Sunday, December 28, 2008

Catching Some Rays

The dog, one of the cats (the only one who emerges from my bedroom) and I are all sitting in the same three foot square of space in my living room. Why? Because the sun, after days of hiding, is peeking out from the clouds and casting it's bright rays upon our floor.

And we are all soaking it up.

To boot, unseasonably warm temperatures and rain yesterday unearthed the green lawns once again. A bit of blue in the sky, a touch of green on the earth and rays of golden sunshine through my windows.

It is a very good day, indeed.

Porcelina

I have never been one to make friends quickly or easily. The older I get, the more this seems to be true, but even then, all those years ago, I was cautious. I barely knew myself.

She needed me. Needed a sister. Needed a friend. So did her brother. In ways I expected and many that I did not. He needed strength from me that I did not possess, strength to hold up two people, strength to decide a life for two people, strength to lead a family. I thought our path would be shared, our burden divided, but I was required to carry the load. I was ill-prepared for the challenge and I know now that I did not handle it with Christ's grace.

He was not the man I had thought he was, the man I needed him to be. He did not lead, he only followed. He did not choose, he only agreed. He did not provide me with the emotional support I needed, he was in need himself and so he leaned.

She was a young one, a lonely one perhaps. In circumstances out of her control she needed a friend, a dear one, and I was the obvious answer. But already holding up the weight of a man, I was unable, maybe just unwilling to take on her needs as well. They called her Porcelina, and it was further verification to me of her fragility. She took to me like glue and I was terrified, weak and cold. I was handling her brother with kid gloves and was left with nothing to offer to her. I thought loving them both, meeting the demands of both would crush me. I had nothing to hold on to myself and the weight of two people in such need was more than I knew how to handle.

They said I was terrible to her. When I was concerned, they said I was critical. When I worried they said I was judgmental. When I tried, I failed. And so I quit. I was holding up a marriage that was bound to fall and so my attention focused inward and stopped reaching outward. There had been nothing so divisive in our relationship as her. Perhaps she became the scapegoat for the thing that truly stood between us all those years.

The divorce, as I see it now, was inevitable. Unable to make him the man I thought he was, I left. If I had been in Christ more, if I had been stronger then, maybe I would have made different choices but by then, I had become weak and exhausted, I needed to lean, I needed support and there was no one to lean on.

I left, watching him fall behind me. I had to leave knowing he would hit the ground, but with hope that perhaps he might finally learn how to hold himself up. I'm not sure that will ever happen, but I did not have the capacity to love him into strength. And all I saw in him was weakness.

Of course the impact rippled and her heart was crushed, too. It was not one I could mend, in the process of mending my own. I had to come to terms with facing, naming and realizing my own delusions and moving forward, moving on, moving past.

All these years later, the hindsight is painful. Who was I then? Who was he really? Was he the man he is today, or would it all have come out differently if I had been a stronger wife? I will never know. But today, she and I have stepped on a bridge. I wouldn't say we've met in the middle, I've perhaps caused her too much pain to make the whole journey just yet, but there's been healing, and kindness and I know that has taken much on her part to offer me.

She is strong today. She is a mother and a wife and a sister and an aunt and a daughter and her needs from me today are not the desperate cries of the child I met all those years ago. And today I stand a much different woman, one empowered by the strength of Christ. I do not know where God will lead our journey, but I know He has taught me much.

When the weight of the world was too much for my shoulders, I let go and dropped the burden. What I did not know was the weight was never mine to bear alone. Perhaps the people that I felt were leaning on me, depending on my every turn, my every word, my every breath, perhaps those were the people who had kept me standing.

I cannot undo the decisions I have made and I am not certain they all need undoing, but I hope in some small way I can heal the hearts. I hope that there can be understanding, forgiveness and compassion. We have all come a long way since then and I can only hope that God will continue to lead us together, down this journey, in support of those we love in common, and in support of the One we all love together.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Full of Love

They are beautiful people. Not the sort you love to hate because they were born with silver spoons and life let them drive on Easy Street the whole way, but the sort you love to admire because life has been challenging and they are the better for it.

When we are together, laughter comes easily. Sitting and talking is the priority. I don't think I've ever heard them say an ill word about anyone. Not that they wear only rose-colored glasses, but they prefer to look for the good, to see the blessings in life and in people.

It's easy to see where they learned it. Walking in the door to his parent's home where once again we find middle meeting ground, I am greeted like one of the family. Hugs and hellos, how are you really's, and invitations aplenty to stay for dinner, stay for awhile, stay as long and as often as you'd like.

This time his brother was there. A brother I have not seen in what we figured out was ten years. Not since their wedding. When my life was an entirely different life. And now his brother's life is an entirely different life from then. He's now married and has a precious little daughter.

I left before the meal; I bowed out with excuses of the weather and darkness and the drive. But the truth is, I still fight the demons. The ones that say, "Look at that!! You want that!" The ones that remind me that I am the only one who walks into that house alone. And so I left, alone, and in the dark, in the fog and the rain, I prayed.

Lord, you have given me these beautiful people, given the world these beautiful people, to show us how it should be. I know they aren't perfect. I know they have their own demons and their own battles. And I know, Lord, that they are not beautiful people because they are married, or because they have beautiful children or because of all the things that they have. I know this, even when it is hard to admit it. I know they are beautiful people not because of what they have filled their lives with, but with WHOM they have filled themselves. I know it is because they are filled with Your love, God, that they are such a blessing to the world, and to me. Remind me, Lord, remind my envious nature that I do not walk into that home alone. I do not leave it alone. I do not join them as a third-wheel. I join them as a person who can be filled with You, too.

It is hard, this time of year, to not focus on the loneliness. To not wonder how nine years have passed since I celebrated a holiday with someone by my side. But Lord, today, and for all the days to come, help me to focus on filling myself with You. For it is only You that can fill my soul completely.

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. "
(Ephesians 3:16-20)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I Was There in Spirit

When Flash was given the gift of his dreams.

I think I heard the scream all the way from Pennsylvania to Michigan!
(Needless to say, he's thrilled with only getting one gift from that side of the family when the gift is brand new laptop!!)

Home for Christmas

It's the trees you notice first, as you pull up in the dark. You can see them from quite a ways away now that the corn is down and the leaves ar off the trees. A row of pines, much bigger now, all lit up for the holiday.

She has flickering candle lights in all the windows and the porch light on. Although they are expecting me, I don't see any lights on in the windows. Eli and I crunch as quietly as we can through the snow up the walk where I see her in pajamas still, peering out the front door waiting for me.

The kids aren't up yet, so we wait. It's over an hour before Birdy comes sleepy-eyed into their room, wrapped in a blanket. After a few minutes she goes back to wake up George.

The day is filled with all the splendor and excitement of the holiday. The kids are eager to see what Santa brought them. A beautiful, thoughtful gift for me, one chosen by Birdy who listened to my heart one day, another created by Bear's hands to go alongside it. Treasures, both. Since it's just the five of us this year the gift opening goes faster than usual and the kids are off to enjoy their gifts. There is much plugging in and charging to be done. There is laughter from the adults over the significant changes in technology from when we were kids, but the irony that they use it to watch shows we grew up on. Three seasons of the Cosby Show on a portable DVD player.

Jules has food aplenty. More than we could ever need or want. With a fire roaring in the fireplace, we flip channels, we play Guitar Hero and we laugh. Jules works on the puzzle, a tradition Mom started and she's carried on. We eat pizza for dinner, another tradition that will never die.

While there is nothing remarkable about the day, while there is nothing extraordinary to savor or remember, Christmas at Jules' is like coming home. And while I miss my boy, and I look forward to our celebration together next week, today was a beautiful way to spend Christmas with family. And for that, I'm truly grateful.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Did You Know...

...a computer can actually boot up and connect to the internet in two minutes flat? Literally?


ME EITHER!!!!


(I'm really enjoying "Friday" as we've dubbed the new HP in our house!)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Out of the Mouths of the Gifted

"Mom? Is it pronounced 'cam-a-ka-zayer' or 'cahm-a-za-kee'?"

"Um, Flash, it's kamikaze."

"Oh."

Snow Day

It's one thing to hope for it, but another for it to happen.  The call came at 5 am for me, the perk of being a full-time employee at the school is that you're on the call list.  A snow day.  The day before Winter Break.  A free day.  A day to spend with Flash.

We had intended to open our one "Christmas Eve" package tonight since he is leaving tomorrow to spend Christmas with his dad and grandparents.  

After I verified that Flash's school was also closed for the day (wouldn't that have been dreadful?) I went in and woke him up to turn off his alarm, and that's when it hit me.  It's like Christmas morning!!

There's snow falling outside, we have one present to open each and we can spend the day in jammies!  I started bouncing on his bed saying, "wanna open our present?  wanna?  wanna?!?!"

Of course, I already knew what ONE present I was opening.  With the boy leaving tomorrow, the new house laptop was going to be opened before he left one way or another so I had deemed the big box in the back the ONE gift I was opening today. 

