Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pop Quiz

For our recent Enrichment meeting we were asked to fill a lunch sack with items that represented ourselves. Here are the items I selected:

How well do you know me? What do these things say about me? Not even Jon could get all four.

I'm curious to see if anyone can get them all correct. (Two of the items have double meaning.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Crazy Bee Dance

Sometime this summer, a queen and her yellow-jacketed workers took up residence in the siding of our house. Their nest could only be accessed through a crack between the foundation of our front porch and the edge of the siding. Their location was particularly bothersome due to the fact that their flight paths crossed our front porch and walkway. Caleb was stung twice one day while standing near the front door.

After Caleb was stung, we attempted to spray the entrance to the bees’ home but after two cans of pesticide, the bees were still hanging around. One morning last week, Jon decided to give the spray another try.

I’d just left Caleb at the bus stop and was nearly home when I heard Jon let out a loud yelp. I knew immediately that he’d been stung but it wasn’t until later that he told me he’d actually kicked the side of the house in the very spot where the bees resided. Now why an otherwise intelligent man would purposely aggravate a nest of yellow jackets is beyond me, but as you’ll soon see, it was poor Caleb that would become the greater victim in this case.

You can’t really blame the bees for wanting to defend their home. They were mad, and they knew exactly who the perpetrator was. Those bees were on Jon like white on rice. And he freaked out. He ran from the porch to the driveway and began swatting wildly. He was ducking, stomping and slapping and his head with his hands. He covered a large area of the driveway with his spastic movements.

Jon’s not a small man and his gestures not dainty. I stood a few steps away, not knowing how to help and unsure of whether it was Jon or the bees that I feared more. As this outrageous bee dance continued, I heard the rumbling of the school bus. As it drove past our house, I turned to see Caleb’s puzzled and concerned face in the window as he managed a confused sort of wave.

“Jon! You’re acting like a maniac and the bus just drove by.”

The whole scene reminded me of the African Anteater Ritual. Remember this?

Jon continued swatting even after returning to the house. He was traumatized for the rest of the day, constantly sensing movement and buzzing near his head. I called the exterminator right away.

Later that afternoon, as my neighbor and I stood on the porch discussing the school bus bully, I apologized for the bees that were flying in the vicinity. I explained that Jon had been stung that morning and that I had an exterminator coming. Her two daughters—the two that ride Caleb’s bus—said, “Oh, is that what was wrong with him this morning?”

Caleb then spoke up and said, “Yeah Mom, some eight graders were making fun of Dad and saying, ‘What’s wrong with that man?’ I had to get mad at them and say, ‘Hey, don’t make fun of him, that’s my dad!”

Poor Caleb. Many middle schoolers already begin to feel that their parents are an embarrassment to them and here is Caleb’s father doing a crazed bee dance in the driveway.

As we laughed about it days later, Caleb said, “Oh no, don’t talk about the bees again.”

Jon responded by saying, “Caleb, I’m so sorry that that happened in front of your bus.”

“Oh Dad, you don’t need to be sorry. It’s those stupid 8th grade girls that were making fun of you that should be sorry. I had to make mad faces at them.”

Most kids would’ve hid their heads in shame but Caleb came to his father’s defense. Nice of him, but I’m sure it doesn’t make coping with his social disabilities any easier.

The exterminator came. The bees are gone—along with one hundred of my dollars. And this is going to be one of those family stories we tell again and again just for a good laugh.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The School Bus Bully

Caleb came home from school and said, “Mom, I really need to talk to you. It’s not about school, it’s about the bus.”

He’d had a complaint about the bus nearly every day since school started. It was so overcrowded on the first day that they had to take 30 students off and call for a back up bus. Caleb had lamented that the 8th graders were rowdy, causing trouble and not listening to the bus driver. He was always quick to mention that he was behaving himself but that the older kids were being “ridiculous.”

