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Thursday, September 20, 2012

"I Just Want to Keep You Informed"...

I'm just going to tell you all of my grades because I just want to keep you informed," is what Claire said to me yesterday as she rattled off her grades to me.  Some were good, some were great and some...well, let's just say "it's an adjustment period."

"I just want to keep you informed so you know what's going on."

I don't think I've ever heard the boys say those words before, regarding much of anything but especially grades.  The boys, when asked, will provide me with some, "Yes, I took the test," going no further from there.  I will have to query again and again to find out what their grades from said test are.

Lucas will, sometimes, give me information on girls, or other things, without prompting.  But Zach can be like a close vault when it comes to information.  I have to figure out the right combination of questions to ask before information is forthcoming.  So, both boys do answer my questions but they rarely, if ever, provide me with the information unsolicited.  

I have to wonder if this is a boy/girl thing...I guess I could also attribute it to the youngest versus older ones.  Claire has been the witness to several of our cross examinations of the boys.  Maybe she is just trying to avoid the tortures of the "Grand Inquisition."  But I'm going to stick to it being a boy/girl thing.  

Ever since Claire was little she has shared every scrap of information that is stored in her brain.  When she was a little, bitty girl, she has always came downstairs in the morning with her mouth, and her mind, revved up and ready to roll.  (Some of those mornings I desperately needed a roll of tape to quiet the noises coming out of her mouth.)  As she gets older, the mornings are more quiet but I still see the wheels churning in her head.  I know there's so much that she has boiling around in that brain that wants to escape but the tired mouth and body of an almost teenager prevents the words from being able to spring forth from her mouth with the ferocity of her younger self.  Don't get me wrong, she still shares nearly everything that's in her brain, it's just that the mornings have become more quiet.  

When the boys were little words used to pour forth out of their mouths as well but their minds seemed to click in around the age of five, telling them they are not supposed to share everything...there are some things that get locked up or just thrown away.  

In thinking through this as I write, questions are popping up left and this a learned behavior?  Do we somehow, unknowingly, impart into our boys and girls that girls share and boys keep everything locked up?  Or is it an innate quality, some sort of throw back to our caveman days?  Is it a combination of both?  And WHY?  

I'm glad Claire wants to make sure I know what's going on and I'm happy to listen to all of the thoughts that come bursting forth out of her mouth.  I want to make sure I always try to always keep the lines of communication open for all of them...I just wish sometimes the boys would say "I just want to keep you informed."  

Oh, for the love of my children...

Monday, September 17, 2012

You're Gonna Miss This

OK, I admit it.  I've been listening to a lot of country music lately ~ and I mean A LOT.  Love it, hate it or take it to the next level and completely despise it, you have to concede that there are messages in every song.  Good messages, bad messages, messages of love and revenge, messages of hope and encouragement...the messages list is endless.

The latest song to get it's tentacles wrapped around my brain is "You're Gonna Miss This" by Trace Adkins.

The girl in the video, chomping at the bit to get to the next stage of life, is me.  I've told you before how much I couldn't wait to grow up.  I'm still the girl in the video but now I realize how much I miss what is now the past with the kids.  

And are some of the things I miss...

I miss walking into the babies' rooms in the morning to see their bright smiles and their delight at seeing me appear in the doorway with their arms up-stretched ~ waiting to be lifted up and wrapped up in a good-morning hug.
I miss sticky fingers.
I miss baby giggles.
I miss Lucas saying "rock-a-minute" at bedtime.
I miss little pig tails and patent leather shoes with ruffled socks.
I miss reading "Good Night Moon" and "In a People House" and "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" and "Guess How Much I Love You."
I miss sweet, little baby kisses.
I miss pre-school.
I miss kindergarten and first grade.
I miss the easy rules of life they had to follow "never hurt anyone on the inside or on the outside."
I miss the days I'll never get back.

But I'm holding on tight, now, to the days of the present.  I'm not wasting my time wishing and wishing and wishing for the next phase of life.  I'm fully engaged in this phase of life.  I'm fully in tune to the present knowing this thing called life goes far too quickly and I'm gonna miss this...