Flash opened a new PS2 game and was over the moon.  "This is perfect!!  Now I have something fun to play today!"  

With Flash poised with the camera, I revealed the part of the box that held the HP logo.  His jaw dropped and I wished for the moment that I had the camera in my hand and could capture his surprise.  

I have yet to put my hands on my new computer.  He has installed everything, hooked me up to the internet (yea!) and is now listening to some techno nerdy thing on you tube.  But I'll let him.  For now, he believes this is a computer for both of us.  For now, he's totally geeked that we have new technology in the house and is already talking about hooking up his ipod and his programming that's writing.  For now.  In less than a week he'll open a box of his own with his father.  Hopefully then someone will have a camera pointing at him.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

As If The List Wasn't Long Enough Already

Added to the reasons for why I hate this computer, tonight Flash's ancient piece of technology tried to load a web page and proceeded to give me an error message.  The message said something like, "Safari is unable to open the web page.  Error message given:  unknown error."  It then tells me to report all this to Apple, being sure to report which error message I received and what I did immediately preceding the message.  I'd like to call Apple, and to say, "I got an error message.  Which one?  Oh, the unknown one.  What did I do right before that?  I threw my computer through a window."

Secondly, I've added to the list another fantastic error message.  This time I was trying to open Google.  I had typed: www.google.com   into the address bar and Safari delivered yet again another poignant error message.  It shared with me its inability to open that page, too but this time it offered up a suggestion.  The computer actually provided me with a small Google search bar and suggested that I try looking for my page using Google.  

I know.  Amazingly helpful, wasn't it?

All I can say at this point is.....TWO MORE DAYS!!!!!

(Can you imagine my joy?!  Can you?!)

How To Build Self-Esteem in a Pre-Teen

I'm not sure how it slipped my attention.  How 12 1/2 years went by and I never noticed the omission.  Here I've been, concerning myself with trying to raise a well-rounded, Christian, good natured child and I missed a critical part of his upbringing.  Until this evening, Flash had never, EVER rollerskated.  

I know.

I just don't know how it happened.

I wish I had photographic evidence.  Something to commemorate the occasion and to save the memory for all of time.  But alas, I was not invited to the youth group skating party.  

I do have evidence that he did skate, however.  When I picked him up, Flash sat down in the car and said, "Man, my butt hurts."

Yep, my boy skated.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Breaking in the New Nickname

Flash volunteered to take a snack to his gifted program tomorrow for their Christmas Party.  When asked what he wanted to bring, he suggested his favorite cookies.  I said, "what a great idea!!  I'll get the ingredients and you can bake them!"  And so I did my part.

And now he's doing his.  I promised to sit within earshot and help him through the recipe.  (I don't do the recipe like it says so I promised to help him through it the way I do it.)  I asked how many cookies do we need and he replied with a resounding "34!"  A remarkably precise number for something as vague as baking cookies, but it's good to have a goal.  Here's how it's going:

Step 1:  I tell him to mix the sugar, brown sugar and butter together in the Kitchenaide.   Several minutes go by before he says, "Now I mix it?"  I say, "you have the sugar, brown sugar and butter in?"  And he says, "What sugar?"  And then realizes he's not reading the right recipe.  Mom commences banging her head on the coffee table.   (Flash takes the brown sugar out, remeasures, adds white sugar and mixes.)

Step 2:  I tell him to crack the eggs in a separate bowl.  He says, "How many eggs?"  I say, "Read the recipe.  The right recipe."  He doesn't laugh.  Mom makes a mental note:  Flash needs help on his sense of humor.

Step 3:  Add vanilla.  Not normally an ingredient I really measure, but since we're using the Mexican vanilla that's pretty potent, I remind him to measure.  We have a review session of TBS vs. tsp.  Let me just say, we've gone over all of this many many times since he was about 5.  Thought we'd have it by now.

Step 4: Add all of the dry ingredients except the flour and the oats.  Again, thought this wouldn't be nearly as complicated as it seems to be.  Might be several minutes before this step is complete.  (We did have a verification process that he used baking soda and not powder.)

Step 5: He asks if he should measure the 'sugar' or just do a dash in his hand.  I say, "the salt?!"  He says, "oh yeah, the salt I mean."  I suggest measuring for fear of his dash.  He comes to me with his hand held out to have his dash approved.

Step 6:  We have a discussion about the two different bags of flour in the cabinet, bread flour and all-purpose and stress the importance of using the latter.  (Editor's Note:  He's measuring everything with the 1/4 cup.  We could be here all night.)

Step 7:  Realize I didn't get more oats and we only have 2/3 of what we need.  Start fudging the recipe.  (Flash just loves it when I do this.  NOT.)

Step 8:  Add the chips.  Pray.

Step 9:  Talk Flash down from greasing the cookie sheets.

Step 10:  Flash brings the mixer beaters to me to sample the dough (what?  I didn't even ask!) and something isn't right.  "Did you put in both of the sugars?"  Flash says, "Yep.  1/3 of a cup of each."  I know immediately that isn't right.  I show him the recipe.  "3/4 of a cup of both"  He says, "WHAT?"  I look at the recipe right next to it (the one he initially confused) and it doesn't even say 1/3 of a cup of sugar.  I have no clue where he got that number from. We guesstimate a solution.  He goes back to the kitchen.

Step 11:  Head banging on coffee table continues.

Step 12:  Flash's Mom says a silent prayer of gratitude that she isn't eating these cookies and hopes the kids at the gifted class don't notice.  She whispers up a prayer that Flash's grade will in no way be affected by this clear lack of gifted-ness.

Step 13:  A second taste test of dough.  Definitely more sugar, but the blending is not going well since the sugar was added so late.  Nothing to do now but pray.

Step 14:  Flash puts dough on cookie sheet by the spoonful.

Step 15:  One cookie sheet goes into the oven.  Since no timer was set, I'll note the time.  6:55pm.  (Is it just me or is it painful to sit and allow your child to do something wrong (oh say, like not set a timer) when you know the results will not be good?)  

Step 16:  Cookie Sheet #2 goes into the oven.  Time at the tone?  6:58.  Still no timer set.  Flash collects his latest book and settles in at the table with some chocolate chips.  This could get very interesting indeed.

Step 17:  As the clock draws near to the 7-9 minutes suggested baking time, Flash's Mom starts to panic but keeps her mouth shut.  She reminds herself that she's been trying to teach following directions for a long time.

Step 18:  Flash opens oven door.  Says, "ahh, fudge."  Shuts the door.  Flash's mom can only assume he's just now realized he never set a timer.   Or perhaps he just placed the cookies too close together on the cookie sheet.

Step 19:  A full 10 minutes into baking, Flash is still sitting at the table munching on chocolate chips unconcerned about his product.

Step 20:  12 minutes into baking, 2 minutes past the "for crunchy cookies" recommended time, Flash is still sitting at the table, reading and munching, laughing at some great quip in his book.  Mom is having a difficult time letting him learn from experience, but keeps her yap shut.

Step 21:  13 minutes pass.  14.  15.  Mom starts to wonder if the smoke alarm will alarm the neighbors.  The second pan would be still be salvageable at this point.  16.  More laughter from the kitchen.  

Step 22:  Flash actually picks up the recipe and seems to look at how long they should bake.  Oven is opened.  Pot holders are located.  Nothing is extracted from the oven.  

Step 23: 17 minutes have passed.  18.  Dog needs to go out but I'm not budging.  19.  It's all Mom can do to stay on the couch and not run into the kitchen to look at these cookies.  20.  More laughter from the kitchen.  J.K. Rowling was a single mom.  Was she writing these funny lines while her child(ren) were burning cookies?!   21 minutes have passed.  Mom is no longer worried about whether additional flour will make up for the shortcomings of oats.  She now wonders if she should have put new baking sheets on her Christmas list.

Step 24:  22 minutes.  Flash hasn't checked the oven in more than 5 minutes.  23 minutes.  Flash opens the oven door.  Takes a gander inside.  One cookie sheet is extracted.  The second cookie sheet is returned to the oven.  Mom wonders if he has the oven set on the right temperature.  23 minutes at 375 should have burnt those buggers up.

Step 25:  He's removing cookies from the first sheet and placing them on a plate.  Flash puts new dough on the now empty first cookie sheet.  The second sheet has now been in the oven 23 minutes.

Step 26:  First sheet is put back in the oven with fresh dough (7:22)  Second sheet is examined and finally extracted from the oven.  Flash brings me the second cookie sheet, "Are they supposed to be this dark?"  I look at a sheet of burnt cookies and say, "No."  He looks at me with wonder.  I say, "How long are they supposed to bake?"  He says, "10-9 minutes."  I say, "How long have they been in there?  He says, "10-9 minutes."  (I cannot make this stuff up.)  He sets a timer on the microwave and then proceeds to chisel the cookies off the pan.  

