Friday, October 29, 2010
Halloween is just around the corner and I have been lame-O in the Oh Let's Have Some Halloween Fun! department. I've been sliding into lame-O for several years, now. But we're still going trick-or-treating so I haven't totally slid into Halloween's version of Bah Humbug, whatever that would be. Boo Humbug, maybe? God, I'm hilarious. And tired. Coming down from a 2-week stint solo-parenting. Anyboo....
I actually love Halloween...I love fall...and Halloween is part of it. Even my favorite colors: oranges, golds, browns...so yeah. I dig it. But my enthusiasm for anything that might be craft/puppet/mask/sing-along related has just wained. I can't help it. I've been at this a long time.
There was a time, many harvest moons ago, when this day would have found me hunched over the sewing machine while a hot glue gun dripped onto the table. Seriously. I could knock out Halloween costumes like you wouldn't believe. Ask Ellie and Joel; they were forced to wear them. I would see kids with sad little grocery store-bought masks and think, my, my, my.... Really, how did people stand me? How did I stand myself?
I look back on those early motherhood days with fondness, though. It was all so exciting! Everything about everything. I could have listened to Ellie say, "Trick or Treat!!!" indefinitely. Because it was So. Dang. Cute. And Joel, with his low Man Voice even at the age of 18 months saying, "Twicko Tweet?" Even cuter. But since then? Blurry, blurry, foggy, blurry, foggy. Witches hats...brooms....tutus....capes... But who wore what when?
The excitement over parenting hasn't left at all....it has just transferred to different things, like filling out college applications, getting learner's permits for driving, voting for the first time...stuff like that. So I guess it will always be the older ones providing the excitement for me? For the little guys, it's like, yawn...sorry, seen it....yeah, seen it....that one, too....seen it, seen it....Like, when Jasper leaves the house....will we even wave goodbye? Or will we be busy doing something (oh I don't know....like babysitting one of Ellie's or Joel's kids) and just leave a post-it note on the door saying, "Catch Ya Later?"
I've always heard that the baby of the family gets all the attention. And I guess that it's true when the baby is throwing his shoes against the wall, or screaming, or painting the couch....but that's not REAL attention. That's just damage control.
So yeah, in some ways my last two (and my poor middle child who has done everything within his power, including producing a brain tumor, to get my attention) are getting a bad deal. But when I really think about it....in other ways, they're totally not. Because guess what? I am a less neurotic woman than I was in the past. I know that might be hard for some of you to believe, but really, you have no idea how seriously I took things like matching outfits when I didn't have distractions like transcripts, academic portfolios, and driving lessons to keep me busy. I am WAY more relaxed. I am NICER. I have more respect for the feelings of the little people. I have more tolerance where their outbursts and moodiness are concerned. I approach their dramas with an attitude of this, too, shall pass...rather than the....OH MY GOD THIS IS NEVER GOING TO END WE HAVE TO FIND A THERAPIST NOW!!! attitude that Ellie and Joel suffered.
So, maybe Camille did get her Halloween costume the other day when I stopped in for a gallon of milk. Maybe Jasper is wearing the same costume he wore last year (which is a mix-match of costume parts worn by his older brothers, along with parts of a ninja costume brought over by a friend). Maybe we're not going to roast pumpkin seeds or make snacks in the shapes of witches' hats. It's all still good. We ARE going trick-or-treating. We ARE carving a pumpkin tomorrow night (or rather...Ellie is neurotically carving a pumpkin while yelling at everyone else to stay away lest they mar it in some tragic way with a god-forbid MISTAKE that might make it terrifyingly Less Than Perfect....it is great fun, believe me).
We didn't get to El Mercado this year to look at Dia De Las Muertas altars.....or watch the dancers. We didn't make altars, ourselves, as we've done in the past. We filled out college applications, which is a really, really, frightening Halloween activity.
