Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 29, 2012: A Blustery Day

As I walked into work this morning and shared "good morning" pleasantries with a co-worker, the comment came out of my mouth, "What a blustery Pooh Bear day".  Anyone who lives in Omaha can relate to my blustery comment as the wind shook all of our houses in the wee hours as we lay in bed.  And anyone who has raised children can relate to the Pooh Bear comment as most, like me, spent many hours during our kids' toddler years reading Winnie the Pooh books, watching countless videos, and tucking in our babes with the Pooh and Friends variety of stuffed animals.  I hadn't thought about my poor forgotten friend, Pooh, in years.  Yet this blustery Omaha morning, the visions of Pooh holding the hand of his dear friend, Piglet, quickly invaded my memory.

Now the Pooh days are a distant memory with the only memento left in my house; a Pooh picture frame displaying a baby photo of Zach.  This picture frame sits in his now vacant room within a cluster of other childhood photos.  Where did these 16 years go?  I can close my eyes and still feel his soft warm cheek nestled in the crook of my neck as I carried him to bed.  It is amazing how one can forget the detailed lines in a human face as the years pass, but can remember like yesterday the feeling of the human touch.

My consolation in "moving on" from my Pooh days of past is the secret pleasure I take in my grown sons' current obsession with their favorite Disney songs.  Although much of their talk is part of the coolness the 15 to 18 year old crowd has currently placed on their favorite Disney movie/song of their youth, I quietly take in this guilty pleasure.  "Mom, can I download Tarzan on your I-Pad?  Have you heard Phil Collins?  He is amazing in this album!"  I see them post You Tube videos of the Lion King on each other's FaceBook (yes, I do creep...don't tell) and am reminded that all of those toddler years of playing Disney cassette tapes, watching hours and hours of our Disney (and Pooh) VHS collection has stuck with them and given them fond memories as well.  Yep, it is the small things in life that make this mama happy.  Hakuna Matata!

Monday, February 27, 2012

February 27, 2012: Small Victories

Embarrassingly I have to admit that I am one of "those" parents who feels the greatest satisfaction in my children's small victories in life.  I guess the good news is that I'm not a helicopter mom who has to experience these victories with them.  My satisfaction most times lies in hearing about them later.

Yesterday I was out of town.  My youngest two sons were enjoying their weekend with their dad.  Although 550 miles away, two phone calls made my day.  The first one came from my exuberant 15 year old, excitedly telling me how he got his first real job.  He had been working on this food service job for over a month.  The restaurant was a new breakfast cafe less than a mile from our house.  Ben went in on his own accord after they opened and inquired on a bus boy position.  The manager asked him to come back the next morning for an interview.  With a breakfast crowd, this meant before 6:30 a.m. and Ben was there and punctual.  Although the interview went well, there was not enough business yet to add another bus boy.  The manager asked him to check back in a couple of weeks.

Ben stayed persistent.  "She liked me, Mom,"  Ben told me with confidence.  "I think I have the job."  Although I was a little pessimistic and secretly hoped he hadn't placed all of his eggs in one basket, a month and two visits later; he got the job.  And hearing his voice on the phone, so excited in telling me the manager's exact words to him on his new job (as host, no less) made his mother's heart warm with pride.

My second call was to hear about Grant winning first place in his wrestling tournament.  Grant finished last season and started this season getting pinned within minutes at most matches.  His quick acceleration in weight had taken him a bit off guard.  With wrestling, a higher weight many times means stronger and older opponents.  Unfortunately most of Grant's added weight was in his waistline which is no added competitive advantage to him.  But he rallied and stayed persistent; never missing practice or asking to drop out of wrestling.  So here we are at the conclusion of the season and good old Grant-man wins his 5 man bracket pretty decisively.

Tonight I will do what I do best...cook a celebratory feast to commemorate the wonderful weekend.  <smile>.

Friday, February 10, 2012

February 10, 1012: The Mayor of Extended Care

There is no better way to start a week day than dropping my kids off at school with impeccable timing following my organized plan from the prior night.  And, yes, this morning was blissful in this regard and fortunately more of the norm than otherwise on our week day starts to the day.  Sorry, Zach...I miss you, but frankly you were a bit of a boom-a-rang to my ideal routine.  I didn't realize this until you moved on to the big Frat House, but your not wanting to get out of bed or follow a morning routine during your senior year did cramp my style a bit.

But now, other than occasional spats with or between my youngest two on insignificant items, our mornings go without a hitch.  This starts the night prior with both boys requesting wake up times (which are typically earlier than necessary), me asking why they want up so early, and then my reminding them that they do have alarm clocks.  My clothes are carefully chosen and laid out with accessories (yes, I did love paper dolls growing up) and the boys are reminded to do the same with their uniforms and back packs.  For the record, Grant almost always complies and Ben does not.  The coffee is ready for the early morning brew timer and all other essentials of the next day planned out.  <thoughtful sigh>.  My boys would quickly add that their mom loves her coffee which is almost always part of our morning routine along with the red ceramic Wal-Mart cup.  Daily I balance this cup filled with my favorite brew, trying not to spill (which has definitely happened on occasion).  They have stopped asking why I don't use one of the many travel mugs we own.  I am sure they don't understand my desire to drink my visibly steaming coffee out of "real" open cup, but are sick of asking.

