Monday, March 31, 2008

Other Than a Nine Year Age Difference

...I think we just found the love of LM's life.

- A three year old explains Star Wars Episode IV

In The Mail

LM came in with the mail. Always good things for him, bills for me. Today he says, "something from the SAT came."

"It can't be your scores," I replied, "it's too soon."

We both had envelopes addressed to us, with the same SAT return address. I ripped mine open faster.

Cricital Reading 580
Math 500
Writing 480

Let me translate that: In critical reading, LM scored higher than 74% of college-bound SENIORS. In math and writing, he scored higher than 45% of college-bound SENIORS. (As an aside, knowing how much he lacks for good writing skills, I think I'm suddenly VERY concerned about the writing ability of high school seniors.)

He needed a 520 in Math and a combined 900 to get in for English. I'm hoping that this is close enough to qualify!!

I think we're both still a little shell-shocked.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

There Are Things I Miss

While I don't regret the move to Michigan for a single instant (neither does the boy), there are things I miss about our home in PA.

I miss the sunshine that fell through all our windows.
I miss the open space we had, the clean, uncluttered feel to the house.
I miss having a park to walk the dog or ride bikes right around the corner.
I miss my birdfeeders on the deck.
I miss all my plants. While several survived the move, I have less than a third of what I used to have.
I miss people at our church, especially our pastor.
I miss our dishwasher that actually understood its function of cleaning.
I miss my beautiful cherry kitchen cabinets.
I miss having laundry right in my home that doesn't require quarters to operate.
I miss the sound of the R/C airplanes from the field just down the road.
I miss taking Gabe to the dog park and then for a bath.
I miss the warmer weather and the green grass, instead of snow and cold this time of year.

but today, most of all, I miss a certain picnic table at a park not an hour from home. If I were in PA today, I know that's where I would be right now, watching the sunlight on the lake, wondering about matters of the heart.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It Shouldn't be Funny, But it Was

Eli has taken to growling this funny little growl when he wants to go outside. I'm not sure why he's started doing this, we take him out just as much as we always have, but lately he seems to think we need a nudge or two. So he does this little growl thing. And it makes me laugh.

"I know I shouldn't laugh, and I shouldn't encourage him to keep doing it, but it's just that the growl is so darn cute. I can't help it."

LM, wishing I would stop indulging the dog (because he's the one that ends up taking the dog out at these times) turns to Eli and says, "Mothers. Was your mom like this?"

I couldn't help it. I started laughing.

LM asked me what was so funny.

"I shouldn't tell you. It's inappropriate."

"Tell me anyway."

"I was just thinking of Eli's response."

"Which is..."

"No, dude. My mom was a bitch."

LM fell off the couch he was laughing so hard.

(Please send all mail to Miss Eliza Jane c/o Satan, P.O. Box Burning In Hell...)

Does NASA Know This?

"My high of the day, or one of them, is that I got to see the space shuttle."

"You saw the space shuttle today? Did I miss the permission slip for the field trip to Cape Canaveral?"

"No. On our way home from school today, Mr. D (bus driver) pointed it out in the sky."

"You saw the Endeavor flying across the Michigan sky?!"

"Yeah! It was really cool!"

"LM, tell me, how did you know it was the shuttle you were looking at?"

"Well, cause it was too bright to be a star, and it was moving far too quickly to be a plane."

"So it just had to be the shuttle? You don't think that maybe it might be difficult to see the shuttle from the ground?"

"Mom. It was landing. We didn't see it out in space, we saw it as it was landing."

"It was landing in Michigan?! LM, I think the shuttle usually lands in Texas, it doesn't come down over land."

"I know, Mom. "

"So you think the Endeavor came across Michigan on it's way to Texas to land."


A few clicks on the computer later -

"Hey, LM? The NASA website shows pictures of the Endeavor today!"

"Oh yeah? Of the landing?"

"No, of their fourth space walk mission. Seems they must have made a really quick landing today if they had time for a space walk before their detour over the great lakes."


Two disappointments in one day. The poor, poor kid.

Interpreting the Scores

"Are you serious?!" was LM's reaction when I handed him his test scores. He looked up at me with a shocked but excited look on his face. I was a little puzzled by his reaction - his previous scores on the Pennsylvania Standardized tests were actually higher than these.

"I scored in the 600's?!?" he shouted excitedly.

"Yes," I replied, still uncertain what all the excitement is about. I mean, the scores are good, advanced in most cases, but they aren't off the charts or anything.