Step 27:  Flash sits back down at the table to read.  (Editor's Second Note:  The house now smells like burnt cookies. Perhaps the best diet plan around.)  

Step 28:  Pan has been in the oven 7 minutes now.  No timer has gone off.  8 minutes.  9.  10.  Still no timer.  Mom vows to speak up after this pan is removed from the oven.  Apparently experience alone isn't enough to teach this boy.  At 11 minutes, the timer goes off.  Flash gets up, gets a pot holder, opens the oven and examines the cookies.  He puts them back in the oven and resets the timer.  12 minutes.  Timer goes off.  Flash opens the oven, re-examines the cookies and takes them out.  "Can I just put the rest of the dough in the fridge and bake it later?" He asks.  "I'm not running the oven all night, Flash, we're baking them all now.  Why?"  "Cause there's like a ton of dough left to bake."  He already wants to be done.  "How many cookies does the recipe say it will make?"  "four dozen" he replies (aha!  he can read a recipe!)

Step 29:  "Mom?  Can we start the movie?"  Seriously, the boy who baked a pan of cookies for 23 minutes and told me it had been 10 now wants to put in a movie?!?!?  I might scream.  At least so far the cookies don't seem affected by the substitution of flour for some oats.  They clearly have bigger battles to fight.  

Step 30:  Flash declares this last pan to be the "last of the coherent batter."  I'm not sure at all what that means, but I've learned enough tonight to know not to even ask.  A timer is set.  I ask to sample a cookie.  "Crispy or not crispy?" he asks.  I request a non-crispy cookie.  The cookie is actually quite good.  And I am impressed with 23 minutes of baking that it survived so well.  He double checks the oven temperature for me.  Maybe these are the cookies that just came out after 12 minutes.  Verification is received that my cookie just came from the 12 minute pan.  Flash samples some of the "crispy cookies" after I suggest he cannot take burnt cookies to class.  No verdict is returned.  There are 33 good cookies and in response to how many burnt ones, I got "a lot" as the reply.

Step 31:  Discuss the reasons for the burnt cookies.  Still no comprehension that he actually cooked them too long.  I point out the reality of the situation.  Flash listens then goes back to reading his book.  I WANT TO SCREAM.  But I just sit on the couch.

Step 32:  Prayer of gratitude is said silently again that in 5 days Flash will be going to the other side of the family and I will have another short reprieve from parenting a pre-teen.

97.4% of People

who say they will do this before they die never do.  What is it?



On a related note:

While Flash/LM was at youth group last week I pulled up a stool at Bennigan's and had some dinner (what?!  I had just donated blood and rushed to get him and a friend to youth group.  I was starving!) While I ate, I pulled out a printed copy of my NaNoWriMo text and was editing.

The woman sitting a few stools away from me (why oh why couldn't this have been a really cute guy in his early 40's with dark eyes and...oh, wait, back to the point) she says to me, "Did you write a book?"

And I replied, "Yes.  I did."



And I swear I floated all the way home that night.



(You got the percentage question, right?  I heard it on the radio this morning on my drive to work.  It was one of those get these five questions right and we'll fly you to somewhere you never wanted to go anyway contests.   I didn't call in, so I certainly didn't win, but I was still screaming in my car when they announced that 97.4% of all people that say they want to write a book before they die never do.  I did!!  I checked it off my list!!!)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Name Change

For the record, LM will henceforth be referred to (fondly) as "Flash".  I will even, upon occasion, single a little theme song for him much to the likes of the Flash Gordon song.

Why?  you ask?  Because his head and his body are no longer on speaking terms.

As just an example, I give you today's evidence:

This morning, at church, we were watching the Children's Christmas program (which was the best and most adorable one I've ever seen) and I quietly pointed out to LM in the bulletin that one of the boys in the cast, one that was particularly funny, was one of the pastor's sons.  I pointed to his name and then pointed to the pastor's name further in the program.  Flash whispered to me, "Pastor B's last name is Smith?"  My response?  "We call you Flash."

On the way home, he heard Piano Man on the radio for the second time.  He fell in love with the song the first time through and had mentioned he would like to buy it on itunes.  I told him I owned it (or thought I did.  I told him I was certain one of his parents owned it, I  just wasn't sure which one got it in the divorce).  When we arrived home, he quickly ran to the stereo to get it tuned to that same station to hear the end of the song.  I walked over and browsed the CD collection not one foot in front of my child.  I said, "I don't see it.  I know it's a double disk set.  Your dad must have it.  But I know that one of the two of us owns it, so don't buy it."  I walked over and sat on the couch.   The boy turned to me and said, "Hey Mom?  Weren't you going to look for that CD with Piano Man on it?"   Flash, Ahhhhhhaaaaaaa!

After much prodding and coaxing (it all comes down to some very carefully place peanut butter) we finally got Eli interested in chewing a bone that I bought him over Thanksgiving.  Knowing he would love it once he got the hang of it, I was thrilled to see him finally eating away but became concerned when he had been at it for more than an hour.  I had visions of rawhide coming back up later.  "We need to get the rest of that bone away from him before he eats the whole thing in one sitting," I said to LM.  "I'll tell you what, you take him outside and while he's gone, I'll put the rest of the bone up in the cabinet for another night."  LM got the leash and took Eli outside while I picked up the soggy remains of the bone and tucked them away for another night.  When Eli came back inside and began looking for his precious bone, LM turned to me and said, "Did he really eat that whole thing already?"    

It's a daily experience with LM that has brought us to Flash status.  And it's been going on long and often enough that he'll now even stop and look at me in a moment of clarity and say, "I know, don't even say it" realizing he's just had another Flash moment.  

To his credit, however, I've had my moments, too.  I pulled into a parking spot tonight and in an effort to avoid stepping right into huge puddles when I opened my door, I pulled further forward than I might have otherwise.  It was only when I got out of the car, gloating slightly for my thoughtfulness that had thus far kept my feet dry, that I realized everything I needed was in the trunk, which was now directly over the huge puddle I had been trying to avoid all along.  I could do little more than to look at LM and say, "That's where you get it from originally, Flash.  They just call me, the Mother of Flash."
LM's computer, the only computer we've had in this house for very nearly a year, is ancient and tired.  It takes no less than 40 minutes to completely boot and might take longer yet if you want to utilize messenger or check email.  It's a lesson in patience each and every time you wish to turn it on and I have more than once threatened its very existence with a sledge hammer only to be stopped by the gentle but honest reminder from LM that "this is all we've got."

We have a standing joke in this house.  As the ancient beast boots, it will often display a balloon advising us that the flash drive, memory card, printer or other device plugged into the USB port "could perform faster" if only it were plugged into a faster USB port.  

We find this little balloon to be the comic relief in all of the boot up agony.  Of course this device could perform faster.  Duh.  So I find it necessary to revise the latter part of the balloon statement at each start up.  Anything, everything would be faster than the computer we're using.  

"This device could perform faster...."

".... if only it were plugged into an iceburg."

".... if only it were plugged into a rock."

"...if only it were plugged into a coffee table."

"....if only it were dropped into the ocean and left to rot for ten years."

and so forth.

It's this small little attempt at humor that truly keeps us sane and prevents us from bashing our heads into this tiny keyboard each and every time we wish to use this machine.

Today, LM told me he's actually hoping to get a faster USB port for Christmas.  I found this fascinating.  "Isn't that like putting chrome tires  on a pinto?" I asked.  After explaining what a Pinto was, he suggested in might just be that futile indeed, but he thought it was worth a shot.  

I laughed and said I wondered if it would perform faster if it was plugged into a Crystal Skull.  (Another running joke:  when we watched Indiana Jones (which I do NOT recommend at all. Indiana Jones and aliens do NOT belong in the same movie) he saw the crystal skull and said, "Man, I do NOT want that thing for Christmas, it's kind of creepy with it's glowing eyes."  And so, of course, ever since, I've done nothing else but tease that he is getting one for Christmas.)

I do wish I could be there when he opens his Christmas gift with his dad to find a new laptop.

But I will be here on Friday when we open MINE together.

FIVE MORE DAYS people.  FIVE MORE DAYS.

Oh Pot? This is Kettle Speaking, I'd Like a Word?

I have no instruction manual and I have no clear plan for the forage through the next few years of parenting, however, tonight I did have a slight moment when we witnessed a brief but perhaps effective teaching moment.  

Tonight, LM tried to help an attention-deficient first grader with his homework.  And I heard him say, "G?  Focus!!!  We need to get this done!"

And when I called them out to dinner, I asked how it was going and LM said, "It would be going just fine if G would focus and work on it!" with complete exasperation.  And I paused long enough for LM to notice, and I stood with a Cheshire Grin on my face and I said, "I'm sorry, Pot.  Perhaps you have not yet been introduced.  This here is Kettle."

LM was not at all amused with me, but when we spoke about it later in private, and I pointed out how badly he had wanted G to just finish up his word list so they could go back to playing PS2, he said he could sort of see how frustrating it was for me.

