Month: April 2012

So We Beat On, Boats Against The Current

Ummm…yeah. No.

I’ve noticed lately that because we’ve had such warm, pleasant weather, spring fever has hit my boys early and relentlessly. They are already mentally finished with school, and they aren’t actually finished until May 25th. I’ve been pestering, wheedling, bribing, and cajoling to get them to focus on their studies.

Today, I made the boys sit down and get to their homework as soon as we walked in the door from school. Joe had 30 sentences to write for spelling. He did not want any help from me. Before I knew it, he was over at the counter stapling a couple loose-leaf pages together. I could tell from across the counter that his work was nearly illegible.

“Let me see your paper,” I requested.

“No, Mom. It’s done. I’m going to put it in my folder,” Joe replied.

“No, you’re not. Give it to me.” He looked at me, fear in his eyes. “NOW,” I bossed.

He acquiesced. The second the paper hit my hand I knew what I had to do. I was not happy about it.

“Seriously, Joe? Do you really think this is ready to hand in?”

It was a rhetorical question. His handwriting, usually difficult to read, was indecipherable. It might as well have been Sanskrit. While he had managed to capitalize the first word in every sentence, some sentences lacked final punctuation. Many words were incomplete. Most of the sentences did not have the spelling word underlined. Some of the spelling words were actually misspelled.

“No way,” I told him. “This has to be redone. This is not even close to acceptable work.”

“The WHOLE thing?” he gasped.

“Yes. You need to rewrite all thirty sentences. Neatly.”

“But, I’ll never get outside to play,” he cried.

“Yes, you will. It’s just going to take longer because you didn’t take your time the first time through. It’s a bummer, I know.”

Although I could tell he was livid (and sad too), he was careful to select new paper without any sign of tantrum, knowing that would bring down the Wrath of Mama Bear. No one wants to incur that. He sat focused for a while and his second paper was much neater, although still not perfect given his “sloppy Joe” penmanship.

Joe struggles with his schoolwork, not because he’s unintelligent but because his ADHD makes it difficult for him. The great weather and the approaching end of the school year are merely additional distractions he must face. I feel badly for him. It is much harder for him than it is for his classmates, even with the special concessions the school makes for him (like allowing him to print rather than use cursive for his written work). I truly loathe making him redo his work, but if I don’t make him do this now he will never learn. So, nearly every day he has homework we go through this same routine. He does it. I make him redo it. It’s like one long Groundhog Day. And this would frustrate the living daylights out of me if I hadn’t seen him catch on in other instances. It takes four times longer than it would for another child, but he eventually gets it. I know there’s hope.

I used to wonder whether the diagnosis of ADHD with Joe was unnecessary, whether we’d rushed to judgment. I’ve since realized that this is not a phony disorder with Joe. If you ask him, he can tell you that every sentence should start with a capital letter and end with a period. He knows it. He is simply unable to translate this knowledge because his brain thinks differently and he processes things unlike other people. Joe and I have a tacit understanding: I will keep harping on him until the basics become second nature, and he will keep giving me reasons to harp so that I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he truly struggles because of ADHD and not because he’s lazy, stupid, or unmotivated. He doesn’t want to redo that paper any more than I want to make him redo it. We’re where we are because it’s where we are. Someday we will push beyond this, and there will be another obstacle. But, I have no doubt that we will overcome it. That is what we do, Joe and I.

Dorothy Was Right

 

On the ride home from Moab today, we made the boys turn off their DVD player for a few minutes so we could recap our weekend’s adventures, the good and bad parts, the things that will stick with us in our memories.

My birthday is May 27 and this is what I would like please.

 

I loved how when got to the Comfort Suites in Moab and checked into our room, Joe’s exact comment was “Whoa! This is the nicest hotel room we’ve ever stayed in!” Keep in mind that our son has stayed at both The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and The Hotel Jerome in Aspen, not to mention a 4-star resort on Captiva Island in Florida and several top-tier hotels in Norway. Apparently, those places have nothing on the Moab Comfort Suites. Good to know he’s not been spoiled by his travels. Joe’s favorite part was the hike to Delicate Arch (even though we scared him by taking a slightly off-track route along a seemingly perilous edge). He complained, however, that the traffic in Moab was “the worst,” a fairly amusing comment from a kid from Denver who sits in traffic all the time. Even with the April Action Car Show there this weekend, Moab could not possibly rival Denver’s traffic. Besides, we got to see all those cool, classic cars.