"So I qualify?!"

Ah, the lightbulb moment.

Gingerly I broke the news. "No, LM. These aren't your SAT scores, we don't have those yet. These are your MEAP (Michigan Standardized Test) scores."


The poor kid.

It Tastes Like What?

George does really well when I sub in his classroom. He calls me Miss Jane like all the kids do. He doesn't act out or act like he knows me outside of class. And if it weren't for the fact that I drive him home everyday, the kids might not even realize we were related - well, this is the class that didn't realize they had triplets in the room until it was pointed out to them.

Days when I am in George's room are particularly fun sub days for me. His teacher is very organized and a fantastic teacher so her plans are always well organized and thorough. Her class if full of fantastic kids. Sure, there are a couple that I have to keep my eye on, but they are a truly delightful group of personalities.

Today we had a math assignment that involved counting, sorting and graphing jelly beans. The teacher felt particularly bad about leaving me such a task (handfuls of jelly beans and 20 first graders, she must have heard about Valentine's Day) but I assured her it wouldn't be a problem. And it wasn't. The kids followed directions well and stayed on task. They were really quite good about it all.

But there was a point later in the day when I was allowing the kids to eat their jelly beans as we progressed through a particularly tedious book assembly project, when I just had to stop and laugh out loud.

It was George's voice that reached my ears. He said, "Miss Jane? I think these green jelly beans taste just like Pizza Hut!"

I'm not sure even Jelly Bellies have that flavor, George.

(For the sake of argument, when it was time for everyone to eat another jelly bean, most kids chose out of curiosity to try a green one. We took a vote; half the class thought it tasted like lime. Half agreed with George and thought it tasted remarkably like Pizza Hut.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Yep, I think That's It Exactly

LM was commenting on the directed audience for a particularly annoying commercial.

"Who do they think is watching this show?"

I replied, "Moms and losers," laughing to make sure he got the joke.

LM replied, "I was thinking more like, losers and their moms."

Wherever you are, I'm pretty sure you heard the smack when he hit himself in the head for that one.

No Relation

My sister is going to Mexico. She and Bear are joining my dad and second mom for vacation in Mexico next week.

My dad has apparently reminded my sister on a couple of occasions that she will need to bring her own reading materials. I'm not sure if there's an anti-sharing policy in place south of the border or if there's just a high demand between my dad and second mom for the books they bring, or perhaps there is some sort of regulation that you can only bring in TWO books no matter how long you intend to stay, but my dad seems to think it's of rather critical importance that my sister not forget to bring her own books.

Only my sister doesn't read.

I don't mean she can't, or that she hasn't, or even that in a pinch, she wouldn't. She just doesn't. For as much as I read, my sister is balancing out the universe by refusing to even look in the direction of a book. She thought Barnes and Nobles was a law firm on TV. (I jest.)

Anyhow, it has been no small bit of amusement to me that my dad keeps bringing this up to my sister -to the one that doesn't read. She has apparently shared with him that she doesn't seem to think she will have any use for a book, so not to worry. But still, he is concerned.

Today, when we were chuckling about it my sister said that she MIGHT pick up a book at the airport, but she certainly wasn't going to go out and buy books ahead of time for the trip. I said I couldn't even think of what sort of a book she would read or I'd offer her any of mine to take.

She said, "Oh, I know of a book I'd like to read, I'm just not sure I'll be buying it to take to Mexico."

I stared in disbelief. "You? You know of a book you'd LIKE to read?"


And before I could even make a crack about a certain financial guru that she's obsessed with and how it must be his autobiography or his latest decree on how to make a million with only a penny and a pack of gum (oh, I kid. It's not like he's a complete whack job.), she says, "Dave Ramsey recommended it, but it's not about finances. It's about fathers raising daughters."

Now, pause with me to consider just how Type A my sister really is. She not only cannot possibly imagine the idea of reading while on the beach in Mexico, she cannot fathom planning ahead of time for some relaxing novels to have along, but even if she were pushed into reading a book, it would darn well NOT be for silly pleasure, nor would it, apparently, have anything to do with her. Instead, she would like to spend her rare book-reading time about how BEAR's relationship should be with Bird. As recommended by the financial dude on the radio.

I said, when I could smother my laughter, "You just can't read a book just to read a book, can you?"

"Heck no! I have no interest in reading about other people's stories!"