Sort of.

Hey, I'll take a 'sort of'.  Especially from a very black pot indeed.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Downside of Single Parenting

We've spent weeks, nay months, fighting in the same circle.  It has been an ongoing, consistent battle that has taken place nearly every weekend and sometimes even during the week.

I thought it was LM's homework load, something he's unaccustomed to having.  It's all from his gifted class, the one that meets once a week.  I attributed it to poor planning, lack of focus, no organization.

We fought the battles one by one.  I gave suggestions, I demonstrated.  I helped, I pushed, I even lectured and yelled.  And nothing changed.

Many nights and all these weekends I would wait.  Wait for LM to finish his homework.  Wait for LM to tackle another essay, edit a journal entry, define his vocabulary.  And every weekend I was frustrated. 

Last weekend I quit waiting.  My frustration had reached an all-time high and I was completely out of lectures in my Mom File.  I left the house.  I went out for a few hours in the afternoon and entertained myself, leaving him on his own to finish his work.  I thought maybe if he realized he was missing out and that I wasn't going to wait on him it would matter.

But it doesn't.

This weekend I came to realize the true root of our disagreements.  This week, LM got nearly all of his homework done by late Friday night.  It wasn't even until mid-morning today that I realized how close he was to being completely done.  And so we sat and talked about what we could do.  I was excited, I was eager, I was ready to go do something!!!

We talked about ice skating, bowling, a movie!  Any shopping he had left to do? How about the bookstore?  Maybe we could just play some games?  Monopoly?  Yahtzee?  Poker?  

He nodded and thought and hummed and pondered and I finally said, "You decide!!  I'm going to go take a shower!"

And when I came back, he still had no idea.  So I changed my clothes and dried my hair.  And still, he just wasn't so sure.  And when I had vacuumed the house, finished the dishes and cleaned a cupboard full of ants, I found him in his room reading.  And I asked, "LM?  Isn't there anything you really want to do today now that we finally have some time together?"  And it was his reply that turned the lightbulb on.  "Actually, Mom, I'd really just like to read my book."

And I realized that's been it all along.  He hasn't cracked down and focused hard on getting his work done because he isn't dying to do something else.  He's not wishing for time to play games or go out.  He's not missing out on anything when I go.  The truth of the matter is, he's really quite content just staying put and reading.

The trouble is, his mother isn't.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Once Again

It's that time of year again.  The time when you look forward to an evening of holiday music, festive cheer and a sense of togetherness and community.  Unfortunately, none of those things are to be found at LM's Holiday Christmas Concert.

I posted about his concert a year ago.   I took witnesses to his spring concert to prove I wasn't kidding.  The third time around was as entertaining (in a sad, sorry sort of way) as the first two.  I'll recap the evening for those of you fortunate enough to have missed it.

On the way to the concert, LM and I joked about what was to be expected.  He was holding out hope that the choir will have greatly improved since there's a new director in place.  We both wondered how many students will be in the orchestra.  I admitted it would have been difficult to have encouraged my orchestral child after hearing last year's dismal performance.

When we arrive, I'm disappointed to find the program lists only the songs to be performed and not the students' names.   I have barely gotten comfortable in my seat, however, when I realize the reason for this is obvious.  The orchestra director was on stage setting up music stands for his group and he has only set up four stands in front of the eight chairs in the front row.  

I was even more discouraged when I saw only four violinists and three bass players come on the stage.  I was about to receive further bad news, however, when the director announced his group of students and welcomed the THREE high school bass players that were there to "help out" the orchestra.  Orchestra?  Four violins does not an orchestra make.  That's a string quartet for crying out loud.  Let's just face it, this man has an awfully cushy job of directing a small string ensemble at best.  And yet he calls himself the "Director of Orchestra".  His words, not mine. 
 

The Middle School Orchestra String Ensemble Beginning Violin Class

With baited breath I hoped that the smaller numbers (and by smaller, I must note that last year there were no more than a dozen in the orchestra) there has been perhaps more attention given to each student.  Perhaps the music will be that much more involved.  But alas, another disappointment.  The same tunes quite nearly as last year.  Fiddles on Fire followed by Fumbling Fingers and I'd have to say it all sounded like someone was fumbling around in a fire indeed.  

In all honesty, I really feel for these students.  These are sixth through eighth graders, which means some of them have been in this orchestra, ensemble, string quartet for two years already.  To still be playing beginner music must be incredibly discouraging indeed. 

After the three songs by the orchestra, the choir came on the stage.  The director took quite some time to set up a couple of music stands.  One on either side of the group (later it became clear these were for the benefit of the soloists, although only one of the stands actually held any music).  He also set up a music stand right in the front middle of the whole group, proceeded to turn it around backwards and hung huge sheets of paper over it with the lyrics to each song handwritten for the choir to see. 

There was still no harmony, although I will admit, there was a slight moment of a brief two-part vocal in one song.  The soloists had microphones in front of them, but apparently no one saw fit to make sure they were on or working, so it was impossible to hear the timid voices.  I was fortunate, however.  There was a mother and high school-aged daughter sitting right behind me and the daughter not only knew the words to each of the songs the choir performed (and to think, she didn't even have the advantage of the lyric sheets within her view!) but she also chose to sing them loud enough for me to hear above the choir.  (Note: the mother did make over a dozen attempts to shush her child, but apparently her daughter is deaf as she did not hear a single protest on her mother's part.)   Lucky me, I was saved the agony of actually listening to the choir by this very courteous student behind me.

The same antics were in play this year for the choir as last.  We had a bizarre fashion ensemble going.  From jeans and sneakers to well, jeans and open-toed high heeled shoes (mind you, there's snow on the ground and we walked in to the concert in freezing rain).  


Weather Report: Heat wave hits Southwest Michigan.  Dress for summer!

There were still the students that stood with arms folded and rolling eyes for the duration of the concert as though they were forced to be there instead of participating in an elective class.
  

I AM happy to be here.  I AM happy to be here.  I AM happy to be here.

When at last the choir ended their performance (with none other than a rousing sing-a-long rendition of Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas is You", a song no holiday concert is complete without) I was relieved to see LM's band director take the stage and take control.

The band set up, moving drums, setting up stands and getting prepared for their portion of the evening.  As the director started to prepare the students to tune their instruments, a group in the audience choreographed a unison shout out of "Go Willa!" followed almost immediately by another group shouting support to another band member and so on as if in competition of one another.  LM's band director took the microphone and immediately kaboshed the activity.  I nearly applauded the man right then and there.


Finally, a voice of authority and respect!

LM's band, again, was wonderful. They performed not only with talent and discipline, but with class.  His director pushes them and holds them to a higher standard and it shows.  I was impressed and very pleased.  


The Middle School Concert Band

Afterwards, I took the time to talk with his director, as I always do, and to thank him again, for such a wonderful portion of the evening.  We talked about LM and how he's had two more years of band than any of the students in the group now (his elementary school in PA started band in fourth grade, here they didn't get instruments until sixth) and his director and I talked about getting LM into private lessons to keep him challenged.  He also mentioned the possibility of working LM in to some of the high school performances (I won't create a false impression here, the high school band he directs is maybe twenty members at most.  LM's director's greatest hope is that LM will attend that high school in town).  


LM, First Trumpet

Knowing now that I need only to wait for the band and I will be impressed, I was able to sit through this concert with far less anxiety than the first.  LM is doing a great job leading the band as first trumpet and his director really expects LM to be a strong leader and to play well.  I'm glad there is someone at LM's school who holds him accountable, even if he's not able to provide a challenging enough environment to keep LM learning.  


LM and one of his best friends, D, both squinting through the stage lights trying to locate their mothers. 

We went for ice cream afterwards and laughed about the concert.  I was telling LM about one of the girls in the choir and her ongoing antics when he confessed that was the girl that had asked him to the dance in sixth grade.  I was suddenly very pleased that he had not gone with her then!  

There will be another concert in the spring and LM is already looking forward to performing a Phantom of the Opera medley then.  Me?  I'm looking forward in particular to the string duet.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Speaking of Twelve

Is there an instruction manual for this year?  Remember those 19 copies of "What to Expect When..." books we all got when we were preggers?  Is there one for twelve?  Just a basic survival guide for this year?  

Cause man, we're NOT having such a good year.

I won't itemize the list of recent frustrations, it would take way too long.  And yes, I remember twelve as being a not-so-good year for me either but it didn't seem like it was always the SAME EXACT ISSUE just a new week.  Maybe I'm wrong.  

The gifted class acronym is starting to be a cuss word in our house.  LM just can't get his mind around planning ahead or really making sure of something or even getting himself sort of organized.  I emailed his teacher tonight because the grading system leaves me wondering if my kid is doing okay or if we were crazy to admit him to this program to begin with.  Her comments reassure me that he's doing fine, but one in particular, namely, "Jacob is a very fine writer with certain idiosyncracies - that's normal although his are very particular!"  leaves me wondering.  Is that a compliment?  Is that supposed to leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling? 