I was never much concerned with others’ ridiculous behavior as long as none of them were bothering Caleb. When he insisted that the other students were leaving him alone and that his own behavior was appropriate, I decided not to worry too much about the behavior around him. Caleb had often mentioned the bus driver’s grumpiness but I reasoned that I might also be irritable if my job involved that many adolescents in an unstructured setting. I certainly didn’t envy the bus driver’s job but never did I suspect that she was actually part of the problem.

On this particular day last week, Caleb’s story started like most of the others I’d heard. They were half way home when kids started misbehaving. The troublemakers were opening windows and the bus driver was grumpy. Then, Caleb explained, just as he was stepping off the bus, the door closed in on him, hitting him squarely on each hip. I suppressed a chuckle as I imagined him stuck between the accordion doors.

“Oh my goodness! Are you O.K.? Did it hurt? Did the other kids laugh at you?”

Though shocked, Caleb seemed fine but all of the sudden it occurred to me: a bus door is manually controlled by the bus driver. The door closing on Caleb could not have been some sort of mechanical malfunction, it had to be a deliberate act of the driver herself.

I was trying to find a way to give the bus driver the benefit of the doubt when there came a knock at my door. It was my next-door neighbor. Her two middle school-aged daughters ride Caleb’s bus and she wanted to know if he’d been complaining about the bus driver. She went on to tell me that her 8th grade daughter had also had the door closed in on her.

Evidently, the driver was upset that windows that had been opened and had not been closed, so she expressed her frustration by trapping kids with the door. Neither my neighbor’s daughter nor Caleb had opened a window but were simply innocent victims of the bully of bus 129.

Who would’ve thought it would be the bus driver that would turn out to be the bully? My neighbor encouraged me to make a complaint to the department of transportation, which I did immediately.

And the bus ride has been pleasant ever since.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On the Bus

When Caleb was about five years old, Jon invented a special father-to-son sign. He’d blow him a kiss and immediately lift the outstretched hand into a “thumbs up.” Caleb would make the sign in return. This affectionate gesture began as part of a goodnight routine and later evolved into an any-time-we-part-ways tradition. I started using it each morning as I sent Caleb off to kindergarten, mostly to soothe my own discomfort.

The school bus has always caused a sort of panic for me. I never rode it in all of my schooling, but imagined it as nothing more than playground bullies and mischief on wheels. Each morning as Caleb boarded the school bus and took his regular seat which overlooked the bus’s folding stop sign, I cringed at the thought of my boy leaving my protective wing. His little round toe head seemed far too innocent to be peering out of that big, bad yellow bus. I knew each day was a challenge for him and my heart would ache a little each morning as I watched his sweet face fade from my view. As we made our special sign through the window, I felt better. It became a sort of superstition for me; as if giving the sign somehow insured he’d be okay.

Those good-byes continued through second grade and they always evoked the same emotions. Then, a new school was built in our neighborhood and getting to school no longer required riding a bus. Somewhere along the line we stopped using our special sign and in fact, I had forgotten about the ritual until one morning when Caleb was in fourth grade. He had just headed out the door to school when Natalie emerged from her bed having just missed the opportunity to say good-bye. We ran to the door step and could see Caleb starting to round the corner, still visible from our front porch.

I called to him. He turned and gave a cheerful wave. He continued waving until that sweet blonde hair was no longer in sight. The gesture was different but the feeling the same.

“There he goes,” I thought to myself just as I did every day when I’d watched the bus disappear. “Gosh, I love that kid.” I offered silent petitions for his safety and success as he ventured off to school, his most difficult environment.

Starting middle school meant a return to riding a school bus. We avoided it on the first day. With so many other anxieties, the bus was one more thing neither one of us wanted to worry about. On the second day, however, he thought he was ready. I wasn’t so sure. The overcrowded bus bursting with adolescents was far more intimidating than the elementary bus had ever been.

On that morning of the second day, I was the only mom standing at the bus stop. Evidently other students this age don’t need or want their mothers at their side for fear it may damage their façade of independence and their fragile peer image. I quietly asked Caleb if he were embarrassed by my presence. He seemed puzzled that I’d even ask such a question and answered that he was glad to have someone to stand with.

