Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Refocusing

It's raining and the cat puked on the sofa. There are dishes in the sink and a pile of dirty laundry on the living room floor. The house I thought I would love, I don't. The computers were down at school today so I didn't get to teach. They are going to be down again tomorrow, too. Baseball is starting and I don't have television. We're off for Spring Break next week, but that doesn't mean 'vacation' to me, it means 'I don't get paid for six days'. Flash didn't quite remember the amount of cheese he left in the freezer and now we're a little short for our pasta dish. By 'a little' I mean 'a lot'. The toilet in the neighbor's apartment directly above my bedroom ran all night long keeping me awake. I fell down my lightly frosted patio steps yesterday morning and sprained my ankle. I'm beginning to think I'm never going to get to buy new living room furniture. Flash has outgrown his twin bed, his clothes and his trumpet. The flowers in the vase on my table have died. I just got paid and I'm broke. I wasn't able to write my "Vision Statement" for Bible Study last week and I'm struggling to write my "Calling Statement" for this week. There is a questionable odor in my home and I think it might be Flash. I haven't been able to get into Scrabble on Facebook for a week now and it's my turn to play. I want to play Yahtzee or gin tonight but Flash only wants to play Galactic Civilizations. I can't find my copy of East of Eden and I loved that book. It's only Tuesday and it's already 7 o'clock. If I want to get a printed, bound copy of my Craptastic Novel I need to edit it. Again. The retirement stimulus plan stalled and now it's quite unlikely that anyone will retire early from the surrounding districts giving me an opening for a job. Someone I once cared about said some very harsh, immature things to me this weekend. Flash made a video for his broadcasting class that involves farting. I used to have nearly 50 plants in my house; I moved about 30; I'm now down to ten. We just went to the grocery store two days ago and we're already out of three things. The highlight of the evening is going to be watching MacGyver on free Netflix instant movies. Which will probably rebuffer three times while we're watching because I'm too cheap to pay for higher internet speed. Flash has a major research paper to write for gifted class which means the next few weeks of my life will be filled with agony. My kitchen sink drips. I keep forgetting our reusable bags when I'm at the store.

And yet, despite all this, I am quite happy and content and feeling really blessed lately!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

For That Which I Am Most Grateful Today

- for a brave boy who understands one of his spiritual gifts to be that of worship and has put it to action playing the trumpet for the praise team. (Even when it means leaving the house at 7:45am on a Sunday and not leaving church until 12:30!)

- for a beautiful kitty that came to us in a sorrowful way but continues to make us laugh, smile and remember Pam with such love and good memories.

- for a worship service that put into action all that we have recently learned and continues to put the challenge out in front of us to Pray Like Jesus.

- for a huge selection of beautiful, delicious produce at the grocery store. I am amazed at the options we have available. Despite being March, we can indulge in any fruit or vegetable imaginable!

- for a snowfall that I can enjoy simply by knowing it is probably our last.

- for a full tank of gas, a stocked fridge, clothes in the closet and a roof over our heads.

- for dear old friends, those who have tickled me with surprise packages this week, to those who have sent a special note or gave me a hug, you are all so dear to me.

- for dear new friends. People I have not known long and yet already feel close to. For those who pray for me, encourage me, check in on me and support me. When I reach out, there are so many arms reaching back at me to help support me and lift me up! God has placed you in my life for a reason and I am so blessed by it!

- for mentors. People to ask. People to talk to. People who can support and encourage my Christian walk. For those who help me to see the error of my ways and help me to stay on God's path.

- for the courage to say no. To walk away from that which is toxic. To be able to care so much to let go. The courage to let go and let God.

- for a gracious heart in my son. With challenges surrounding us lately, with hard words and angry tension between us, he was able to recognize his responsibility in the matter and to take ownership. He is showing me his maturity in that he has not only learned the power of an apology, but understands a sincere apology comes with restitution.

- for the blessing of house hunting. As frustrating as the process is to me, I can recognize it as a blessing from above that we are able to be in a position to buy our own home.

- for the job that I have. While I worry about summer and wonder how long until I have a classroom of my own, I can stop and thank God for the job that I have right now. For the contact with students, for the paychecks, for the comraderie.

