What is it about Pomp and Circumstance?

Graduation at my school happened last Friday evening.  I sat next to a cooler on the track, sweat dripping, and gauged sold water bottles to all the unprepared poor souls who didn’t bring any in with them. My Forensics kids scored with the unseasonably warm 90 degree weather as our water bottle sale was the last fundraising effort before we leave for nationals next week. We pretty much cleaned up and now have enough money to eat AND play!

Every year, graduation brings mixed emotions. I’m always sad to see some of my favorite students leave, but its also fun to watch them get ready to fly. But every year, that damn song gets me. As soon as the band begins to play it, I get goose bumps (even in the heat), and my eyes tear up. For my own graduations, that song represented the excitement of moving on, now as a parent it represents the other side of that same coin.

The entire time it played, I kept thinking that next year, my oldest baby will be donning a medieval outfit of his own and marching onto the football field to the traditional tune.

I am not ready, even a little bit, for that to happen. Graduation from preschool? That was fun. 8th Grade graduation was a sweet celebration that brought his first “date” for a dance. He was home by 8:30. High school graduation? There is no way that either me or he will be ready for him to move out! We have one year to finish teaching him . . . so much! How can we possibly prepare him? Um . . . we can’t.  That scares me. He’s just going to have to give it a go and learn like we all did.

I remember when we counted his age in weeks, and then months, and finally years. The countdown in the other direction has started. I used to have years before he was ready to leave home. We have now transitioned into months. He will be graduating in twelve months and leaving in fifteen. Soon enough, graduation will be a matter of weeks away.

I had not thought of any of that until the damn song started to play. I looked around at all the mothers who were there to see their children graduate. Some of them cried, some cheered, some barely held it together.  I’m a year away, and I was in the last group – not good.

My son is one of the most laid back people on the planet. I’m not. Clearly, its time for me to learn some of the lessons he tries to teach me. “Just chill mom,” he says to me fairly regularly. “It’s all good.”

I know it is. I know he’ll be just fine. I know “Pomp and Circumstance” is merely a song, but its also one I’m not sure I like very much anymore.

Tree Trash

My Daughter’s “Trashless” Dream Tree

Despite the fact that my fourteen year old daughter never stepped a foot out of the truck to participate in our annual tree hunt this year as it was “way too cold,” she still managed to give us quite a few instructions on the size and shape of the tree we should get.  It needed to be tall and narrow, not “bushy.”  Living in Northern Nevada, we get pinion pines and finding a tall narrow one can be harder said than done, but we managed.  She approved of our find and then asked if she could please be in charge of the Christmas decorations this year. “Really,” I said.  “Why?”

“Because last year it looked like Santa puked Christmas all over the house, and this year, I want it to look pretty,” she replied.  Hmmm, Santa puke? She followed this with, “Why can’t we have a pretty tree with ornaments that match? Do you have to cover it with all your ‘tree trash’?”

Yep, tree trash.  That’s what my kids call the treasured ornaments and decorations that they spent countless hours creating.  The tongue depressor reindeer, the glitter and glue angels, the red and green chains to count down the days until Christmas, it has all been reduced to “tree trash,” and much to their dismay, I saved it all. Every single bit of it. They’re my favorite decorations, but apparently their dad and I are the only ones in this family who consider them decorations and not . . . trash.

Which begs the question, what is a holiday decoration? A box of fancy matchy bulbs from a store or a pile of faded construction paper, glitter and glue? My teenagers would choose the former; I’ll take the latter every time, but what are they decorating for?  I would say that at fourteen and sixteen, they’re still overly concerned with appearances, and they don’t really want all their friends to see the lovely ornaments they made in preschool despite the fact that most of their friends made the same exact things they did.  They’ll figure it out someday.

We spent one evening this week dragging out all the holiday decorations, but a full two-thirds of them went back into the garage as I decided to go ahead and let my daughter be in charge of the decorating.  I’ve always thought of myself as something of a minimalist in that I don’t like clutter, but when it came to decorating this season, she put me to shame.

She surveyed every decoration and decided what could come out and what had to stay put.  I did insist on most of the handmade ornaments for the tree, but none of the handmade pictures, cards, or large creations made the cut unless they went in my bedroom.  She informed me I could decorate my bedroom however I wanted it, and since my husband and I are the only people who like all that stuff anyway we could put it in there with us.  “That’s awfully generous of you,” I said.  She didn’t answer.  Sadly, her brother agreed with her.

I have to say that she did an impressive job, and now I know I have prepared her to handle the Christmas decorating responsibilities as an adult.  It was also a good compromise.  I have enough tree trash to make me happy, and she doesn’t feel like Santa puked on us . . .  though I do miss the reindeer one of them made out of a hanger and pantyhose that I usually hang on the door to the office.  I might just have to sneak that one in.

9 Reasons I Miss my Film Camera

This little roll of film made getting pics so much easier.

Last weekend, my husband asked for one picture, a single lone shot he took.  When I went to get it off my camera, I discovered that every single picture I’ve taken over the past year and a half was still on the memory card.  Oops.

