Tall tales of stupidity

It’s been two and a half years since working with junior high kids and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but sometimes I miss it. Or maybe it’s more that I miss the stories that came from being around junior high kids.

Today we went to a “Knights of the Round Table” ceremony for Coleman and other middle school students. His school mascot is a knight and the ceremony is held to honor students who have been nominated by a teacher for something outstanding; being a leader, great improvement, something that makes them standout. Coleman was honored for his improvement in Spanish. He was struggling and had missing assignments, but turned things around and now has a B in the class. We were very proud parents as we listened to his teacher explain why she had chosen him for this award.

Student after student was called to stand in front of the group while their teacher  honored each one. I watched each student walk up, shyly, and listen to the kind and proud words that were spoken. Most of them stood awkwardly, some of them  even let out a smile while hearing of their accomplishments. I loved watching every one of them receive their honor, certificate, and have their photo taken. And I loved those teachers for making their students feel so special.

Middle school, junior high, whatever you like to call it, is rough. So much awkward, so much drama, so many smells. One of the things I miss are the conversations. Oh the endless comments that would come out of their mouths. After hours in a van with ten other kids and a very short lull in the conversation, one of them said, “I bet if I stopped talking for just a few minutes things would get so lame.” I wanted to take her up on that bet, but decided against it.

Once, after returning from a retreat in a very long van ride, I was describing the things I had endured to a friend of mine. “Ah yes,” she said. “The days where every kid is interrupting another to share their tall tales of stupidity.” I never thought I’d miss it, but on occasion, I do. I 100% do not miss the smells though.

When the going gets tough

 

We all have those moments when we commit to something and soon after, wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into. I have to think that this might have been what was going on in Coleman’s mind when he committed to being on his middle school’s wrestling team. He was excited, but after 2 weeks of intense workouts and practices every day after school, he confessed that he might want to quit.

“It’s really hard, and it hurts. My body is sore and I just don’t know if I want to keep doing it.” Poor Coleman looked exhausted.

How could I blame him? There’s no way I would ever subject myself to such a vicious sport. The workouts alone would be hard enough, but rolling around on a sweaty mat while getting my body intertwined and twisted up in knots with another human being, on top of wearing a body suit (or singlet) as I hear they’re called. Uh, no.

Coleman decided he was not ready to give up just yet as his first meet was the following week. I admired his determination, despite his aching body, but secretly would not have been at all disappointed had he given up this brutal sport. I shuddered at the thought of my baby getting thrown around.

Coleman’s first meet was similar to our experience at Judah’s first gymnastics meet in that we showed up knowing absolutely nothing about the sport. I watched the other kids meet their opponents with courage; some of them winning and some losing. I asked questions of the family sitting nearby who had watched an older son go through this experience already. I tried my best to understand which moves they got points for and what was illegal.

It was difficult to watch, as the mom nearby warned me. Almost as difficult, was sitting on the bleachers waiting, wondering why the meet was almost over and Coleman hadn’t wrestled yet. I made eye contact with him on the other side of the gym and questioned with my hand gestures if he would be wrestling at all. He shook his head no.

Hold up. I just sat here for two hours to watch my son not wrestle? I looked at Charlie and he went to talk to his friend who was helping  the team.

Charlie returned saying, “I guess since he didn’t make varsity, he’s not wrestling today. But my friend is going to see if he can wrestle in an exhibition match.”

At this point I wanted to see something, even though I just expressed how I hated the thought of my baby getting hurt. Two hours is too long to sit for nothing. Next thing I knew, Coleman was taking off his sweatshirt and putting on his headgear. He faced his opponent from his own team who was in his same weight class, and had wrestled the year before. I had my doubts.

The round began and Coleman came out strong tripping his opponent and taking him down. They went the full three rounds and I figured Coleman was holding his own, since he hadn’t been pinned, but I really couldn’t tell who was winning. The family next to me commented on Coleman’s strength and how well he was doing. The whistle blew and I still didn’t know who had won. The referee took both of the boys’ arms and raised up Coleman’s as the winner. We screamed and cheered as if he had won the world championship because it felt that important.

