Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bird Song





Birdy's first solo!  Who would have thought this would come from our shy, timid, little Birdy?  What a beautiful, brave woman she is becoming!

Out of the Mouths Part 2

"Miss Eliza?"

"Yes, G?"

"I went to that thing where they put the babies in water."

"Where they put the babies in water?  What do you mean, G?"

"You know, where you go and you watch them put all the new babies in water for the first time?"

[silence and a blank stare - from me this time]

"You know...we got dressed up and we went to watch my baby sister get put in the water."

"In a pool, G?"

"Kind of.  Kind of like a bath tub."
"Ooooh, you saw your baby sister get baptized, G?"

"Yeah!  That's it!  Baptized!"


Had I made the connection that he was still thinking about our discussion of churches during the making of our stained glass window craft, I might have caught on a lot sooner to that one.

Out of the Mouths

"Miss Eliza?  My dad calls my mom 'Sarah'. "

"Isn't your mom's name Sarah?"

"Yeah, but I call her mom."
"Of course you do, K, but your mom isn't your dad's mom.  She is his wife.  So he calls her by her name."

[silence and a blank stare]

"K, you and your brother get to call your mom, 'Mom' because you are her kids.  But your dad is not your mom's child."

[silence and a blank stare]

"K, you know your grandma and grandpa?  That's your dad's mom and dad.  I bet your dad calls your grandma, 'Mom', doesn't he?"

[silence and a blank stare]

"I just don't get it Miss Wilson."

"I think you should ask your mom, K."

Band

 He had had enough during marching season.  Hated band.  Wanted to quit.  The holiday parade, in particular, nearly threw him over the edge, but his evil mother wouldn't let him quit. 

Symphonic Band started this marking period - a relief from a bad marching season and with it came new music, and the top musicians in band - another relief.

The concert was wonderful, as it always is now that he's in high school.  The band was the last of the many musical performances, and they ended the evening with a Celtic Carol, which received a standing ovation from the parental crowd and pleas for more. 

Even my boy was excited for more. 

Due to scheduling issues with his attendance at the math and science school, Flash won't be able to take band as a class next year.  He'll be able to march, attending band camp and the after school and evening practices, but he won't be able to participate in symphonic again. 

I am certainly going to miss concerts like this.

Adalene


Isn't she just precious?

Caught

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Why We Moved to Michigan - Reason #416

I was in PA when she got her ears pierced and I cried when she called to tell me all about it.  I'm the aunt, I'm supposed to be there for these sorts of things.  So from the moment she first announced the formal dance and her intentions to go, I knew I wouldn't miss it for the world.  I didn't want to intrude on her plans, but I secretly squealed with glee when she asked if I would help her do her hair for the dance. 

We did a trial run on Thursday, to decide what she liked best and how much time we would need. 
 

 Last night we curled and sprayed and pinned and styled and Little Bird turned into a beautiful woman right before our eyes.












Her mom helped with some make-up and lent a silver necklace for the occasion. We had to remind her to take out her retainer before she left the house and tucked lip gloss and her cell phone in her coat pocket.


I was grateful (perhaps for the first time) for George's jokes about the who-ha's and the ha-ha's and what he really meant -  the ta-ta's, to help me stave off the tears.     

 I didn't go to see her friends at the pre-party - names I've heard nearly her whole life, girls I've seen at school growing up before my eyes.


 She had a wonderful time, and how could she not? She was the most beautiful bird at the dance.

Relationship Status

"Hey, WG?  I was talking with Jules the other day, running some Christmas ideas for you past her.  She mentioned that it might be easier to know what an appropriate Christmas gift is, if you and I could more concisely define our relationship.  I mean, we're on again, off again, so are we just a couple months from celebrating our first anniversary together or are we just a couple weeks into our relationship?"

"Well, Eliza, I see your sister's point.  I guess earlier tonight I would have said our relationship, in Christmas terms, fells somewhere between giving you a stuffed animal and giving you a new car."

"So, you're saying after our nice dinner out at the jazz club, we can narrow that down a little more?"

"Not so much our dinner out, but when you let me turn on the State game when we got back home, I'd say you've definitely moved up somewhere between a sweater and a new car now."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Discovering Me

I was mad, for awhile.  I shook my head and wondered how I could choose so badly - again.  What do I do that causes my relationships to fall apart?  What is it that happens after awhile that makes it all stop working?  I was mad.  This path has worn a familiar tread in my relationship pattern and I've grown tired of the rut. 
Lately, the man and I have been trying - again - to make some small portion of a relationship work.  We've thrown out the prospects of long-term anything, we've whittled down the goals and desires of our time together to not a whole lot more than dinner, conversation and well, that about sums it up right there.  No promises, no worry over how does this fit into my life plan, or what will we do about our different views on this topic?  We gave just dating a try.  And I held my breath and thought surely this was a great plan.

But I was still miserable.  He wants to eat at Bennigan's.  I want to go to that local Italian place downtown with a wine list.  He wants to grab a sandwich at Panera - I'm thinking jazz at the Union.  I want to dress up, go out to dinner, stroll back to the car, laugh in the moonlight...he wants us to go back to his house and watch sitcoms and talk to his roommate about the possibility of snow in the week's foreca.....and that's when it hits me.  I've always known that we were different.  I've come to realize with more and more certainty that we're just too different to make this work.  But what I've failed to see for quite some time is how different I have become lately. 

I settled. 

I don't mean that he's somehow beneath me.  Absolutely not.  WG is a fantastic guy.  Truly and indisputably. 

I mean, I settled in my lifestyle.  I've been a mom for so long.  I've been concerned with Flash and getting him to and from and here and there, and cutting the budget into smithereens to make life work, and my social calendar is more like a taxi schedule and so a night out is little more than catching the game at the pub because I'm not even sure how to do a night out anymore. 

WG and I hung out.  We played cards.  We cooked dinner.  We sat on the deck.  If we went out for dinner, it was close by and "the usual".  If, on the rare occasion we splurged, we went to the old stand-by, Olive Garden, which is, in fact, a "usual" in my world.  We did the occasional fun thing together, but all in all, my life was still a mom's life.  Work, clean, cook dinner - only then it was for three instead of two - sit on the couch and chat about the day - my life didn't change when WG and I dated.  I enjoyed having him become a part of my life, but I had hoped for my life to expand outside of its own matronly circle for a change.  I didn't have nights when I just felt like a woman.  A single, eligible, beautiful woman.  Even when we went out, the places we went to, the movies, the pub, the local restaurant - I was still just a mom out to dinner.  The luxury of the evening was that I didn't have to drive.

I know couples have a similar experience.  I've watched Jules and Bear evolve their own marital relationship - now that they don't have to hire a sitter, they enjoy more nights out with their married friends, more times when they go for drinks, or out for date night, or the like.  Maybe we all re-define who we are as our kids need less and less from us.  Maybe we start realizing we have more and more to offer the world.

Lately, I've been going out.  I've been dabbling in some new haunts.  I've been stepping out of my motherly comfort zone and finding places where adults, intelligent, professional adults, hang out.  And I love it.  I love eating something worth savoring instead of pub food.  I love thinking about what kind of wine I want to indulge in.  I have been listening to amazing musicians, and I absolutely love the atmosphere  - there isn't one single indication that children even exist in these worlds.  It feels invigorating to be defined as something more than a mom. 