Anyway.   If someone out there has a twelve year old, or perhaps an older child and they can share survival stories, help me out.  If you don't have a manual I can borrow, can we at least try for a two-fer deal on ebay?  

PULEEZE?!?!! 

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Twelve

I have a hard time believing my own child is twelve, but Birdy?  How can that be?  I remember waiting for the call, knowing my sister was in labor, waiting and waiting and waiting for someone to call and say Birdy had been born.  I remember talking with my dad and he said, "It's okay, Amy, I just saw a cardinal out on the tree"  I know it won't mean anything to someone who isn't in my family, but to us, that means Mom is there, and if Mom is there, everything is going to be okay.  And it was.  Birdy was born and she was beautiful and amazing and so tiny!!!

And now she's twelve.  My niece is twelve.  I cannot believe it.

The snow might be flying and the roads might be slick but that wasn't going to stop us from seeing Birdy on her birthday.  I'd have lots of great pics but I put the boy in charge of the camera and that means we have two that aren't blurry and one that shows her face.


Happy Birthday Birdy!!!  We love you!!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Jules

She wasn't excited about her birthday.  I can understand that.  A sentiment of inverse proportions.  As the numbers increase it seems as though the enthusiasm for the day decreases.  It's easy to see why, on George's birthday, he brought treats to school, got to be the Star of the Week in class, wore a crown and got to have a guest eat lunch with him.  He had a party with a whole mess of his closest friends and relatives and had cupcakes that turned his mouth blue.  My sister?  Spent her day working, dealing with work related problems that were frustrating and time consuming.  Had to come to school to calm a panicked child (George was afraid he was going to miss all her birthday excitement by going to a friend's party tonight).    It's no fun turning 29 for the 10th time, is it, Jules?

But in fact, it was.  We went to dinner (minus George who was busy - and happy - playing laser tag) and we ate cake (1/5 my sister's favorite, 4/5 a flavor the rest of us could stomach).  She opened gifts once George returned home and we even sang to her (complete with "cha-cha-cha's).  

Minus the crown, I'd say she had a splendid day.

I hope the rest of her 39th year is splendid as well.


Happy Birthday, Jules!!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Black Friday

I've never done it before.  I kind of hope I'll never do it again.  But my brother was exactly right (and I do NOT say that often, so take note, write it down, make a record) he said, "You will come away from Black Friday thinking I am NEVER going to do that again, and then hours later, when you've recuperated, you'll feel elation at what you accomplished.

The Plan: go to Best Buy, camp out, spend the night in the cold in the parking lot (ohhhh to live in Arizona for this occasion) and to walk away with a lap top or two.  (Background: I desperately need a new computer for me.  LM and I are sharing his ancient piece of, well, I'm reluctant to even call it technology.  I've been without my own for nearly a year now and it's wearing on us both.  To boot, LM's other half of his family pooled together funds and had the budget if I could perhaps get a good deal.)  Back to the story, I had planned to arrive at Best Buy around 10 Thursday night, but I was unable to nap and decided I would head over earlier and sit in the parking lot. 

When I arrived, there were no less than 15 tents already up and more than 40 people in line already waiting.  I was stunned.  A woman in front of me told me the story from last year, that the people at the front (generally thought to be local college students) had gotten as many tickets as possible for every item and then sold them for $50 to people further back in the line).  I was discouraged.  I called my brother.  He immediately referred to the spreadsheet they had put together for this exact purpose and guided me to Office Depot instead, telling me about my options there.

I was the second person to arrive at O.D.  The short of the story is that I did stay all night, but was able to stay in my car until 5am as I was with very courteous people and none of us wanted to freeze.  At 5:45 I was given two tickets, one for each of the laptops I wanted and I went with glee back to my car to warm up until the store opened 15 minutes later.  

I was back home, had the dog out and back in and was in bed by 6:30 am.  I was exhausted.  Never, even in my college days, did I ever pull an all-nighter and I had my doubts at 4am that I was going to be able to pull this one off, but when I collapsed into bed, I did feel a slight bit of elation despite my exhaustion and severe headache.

It really wasn't until Saturday when it all sank in.  I called my dad (about to board a cruise ship for back to back Caribbean cruises - oh, to retire like my dad and second mom) and thanked him profusely.  His Christmas money for me, plus his support and encouragement, had made this possible.  I had, in my possession, a new computer.  And, with his father's help, I had a Christmas gift for LM that was beyond his wildest dreams.

I don't encourage shopping on a holiday and I hate the materialistic side of Christmas, but I must admit, I am simply giddy over several gifts that I am giving this year and the joy that they will bring to their recipients.   And I am thrilled about a box under the tree with my name on it that will allow me to pursue more of the things I love at my leisure.  

Now, to just wait until Christmas to open it....

OH, and LM doesn't know about any of it.  So, he will first have the surprise of the new home computer and later will have the added HUGE bonus of one for himself.   Does this get any better?

Thanksgiving

I know I'm a few days late on my Gratitude List, but when your one and only computer spent the vacation in Pittsburgh, well, some things have to be put on hold.  But here it is:

1.  For my salvation.  No matter what challenges life throws at me, I know I will have an eternal life in Heaven and that this life is only the blink of an eye in comparison.  I am so grateful that I serve a Loving God and that he thinks of me not only as His precious child but as His inheritance!

2.  For LM.  I'll admit, I wasn't sure I was even going to stop the car in Ohio to drop him off, I was thinking more of opening the door and giving him a big shove (let's just say he left out some key details in the planning of the drop off, further aggravating his already parentally-exhausted mother) but it's just not the same around here without him.  There were some things I was able to do easier while he was gone, but overall, I missed having him with me for the holiday.  As he sits beside me on the couch playing Star Wars on the PS2, all feels right again with the world (even if he did cause further complications during the pick up in Ohio today due again, to the oversight of key details).

3.  For living here in Michigan.  Yes, I hate the winter and it's certainly upon us, but I was able to spend Thanksgiving at my sister's, and then again, most of the day Friday vegging (well, I vegged, my sister never vegges) on Friday and I'll be back out there a couple times this week to celebrate birthdays.  It's really wonderful to see them more often than ONLY at the holidays.

4.  For the rest of my family that isn't here in Michigan.  My dad and brother, with full bellies and generous spirits, they spent a chunk of their Thanksgiving day laying out a plan of attack for MY Black Friday shopping.  

5.  That TB introduced us to such a wonderful, loving church this summer.  As I walked alone into services on Thursday, several people asked with concern where my son was and I was invited to more than one Thanksgiving dinner when they feared I was alone for the holiday.  It was a wonderful reminder of all the love and support that abounds within Christ's Church!

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!  May we learn to express gratitude every day!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Official


Gone

The computer is on vacation again. More accurately, LM is and he's taking this ancient technology with him. Which leaves me stranded for five days without internet and to boot, we have no television.

Did I mention I finished my book?

And that my Christmas shopping is nearly done?

My cards are on the table, addressed, written, stamped and ready to mail?



Yeah, it's going to be a long five days.

Once, This Summer

This summer I fell in love. With an idea. With a family. With being loved and appreciated and feeling like a mom again.

And there was this guy. And I thought, Wow. He has so much going for him. A great job that he's worked so hard to acquire and accomplish. Great kids, supportive family.

But he didn't see it that way. He felt tired, and bogged down. He felt like giving up and giving in. He complained about his ex, about his life, about his situation.

And finally I stopped seeing the great guy because all I could see was this pessimist.

But even now, if you catch me in a moment, maybe after a glass of wine, maybe on a lonely Thursday night, I might still see a glimpse of that great guy. The one I never really met, but the one I knew was out there. I wanted a strong Christian. He said he was both, I saw neither.
And so I sit at home deflated wishing I could meet that great guy. The one I thought existed, but the one that never surfaced.

There's one that wants to see me sometimes, but he can't make a decision, can't hold his own head up, doesn't see his worth and has to force a smile. He's not the one for me.

But once, this summer, I thought he was.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Done

I told LM I would only need the computer for an hour.  My estimate wasn't even close.  Perhaps he gets his writing ability from his mother after all.  

It took me four hours but I finally finished it.  52,897 words.

I raced over to the NaNoWriMo website to upload my novel.  I'm not one to upload as I go, I don't need a bar graph to show me my progress, I nag at myself every day.  But when I uploaded my novel in it's entirety (well, this year's half anyway) nothing happened.  There was no "Congratulations!" screen.  There was no confetti.  There was no cheering from the peanut gallery.

It would seem I finished too early.  The verifications and winning don't start until the 25th.  I finished my novel too early.

I have to say, that even without any fanfare, even if my son, my biggest fan, is still playing his PS2 game, completely unfazed by the fact that his mother just completed her first novel (see, now I have to start putting the word 'first' in there) I still feel different.