After the meet was over I found out that this win meant that Coleman had beat out the other boy for the spot on varsity. He couldn’t stop smiling and neither could I. He talked nonstop on the way home explaining all the ins and outs of wrestling and how he won. I listened proudly to the boy who one week before was considering quitting.

We have three weeks left in the season and I’m just praying he survives it with no injuries. But more than anything, I’m challenged by the way he tried something completely new to him that he knew nothing about and he stuck with it, especially when it got hard and he wanted to quit. That’s more than I can say for myself.

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Fruitcake and 20 bucks

Our sweet next door neighbor passed away last summer and her house just now went up for sale. Agnus was in her early 90’s and was the original owner of that house, buying it brand new in 1947. She raised a daughter there and outlived her husband. She was an independent, determined woman who had a mind about how things should be. When Andy once did her a “favor” by cutting back a bush in her yard that was growing over the sidewalk, she surprised me with her reaction.

“Somebody decided to just cut that bush in my yard. Do you know who did that?”

“Yes, Andy did. He was trying to be helpful since it was taking over the sidewalk.” I replied, sensing her annoyance.

“Well, he did a terrible job. If he wants to be helpful, he can cut back your tree that’s hanging over into my backyard.”

Point taken. Continue reading “Fruitcake and 20 bucks”

Driving and surviving

“Momma, are you going to write on the blog anytime soon?”

Geez, why do kids have to remind us of the things we are failing at? Yes, Judah, now that you just said that, that is exactly what I am doing.

We survived the holidays here and actually had a relaxing and enjoyable Christmas; right after I almost had a nervous breakdown from over-committing myself once again to a bazillion parties/work/volunteering/celebrations. It was all worth it. It always is. But I cannot for the life of me learn my lesson from year to year.

But a new year is upon us and with it comes a terrifying milestone; Charlie got his driver’s permit. He doesn’t start driver’s ed until Monday, but Washington state law allows a child to get their permit 10 days before the class starts. Would you believe it? So that means that any old 15 1/2 year old within 10 days of starting a proper driving education class can just walk on in with their parent, pay $25 and walk out with the A-okay to drive. Just like that.

“Congratulations! Now you can drive home, if your mom’s brave enough,” chuckles the lady at the DMV as she hands over the permit to Charlie.

“Oh, heeeeeeck noooooo,” was my reply. How is this even legal? He’s a child!!!!!

I drove to the church parking lot 2 blocks down the street from our house and told him he could give it a shot. Just sitting in the passenger seat and looking over at my baby controlling our car made me want to jump out and run home. I didn’t, because I would get in all sorts of trouble. He made it around the parking lot, and then he made it home. No cars hit. No humans hit. We both survived. God bless the insane people who choose to teach a drivers ed class and voluntarily get into cars everyday with people who have never been behind the wheel before. Really. Someone has to teach them.

PS. Shout out to my dad who taught me to drive; a stick-shift, no less. I have all the respect in the world for you.

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One shade of gray

Both of my parents’ hair started to go gray at a relatively young age, so following in their footsteps, mine did the same. Right around age 28 or 29 I began to notice a few gray hairs mixed in with my dark brown. And then within what seemed like a week, there were a lot of gray hairs. This was a big problem for me, since I was not even 30 yet. It didn’t seem fair. I solved my problem quickly by dyeing my hair as close to my natural color as I could, erasing any signs of old age.

And so I continued this pattern for a good 12 years. I was cheap, so I never paid a professional. I just went to the beauty supply store every couple of months and stocked up on color, developer, and disposable gloves. Along the way, Andy protested this routine saying that he liked gray hair and it was a sign of wisdom; something to be proud of, but what does he know.

