Friday, June 24, 2011

What's Between His Ears Then?

For Christmas, I gave Flash two concert tickets to a Christian music festival in June. Last night was the night for his favorite rock band to perform and so I drove Flash and a friend an hour and a half north of home to a muddy, messy fairgrounds. The boys had planned to be there early to catch a few other groups, so my waiting time in Po-dunk, Michigan was going to stretch somewhere between 6 or 7 hours. While it wasn't ideal, I figured I could sit and read in my car as easily as anything and it would certainly save on gas and mileage.

WG, had been travelling further north for work yesterday and being the uber-boyfriend, added nearly 50 miles to his trip just to meet me for dinner (totally his idea, not mine). We had just gotten seated at the restaurant down the road from the concert when Flash sent me a text. "Hey Mom! Pastor B says hello!" It wasn't a shock that he might run into people we know, especially our pretty-hip pastor from church, but what excited me most was the idea that maybe I wouldn't have to wait, maybe he just found a ride home.

"Does he have room in his car for two more?" I texted back.

"I don't know, I didn't ask him." Of course not. That's adult logic, not teen logic.

"If you see him again, perhaps you could ask."

"He's sitting right next to us."

"So, maybe you could ask?!?"

"Ask him what?!"

At this point, WG is laughing hysterical in the booth with me. I am giving that look of "Are you kidding me??" and counting the hours until Flash and his completely absent teenage brain are a problem for his father and not for me.

"Ask him if he has room in his car..." You know, so you mother doesn't have to spend SIX HOURS ON A RAINY THURSDAY NIGHT IN THE PARKING LOT OF WALMART!?!??!


As it turns out, Pastor B did not have room, but as I sat and waiting (and listened to the concert, which I could hear quite clearly from where I parked) I realized that as a parent, there was nothing I would rather do with my evening than sit and wait for my teenager to attend a Christian concert with a friend from school, filling their hearts and souls with Christian lyrics and encouragement. They were soggy and a muddy mess when it was all over, but they are pumped up for the Lord!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why the Military Won't Be Calling


"Flash? Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I just hurt my hand on a bag of lettuce."


Um...Guinness Book of World Records?! I think we've found the world's wimpiest teenager...

Sitting on the Step

We went out on the deck, down to the little bed full of herbs, obstensibly to clip some fresh basil to accompany dinner, when he sat down on the step and gently started the conversation. "Tell me about the argument you had with Flash last night." It wasn't anything I might have brought up, other than to say we could chalk up one more disagreement between the teen and the mother, but he wanted to know, he had been wondering about it.

And so I explained - another laziness versus expectations argument, really, and he nodded and listened. And I dug a little deeper and questioned whether my consequences were appropriate and how I might produce a change in Flash's attitude, and he listened and nodded and asked a question or two. And he told me of a conversation he had with Flash earlier in the day and what he saw in that and how he had calmly steered Flash through that dialogue.

The moment on the steps, looking out over the lawn was so simple, so easy, so unremarkable, really, but it's all those reasons that make it remarkable. This man so easily slid into the routines of family life, so gently came alongside me and somewhere along the way has taken my hand and walked in step with me, listening and encouraging as we walk this journey together. He doesn't pretend to have the answers to parenting questions, nor does he come with a critical view as an outsider looking in. He sits with me and validates my concerns and allows me the freedom to be frustrated, angry, worried or stressed. He offers nothing more than an ear, a shoulder and sympathy.

I am not the same kind of friend as he is. When frustrations are shared, I'm quick to think of solutions, or ways it might have been avoided, or even judgments on those involved. I'm ready with advice or my own story when a friend comes with a need to share.

But not him. I am so touched by the way he loves me, so moved by the grace with which he relates to us. Sitting on the back steps, talking through a silly fight that will be remembered if only for the number of times we'll have these in this stretch of years, I learned a lot from the man sitting next to me. He is true, and honest and real. He is genuinely concerned, sympathetic and there to share the load. It is hard, being a single parent for so long, to release that load or share the burden. But he knows I will handle it and I never feel as though he doubts my ability to do so, in fact, he encourages me and supports me in such a way that gives me the strength I need to handle things as they come. He knows Flash and I will work it out. He knows his place right now is simply to support us both, to sit on a step and listen. And he does so with such grace. Such gentle grace.

And I feel so blessed to be loved by him.

Monday, June 20, 2011

There Wasn't a Hallmark Card for It

Dear Mr. WG:

It has been the findings of this group that while you are not legally bound nor biologically tied to any children of your own, you have met (and exceeded) the expectations for “Dadliness” in all of the following major areas:

• Being able to grill
• Being able to grill well
• Heck, just being able to cook extraordinarily well
• Driving a way-cool vehicle
• Having a fantastic sense of humor (read that: “able to make Mom laugh when she’s mad at the kid”)
• Going to sporting events
Enjoying sporting events
• Saying yes when Mom says no
• Being hard-working
• Attending church with us
• Jumping in and adding to the family traditions (Holy Toledo! Ooohh...Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana let me say it once again...Nothing Runs Like a Deere!)
• Acting like a kid yourself sometimes
• Having fun toys (aka big, green tractors)
• Letting the kid play with the fun toys
• Not freaking out like Mom as the kid plays with the fun toys
• Able to admit your own fears (even if it is of silly snakes)
• Being instructional with said kid – especially in the area of successful dating tips and "Char-grilling Avoidance"
• Being helpful in a pinch or on a Tuesday, or whenever Mom can’t figure it out
• Having an appreciation for messy destruction (especially of plants)

Thus, it is the judgment of this organization that your application for “Daditude” be approved. Today shall henceforth be spent celebrating in your honor! Congratulations!

