suddenly interrupted.

"Cake and presents time!" yelled Billy's mom.

Everyone got out of the pool and walked over to the patio where Mrs. Anderson stood.

"Can't we keep playing?" I asked.

"After cake and presents," she replied.

Cake was served and we all gathered around Billy, who began unwrapping his gifts that sat next to him in a huge pile. First a transformer. A shirt. Some Legos. Some shorts. And tons more. I couldn't help but sit there, waiting anxiously to get back to the game. Even though the game had no end, I knew the party would, thus creating an end to this round of the game. In my mind, there was only going to be one alligator wrestler left standing (or floating, in our case), and that was going to be me.

As soon as Billy finished unwrapping his final gift, a Voltron robot that he had asked his mother for, we all tried to make our way back to the pool..."tried" being the key word here.

Billy's mom yelled after us. "You guys have to wait 15 minutes before you get back in. If you don't you'll cramp up from all that cake you guys ate."

15 minutes? We wanted to play NOW, but the one thing that you couldn't do was say no to Mrs. Anderson. Even if she may have said everything with a big smile plastered on her face, we all knew she meant business.

We sat back down and proceeded to stare at the clock. 15. 10. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

"Finally!" I yelled as I made my way quickly over to the diving board.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Alligator Wrestler: Part 2

The car slowed to a stop in front of my friend Jimmy's house. My mother leaned over and kissed me on the cheek as I got out of the car.

"Mom! Don't do that. I'm not a baby anymore," I said.

"You'll always be my baby," she said back with a smile. "Have fun. And call me if you need anything."

"Alright," I said. I grabbed the gift for my friend and closed the door. "Love you."

"Love you, too," she yelled out the window as she pulled away.

I watched as she left, gift in one hand and towel and swimsuit in the other. The party had finally arrived and I was ready.

I ran to the door and rang the doorbell. My friend Jimmy's mother answered the door and greeted me with a smile. She was a tall, happy, red haired woman who loved to throw parties and make everyone feel at home.

I handed her the gift. "Here's my gift for Jimmy. I hope he likes it."

"I'm sure he will, Ben," she said. "Jimmy is in the pool with the rest of the boys. You can change in the bathroom down the hall. We'll do gifts and cake after you guys swim for a while."

"Thanks, Mrs. Anderson," I said as I walked to the hall bathroom. I quickly changed into my swimsuit. It was tight…and short! It made me look completely ridiculous. I had already gotten a tan from playing outside, but the tan line only came to the top of my knees. After the tan stopped, there were only my white lets. The too short shorts couldn't cover them up at all. I tried pulling them down to cover up my stark white thighs. That only pulled the top of my suit lower and I wasn't going to go out there with my butt hanging out for everyone to see. There was only one solution. I just had to hike up the suit and go out there…just me, my shorts and my ultra white legs.

"Here we go," I told myself in the mirror.

* * * * *

The party was in full swing when I walked out the screen door to the backyard. Many parents sat on lawn chairs while all the kids were in the pool. It was exciting, but quickly noticed there was something strange was going on in the pool. All of the boys were boisterously playing in the deep end while all of the girls were huddled together in the shallow end of the pool like a school of minnows. I had thought that all of the boys and girls would have been playing together, but instead it was starting to look like an old-fashioned Mennonite gathering.

Billy got out of the pool and excitedly walked (because his mother was watching like a hawk) over to where I stood.

"You got to come play this new game we just made up!" He was obviously excited about the game because he couldn't stop bouncing up and down with excitement.

"What game?" I asked.

"Alligator Wrestler!" He quickly explained the rules to me. The players, which at this point were only boys, jumped one-by-one onto the back of the giant floaty alligator that was in the center of the pool. The goal was to be the one who could stay on the longest.

I nodded my head to let Billy know I understood, but there was only one thing missing. "How do you win?" I asked. Someone had to win, right?

"That's the best part," said Billy. "You can win, but you can't." I was confused. He continued. "When you are on top, you're the winner, but as soon as someone else is on top, they become the winner. That way, the game just keeps going and going and going."

A game that never ended? Every kid, no matter who he or she is, is always on the lookout for that one game that could continually go on forever and never get old. By the look on Billy's face, he and the others had just discovered it.

He grabbed my hand and started pulling me to where the action was taking place. His mother's voice rang out. "No running, Billy!"

Billy slowed to a walk. "Sorry, mom." She smiled back at us.

We quickly walked over to the deep end where all the boys were playing. The girls were still in the shallow end…talking. The deep end, on the other hand, was a war zone. In the center of the pool was the alligator, covered from head to toe with my friends, and they all seemed to be wrestling, flailing and jockeying for position. One boy would fall off, another would jump on. It was an unending cycle of chaos. I already loved it. It was like King of the Hill, only it took place on top of some poor unsuspecting pool toy that, at the moment, looked as if it's plastic googly eyes were about to pop out of it's head.

"Hey, Ben! You got to try this," yelled my friend, Travis. "It's awesome!" I couldn't even see him. He was somewhere in the midst of all those flailing body parts.

Billy looked over at me. "You ready?"

"You know it," I said back with a mischievous grin. "Let's go!"

And with that, we both jumped, flying through the air, and landed on top of the giant mass of boys and blown-up alligator.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Alligator Wrestler: Part 1

The story below is taken from the memory of my most embarrassing moment in my life thus far. Although some things have been changed for the sake of telling a good story, the majority of it is true. I've also broken it up into sections, so that I don't have to post it in one gigantic post. Hope you enjoy it.