As I was explaining to LM earlier, I am able to scratch off one of those "things to do before I die" items.  And I've never done that before.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Waiting On a Woman

It's a great Brad Paisley song if you haven't heard it.  About an old man talking with a younger man about how he's always 'waiting on a woman'.  It's just cool and sweet and all things wonderful and I was humming it when I entered the mall and made a beeline for the bathroom.

When I emerged, there he sat.  Just like the song said, sitting on a bench in a mall.  And I wondered,  could it be?

Was it really him?

Waiting on the Missus?


He wasn't wearing his coat but there was no mistaking it.  Mr. Claus himself was sitting on a bench outside the restrooms.  I would have liked to have waited around to see if the Missus came out, but I had shopping to do.  But it sure made me smile.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Book

I crossed the 40,000 word mark tonight.  It's really the 90,000 word mark for the book in total, and I'm starting to shift towards the ending.  It may take me more than 10,000 more words to get to the ending, but it's nearing.  I can feel it.

It's been a journey unlike any other this year.  My characters have surprised me and I thought I owned them.   The story has made me laugh, cry and shudder with complete disbelief that I can, in fact write thousands upon thousands of pages of complete drivel.

I'm not there yet.  I have eleven more days and about as many thousand words to go.  But it's coming.  I can feel it.  My characters can, too.   Things are about to resolve in the way that made sense all along but wasn't the initial path chosen.  Oooh how I can relate.

In any case, I have to say I have not done many things in my life that left me with a feeling such as the one that I'm beginning to possess.  I'm actually about to finish the first draft of my first novel.  

When I was little, I remember my mother saying I was going to be one of three things: a teacher, a lawyer, or a writer.   Somehow it does my heart good to think she was right on the two counts I agree with.  (Although there are days I think this parenting thing really is lawyering.  Ahem.)

Even if this book is nothing more than kindling for the fire, I will be able to say I did it once.

And that is all that matters.

And I can cross that off my list of things to do before Heaven.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

For Want of a Good Man

I went out last night.  No, I didn't make a sale on eBay, LM was at a youth group overnighter at church and I took advantage of the time.

I learned many things in the course of one evening.  I thought I would share a few.

1.  Even when you tried to think as yourself and strictly a single woman, even when you chose clothes from your closet that you don't wear to church or to school, even when you adorn yourself in otherwise unused jewelry and make up, you can be rudely yanked back into the role of parent when your child calls you at the bar to say he forgot something he needed from you and could you please drive back across town to remedy the situation?

2.  It's an entirely different experience, this going out thing, when you are accompanied by a very beautiful woman.  I don't know if she entirely sees the difference (because she just lives it) but it was really fascinating to witness.  While it has it's obvious perks, I do not envy her.

3.  You can get a man to buy you a drink with four coins and a cute smile.  I watched it happen.  More than once.  I suspect, if I had been forced to try it, I would have been more impressed with a man who wasn't outwitted so easily than the one forced to buy the drink.  I didn't see that happen, unfortunately.  

4.  Stoli, while the cheap drink special, will never be my drink of choice.

5.  It is very easy to "rule a guy out" when he follows up the disclosure that I work in an elementary school with a response that corporal punishment should never have been taken out of the public school system.  I was grateful (and I hoped this help to explain his position) to learn that he was not a parent.

6.  I will never understand the desire of those who regularly go out, to bar hop.  I completely enjoyed the first place we were at.  As well as the second, certainly the third, and of course the fourth.  I just didn't know why we needed to cover all that ground in one night.  But I did quickly realize it's the thing to do, as I saw the same people at all four places.  I'm not sure who was leading and who was following but in any case, we were all there together.

7.  A warm coat is critical when bar hopping will be in effect, but it's completely impractical once you are inside.  It's as much of a burden as a pocketbook.  

8.  There is nothing impressive about a man who tries to win you over by showing you pictures of his 7 year old son, only to refer to this beautiful child as "my nigga!!!" with great enthusiasm and passion.

9.  I will never be able to drink AND play pool.  I am getting too old to keep trying.

10.  The song "Ice Ice Baby" needs to die. It needs to never be played again.  Ever.

11.  It is critically important to inform foreigners at a bar of an 80's convention being held locally for fear they would report back to their nation our country's complete lack of fashion sense.

12.  Never underestimate the power of music.  If you begin to doubt, go to a piano bar and watch the unanimous and simultaneous reaction to songs like "Purple Rain," "Jack and Diane," or "Don't Stop Believin'"

13.  Even if you spent an hour getting ready for the evening, when it comes down to it, at 1am, all you really want is to put your hair in a pony and to borrow a baseball cap.  And sometimes a boy will be just kind enough to lend one to you.

14.  It will never cease to amaze me that we women still spend hours getting ready to go out, to be surrounded by men very happily (and comfortably) adorned in jeans, sneakers and baseball caps.

15.  Getting kissed at the end of a night out can be divine.  But sometimes, not getting kissed by the wrong guy can be divine, too.

16.  I am not the sort of person to ever buy a dress or an outfit and then plan an event around it.  But I can now officially say I know someone who would.

17.  You know you are too old to come in at 2:15 in the morning when it is your pre-teen son's alarm clock going off at 5:45 that wakes you up.

18.  Even if you had a great night out, even if the food was amazing and the company was fun and you pulled it off without breaking your budget.  Even if it all went well and you have no complaints, in the morning, when you wake up and realize you're back to your parenting role again, you will welcome it with open arms and a glad heart.

19.  People who think dating is fun haven't done it very long.  Or met the right person early on in the game.

20.  Above all else, I know this much to be true:  meeting a man at a bar (or online) is not the start of the love story I want to write for myself.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sad

It's sad when you have a laptop so old that despite having the perfect opportunity to sit at Panera's for a couple of hours and work on your novel (I'm just dying for someone to ask me so I can give that honest answer) the laptop takes a full 40 minutes to boot, and has no battery to speak of making it impossible to set up and run.

It's really sad when you (instead) schlepp yourself to the public library in town (while your son is at youth group doing something as altruistic as raking wet leaves in the pitch dark) to try to beckon the creative muses in your life to get another thousand words squeaked out by tomorrow.

It's really really sad when you cannot concentrate on your novel (again, I just like to say that) because the woman in the cubicle next to you at the library is too busy talking on her cell phone.  You now know all of her grades (all A's, except one F), that her mother does NOT want her walking to the bank alone and all the things she had to say to someone who seemed to be a best friend.  And it's only after she has been talking for a half hour that the library attendant decides to speak with her about their "minimal use" cell phone policy.

It's the saddest of all, however, when, sitting in this very public place, in the antithesis of a safe, intimate environment, you find yourself crying - CRYING - at the words YOU ARE WRITING in your novel (again, I just...well, you get it).  Yes, I knew that part of the plot was coming, I've clearly known it all along.  I just didn't know how it would feel.  And now I do.  And I think, it's very very sad.

Me AND the plot.  We're both very very sad.

Monday, November 10, 2008

For Those Who Wondered

If a 12 year old still resides at my address, the answer is yes.  If you're wondering if he'll see the light of day anytime soon, the answer is probably a no.  If you asked if the lessons had been learned and progress was being shown, the answer would be a resounding no.

Even tonight, when he had editing to finish for the 3 page essay that has taken nearly 20 hours to write, he still chose to do other fun things before getting down to task.  And when I bailed him out from hours of retyping (ancient computer lacking normal Microsoft Office products = a finicky computer that won't always open your document leaving fast-typing mothers to offer to retype the paper from the hard copy so edits can be made and the paper can be reprinted in this century) I realized the essay?  Is horrible.

Sigh.

Do you think I could get any sort of  a deal for a boy and two cats on eBay?  

It Happened

The sky has turned to grey.  The temperatures have dropped.  The dew on my windshield has frozen.  And I woke the other morning to snow on the ground.

My mood has sunk.

My spirits have plummeted.

140 days until Spring.


Until then, I'll be under my down comforter in my bed.  Disturb at your own risk.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

For Sale: 12 year old - CHEAP

He's been in trouble for awhile.  The past two months without exception, he has spent most of the weekend working on homework.  And by 'most' I mean, for example, eight hours on Sunday.  Which means none of the weekend was spent doing something fun with his mother.  Which means his mother did nothing that was considered fun.

He was grounded a week ago.  Could not go to bonfire night.  Missed out.  Even had reading for pleasure taken away to make sure the grounding was severe enough to fit the crime.

This week he still proceeded to procrastinate.  He wasn't forthcoming about things and he spent 8 hours, let me repeat that, EIGHT HOURS working on an essay to have a sum total of 77, let me repeat THAT, SEVENTY-SEVEN words.  Total.  

