Gratitude week 45

  1. As you might remember from last time I posted, last week I got in a car accident and my car was totaled. I’m grateful that no one was injured in the accident. I just got my first official looking letter from a personal injury lawyer today.
  2. Car shopping can be kind of fun. I haven’t found a new vehicle yet, but I did test drive a Jeep with huge mud running wheels. I decided against that one because I knew if I brought it home I might as well just give it to my son. I’m starting to figure out what I want. I don’t think I want to lease a vehicle either because I would be paranoid about every little dent and scratch. I would never feel comfortable letting my kids drive that either if they were in a pinch.
  3. I had my annual physical this past week and it looks like I have a lot more miles to put on. I’m grateful to feel healthy both mentally and physically. It’s been a long time, if ever, that I have felt this good.
  4. I’m grateful that my detox diet is going well. I think I already did all the hard work with my health a couple months back. I was feeling sick then to not feel sick now. It hasn’t been as hard to drink tons of water as I thought it would be. I don’t even really miss coffee or real food. However, I don’t think I ever want to eat spinach again.
  5. I’m grateful to be in relatively good spirits with all the crap that happened this week.
  6. My brother Luke tested positive for COVID and is feeling pretty sick. I’m grateful that he is starting to feel better and the rest of his family is healthy.
  7. This week I also heard about the cancer diagnoses of three people. My uncle has melanoma which is genetic. The first in our large extended family. I’m grateful they caught it very early in the process. But I am not happy about anything else. Plus my other uncle is getting divorced. All happened this week. Crazy! Not to mention all the election stress!
  8. Our elderly friend Vince also is one of the people who I just found out has cancer. He stopped in for a visit this weekend and I am grateful that he is doing well despite everything going on.
  9. I’m grateful my daughter Arabella’s school is going back to in person classes. The online school is crap.
  10. I’m grateful for the record breaking warm temperatures we’ve had over the past several days. I’ve been able to take the dog out for a walk, have some friends over for a campfire, have the windows open, hang out laundry, and just relax as much as I can outside. I even saw someone in the water at a beach I drove by. Tomorrow it is all going to come to an end, but as for today…..

Gratitude week 35

  1. Summer, for what is left of it. We are starting to feel some fall weather patterns push through. The A/C is off and the windows are open.
  2. Having a hot and windy day last week on my day off to make for perfect sailing weather with our boat neighbors.
  3. Staying safe this past weekend as a census worker in a really rough neighborhood.
  4. Having the day off today to go school shopping. My daughter starts her last year of high school tomorrow. I usually don’t put off school shopping until the day before but I really was not sure and still am not quite sure what is happening this school year. Yeah, just when I thought I had everything figured out too. (Last child in last year of school).
  5. Being able to meet up with my best friend for lunch over my break from work over the weekend.
  6. Making plans to see my brother and his family up north at the family cabin for the holiday weekend. It will be the first time we got together since COVID.
  7. Seeing my daughter this weekend. It will be less than a month until she moves back home.
  8. School is starting back up again. It’s been over 5 months.
  9. I’m grateful to be able to work hard and earn some extra money by doing a meaningful job.
  10. I’m grateful for the ham in the oven for supper. I’m grateful I will be able to eat before 8 PM since I have the day off. I’m grateful to have the windows open and not having to worry about cooking heating up my house.

This stinking sinking boat we’re in

I think the numbness has worn off and it is starting to hurt now.

I’m struggling today. Just the other day I was thinking about how hard it would be to be trapped inside the house with toddlers. But, you know what, it is hard to be trapped inside with teenagers.

It came to my attention yesterday that my daughter Arabella is behind in her online schooling. I had a sneaky suspicion about that although she has never had issues with grades or school before. I didn’t think I would have to micromanage my teen. I would almost rather teach common core math to a grade schooler right now. It would probably be less frustrating.

I can imagine how hard online schooling must be for a teenager. It takes a lot of grit, maturity, and strength of character to have self-motivation. When your whole world is falling apart you still have homework to do. The world is ending, but math..

The girls were supposed to go to prom this weekend. They had appointments to get their hair done. Now their beautiful dresses hang on a rack in the back of a closet. I could go on and on. The musical. Concerts. Going to state. Track. Spring break trip. Goofing around with friends. ALL GONE!

Why bother when the only thing left is the thing about school that most teenagers don’t want to do?

I have been angry. YOU NEED TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I have been frustrated…impatient. How do you help your teenager cope with disappointment? Now my daughter dug herself into a hole she might have a hard time getting out of. How do you deal with that? Should I ground her from her phone? She hasn’t seen her friends in a month. What else is there to take away?