- for the opportunities to practice Random Acts of Kindness. One of my favorite things to do is to spread joy (and God's love!) by bringing simple gifts of kindness into people's lives. This week was a week full of opportunities and I felt fortunate to be able to seize those moments and spread JOY!

- for a sister and brother (in law) who will drop everything and come running to stand in a house with me and provide me with feedback, thoughts and impressions so that I don't feel alone in my decision making this go-round.

- for answers to prayer. In the lives of my friends and family I am astounded by the ways that God is working in all of our lives!

- for perspective. For those little reminders that keep me humble and help focus my attention outside of myself. I am grateful that God reminds us that He can do "immeasureably more than we can imagine" and that His plans for us are full of hope, not of harm.

- for relaxing Sunday afternoons with my boy.

Friday, March 27, 2009

FYI

You know you should start to worry when...

...your teenager voluntarily says he'll have his laptop, ipod, cell phone, camera and all other electronic devices waiting for you on your bed when you arrive home when you've only just stumbled upon the very edge of his transgression and know not yet how deep it really goes.

Worry. Worry indeed.

(But it's all resolved. It wasn't something I suspected out of my child, but I think yet another lesson has been learned. Why must Flash learn everything the very very hard way?)

She Knows Me Too Well

A box arrived this week. I wasn't expecting anything so I assumed the box at our door was something for Flash, but my heart lept when I saw it was for me from my dear friend, Stacy! I dropped everything on the kitchen table and ran for the scissors. I opened the box to find it full of books!! I pulled out the note tucked inside, a sweet sentiment from someone who knows me well. And then I pulled out each and every book, laughing as I did because she had taken the time to write a little something on a sticky note for each and every book. A comment about the book, or about the author.

It was those cute little notes that got me. They were just cute and sweet and they are so very Stacy.

I cannot explain how it feels to have a new HUGE stack of books next to my bed waiting to be read. Nor how wonderful it is to have an open invitation to return those books whenever I'm through, but only if I do so in person. I would love to be on my way today!

Stacy, you will always be an angel in my life!

Unusually Unusual

She came into the lab with a crown on her head proclaiming her the official birthday girl. She's a doll. You couldn't take too many pictures of this Kindergartner if you were her mother. She's all full of personality, too. A little sassy, but tucked in between layers of adorable, there's no way to not fall in love with her.

"Happy Birthday!" I said as she sat at my feet on the rug. "How old are you today?"

"Well, today is not my usual birthday..." she explained with every ounce of that personality. "My usual birthday is tomorrow."

"Today is just your school birthday?" I asked with a wink to her teacher who was stifling a laugh in the back of the room.

"Yes," she replied. "Today is just my birthday at school. Tomorrow I will be six. On the usual day."

It's those unusual birthdays that will get ya every time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Go Ahead, Bookmark This Post, You'll Need It Later

when you say, "I told you so!"

I'm crazy. There is absolutely no other logical explanation. I'm just crazy.

I have spent the year griping and stressing and nagging and complaining and then what do I learn from it? Nothing. Nothing.at.all.

You know this gifted class that Flash is in? The one that my hair has gone grey over? The one that has put wrinkles around my eyes and pounds on my body? The one that has caused me to YELL, when I'm not really a yeller?

And remember how Flash took the SAT to try to get into the math portion on top of the English that he's already enrolled in?

Well, the SAT scores didn't work out very well this year. Down from last year. And we've been awaiting the "that's great, thanks for trying but no dice" letter from the gifted program that would further confirm that God does completely understand my plight and agrees that Flash has no business being in the math program.

Today I was filling out his registration form for next year. For the English program. There has been much debate at the Eliza Jane household about this enrollment. Do I want Flash in the program? Absolutely. Do I dread Flash being in the program? Absolutely. But in the past month, he has turned a corner and seems to have a much better understanding of time management and good editing. And we had a long talk (or three) about next year and my expectations and Flash still really insisted he wants to be enrolled in the program. And so I was filling out the form and sending away more of my money when I decided to call and ask about these "no dice" letters.