For the love of  my children....

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I Embarrassed Claire For The First Time

And I'm sure it won't be the last.

She and I were at Kroger yesterday.  We were there for three things ~ bottled water, gatorades and coffee. And we were on a timeline.  We had two other stops to make before we could come home and get her ready for a birthday party.  I bee-lined my way to the water aisle, throwing in a case as we high-tailed it to the Gatorade aisle and put that case in the cart.  The final stop was the next aisle over for coffee.  Mission accomplished.

While we were running through Kroger, gathering our three things, I heard the announcement over the loud speaker "all available help please report to the front lanes to help bag.  All available help please report to the front lanes."

Awwww...shit!  I knew what that meant.  Lanes were backed up and that meant my timing was gonna be thrown off a little.  Since I only had three items I knew I had more options...self-checkout or express.

In situations like these, I usually chose the self-checkout but for some odd reason they had several people waiting in line so I chose the shortest of the express lanes.  What I failed to take into account was that the woman in front of me clearly couldn't read the signs at all of the express lanes "About 15 items, please," is what the signage says.  But by the time I realized she had about 30 items, it was too late.  I had been standing there for a couple of minutes and it would have meant more precious minutes wasted ~ waiting at another register.

So I waited.  I waited for the checker to bag the lady's items.  I waited for the lady to finish her conversation on her cell phone.  I waited for the lady with 30 items in the express lane to finish paying for her groceries.  And I waited for the lady who had a shopping cart full of groceries, in the express lane, to walk away before my inside voice came out.

"I only brought three items into the express lane...not that I'm pointing fingers at anyone."  The checker laughed and said "Thank you!"  And Claire, God love her, actually muttered "Moooooommmm" under her breath, turned beet red and put her head down.  I finished paying for our things and we walked out of the store together.

As we were walking to the car, I asked the question..."Did I embarrass you back there?"  And I heard the answer I've been dreading..."Yes, you did."  Well, shit....not really what I wanted to hear, because I thought I was a little funny (and a lot sarcastic) but at least Claire was honest with her answer.  I'm sure I'll embarrass her more times than I'll be able to shake a stick at.  Sometimes I'm not so good at keeping those damn inside voices inside.  So  Claire will have to learn to live with the mortification, just like I'm going to have to learn to live with the fact that, for the first time, I've crossed over the line and I am now fully capable of embarrassing Claire.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Friday, September 14, 2012

Chocolate Cake

Last night Lucas came home with a giant chocolate cake.  One of the mom's from Lucas' hockey team promised him a chocolate cake once he by-passed me in height.  It's been quite some time since he passed me up and hasn't let her forget...last night she made good on her promise and she delivered a gorgeous (and did I mention the word giant?) chocolate bundt cake to Lucas after hockey practice.

Lucas was pleased as punch and couldn't wait to dig in as soon as he walked in the door.  He cut a big slice of cake, poured a tumbler full of mike (adding chocolate syrup because that's exactly what he needed at 10 o'clock at night is a double dose of chocolate) and sat down to enjoy his cake.  The pleasure was evident as his face broke into a huge grin.  He was one happy kiddo.  Because he was so happy, I won't even go into the fact that after he enjoyed his cake he left the brand new gallon of milk sitting on the kitchen counter all freaking night.

This morning, Lucas pops his head over the balcony with a cheery "good morning" (it is Friday, for heaven's sake...there's every reason to be cheery, right?)  Anyway, I asked Lucas what he wanted for breakfast, going on to tell him that cereal was not an option because we were out of milk....hmmmmm.  He then did what any red-blooded chocolate lover would do.  He asked for chocolate cake for breakfast.

Stan appeared a few minutes later and I filled him in on Lucas' request.  His response was awesome....he gave his rendition of Bill Cosby's "Dad is great, brings us that chocolate cake."