How can you be upset with someone for feeling depressed right now?

It is hard to deal with disappointment if you never learned to deal with it at this level before. My daughter clearly is not at her best. All she does is mope around and eat junk food. Over the past year she worked really hard to lose 50 lbs. Now she is packing on the weight again and it is awful to see.

Our remaining foreign exchange student is not fairing much better. She has been sleeping a lot and not eating much. She hardly weighs anything as it is. It’s hard for her to find the motivation for school as well since this year does not count for her when she goes back. This is no longer the American experience she paid a lot of money for.

Also, her mother was going to visit in June and they were going to go back home together. Estelle just found out that her mom won’t be coming and she is not even sure she will be able to go home as planned. So far her departure is the only remaining thing left planned on my calendar.

So here we sit. What do I do? My just do it mentality is not working. I see everyone around me falling apart and I can’t motivate them. I’m trying to be supportive and understanding but it isn’t working well.

I’m not sure what to do about it but I can’t be the only one in the same stinking sinking boat.

Parenthood watch

We saw the first snowfall at our new house when the parents of Alex’s friend arrived on the chilly autumn Saturday afternoon. It felt rather ominous of what was yet to come, but at the same time brilliant and beautiful.

The other parents were concerned about how much partying our sons were doing. We decided to get together as a group with another set of parents and just talk, a support group so to say for parents of wayward sons. These boys are all good kids really. They just took a detour down the wrong path. They are partying and failing classes. They aren’t picking fights, stealing, destroying property…

I am making an effort to stop lying to myself. Part of that means facing the fact that my son may never go to college. I thought up to a month ago that he was going to college after graduating. Back when he was in grade school, Alex wanted to be an accountant. I had to ask the teacher to give him more challenging math. Then in middle school and high school, he barely passed math. In fact, he is failing his math class as we speak.

I lied to myself. I’ve been lying to myself for a long time. I’ve been telling myself that he is still that boy in grade school that needs more challenging math. But he really is the party boy that doesn’t give a crap about school. If we come down on him too hard for partying, then we fear that he will leave home and not even finish high school. It is very heartbreaking to see him waste his brilliant mind. It is so much easier to lie to myself.

I don’t have any control over the path he decides to take when he leaves here. It has been causing us a lot of grief. I hope and pray that he matures and grows out of it. Until then, now we have a group of parents that are just as concerned as we are. We might not be able to keep them from taking the wrong path, but at least we don’t have to deal with this alone.

Last night we had our first parenthood watch meeting. We shared our stories about our sons which were remarkably similar…

We are going to have a parenthood watch meeting once a month and exchanged numbers. It’s time for us to work together and do what we can to make things better. It’s not a lot of fun to deal with this alone.

 

Fortune cookie wisdom #17

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Let’s talk about wheels a bit today…shall we?

You may remember a couple of months back when I told the story of my son’s new set of wheels…The very night, less than several hours after we got him the car, some small town criminals decided to chase him down because he was squealing his tires. They smashed the front end of his car and took a tire iron to the back of it.

Shortly thereafter, he hit a deer which smashed his headlight. The car was also leaking oil everywhere in big pools. We decided to make an appointment with someone that would fix foreign cars. It took a couple of weeks to get in.

Once the mechanic opened the hood, he took one look and said he wouldn’t work on it. He said that someone spent a whole lot of money to make the car completely worthless. In essence, we bought a lemon. It was their policy that they do not work on modified cars. So here we were stuck with a 17 year old foreign modified car that no one would fix. He did say that it would probably cost thousands to fix the oil leak.

Then we got the estimate for the damages incurred. The damage from the deer cost $2500 and the damage from the hoodlums was $3500. So, technically, the first few hours after my son got the car it was already totaled.

The two offenders are middle aged men. One man was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property. The other was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass to property when he chased my son and his friend into the friend’s house threatening to kill them. We are hoping to get restitution for the damage to the car.

Now apparently the nephew of one of those hoodlums goes to school with my son Alex. We have had problems with this kid before. In middle school, Alex and this kid wrestled in the same weight class. He was first, Alex was second. One year Alex decided he wanted to try harder. He went to summer wrestling camps and signed up for preseason lessons. He got to be really good at wrestling. He was so good at wrestling that he challenged this kid who was first and beat him several times.

This did not bode well with the other kid who was the son of a son of a son of a wrestler whose ancestors have been going to the school probably since the school first opened its doors. This kid got a group of other wrestlers together and started bullying Alex because he threatened his position. The coach did nothing and finally my husband took the situation into his own hands and contacted the parents directly. That was the year my son quit wrestling after doing it for 8 years, the year he wrestled his best.