The bus arrived and the students filed aboard. He was now much too old for the old thumbs-up sign, even though I still needed its reassurance. In fact, he was even too old for me to linger on the corner and stare as I wanted to. I wanted to watch to make sure he found a seat, to see who sat beside him, and to make sure none of those older punk kids bothered him in any way. Instead, I turned for home with only a quick backward glance to see the tail lights rounding the corner. And I prayed.

The bus drove away and a little piece of my heart went with it.

He says he’ll soon be ready to walk to the bus stop alone. I actually like walking with him but I am weary of my presence placing a stigma on a boy that is already prone to teasing, so I am encouraging him to make the step. It’s been several days now and we’re both getting closer to being able to let go of each other.

Caleb’s adjustment to middle school has been far smoother than I could’ve ever imagined, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to watching that bus drive away with my sweet, naïve boy inside. I still need our special sign even if he doesn’t. But with or without the sign, there will always be prayers. Lots of them.

*I actually wrote this little essay several years ago but recently added the middle school portion after experiencing the old familiar discomfort of watching Caleb ride away on the bus. Then, late last week we had a couple of experiences that justify my school bus anxiety. Stay tuned for those stories and be prepared to laugh and feel very sorry for Caleb--in a funny sort of way.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What I'm Doing With Myself

It's been exactly one week since my baby started preschool. She is, of course, loving it! I am sad that she's so big.

The big kids are doing well and we're almost adjusted to our new schedules. Caleb continues to come home happy every day. I really feel like we've been blessed with a small miracle as I never would've imagined the middle school transition going this well. I'm a bit hesitant of speaking too soon, however, because it was this same time last year that the locker incident occurred. Nevertheless, our prayers have been answered.

With the kids in school, my sister wondered what I would do with myself. Well, the first day of Nat's preschool, I did this:

Then I took her to a b-day party for a friend at Chuck E. Cheese. She and Emma made their tokens stretch by sharing every ride. In fact, they had so many left that we had to give them away when it was time to go. Cute, cute friends.

The next day, after my favorite breakfast with some girlfriends, we went to the free-admission day at the fair. Natalie loved milking the cow and seeing all the animals.

Natty and Jacob petting a baby bunny.

And there's been plenty of this (which always makes me smile):

But lest you think it's been all fun and games...I've done my share of this:

Why do we call this room of the house the den? It's really the laundry room, it looks like this most of the time.

I've also fit in errands, and volunteering and gym stuff and more gym stuff and...

Even with the kids gone, I still can't catch up.

And now it's time to pick up Natalie from preschool.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Roll the Credits

Sometimes the best ideas come from the most unlikely sources. Because I am a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due, this post is dedicated to two such sources.

My friend Carrie is having twins. On Saturday I hosted a shower to help her celebrate. Last week, while in the planning stages, Jon and my brother-in-law, Christopher, shared their ideas for the shower. (unlikely sources, right?)

Jon suggested that I go with a Sugar and Spice theme since the babies are girls and there are two of them. He was specific about a banner being made with his theme suggestion. It was a good idea, I thought.

Is this what you had in mind, Jon?

Here's Carrie dishing up the yummy brunch. She doesn't look big enough to have two babies in there, does she?

And while we're giving credit, acknowledgement should be given to Stephanie for delicious cinnamon rolls, Kiersten for chocolate zucchini muffins and Holly for her egg dish.

In keeping with Jon's theme, I created this little centerpiece made with brown and white sugar. We also played a game of things that go together like...sugar and spice.

In my discussion with my party-planning helpers, I had mentioned wanting to make homemade Oreos for the favor with a "double stuff" tag. Double stuff for twins...get it? Christopher then came up with a brilliant idea. Why not buy Double Stuff Oreos, dip them in chocolate and add a few sprinkles? Love it!