And I had a delightful conversation with the program coordinator, who looked at Flash's information and listened to me ask questions about her suggestions for what to do with a student who didn't quite qualify for the gifted program but has already taken 8th grade math as a 7th grader and how I am at a loss as to what to do with him next year. And then she said the words. The words I really didn't need to hear. The words that then allowed for my horrible stupidity and decision making to come into effect. She said, "If he is comfortable with the English program this year, his scores are certainly high enough that I have no problem at all recommending him for the math program next year."

Say what?

So we talked about that a little bit and she said, "If you want to enroll him in the math, just add that on your registration form and we'll get that taken care of."

And then I did it. Then I really made the dumb move.

I PUT IT ON THE REGISTRATION FORM.

And I mailed it in.


I have no real explanation. Saying that I just couldn't sit idly by while Flash wasted another year of his life being bored by his academics doesn't really explain it. Saying that I know he can handle the material even if he didn't score quite high enough on the SAT doesn't really explain it. Saying that I'm sure after the battles we've fought all year long over the English program he'll certainly try to do better next year doesn't explain it. Saying I can't stand the thought of him surrounded by some of the students at his current school for another day while his brain rots doesn't even explain it.

So I've got nothing. Other than to say I'm crazy and stupid and I'll regret this for many weeks next year.

Or maybe, just maybe, Flash will really get it. And he will not only have conquered time management, but he will also remember how to focus and direct his energies. And maybe I will watch this bright, beautiful child blossom with the opportunity to challenge his brain, and to be surrounded by peers not only as smart as he is, but - get this - smarter! Maybe it will be the right decision.

If not, feel free to just keep emailing me the link to this page next year whenever I complain and remind me that it was all my doing. I'll try to be mature enough to take the blame and admit fault. Even if I'm busy nagging, yelling, and pulling my grey hair out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Plans Gone Amok

If ever I was going to get a ticket, tonight was probably going to be the night. I had exactly 35 minutes to travel the distance from the town I work in to the town I live in (with a town in between) to pick up Flash at the college he takes a class at on Tuesdays to rush him to the dentist for a cleaning during the very-last-time-slot-we-could-take-without-me-having-to-take-time-off-work.

I was one minute late.

I dropped him at the door and rushed to my bank to have a notary sign the great piece of paper granting me these few hundred dollars only to find the notary? Had already left for the day.

So I headed back to the dentist to wait for Flash to be done with his appointment to find him WAITING IN THE WAITING ROOM. Yes, he's still not in for his appointment. And we sat and chatted for at least ten more minutes before they called him back.

After his cleaning (and the scheduling of one last dental appointment, this time to fix a chipped tooth) we drive past two houses to know if they are worth a look inside (one yes, one no) and fly home. It's Flash's night to cook, but we have a basketball game to get to. And by 'we' I mean, I have a game to DRAG Flash to. He has no interest what-so-evah in a sporting event. I'm dragging him because a) he needs to get out of the house and socialize even if it is just with his mother and b) I'm hoping the jazz band will perform and that would be good for him to hear.

I fix a very fast dinner (although not a long stretch from being healthy) and we run out the door. We arrive at the high school, follow the parking attendants to where we need to park and follow the people we see to the appropriate doors. Only they aren't the right doors, as all of these people are going to a financial seminar.

So we go back out and reevaluate and decide what doors we THINK would be gymnasium doors (although they are not labeled) and realize there is no one going in them at all. So we ask the parking attendant dude. And he has no idea.

And so we begin to realize that despite their marquee sign promoting "Quarterfinal game, Tuesday, March 24th, 7 pm, Tickets $6!" they do not actually mean to imply that they game is THERE. We call my sister who tries to find out for us, but by the time she is able to find no information at all, we are home. (As it turns out, they are playing Rockford which is significant only because it's near where I grew up and the game is held in Lansing, MI.)

So here we are. Home. Hurried, rushed, with ill-feeling stomachs from a very hurried dinner, with broken plans and a complete lack of enthusiasm.

I was really looking forward to that basketball game.