Grant loves to go to Extended Care; both before and after school.  The continuation of this desire has surprised me a bit given his age and beginning of the Junior High years.  Although my older boys liked Extended Care as well (not as much as Grant), they begged not to go once they decided they were "way too old".  This usually hit around 6th grade.  Not with Grant.  Almost every night before bed, he asks if we can get to Extended Care early.  "Can you get me there by 6:30, Mom?" is a very typical request.  So today as we drove to school (with my coffee mug in hand) even earlier than usual with Ben's early morning weight lifting, I inquire a bit about the draw for Grant.

"Who is there so early with you, Grant?"  I ask.

"I am usually the first one and then a preschooler."

"So what do you do when you get there?  Why so early?" I ask as I try to dig further.

"I like to lay my head down and then I read sometimes.  Then Joe gets there and we play Foosball.  I like to be there as everyone comes in."  Grant explains.

"Wow.  And what about afternoon?  What do you like about that?"

"Oh!  I like to get my homework done and then I hang with my friends.  I like that."  he explains.

So there you go.  The visual that quickly came to mind was Grant being deemed "Mayor of Fillenwarth Beach" on our past annual summer vacations.  He would make friends with every kid vacationing there as though they had known each other for years.  Then he and his posse would fill their beach days fishing, playing, and basking in the sun with no bugging of the parents for busy entertainment.  So not only does this child of mine like a routine and has found one he is very comfortable with, he has also fallen into his mayor role; feeling the pulse of his contingency and enjoying the simple pleasures of his little community :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

March 23, 2007: The King's Crown

I felt the urge to post an old daily journal entry.  I randomly chose a journal and then randomly flipped to this page entry.  Front and center was this picture of Grant.  I know I'm the mom, but could that look on his face be any cuter?  He was playing the role of "criminal" for Mrs. Brinkman's second grade class' "14 Jewels in the King's Crown"; an annual play at school as part of Lent.  This particular day was a Friday, March 23, 2007 and my journal entry for the day was as follows:

"Today was gorgeous!  A top ten day!!!  I ran at 5:30 a.m. with Cindy and Kristi (what a great way to start the day with two of my favorite people :)).  I was a fill-in for Rotary president over the lunch hour and brought a potential new member as my guest.  Grant had his acting debut as the criminal in the Stations of the Cross.  Other than struggling to get the towel back on his head between roles - he was fantastic!  And my heart melts seeing the adorable look on his face with the attached photo that I snapped as I zoomed in.  I headed to Sioux City for a client meeting in the afternoon.  It was a beautiful day to travel.  Although a bit contentious, the meeting had a good outcome.  My visit with Grandma Gib was bitter sweet.  She is very tired and sleepy and wanting out of the hospital.  She did give us some smiles and was happy to see both Gwen and I.  Aunt Kathy joined Gwen and I at Grandma's house.  We stayed up for hours reminiscing, drinking wine and laughing.  We deemed it our "slumber party".  Up too late, but the excellent company was worth it."

Ah, yes...having a sweet seven year old boy, a grandma still alive to hug and love, and an adult girl slumber party.  I don't know if an ordinary day could be much better than that!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

February 2001: Fun in the Snow

Brynnie rocks Baby Grant after a day in the snow

This pix was snapped after a day of snow day frolicking...inside and out.  Brynn Marie Lane, my faithful sidekick and forever helper, would have been 12 years old and Grant, short of his first birthday.  Those were the days when Brynn would spend days upon days at my side; the daughter I never had, but the niece that I loved with all my heart.  The particular day when this photo was taken mirrored today's snow day and led me to seek out this photo memory .  Brynn had spent the night before at my house and we woke up to glorious snow...soft, fluffy, piles of snow.

Zach would have been seven at the time and Ben, a mere four years old.  As was typical for me, I spent a good portion of our time inside cooking and baking as we savored the sweet smells from the kitchen.  The boys jumped from coloring to playing with "guys" to watching Disney movies.  But the outdoor playground called to them and resulted in intermediate pleadings to bundle them up in snow pants, hats, boots, and gloves.  Brynn was the ever helpful cousin, taking them out each time they asked with many of the outings lasting about as long as the time it took to put on all of their outwear.  We went through this routine throughout the day of playing outside, getting cold or too wet, coming in to warm up and play, and then back outside again.

Red cheeked and sun setting, the kids finally came in for the day right before this picture was taken.  Grant was tuckered out.  Brynn, my little babysitter, got him out of his snow clothes and into his jammies and in the rocker before I even had the older two boys situated back to our inside routine.  As you can see, Grant was just as comfortable on Brynnie's lap as I was having Brynn as an extension of my family :)

Underneath all of the clothes...Brynn with Grant and Ben playing outside at our old house on 164th Ave.