Maybe it's hitting 40 that did it.  Maybe it's just that being single for this long and having a growingly independent child makes me realize that I'm more than just a mom.  I have to become more than just a mom.  In two very quick years, I'm on my own.  For now, I want to date, I want to go out, I want a life of my own.  I want to feel like I am more than just the head of this household.  I want to feel beautiful and interesting and alive. 

I cannot be mad at WG for being so different from me.  I have been so very different from me for such a long time.  It's time I found myself again.  I think I'm really going to enjoy this.



Friday, October 28, 2011

Blessings



At 3:37 this afternoon, Adalene Geneva Wilson, daughter to Garrett and Diana, made an early but most welcome arrival. Babe is 4 pounds 5 ounces and 18 1/2 inches long and has the luxury most of us women would die for - she's being encouraged to put on some pounds! Welcome to the world, Adalene! (It's so much fun to be an aunt again!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

"Women are like apples on a tree. The best ones are at the top of tree. Most men do not want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead, they take the apples on the ground that aren't as good, but easy. The apples at the top think there is something wrong with them, when in reality, they are absolutely amazing. They just have not found the right one to come along, the one who is brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree. Now men are more like a fine wine. They begin as grapes and it's up to women to stomp the crap out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Scary Similarities

So, as it turns out, Flash and I are both single again.

Scarier than the realization that we'll now have even more time to spend together is the fact that we broke up with our s.o.'s for virtually the same reason. 

I'm not sure who is more frightened by this fact. 

I've either raised him right or totally screwed him up for life.  The jury is still out, but considering my dating track record, he might want to model his dating tactics after someone slightly more successful. 

Speaking of the Boy Child....

To better understand "Champ", click here.

Champ

Years ago, I took a personality assessment in college. I have annoyed more friends had more fun with this knowledge throughout the years than you might imagine. After getting to know someone, at some point, I'm sure to confidently venture what I am certain their 4-letter personality-defining acronym might be. I've used the information to try to explain annoying particular behavior of the people around me. I'm sure I've told the story of using the lingo to embarrass myself by inadvertantly implying I was talking about my fiance's privates, but in any case...

Flash left a book on the couch last night called, Please Understand Me. Giving him a hard time about it today, I implied that it was a teenager's passive-aggressive way to suggest that his parent needs to be more in touch with his life. He explained that it was a personality typing-book, unknowingly sending his mother into an excited frenzy over thoughts of personality discussions.

"Wait! Wait!" I shouted. "Is this like Myers-Briggs testing?" I asked perhaps a bit too-excitedly.

"Yeah...." came his now-worried response.

"Wait! Wait!" I held out my hand to stop him from saying another word. "Do you know what you are?"

"Yeah...." he replied, now visibly concerned with what sort of Pandora Box he had just opened. You see, I am an INFJ, which the book describes in parts as, "highly sensitive to others, which is to say their intuition tends to be well developed. Certainly their insight into themselves and others is unparalleled. Without a doubt, they know what is going on inside themselves, and they can read other people with uncanny accuracy." In other words, I rock at this.

I immediately declared that he is an extrovert, to which he kindly responded with "Duh."

I went on, confidently declaring the next letters, representing other areas of his personality determined by this assessment. "You are an ESTJ!"

To which he replied, "Um, not even close. The exact opposite, actually. I am an ENFP- A Champion."

"What?!? I am so right." I declared. I went on to itemize each quadrant of the testing and to explain my rationale for each. I gave evidence, cited examples and pleaded my case, but he stuck to his guns and declared me, "dead wrong."

As dinner went on, I teased him with nearly every bite about this discrepancy. "My sensory-son might not have done it quite that way...oh, that's right you are intuitive...." or, "if only you were a feeler, maybe you'd have understood what I was trying to convey better....oh, that's right, you say you ARE a feeler..." and so forth. Jabbing back and forth throughout dinner, finally led me to declare with a tone of finality, "Fine! My WTHKOPYTYA - Whatever The Heck Kind Of Personality You Think You Are Child!"

I think that's an acronym we can both agree on.

I will say this, when he reads the definitions as declared by the book, I think he is correct with his assessment. "Champions often speak (or write) in the hope of revealing some truth about human experience, or of motivating others with their powerful convictions. Their strong drive to speak out on issues and events, along with their boundless enthusiasm and natural talent with language, makes them the most vivacious and inspiring of all the types. Fiercely individualistic, Champions strive toward a kind of personal authenticity, and this intention always to be themselves is usually quite attractive to others." That said, if he truly has, "outstanding intuitive powers and can tell what is going on inside of others, reading hidden emotions and giving special significance to words or actions" then he has been ignoring my unspoken nudgings for years!! Of course, since an INFJ (me) is also said to, "seldom tell how they came to read others' feelings so keenly. This extreme sensitivity to others could very well be the basis of the Counselor's remarkable ability to experience a whole array of psychic phenomena." I might just have to start reading his mind to get to know my Champion better. Scary, scary thought indeed.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

You Don't Have to Say It, My Therapist Is Already On The Line

I have this obsession, no, not just one, but let's focus here, shall we? I feel deeply satisfied and accomplished when I empty containers. If I can pull 5 leftovers out of the fridge, empty all of them and put the tupperware into the dishwasher it's very cathartic to me. For example, this morning, I made a big Sunday morning breakfast. Leaving just two lonely eggs in the carton bothered me quite deeply until I assured myself that Flash will eat them when he gets up (who am I kidding, that would involve work). I buttered my toast with the last remaining bit of butter left on the annoying butter dish we had mainly for WG's use. There's just enough jam left for one more piece of toast, so I will now surely encourage Flash for toast and eggs. I moved laundry to find we had used the last of the dryer sheets so that box can happily go into recycling. We have two open containers of cream cheese in the fridge but we're out of bagels, so now my mind races to ideas on how I can use the cream cheese up to get those containers out of the fridge.

I will do this obsessively all week long. Minimize, clean, organize, arrange. Until the weekend rolls around. And then, in an exclamatory proclamation I will shout, "How is it that we have nothing in this house to eat? The fridge is empty! There's nothing in here for a quick lunch! Where does all the food go?!"

Ah, yes, this may require more than one session with the counselor.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stuck In My Head

Would you walk to the edge of the ocean
Just to fill my jar with sand
Just in case I get the notion
To let it run through my hand, let it run through my hand

Well I don't want the whole world,
The sun, the moon and all their light,
I just want to be the only girl
You love all your life.

Would you catch a couple thousand fireflies
Yeah, put them in a lamp to light my world
All dressed up in a tux and bowtie
Hand delivered to a lonely girl, to a lonely lonely girl

Well I don't want the whole world
The sun, the moon and all their light
I just want to be the only girl
You love all your life, you love all your life

Lately I've been writing desperate love songs
Mostly I sing them to the walls
You could be the center piece of my obsession
If you would notice me, oh yeah...

Well I don't want the whole world,
The sun, the moon and all their light
I just want to be the only girl
You love all your life.



- The Band Perry

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Without a Doubt, He Is His Papa's Grandson

As we drove home today, Flash and I noticed a huge pile of leaves at the curb of one of the houses along the way. "Wow," I remarked, "Those people have a lot of leaves!" "You could say they have a lot of 'leavage!" replied Flash. Papa would be so proud of his punny grandson.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Things They Couldn't Say if Women Announced Football Games

"That was some deep penetration there!"