I should note, I grew up going to high school games. My dad was my high school principal but long before I was ever in high school, my family used to attend all the games, plays, activities and events held at the high school. I remember us parking in Dad's spot out front of the school, putting our coats and things in his office; always snitching a butterscotch from his candy jar and heading down the back staircases (where he had to unlock the hallway gates) to the gym. I loved those nights. I loved sitting with my mom in the stands, listening to the band. Later I would play in that band and would enjoy the games with my friends, often attending a dance afterwards. It is strange to me that Flash has never been to such an event, something that was so commonplace in my childhood.

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's About to Happen

My car is going to need serious repair.

Or maybe I'm going to find a house I love and I'll need to give them "good faith" money with my offer.

Or perhaps Flash's new glasses are about to break.

I'm not quite certain what financial need we are going to have in the next short while, I just know that we're probably going to have one.

How do I know this?

Because a number of years ago, Stacy taught me how to reframe events in my life. At the time, I had been telling her how every time money came into my life, money that I thought I could tuck away in savings, or put towards something that could use it, some emergency happened and the money went right back out the door. It was Stacy who reframed it for me and pointed out that every time I had a need, God had already provided the finances for it. I've never forgotten her words.

So how do I know that something is coming down the pike that is going to need money I don't readily have? Because today I received a notice that there are funds in my name that have been unclaimed (the letter came from my prior mortgage company). Funds in an escrow account. To the tune of a few hundred dollars. So, instead of setting my sights on something wonderful to do with this money (oh, like put it in the house fund) I know that there will probably be a need before long and I will simply transfer the funds and pay for whatever is needed.

And I will do it, remembering that it was God who put the money in my hands before he gave me a moment to worry about the need.

And I am very grateful for the reminder from Stacy that has stayed with me all these years. That helps me to see these moments of God's provision in my life and to respond to Him with a grateful heart, knowing that He always has me in His care.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Last of the Baby

He's done it before. Five times. But it's still nothing to look forward to.

Today they pulled the last of Flash's baby teeth. For a boy that's always been more of an adult than a child, his baby teeth have always stubbornly refused to leave his mouth. Today we coerced the last two to leave. The dentist was the nicest we've ever had and beautiful to boot. With an office decked out with a TV that Flash can control and decor that makes you wonder exactly what your insurance money is paying, it gave the impression he was in for a spa treatment, not an extraction of two molars.

But my boy? Refuses the laughing gas because he likes his air "unmessed-around-with" he says. So he endures the needles and the pressure and takes it like a man. And I sit in the corner and wish they would offer me the laughing gas he's refusing. Because watching seems worse than enduring to me.

And when we leave, his mouth all full of gauze, we talk about what to have for dinner, well, I talk and he gestures, finally agreeing that pancakes are soft and delish and the perfect idea for tonight. And I hand him $20 - he's never believed in a tooth fairy, but I've always been generous with gifts after legalized torture, and so we smile at each other and for a moment, on this side of the procedure, he agrees that it's not so bad afterall.

But in a little blue plastic treasure chest the size of a thimble, the dentist has just handed me what feels like the last of Flash's childhood. He'll turn 13 soon, and there's not much boyishness left to my boy.

He might not tuck the treasure chest full of teeth under his pillow tonight, but I might sneak it into my drawer to remind myself that he was once my little boy. My very brave, taller-than-me, boy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I've been discouraged.

The houses I've been looking at are okay. Just okay. They aren't cute or quaint or charming. They don't have personality or space or sunlight. They just are. Every once in awhile we see one that has a cute feature, but nothing that has a great package. Nothing that says 'home'.

Until tonight.

Tonight I walked around in a home I would be delighted to live in. From the window seat in the dining room, to the spacious hardwood floor bedrooms with cute little reading nooks. From the bay window over the kitchen sink to the front porch. This was a home for me. Flash loved it. He was already talking about where to put this or that.

But we're not buying it. It's not the price. It's actually the perfect price for us.

It's the neighborhood. It's not the worst in town, but it's not one you drive around in and admire the landscaping the neighbors have done.

And so I said no. I won't put in a bid. I'll wait.

But it's so hard to let this cute little house go. Cause it was so me. Me in the wrong place.

Monday, March 16, 2009

It Came Out of Nowhere

I was just standing in the kitchen reading my mom's recipe. I had no warning, no indication it was coming, it just happened. Afterwards, I stood in shock for several moments. I think I might have even clung to the counter for balance. I still can't believe it happened. Maybe it was all in my head. Maybe it was just a dream.