I turned 40 and felt great because I still had very dark hair and people were shocked when I told them how old I was. But then I was approaching 41 and had gone from dyeing my hair every 6 weeks to needing it every 3 weeks. The gray roots were showing up faster and I hated the contrast of what was growing out and what now looked like black after so many years of #311 Very Dark Brown. I had a decision to make. Carry on like this for at least another 20 years and then deal with “gracefully” going gray in my 60’s, or just bite the bullet and go natural.

I remembered back to a conversation with my sister-in-law years earlier. We were discussing whether or not we would “have work done” on our bodies as we got older, if money wasn’t a factor. She was more open to the idea, but I was way more self righteous saying something like, “I don’t think you should mess with what God gave you. We’re all going to get old someday; things will sag, we won’t look as young as we once did, but oh well. I would never have any work done. It’s so vain.”

She quietly replied with, “And what color is your natural hair?”

Ouch. Point taken.

And so, at almost 41, I decided it was time. I didn’t want to be subtle about this decision. My intention was to go to a professional this time and just dye it all gray; really go for it. I figured this would be the easiest and cheapest way and if my hair was all gray, then growing out the natural wouldn’t be a big deal. If there are any hair stylists reading this, I’m sure you’re laughing at me right now.

I had no idea that when you’ve been dyeing your hair #311 Very Dark Brown for twelve years, you don’t just walk into a salon and walk out with beautiful silver-gray hair. If you’re me, you walk out after 8 hours of sitting in the chair with several shades of red, fried hair, and about $200 poorer. Time to go to plan B.

It was obvious that my hair could not handle the 2-3 more bleaching sessions necessary to get my hair to gray, so I went to see a color specialist who gave me some great information and asked if I was ready to take “the journey” with her to get me to my natural color; gray. Turns out “the journey” was going to cost me at least another five hundred dollars and since I like my journeys to stay under one hundred dollars I moved on to plan C.

After five shades of red and one shade of gray,  I had a decent amount of my hair cut off. I’ve done my best to speed up the process of gracefully going gray and really, there’s been nothing graceful about it. Here I sit with my new short hair, a cut that people say “you have the face for short hair, I could never pull it off,” which is a nicer way of saying, “dang, that was a bold move! One that I would not have made.” It’s okay. It’s just one more step in my journey. At least now I’m down to one shade of red and one shade of gray. Almost there.

 

Funnest house ever

Wow. So school started and then lots of other things happened. All the things happened except me writing on the blog. Most have probably given up on me by now, but in the spirit of hating to give up altogether, I’m back.

We recently had our annual visit from my brother, Joey, and his family. I’ve written about these sorts of visits before; crazy amounts of food and coffee, late nights, music and dancing from the kids, trips to the park… Overall, good times. My niece said something on this trip that got me thinking. They were leaving to go somewhere and she didn’t want to go. She said, “I never want to leave this house. It’s the funnest house ever.” After that, my brother started calling it the happiest place on earth (according to Lucy).

This made me happy to hear for so many different reasons. Our kids have grown up in this house; a house that looked nothing like it does now when we first bought it. We’ve changed almost every part of it and made it bigger to fit our growing family. In making all of those changes it’s always a work in progress and it’s not done. I don’t know if it ever will be. There are doors that aren’t up, moulding missing in almost every room, and what was supposed to be a cement driveway is still just gravel, 9 years later.

This house is not the most beautiful on the block and the yard isn’t kept up just so. But all of those things have nothing to do with what goes on inside the unfinished house. There is a lot of love that happens here and it’s expressed in all kinds of ways. It’s expressed in food being shared with friends and family. It’s expressed in laughing together and comforting each other when things aren’t going so great. It’s expressed in sharing what’s going on in our lives with not only our family, but friends who have become part of our family. These are the things that I believe make this the funnest house ever. It’s home and it’s where I love to be.IMG_1298IMG_1325
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One more week

One more week until school starts and we are barely hanging on by a thread over here. Case in point, I am currently shut upstairs in my bedroom writing, pretending like I don’t hear the chaos happening below me.