"Someone needs to get their hands on that guy!"

"He's going deep!  He's going deep!"

"It's just a matter of inches."

"He's not going to quit until he scores."

"We need to get a measurment here."

"Was he even in?  I don't think he even made it in."

"He works best under the spread."

"He just had his hands where they didn't belong."

"There were a couple other guys that could have made a play, but he's the one that scored."

"You have to appreciate the size of that guy."

"I thought it was only about six inches, but he's saying it's more like a foot."

"He's explosive when he's on the inside."

"He needs to learn not to force it."

Even with male announcers, I'm not really sure they should say these things.

Friday, October 14, 2011

At Least He Has That Part Down

I was talking with my sister tonight and during the conversation, I mentioned a text message I had received asking if I might want to go out on a date on Saturday. A couple moments into her response, she began whole-heartedly laughing.  Quick to clarify that she wasn't laughing at me at the thought that I might receive such a request, but that she was laughing at George, she put the boy on the phone to share with me what made his mother laugh so hard.

In his calmest, more serious very nearly eleven-year-old-voice of reason and wisdom he said, "I don't know much about dating, but I do know about breaking up.  You say, 'I'm sorry, this just isn't working out.  It's not you, it's me.  Maybe we can still be friends.' "

I think at eleven, he's far better at this dating thing that I am. 

How Unique It Is

I realize Flash and I have a pretty unique relationship. We spend our evenings just the two of us, no television on, often sharing tidbits about our day, or funny things that we think of. We share many inside jokes between us and we often times start our conversations with, "remember how I was telling you about..." We often sit at various events, band performances, games, etc. and text back and forth sarcastic comments, funny anecdotes, etc. 

We forget sometimes that there are people around us who are not in on the conversation.
Tonight was the homecoming football game. Not at all interested in anything to do with such matters, but being required as a member of the marching band to be at the game, Flash and I headed off to the game. While I love a good football game, our high school team is terrible, the crowd is rude and it was cold and spitting rain to boot. I sat in the car reading a book of Flash's until just before the band's halftime performance, at which point I paid my $5 admission fee, got a hot chocolate and stood with the crowd to watch the band perform before returning to my vehicle in the parking lot, waiting for the game to be over and for Flash to head with me home.

The book I was reading to keep me entertained was one that Flash had read last spring at the suggestion of a favorite teacher. He has raved and raved about the marvels of this book and bought his own copy just so he could re-read it and share it with people. I decided I must be the first person who got to borrow it. It's taken me a couple weeks to get through it, which is a statement to how much I didn't fall in love with it. Flash and I have talked about it briefly as I've progressed, and he pointed out that he was looking forward to a re-read as he felt like he missed a couple things the first time through. Tonight, while waiting for halftime, I finished the book. In between text messages back and forth with Flash about the lame-o football game, I mentioned that I finished the book. He asks how I liked it. 

"Well," I texted back. "You're going to have to explain the coffin full of dirt to me."

Which apparently is a quite disturbing text for a fellow band member to read over his shoulder. Go figure

"Your mom just sent you a text asking you to explain a coffin full of dirt?!?" the friend inquired quite disturbingly of Flash.

"Well, yeah," came my sarcastic son's reply, "she found it in the trunk of my car and wants an explanation," he lied. What? Just because they aren't in on the original conversation doesn't mean we owe it to them to be straight up about it!

"You have a coffin full of dirt in the trunk of your car?"

"Sure. Don't you ever go ghost hunting at grave yards?" Flash said while he texted me back that he didn't really get that part of the book either.

It took his friend a few seconds too long to figure out Flash was kidding and so I suspect the teasing will continue for some time.

In any case, I'm still waiting for my explanation. To that friend, I suspect there are many explanations he's still waiting on.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

With a Side of Ecoli

Apparently when you break up with a beef grader, the local supermarket stops carrying beef altogther. Well, no, not exactly, but when I went to the market on Sunday, they were quite low on most every kind of beef. I had to improvise for the stew meat on my list and, unsure of what substitutions I might make for his mysterious recipe, I told Flash I'd get the steak he had added to the list later in the week when the market might have restocked it's coolers with a few more options.

After an ortho appointment last night, I suggested we stop at the market across town to get what else he needed for KICK'N this week. I picked up the spinach I had forgotten from the list (also one of his items) and met him back at the checkout where he appeared with a huge piece of london broil, which, according to him, was the only thing they had that "will do" for the recipe he's working off of. I gave him a short speech about how he'd better not ruin this meal for the all it was costing me.

Today when I got to school, I opened the back door to get my school work from the backseat to find the grocery bag still in the car. Let me clarify, the ginormous steak I bought last night at the store, had spent the night in the vehicle, not the refrigerator. The boychild had never taken his groceries into the house.

416 weeks of waiting and 12 hours of spoiling. Sigh. I know there was a ton of steak, but I didn't realize we were inviting maggots to dinner this week.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

416 Thursday Nights in the Making

It's been eight years since we started full-fledged KICK'N. Flash started helping with dinner much earlier in life, but around seven he started putting dinners together. They started simply enough, just mac n' cheese out of the box or simple pasta, but as he became more capable he ...well, he slacked off and he grumped about it and it became one more point of contention most weeks. He forgot until the last minute most nights, or he complained that there wasn't anything in the house to cook. There was always a battle and I have wondered more times than not if it was even worth my while to try to get my child be competent and confident in the kitchen.

Until now.

For the past two weeks, Flash has actually planned ahead. There have been mysterious items on the grocery list. Last week there was a request for dijon mustard. This week he wanted sundried tomatoes. Last week, without complaint or fanfare, Flash grilled up some pretty decent chicken and had two side dishes to finish off the meal.

On my way home tonight, however, believing last week to be a fluke of nature and surely not something that would ever be repeated, I actually stopped at the grocery store and picked up Plan B. Flash has been cranky this week (marching in the rain every afternoon will do that to a teen) and I figured he would forget about dinner as per the usual and I'd be left to starve or conjure up my own plan. I decided to pick up something simple, and if he was still his cranky self (as his text messages had suggested) I would just make something simple for us both and let it go knowing the battle over band might be a bigger hurdle tonight than dinner needed to be.

I walked into a kitchen where fresh basil from the herb garden was picked and on the counter. I set my grocery bag down next to marinating chicken. I looked around to make sure I was in the right house. Flash helped me put the groceries away and asked how long until I would be hungry for dinner.

Huh wuh? Wow. Um, I mean....

I changed my clothes, put in a load of laundry and saw Flash out lighting up the grill. Before long, he came in and said it would be two minutes until dinner, a missive that usually means it'll be two minutes until he realizes he's a) ruined dinner, b) forgotten dinner or c) completely messed dinner up. I was wrong again. Within two minutes, if not before, he was setting before me a dinner plate with steamed corn and stuffed, grilled chicken breasts that smelled divine. I mean, d-i-v-i-n-e. We both laughed at the bowls of applesauce. I used to joke that he wasn't allowed to count that as a side dish anymore.

In any case, for dinner tonight, I enjoyed an amazing dish of chicken stuffed with cheese, basil and sundried tomatoes, roasted in a balsamic vinegrette that was to.die.for. good.

Ya'll should have been here.

Or not. There's more left over for me!!

Oh my! I just sneaked a peek at the grocery list. He's added, "steak, bacon, spinach and lemon pepper". I can't wait for next week!!

