September 21, 2014

Dear Jack,

Wow oh wow oh wow. On Sunday, at 4:01 p.m., my baby will be a decade old. TEN YEARS. We are still discovering you– finding out new things every day– and you are ten years old!?… wow.

You’ve grown up quite a bit in just this last year. Not only in height– all of your jeans and school trousers were (practically overnight) flood pants– but in giving us glimpses into what the Man version of Jack will be. Your imagination grew this year, too. Your stories about Vor and your descriptions of things you’ve seen or read are far more elaborate. Your anxiety grew, too– the dark side of having a good imagination.

A lot happened this year that I think you’ll remember. You started fourth grade so excited to FINALLY have a man teacher– the wonderful Mr. S. You and your buddies soaked up his sense of humor and loved the nicknames he gave each of you (Jack-a-roni). Just as you started getting into cool projects with the iPad and the school year felt settled-into everything went topsy-turvy. Mr. S left room 14 for a principal job in another district. It was hard to watch you and the other fourth graders process that– it was a loss and a blow. I was proud when, after you admitted how sad you were, you thought of him and how good of an opportunity it was for Mr. S to see his dreams come true (even when it meant your dreams got a bit derailed). Mrs. N had big shoes to fill– it took all of us– students and parents– a while to get used to a new gait. But you did. And when your grades dipped you listened to us and worked hard to get them back up to snuff again. This year with Mrs. B has started so beautifully– your grades are stellar and we’ve gotten rave reviews of how responsible and respectful you are in her class. (And your Mom’s heart just grew a few sizes…)

This was the year you sang a solo in the Christmas play– you were one of the Three Kings of Orient Are (were) and Daddy and I about burst to hear your voice rise up so clear and true. You’ve served the church as an acolyte this year. You take that role seriously and only complained a little when the bulk of the Sundays fell to you because you were the one that was usually there. You’ve read just about as much of the Bible as your Dad and I– which is wonderful and scary all at the same time for us. That amazing memory of yours has helped us several times when we are working on our Bible study– you’ve got the kings and chronology down cold.

Nine year old Jack had a lot of adventures, too. We celebrated your ninth year with a trip to Chicago and the venerable Field museum to see the dinosaurs and the case after case of animals. You had two seasons of soccer with Coach Aric where you’ve developed some mad goalie skills. There have been birthday parties and sleepovers (still can’t believe our plastered ceilings survived that last one!) and movie dates with AunT. You spent a weekend with Maddie and Keegan at their college townhouse and a weekend with the newlyweds in their first apartment. Over Spring Break we took a quick trip to the ROM in Toronto (more dinosaurs!) and to play at Niagara Falls. This summer it was just you and me– no Nanny McMaddie or Kat’s Boot Camp– so there was a lot of mornings where you went into the office armed with Legos, books, and DVDs. (Thank goodness for your iPad and Amazon Prime!)And there was a battery of camps– science and soccer and drama mixed in with your first full week at Wesley Woods and a week with the grandparents at the Lake.

We really saw how much you’ve grown the night we couldn’t find you at Family Camp. While Daddy, your cousins, a slew of friends, and I fanned out across the camp looking for our lost sheep– you were happily sitting at your buddy Reese’s camp fire with her family. When we finally had you in our arms you said, “But Mom– I didn’t know where you were so I made sure to stay with a grown up.”

You finally got a boy cousin this year in Tyler. He and Maddie chose you to be the Master of Rings at their wedding. You were ridiculously handsome in your tie and trousers that matched the groomsmen. You swallowed your nervousness about being in front of so many people when you finally understood that it wasn’t about you but about Maddie and Tyler. We saw that click in your head when you realized that you are so loved by them. (And nice touch, escorting AunT down the aisle with the light saber. You helped her with her nerves that day, too.)

You have a good set of friends. AJ & Brady, Colin & Gabe, and Max– there is no end to the fun in hearing the six of you chatter about Minecraft and school and sports and StarWars. You are starting to learn that there is a lot to be said about association– and you’ve chosen a group of friends that rallies around each other.