Luke buried at Sand Dune Arch.

Both boys agreed that the most fun arch in the park was Sand Dune arch. (Gee. I wonder why.) They also thought the hike to Broken Arch was the best, and that Double Arch wins the award for being the coolest arch. Luke’s only major disappointment was that the Moab Brewery did not have any plain vanilla ice cream and so he had to go without dessert last night.

Steve and I both thought the hike we did with the boys last night in the Park Avenue section of Arches was the best part. We were there on the desert floor, surrounded by these massive rock “fins.” It was sunset, and it felt like we were the only people in the world. (Although as Joe, Master of The Obvious, pointed out, we really weren’t the only people in the world because someone else had made that trail.) Still, it’s rare to have a trail to yourself and it’s even rarer when that trail is in a national park. If Steve and I had a complaint, it was only that our hotel room appeared to be located underneath that of a family of four large elephants with very heavy feet who, oddly enough, decided to walk the stairs next to our room repeatedly rather than taking the elevator. Aside from the somewhat noisy hotel room, we thought the entire trip was a success.

Park Avenue at sunset

We all agreed, though, as we pulled off C-470 and began heading south on Wadsworth toward our home with the sunset illuminating the sky, no matter how much fun we have on any trip we are always happy to pull into our neighborhood. Traveling is something we all love to do, but Dorothy was right. There’s no place like home.

 

Careful What You Wish For

The four of us together on a sunset hike

Steve and I like to hike. It’s been something we’ve done together since the very beginning of our relationship. When our boys were small, we took them along in Baby Bjorn carriers and then eventually the toddler carrier backpacks. It was brutal, but we refused to give up on hiking. When they were between 2 and 5, I would take the double jogger stroller to Roxborough or Waterton Canyon and push them through the hike so I didn’t have to carry them. Eventually, we accepted that they needed to be walking the entire time, so we slowed our pace, knowing that if we wanted them to become good hikers we would actually have to let them hike. Gradually their skills improved, and the distances they were able to travel increased.

Last year was a watershed year. They were finally able to do 7 mile hikes without getting too tired. We were thrilled. On our hike up Carpenter Peak, we’d have to play crazy games to keep them motivated (the boys yelling, “Stop…you separatist dogs” the entire time) but they were doing it. Although we were happy with the distances they could go, we weren’t pleased with the bribery that would have to take place to keep them moving occasionally. One day I promised them Sonic for lunch if we could get through a three-mile hike with a moderate climb in just an hour. We made it in an hour and two minutes; I had a cheeseburger and a strawberry slush that day for lunch.

Today, we hiked about 8 miles through Arches National Park with them. We never once had to beg them to keep going. In fact, we couldn’t get close enough to them to talk to them. We had to keep yelling ahead telling them not to run out of our field of view. You know what that means? It means THAT day has come…the dreaded day when you realize the torch has been passed and you can no longer keep up with your kids. This notion is especially depressing when you stop to consider the fact that you’re in the best shape you’ve been in for years. How can we be so good and yet not good enough? I’ll tell you how. We’re old. It’s official.

I guess my point is be careful what you wish for. We were so excited to have kids who could keep up with us. Last year they did. This year they’ve surpassed us. If there’s a silver lining in all of this, however, it’s that in a couple years they’ll hit that sullen, resentful, grumpy teenage phase where they come along and begrudgingly shuffle their feet and complain the entire way. I’m thinking when they get to that phase, we just might be able to out-hike them again. That’s something, right?

It’s A Wonderful Life

It’s been a really great day for me, so I thought I would share a bits from this day in my life.

And the award goes to....Luke!

The day started with us taking the boys to school before we headed out for our family trip. The impetus for stopping by school was a surprise for Luke. I’ve known for a few days now that Luke was selected as Student of the Month at Hope Christian Academy. This is a big deal because I know Luke has been working really hard. He didn’t expect it, but I knew the surprise would mean the world to him. When the principal slowly narrowed the winner down…a boy…in second grade…his name is Luke…I could see him about to burst. And, when she asked Luke to come up to the front of the room, he ran up the aisle like a crazy contestant on The Price Is Right. We were pleased that he was good enough to hug her and say thank you. On his way back to our seats, he was passing out high fives to other students. It was the cutest. Luke rode home with the plaque in his lap, telling us where he would like us to mount it to the wall in his room. Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference to people. When we got home Luke told us, “This has been the best way to start a weekend.” I had to agree.