This will be Joel's first Halloween to not trick-or-treat. It will be his first year to save his hard-earned cash normally spent on ridiculously expensive masks. He's going with friends (and Ellie)to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Last year when Joel trick-or-treated, he didn't drag in a very big haul. At his height and age (we're talking daily shaving), apparently people just thought they were being held up....those that didn't throw in their wallets weren't too keen on showering him with candy. He is such a big kid at heart, though. It never occurred to him not to trick-or-treat.
Jules doesn't want to trick-or-treat without Joel - but he's not ready to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show....so he doesn't have a choice. He's in there painting some sort of weapon red (it looks like real blood, Mom!) at this very moment.
Schoolish Business? We have been reading some good and scary Halloween books. It wasn't really intentional, it just happened. We read a book of short ghost stories of Texas towns. That was fun, although in San Antonio, we are in the heart of haunted Texas land. I think the Alamo is considered a pretty haunted sight, and I know that the Menger Hotel is. My sister used to work there, my parents got married there, and Jeff and I got married there, as well. It is a fantastically beautiful old hotel across from the Alamo. My sister said unusual occurrences were the norm when she worked there. We've been ghost-hunting there a few times - never found anything, but we are not known for successfully sneaking up on anyone / anything. If you're curious about this historic hotel, local author Docia Williams has written a book called The History and Mystery of the Menger Hotel.
Jules and I read The Pit and the Pendulum, one of my favorite Poe stories of all time. Our house is also littered with Goosebumps books and DVD's....so we're not entirely Lame-O.
What else is going on in The Can? Odyssey of the Mind is in full swing and I stuck to my guns. I'm not coaching! Well, I'm technically co-coaching, but so far that has involved me dropping off my kids and peeling out in a cloud of dust. Joel and Jules are reading Moby Dick, because that is what their team's skit is based on....although Joel cannot say Moby Dick without cracking up. Joel isn't convinced that Jules is fully understanding the novel...he keeps quizzing him...."Jules, what did the chair look like that so and so sat in?" Jules: "Uhhh....." Joel: "Aha! If you were reading it you would know that because he spends two chapters describing the chair." I haven't read Moby Dick....so I wouldn't know. And after hearing the boys discussing it, I'm unlikely to to attempt it.
Camille's team is making a Rube Goldberg machine. Jasper? Has refused to participate. He currently has a little friend over...and he's all mad because the little friend is playing with Jules....but Jasper's idea of playing with the little friend is to say, "Ben, go outside and play..." and then hold the door open for Ben, slamming it shut as soon as Ben gets outside, at which point Jasper retreats to his room to play. Alone. And, apparently, angry that Ben is happily playing with Jules. This is how Jasper socializes. It's probably because he's homeschooled. Although I'm not sure that we can technically say he's homeschooled since he officially quit school before he ever began...last year....which would have been kindergarten if anyone were keeping track of that sort of thing. Anyway, Ben is his best friend because BEN DOESN'T CARE THAT JASPER LOCKS HIM OUTSIDE. Ben is 6th out of 9 kids, so he's probably used to being locked outside.
In addition to continuing to write my own novel (I'm over 70,000 words into it, now) - I've been reading a lot, as well. I picked up A Good and Happy Child, at the library. Turns out it is a spooky demonic possession book (perfect for Halloween!) but I didn't know that when I chose it....I'm just into reading first novels at the moment, and this is Justin Evans' first novel.
I love to read first novels so I can gauge my own first attempt....sometimes other people's first novels make me feel pretty good, and sometimes they make me feel pretty amateurish. This one? Well, he writes pretty. He really does. But then I quickly became bored with the content. It is simply the most boring case of demon possession imaginable. I want to say, Are you sure he's possessed and not just cranky? Also - it becomes a little religious and preachy....soul-saving just plain makes me nervous and there is plenty of talk about soul-saving. I live in Texas, so soul-saving talk is as common as pig tracks. In fact, the grocery store checker just casually asked me if I was a Christian....and would I like to come to her church. What did I answer? Well, luckily, I didn't have to. She never stopped talking long enough for me to say anything.