Now this kid is talking bad about my son to my son’s girlfriend over what happened with the car. My son said that if this kid disrespects him to his face then he will fight him. He said that if he does that, he would probably get kicked out of school. Yeah, that will show them all! Fighting will surely fix the car and all of the other problems. NOT!

The strange thing is that I understand. When I heard about the hoodlums that damaged his car, I was so angry that I wanted to go over there and kick the crap out of those guys myself. I think I have so much pent up anger and rage that I have one good fight in me. Is that bad?? I would never act on it, but that is how I felt.

So, yeah, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.. I talk about my son a lot on this blog. I probably talk about him a lot more than my honor student daughters.

ACT 1

Last week my son got his ACT score in the mail. He got an average score. Although my husband and son were satisfied, I was disappointed. I know he has the capability to do so much better.

I worry about him being able to get into a good college. He got 3 F’s on his report card this quarter, one of them being in band. He wants to go to school for music, that should be an easy A. But he skipped out of some pep band performances which brought down his grade.

In his defense, it seems like band and choir require so much more after school participation than I ever remember. The students are required to be at school in the evenings several nights a week for several months. I think it is a big commitment for a 1 credit class. I probably could’ve sent him with a note excusing his absence, but if he could be there…why would I do that?

Anyway, my son thinks that he can get into college once they hear him play. Maybe, maybe not. He is a very talented musician, I’ll give him that. We have been preaching at him about his grades for years. I’m getting sick of nagging him.

What I really have been concerned about lately is not just being able to get into college, but staying in college. He needs to get through the awful prerequisite classes that have nothing to do with what he wants to do. Without college (and even with), it is going to be hard to get anywhere with a career in music.

My son reminds me of my brother Mark.

Mark is a mechanical/building genius. In middle school, he designed blueprints for a water bed. He built the bed out of wood with his design. He created many things, but that was the most impressive for his age.

Mark struggled with school. Every night my mother would sit down with him and try to help him with his assignments. It often ended with a fight. Mark is very smart, but wasn’t good at school. He had problems reading. Later we found out that he struggled with dyslexia.

As expected of him, Mark went off to college for mechanical engineering and failed miserably. He dropped out by the end of his first semester.

Mark is now employed as a machinist. He is a hard worker and loves his work. Right after high school, he bought a lathe machine so he could work after work out of his garage. He learned everything about machines. Not only does he know how to operate them, he knows how to program, troubleshoot, and fix machines.

Mark has an eye for detail. He painstakingly makes sure things are done right. He was the main visionary for a big remodeling project up north on the cabin that has been in the family since the 1950’s. He created a blueprint to build his own house. He is a mechanical genius, but just wasn’t cut out for college. That’s okay, it wasn’t for him.

Sometimes I wonder if we are taking a square peg and trying to make it fit into a round hole.

But how can someone be marketable as a musician without an education??

Maybe he could work in a music store selling instruments. Or he could learn how to fix instruments. Would he be happy doing that and being a small town musician in the evening?

It is really up to him now. We have given him all the tools for success. We’ll see what kind of life he can build out of it.

A brilliant mind, a truant heart

The other day I got a call from the school, during an office lunch, telling me that my son didn’t show up for school. WHAT???

I was almost done eating when I got the call. Good thing because I lost my appetite after I saw that the school was calling. To think, we were actually having a nice conversation about our children. I smiled and waved at another high school mom sitting with a stranger at the next table. Things were going well. I had a lot of stories to tell.

We were listening to our sales guy tell the story of how recently he made evening plans with his adult son. His son called him multiple times but he did not answer. He was at a sales networking event and forgot his phone in the car. His son thinking his dad may have had a heart attack, tried to enter his dad’s house from the unlocked back sliding door on the deck. His son in a rush slipped on the ice, ended up falling through the deck, and broke his leg.

Then the call came from the school. What? My son is not at school? He left early for school today. Why would he get up really early to not attend? Did he run away? Did he get in a car accident and die? He has to be there. Please check again.

I called my son. He said that the school marked him as absent, so he left. I might as well not be there if they say I am not there. That mentality almost makes sense.

Let’s back up a little more.

My son was working on his solo and ensemble pieces before school. Sometimes his practice would spill into first hour. Music means everything to him. Timeliness, not so much. He was working on some very challenging pieces. Last year he was the only sophomore in the history of the school to ever get a perfect score at state in band for his solo. This year the second chair, a senior, played his solo from last year and totally bombed it. It was too hard. This year he picked a graduate level solo. We were really worried that he took on too much. He was feeling the pressure.

