something right

Do anyone else's kids' homework sessions involve tears? I mean from the kid, not the parent - although I have shed a few in frustration. Today's session with the Bee did. Not that I should have been surprised; she is definitely the most emotional out of the three kids. That, combined with the assignment introducing her to probability (in the first grade, can you believe it?) and a lost-sleep hangover due to a weekend road trip, was no shocker. But it didn't make it any easier, either. She was supposed to write several statements, first about herself and then about her parents, showing events that could happen to her/us, and then write "likely" or "unlikely" next to them. For example:

My mom will eat chocolate tomorrow. Likely
If I put a football on the side of a hill, it will roll uphill. Unlikely

I don't know if she was having trouble coming up with examples, or getting bogged down with all the writing - it was a lot and writing is definitely NOT her favorite subject - or just didn't get it, but she was slowly melting into a puddle of tears and her own self-pity, and her mother really was trying to be patient and understanding and calm, but was also about ready to kick something; maybe the dog. But I remembered some words from my own prayers this morning...something about "please help me to speak kindly to my children, and with love." And I guess this included the dog, because she was spared. (I would never actually kick the dog, I have to interject here.) So I exerted myself a little more, offered loving, supportive, kind words - words about having a choice about her attitude in this tough situation, about how she could choose her reaction, how she could go out and play as soon as she was finished - and then had to remove myself from the situation before I completely lost it, because it wasn't working. I went into the kitchen and started washing dishes, while the little waif mourned her terrible lot on the floor next to the coffee table.

And then, halfway through the nonstick cookware, the crying stopped. Out of the corner of my eye, a little hand picked up the pencil and put it to paper. I remained silent, not wanting to draw attention to it. She was now working on the side of the paper, I knew, that had to do with writing about what her parents were likely/unlikely to do. I thought of past homework sessions which involved frustration on the part of both parent and child and secretly worried that something like "My mom will yell at me..........likely" might end up on that paper, and then what I would do when the teacher called about it, etc. But a few minutes later, she quietly and humbly walked up to me and handed me her homework - all wrinkled, because she had crumpled it up and thrown it on the floor at least twice. "I'm finished, Mom." And I couldn't help smiling. I also couldn't help putting dinner back in the oven for 10 extra minutes so she could go outside for a well-deserved scooter ride with the neighbor kids.

That was when I also sneaked a peek at her work: "Dad will go to werk. Likely. Mom will make dinner. likly."

And then this....

Mom will love me.likely

Guess I did something right today.



I am grateful today for whatever caused me, while I was loading my ipod shuffle Friday night, to place in the midst of Lake Wobegon stories, "Selected Shorts" and "This American Life" podcasts, arrangements of Vivaldi and various songs kifed from Pandora; the song "Here Comes My Girl" by Tom Petty. It came on at mile 12.5 of my second half marathon, when the wind was in my face and my legs were begging me to "just walk a little bit". And it made me imagine my dh waiting for me at the finish line, singing (okay, thinking; let's get real) those words. And then it made me pick up my feet and make it to the end, Stuntman and Flip and Miss Bee running the last 50 feet right along with me. Thank you.


funerals i have known

I went to a funeral for the husband of a friend in my book club yesterday. It was beautiful and sad, for lack of more expressive terms. But that's just what it was. I didn't know her husband at all, so I was there more for her.

I have been to five funerals. The first two were for grandparents; I was 8 at the first one and a senior in high school at the second, so my degree of understanding differed greatly between the two. The third was for my father-in-law, who died in a car accident, just after we had moved two states away and I was pregnant with Flip. Two of my sisters-in-law were also pregnant, and out of the three cousins that came from those pregnancies, the two boys bear their grandpa's name as their middle name. The fourth was for a child, a funeral I'm still not sure why I attended. They were a family who had visited our church meetings a few times, and they sat behind us, and their kids were little and fun to watch. Their little boy died under suspcious circumstances (involving a caregiver), horrible to think about - I still don't know what the outcome of the investigation was. And this was the fifth.