Needless to say, neither one of them got chocolate cake for breakfast.  (But I did, quietly, put a nice sized piece in Lucas' lunch.)

Oh, for the love of my children....

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Big Bang Theory

It's the name of a very popular TV show and as far as I'm concerned, it's the perfect characterization of some of the kids in one of Lucas' classes.

While it's a wildly inappropriate show sometimes, it's down right funny and the kids, along with Stan, are addicted.  I've seen it a handful of times. Enough times, anyway, to know about Leonard, Sheldon and their kooky ways; enough to know Penny is their neighbor who puts up with their geekiness, nerdiness and all manner of their affectations with a good dose of common sense and a large dollop of social acumen.  So when Lucas came home yesterday with the story of his class, Leonard and Sheldon popped into my head, with Lucas staring as Penny.

Here's how things played out...

Lucas began with "I don't think I wanna stay in that class."
"Why not," I asked.
"The kids in that class are just weird," he said.
"Weird how," I queried.
"Well, they were talking about unicorns and pegacorns fighting one another and how the pegacorn would win.  I have no idea what they are even talking about and their conversations were just weird," Lucas replied.

He went on to tell me that he just put his head down on the table and groaned at the strange direction of these kids exchange of ideas.   All I could picture in my head was Leonard and Sheldon carrying on the same discussion with Penny looking on, shaking her head, with the audience laughing in the background.

I told Lucas to think of the kids like the characters on the show.  His response was short and concise..."they are exactly like the characters on the show, except the characters on the show are funny...these guys are just weird!"  I told Lucas that if he were looking on from the outside he'd think these guys were hysterical too, but he was in the middle of the whole thing with the conversation flying back and forth over his head.  Case in point, I couldn't contain my laughter as I thought about Lucas sitting in the middle of a conversation about whether a pegacorn (a combination of unicorn and Pegasus ~ I looked it up...just typed in p-e-g-a-c and images of pegacorns pop up instantly...who knew??) or a unicorn would win a battle.  Most kids thought the pegacorn would win and I told Lucas I had to agree.  A pegacorn, according to wikipedia, is strong enough to defeat sasquatch and could deliver a blow and fly away whereas a unicorn is earth bound.  Lucas groaned loudly as I laughed and laughed and laughed, thinking about Lucas in the middle of an episode of "The Big Bang Theory."

Strangely enough, seeing him in the role of a "Penny" type character (sans the "love interest" aspect of her character), is kind of an intriguing thought for me.  Lucas being thought of as the one who has the most common sense in a group makes me smile.  I'm thinking he needs to stay put in the class with kids who spin their fantasy tales all around him.  I can see him, in my mind's eye, as he sighs inwardly and maybe even tries to redirect the conversation to something a bit more mainstream than pegacorns and unicorns.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Romance in Bloom

Zach is planning to ask the girl he likes to homecoming today.

I asked him what his plan was and he filled me in.  One of his friends, who is a girl, made a poster for him, complete with sparkles, hearts and the word "homecoming" in BIG letters. So this is his plan...the girl he likes is on crutches and is hobbling about the school, using the elevator to get from floor to floor.  As the object of Zach's affection goes to leave the cafeteria after lunch today, she will make her way to the elevator while Zach runs up the stairs to greet her with his poster as she exits the elevator.  What a remarkably sweet plan, I told him.  Not too over the top or over thought out, just the right amount of sweetness and romance.

I told Stan about Zach's plan and his response was classic Stan..."That seems a little elaborate. Why can't he just ask her to homecoming?"  Mr. Romance strikes again.

I asked Stan if he ever had good friends who were girls.  He looked a me with a bit of a bewildered stare and said "No, I don't think so."  He doesn't have sisters either, so the whole romance thing skipped right on by him.  His dad has often told his mom, when she's remarked about a pretty piece of jewelry, "your children are your jewels," complete with a deadpan tone.  Stan didn't land far from the non-romance tree.  Now, to be fair, he has never had the influence of women in his life, leading him to see how romance can be important to relationships.  And to be further fair, he has done a few romantic things for me in our marriage and he does buy me tulips when he sees them because he knows they are my favorite flower.  But for the most part, Stan doesn't get with the whole romance thing.