Friday, February 3, 2012

February 3, 2012: Nobody's Perfect

I just dropped my fifteen year old off at school for early morning weight-lifting.  It was painful.  There is one thing that is very obvious in my life and that is my kids are not perfect.  They are perfectly flawed; just like their mother.  The final debate (one of many since about 9:00 last night) with my fifteen year-old, Ben, was that all of my talking on the way to school caused his muscles to tighten up and restrict him from lifting (and he was dead serious).  Well, of course, what was I thinking?  Rather than discussing why he chose to spend a half an hour the previous night arguing with me over the ownership of an I-Pod that he and his brother were fighting over and how the situation could have been handled better, silence was necessary for his collective effectiveness in the weight room.

My mom said it best years back and I have always remembered her statement.  "Zach is 90% like you, Sandy.  Grant is 90% like his dad, and we have no idea where Ben came from."  A very true statement.  Ben and I are wired so differently that I typically have no clue where he is coming from and am in awe on how to even respond to his comments, ideas, and actions.  The son of the forever planner who has a self-proclaimed masters in organization (if there was such a thing) spent 30 minutes following the child around the house this morning reminding him of tasks that should have been part of his daily school morning routine during the last ten years.  Who would think to hang up a towel after a shower or turn off a light while leaving the room?  Wallet?  "Oh, yea, I left it in Austin's car.  I think...."  (he has lost his wallet no less than 10 times since the beginning of the school year).  Backpack?  "Oh, yea, I'll go back in the house and grab it."

The good news is that he is a minimalist and really doesn't need his wallet often, as he spends little money and loves the little things in life that don't cost money.  The phone is a necessary accommodation for my very social teenager.  And he has been through at least 5 cell phones in the last 2 years (a terrible coincidence in phone malfunctions...texting in the rain on the trampoline...hmmmm???).  And the ripped sweats that he has chosen to wear to school on dress down day will certainly be a problem.  "Mom, do you have safety pins in your car?" he asks as we are a block from school.  Sounds like another check is in order on the infamous card that leads him one more check closer to a detention.  I am still astounded on the last detention served which included 5 checks over the course of a week for the same book without a cover.  "Oh, Mom, I just kept forgetting about that."  <sigh>.

So will my Benny Lane ever pass the muster in my book on his organization skills?  Not a chance.  Will he ever have anxiety problems or lose sleep over a to-do list spinning in his head at night?  Highly unlikely.  We all have strengths and weaknesses.  I am a firm believer that although we need to manage our weaknesses and work on keeping them at bay, our happiness in life and ultimate success is tied to maximizing and embracing our strengths.  That being said, Ben Lane is the kindest child of my three (sorry, Zach and Grant...I shouldn't compare, but my human weakness).  If he is your friend, you are one lucky person.  He has a heart of gold and loyalty that ranks as high as my organizational skills.  My mom also tells me that Ben is the child who will surprise me the most.  Although I spend most of my time in general disbelief on some of his actions, I also sit back and watch him naturally do things and excel in areas that are foreign to me.  So, yes, I am putting my money with my mom.  But in the meantime, I will keep my thumb on him and try to guide him in the right direction (although it does have the sensation of hitting my head against the wall sometimes).  And on the flip side, Ben is going to have to tolerate listening to me talk on the way to school despite the negative effects on his muscle system.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February 1, 2012: Catholic Schools Mass

Today was mass at St. Wenceslaus for Catholic Schools Week.  By my calculations, I have been to this annual mass about 14 times since Zach invited me as his "special guest" the winter of 1999 of his kindergarten year.  Having my sixth grader and youngest child, Grant, wait anxiously at the church door for me is one of those moments that all mothers cherish; our kids still excited to have us in their presence.  This will certainly be a distant memory a year from now as he teeters on his thirteenth birthday.  But for today, I will hold this memory in my heart.

As he enthusiastically pulled me along up the stairs ("We're in the balcony, Mom"), he informed me that I could choose our seats.  I attend many school masses, but this is the only one of the year where I am allowed to sit by my child.  A treat for me and seemingly, Grant too.  We choose an empty section.  Soon a mom of Grant's buddy with baby in tow sits in front of us.  I spend quite a bit of time entertaining the adorable tot, much to Grant's enjoyment as well.  I kept catching Grant out of the corner of my eye; grinning as I played with his friend's baby brother.  No embarrassment here...yet <sigh>.  During the Our Father, he grabbed my hand with no hesitation and squeezed my hand back after I gave him the first affectionate squeeze. 

As I look down at the many families in church this morning, I was a bit tearful as I sang the hymns.  There really is no better gift than the gift of acceptance and the feeling of love.  I felt this from Grant, but I also felt it from the many familiar faces that sat around me.  Some I have known since that winter of 1999 and others I have only shared a glance or a smile, but know we share a commonality with our children and with our Church.  I also felt a bit of nostalgia as I saw several parents of Zach's friends and thought of years past when our now college-aged kids were holding ours hand during the Our Father.  It was good to share a smile or a hug with my tenured comrades as we joined our kids for a donut following the service ("Mom...Mom, can I have your donut?  Please????").  So, yes, an ordinary day and an ordinary morning on my 14th annual appearance at St. Wenceslaus Catholic School's Week mass....but it sure was a great way to start my very ordinary Wednesday.