Stop and Listen

I've often said it's clear that God is trying to teach me patience. I find myself in more and more situations that require the virtue that I am most lacking. Teaching first grade is certainly no exception to that rule. I have a couple students in particular who seem sent directly from the Big Man with a mission that is unconcerned with learning to read or add, but is bent on teaching me how to chill and stay calm and breathe.

One such boy is of particular note. He's my wanderer - can't be sent to the office on an errand, can't come to class from the bus or leave to the bus without holding the hand of an adult. We always check to make sure he's in line after recess and along for the walk when we head down the hall to music or art. He's also my talker. He's a bright child, but with challenges. If an idea is in his head, it's out his mouth and he just cannot stop himself until the whole speech has been rendered. An entire line of first graders might be silent and ready to go to lunch, but if he needs to tell me that later today his brother is going to get a new dirt bike, well, we'll all have to wait.

I'm learning how to manage and deal and encourage and differ my needy little students. It's a whole different ballgame from just two grades up, let me tell ya, but I'll get there. Each day I learn more than they do, and each day I'll get better. Today, in particular, I learned quite a lot from my little wanderer.

We were headed to art, in a mostly quiet line - something we've worked really hard at (and something I always wonder why we're so insistent on - why do we remove so much of the socializing from these kids' days?) anywhoodle...on our way to art. Throughout our hallways, we have stop signs hanging from the ceiling. They are good places for our lines to halt for a moment, let the caboose catch up and we can realign, re-silence, whatever is necessary as we head on down the hallway. At one particular corner, it is tempting for some students to jump up and try to hit the stop sign, as it was today. I happened to be further down the hallway, but caught the action out of the corner of my eye and turned my head just in time to see a blue-shirted child come landing down and another one of my challenges to go jumping up. I stopped my line and went back to the guilty boys. I asked them if when their parents were driving on the road, were they allowed to hit the stop signs? No was the unanimous concensus. I reminded them that the same rule applies here in school and we aren't to hit our stop signs either. I then quietly told two boys in particular, my blue shirted one and the other, that when we returned to the classroom, they were to move their bees to yellow on our behavior chart. The one blue-shirted boy was silent. I had been surprised that he had done it to begin with, but he didn't utter a word. The other, as is typical denied everything, even though I had seen him clearly commit the error.

As the line continued on down the hallway to art, my little wanderer spoke up. "Miss Wilson, you know that stop sign back there?" He carried on for several steps down the hallway, despite my signal for him to stay at zero voice in the hallway. Reminding myself that I need to just let him talk it out as deterring him is rarely a viable option, I slowed my steps until I was next to him and we walked on down the hall together, side by side.

"What is it, about that stop sign back there that you want to tell me?" I asked.

"Well, you know how you said they were jumping up and hitting it? I just want to tell you who started hitting it."

I was about to remind him that it wasn't his business, although, from experience, I've come to realize that my little wanderer believes most everything to be his business indeed, when he continued, "I started it. C didn't jump up and hit it like you said, I did. I was the one who started the jumping up and hitting the sign."

I was speechless. My little wanderer stood there, behind the other silent accused boy, in a similar blue shirt. The corner of my eye had deceived me, and I had jumped to the wrong conclusion. I stopped right there and I hugged him and I told him that he was such a responsible, honest boy and how wonderful that was. He apologized to me, saying he wouldn't do that again, and then looked right at me and said, "I just didn't want my friend to have to move his bee to yellow."

I could have cried right there. My little wanderer hates to move his bee. I leave it as a near last resort with him, but have to use it from time to time when he needs to reel it in. It takes him a couple minutes to get up usually and go move it and even then he will be quite sullen and sad about having to do so. I often give him a chance to move it back within a few minutes as I know it's painful for him to leave it off of green. Today he said, "when I get back to class, will I have to move my bee to red and spend five minutes of recess with you?" He asked it in full submission. He wasn't trying to negotiate, he just wanted to know before I left him at art class.

"No," I said softly, guiltily. "You can leave your bee on yellow. You told me the truth and took responsibility and that means a lot to me. You don't have to stay in at recess."

I am glad they went off to art and I could go sit in my dark classroom for awhile. I told God I was listening and not just to Him, but to my kids. I got the message. I just hope I remember it for a long, long time.

In the meantime, I hope my little wanderer keeps teaching me.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

90 pounds of Honeycrisp apples + Red Sox vs. Yankees game = great Saturday afternoon of making applesauce and watching the Sox beat up on the Yanks, right?

So far, very very wrong. It's bottom of the 2nd inning and the Yankees are up 6-0.

At least the applesauce is delish!

Flash + Curbie = ???

Flash has been driving quite nearly every day, most times to school in the morning. Our morning route begins in the dark and involves four-lane, one-way roads and over the past month has included some rainy and foggy mornings. As his experience behind the wheel increases, my confidence has been similarly rising, allowing me to actually take in a bit of the scenery from the passenger seat from time to time.

This morning, heading out to the orchard, I put Flash behind the wheel for additional experience. Aware that I would not get to relish the drive as I often did, needing to keep my attention on Flash and the nuances of this lengthier drive, I was getting situated in the passenger seat as he performed the all-too familiar maneuver of getting us out of the driveway.

Or not-familiar-enough, as it would seem.

Having reminded the boy on many a dark morning that Flash needed to steer clear of the mailbox, on a bright, sunshine-filled Saturday morning, he took the opposite approach and backed the car into the telephone pole on the other side of the drive.

Flash + Curbie = Crashie as it turns out.

The damage is minimal, the plastic covering over the taillight will need to be replaced, but the taillight itself is intact and the bumper is only scuffed, not dented. The boy was deeply apologetic. We switched seats and I drove to the orchard. He drove the return trip, making as many cracks about the incident as I did.

At one point, he commented on the fact that winter is fast approaching and he wondered what it will be like to drive in the snow. I reminded him I was already losing sleep and gaining grey hair over sunny Saturdays in the driveway! Lord help us over the next several months. I thought it was only curbs we needed to look out for. Now we have to keep away from telephone poles to boot!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The New Hershey Scam

WG cooked dinner for us tonight. It was a wonderful treat to go to his house and enjoy a nice meal together. While Flash and I were there, we noticed this bag of Hershey's kisses on the counter. The packaging was a little different than other's I've seen, so I took a closer look.

"Aerated chocolate" the bag read.

Aerated chocolate?!?! What?!?! I had to ask. WG explained that it's a regular milk chocolate kiss with holes in it. "For air" he said, as if that was perfectly normal.

"For air." I said. "Air? Because air makes chocolate taste better?"

"Actually, I think it does," he said. He talked about some candy bar from "back in the day" that used to have similar holes in it that was one of his faves.

Air. I just didn't get it. So I sampled one. I kept thinking it would be like a crunch bar with rice krispies in it or something, but no, it was actually just little air holes.

We were discussing this on the ride home later and I told Flash that I think this is the new Hershey scam. "They are getting away with putting less product in each bag by putting holes in the chocolate!! This is a rip-off!!"

Flash assured me that the bags are packaged by weight, but I'm sure there's some loop-hole. It's like buying a quarter-pound burger, it's all pre-cooked weight. This chocolate is pre-drilled weight!