You can't go to a funeral without putting yourself in one of the many roles you see played in it: the widowed spouse, the daughter/son/parent/other family member of the deceased, the deceased him-/herself. Through all 5 of those I've attended, I've found that even if you don't know the deceased that well, you still react. Even if it's like this one - just watching the strong, tough matriarch of a family of 8 children, weary from dealing with 2 years of her husband's illness and watching his battle unfold, walk down the church aisle on her son's arm behind the casket with her eyes full of tears, still trying to be strong and tough.


music man

Flip, as a newly minted middle-schooler, chose band as an elective this year. Despite my status as a former band geek (actually, I'm not sure I can say "former" - I still love it), I can say with all forthrightness that I did not influence this decision at all. Really. He made a list of pros and cons for all his elective choices and based his decision on that. So, now we are serenaded by "Go Tell Aunt Rhodie," "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Ode to Joy" on the trumpet, almost every day. (We also hear his two newest hits - the theme from the Wallace and Gromit movies and something that sounds like Land of a Thousand Dances - both of which he figured out himself.)

Two nights ago, we had the opportunity to go hear the Dallas Brass perform at a fundraiser for a local high school. The word went out to all middle school and high school band students, and since we (read "I") didn't want to miss the opportunity, we invested in tickets for the whole family. (I really did want everyone to go, but mostly Flip. Frankly, I wanted to see Flip get really thrilled about something. He can be quite passive in his enthusiasm.)

Dallas Brass is composed of 5 brass players (2 trumpets, a trombone, a horn and a tuba) and 1 percussionist. They tour around the country as well as some international locations, and also do clinics for school bands, which is how we got to see them. The concert spanned American musical history, beginning with some classical music (from Europe, since that's where many of our forefathers originated from) and working its way through patriotic marches, folk songs, jazz, the birth of rock 'n roll, and even some hip-hop. (At least I think that's how that last one would be defined - I don't know; my radio's usually tuned to NPR or this really great independent rock station.)

I was riveted from the first note. I've always loved the big, warm sound of brass, so it wasn't hard for me to get caught up in what was coming from the stage. But when my eyes weren't on the stage, they were on Flip. Come on, I found myself silently pleading with him, feel this! See what you could do! Someone's throwing you a ball, catch it! I didn't care if the trumpet specifically got him; it could be any of the other instruments. Mainly just the music. The first half of the concert came and went. I asked him during the intermission, "So, what do you think?" "Oh, it's pretty good." (Pretty good??? my inner band geek griped, but I restrained her.)

The second half began, and somewhere - I don't even remember where - a big grin spread across his face, his eyes got bigger, and the light went on. It might have been during the 15-minute drum solo, or the jazz piece that all 5 brass players came down into the audience to perform (the trombonist was flinging his slide right down our row, and Miss Bee, who had fallen asleep, didn't even wake up!), or the performance with the other middle school of the theme from "Super Mario Brothers", but his foot started tapping somewhere in there. He was getting it! Oh, I was ecstatic. He stayed with it all the way to the end, which was school-night late (10:00), which - who knows? - might have been the real reason he was grinning so much.

After the concert, the members of the ensemble assembled in the lobby to sign autographs and answer questions. I persuaded Flip to have one of the trumpet players sign his program (there were CDs and posters available for purchase which would have been better to sign, but we had already blown our budget for the evening on the tickets). Flip was nervous to ask him, but I went with him and he was okay. I told him Flip was a new trumpet player this year, and he asked him how that was going with his mouth full of braces, and then told him that when they came off, he'd sound awesome because there'd be nothing standing between his lips and the trumpet mouthpiece. That seemed to satisfy Flip, and on that note, we went out to the car and drove our tired family home.
I wish I could tell you about the hours of dedicated practice that followed this occasion, but I can't. Even as I finish this post (today is 2-15/11, 3 months after I started it - I know; I'm playing catch-up), the trumpet-practicing battle wages on. But now Flip's repertoire has extended to include "Erie Canal", several Christmas carols, and a few scales, major and chromatic. And when we filled out a questionnaire last month for his Primary class at church for the other kids to learn more about him, his response to "what do you want to be when you grow up?" was "jazz musician". He could still turn out to be a music man.