Nope, we're not sisters. No relation at all that I can tell.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Thirteenth Tale - Setterfield

Oh, to have written a book such as this! To have created such an incredible twisting, turning, captivating novel that when it was finished, readers flippe back to the first page and began the journey all over again.

"The Thirteenth Tale" has restored my faith in readers. I was beginning to think any novel with "National Bestseller" emblazoned on the cover was something to fear. Setterfield deserves every accolade, every morsel of praise for this provocative, spellbinding, enchanting tale.

I will tell you nothing more of it. I will only caution you: open and commence only when the rest of your life can be put on hold.

The Emperor's Children - Messud

I actually finished this book (reluctantly) a couple of weeks ago, but was never motivated to write a review. Suffice it to say I did not enjoy this book and did not find myself drawn in to the characters or the plot at all. I tried. I really did try, but there was nothing about the people or their circumstances that made me want to find out more. The book is primarily about three friends in their 30's in New York City. What I found it to be, however, was a depressing tale of people who seemed to lack ambition, standards and compassion. Perhaps my disinterest in the book stemmed from my lack of connections to the characters and their self-inflicted plight.

In any case, many of the critics strongly disagree with me, so take my review for what you will but my recommendation is that you leave this book where it belongs: on the shelf, unread.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

When Moms Malfunction

"LM, what happened to the two potatoes I bought yesterday? I don't see them in the fridge."

"They should be in the crisper drawaer, Mom."

"I know, but they aren't there, and I don't see them in the fridge anywhere."

"Maybe they are still in the car?"

"Why would they still be in the car, we only had one bag at the store? They should have been brought in."

"I know, but maybe they fell out. I'll go check."

"Nope, they aren't in the car."

"Well, LM, I've looked in the fridge three times, where else could they be?"

"I don't know, Mom."

"I remember buying them. I can remember putting them on the scanner and typing in the produce code. I think it was 4072."

"It was 4072. I remember you doing that."

"Well, if I bought them, where could they be?"

"I don't know, Mom."

"I remember putting them in the bag, on top, and we only had the one bag, and all the grocery bags are back in the car, so it can't still be in a bag somewhere. I just don't know where they could possibly be."

"Mom. I just don't know."

"I know, LM, but sometimes when you say 'I don't know,' it turns out later you did know. I wouldn't surprise me in the least to find two potatoes in your bathroom or someplace weird."

"I know, Mom, but I really don't know where the potatoes could be. I know we ate two baked potatoes last night, but..."

"Oh, we did eat two baked potatoes last night, didn't we?"


"Yes, LM?"

"I think your brain is officially fried."

"I think so, too, LM."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Also Known As the "What Was Up With the Cake Walk" Night

LM's school had a Science and Literacy Night this evening. Living in such close approximation to my sister, she felt an obligation to attend (or perhaps Bear just wanted to see what kind of a grade he LM, got on his marble cannon). Or maybe my sister just doesn't get out enough. Ahem. In either case, we went.

We were greeted at the door by students shoving handing us reuseable grocery bags. I thought for a moment that perhaps I had misjudged the event and it might be slightly more organized and interesting than I had imagined. Right.

We followed LM to his science room so he could drop of Bear's LM's marble cannon. The room had about 20 tri-fold first-grader sixth grader presentations on display, representing ten minutes' a month's worth of a science project for each student full of useful information grammatical horrors. On the projection screen were students mumbling giving book reports. (What the one had to do with the other, I never will know.)

LM's PowerPoint presentation was on display nowhere. We had to make room for his cannon display despite having told his teacher he would be bringing it for the evening.

We went back to the front of the building to actually attempt to go through the right procession of events for the evening, only to find there was no procession of events. They had skipped the Welcome part, dinner was being served for the next hour and there were various activities throughout the rather large building. Bear surveyed leftover school lunch dinner and suggested perhaps we think twice about eating there. The kids LM thought reheated monkey brains school spaghetti sounded delish. After a hike back to LM's locker to get the dinner tickets we didn't know were in the reuseable bags that we had shoved in his locker for the night, we jumped in line for our gruel dinner and sat down to eat without anyone ever asking us for the mandatory useless meal tickets.

While we ate, a small group of girls did some sort of stomping screaming thing rhythmic cheer thing on the stage (can someone tell me the correlation between that and Science or Literature?) We also heard the drums playing (not with the girls' performance) off in the hallway somewhere, but never did see them.