Mike...we salute your plucky determination

We finally got on the road for our trip around 10:30, several hours after I had hoped we would leave. Still, it was vacation so we were going to act that way. Schedules be damned. We’d get to Moab eventually. We cruised west on I-70, stopping briefly to picnic in Eagle before heading to Fruita where Steve had heard of a coffee store we had to visit. (Personal note: No matter where we go, there is always a local coffee shop we have to visit. We’re doing it to protect the American Dream by buying from independent coffee shops as much as we’re doing it to satisfy our caffeine addictions. Or so we tell ourselves.) We get to Aspen Street Coffee and, lo and behold, there in front of the store is a sculpture of Mike the Headless Chicken. How cool is that? Mike, the story goes, was a rooster whose head was severed by a farmer in 1945 and yet he still survived for 18 months after his decapitation. Mike is a legend. There is a festival in his honor each year in Fruita, a town on the western slope of Colorado known for its agriculture, its mountain biking, and one bad-ass headless chicken.

Sunset hike...check.

We did finally get to Utah. As we drove down the scenic byway toward Moab, Joe waxed rhapsodic about how he felt at home here. The kid was seriously ready to pack his bags and move in along the banks of the Colorado River among the towering red rocks. We told him we’d have to think about it. We decided that a sunset hike to Delicate Arch would be an awesome way to cap off our day, so we headed into Arches National Park at 6:45 p.m. It’s a “strenuous” 1.5 mile hike from the parking lot to the arch, so we hauled it to make sure we’d catch the 8:06 sunset. The boys, who are unbelievable hikers, ran ahead as I tried valiantly to keep up, glad I had started taking those antibiotics yesterday. I hadn’t seen Delicate Arch since a trip with an ex-boyfriend in the summer of 1991. That was another lifetime ago when I was a different person. Today, the weather was a perfect 60 degrees, the sky was flawless, and we arrived at the arch at 7:40 to view the sunset. We sat there with a crowd of photographers and watched the sunset light up the arch. It just doesn’t get better than that.

Some days, you’re given the opportunity to remember how wonderful life is. Today was one of those days. I’m the luckiest gal in the world.

Is One Of Us A Mule In This Scenario?

It takes crazy determination to finish a 50-mile walk.

The other day, someone told me that I am stubborn. I disagree with that assessment. In my twisted brain, the term “stubborn” means “unyielding,” and I am not that. I’m willing to adapt and compromise where a stubborn person might not. What I am is determined. I’m resolute in what I want, and I will work diligently towards a goal. Sometimes I work so unwaveringly that I acquire tunnel vision and am unable to notice what’s going on around me that might require me to adjust my plans. It’s not that I’m unwilling to change them. I simply am unaware that I should.

Two and a half weeks ago, I got a cold. No big deal. I have kids. I’m used to it. I got over it and life marched on. Then, about a week ago I thought I might be getting a sinus infection. Sometimes you can get over a sinus infection without using antibiotics, though, so that is what I determined to do. I was going to beat this thing without seeing the doctor. No antibiotics for me. End of story.

One, two, three days went by and I tried to ignore the congestion, headaches, tooth pain, earaches, and dizziness. I rationalized it all away, telling myself that the symptoms were improving. I was willing myself to be well, and it was going to work. No questions. On days four and five, on little sleep and with a fair amount of misery, a small doubt hovered in the corner of my brain. But, determined gal I am, I kept right on doing the same old thing I had been doing. No relief. It was on day six that the dreaded thought occurred to me: maybe I should see a doctor? I’d taken a meth lab full of Sudafed, and my head still hurt. Today, on day seven, knowing I would be leaving the state tomorrow for our family trip and not wanting to spend another three days in relative discomfort, I caved and went to the doctor. Guess what? Sinus infection diagnosis and fourteen days’ worth of wretched antibiotics in my future. So much for beating this thing myself.