Aerated chocolate. Ha!! I think they are just blowing smoke up our...well...aerated arses!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The New Twenty

I realized today that not much has changed in the past twenty years of my life. It used to be I'd be out all night on the weekends, come home, take some aspirin with a big glass of water, put my smoke-infested clothes in the wash and I might even have headed back out at the call of a friend. I'd spend Sunday recooperating from a night out.

Now? I've been out all day, which means I've come inside, taken aspirin to help the joint pain in my hand (from digging up potatoes), allergy medicine with a big glass of water (weeding the strawberry patch), put my dirt and spray paint-covered clothes (shutters) in the wash and I will head back out in an hour to pick up my teenager from band competition. I'll sleep late tomorrow recooperating from a day of outdoor chores today.

Forty? Bah. Same ol' same ol'.

Paybacks

George has a new hobby. Scaring people. He likes to dress in camo (including branches sticking out of his pockets) and jump out at you from behind a bush when you visit his house. He likes to hide in pantry closet and scare his grandparents into early graves. Great new hobby of his, this George.

Last night I stayed at school with a teacher friend, both of us preferring to face the dark, empty parking lot together at the end of the evening. I organized and cleaned and asked her a million questions. She commented at one point that there were kids outside in the parking lot, in the pitch dark. "I think they are on bikes or something," she said. "That's why I hate being here alone. It's creepy that they can see in the windows but I can't see out."

I agreed whole-heartedly, sharing about a time last year when I stayed late and completely freaked myself out walking out to my lone vehicle later that night.

I returned to my classroom and was sorting through papers on the counter in front of the wall of windows when all of a sudden George's face appeared right up against the outside glass. "Hey Aunt Fred!" he laughed.

He.scared.the.crap.out.of.me.

Birdy was out there, too, although just trying to get my attention, not trying to make me pee my pants and die of a heart-attack. I went around to the front of the building and let in Jules and Bear and the kids. They had been out for dinner and knew I was at school so they swung by to say hello and wreak havoc on my now-clean and organized classroom. George couldn't stop giggling about scaring me. I made him apologize to my friend for creeping her out as well. He still giggled.

Even when he left, after Birdy had hugged me several times promising her love for me (I assured her I didn't doubt her concern for me, but that George...) George hollered back down the hall just before exiting the building to giggle and say he loved me.

I immediately began to plot revenge. I've had a few ideas, but I'm going to wait for that lightbulb moment that says I've got the most epic plan ever.

All I can say is, George, paybacks are h-e-double hockey sticks. Look out.

On The "What Not To Do" List

When navigating your way through the teenage years as a single mom with a son, do NOT read the book, Columbine. Flash picked it up out of curiosity at the dollar store (what better way to spend a buck?) and after he finished, I gave it a read.

Yeah. Bad idea.

As if I wasn't terrified enough about not getting this push-pull, be-involved-but-not-overly-involved, how many questions are enough but not too many, do I really know my kid relationship just right already. Then you pick up a book about two boys who plotted to blow up their high school and successfully killed 13 before killing themselves, and you find out how many similarities your own child has with the lead killer.

As I would read before bed each night, I would holler down to Flash, "Hey, you're not making pipe bombs in the basement, are you?" to try to laugh off how disturbing this book was.

"Nah. I've been making them in my closet." He'd reply.

"And the napalm?"

"I'm having the same problems that Eric had, but I think I have it mostly figured out now."

Ah, yes. The comforting banter of a teenager.

It's all funny until you realize the killer had similar conversations, dropping hints and flat out telling details of his plan but no one took him seriously.

Pardon me, but I think I'm going to go search Flash's closet. Anyone know what napalm looks like?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why We Left The Tip All In Singles

I should have known how the evening would go even before we arrived. When asked what he wanted to do for his birthday dinner, WG replied, "Are there other Italian restaurants around other than Olive Garden? I could really go for chicken parmesan, but I'd like to go someplace other than Olive Garden. There must be other choices other than Olive Garden." I started to assure him that there were many other options when he interrupted me to say, "Oh, but I really do like the salads at Olive Garden. Let's go to Olive Garden."

To clarify, I said, "So you want to go to an Italian restaurant in town that is not Olive Garden but is Olive Garden?!" I should have known he wouldn't even order chicken parm once he got there either.

Jules and Fam surprised WG by joining us for dinner at the Olive Garden that wasn't but was actually Olive Garden. I'm still not sure if the look on WG's face was excitement or dread. If nothing else, maybe he'll learn from this experience and bring his own family for the next celebration. For your entertainment, I've included some excerpts from the conversation.

Discussing a factory job Jules and I both had in college, Bear reminded her that she at least worked in air conditioning. I reminded everyone that she was a table top stripper. "Mom was a stripper?!" George asked. His mother tried to explain that it was a printing term, but Birdy and Flash were laughing too hard to hear the legitimate explanation.

We learned from Birdy that girls can actually just call "dibs" on a boy. I didn't realize. This might have changed my dating life dramatically. (WG said I could dib him if I wanted to. Whew.)

George, reading off the kids' menu, "What is the Indian name for Naples?" (His fifth grade teacher would be so proud.)


Despite getting Indian confused with Italian, several of us at the table scored decently on George's menu quiz. Except for Jules (and WG who believed that Mt. Vesuvius is a city) but we all know that strippers just aren't that smart.




We helped George fill in the mad-lib on the menu as well. He went around the table asking us each for a different part of speech for the story. Flash needed to come up with an activity. He was futzing around with his straw and bits of napkin while he pondered the question, so when he finally declared that he just didn't have any ideas, George filled in the blank with "pee shooter". We tried to correct his spelling to make the activity a bit more pleasant, but George was too delighted with the idea of a urine shooter.

When the bill arrived, George asked why his dad was paying it and not his mom. Bear explained that strippers just don't make that much money solidifying the odds that George will in fact explain to his teacher and class in the very near future that his mom, an active member of her small town community, is actually a stripper.


The fact that WG was so delighted to have my family join us for dinner further worries me. Who would endure conversations such as these, in public no less, and feel grateful for the opportunity?!





A crazy 40 year old man, I suppose. Happy Birthday, Part I, WG!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

What?!?

You wanted to know about MY first day? Oh fine.

Let's see, first grade = color, cut, glue.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Yeah, many hours were spent after school was out today developing plans that do not involve crayons, scissors or glue. I'd be happy if they were just abolished.

And for the record,

SHOES ARE AN ABOMINATION TO SOCIETY. They are, perhaps, the worst part of all about going back to school.

177 school days to go.

I can do this.




I think.

First Day

Sophomore. Wow. Where does the time go?

Every year Flash makes a sign for his year (much to his chagrin). Each year they show more and more of his personality.
I thought this one was pretty darn cool.

Speaking of Michigan...

Did I mention we went to the BIG HOUSE?! OMG!!!

We even got WG to trade in his trashy State shirt for an awesome Michigan one.

As I mentioned, we saw an epic band.


Some great plays on the field....



We saw Flash's future as a part of the 2015 University of Michigan Solar Car Team...


Unless the snipers catch him first.

Uh oh.


The ex-State fan and I.


We had to get a pic of the boy and I, as I'm trusting that the next time I'm at the Big House, he'll be blasting a trumpet on the field. Ahem. Nudge Nudge.


There may have been some inclement weather. There may have been an evacuation. Or two. But that didn't stop any of us from having a terrific time at the game!


GO BLUE!!