After dinner, we wandered around - not, in fact, to actually try the "interactive events for the whole family" namely Book Bingo and the Cake Walk, but to find LM's Science Teacher so we could ask some very pertinent questions about the Science Olympia this weekend that we've received NO details on to date. (Note it should be made clear that the Science Fair marble cannon and the Science Olympia trebuchet/catapult are not only not related, they are equally a pain in my butt.)

The highs of the evening would include showing LM that wintergreen Lifesavers really do spark in your mouth, and of course, the indulgent obligatory trip to DQ after a school event. The lows, while too numerous to name them all, included: A)LM's teacher telling us that the Science Olympia he's been preparing for since December is really only competitive at the ninth grade level, and while the sixth graders will take their projects, (LM's catapult) they are really nowhere good enough to actually compete in the event. B) Walking nearly ten miles back and forth between supposed "interactive activities" is always a fun way to spend a family evening together, lost in a middle school building. And certainly, 3) Talking again, with LM's math teacher and reminding him again, as I did the first time I met him, during the third week of school, that LM is ready to commit hara-kiri STILL bored in math and some truly challenging curriculum would be greatly appreciated.

I think, after this evening of learning, entertainment, chaos, ineptitude, my sister might listen to me choose to stay home the next time.

*Stacy, you're right! Strike-throughs are a sign of astute intellectual humor fun!

And the Greatest of These is Love

When you feel badly for forgetting your coat when you visited out of state, and you have to tuck your tail between your legs and kindly, sweetly ask your friend if she might just cram it into the smallest box possible and ship it the cheapest way possible, she'll do it, but she'll stuff the pockets full of rocks just to remind you why she's such a dear friend to begin with.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Thankfully not on the SAT

While LM might have proclaimed the SAT "easier than I thought it would be" (see skeptical post), thankfully absent from the test was a pronunciation section.

Add to our list:

'municipal', pronounced, 'munickipal' as in, "Mom, how come all the muNICKipal cars have an 'x' on the license plates? Isn't it obvious which ones are police cars already?"

According to George (Again)

It is often the highlight of my day to drive Bird and George home from school. No matter how difficult my day of subbing, no matter what matters lay heavy on my mind, the ride always leave me smiling.

Earlier this week, Bird and I were discussing the rain, and how grateful we both were that it didn't fall from the sky as more snow. George quickly reminded us that we did, however still have several more weeks of winter, according to the groundhog.

"Are you telling me that you're putting your faith in a groundhog to tell you the weather?" I inquired.

"Yeah, don't you know that God controls the weather?" chimed in Bird.

"I know God controls the weather, Bird," George retorted, "But the groundhog has to tell him when to make it Spring!"

Well, duh.

Truly Blessed

For children that didn't realize they'd never met, and only knew they were close friends already.
For moments of majesty I might have missed if not for a dear friend's 'eagle eye'.

For children that made me laugh from the inside out.

And whose beauty shines in much the same way.
Seeing the intellect, the wit, the maturity that has come from the toddler I once knew

Knowing the hand their mother and father have both had in raising such amazingly beautiful children.
With the rare treat of family game night. I'll admit, I was silenced by my envy of so much laughter around one table.

With glimpses back to my own childhood.

And reminders of how grateful we should all be just to be alive.

With tea parties

filled with poetry and homemade cookies.

I have no greater blessings than these.

Stacy, there is no thank you sincere enough, no gift large enough, no hug long enough to express how grateful I am for your friendship, your hospitality, your example, and your smile. For all the blessings you've brought into my life, you have my deepest gratitude. May it not be another ten years until we are together again.

Where He Came To Be

I haven't been back in ten years but in many ways it felt like a lifetime ago that I was there. A trip back to where it all began was in some ways very painful and in other ways cathartic. Initially, he had no interest in going, didn't see how it pertained to him at all. But on the way home, he quietly, knowingly thanked me. For showing him where he came to be.
I could have gone to Eastern and saved myself eight years of student loan payments. But the minute I set foot on campus, I knew Augie was the right fit for me.
I lived all four years in the same residence hall (the building on the right). Set on perhaps the only hill in the state of Illinois, I learned quickly my freshman year that 564 stairs between me and breakfast would keep me in shape without even trying. Now, there are brand new 'dorms' (I'm allowed to say that 15 years after being an R.A.), a security system and an empty front desk (where I used to manage a staff of 20 students). But some things never change.

Men are still not allowed unescorted in the 'Virgin Vault'.