There has been much yelling by his mother.  I was peeved to say the least.  Two months of my life I have spent my weekends waiting for him to finish his homework so we could play a game, go for a walk, see a movie, DO ANYTHING and here I still sit.  Regretting every single moment that I signed him up for this blasted gifted class.  Although I know it's not that he has too much homework, he doesn't have any more than any other average 7th grader, he just doesn't do it until the last minute and even then, he'll spend hours and hours and hours and hours what should take 20 minutes to complete.  He will not complain about it.  He's not upset.  He won't grumble or complain or whine.  He'll just spend the entire weekend in his room with me checking in periodically, HOPEFULLY, to only find that he is still stuck, or he's still on page one, or he still isn't sure where to find the quote he's looking for.  

Tonight he had a birthday party to go to.  An overnight party.  And while he did not for one single minute deserve to go, I let him.  I forced him.  For two reasons:  One, of the five boys attending, I know of four and they are good, smart kids.  Kids I want LM hanging around with.  Kids I want him socializing with.  And since LM never invites friends over, never has friends spend the night and rarely gets invited over, I wanted him to go.  It was a big deal to me.  And two (and frankly even more importantly) I promised Birdy we would do Girl's Night tonight and I wasn't about to let LM's procrastination ruin a fun night out with my niece.

So, Birdy was dropped off and we took LM to his party.  And as we searching for the right house, I see another car pull up to the drive and figure we must be in the right spot.  Until I realize the person walking to the door of the house is a girl.  And I say to LM, "well, maybe this isn't the right place, that's a girl."  And LM says, "That's Jordan.  Girls were invited, too.  They are only staying until 9."

MIGHT THIS NOT HAVE BEEN USEFUL INFORMATION TO TELL YOUR MOTHER?!?

And perhaps more importantly, might this not have been useful information TO PUT ON THE INVITATION?!?!

These are 7th graders.  And this is the first boy/girl party LM has ever been to (well, ya know, except for cousins and classmates when he was like...TWO)

So, on top of all the homework issues.  On top of being the King of Procrastination for the past nine weeks, on top of using the computer for eight hours over the past three days (when your mother would really like to be typing her NOVEL) only to have 77 words to show for it, on top of all of this, he knew there would be girls at a party and he didn't share this information with his mother.  Uh huh.

It's a darn good thing that when I pick him up in the morning we are headed straight to church, because let me tell you, that boy has a death wish and he might not survive the day.

Want to bet the sermon tomorrow will be on patience?!?!

(On a good note, Birdy and I had a fantastic night out and it was wonderful to spend time together!!  I am thankful that someone out there wants to spend time doing fun things with me on the weekend!)

It's Snowing

And I have not one nice thing to say about that.

How much longer until Spring?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Taking Down the Barriers

A well-meaning friend of mine who knows I'm at wits end with the cat blockade in this household, (for those of you unaware, here's the really fast recap:  friend dies, two cats taken to a permanent home, doesn't work out, I offer to help if I can, end up the permanent fix according to everyone but ME, now stuck with two cats when at most I would want one...two cats have been shut in my bedroom for the past, oh, seven weeks...yeah, life is good!!!)  Anyway, this dear friend who OWES ME BIG TIME suggested that we just open the doors and let the dog and my cat and the two new cats duke it out in the hallway.

Well, with little other option (I've called all rescues, they are full; I put an ad in the paper, a really good, really SAD ad, and got NOTHING, and I've emailed all the schools one last time and used the guilt card, but NOTHING) I decided I was tired of living with closed doors and pets that can't get along and well, it's just a hassle.  I don't have that much space to being with.

So I came home tonight and told LM to take the dog for a walk and while he was out, I put the cat food all in one central location where the dog can't get it and I OPENED ALL THE DOORS.

And then we waited.

Well, it took Eli (dog) about 2.2 seconds to figure out the doors were opened and he went running in to investigate.  Gabby, in all his 20 pound glory was laying on LM's bed and was now a bit PISSED that there was a dog.

There was a lot of growling (by the cat) and then hissing (again, the cat) and the dog tried to go into the room and backed out and went in and back out and repeat and rinse, and well, the dog finally came out to the living room and we gave him a bone and we're hoping that maybe Gabsters hid.  

I had a glass of wine before I did all this but now I'm thinking maybe Gabby should have had the glass of wine.

I'll keep you posted.  If I'm alive to tell the tale.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Absenteeism

I realize I just threw a whole bunch of new posts atcha.  Our internet has been down all week and was just restored today (seems when you cancel your cable television at the beginning of the summer, and they come back to disconnect it in August, they might just come back in late October and think you need your internet disconnected, too.  Despite the fact that you're still paying the bill.)

But I think I'm all caught up now.

Which is good.  Because it's 3 o'clock on November 1st and I have written exactly ZERO words for my NaNoWriMo novel.  

And LM needs the computer for something as tiresome as homework.  Unfathomable.

All this is simply to say if you don't see another blog post for awhile, it's okay.  I promise I am all right.  I'm just writing.  And if all goes well, when I finish NaNo this year (and I WILL finish) I will have written a full length adult novel.  My goal is to finish the novel I started last year making a book of 100,000 words or more, and something with a plot that opens, develops and even wraps itself up.  Imagine that.   Wish me luck.

(And please, send chocolate!!)

Sorrow

I will admit, while the day had its blissful moments, I did find Halloween at school to be very difficult.  It was the party atmosphere.  Parents all over the building, the talk of snacks and treats and classroom parties in the afternoon.  It was all too familiar.  It reminded me too much of Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day when I subbed in Pam's room.  When I didn't have any parent helpers until it was too late.  When I had more treats than the class could surely eat, including a deep dish apple pie.  Valentine's Day.  The party Pam joked about with me for months afterwards.  She would leave me pixie sticks on my desk when I subbed.  She would leave a hostess apple pie in my teacher's bag.  And she would always joke about being absent on the holidays so I could deal with the chaos as a sub.

I had kept it all tucked inside most of the day.  The ache was present, ever-present.  Her absence was tangible to me, but I kept it in check.  Turn a corner and a child will be hugging your knees.  Enter a classroom and hear the giggles and forget.

But I was in George's room when it overtook me.  The kids had bags of treats to take home.  Several had pulled them out of their cubbies and had opened them up to inventory the contents.  I was fine.  I was really fine.  Until Michael pulled out a pixie stick.  

I left the room.  I walked through the long, quiet hallways, void of all students and parents.  I went down to Sue's room where she sat by herself checking her email.  She knew from the look on my face.  She said, "I'm hiding out here today.  Usually I'm in Pam's room helping with her party but today....I just couldn't face it all today."

We understood each other.  I didn't have to say anything more than pixie sticks and Sue knew.  She had heard us joke about it.  She had been there when Pam slipped one in my pocketbook.  She knew.

Sue offered a hug, but a hug would have unleashed the tears that I was barely containing.  She understood my refusal, too.  We smiled at each other and I walked back through the halls, wishing above all wishes that I could turn the corner and see Pam's smiling face.  

Holiday Obligations

I don't think you can work in an elementary school and not participate in Halloween.  I mean, there are those who did, but even those of us who loathe the holiday and have avoided any celebration thereof for years feel a sort of sense of obligation to indulge in this environment.  I did not follow the tradition of most of the staff and dress as a witch, however.  I did stick to my morals and choose a storybook character as my inspiration.

I had been leaning towards Pippi Longstocking if you recall, but very few of the students would even know who that is (our building is K-2).  I decided instead to be Ms. Frizzle, the teacher from the Magic School Bus books and movies.

The idea seemed simple enough.  Last Saturday I headed out to get fabric to make a skirt.  (I should note here that my sister, ever the eldest, was shopping with me and commented that I kind of left this until the last minute.  Ever the middle child, I thought 6 days was FAR from the last minute and that I had PLENTY of time.  I hate to think what my brother, the youngest might have said!)  The skirt was key to the costume.  Ms. Frizzle always has a dress on that is related to the topic and so it's usually crazy and wild.  Jules and I weren't in the fabric department 30 seconds when we found the right material.  Bright yellow with cute insects all over it.  Perfect, indeed.  When asked at the fabric counter what I was going to use it for, the reply of a Ms. Frizzle costume was met with a nod of understanding.  Yes, perfect.


Jules helped me sew the skirt.  Neither of us sew, really.  Curtains, yes.  But following a pattern?  Not something either of us have done for a number of years.  Perhaps a decade or more.  But we were successful.  We didn't even argue or kill each other.  Mom was smiling down on us, we're certain.  (Jules wanted to call Dad and bet him $100 he couldn't guess what we were doing at the moment.  She could have offered $10,000, no one would guess we would ever SEW together!)

The early part of this week was then spent transforming two cardboard boxes and a wagon into a school bus.  LM was skeptical but then amazed with the results.  Apparently it's been awhile since he has seen his mother's creativity in action.



Wednesday and Thursday we spent on the little pieces that perfected the costume.  Ladybugs on my shoes. 



The right tights, the right hair style.  We asked LM's dad to ship his Liz stuffed animal from PA for the occasion and Birdy lent me ladybug earrings.  