It took me an entire afternoon and evening to get the pictures onto my computer, sorted, labeled, and edited.  It has taken the rest of the week to get them uploaded onto a web site, so I can order them. As I’ve dealt with all these digital images, I’ve been thinking about all the reasons I miss the days of film and negative strips:

1)  I take far too many pictures with a digital camera.  It never runs out of film, and I can just delete the bad shots which makes taking 1000’s of pictures easy.  With film, every image cost money to develop, so I was much more particular about the shots I took.

2)   It takes hours of precious time to deal with my overabundance of digital images.

3)    I can no longer shove a roll of film into an envelope, drop it into the Kodak box at the grocery store, and pick up the developed pics a few days later.  The photo people took care of everything, saving me lots of time.

4)    Editing bad photos merely entailed tossing the crappy ones in the trash, the actual can underneath my desk, not a virtual recycle bin on my desktop.

5)    Before I get an actual picture, I have to upload them to my computer, sort them into folders, edit them, and upload them to a site before I can order them.  The other option is to take my memory card to Wal-Mart on a Saturday with every other person in my small town and wait in line to use one of their machines to develop my shots.  Neither of these options is quick or ideal.

6)   I no longer have film canisters lying around to store random odds and ends or make to fill with something for a quick baby rattle.  The only ones I have left are the ones my husband’s grandma gave us full of the different State Quarters.  Did you know that a film canister fits a stack of quarters perfectly?  I’m not sure my kids even know what those handy little black canisters filled with
quarters were originally used for.

7)   I now have a phone that takes pictures.  When we used film, my camera was the only “device” I owned that took pictures, and I didn’t carry it everywhere.  I have far too many opportunities to take photos which I then have to deal with.

8)   Did I mention that it takes far too much time to take organize and print digital images?

9)   In the next week or two, I will receive 800+ photos in the mail, a huge amount.  In the happy days of film camera, I got my pictures in perfectly manageable bunches of 24 or 36, depending on the roll of film I had purchased.   After my monster order arrives, I will have to spend another hour or two sorting and filing all these photos, getting them ready to put into an album, so we can actually enjoy them.  Isn’t that the point?  I won’t get started on the amount of time it takes to put them in albums and write about them.  I can’t blame that problem on digital cameras, though, so I’ll leave it alone in this post.

Perhaps my problem is not the camera, but the fact that I love photos.  I enjoy taking them, putting them in albums, writing the stories behind them, and looking at them.  The only real solution here is to abandon photography altogether since I seriously doubt film cameras will ever make a comeback, and abandoning photography is not a solution.

Maybe I should just deal with my photos more frequently than every 18 months.  I think I’ll try that.

Tragedy – No More DIY Costumes at our House

I miss these days.

Today is Halloween, I will be heading off to teach high school English dressed like I normally do which, according to my teen age daughter, is boring.  All of the high school students will also be dressed in their normal clothes: jeans (pulled up or down to varying degrees and with varying degrees of “fashionable” holes), sweatshirts, and t-shirts.  Anyone who dresses up in costume will be sent home to change.

Why? You might ask. Does the administration not have any sense of fun?  They do, but not this day.  Let me explain.  If you’ve gone shopping for teen or adult sized costumes anytime in the past ten years, there’s not a whole lot for guys and all the girl costumes are some variation on a stripper theme.  You can choose to be a stripper nurse, a stripper witch, or sexy stripper pirate chick; you get the picture. The sexier, the better.  It’s not just the girls, boys push it too.  If given the opportunity to dress up, they’ll often stuff balloons down their shirts and become some sort of scary fantasy woman with breasts that would make any normal woman tip over, literally.

Two weeks ago, my daughter and I were in Wal-Mart looking for bright tights.  We found them, right next to a much larger assortment of fishnet stockings. It seems that if a costume isn’t sexy, it isn’t a costume, and hormone-laced high school kids love this.  Hence, the sad ban on costumes.

This makes me miss the days when I spent hours constructing costumes for my kids.  My favorite ever was the rose bush costume.  My daughter was two, and I made her a pink jumpsuit with leaves on it, and then she donned a bonnet to which I glued a bunch of fake rose petals.  She looked like one of the babies in an Anne Geddes calendar.  One year my son was a skeleton, and then on Oct. 30, he broke his foot.  We got to put a break in his costume “bone.”  Another favorite was his 4th grade costume.  He went as Bo Duke of “The Dukes of Hazzard.”  We dressed him up in a plaid shirt and cowboy boots, and I got to curl and feather his blond hair.

I spent hours at my sewing machine making a tiger costume, a dinosaur, a ladybug, and an itsy bitsy pumpkin outfit to celebrate their first Halloween as infants.  I think I still have most of these costumes in a box in the garage, or my sister has them in her basement.

Every Halloween, the kids would get all dressed up for school and then parade around the elementary school gym to the tune of “Monster Mash” before the class Halloween Party which consisted of as much candy and goodies as the room mom could get the other parents to donate.