--The Parental Presidium (aka Flash and Mom)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Last Day

I armed myself with a few distractions - Flash, Eli and snacks accompanied me to the classroom today not just to tickle the fancy of 24 of the cutest 3rd graders a teacher could ever be blessed with, but to try to help stave off the tears. Just in case, I also went with a new box of tissues.

The day was chaos at best. Passing out the last of the year's papers, signing shirts, yearbooks and classroom souvenirs, opening gifts and reassuring the soft-hearted like myself, and final rounds of our favorite class games were enough to keep the half-day full, but we also helped move books out of our room to the teacher moving to third grade, and switched desks with the class next door for much the same reason. If ever I was aware of the feeling of being ushered out, it was today.

My classroom half dismantled already, the only joy and life in the room was in the faces of my kids. And over the past 180 days that's exactly what they have become - my kids. We have laughed, and cried, struggled and rejoiced, learned and grown together this year and 180 days later, we feel much like family.

I packed the last few moments with constant motion and activity, dodging and averting the tears waiting to fall on more than just my face, but even as we moved from packing up, to the group hug, to the sounds of the bell, I knew it was only a matter of time. The kids poured out of the room for the most part, the few that always linger for hugs lingered a little longer until there were just two of us left in the room. She was worried about a sweatshirt left behind by a friend but when I caught her eyes, they were brimming with tears. I heard her mom, waiting just outside my door, say, "It's going to be okay..." and that's when I just lost it. We hugged and I consoled and I promised her next year would be just fine hiding my own uncertainty about what next year will bring.

I still had to make my way out to the busses for the tradional wave-off, and I held it back again while other teachers cheered as the busses pulled out. Eli, Flash and I walked back to my classroom where I let the tears just roll.

180 days isn't enough to teach the kids all the math, all the reading, all the science, handwriting, history and grammar as the curriculum dictates. It isn't long enough to balance all the assessments with fun projects. It isn't long enough to move my low readers up to benchmark no matter how hard we both try. But it is plenty long enough to get attached. It is long enough to come to adore these little beings and all that they bring to the classroom. It is long enough to worry and stress about more than just their academics, to wonder if one will end up moving to live with his dad and if another will ever see his mom again.

It would have been at least a bit easier if I were staying in the building and could see my B.U.G.S. from time to time as they passed in the hall, or out at recess, but my move to first means a move of buildings and while it is only next door, it is rare that I will be able to see the kids I have grown so fond of this year.

180 days full of love, laughter, learning and joy.

One day full of heartbreak.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

I Should Warn the Gift Shop

I'm taking WG (and Curbie) on a field trip. I hadn't exactly disclosed our destination, but WG caught on to the fact that it was at the very least in a westerly direction.

"Are we going to Illinois by chance?"

"Maybe," I said, knowing he had figured out that we were going to see a very dear friend of mine.

"Can I ask whereabouts in Illinois our destination is? I mean, is it southern or northern....or perhaps anywhere near the Quad Cities??!"

For a moment, I thought he was just hoping to have the chance to see where I went to college, or where I spent the first five years of my married life - to see, even where Jacob was born and spent his first couple of years, excited, maybe to have the famous Whitey's ice cream...but who am I kidding? I knew better.

"Yes, WG. We will be right in the Quad Cities," I replied, knowing the giddy smile that was about to come upon his face - the sheer excitement that is normally reserved for small children on Christmas Eve.

"Do you think maybe we could...I mean...would it be okay if....I don't mean to impose but..."

"WG, John Deere Headquarters is already on the itinerary."

"You're the best girlfriend EVER!"

It's the little things, I guess. Or the big green ones in this case.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Unchartered Territory

I suppose it is a sign of the times when WG and I were measuring the length of our relationship by the fact that the movie we saw on our first date became available on DVD this week. I realize that's not listed on the anniversaries as published by Hallmark, but since neither of us have reached this mark in awhile, we thought it was significant enough. Maybe I'll wait to see if the relationship is still going strong and truly celebrate when the DVD hits the $5.99 barrel, huh?

Monday, June 06, 2011

How could I not love this man?

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Deal

We were at the garden center when the conversation came up. "EJ? How much do you love me?"

"You know I love you, WG."

"Yes, but how much?"

"What do you mean?"

"Do you love me enough to plant asparagus?"

"WG, of course I love you enough to plant asparagus! That's a silly question."

"But if you plant asparagus now, EJ, it won't be ready for two more years."

"Oh. That's quite a commitment, WG. Two years? That's like a cell phone contract."

"I know. That's why I'm asking. Do you love me that much?"

"Put it in the cart, WG. I will plant asparagus for you."

Today I am off to meet his mother. I met his brother, sister-in-law and sister the other night and have so far passed that test, but today is the mother of all tests (literally). I ironed my skirt last night. I showered and rollered my hair. I put zucchini bread in the oven to take along. I was sitting on my deck this morning, rehearsing all the right answers in my head, practicing my sweet, innocent look when I saw it. I rushed over and did a Hallelujah dance right there in the yard.

I guess if things don't work out today, I can cut my losses and run with no contractural obligations or penalties, right?