Kids now make friends with the opposite gender.  I know Claire has two guys she considers good friends.  Lucas is well versed with talking to girls, he's comfortable and confident when it comes to the opposite gender.  Zach, well, he has a girl who's a friend who made a poster for him so he could ask a date to homecoming.  Stan, who hasn't had the influence of peers who were female, or sisters, in  his life got me to thinking, maybe it's a generational thing...this whole aversion to romance.  When we were kids, I considered boys the enemy and when I got a little older they became "love interests."  I have several guys I consider good friends now but in high school, not so much.  And starting my junior year I had a boyfriend who would turn green with jealousy if I even looked at another guy so that kind of ruled out making friends with guys.  So maybe it really is generational this whole boy/girl friend thing helping to promote romance.

Stan thinks this turn toward asking girls to homecoming or prom with elaborate plans is really just a further decline into the excesses our kids are given.  He thinks kids now have to see fireworks shoots out of someone's ass constantly in order for them to be entertained.  Stan thinks our kids are so conditioned to the bigger and the better and more of something is always the right thing.

Maybe that's true...

But I'm gonna stick with the sweetness of seeing romance being encouraged.  Stan and I are going to have to agree to disagree on this one.  I'm going to encourage my kiddos to have good friends with the opposite gives them some much needed insight on the inner workings of the other gender's brain.  I'm gonna praise my boys to high heaven when they choose to do something sweet and a little romantic for the girls they like.  I'll help them avoid excess...sometimes that's a little creepy (we've all known that guy).  I like seeing romance in bloom. 

Oh, for the love of my children....

(As for the results...I just asked Zach if she was excited when she saw him and he said "DUH!"  And she did say yes to homecoming!!!  Good for you, Zach!!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Story of Jack...

Jack is our neighbor.  Jack is one of Lucas' best friends' little brothers.  And Jack is Lucas from about 10 years back.  Jack is bright as bright can be, but he's fearless and he doesn't have much in the way of common sense.  The only reason I feel like I can tell this story is because I lived this story with Lucas.  The similarities between the two kids is staggering.  When Lucas was two one of my friends said to me "Lucas is so lucky he's your kid.  My husband would kill him."  So when I see Jack, I remember Lucas so many years ago.

Here's the story...

The other night we had some of our neighbors over to share a little of "God's work."  That's what our priest calls fellowship between friends...when we gather together we are doing God's work.  The men were outside watching football and drinking beer.  My girlfriend and I were in the kitchen chatting as I was getting the rest of dinner together.  The kids were inside, outside and all around.  Between us, we had six of our own kiddos running around and another neighbor's child thrown into the mix, just for good measure, plus a boyfriend.  Yep, we did our share in the Catholic world.

The youngest of the kids (Jack and the other neighbor's child who is Jack's partner in crime, Russell were the two youngest here) were being good and keeping themselves entertained.  Jack and Russell are about the same age and were making good use of our craft/game cabinet.  They had Whack-a-Mole out.  They dragged out Uno.  They brought out the Funfusion bucket...a container full of little beads the kids put on these disks, creating designs that then get melted together with an iron...which are a part of Claire's vast collection of crafty stuff.  In the Funfusion bucket I added ziplocks full of beads and little gems for any type of craft project  that may present itself.  I didn't think too much about the boys being in the bucket-o-beads, like I said...they were entertained.

After a little while Jack appears in the kitchen with his upper body fully bedazzled with the gems from said bucket-o-beads.  And I mean his body, not his shirt.  And I think to myself...Oooooo-KAY!  WOW is he ever mighty sparkly...mmm, mmm, mmm!  What do you say to a boy who appears in your kitchen decked out in shiney gems that are adhered to his body??  Pretty?  Shiny?  Sparkly?  Awesome??  I wasn't sure so...