This is all over.  No more monster mash parades or class parties, and I’m guessing my participation in creating their costumes is over as well. Though there will be dress-up days at school for Homecoming week, its just not the same. They won’t dress up again for Halloween until they leave home, and then I may not want to know what sort of costumes they choose.  I’m fairly sure they won’t dress up as an adorable a rose bush or broken skeleton.

My Man-Child has Cold Feet, Literally

Over the summer, I had the quilt that I normally keep in the trunk of my car, my denim bus blankie, in the house.  When my son saw me folding it up to put back in my car, he asked me what I was doing.  I told him I was putting it back in the trunk.

He had the audacity to tell me NO, take the quilt from my hands, and set it back on the couch.  “That quilt has to stay in the house on the couch,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.  “We have plenty of snuggle quilts in the house.”

“Ya,” he replied,  “and none of them are long enough to cover my feet anymore.”

I stared at him, up at him.  Oh. My. God. I thought.  I’ve watched him grow over the past two years,  from about the same height as my nose, to being able to set his chin on the top of my head.  That is no small feat as I am 5’9” tall, but I didn’t realize how tall he’d actually become.  Somehow, even though I watched it happen, it snuck up on me.

I stood him up against the door frame where we’ve marked his growth over the years, and we measured him.  My baby boy is 6’ 2” and growing, and he’s right.  The only quilt that will cover his feet if he lays on the couch to watch TV is the one off his bed or the one out of my car.

I guess I didn’t realize how much he’s grown.  Either that, or I still think of him as my little baby boy whose favorite thing is to sit on my lap and read stories.  Well, it used to be.  He would crush me if he sat on me now which he still does occasionally just to amuse himself.

He told me that he does not want to be taller than 6’4”.  Period.  And, like a typical sixteen year old, he seems to think that now that he’s made his declaration, he will stop at 6′ and 4″.  “Of course, sweetie.  Whatever you say.”

Now, despite my declaration to stick with wall hangings for a while, I need to create  giant, long quilt to cover my baby’s toes.

The things we do for love.

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

A few weeks ago, my husband’s aunt sent me a handwritten letter.  I will be honest here – when I first received it, I opened it up, felt the thickness of the folded up yellow sheets, and inwardly groaned.  I wanted to have enough time to sit and read the entire thing without interruption, but when was I going to find that?  I carried the letter with me for several weeks shoved in my purse or my backpack, but I never got to it during the work week.

I finally found the time Saturday afternoon, and when I finished reading the letter, I felt a huge sense of loss for all the letters I haven’t received or written since email, texting, and facebook appeared in my life.

She had written a ten page thoughtful reflection on one of my blog posts.  She questioned some of my points, reflected on others, and shared several personal stories my words had inspired.  Though nothing sentimental existed in the letter, I almost cried when I finished reading it.  It was heartfelt and addressed to me.  It was more than just a blog comment or a status update.

Two years ago, I finished a giant project compiling all of the old family photos, letters, and memorabilia that my dad and all of his ancestors had saved since the late 1800’s.  In the boxes of stuff he  gave me were stacks of envelopes rubber banded together.  There was one faded and yellowed letter from Dutch Harbor, Alaska.   My pregnant great grandmother had written to her sister in law in Idaho after following her husband north where they sought their fortune in the Yukon gold rush.  She discusses the trials of living there while he worked out at the mine site.  She also lists all the prices of the fruit that had just come in on a boat and her excitement to have some fresh fruit.

Another letter came from my great grandfather to my grandfather congratulating him on his impending marriage to my grandma (the baby born in Alaska).  There were many letters documenting my father’s life from 1956 when he left home to go to college through the mid-eighties.   My grandmother, my Dad, and my mom all saved our family’s written correspondence, so there are letters my Dad wrote to his mother as well as  her responses.  In one series of letters, my grandmother was quite upset at his lack of correspondence.  I never knew that side of her, so they were funny to read.  There are also letters my grandmother had sent home during her travels with my grandfather, and letters my sister and cousins had sent to her.

As I organized them, I laid them all out in chronological order.  These letters provide a fascinating glimpse into all of our lives as well as our nation’s history.  Some of the letters included newspaper clippings with reflections on what was happening.  They are a treasure.  My kids won’t have such tangible evidence of our daily lives.  Perhaps in this technological era they won’t miss it, but the fact that they might not even be aware of their loss saddens me more than anything.

Gary’s aunt reminded me of all of this as I read the first true letter I have received in years. I plan on responding, hopefully sooner rather than later.  I will write my letter by hand on the stationery that I’ve had but neglected for years, address the envelope, and put an actual stamp on it.   And I will save her letter, the old fashioned way, in a shoe box or a drawer.  Maybe she will save mine and someday somebody can go back and read them.  Maybe they’ll learn something, or maybe they’ll throw them away.  But either way, a little piece of me and a little piece of her will be on an actual piece of paper somewhere and not a hard drive.  I like that idea.