Flash hugged me.


On purpose. Without me asking. Without me hugging him first.

He just hugged me.

And to put my shock over the edge completely, he actually said, "Thank you."

I hadn't even done anything yet. All I was going to do was bake him my mom's coffee cake for breakfast this week.


And he hugged me. And said "Thank you."

I'm a little afraid to see what happens when it actually comes out of the oven.


Make a note, Eliza. Make a BIG note. FOOD is how you get through to teenagers.

When It Becomes Cool

I gave the kids their nicknames long ago and while I've always enjoyed their names, you never know if it's something they enjoy nearly so much. George has a thousand variations on his nickname and even his gym teacher at school has picked up on it and refers to him as "Jorge" - our little Mexican George.

Birdy came home with an order form to select her choice of shirt or sweatshirt for being a member of Student Council (go Birdy!) After looking at all the choices, and making her selection, my sister informed her that she had the option to put her name on the back. Birdy seemed pleased with this idea. My sister reminded her that she could put anything, really, her first name, her last name...

...to which her daughter exclaimed, "I WANT BIRDY!!!"

I guess it's safe to say she likes the nickname, huh?

When the Truth Hurts

My dad and second mom have been graciously providing room and board for my brother for the past year while he gets his feet back on the ground. While it hasn't been an easy situation, we try to keep the humor alive to keep the frustrations at bay.

This past weekend, George was telling my sister that he was never going to get married. My sister asked him who was going to cook for him and do his laundry and clean his house as it certainly wouldn't be George himself and he wasn't allowed to live with her forever. He calmly replied that he intended to live with his sister, Birdy when he was older. Within earshot of this proclamation, Birdy shouted her unwavering response of "No you are not!" from the other room. My sister looked at George and said, "I guess that option is out. Now do you think you'll get married?"

George said no, he had another idea. He would go live with his Uncle G when he got older.

Again, Birdy's voice from the other room, without missing a beat replied, "I'll let Papa know to expect two of you then!"

I'm pretty sure that one has been enough for Papa, but at least it was worth a chuckle.

Teenage Attitude

It has arrived at my sister's house as well as my own it would seem.

My sister needed to do some shopping, an outing Birdy is usually very fond of and excited about, but at the mention of the word "Kohl's" Birdy began to express her displeasure at the idea through her mastery of the teenage attitude.

When my sister had had enough of the moping and grumping about the house she inquired, "What happened to the nice Birdy that we had earlier this morning?"

The response?

"The nice Birdy is at the mall at Limited Too. If you want her, you'll have to go to the mall and get her."

Priceless. Glad it's not just at my house.

Monday, March 09, 2009

In For The Really Long Haul

I was teasing Flash tonight about a girl on his bus. She drives him crazy, which I've taken as a sign that they like each other. Flash gave me the low down on who this girl is currently dating. It's a new boy about every week and Flash has joked that she's going to run out of 7th grade boys here soon.

I asked if any of the guys in his group of friends is dating anyone. He said no. He went on to explain that his friend D thinks girls are gross. J has had a girlfriend but doesn't currently. Flash described himself in the same situation as his friend, N, "we're just, you know, us."

I asked about R. Does he have a girlfriend?

"No, I can't imagine any girl wanting to settle down with R, Mom."

Settling down? In the 7th grade? If dating means you like each other but act like you hate each other what must "settling down" mean?! (And do I even want to know?)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

It Must Be Saturday When

On my kitchen table sits:

2 old laptops with their hard drives now destroyed, ready to be donated to school

1 huge box of Bionicles ready for George

1 bag containing 2 shirts that need to be returned

2 boxes, one big, one medium, full of Star Wars vehicles, creatures, comics and the like, off to younger boys who will love them like Flash has

1 dead plant ready for the graveyard

1 overflowing bag of cans and bottles to be returned for deposit money

1 box of old bills that need to be burned

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Two pi's in a Pod

Flash's phone vibrated tonight during youth group. He thought it was just a text message until it kept vibrating. He realized it was a phone call. When he looked at his phone he saw the call was from his best friend in Pennsylvania. He answered the call and said, "Hey, W, I can't talk now, I'm at church."