There is a time for stalwart determination, for unfailing attention to a predetermined goal. I would guess that I went about four days beyond reasonable determination with this sinus infection situation. So, does that make me stubborn? Some might say so. I prefer to think I got so wrapped up in my goal of healing myself that I refused to notice the signs that were telling me to let go. This is not the first time that I’ve done something like this. Sometimes it takes me far too long to adjust my field of vision to see the whole picture. I like to think we all do this on occasion, trek along behind that dangling carrot without another thought. The trick, though, is to look past the end of your nose once in a while and see beyond the carrot so you can adjust your trajectory and avoid making an ass out of yourself.

My Sons Are Packing

Boys bag packed. Check.

This weekend, we’ll be taking a short trip with the boys. Joe and Luke are excited because we’re taking them out of school for a day. Hubby is excited because the trip is mainly an excuse for him to take photos. I’m excited because I have a personal rule that I must leave the state once every four months, and it’s time for me to get out of Dodge.

I was upstairs tonight contemplating all I need to do before we leave. The list was long and mind-numbingly dull. Then, it hit me. I can divvy out my laundry list of chores. I thought about the packing. I’ve never packed for Steve, but I do usually pack for the boys. Steve always manages to pack about 400 pairs of underpants and socks, but then will forget to bring something crucial, like pants. I figure that he’s a grown up, though, so I leave him to his own devices. I do not, however, want my boys packing like their father does. So, I determined that it was finally time to teach them how to do their own packing.

“Boys…come up here, please,” I bellowed downstairs.

Noisy chaos continued unabated. I yelled again.

“Guys…I need you to do something for me. Come up!”

Still no response. It once again appeared I was talking to myself, and it was the most intelligent conversation I’d had with them all day. When they finally figured out that my caterwauling was directed at them and came up, I handed them each a packing list. I figured that was a basic enough way to start the process.

“Here you go. You are going to pick out your own clothes for the trip. This is the list of all the things you will need. Please select the clothes carefully from your drawer and stack them neatly in a pile. Try to remember that the clothes you select should match each other, okay? These are the only clothes you will have all weekend, so make sure you like what you pick out because once we leave you’re stuck.”

I sent them on their merry way. I was feeling rather smug about it too. When they had finished, I did a quick check to make sure all items were accounted for and coordinated. Sure enough. It looked good. I was pleased. I tossed their clothes into the suitcase. Next time I will have them make their own packing lists first for practice. I figure if we keep going at this current rate of travel, they should both be excellent at packing by the time they’re 14 and 12. Then I won’t have to think about it at all. And, who knows? Maybe then they’ll teach their father how to pack.

The Kind Of Reminder I Hate

Clouds and balloons over Boulder

“Dream as if you’ll live forever; live as if you’ll die today.” ~ James Dean

This past weekend I hosted a bridal shower for my sister. One of my sister’s long-time friends from UNC was there. Her friend told me when she called to RSVP that she was tentatively offering a “yes” response because she needed to have back surgery a couple days after the shower to improve a nerve situation that was causing one entire leg to be numb all the way down through her foot. She has had difficulty walking because she is basically dragging her unwilling limb around. She wasn’t sure if she’d feel up to a party. Knowing this gal and her upbeat, fun-loving way, I knew she would find a way to make an appearance for my sister, and she did. She’s that kind of person. At the shower, she had everyone laughing about the time she dressed as Androgynous Pat from Saturday Night Live for Halloween and nearly got kicked out of a bar for using the men’s restroom. She kept telling the bouncer, “I’m a person.”

Today was the day  she was scheduled for surgery and, as they were preparing, she was answering some basic questions. During the course of the Q&A, she mentioned a few things that troubled the surgeon. The doctors did a brain scan and found a tumor the size of a fist. And, in a matter of seconds, she went from having back surgery (which is scary enough) to having a life-threatening tumor.

I’ve been thinking about this news all morning long. I try to remind myself daily that life is fragile and tenuous. This is part of the reason I’ve been diligently working to focus on the here and now because I don’t know what the future holds. The only joy I can be sure to find resides in this moment. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. The present is all we have and in a few minutes even that will be our past. I wish it didn’t take bad news to remind me so viscerally of this truth.

I’m holding out hope for my sister’s friend. She beat leukemia when she was 16. If anyone can pour all their positive energy into dealing with a negative situation, she is the one. I’m going to send her all the positivity I can muster as well. Maybe if a whole lot of us do that, it will lift her up and over this tumor situation. While we’re willing that to happen, I know she will be a constant reminder of how important it is to live now. She’ll have us laughing as we do it too.