My son has a great passion for music and puts everything into it. Although I admire his dedication, I wish he would save some for math and science.. He barely passes although he has the capability of being a straight A student. It is sooooo frustrating.

That morning while his practice moved into his first hour class, he was marked as having an unexcused absence. This could have been easily resolved at the office with the vouching of his band teacher. But instead, my son walked out.

I remained cool, calm, and collected through the whole incident. Although my son admitted that he made a mistake, he still needed to have a consequence for his behavior. This is where things get tricky. In a few months he will be 18. If we punished him too harshly then he would rebel. If we were too lenient, we would be unhappy. Truancy cannot become acceptable.

We ended up finding the fine line through a lot of thought on our part. He did admit to his mistake and said it wouldn’t happen again. If he didn’t admit to the error of his ways, we would’ve had a big battle on our hands. That would’ve changed things.

That evening we had a very long discussion with Alex about his future. What will colleges think when they look at his transcripts and see bad grades in the core subjects plus truancy? We talked to him about our concerns. Surprisingly, we had a very mutually respectful conversation. It was the best heart to heart conversation in a long time. I’m glad I kept my cool. I think if I didn’t handle it right, we would have had completely different results. It was not easy.

Maybe, just maybe, everything will be okay??

Someday I will look back and laugh at this. Yes, probably when he has teenagers of his own.

 

Thailand, Day 8

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We left Ayutthaya this morning and were heading to Pattaya. After breakfast, Paul decided to stay downstairs. It seemed a little out of character for him. The elevator was old, small, and rickety. It would not go anywhere at all if the weight limit was exceeded. A big guy could almost feel a little trapped.

I don’t know how many times I tripped going into the bathrooms of our hotel rooms. The bathroom floors in most hotel rooms were lower than the regular room floors. If it was dark and you were trying to make your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, chances are good that you might have to catch yourself from falling. In this hotel’s bathroom, the shower was built for someone 5 ft tall. Paul wondered how he was going to fit under it.

Paul found black marks on the wall near the outlets from sparks. “This whole place could burn down at any moment and we are on the top floor!” exclaimed Paul. Surprisingly, I didn’t worry all that much about anything, which is a big role reversal for Paul and I. I thought the hotel, although old, was charming. It was hot in the hallway when I was waiting for an elevator down. I noticed that the window nearby was wide open without a screen and took the picture above without falling.

The first stop of the morning was to a public grade school. In general, the kids in the public schools are poor. They don’t need to get a high school diploma and sometimes leave before reaching high school to work. The tour group we used has a foundation that helps support the public schools by covering extra expenses such as computers. We were encouraged to bring school supplies, but not to give the children money directly. After the anthem, flag raising, exercise time, and morning meditation a child would take our hand and bring us to their classroom. We read a story in English to them and they read to us in their language. It was a very moving experience.

Our tour guide said if someone is born poor that it is very hard to leave their station. If they get married, the man has to pay a dowry to his future bride’s family. Our guide had to pay $30,000 US dollars to marry his wife. A poor man cannot afford to marry a rich girl. A very attractive poor girl has a higher dowry than a poor girl that is plain. People rarely divorce, they marry the family.

After the school, we visited a gem factory. We went on a small tour ride then were taken past the workers making jewelry. Soon we entered the biggest jewelry store I’ve ever been in. I bought Paul a new wedding ring with a Topaz gem. He broke his first ring and lost his second. The third time’s the charm. Right?

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We got into our hotel rooms in the late afternoon. Pattaya was not at all like I was expecting. It was a bigger city than I imagined it to be. We decided to sit by the pool for awhile. I ordered a drink that I thought would be like a bloody Mary. But it was more like unsalted tomato juice with vodka, very different.

That evening we were invited to go to a restaurant with another couple from the tour. They said that it was supposed to be the best in the city and it certainly was. If you are ever in Pattaya, you have to go to Bruno’s. Paul and I thought it was one of the top restaurants we’ve ever been to. The food was out of this world. The service was unbelievable. They even transported us to and from our hotel which was quite a drive through traffic.

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Tomorrow we will be exploring Coral Island and Pattaya.

What to expect when you’re not expecting…

This weekend didn’t go the way I expected it would.

Arabella came home from school early on Friday sick. She had a fever all weekend and has one still. I ended up calling the doctor’s office Saturday night. By the time her Tylenol wore off in the evening, her temp was at 104.1. An hour after I gave her medicine, her temp was still rising and peaked at 104.5. The nurse said she probably has the flu. Thankfully, Paul and I got flu shots for our trip over a week ago. I am hoping that being coughed on, and taking care of a sick child in general, will have no effect on me.