Before he could suggest he call him back later, W said, "Can you play chess?" (which they do online from time to time, although Flash hasn't had internet access in about a month.)

"Um, W, I'm at church."

"I know, but did you get your computer back? Can you play chess?"

"Yes, W, I got my computer back, but I'm AT CHURCH right now."

"Don't you have messenger on your phone, Flash? We can play chess on messenger!"

"W, I AM AT CHURCH."

"Yeah, but you have messenger, right?"

"W, I have a very limited version of messenger on my phone, yes, but I'm CURRENTLY AT CHURCH. Can I call you later?"

"I guess."

I didn't think it was possible to be more of a techno nerd than Flash, but he apparently has friends that are even techno-geekier than he is!

(When he did return the call to W, they had an endless debate about how W used to be able to recite pi to the whatever decimal place and how W couldn't remember it any longer and I started reciting pi about five places and Flash was yelling at W that I could do a better job at pi than W could and how that was just the END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT.)



Sigh.


This had better get him some serious scholarships because I don't think it's going to help him get a wife.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Did You Hear the One About the Hedgehog?

...that went flying down the hall for the dog to fetch and got hung up on a picture?


Flash thought it was hysterical.
Mom only thought it was funny because nothing got broken.





But it sure drove the dog nuts.


(Can you see George in the picture? He's even laughing!)



Sunday, March 01, 2009

It Turns Out I Was Just A Pawn

Flash's best friend was being tortured, being drug, being forced, going to a chess tournament on Saturday morning. Flash's best friend can easily think of a hundred other things he'd rather do on a Saturday morning other than get up for a chess tournament, but his mom was making him go. In a moment of compromise, she suggested that he ask Flash to go with him.

Flash, for the first time in 24 weeks of gifted class, was ahead on his homework by Friday afternoon (because Mom took over the planning, organizing and supervising of all things related to gifted homework this week) and so he received an instant and supportive "Sure!" from me when he asked if he could attend with his best friend. Later, I asked Flash if he might ask his best friend how he got involved in this tournament so that perhaps Flash might be able to participate at some point in the future. Flash looked at me with a stricken expression and said, "Why would I want to do that? I don't want to play chess in some tournament!" Well, all right then. Just thought I would ask.

So early Saturday morning, Flash left the house with a granola bar and a bottle of water for breakfast, $20 for lunch and the reminder from his mom that he was there to be moral support for his best friend and NOT to be a pain in the arse to his friend's mom.

The boys played together at the friend's house for a few hours after the tournament and when I went to pick up Flash, the mom said the boys had enjoyed themselves. I gave her a skeptical look. Flash excused himself for a moment and said he had left something in their car and that he'd be right back. When he returned, he was holding something behind his back and had a very funny expression on his face.

"What do you have?" I asked with trepidation.

And Flash presents me with a trophy.


His trophy.

He tied for first place in the tournament he didn't EVER want to participate in.


It turns out the mom insisted suggested they BOTH play in the tournament. At one point, they had to play each other and neither was certain of how to handle that. God was gracious enough to end their game in a stalemate so neither won and neither lost. The friendship remained in tact and no feelings were hurt in the process.

So now, when asked if Flash wants to paticipate in chess tournaments, I receive a resounding "Of course!"

Of course he does.

Remember Who You're Asking

A month ago, Flash, knowing his dad is a "keeper of all things", asked him to send him a USB cable for his new printer. This weekend, a box arrived in the mail. It was big, and heavy. Flash dropped it on the couch and tore into it, eager to see what all his dad had sent.

As per his request, there was a USB cable. In fact, there were three.


There were two adapters, one from light bulb to outlet, one from car outlet to USB.


Velcro (for tying the three USB cords up, we suppose).

There were several Science Fiction novels.

A new cover for his ipod and a book light (which Flash can never have enough of).

One year's subscription of both Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines.

A couple of goodies from Happy Meals or the cereal box.

And a scrub shirt.

I'm wondering what he will get when he calls and asks for a replacement ink cartridge. I think I'm a little frightened to know.