Where do saved souls go? Supposedly Heaven. But what is Heaven? And where will I go? I just don't believe. I've tried to believe. In fact, nobody has tried harder to believe than me. Because I freaking LOVE the trappings of church. I am a massively, appreciatively, ritualistic person. I grew up without religion so, of course, that made it immensely appealing to me. So I tried it and I tried it whole-heartedly. But in the end, no matter what I said or what I did or how I did it (and I did it all perfectly because I was totally digging the whole scene), I just didn't BELIEVE. And monotheism is a belief-based faith.
How do you make yourself believe? Well, they call it faith. And you are to feel badly if you don't have it. But, I can't have faith in something just because somebody tells me to. Therefore, I am left as a non-Believer....and quite happy that way, too. Now if all of the sudden, all of the preachy folks were to suddenly disappear and leave behind nothing but their clothes and a bunch of liberals....I would consider myself a Believer. But also fairly content and reasonably happy to be....dun dun dun....left behind with the other non-Believers.
I realize, of course, that I am taking a huge risk by posting this....someday I could find myself at the Pearly Gates only to have St. Peter tell me he's been following my blog (gulp). Good lord, I hope he's not on Facebook or I'm totally hosed.
And speaking of Believing....let's get to the ghost stories, shall we? My sister lives with a ghost. It is the best roommate she's ever had. She lives in an adorable old cottage. And weird stuff has always happened. Thumps, bumps, sounds, things turning on and off, doors open and closing....yada yada....like the ghost read the book or something and followed it to a T. It particularly messes with Ellie when she's over. It turned on an electronic game of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?? in the room where she was sleeping, theme song playing and colored lights flashing....at 4:00 am during a thunderstorm. Ellie, who had fallen asleep reading about the Cold War (because who wouldn't?) thought the Russians had invaded, and their leader was Regis Philbin.
While Jeff was there doing some plumbing or electrical work or something like that because my sister is needy in that way, he was leaning over in the bathroom and the door bumped him on the behind HARD. And nobody was anywhere around. One time while we were over there (and Jeff was outside doing some sort of electrical work) I was sitting by the window, which was open. Jeff was on the deck and I could hear him clanking around. Suddenly, something flew over my shoulder and landed with a loud kerplunk in the middle of the living room. It flew in an arc, as if thrown underhanded, and I looked to see how Jeff had thrown something through the window when I thought the screen was on. The screen was on. And Jeff wasn't in sight. And my sister comes stomping out because she thought I had thrown something on her wood floors and she bent over and picked up the little alarm sensor that had, up until that point, been attached to the window frame above my left shoulder. "How did this get here?" she asked me. "Ummm...it fell?" I answered. Yeah, right. It "fell" into the center of the room, after following a curved trajectory. Weird.
But the Big Story is that my sister, Ellie, (and almost my dad - but he simply refuses to play) actually SAW the ghost. It floated up from the floor, a white misty cloud that didn't feel misty, and formed a blob that hovered in front of them for about 3 seconds, before floating up through the ceiling. My sister and Ellie both yelled, "Did you see that?" and my dad, who was watching the Big Bang Theory (his favorite show) said, "See what?" and remains the ever-so-irritating skeptic about the whole thing. Of course, he said he had a ghost in his room at rehab (remember when he broke his leg?) but now he says he remembers nothing of it and it was probably his pain meds....like pain meds are more fun than a Real Live (or dead) GHOST. Actually? Never mind. Pain meds are more fun than a ghost.
OK - I have more ghost stories, but I'm tired of typing....so you'll have to tune in next Halloween, mwaa-ha-ha-ha....(that is an evil laugh....I am not a naturally evil person so I'm not very good at it).