Best of all you are still our baby. You still snuggle up in our bed most mornings with the pups and your parents. This is when we hear a lot about what you’re thinking about or worrying on. You can beat us both on Wii MarioKart. You love a good game of Uno or Guess Who or Heads Up (we love when you pick ‘Accents’ for the category. Your Australian accent cracks us up every time). You love having guests for dinner (especially AunT) and are pathetically sad when the answer to your, “Is anyone coming over tonight?” is no.

I don’t know how we got to ten years without blinking. But these have been, without question, the very best ten years your Dad and I have ever known. You have made our world so wonderful (and wonder-filled). You’ve deepened our faith in God. You are an amazing kid.

A lot is planned in the next few days and weeks– a family dinner, a party with your friends, and a big birthday surprise for you. You are so, so loved.

Diplodicus. Most.

Mom


Us. On the rocks. With a splash.

My facebook feed is filled up with a deluge of celebrities and friends taking the challenge to dump a bucket of ice water over their head and then challenge other friends to also participate. It’s all an attempt to raise awareness and funds for ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gerhig’s disease). Unlike previous ice bucket challenges that have gone around the web, this one seems to be doing some good. While the challenge is to dump the ice or write a check– well, people are doing both. Happily writing the check after enduring a few seconds of bone chilling cold. 

It’s hard to be a cynic when you read articles like the one recently published on Forbes or from an ALS family. Or the cold hard numbers of dollars being raised. (And this is assuming that we are only counting the money going to ALS associations and not individuals, families, charity walks, etc.)

In our house we three were “challenged” to the ice bucket challenge by some of our church/family camp friends. There are two families near and dear to us dealing with ALS on a daily basis. One is a 33 year old man who is now in a wheelchair on a vent. Five years ago he was an athlete. Tan, tall, handsome with his beautiful blond wife and a new baby. His wife is amazing– taking care of their daughter and her husband and fighting for the best care/treatment/hope for him. He is amazing– fighting for every scrap of his life while still working and taking care (albeit in a new way) of his family. The other is a woman who is a half generation older than us– she and her husband were the “cool adults” (is there such a thing?) when I was a teenager visiting their church youth group. She is generous and kind and prone to laughing in the way that makes everyone else want to be laughing, too. She, too, is in a wheelchair where only her eyes are still alert and responsive– her beautiful voice and smile are gone. Her large family has closed ranks around her with three generations taking care of the woman that took care of them. 

We cheerfully evoked their names before we took the plunge. And, honestly, at the time I hoped that it was appropriate. Somewhere I worried, “Is this helpful? Hurtful? Pissing them off?”

Our friend Lindsay, the amazing wife, put my fears to rest with her latest fb update on their family and her husband. And another word about the ice bucket challenge…the funds raised is astounding, but the awareness it is bringing is on a whole new level. This might be my lack of sleep talking, but get ready for the wrath of Lindsay if I see any negative comments about it. I hope it never ends and all of your news feeds are completely filled with ice buckets and and the letters A-L-S!” 

So I’m irritated (with permission!) with the backlash against the #alsicebucketchallenge. It’s come from dear friends, cynical college students I know, and acquaintances. Some take the superior sounding stance of “All that waste of good, clean water!” (An argument that falls apart as long as they are using said water for bathing, car washing, lawn care, etc.) Others have taken the “I don’t get how this helps” whining stance. (The ice water doesn’t help cure ALS. But people talking about ALS and moving it to the front of peoples’ awareness of it might lead to more research funding. More compassion for the people with ALS and their families.) And then there are those who take the stance that is probably the most truthful, “I’m sick of all these ice bucket videos filling up my feed!” (I’m sorry, too. Gosh. It must be terrible to have your Candy Crush invitations cluttered with a devastating condition that has no cure.)

Internet comments drive me crazy. I know better than to read the comments connected to our local newspaper, for example– because it’s like opening a closetful of rats into a room where the floor is strewn with birthday cake. Sometimes I can’t stop myself though. When a friend is involved in an election or a big decision has been made by the school board. Still. I should know better.