I started out strong, really, I did. The month of July was spent with Charlie and Coleman in Mexico and me adhering to the strict schedule that Judah and Josie had made; one fun activity per day. All the while, Andy was busy working two jobs. Most of August was filled with weddings, hot weather, and lots of sleepovers with the kids’ friends. But then the third week of August hit and I was over it.

The kids have been left to fend for meals themselves. Since they’ve been sleeping in so late, the line between breakfast and lunch has gotten pretty blurry. When you eat breakfast around 11-11:30, there’s no need for lunch; until 3:00 hits and then everyone is dying of hunger. Snacking begins, leaving no room for dinner. So everyone is back to being hungry right around 9:00, leaving no choice but to eat popcorn. It’s a vicious cycle.

We are officially in September now and it’s brought the clouds and rain with it.  School supply shopping is done; only $150 later. And so it’s time. Time to trade in sleepovers for homework, sleeping in for early bedtimes, and flip-flops for boots. It’s been real, summer, see ya next year.

41 years

Today is my first day of being 41 years old. The newness of being 40 has faded and now it’s just “on to living the rest of this decade”. In getting together with a few friends to celebrate, I was trying to find the perfect place to celebrate 41; good atmosphere, not too expensive, good food, etc… It’s tough to find somewhere that has it all. In searching and going through all my indecisive-ness, in between looking at other fancy/cool/hip birthday celebrations on Instagram, I realized that I’m just not a fancy person. I like the idea of getting dressed up and going out on the town, but I don’t really want to dress up. And I don’t really want to pay fancy prices.

I like to eat good food, relax, and actually be able to hear friends when they’re telling a story. Uh-oh, maybe turning 41 means I’m more concerned with comfort than cool. As Andy likes to say, “at some point being comfortable becomes more important than being fashionable.” I don’t know if I’m there just yet, but it could be a slippery slope.

Paradise

Just a few days after school was out we packed our bags and headed to Hawaii with the Hirschman clan. I actually had a few people comment on our upcoming trip saying that it’s a bummer to go to Hawaii in the summer when the weather is so nice here. Really?! When is it ever a bummer to go to Hawaii? Please, tell me when. That’s right, it never is. Because Hawaii is paradise and it’s beautiful and it smells good and it’s warm and sunny and it’s pretty close to perfection.

Our days were spent in the ocean, in the pool, in the sun, hiking, snorkeling, and generally relaxing. We had no agenda and no schedule to keep. Bliss. I got used to waking up and holding off on a shower, knowing that we’d spend our first few hours each day swimming with sea turtles and floating above the hundreds of varieties of fish. There are lots of things I miss since being home, but there is one thing I don’t; the 45 minute process of slathering sunscreen on each family member before leaving the hotel.

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Ferry Rides

“Can I go up to the deck? Please, please, can I Momma?” he begged.

It’s a 15-minute ferry ride, 20 minutes tops. After years of going on ferries, why is it such a big deal? We traveled on this same ferry on our way to the wedding. The whole family went up to the deck, we took pictures, and we had our fun. Now it’s just the way back, not a big deal.

No one else wanted to bother getting out of the car for those 15 minutes. I for sure didn’t want to. But Judah’s big brown eyes worked me over, as they always do. They beckoned my lazy self to unbuckle my seatbelt and travel up the two flights of steps to the deck. I brought my book to keep me occupied.

When we reached the top I chose to sit on the bench inside to avoid the wind, but Judah headed right out to the deck. I opened up my book and kept an eye on him out the window, glancing up from time to time to make sure he was okay. After a few minutes I became more interested in watching Judah than the words in my book.

He stood amongst strangers and gazed out over the water, looking from the left to the right. Then he stepped back and went around to the other side of the deck and looked some more. He watched the birds, the people, the movement out over the Puget Sound. I found myself captivated by his fascination with everything surrounding him. I wanted to be inside his little head and listen to his thoughts.

Judah is an observer. He wants to go and see and do and take in all that he can. I hope he never loses that. And to think that I almost missed it. I didn’t want to get out of that car and be bothered with the wind and all the people, but I’m so glad I did for that brief 15 minutes.