And Friday, when I arrived at school, I was an instant hit.  The students at breakfast were delighted with a visit from Ms. Frizzle.  They all knew immediately who I was.  By mid-morning, teachers were stopping by my classroom to see if the rumors were true.  It wasn't just the costume, it was the completeness of it, they said.  The fact that I even had the BUS.  



The parade was at 2 and as I walked around with my favorite second grade class (which just happens to be George's class) the older elementary kids were singing the Magic School Bus theme song.  It was cute.


I wouldn't say the experience has changed my mind any about the holiday.  I still don't like children dressing up as witches and skeletons and vampires.  And I certainly don't like the idea of our children going door to door to get candy from strangers.  But I loved the enthusiasm of the students.  I loved how tickled they were that I had a lizard on my shoulder.  Or the questions that came from the Kinders, "But what is IN the bus, Miss Wilson?"  

The bus will be wrapped and stored in my sister's barn.  I'll be Ms. Frizzle for a number of years now, I'm certain.  There's no reason to try to outdo the effort we accomplished this year.  Thanks, Jules, for your help.  For making sure I had the fabric facing the right direction, for keeping me from sewing the wrong seams first and for helping me fix my errors when my brain just didn't focus.  Thanks, also, for letting me borrow your wagon.  It made the bus possible.



And a special thanks to LM.  My Magic School Bus expert.  He read the books over and over when he was younger and was the first one to tell me things about my costume that needed revision or elimination.  He was the first one, too, to tell me how awesome it all was.  

For My Dad


Because I'm not sure if he's ever seen it happen...
(I know the car is in drive, but I was stopped at a stop light, so I promise, it was safe to take a picture)

In honor of the occasion, I took gave the car a bath and vacuumed it all out.  I even put Armorall on the dash and washed the inside of all the windows.  
George will still be amazed that the bird poop is STILL stuck on my back window.  It's been there for several months and nothing seems able to get it off.
George is convinced the bird ate a concoction of peanut butter, syrup and super glue to create such durable, indelible poop.

The Very Stealthy Cricket

I was in my classroom last week when I sensed movement out of the corner of my eye.  I was scared to look, it was something on the floor and that is never, NEVER good.  

A cricket.

I should pause here and say, I have this thing about bugs.  Especially jumping bugs.  I am convinced that the snake is not the most feared animal, but really the grasshopper is.  They jump in unpredictable ways.  They sort of fly, but not really.  And walking innocently through the yard you could rouse one up and it could LAND.ON.YOU. Snakes just slither away.  A grasshopper will someday be the death of me.

And so the cricket.  Grasshopper's wild little brother.

In my classroom, far too near my desk for comfort.

I scoot my desk chair back and contemplate my options.

My usual course of action, my weapon of choice - the vacuum - is not available to me in my classroom.  I'm not even sure how to think of Plan B with this hopping, jumping, leaping little demon at my feet.

I scramble.

I head to the door and walk across the hall trying to regulate my breathing.   There is a sub in the room and she is lining the students up to go somewhere.  I calmly ask if I may borrow George for a moment.  

Ever excited to have a mission, George eagerly follows me to my classroom.  When we arrive at the scene, I point to the cricket and say, "He's got to go."

George is thrilled!  A cricket!  In the classroom!!  I had him a tissue, reminding him of his nephewly duties.  He tosses the tissue over the cricket.  The possessed insect just leaps out from under it.  This happens over and over, each time George giggles a little more and I move further and further way.

Then I hear the most dreaded words of all.  "I can't find him."

WHAT?!!

I explain to George that it is NOT ACCEPTABLE to have a cricket LOST somewhere in the vicinity of my desk.  He is looking around and under the desk.  I am too, but from a very safe distance, say, perhaps 20 feet.

And then relief, George spies the black intruder by the table!  I suggest he perhaps step on it just lightly to stun in and then he might be able to grab it with the tissue.  I don't want to encourage a complete squishing because I know, crickets crunch and I might never recover from that sound even if it doesn't happen beneath my feet.

George thinks this is a marvelous idea and lightly treads upon the unsuspecting bug.  "Oh, that's awesome!" he declares.  "I can see guts!!"

I ask him as calmly as I can if he would now remove the bug and go flush it down the toilet.  He picks up the remains of the cricket in his tissue and heads off to the bathroom in the hall.  I remind him to head on off to library then.

George is officially my hero.

P.S.  A couple of days later I asked if I could borrow George for a moment.  I needed him to run to the office for me to get something while I had class.  The first words out of his mouth were, "What?  Are you scared of another little cricket?!"  

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reading

I've been reading, I just haven't been posting about what I've read.  I added a few of my latest reads on my list to the right, but I've already forgotten some of the titles I read this summer.  

I won't do a review for each, I've found I'd rather just move on to my next waiting book than to write about what I've read (reminds me of school) but I will say this:  I enjoyed "Eat, Pray, Love" even though I don't agree with everything she has to say.  And I really enjoyed "Edgar Sawtelle" although if you're not that into dogs or the human spirit, then perhaps this book is not for you.  As for Nicholas Sparks, all I can say is that his writing has been very disappointing to me lately.  I doubt I will reach for his next novel nearly so quickly and I will wait for someone to tell me it's as great as "The Notebook" before I plunge in.  

Now then, I have five days until I'm back to my own novel writing and until then, I still have some unread books on my nightstand.  

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Eight

He pulled out his homework the moment he got to the house.  "You don't have to do that today, you know."  

"I know."

And he proceeded to do it anyway.  He showed me his classroom newsletter, his Spirit Wear order form and then put them back in his backpack.  I signed his finished homework and he put that away, too.

We had nachos for dinner.  His choice.  And ice cream later for a snack.  He watched Iron Man in the living room with LM and would wander into my bedroom to tell me parts of the movie from time to time.  "Is it over already?" I asked.  

"No.  I just wanted to come see what you were doing."

Asleep around 10, snuggled up on the couch, the dog and the cat both watched over him.

I woke around 6 with a knock on my door.  He had a bloody nose.  He came and laid on my bed and we talked for awhile while we waited for it to stop.  When he left, I heard him sneeze out in the hallway and he peeked his dimpled face back in my door and said, "it started again" and we both laughed.  

This time he came and snuggled under the covers beside me.  I watched him sleep for awhie and then tiptoed out of the room so he could rest.  

I'm not sure at all how eight years have come and gone so quickly, but I will treasure the simple joy of making sweet birthday morning memories together.  

Happy Birthday my sweet little nephew, George.  A Happy Birthday indeed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sick and Tired

Anyone who knows me IRL (in real life) knows that I've been sick.  For awhile.  What?!  Six weeks is too 'awhile'.  Ahem.  

I stayed home on Monday against my better judgement to try to get some extra rest as I had not slept well (coughing) and facing the little wildabeasts that gave me these germs in the first place seemed like unfair torture.  

And Monday they spent the day patching and paving the part of the parking lot right outside my patio door.  

No rest for me.

I went back to work Tuesday, not feeling a lick better and much to the frustration of my co-workers who tried their very best to diagnose my symptoms better than I had.  "It's bronchitis" I said, armed with my WebMD knowledge and confirmation by the helpful pharmacist.  "It's viral.  I just have to wait it out."  

"It's an infection," they retorted.  "Bronchitis doesn't last this long without becoming an upper respiratory infection.  YOU need to see a DOCTOR." They proclaimed with much disdain.

And so today, with barely a lick of actual work to do or teaching to teach at school, I called in a sub and stayed home again.  This time, I vowed to go to the doctor.

Which is a bit more difficult when you are insurance-challenged.  I have insurance (stop freaking out - yes, you in the back) but barely.  When your employer doesn't provide it and you're working for, oh, not-so-very-much money, you make do with policies that will help in case your kidneys need replacing, but not so much help for seeking treatment for the common cold.  Anyway, I digress. 

I found the walk-in clinic and I trudged my butt there at 9:30 this morning, shortly after they opened.  There were three people in the waiting room.  It took an hour to get me in to the exam room.  It took another half hour for the doctor to come in and see me.

"Bronchitis."  Was his already foreshadowed verdict.  But I gave him my best sad puppy dog eyes and I may have coughed more times than were absolutely necessary while he wrote up my paperwork and he finally agreed to prescribe for me an antibiotic "just in case".  Nice fellow that he was.  

And so I waited another hour in the pharmacy for them to fill my simple antibiotic order.

And I finally returned home 3 1/2 hours after I had left with medicine in tow that I am counting on with desperate pleas to heal me.  And all I want now is a little soup and a little nap and I'll be golden.  

But as I pull into the parking lot, I notice a truck pull in behind me.  And as I sit down at the coffee table with my cup of soup, I see the distressing news unfolding.  They are back.  To apparently repatch and repave the parking lot.  Right outside my windows.  

So perhaps I will not get any rest.

But I am about to finish my book.   So it's not a day wasted at all, is it?