I don’t know how to make the naysayers less full of naysay. I wish there was an app that promised them “No ALSicebuckets on your newsfeed!” for a lovely sized donation. Or maybe a compassion stick to smite them upside the head. 

Meanwhile– in our house– I’m grateful for the kick in the pants to give a little. And to have a way to spur other people to give a little, too. Do I think a hundred dollars makes a difference? Probably not last week. 

But this week– when our money is added to those that challenged us and those that we challenged and so on and so on– yes. I do. And if it fills up Lindsay’s feed with a bunch of us doing something that makes them laugh for a minute and feel some modicum of us thinking about them– not in hushed, pitying ways– but with love and hope and “Suck it, ALS!” attitudes– well. That’s something. 

Don’t put this trend on ice yet. There’s more money out there. Maybe when the ice melts so will some of the cynics?

Buckethead TBuckethead J

photo 3-1


Harry Potter and the Boy Named Jack

A friend of mine is reading the Harry Potter series for the first time. She’s in her 40s with three teenaged children that have long read them. She’s coming into the Hogwarts feast a bit late. She’s on book five– and offered up a few random thoughts on her impressions. They included:

Hermione has grated on my nerves since book 1, but she’s growing on me.

I adore Mrs. Weasley.

My comment to her: I may not forgive you for not immediately loving Hermione. But your love of Mrs. Weasley is doing much to assuage my horror.

Coincidentally we are unpacking Harry’s trunk this week, too. And it’s been quite like stirring up Dumbledore’s pensieve. Mists of forgotten passages. Remembrances of long ago first impressions…

We started book one with Jack this week. All my copies are hardcover UK editions. But somehow the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone isn’t with the rest. So I had to resort to borrowing it from the library on the iPad until I can replace it. This is unsettling. The first two scholastic books in the US had subtle language changes because, apparently, we, as a nation, are too stupid to understand British English. I’m too impatient (and too cash-strapped this week) to wait– it’s a small price to pay. It does make me feel better knowing that, in hindsight, J.K. Rowling regretted the decision to change the title from Philosopher’s Stone to Sorcerer’s Stone in the US. At least the movie version kept the proper title.

And that’s a big part of it for us– we’ve carefully kept Jack from seeing the movies. He’s seen parts of the first one at a friend’s house. [The first one is the only one I think can be seen without the books. Chris Columbus did that good of a job of translating the world of Hogwarts from page to screen. But after that too many things, too many nuances, too many smaller plots are left on the cutting room floor. Only the reader's mind can expand on the pretty pictures conjured up by the subsequent directors and fill in the missing blanks.] Also– and this has my fingers itching– there’s a Lego Hogwarts train kit hidden in the basement. The minute we finish the chapter about the train ride that thing is coming up to the living room faster than you can say Floo Powder! [Warning, Robby, there will be a trip to Universal Studios in the not-so-distant future...]

We are reading the books to Jack– one chapter a night. I’ve read them once to myself. Once aloud to Robby. But it’s been 17 years since I first read about Vernon Dursley’s unsettling day that ended with tiny Harry on his doorstep. What a treat it is to delve back into them. Like old, peculiar friends waving from the pages.

I’m not sure yet what is more delicious– knowing the joys of discovery ahead for Jack as he meets Ron & Hermione & Neville & Lupin? or the sweet Mirror of Erised of knowing the end this time when we start the beginning?

Don’t call at bedtime. We have friends over for the next 15 days.

 


Cecil B. DeJack

ImageThe 10 Commandments play big in Jack’s life right now. This morning’s on-the-way-to-school discussion started with his question, “Mom! What do you think the worst commandment is?”

 

Me: What do you mean?

 

Jack: I think it’s the murder one. Mom! I am NEVER going to kill anyone.

 

Me: Oh. See—now that one seems pretty easy to me—but some of the others are tougher for me—I don’t always honor Momma or Lady or Padre or Eric—and I’m supposed to. And sometimes I want things other people have. So that one’s not easy… but I don’t plan on killing anyone—so that one seems like an easy one to keep.

 

Jack: What about idolatry? That’s really bad.

 

Me: What’s the first commandment?