Some sights are just as beautiful as they ever were making me wonder how 15 years could go by so quickly.
The library that was built early on in my collegiate career. I avoided it at all cost, only going in long enough to photocopy whatever materials I needed so I could return to my room to study.

The snack bar where I spent many mealtimes reading my mail over a deli sandwich and Sun Chips.

When I heard about the trajedies at Virginia Tech and NIU, my mind always pictured Old Main, the building where I spent many hours in classes on religion, history, literature. The true icon of the college.

No tour of campus would be complete without standing on the now snow-covered spot where his dad and I were married. The day so memorable for so many reasons:
it was the day before graduation when we stood outside the chapel and said our vows; the people in attendance few, but significant then; the weekend marking the last time I saw my mother out of bed and full of life; a day I would look back on many times during the divorce and wonder what did I know then that might have changed the outcome.

We stood on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi, the bridge in the background, and I thought about the years that have gone by. I thought about the husband I fell in love with during a Modern Fiction class my freshman year. While I watched the eagles floating over the river, I thought about the man I married and 8 years later divorced. I knew that I could look back regretfully if I chose. But there, in between me and all those memories, walking next to me along the campus paths, shopping with me for sweatshirst in the bookstore, throwing snowballs and laughing all the way, was the one who makes regret impossible.

A few short blocks away was the townhouse we lived in for three years after we were married. It was the home LM first came home to as a newborn; the home he left when he was too young to remember it. The home I left on my fifth wedding anniversary for a new start in Pennsylvania.

No trip back memory lane would be complete without sandwiches from Arthur's. The owner is still the same, only the pictures on the walls have changed (for the better). I used to sit in a booth surrounded by the man that I loved and all our friends. Now I sat with the boy that I love and our dear friends. Some things never change.

Even the ice cream still tastes as sweet.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Perfect Sibling

I have two siblings. The elder, a sister (Jules) is a textbook eldest child. While I would never wish ill-will against her or upon her, she's had a life that followed the book and now has a good husband, two kids, a dog, a home they built with a swing on the porch and enough money in various places that Dave Ramsey himself would be proud. My younger sibling, G, is fun to be around, carefree, tied down to nothing more than his two dogs, he has made his way through life trying different paths, different jobs, different locales and has thus far come out unscathed. While Dave Ramsey might not be impressed with my brother, I suspect he might make quick friends with someone like Toby Keith.

I was sitting here this morning wondering over a lot of different things and it occured to me to think about what it might have been like to have Jesus as your older sibling. First of all, what shock Mary must have had when her second child was born. The first one had been, well, perfect, and now, she has one that gets sick, cries, throws tantrums, is selfish, lies, bites and screams for no reason at all. But as I keep my own envy in check over my sister's seemingly perfect life, I have to think that being a younger brother to Jesus might have been the worst situation a child could be in. Your mother would never stop saying, "Why can't you just be perfect like your brother?" And while Jesus could go off, wandering around the country without a job, writing home to say he's off preaching and performing miracles, but has no real source of income, no place to lay his head, no intentions to marry, there would be enormous pressure on every other child in the home to have a good job, raise a family, be a good provider.

As kids, Mary might walk into the room and see her children fighting. Asking one what happened, she might hear, "Jesus stole my toy!" only to have to reprimand her son for lying.

When you held a summer job as a teenager, your employer probably mumbled under his breath, "Jesus was the best kid we ever employed. His brother, however, leave a lot to be desired!" Even if you worked hard, you could never work perfectly. When the donkey didn't get fed, or the eggs hadn't been gathered from the chickens, you couldn't try to suggest that maybe it was Jesus' fault. You'd learn quickly that Mary would instantly know better and you'd be to blame. Again.

Women probably fell in love with Jesus, but settled for a brother thinking there must be similarities. How disappointed they must have been to realize they got the short end of the stick! "Your brother, Jesus, is sympathetic! He would have understood! How can you be so calluous?"

Even children might favor their uncle Jesus over their own fathers.

I guess, when I give it some thought, I am fortunate to have a sister to look up to, but one that I can surely say isn't perfect.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

He Says

It wasn't so bad. Wasn't as difficult as the practice tests we took. The math wasn't nearly so bad, he says. On a scale from one to ten, 10 being how hard the practice tests were, this one was a 6 or maybe a 7.

On the practice tests, his scores weren't high enough to get in to the gifted program.

But maybe, just maybe...

Dare I hope that there is an end in sight to his boredom in math class?

Dare I even think it?