I let it go but inside I was cracking up.

Dinner was done early (it was a school night) and it was time to call it a night.  The boys were called in to clean up their mess (aka the beads and games) in the living room as I cleaned the kitchen.  I wasn't really focused on the mess in the living room, figuring it would sort itself out and I had other things to work on, like helping get the kids organized for Monday morning and an early alarm clock.

When I got up yesterday morning and walked into the living room, I found myself standing on a carpet full of Funfusion beads.  Bella was having a ball with them...finding them, chewing them and then requiring me to dig them out of her mouth so I could prevent another shizzard (that's all I needed were bits and pieces of plastic worming their way through her delicate digestive system).  I got busy picking up the beads and that's when I noticed the can of Elmer's Spray Adhesive sitting on one of the living room side tables.  All the sudden the light went on and I realized that's how Jack bedazzled himself.  Spray adhesive.  HOLY SHIT!  Thank God he didn't try to melt the Funfusion beads onto himself as well.

I called my girlfriend to see how getting the spray adhesive off of Jack worked.  I don't know how it didn't dawn on any of us the night before how the hell Jack could have bedazzled himself, I told her.  There was no evidence of spray adhesive being used ~ like fumes.  I didn't smell fumes.  Neither did she, she said.  The guys didn't smell it.  The other kids didn't smell it.  Somehow none of us had the wherewithal to ask Jack how he bedazzled himself when he appeared in the kitchen.  My girlfriend said when she asked him about it at home that he told her he was dared to spray himself with the adhesive (not by any of my kids, thank God!).  He went on to say that he saw the word "ELMERS" on the can and thought it would be safe to use.  That one word, Elmer's, made it seem safe and Jack never thought a thing about it as he sprayed his body with glue.  I have to tell you, it sprays on like a dream but getting it off is a bitch, as Jack soon found out.

Jack went to school yesterday covered in little pills of glue.  My girlfriend asked me how I thought she should get it off.  We brainstormed a couple of ideas and she finally settled on trying baby oil.  She found out, the hard way, the night before that nail polish remover stings like crazy when it's mixed with sprayed on glue.  I got a text from her last night saying "Just scrubbed Jack with baby oil mixed with sugar, he's relatively adhesive free and soft as a baby's behind!!!"  I told her I was cracking up laughing at the thought of Jack getting scrubbed down with baby oil and sugar.

She and I texted back and forth more and the conversation went like this...

Me ~ "What are you gonna do with the wild boys, except laugh?!"
GF ~ "I know and pray they figure it out at some point."
Me ~ "Or star in their own version of "Jackass"
GF ~ "As long as it's the version where they make a ton of money so they can support themselves with their idiocy."
Me ~ "EXACTLY!!!  (and then they can support us in our "old age" because they are gonna be responsible for our early decline into the world of aging"
And she ended with "Amen, sister!!!!"

In times like these I can sit back and laugh, knowing it's not my kid ~ this time.  This time, it was the story of Jack.  But I know I'll have another story to tell about Jack's older doppelganger (aka, Lucas) who believes it's his destiny to keep the "Jackass" franchise alive and well.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Monday, September 10, 2012

Did a Switch Just Flip?

I love telling Lucas stories ~ as you all know.  He's quite a character and he gives me material out the yin yang.

This past weekend I have to say I was nearly stunned into silence by Lucas.  Saturday dawned bright and cheery...the day of his first hockey game of the season.  He has a new coach this year so things are running a little differently.  Instead of just showing up at the rink in his warm up suit he, and his team mates, need to wear shirts tucked into khaki pants, ties, belts and nice shoes.  They need to bring a change of clothes for warm ups and then shower and change back into their shirts and ties after the game.  Lucas came down in his clothes, just to make sure he had all the components ready.  He looked good, almost great.  The shirt was nicely starched and the tie was fabulous but the pants...wrinkle central.  I told him to take his pants off so I could iron them (you all know how much I detest ironing but I will do when it's absolutely necessary and Stan was out on a 30 mile bike ride so it came down to either having me iron them or having Lucas show up at his game looking like a doofus in messy pants.)  Lucas did as I asked and then he asked me to fix him some eggs.  "Not enough time for me to iron and fix eggs, Lucas," I responded, going on to say "why don't you fix yourself some eggs while I iron your pants?"  Lucas had the solution...he would iron his pants, he said.  I nearly fell over ~ stunned into silence.