 

Jack: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

 

Me: Okay—see—that one is key. If you really put God first then it makes it really hard to break any of the other commandments or do things we aren’t supposed to do. And Jesus told us to love one another—so if we are loving God and loving each other and we are filled with the Holy Spirit then it’s at least a little bit easier to be doing what we are supposed to be doing.

 

Jack: Like that man that hurt Chris’s family? [Our dearest friends are related to two of the people shot and killed this weekend in a Jewish center parking lot in the Kansas City area. We’ve been praying for Chris and his extended family.]

 

Me: Exactly. If you love God with all your heart and you love other people then there isn’t a lot of room left to hate people—and you have to have a lot of hatred in your heart to kill someone like that man did.

 

Jack thought for a while about this. I could see the top of his head nodding in the rear view mirror.

 

Jack: I am NEVER going to worship idols—that is really wrong.

 

Me: It’s not just little gold statues though—it’s how you use your resources and time. If you spend all your time playing Wii then that might be an idol. Or if you spend all your money on things that keep you from having a relationship with God then those things might be your idols… It’s a tricky one.

 

Jack: Okay. Well you know how we aren’t supposed to work on the Sabbath? But pastors work on the Sabbath…

 

Me: That’s true. They have to, don’t they? That’s what they are called to do—they lead the worship service… And the priests in Moses’ time worked on the Sabbath, too. Maybe they did what our pastor’s do—maybe they a different day in the week to rest and spend time with God.

 

Jack: Sometimes we work on Sundays.

 

Me: Yep. We do a lot, don’t we—but we also try to make Sunday a little different from the rest of the week. We go to worship at church and we rest a little more than we normally do and we try to spend the day together. But you’re right—sometimes you have to do homework and Dad and I have to do chores and we still have to feed the pups…

 

We pulled up to the school.

Me: Jack?

 

Jack: Yes, Mom?

 

Me: Don’t forget we need to return The Ten Commandments to the library tonight, okay?

 

[Any chance I can talk him into something a little easier?]


Over the falls in a barrel of monkeys

Our sweet boy is another half a year older. So we are hurtling toward two digits—a thought that is sobering.

We celebrated with a little getaway to Niagara Falls. Jack’s been asking to go there—and Canada in general. We all have valid passports so we pulled together some Groupons and headed towards Lake Huron. He’s been to Niagara Falls before—a side trip we took on our way to New York City when he was still a toddler. It was a Father’s Day weekend trip—we remember this especially because Robby accidentally clocked Jack in the head with the hotel door leaving him with a big purple knot on his forehead. Jack, of course, doesn’t remember the trip. We assume that is because he was so little—but maybe that door knocked it out of him?

The falls were partially obscured by the huge shells of ice. Our little geologist looked at them for a long moment while we asked, “Well? What do you think?” He answered slowly, “I thought they would be bigger.” We looked at him, each other, the falls, and back to him and each other. He had a point. The ice—which Robby and I, with our memories of the falls in the summer months, do obscure the depth. You can’t really see the churning water below. Also, the resident engineer pointed out that more water is diverted in the winter months—so the full on glory of all those gallons rushing over and down into the wildly tumultuous grand finale of a finish was rather subdued.

Thankfully he was still enchanted by the constancy of it. All that water ceaselessly pouring, pouring, pouring into a roar and dissipating mist. The double rainbow that appeared was icing on the cake.

He was impressed with all the people, too. So many different nationalities and colors—all of us drawn to the same edge to peer over into the roiling depths. He craned into listen to the different tongues—his eyes widening when he recognized some snippet of French or German or Chinese.

The real joy, though, in bringing a 9.5 year old to Niagara Falls is all the silly touristy things that line the area. Is there any more ripe age for the arcades and blinking lights and cheesy “museums”? Our Grouponed hotel gave us a stack of vouchers for restaurants and attractions. We set off on foot dodging the icy patches created by the mist from the falls and the barkers trying to wave us into the haunted houses and junk stores. Momma had given us money to take him on the giant Sky Wheel—we bought our tickets for a night time ride to see the colored lights splash across the falls and ice and all the lights from Lundy Lane, Clifton Hill, and Fallsview areas. The cold kept us from some of the stuff—no Maid o’ the Mist boat rides or Under the Falls excursions or even Dinosaur Adventure Golf—but we did play a few rounds of (free) laser tag, laser maze, and an hour and a half of arcade games when a kind stranger gave us his barely used token card with $48 still on it.