Credit is due to Camille who suggested we put it on a stick (so cute!) and to Jon for creating the Double Stuff image for my tags. Didn't they turn out great? Thanks for that idea, Christopher. We'll be making these for all sorts of holidays.

It was a successful party. I'll never be able to plan another one without first consulting my expert panel. Thanks, guys!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day of Rest

Evidently Caleb's late night watching football caught up to him in the middle of today's Stake Conference.

Many have been known to sleep in church but I'm quite sure this is the first time the nap's been taken with one's head in a bag!

It took a fair about of effort to rouse him but he's now feeling quite rested.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Back to School

So far so good! It sure feels great to have day one under our belts.

Looking pretty confident for the first day of sixth grade.

First day of school and all is well. Caleb came home happy and was particularly proud that he has become a "locker pro." He was surprised with an unexpected change to his custom-built schedule but it seems he handled the alteration beautifully.

At his request, I took him to school this morning. I'm so glad I did. The halls were swarming with people and those kids sure look big! We both felt better about an escort from Mom. He says he's ready for the bus tomorrow. It's going to take some time getting used to waking up so early--he has to catch the bus at 7:07 a.m.!

I got home from the middle school just in time to do Alyssa's hair and head off to the elementary school. It'll be interesting having all of my kids on completely different school schedules.

The cutest little girl in all the third grade! :)

Walking buddies. Alyssa-3rd grade, Hunter-1st grade, Linsey-4th grade and Abigail-2nd grade.

Alyssa was a good sport to pose for me at her desk. You can't tell from this smile that she heaved a big sigh when I requested the picture.

First-day success calls for a celebration. How 'bout dinner at Red Robin?

The kids got certificates for free kid meals from the dentist when we went for our back-to-school cleanings. Natalie refused to join the picture since she didn't go to school today.

Here's Jon taking a bite out of the Red Robin gift card he got as a birthday gift from the Childers family.

Tomorrow we send Natalie off for her first day of preschool. She can hardly contain her excitement.

Thank you to all for your prayers and support for Caleb. We're so grateful for a good first day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Good-bye Summer

We've officially reached summer's end. Summer was good to us and yet so much went unsaid.

I didn't acknowledge a wonderful Fourth of July holiday with cousins, aunts and uncles. It was perfect except for a sick Natalie.

I never wrote about my week as an empty-nester. The kids loved every minute of their five mother-free days at Grandma's and I felt a bit guilty at how much I enjoyed my break from them. I'd love to see this become a tradition.

Here are the kids all loaded up and ready for a week at Grandma's.

My family gathered for a wonderful week of reuniting. It was sure good to have them all here.

Caleb went on his first Scout campout. I understand he was quite a trooper on his five-mile hike!
We got to celebrate Jonas' baptism with lots of family. After this visit we could say that we saw every member on both sides of our family. What a great blessing, especially considering the large distances that separate many of us.

I never mentioned all the beach days, play dates or the record breaking heat.

We definitely packed in plenty of fun. Like last week when Jon surprised me with tickets to Wicked. What an awesome show!

And then yesterday, Labor day, our last hurrah...the circus. It was a really fun show and hard to determine a favorite act. I'm going with the elephants.

Good-bye, Summer. I hate to see you go.

Tomorrow, I throw Caleb to the dogs...the Mt. Baker Middle School Bulldogs. Please pray for him (and me!)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Rise and Shout!

Imagine me, my son and my two nephews huddled together in our family room’s designated “standing zone” (the area reserved for those fans that are too anxious to remain seated).

Picture the four of us jumping around wildly in one jubilant group hug.

Imagine cheers so loud that the girls playing in the front yard come running in the house to tell us they can hear us from outside.

Envision three young boys running our “Y” flag around the neighborhood in celebration.

BYU 14-OU 13.

That’s one for the history books. And we can't stop talking about it.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jon!

We had seven traditional candles and one out-of-control, singing Chinese candle that was large enough to account for the other thirty.

A little Oreo Madness and an amazing Cougar win made for a memorable 37th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Jon!