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.


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?


(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."


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:   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.


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?  


Saturday, December 06, 2008


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


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!!!