The photographic proof!!!!

Once my voice returned, I told Lucas I would fix his eggs.

He came downstairs a short while later looking handsome and well put together.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  Lucas cleans up well.

He looked polished and ready to conquer the world.  He and his team did just that.  They won their home opener 6-4.  Maybe a little respectability and self confidence in their appearance can work some magic?  Did a flip just switch on in Lucas' brain?  Did he grow up right before my eyes and mature just a little?  Is he starting to outgrow his 13 year old boy goofiness?  

I guess I shouldn't have counted my chickens so fast.  Lucas was the same old kid he always is, thankfully.  He proved it on the ride home.  This year, Lucas' team has several new kids on it from different organizations around the area so Stan asked him where they all came from and Lucas' response was classic.  

Lucas ~ "Ummm, what do you mean, where did who come from?"  
Stan ~ "You know some of the new kids on the McQuiston.  Where did he come from?"
Lucas ~ "Oh, him!!  I think he's adopted."

I nearly peed my pants ~ I was laughing so hard and it was that deep, belly laugh that can't be contained or stopped.  Classic Lucas.  

The switch did flip when I needed it to but I guess it didn't stay flipped for very long.  That's OK with me. I'll take Lucas any way I can get him.  He gives so much and takes very little.  His presence in this family keeps us light and full of laughter.

I do see little changes and a little bit of growing up.  That switch will flip here soon enough and I'll be more than a little sad that my goofy, 13 year old Lucas has been replaced by the mature, grown up Lucas.  Maybe, just maybe, if I'm lucky, the light of the carefree, goofy Lucas will always shine through even when that switch flips permanently.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Heart Strings and Heart Ache

I am going to keep this blog as anonymous as possible because I am not out embarrass anyone...just telling the story.  My apologies for being so ambiguous...

Tonight I asked one of my kiddos' friends if they would like to have dinner with us.  The child responded with "I don't know, I have to ask my mom."  I told them to check  with their mom, going on to say that dinner would be here and they were more than welcome.

My kiddo just came to me and said "Is it OK if my friend still eats with us?  They don't really have anything to eat at home."

I kept my composure in front of the kids but inside my heart was aching.  It's been years since I've had to deal with hungry tummies and not enough food to eat.

When Zach was in first grade he had two kiddos in his class who were denied what most of us take for granted.  They were denied food and loving parents.

One child was beaten by his father.  I saw the bruises and called child protective services on his dad ~ twice.  He was removed from his dad and put in foster care but only temporarily.  He was returned to his dad within weeks.  My heart broke for this little boy but, at the time, there was not much I thought I could do.  I had Claire in diapers and Lucas was still so little.  I didn't know how, or if, I could cope with a foster child.

The other child was denied food.  She would come to school every morning, dry heaving, because she had no food in her belly.  Zach's teacher and I would load her back pack full of snacks and healthy things to eat. She would come to school the next day with the same issues...dry heaving.  Her mom and her sister took her food and ate it themselves ~ leaving her tummy hungry.

Tonight brought back all of those memories.

I feel helpless and a little angry.

I've had this child's sibling over a number of times in years' past.  The other child was also starved...but in a different way.  The older child was starved for attention.  Stan and I gave it.  And then the child grew up and away from us a little so we parted ways.

Now it's time to try to make a difference in another child's life.  Feed the tummy.  Fuel the spirit.  Sometimes it takes more than a village to raise a kid.  Sometimes it just takes a little love and some time to make a difference in a child's life.