Band

Ahhh, marching band. Flash (and I) have spent two and a half weeks of August and now a couple nights a week devoted to marching band. Most weekends this fall will be spent at either a football game or a competition for band. The routine and music this year doesn't really impress either of us, although we're hoping the judges don't agree. We shall see.

In the meantime, we saw the University of Michigan's marching band perform on Saturday. I kept nudging Flash to make sure he was paying attention and as impressed as I was. I think he was. Although I don't know if it will translate into a desire to keep playing past high school. Again, we shall see.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

My First Grade Classroom

I stuck with the B.U.G.S. (Bright, Unique, Generous Students) theme again this year. I think it will work as well for first graders as it did for third. I currently have 26 students. That's been brought down from 29 by the hiring of an additional first grade teacher (actually a recall of a pink-slipped teacher). I expect to still add a couple and lose a couple as the year goes along.

I'm really going to miss my Elmo projector and Smart Board from last year. I'm back to an overhead projector, which will take some getting used to again.



I met most of my class at the Open House this week. They are so remarkably little to me, but I'm hoping it's a quick adjustment. They were all so excited to see their classroom and to meet me, it was hard not to get a little excited myself.


I spent a lot of time this summer creating things for my classroom. I finally finished all the vowel representations for the cabinet doors. I had most of them done last year, but finished the last few up last week. Our curriculum (and the new Common Core Standards) teaches the vowel sounds (19) and we then work on teaching kids all the ways to write those sounds (there are 61 ways to write all the vowel sounds). First graders won't learn them all, but they will get the idea that we can spell the /ee/ sound in many different ways, which will help them read and spell words like, 'please', 'piece', 'ski', 'agree', 'happy', etc. There's a place for students to practice parts of speech during station time as well. They might not master modals and adverbial phrases like my third graders, but we'll get many mastered before the year is through!


We start the year with the "Crazy Color Creatures". Birdy was a fantastic help in getting them all colored for me! George spent several days with me at school as well. He's great at getting velcro on things, sorting books, putting library pockets in books and sticking names on desks, cubbies and the wall!


I'll have to get used to doing the calendar and all that goes with it each day. Practicing counting, graphing lost teeth, recognizing money and its values, reviewing days of the week, months of the year, seasons and weather. We'll also work on pattern recognition, our vowel sounds and days of the school year.


My homework book check-out system was helped tremendously by Dad's clever title. I have to re-do the names as they are smearing (lesson learned: overhead markers will smear on laminate, dry erase will not.)


We hope to catch a few compliments this year. We'll add a butterfly each time we receive one and celebrate after 30 or so.


I painted up two of these on poster board and posted them under the front board so students can practice the vowel sounds (and a few of the ways to write them) during station time.


I was too cheap to buy the $20 poster I saw like this, so I created my own on poster board. George put all the velcro on the bees and hives for me. Let's hope the students stay on green most of the time!



We start off with a half day next Tuesday. I'm mostly ready, although I'm sure I'll be back a couple times yet before then just to be sure. Flash is already keeping tallies of how many times I proclaim, "They are so little!" I miss my third graders already, but I'm hoping to have another amazing year like last year!

It's That Time Again

My tomato plants look dreadful but we've gotten three batches of canning done thus far. Probably one more and that will be the last of it. The garden just wasn't quite right this year, but we're enjoying what we can of it! Come winter time, we're going to sure love having our own tomatoes to enjoy in pasta sauce, chili and soups!

Maybe He Should Have Warned Him

As you know, WG and I have been more off-again than on-again this past week or so. In addition, he's been heavily involved in the Great Battle of the Chipmunks at his house. The little critters are getting into his attic through his eave troughs. He's tried blocking the downspouts, smoking them out of their underground holes and poisoning them with bait. Alvin and his brothers seem to be invincible. With additional time on his hands since we've been apart, he finally set up a stake-out from his bedroom window to spy on the little guys. Eventually, the 22-guage was brought in and he set up a sniper's pose out of his bedroom window. (Apparently this is what boys do. I had no idea.)

Filled with bird shot, WG aimed the 22 and shot Alvin in the neck. The poor chipmunk did a dying back flip and died on the back lawn. Feeling remarkably satisfied and vindicated, WG patted himself on the back and made plans to provide a similar fate to Simon and Theodore. His thoughts were interrrupted by the worried voice of his roommate in the room next door. "WG.....?" came the fretful inquiry.

His roommate, knowing WG and I haven't been talking much this week, had heard a gunshot from behind WG's closed bedroom door and thought the worst.

Apologies were made, new chipmunk-sniper rules have been established at WG's house and I suspect a drink or two may be owed. So while there may not be a new Chipmunk Christmas album produced this year, WG will still be around to sing it for us, should we so desire.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Chomosome I Wish I Had

I was mowing my lawn two days ago when my engine made a loud POP! and then promptly died. I wasn't optimistic, but I tried to start it again only to get a sputter-sputter-chug-chug-plop and that was that. Eli and I gave it a fretful stare and then I pushed it into the shade to cool off, hoping it was just somehow, mysteriously overheated.

About an hour later, I went back out and gave it another yank or two, to be met with the same sputter-sputter-chug-chug-plop, but no engine starting. My fretful stare became a more serious worry.

I spoke with Bear (ah yes, poor Bear) and he suggested I check the gas cap and maybe purchase a new one as they had experienced similar problems years ago and it was solved with a new gas cap. I thought $7 sounded like a great fix idea.

My dad suggested I check the spark plug. He wasn't sure beyond that or the air filter thingy, but the spark plug made a lot of sense now that he mentioned it, and so I headed out the the garage, thinking a $3 spark plug and/or a $7 gas cap was still far better options than a new $250 mower.

I pulled the mower out of the garage into the sunlight and took a look around for the spark plug. I immediately realized how right my dad must be. The spark plug MUST be the problem, because there WASN'T ONE. There was an empty hole and the little rubber cover was hanging loosely, but the actual spark plug itself was unexplicably AWOL.

I called Bear. (Ah, poor Bear) I verified with Bear that I must have had a spark plug to have started the mower when I started the back yard. While unlikely that a spark plug would just wiggle itself loose, it was most likely to be found somewhere in the yard. And so I searched. And I searched. But I didn't find a spark plug.

Bear had mentioned that in lieu of the old plug, I could take my model information to Tractor Supply and they could look it up for me. Which is what I did. Only the catalogs full of useful spark plug information didn't list anything for my make and model in combination with the horsepower mine proclaimed to have. The saleswoman suggested I return home and find the actual model number on the deck of the mower.

Running out of time before I had to be elsewhere, I wrote down the model number, but wasn't able to return to Tractor Supply until this morning. A new (and remarkably good looking) man tried to answer my question, but he came upon the same information and nothing more. We google'd it, we looked in several parts catalogs, but none listed my make, model and horsepower together. He asked me several times what color my mower was and if the plug was on the front or the side, and I became aware that he didn't believe the information I was providing. He suggested that the model number on the deck is not necessarily the same for the engine, as this particular company likes to just confuse people by providing two different things. I told him I lived just up the road and I would go home and find the OTHER number that he apparently needed.

Flash met me at the door when I returned home and asked if he could help in anyway (I know, I nearly fell over, too). I explained the problem, and I began taking pictures of my mower and the lack of another model number to take back to hottie at Tractor Supply (who, by the way, I am certain was as impressed with sweaty, gross, pony-tailed, make-up-less, Saturday morning mess, me) I asked if Flash would walk the back yard and see if he could find the missing old plug that I wasn't able to locate.