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Ellie is getting ready for conservatory/college auditions. She had a recital and it was standing room only - tons of people. Before the recital she was featured on Texas Public Radio's Classical Spotlight....which is duh....a radio show. They interviewed her (she did very well) and they also filmed her for their radio blog.
I love it how she just looks up when she's done like, "Okie dokie, what's next?" So there was a ton of practicing to get ready for the recital - obviously. And even though there is still a ton of practicing going on, and an upcoming trip to Philadelphia to have a lesson at Curtis, having the recital behind us has let off some of the steam, for sure. At the recital Ellie received the Artist Award from the Musical Arts Center of San Antonio. It's a pretty big deal. Here is Ellie and her teacher, Ken, looking all relaxed after the recital - posing all coolio with the Artist Award Trophy.
Aha! And here is the other half of Lewis and Clark. Dana was Ellie's first piano teacher. She's a special lady and a wonderful friend. Also? Kevin's wife.
And this here is just the riff raff from the back row.
Awww...another cute Joel/Alyssa picture.
Jasper made it through the entire recital! I kid you not. He rolled around on the ground, crawled under his seat at one point, and stage-whispered, "Is it over yet?" repeatedly. But the little dude survived. So did I. I used to single-handedly hold the piano together telepathically while Ellie played. I concentrated so hard I would give myself a headache. Now? I just relax like all the other folks and enjoy the show. She's such a pro, now. It's just great to watch and listen. I did embarrass myself at one point, though. Ellie would walk off stage to rest in between songs, and it is customary to begin applauding when she comes back out. I guess I saw the stage door open before anyone else after one of these little breaks (front row joe, after all) because I broke out into semi-hysterical applause totally by myself. People felt sorry for me, I could feel it. Oh well. I'm the mama - so cut me some slack. And freakin' pay attention when my kid walks back out on the stage!
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
So yeah, Happy Anniversary to us....and here's a sentimental photo to mark the day. In case you're alarmed, that is not me or Jeff in the photo. But it's a sweet photo, no? It's Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam) being affectionately kissed by Anthony Kiedis (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and if you've been reading this blog for very long you know that Jeff is a loyal Pearl Jam fan and I am pretty much THE "fan" in "fanatic" for RHCP. Therefore, this pic is suitably romantic for us.
Unlike Kiedis and Vedder, who I think might have been standing on the red carpet for the MTV Music Awards or some such event, I was standing on the courthouse steps....not awaiting trial or anything dramatic like that....just hanging out with friends at our town's local annual festival (Peanut Festival - that's right - we grow peanuts in these parts and we're proud of it.) A cute boy with lots-o-hair kept grinning at me. I grinned back. Finally he came over and talked to me. He was in the high school band with me, and I hadn't noticed. Funny. It was a small band, too. I played the flute and he played the trumpet. Nice lips. Anyway, he followed me home. First kiss.
He gave me his senior ring. A few months later he asked for it back. I cried a river. He didn't care so much. He found me infuriating, confusing, annoying, and a tad bit psychotic. So we went on with our lives and I dated other boys and he discovered that all girls were infuriating, confusing, annoying, and a tad bit psychotic. When I was a senior and he was in college, he decided that at least he'd been somewhat familiar with my particular brand of psychotic, and since I'd never really stopped crying my eyes out every night, we started dating again. This was obviously my Madonna phase...1983, maybe?
Oh, he HATED the picture of him on the previous post. He said, "You put up the evil pic of me scowling into the sun!" So here he is, wearing a baby while working and totally not scowling.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
Joel turned 16. Where to start? Of course, I can't believe it. It's no secret that Joel is the ray of sunshine in my day to day. When he was about two, a waitress asked him his name. He told her with a straight face that his name was Sweet Baby. And he so was.
He had a 4-day celebration. The night before the Actual Birthday, Jeff gave him Halo Reach (right out of the bag - no wrapping) because he had to go out of town the next day. Joel was thrilled, of course. Then on his Actual Birthday, he got by without doing chores and he was allowed to zombie himself out on Halo Reach, which he totally did. Then the NEXT day, Jeff came home and we went to Joel's favorite Indian restaurant.