The nurse told me that I should give Arabella a lukewarm bath. I prepared a bath for her and let her get in the tub herself. A 14 year old is too old to be bathed. I felt frustrated when I felt the water after she got out. The water that I added was too cold for her so she added hot water. Eventually her temperature decreased despite being in hot water. I finally felt like I could go to bed without worrying too much, but still got up during the night to check on her..

I am not surprised that Arabella got sick. She gets sick literally every time that she is planning on going somewhere, Paul and I are going away, or if we take a family vacation. This time she was planning on spending the weekend away on a church youth group trip.

My plans really didn’t change much because she was sick. I still blew off that party I wasn’t planning on going to. I finished my fall cleaning. I spent around 6 hours creating the perfect 2018 calendar of all my favorite photos and memories of 2017.

But that is not all that happened this past weekend. I noticed that Alex was acting a little strange. His patterns were off. I asked what his plans were with Baylee for Thanksgiving. He told me that they broke up. What??!??!? They were dating for almost a year and a half. They just went on the same college campus tour last week. I may have mentioned the word marriage last week. I even gave Baylee a fake name on my blog. We really liked her.

Alex seems to be doing well. So this holiday season, both Alex and Angel are single. It will make things a lot easier as far as holiday parties go. Last year they left our Thanksgiving party early to go to the family of their significant others. I could almost understand how the family of divorce feels. My kids shared how much fun they were having with the other family when I just wanted them to be home with me.

Then some other strange things happened. I found a permission slip on the table to join the math club. I automatically asked Arabella about her interest. She said that it wasn’t hers. What?? We both agreed that the Alex couldn’t be joining the math club. Could he??

Alex used to be the grade school math whiz. I had to ask his teachers for more challenging material. Then middle school hit and he barely passed math. The early high school years weren’t much better. My son fell into a rough crowd that was headed down a dark road until he met Baylee. Then he turned his life around, not without a few mistakes. His grades didn’t improve until this school year. Right now he has a B+ average up from a D average. He joined the chess club and now he is joining the math club. Wow! What??

Maybe he is finally growing up!

Then this past week I received a postcard in the mail from Arabella’s biology teacher. It read: Arabela *name misspelled* is putting little effort into biology class. With a bit more effort, she could be doing much, much better. Time management, writing down deadlines and studying outside of class will make all the difference in this class.

I felt rather irritated by the teacher’s form of communication. Seriously, a postcard?? Anyone could read that….her brother…For crying out loud, the postal carrier. Arabella is typically a high achiever. The postcard announced to everyone in bright colors that she was a slacker. How humiliating. She just told us a few days before that this teacher doesn’t like her. Should we be concerned? I wasn’t expecting this about her. She is getting a B in the class…so it must be frivolous??..Right?!??

Change is inevitable….what was I expecting??

 

Acting like everything is alright 

I am sorry things did not go according to your plan. When you asked me why God did this to you, I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to fix things for you. I wanted to make you happy again. Instead I just listened. I asked when you would rather know, now or later. Maybe God has a better plan that we just can’t see right now.

You said that you were a great actress. You went to play practice with a smile on your face. Then you came home and cried. The odds weren’t in your favor this time. Out of the hundreds of talented kids that auditioned, you weren’t in the handful of those selected for the musical theater program at the college you will be attending. You cried even more when your brother told you that they didn’t know what they were missing. 

The truth is that your musical theater talents are lopsided. You are a phenomenal singer, great actress, and below average dancer. Even though you have the shape of a dancer, your body fails you. I am so sorry that you seem to have my lack of gracefulness. 

I was the little girl that they laughed at during the dance recital because I danced to a different beat then everyone else. I was the scrawny little kid that was always picked last on the team. I was the little girl that had to do extra credit to pass gym class. I had to write about sports because I couldn’t do them. While other kids could do flips and splits, I remained rigid, tight, and inflexible. Why do you think I am a runner? It requires grit, the only thing I have.

There is one gift that I am happy to have passed on to you, your voice. When you sing, people feel the emotions you are singing about. A happy song puts everyone in a good mood. A sad song can change the audiences laughter to tears in a few sweeping moments. When you auditioned for the vocal performance program, they complimented you on your voice and told you that they wanted you. I know that you will find a home there. 

I know it is hard right now. You have been eating, drinking, and sleeping musicals for so long. I am impressed with your optimism despite a few minor road blocks. 

It does not mean that you can never audition for musicals in the big cities. This is your journey now and I am excited to see where it takes you.