"Mom, where's my swimsuit?" I yelled as I rummaged through the bottom of my dresser. It was the beginning of springtime and I had just been invited to the first swim party of the season. My friend Jimmy was turning 10 and had invited everyone in our 4th grade class to his party. To say that I was excited would have been an understatement. I was ecstatic!

"It couldn't have gone far," my mom yelled back from the kitchen. "We just bought it last week. Check and see if it's in the beach bag in the hall closet."

I ran to the hall closet and began rifling through the bag. Towels. Lotions. Toys. But no swimsuit. The only thing close to a usable pair of swim trunks were the old pair I wore last year, and they were a size too small.

"They're not here," I yelled back in frustration. "All I found were my old ones."

My mother, who hated having conversations by yelling at each other across the house, came to the hall closet. "I don't know where they could have gone," she said. Why don't you just use your trunks from last year?"

"The old ones?" I replied. "No way! They're too small!"

My mother shrugged her shoulders. "Then I guess you'll just have to go naked."

Naked? No way! I knew she was being sarcastic, but I couldn't go naked! Not only was this the first birthday swim party of the year, but this would also be the first boy/girl party I had ever been to and I was dead set on showing up wearing the proper attire.

"Can't I just wear a pair of shorts and underwear? I asked. I was beginning to get desperate. I would rather have to deal with wearing heavy, droopy drawers than swim in my old swimsuit that was too small.

"No," she replied. I could tell that she was beginning to get frustrated.



"Come on."


"Just this once. Pleease."

My mother had had enough. "No! Either wear the old trunks or don't swim at all!"

There it was. The ultimatum. When mom threw down the gauntlet I knew that the conversation was over. I either had to sit on the sidelines at the party and watch everyone have a good time or suck it up and wear my old swim trunks.

"Alright. I'll wear the old trunks."

"Good," my mother said with a satisfied grin on her face. "Don't forget to get a towel and sunscreen as well." She walked back down the hall to the kitchen to continue whatever it was she was doing.

I reached back into the beach bag and pulled out my old swimsuit. They were yellow with a thin red stripe that went down the sides of the suit and around the bottom of the leg holes. They looked like a pair of running shorts. You know, the kind you see someone wearing and think to yourself, "Boy are those some short shorts." Worst of all was the fact that they were beginning to get a little thin and see-through. But it was either wear this pair of trunks or miss out on all the fun, and I wasn't going to miss this party…my first boy/girl party.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I used to hate writing growing up. I would have much rather been drawing pictures of cartoon characters or fantastical landscapes than express myself through written words. But when I became a teacher and began to teach writing to students, something in me began to change. I began to get excited about things like sentence structure, grammar (which I call G.U.M. time in my class - Grammar Usage and Mechanics), and narrative writing. Since teaching is all about modeling to your students, it became hard for me to not take part in the writing assignments that I was giving out to my students.

For the month of November, my students and I, and thousands of other students around the nation, are taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For the entire month, we choose to use 30 minutes of our day to write in our NaNoWriMo journals. Now to some, this may seem like an easy feat, but you would be surprised at how difficult this can truly be. This year, being my third time taking part in the activity, I decided to truly take advantage of the 30 minutes of writing and push myself to create something. And I did.

Yesterday, I finished my first story in my journal. I never would have thought of writing a short story in my spare time, but now that I have done it I actually really enjoyed it. But being the creative person that I am, I am left wanting something a little more. I feel the need to share. Stories are meaningless if they are not shared, so for the following days on the Three Bell Chime, I am going to share my story with you. I know it may be a bit long, but I hope all of you will enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Want to learn more about NaNoWriMo and join the thousands of kids writing this month in the USA, click here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanksgiving Rant

I try not to be a negative person. I really do, but there are some things in the world that just make me see red. What might make me so agitated that I have to write about it on my blog? you wonder. This. How people are conditioned to skip past Thanksgiving and move right on to Christmas.

For those of you that know me well, Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year. Not only does it happen in the fall (my favorite season), but it also is a holiday that can't be tainted by the commercial garbage that comes along with holidays like the 4th of July, Halloween, and Christmas. It's about giving thanks for the things you have, appreciating everything and everyone, and celebrating that fact with the ones we love. It's an "unselfish" holiday, and I think this is the reason people want to skip past it. They want to get to the "getting" holiday in stead of focus on Thanksgiving, which leads me to my rant.

This year Halloween came and went, and the following day I needed to stop by Target to pick up a few odds and ends. But as I walked into the door, I couldn't help but groan. There in front of me, were gigantic Christmas ornaments hanging from the ceiling. Red, green and silver were everywhere. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas and celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus...but only when it's CHRISTMAS TIME! Then, two weeks ago, which was the first week of November, Alli and I are driving back home to our apartment when all of the sudden we see three homes, lit up and fully decorated for Christmas. One even already had a tree up and decorated!

Think of this as a little food for thought.

Starting Christmas too early not only takes the focus off of Thanksgiving, but it also takes the fun and excitement out of Christmas. In my opinion, having to wait to decorate and open up all those Christmas boxes we have stored away for the year makes me appreciate them more because I only see them for one month out of the year. By doing so, it helps me really focus on giving thanks for my family, friends, and everything God has provided for us. So this year, keep the Christmas decorations in their boxes until after Thanksgiving. That way we can completely focus on what we are supposed to really be doing...GIVING THANKS.