Armed with photographic evidence, I headed back to Tractor Supply. As I was about to walk in the doors, I had a text message from Flash saying he found the old plug and he provided me with the serial number on it.

I found hottie and shared the triumphant news. He located the right part for me and even looked it up in the catalog to see what sort of engine that part is said to go with (and still wasn't the one I have). I thanked him profusely and returned home to install a $3 spark plug and immediately start up my mower.

I don't know how men just know these things. I don't know how they can just fix things with such little to-do as they do. It must have something to do with that stinkin' Y chromosome. With my two X's, I feel completely helpless when it comes to some mechanical malfunction. I just stare at it and I know it has me beat before I can even pretend to put up a fight. I am in no small part, so grateful to Bear and my dad for their little words of wisdom, without which I would have a mower in a repair shop for $90, or would be contemplating the purchase of an entirely new one, all for want of a missing spark plug.

It reminds me of something a friend said in college when the dorm vacuum stopped sucking things up. "Did you check to see if the bag was full?" I asked.

"Bag? What bag? I didn't know these things had bags? Wow, look at that, it is full! Thank goodness you were here. I'd never know to check the bag. I would have just had to throw the vacuum away and buy a whole new one."

The mower may have outwitted me this time, but let the record stand, it will not fool me so quickly the next time. Unless, of course, the repair has nothing to do with a $3 spark plug.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Poor Bear

Perhaps the person who will suffer most in this breakup is really my brother-in-law, Bear. I haven't been single for two days and I had to already hit him up with broken lawnmower questions.

The poor man.

For a few months there, he only had one honey-do list.

I should restock my fridge with his favorite beer. He doesn't even know about the shutters yet.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In a conversation about nothing really, Flash retorted with a quick, "What? So sue me for being a romantic!"

And I realized, of all things to hand-down to your child, of all the genetics, dispositions, inclinations, habits, tendencies and beliefs to pass along to your offspring, could there be anything worse than condemning them to the life of a romantic?

I wanted, then and there, to just hug him and beg for forgiveness for passing along the romantic curse. I wanted to apologize and try to sway him off the course I know he is now destined to suffer through.

What fate could be worse than to be a romantic in this life? Is it not a life of continual disappointment? Is it not a life of frustration and suffering? Is it not a life where the glass, while rose-colored and lovely, is not just half-empty, but full of poison to boot?

Romantic.

But maybe there is hope. Maybe there is a glimmer in all of this, for Flash is not just any romantic, he is a male romantic. The romantic male is a rarity indeed, is it not? I don't mean to suggest Flash is some sappy, effeminate poet. He merely believes that life's precious moments are worth savoring, worth contemplating, worth creating and planning to bring out full emotion of the occasion. He doesn't leave to chance the important moments, and he makes little moments important with his care and thought. A first kiss is a masterpiece in his mind. Scripting the perfect, nerdy love-letter takes days. He even sweated out the details to make sure just having his girlfriend to dinner was planned and thought-out and not just happenstance. He worried over the timing: dinner then movie? Movie then game? Game before dinner? Until he thought he had it all orchestrated just so.

Life won't always go this way, in fact, it won't even go this way often. But from the viewpoint of a 40-year old romantic cynic, I guess I admire his naive tenacity. I admire his effort, his desire, his enthusiasm. Ahh, puppy love. What the innocent enjoy before they learn that love bites.

24 Hours

I've always told myself that no man is worth crying over for more than 24 hours. One day is it. Wallow, pity thineself and then, 24 hours later, move on. Certainly, for first or second dates gone badly, it's a good theory. There's no use getting upset for longer than the wretched bad date lasted in the first place, but along my many years of single-hood, I'll admit, there has been a time or two when 24 hours wasn't quite long enough to cure my heartache.

Without a doubt, I know that this is one of those times.

I made the call, I own the decision, and while I regret that it came to an impasse, I couldn't have kept going as things were.

But I liked this one. I loved this one.

Maybe after this summer's brief hiatus from each other, I should have been more prepared for this inevitable. I think it only made it worse. I thought...well, it doesn't matter now what I thought. We convince ourselves there's a reality to the things we hope most for, don't we?

Sigh.

It has been 24 hours. We're still sorting through the "I'll return your..." and the "What do I do about..." emails, still discovering things in my life, my home, that belong to him and vice versa. Things I don't want to let go of, but things that remind me too much.

Six months was a long time for me. Long enough together that I know 24 hours apart isn't going to even come close to healing this heart. 24 days might not even cut it.

This is going to take awhile.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

School work done for the day? Check.

Kitchen cleaned up? Check.

Bowl of popcorn? Check.

Blanket to take the chill of the evening off? Check.

Oh how I love Sunday Night Football!



Written for Flash?



I saw this book at the Dollar Store and showed it to Flash. I thought it might help the next time he is in Tennessee and encounters a Blue-Tailed Skink.

(Flash didn't think it was nearly as funny as I did.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Again, Not Quite What I Meant

Flash was helping me unload the car yesterday after I returned home from another morning at school. I had brought back boxes of books that are too difficult for first graders, a small table I need to paint and take back to my classroom, a posterboard and a few small crates.

"What is this thing?" Flashed asked, pointing at a heavy item in a white case.

"Aunt Jules' sewing machine."

"What do you need it for?"

"The next time I'm procrastinating doing anything truly important, I thought I would sew a skirt for my overhead cart."

"I thought you had a sewing machine."

"I do, I have my mom's. But it doesn't work very well anymore. It's older than I am, Flash. Things that are older than me don't tend to work very well."

"Papa is older than you, is that why he is retired?" Flash said with a smirk.

Sigh. Teenagers.

Non-Competitive Photo Shoot #2



Okay, Dad, you have 20 minutes to get a better picture of a Walking Stick. Go!
WG earned serious points by the boy for bringing the bug over, but the boy earned no points from the bug. As it turns out, looking like a stick is in no way a deterrent to a teenage boy. The poor bug was held, turned, dropped, grabbed, studied and photographed. When finally he was placed in the herb garden, he struck a rather forlorn five-legged pose on a basil leaf. He was still there hours later. We are fairly certain this is the official Walking Stick sign of surrender.

Note: No calls from the SPCA of Southwest Michigan were received.
Whew.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I've Said It Before

but it bears repeating. I have the sweetest boyfriend ever.

I blame it on Super Mario. If Flash hadn't started playing the Wii, I might not have insisted that we do something so crazy. But I did. Maybe it was just the cool weather, maybe it was the sense that summer is rapidly slipping by and my child is rapidly growing up that made me seize the opportunity with gusto and suggest, nay, insist that we go for a bike ride together.

The bike ride itself wasn't really the issue. It was the destination that secures my room at the insane asylum. I suggested we ride to WG's house. It's only four miles down the road, I proclaimed with confidence! Four miles is nothing. It's just that I live on a hill, and WG lives on a hill, and suffice it to say, they are not the same hill.

Flash agreed with as much confidence as I had suggested the original proposition, making me immediately aware that I hadn't thought this out very well at all. I had water, granola bars, cell phone, keys, helmets, but no sanity. Certainly the necessary muscles for peddling up the numerous hills were lacking as well.

I sent a text to WG about half way through the ride (not while riding, geez, I can barely peddle and look over my shoulder without fallling off the bike! Flash had to stop to fix his chain so I thought it was a good time to check and make sure my prince charming might be home to save me from myself.)