Alyssa went with us. And she's wearing a t-shirt with Joel's favorite band in honor of his big day AND she gave him a complete collector's edition set of Guns-n-Roses guitar picks that she had to order from Britain. Happy boy.
Here are Joel and Alyssa listening to Jules, and apparently Jules thinks he's being funny.
Jules with his papa.
And on the NEXT day, Joel had a party. And Galen and Eve came, even though they are technically Ellie's friends, and they did Galen-ish things like look at the computer all evening. And I had never met Eve before and I was thrilled to meet Eve because she is truly adorable and polite and all of that was BEFORE she casually mentioned that her mom FREAKING WENT TO MUSIC SCHOOL with JOHN FRUSCIANTE (formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers). Eve's mom is a percussionist. Anyway - Jeff had been whistling If You See Me Gettin' High from the Mother's Milk album because he knows if he's going to be irritating me with whistling it should at least be made more tolerable by being something I like. So then Eve dropped the bomb about her mom and John...
and then Ellie was all like, "Oh my god, mom...don't start...." Like I would embarrass her. Please. Anyway, I digress....
There were lots of sweaty teenaged boys at the party....all different shapes and sizes. Here they are eating on the cake after porking down sushi and pizza.
Austen and Friends made Joel a valentine-thing....thought it was funny. Austen's dreadlocks are coming along nicely, don't you think? As nicely as possible for white boy baby fluff hair...which Austen totally has.
Joel blows out his candles in his new Slash t-shirt. Jeff is helping him.
Some of the boys came in from out of town and they spent the night. And they never actually went to sleep. So the next morning found us brewing coffee while I sang (quite beautifully, I might add), "There's Got To Be A Morning After...."
Austen is just a little worse for wear.
Jeff whipped up some banana pancakes and the boys hung out for what was Day 4 of the Massive Celebration.
So back to Joel. He showed up in this world smiling a big, goofy grin and he's been doing the big, goofy grin ever since. And believe me, when you sandwich a big, goofy grin in between Psychotic Firstborn and Neurotic Middle Child - well - you tend to appreciate it more. And before you judge me harshly, both Psychotic Firstborn and Neurotic Middle Child...and Hyper 4th and Quirky as Hell 5th...are all insanely loved. But they are what they are and none of them are easy. Joel is Easy. Excuse me for enjoying it.
Once, Ellie accused me of having a favorite in Joel. I asked her who her favorite was and she snorted and said, "Joel." I mean, seriously, even Ellie likes him.
Joel has a unique way of looking at the world. The Powers That Be have identified this way of being and seeing and hearing as various "disabilities." Just not seein' it over here. Okay - so it took him a hell of a long time to learn to read. But he learned. He learned to read so well that his comprehension got in the way of one of his labels, recently. He read so well, that his dyslexia label was changed to "compensated dyslexic." Even though he still spells "and" as "nad." Whatever. As long as he still gets extra time on the SAT, who cares? And thanks to Auditory Processing Disorder and Expressive Language Disorder (and honestly, there's another label that escapes me at the moment), he will. And that's the only reason he owns any labels. We couldn't care less about such things over here.
Joel has always had a beautiful way of speaking. When he was little and he saw an airplane, he would yell, "Look on top of me!" He was engaged in sound effects and hand motions and full-body pantomime about 90% of the time. We thought it was great. Massively entertaining. The teachers at the school? Not so much. But we won't get into that. His doctor loved him. "How are you feeling, Joel?" Joel would throw himself on the ground, put his fingers around his neck, make horrible scratching and hissing sounds, then gasp for air.
"Aha," the doctor would say. "Sore throat, stuffy nose, congested chest."