And we had the long stretches of time on the drive, the indoor pool, and waiting for our food to catch up again without the usual distractions of homework, work, church, and school. On one stretch he peppered us with question after question after question—none of them connected—but all from his head. Questions about dinosaurs, the falls, the Bible, fossils, mammals, our opinions…. We finally said, “Stop! Buddy! Can we hold up for a while on all the questions?” Jack answered, “But, Mom! I like being an inquirer!” (He got to keep on with the questions.)

Robby and I have both been to the falls area several times. Seeing it now through Jack’s eyes made it new again for us. (Even while I couldn’t help but wonder what questions I must have peppered my parents with when they took me here—and how, like Jack, I “hoped” we could do more, play more, swim more…)

When we pulled in the first day we inadvertently drove right by the Great Wolf Lodge—a chain of waterparks that is one of Jack’s most favorite places to go. In the front seat we held our breath that the little man in the backseat wouldn’t notice it—that we would escape what inevitably came out, “Mom! Dad! Look! There’s a Great Wolf Lodge here! Can we go?” I worried that our plain-pool hotel would suddenly lose it’s luster. Robby gently said, “no—not this trip, buddy. We have other things to do and see…” Three days later, on the way home, Jack said suddenly, “I’d still like to go to Great Wolf Lodge—but not at Niagara Falls—I wouldn’t want to miss seeing the other stuff there. But maybe the one in Ohio because there isn’t anything to do there.” Small victories, friend. Small victories.


First World Gratitude

It’s been a strange week of thinking about the things I take for granted.

Bossman Blogfather Wally is in India this month. Our shared office is very bleak. I’m avoiding it today and doing some work from home. 

Which is a true First World Perk. 

Also in that category would be the ability to facetime with Wally– he in far off Hyderabad and me in snowy Michigan. Yesterday our connection was wonky (a First World Problem) and we had to switch over to Skype (a First World Perk). He had video and sound. I had sound. (An odd win for the Third World.) It was very distracting on my end. I found myself unable to picture the world behind him because the sounds were so foreign. It helped somewhat when I realized he was outside. It explained the jungley noises and the motorcycle.

My iPhone is showing an annoying little red line on one side of the display screen. And a thin, white line that runs horizontally across near the top. A true First World Problem. My assumption that my immediate world is at my fingertips is a ridiculous assumption– but that a glitch on the screen could in any way overshadow the fact that truly, my immediate world IS at my fingertips is ludicrous. My belly is full of yogurt. My healthy son went off to his very good, public school in clean, warm clothes and a lunch that could feed a family in most of the world. I have two little dogs that serve no purpose other than two warm little bodies to snuggle against. I haven’t tried to use either to plow the garden that is, admittedly, pathetic. And far more expensive, all told, than the drive to the farmer’s market where there is an abundance of produce in the summer months. Even in this lean week between paychecks I have a cupboard full of food. 

My car was empty of gas today. I called husband in a panic because I knew the amount in my bank account– was there enough on the joint account card? While I pumped gas my scarf kept whipping around my head, unwinding and tangling. It’s a stupid thing to complain about– my warm, long scarf coming untied. And then I was annoyed that I couldn’t time the pump to stop at $30. It stopped at $30.02. He called later to clarify the schedule tonight– an intricate dance of church, dinner, Jack’s choir practice, a PTO meeting, and a visit to the nearby hospital to see his Dad. (10 years ago his Dad would have mostly likely had to go out of town for the surgery– which would have had us juggling long drives to the bigger hospital 40 minutes away on the snowy roads.) 

I didn’t make any resolutions (or revolutions) this year but I am trying to be more grateful and more aware of grace. This is a clumsy start. 


The hazards of having a kid who reads the Bible.

“Mom? What’s a foreskin?”


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