The second worst hill of the entire ride is the one leading up to WG's driveway. The worst hill is WG's driveway itself. Being gravel, I wasn't even about to attempt his driveway, but being winded from trying to get up the street itself, just trying to push my stupid, old body bike up his driveway nearly killed me.

WG met us at the top of the drive. "Are you okay?"

I think it took me five full minutes to be able to breathe well enough to actually answer him.

He declared us both mentally insane. He offered water and chairs and a chance to sit and rest. Then he fed Flash leftover lasagne and he quietly went out and put the bike rack on his Jeep. We loaded the two bikes on and he drove us home without once telling me I'm a wuss or an idiot or perhaps, quite reasonably both.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Not Quite What I Meant

"Flash, you know, I didn't really expect this driving thing to be quite so hard on me."

"What do you mean, Mom?"

"Well, I remember quite clearly, how difficult it was to endure you learning how to ride a bike. It was one of the most painful things I went through as a mother. Luckily, it only took a few days. I guess I thought teaching you how to drive would be difficult, but the difficulty would be short-lived, like the bike-riding was. You had it mastered in about three short days."

"Yeah, but I sure fell a lot in those three short days."

"But that's part of learning, Flash. When you learned to walk, you fell and you got up. You fell, and you got up. When you learned to ride a bike, you fell and you got back on the bike, you fell and you got back on. It's just part of the process."

"So what you're saying, Mom, is that to learn how to drive I need to crash over and over?"

"Um, not exactly, no."


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dear Mom

Today is one of those calendar days where it's hard not to think of you. You come to mind on so many other days as well, but today, the day you had to leave, is one of the hardest every year.

You've come to mind often, the past few days and weeks. I'm changing to a new classroom this year and I'm scared to death. I know you'd say just the thing I need to hear. I know you'd laugh about first graders and tell me entertaining stories of the three of us when we were that age. You'd help me with sewing and creating all the little things I need that are bogging me down from focusing on the new curriculum, the new assessments, the new lesson plans. I know you'd be here, supporting, encouraging and laughing. I could really use it about now.

Did you see us playing Canasta? The last time I played that game I am sure we were partners. How long has it been since we played? 25 years? I played this time with two boys I love and realized you've never met either of them. That very thought just makes my heart heavy sometimes. You would have been so proud of Dad and the prank he played on your grandson! You would have been right in the thick of it, too. You'd have pulled several of your own, I'm sure.
I am certain, every time I am in Tennessee that you are in Heaven laughing. It's hard to believe, isn't it, that this family of ours actually boats?! I never thought I would thank you for the years of shivering swimming lessons at the City Park Pool, but they sure have come in handy. Dad even got in the water this time. It may be well over 25 years since I've seen that happen.

I was travelling again on my birthday this year. Seems appropriate after all the times we did it when I was young. I didn't much like turning 40, though, thinking of how few years you had after your 40th. And I can't help but think of how much you would have loved retirement. Travelling, visiting friends often, having the grandchildren come and stay.

It's been a long time since I heard your laugh or saw your smile or that mischievious twinkle in your eye. I miss your hugs. I miss how you would exclaim, "Eliza is home!" when I walked in the door. While I don't want to rush things down here, I sure can't wait to hear you say those words to me one more time.

I love you, Mom.

Eliza Jane

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Endangered Blue-Tailed Skink

While in Tennessee, Flash became obsessed interested in the Blue-Tailed Skink.


He searched high...




...and he searched low. He would abandon a game of pool to run off and chase a skink.
When we couldn't get him to take his headphones off or abandon his computer to be social with any of us, we could merely whisper "skink" and he'd go running.

And then, finally, he caught one. He was beyond excited. We all came out and took excessive numerous photos of the occasion.

Blue-tailed indeed. Flash's lizard was not to be mistaken. He was quite disappointed that his mother would not allow him to take the lizard home as a "gift" to his girlfriend, but he took photos and played with the lizard until it escaped and he felt quite satisfied that he had accomplished a terrific feat.


Until...


We were all playing cards around the table when Papa's cell phone went off with a new text message. His face became quizzical and then upset as he read the text. He shared with us the message, "The SPCA of Eastern Tennessee has received notification that a member of your household has tampered with an endangered species. An official summons will be sent via mail in three business days. Subsequent fines and/or punishments may be enforced if a violation can be proven."


The table grew silent. Flash's face turned red.


"What endangered animal?" we innocently asked.


"Must be the Blue-Tailed Skink," he said.


"Endangered? I didn't know it was endangered!" exclaimed Flash.


Much talk ensued around the table as to how we were spotted and who in the neighborhood might have reported the incident. "There was that white van that went by while we were out in the driveway," WG chimed in.


"We'll have to destroy all the pictures," Papa said. "They could incriminate us."


Flash feverishly google'd the Blue-Tailed Skink. "There's nothing in here about it being endangered! They must be mistaken!"


"Well, maybe it wasn't really a Blue-Tailed Skink. Could it be some other kind of skink?"


Flash pulled up multiple pictures of skinks, scouring each page at a furious rate to figure out where the confusion might lie. He shouted stats at the table in a crisp, legal defense. "The Mole Skink of southern Florida is on the endangered list, but it doesn't look anything like the skink I had!"


He continued to scan the pages, again and again, with increasing emtion, refuting the claim. He was passionately adamant that the skink he had held and photographed was a not a protected species.


The table grew silent as Papa suggested we await the written notice and see what steps we might take to refute the claim. Flash was not placated by any of our reassurances. He sat, with stricken face, his mind running through various scenarios, trying desperately to find clear and rational proof of his innocence.


Papa excused himself from the table. When he returned, he suggested calmly that we re-read the message and see if maybe there's something we originally missed.


"Verizon wireless would like to offer you a new Droid phone for only..."


We all sat and looked at Flash. It took a full, long, breathless minute for him to realize he'd been had. Papa had pulled off one of the best pranks ever. Flash laughed with relief and admitted he had been gotten. We all congratulated Papa on a well-played joke and patted ourselves on the backs for being able to go along with it on the fly so well.


It may be a long time before Flash lives down the Endangered Blue-Tailed Skink Incident.



As for the skink, I think if he took on an Australian accent, he might just have a career in advertising.

Vacation

Squeezed in between the week James requested off nearly a year ago and Flash's epic return to band camp, we snuck in a quick but wonderful trip to Tennessee to see my dad and Judy.


Of course there was charring grilling.

And card playing.

Suspicious card playing indeed.


And presents. Who can beat presents?!

I don't understand it, but apparently some teenagers people prefer simple thank you notes to deep-felt hugs! Who knew?

There may have been an unadvertised and certainly not competitive photo shoot.


While we have been taking our children to Tennessee for many years, one thing remains the same: the children never really mature age.




There was tubing, of course.

Which for some reason involves playing the air guitar.
(What would his girlfriend say?!)



There were some of us who returned home with a very sore elbow and stern words from his doctor to "stop acting like you are 20 and just drive the boat!"
but I won't mention any names. Ahem.

There was laughing, of course.




And evil, maniacal water fights.


And beautiful sunsets
(even if these clouds did contain many bolts of lightning and threatening thunder).





We had a great time and all three of us thank the Tennessee clan for their generous hospitality year after year. We hope next time we can stay just a bit longer!