Joel still cracks us up daily with the things that come out of his mouth. Luckily, it cracks him up, too. When we explain, for example, the common meaning behind the word "arousal," he'll laugh and yell, "holy crap! that's not what i meant at ALL!" Ugh. Yes, he says crap, and quite appropriately. He uses lots of words interchangeably that are not really interchangeable and it is funny. We love the look on his face when we tell him what he's said. Usually, he can tell by the looks on our faces...."Uh, what did I just say?" with a HUGE grin on his face. Because he knows it's going to be hilarious.
Some of the things we've explained..."Dude, you just asked if you could eat the movie."
"Dude, you just indicated you were grateful with your intestines..."
And on and on...we all speak Joel-ese over here. When Joel said to Ellie, "So well," she immediately replied, "Fare long." It's like we're Vulcan.
Even though he often uses different or interesting (or wrong) words, you always know what he's saying. He recently described a tall white man as a long white-skinned fellow. No doubt what he meant, right?
Not only does he express himself differently, he seems to see things differently (and beautifully). When he was little he would often say, "Mom - doesn't the air taste happy today?" And just the other day he told me that autumn air looked different...and he liked it. He literally sees and feels things the rest of us don't. And most things make him extremely happy. Things the rest of us pass by without notice will give him a huge chuckle. And then you're laughing with him, even though you're not sure why.
He was recently telling me about an article he'd read in a magazine. It was apparently about a monastic order that trains and breeds dogs. And Joel was freaking delighted by this particular situation. "Mom, so you have these monk dudes, and they're living with other monk dudes, you know, gardening and cooking and all that but they're not making wine or cheese like other monk dudes. They're training DOGS." Now he's laughing hysterically. So hard, in fact, that he can hardly talk. "I mean, you've got these guys who look like the chubby guy on The Hangover, right?" Laugh, laugh, laugh. "And they're wearing robes and looking all happy like monks and stuff..." laugh, laugh, laugh. "And they're just rolling around everywhere being all affectionate with these dogs!" Hysterical. Then he goes into a monologue thing with monks talking to dogs about all kinds of dog misbehaviors. And he follows it up with that television Cymbalta voice that says, "thoughts of suicide may occur" only he says, "performing this on puppies may result in death." After he picks himself up off the floor where he's been in a heap due to the over-self-entertainment, he says, "You know, I saw that and I was like, Man, this is too good to be true." I'm sure other people read the same article and did not have the same reaction. But Joel? Saw an immediate sitcom.
Joel, unfortunately, is the primary educator of the children who came after him. Jasper is his prime pupil. I've resorted to trying to convince Jasper that Joel is a liar. Yes, I actually use the word liar. You can't mince words in situations like this. You've simply got to call it like it is. But Jasper just looks at me like, "Yeah, he said you'd say that." Joel is his Source of All That Is. And this is an alarming situation.
Whenever I hear Joel using his professor voice to say, "Well, Jasper, it's like this..." I try to interfere by throwing myself physically in between them or distracting Jasper with sugar...but it rarely works. Jasper is a faithful and loyal disciple. Which is why he's convinced babies are born by being expelled through the mother's left nostril during a particularly violent sneeze. "They come out completely covered in snot. If you don't believe me, I can show you pictures where you're all covered in snot." Jasper just nods and eats his toast. Joel also explained what the umbilical cord is for. It nourishes the baby through the mother's BRAIN. Each baby consumes approximately 13% of the mother's brain. "That's what's wrong with Mom. She fed five of us." Jasper just nods understandably and sips his milk.
So. Sixteen years. My Sweet Baby is a head taller than me. He still passes out hugs without reserve. He makes me happy. But the best thing about Joel? Is that HE is happy. He really is. How many people can say that? And that is why no matter what blah blah blah disability or blah blah blah disorder business is tacked to him here and there...I don't worry about Joel. I have no doubt that he'll make his way in this world, with people clamoring to help him. The boy is simply contagious in a good way. It would be a better world if more people caught a little bit of whatever it is that he has.
Signing Off as Sweet Sardine Baby's Mama