Today is a special day, not to be repeated for another 100 years. Notice the date? It's 10-10-10! Such a day must be celebrated, don't you think? Here is the breakdown of the roundtuit household 10-10-10 party:

Tomato soup with 10 mix-ins to choose from: salsa, cheddar cheese, smashed-up tortilla chips, taco seasoning, goldfish crackers, Ritz crackers, crumbled bacon, chopped pepperoni, parmesan cheese, and Cholula sauce (for DH). Homemade, slightly burnt-on-the-bottom breadsticks completed the meal. And......

....if you lay a breadstick next to your bowl of soup, you get a perfect 10! (Bah-dum ching!)

Dessert was a 10 made from chocolate cakes baked in a loaf pan and an 8" round pan, frosted with chocolate glaze. Yum!

The evening's festivities will conclude with the family listing 10 things we like about each family member. (And nothing like "What I like about Miss Bee is when she leaves my stuff alone" will be allowed, Stuntman.) It's a new roundtuit family holiday! What will we do for 11-11-11? Or 12-12-12? (Or maybe I won't bother planning anything for 12-12-12 - isn't the world supposed to end on that day? Who wants to put in all that work for nothing?) Happy 10-10-10!

P.S. I can't take credit for this fun idea, which was suggested by my friend Elizabeth, whose other ideas for special days such as "Mass Transit Day" and planned food fights (which I never had the guts to attend but admired for their creativity) will live long in my memory. (I wonder if she had a chocolate 10 for dessert today.)



Let us pause for a moment and remember DH and Stuntman in our prayers, as they are on a mountain on the previously mentioned pack trip and we would like them to return down the mountain, unassisted by stretchers, helipcopters or any other means that mean they were injured or otherwise unable to walk. We thank you for your support.

summer blues and greens

Are you like me? Do you see the end of school/beginning of summer coming and brace yourself against having to entertain bored children (that's all my kids seem to say during the summer - "Mom, I'm so bored. This house is so boring") while simultaneously making lists of summer projects, things you want to teach your kids (because now you'll "have time"), vacation plans, academic instruction periods (because we can't let their brains turn to mush, now), etc.? Why yes, you're right - that IS a long list of to-dos for one summer, and NO, of course I won't actually DO all of them. I just make the lists. That's my point.

Along with the green of summer - the newness of being with the kids all day, the vision of doing worthwhile, wholesome activities without having to worry about school - there come the blues: the realization that making such lists also creates the possibility that the little box next to each item may remain unchecked because my list is too long (and let's face it, a little unrealistic - at least for me).

But don't worry about us; we're cool. Everything's cool. This week, instead of focusing on all the things I feel like cramming into the next 3 months, we had a "just for fun" week. DH and Stuntman are on a High Adventure pack trip with the scouts in New Mexico, so Flip and Miss Bee have set a goal: one "fun" thing every day (after swim practice and a few chores in the morning). Monday was a trip to the craft store to use our 50% off coupon on some projects, which we took home and worked on, yesterday was bowling and games with our summer bowling pass (check it out here, but only if your kids REALLY like bowling; I found out too late that 2 free games every day for a whole summer wasn't really Flip's idea of a fun summer activity), and today was lunch and a swim (and a sunburn on Bee's nose) at the pool. I'll admit, it has been nice not only not worrying about schoolwork, but also not worrying about The Summer Activity List. Isn't summertime when the livin' is supposed to be easy? This week is all about easy. Okay, so the dog chewed up Flip's orthodontic appliance, which we only just got Monday to replace the one he lost at cub scout day camp - that was definitely a blue; not a green - but we're cool, we're cool.