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.

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.

I’m worried, and it sucks.

I am leaving shortly to take my baby to the DMV to take his driver’s test.  He will walk away with his first official ID, and the ability to take a vehicle, a large moving projectile, on the road all by himself without me stomping on the highly effective passenger side brake.  I’m scared to death.

I’m not normally a worrier.  Worrying is a waste of time and energy, and who wants to spend time thinking about all the bad things that might happen?  Not me, especially when 99.9% of the time whatever horrible scenario I have dreamed up would be as likely to happen as California falling off.  Surprisingly, this actually did come up when I was a kid.

I had a crazy great uncle who lived on a secluded compound with his cult somewhere in Montana.  Occasionally, he would call my parents with dire warnings that they must flee the Bay Area as California was destined to fall off into the sea, drowning us all.  I’m not sure if it was going to be a clean cut along state lines or if it would follow a fault line in which case only half of the state would fall.  In any case, my parents moved us to the safety of Nevada when I was seven, so I didn’t have to worry about it anymore.

Thankfully, I’ve never worried about such dramatic events as the end of California like my great uncle did; however, I’ve never had a son get a license before either, and I’m finding that on a worry scale, its about as high for me as California falling off was for my uncle.

Two weeks ago, my son bought a truck, a little 2001 Ford Ranger.  It’s a great little truck, and we probably could have got a slightly better deal on it but the lady who sold it to us had no teeth and was on oxygen, so my husband felt guilty chewing down her price too much.  Happily, the truck has a 3 liter V6 engine which translates into relatively “gutless.”  Despite that fact, I have had visions of it rolling, bursting into flames, the tires falling off on the freeway, any variety of disasters all of which end with my baby horribly injured.

I would love to say that my son is a responsible, extremely mature 16 year old who always considers the consequences of his actions, but he’s not.  He’s typical.  Two nights ago he took me for a drive to a nearly gravel pit to show me how he figured out how to pop the clutch and make it fish tail all over the place.  Oh God.  I just grabbed the “oh shit” handle above the window and shut my eyes, fondly remembering how he used to show me safe things, like how high he could jump.

When we got home, my husband asked where we had gone, and I could only glare at him.  Our son has learned his love of crazy driving from his father.  I would never make a vehicle go sideways on purpose.  My husband lives for snowy days when each corner becomes an opportunity to go sideways; empty intersections become perfect places for brodies.  For him, driving is much more fun in the snow when the truck is not in 4 wheel drive.

Apparently, he’s taught our son well, and it scares the crap out of me.  I’ve been praying for weeks, worrying about this impending day.  Feel free to pray with me.  Or just pray for yourself as you drive down our roads and highways that are littered with 16 year old drivers.  We’re adding one more today.  Lord help us all.

5 Things I Learned from my Dad

As a parent, I like to think that my kids will take my always insightful, wise, and relevant advice to heart when they’re making any sort of decision for themselves.  How could they not?

I know the answer to that question because I am also a daughter who listened to my parents’ insightful, wise, and relevant advice, well, as much as my kids listen to mine.  This means I listened when, for better or for worse, their advice aligned with what I had already decided for myself.  I, like my parents in front of me and my kids behind me, had to figure things out all by myself while my parents watched from the sidelines, hoping that I’d listened just enough to be okay.  Thankfully I did, or at least I think I turned out alright.

Today, I’d like to say thanks to my Dad for offering advice and teaching me even when I didn’t listen, so Dadd-o this one’s for you.  No new BBQ cookbooks or Home Depot gift cards for you this year.  You get something even better, a blog post!   Cheers!

1) After my first blog post, my Dad commented and informed me that I come from a long line of writers beginning with my great, great, great grandmother whose Oregon Trail diary was published by the Oregon Historical society.  Good to know writing is “in my blood.”  He’s also read and commented or emailed me on almost every post since.  It’s nice to know that somebody out there is reading this.  Even if sometimes it’s drivel, my Dad reads every post and believes in me as a writer.

2)  Between reading my posts, my dad surfs the net and reads all kinds of conservative bloggers and websites.  He’s a conservative republican, which he constantly reminds me through article links and jokes.  I am a Democrat.  He loves me anyway, even when I entertain myself pushing all his conservative little buttons. That’s nice to know.

3)   Just about every night since I can remember I have read before falling asleep, even if its just a page or two.  My Dad always did too and passed on is love of books to me.  When I was eight, he installed a reading light into the wall above my bed, so I could read until the wee hours if I felt like it.  While my mom tackled the classics and introduced me to Pride and Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables, he  introduced me to Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, and thrillers.   I’m not sure that I have been able to pass on our love of books to my children, but I haven’t given up hope yet.

4)  As a kid, my dad dragged us to church just about every weekend.   In the summer he almost always followed up church with a trip to the beach for the afternoon.  I didn’t always love going to church and I would say now that we’re in different places spiritually, but I’m thankful he introduced me to God.  I’ve learned that God is pretty good to know.

5) Before I got married, my dad presented me with a gift.  He wrote a lengthy piece on everything he wished he had known before he first got married to my Mom.  He learned these lessons from his own parents and their 50 year marriage,  his failed marriage to my mom, and his successful marriage to the love of his life, my stepmom.  I didn’t understand some of his wisdom at 24 when Gary and I tied the knot, but after 17 years of marriage myself, I’m starting to get it.  This is one of the best gifts I’ve ever recieved.  I’m old enough to finally appreciate it and learn from it.

Obviously, I’ve learned many more than five things from my Dad, but this is a blog, not a memoir.  I’ll stop here.  Happy Father’s Day Dad-o.