This child has pulled at my heart strings and made my heart ache.  I hope I can help them...for the love of my own children.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Getting To Do What I Love

It's back to school time and one of my first assignments was writing a letter of introduction for Lucas to one of his new teachers.  She asked that we take a few minutes to brag about our kiddos and as you know there is nothing I like more than sharing stories about my kids so here is what I wrote for Lucas' English teacher (just to let you know, I get a lot nervous when I write to any of my kids' English teachers...I can just see them sitting there, red pen in hand, marking up my paper.  I hope I get a good grade on this one!)                                                                                                                                   

September 5, 2012

Dear Mrs. Dobrinski,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do something I love to do…write and brag about Lucas.

I will start by telling you about the dynamics of our family.  My husband and I have been married for almost 19 years.  Lucas is one of three kids.  Our oldest, Zach, is a junior at Deep Run High School, living and breathing academics, football and lacrosse.  Lucas is our second born.  He was born in Germany while my husband was still in the Army (he has since gotten out and now lives the life of a civilian), so Lucas holds both a German birth certificate and an American birth certificate.  Our youngest is Claire who is a 6th grader at Moody Middle School.  She is our “school enthusiast,” always striving to be the best student she can be.  We have a new puppy named Bella who has quickly become a huge part of our family and we couldn't imagine life without our lovable ball of fur. Now on to tell you the most important information ~ things I love about Lucas...

Lucas is quite a character who wears his heart on his sleeve.  You will always know what he is thinking and feeling by watching the reaction in his eyes.  When he is happy and carefree, his eyes show a mischievous glint (and that mischievous glint can become a full-fledged run into trouble, loveable trouble but trouble nonetheless).  When he is unsure or nervous, his eyes turn down a little and eye contact is hard.  When Lucas is truly bothered by something his whole carefree demeanor flies out the window and he becomes a child I never like to see ~ he becomes quiet and withdrawn.  He may not always tell you what is going on in his messy head but he has a hard time quieting his body language and the heart that beats on his sleeve.

Lucas is a darling and delightful young man who has a zest and exuberance for life that is hard to match.  He is quick to laugh, slow to anger and always ready for fun.  He will give you the shirt off of his back and not think a thing about it.  He is generous to a fault, sometimes giving away the last of whatever it is he has left.  He is the peace maker in our house, always being the one to acquiesce in order to keep life running smoothly.  He tries hard to stay out of trouble but can sometimes be like a puppy who has found himself outside of his fenced in world and feels the rush that comes with sensing too much freedom…in other words there are days his exuberance goes overboard.   

Lucas is passionate about playing hockey.  He has been playing since he in kindergarten, following in his big brother’s footsteps.  He loves every aspect of the game and enjoys the challenges of working to get better and better.  He now realizes, though, that he won’t be going on to the NHL.  He is realistic in what hockey gives to him.  He knows it is a game to be played with passion and stick-to-it-ness.  He treasures the friendships he has made in the ice rink and he knows that the friends he has made on his hockey teams are the foundation for friendships in his future. 

I would like to tell you a story about Lucas that, to me, shows the depth of his character.  Three years ago he was cut from his hockey team.  He was the only kid from the prior year’s team to be cut.  All of his friends made the team, leaving Lucas behind.   It was one of the hardest conversations we have ever had to have with Lucas, letting him know that his friends were going on to play for a year without him.  Lucas was, obviously, beyond disappointed and felt the sting of rejection from his coach but Lucas did something I have never witnessed in a kid his age.  On the day of his old team’s first game of the new season, he asked me if he could go watch the game and “cheer on his team mates.”  He put on his helmet and sat on the bench with his former team mates, opening the door for them as they each prepared to take their shifts on the ice.  He sat on the bench with them and cheered for them when they had a good play or scored a goal.  And when the game was over he came to me and said “I may not have made the AA team this year but I’m going to work hard, get better and make the team next year.”  And he did.  My pride in him for how he conducted himself during this rough spot in his life is second to none.  He showed much more character and poise that year than I could have.  He learned a valuable life lesson and we learned that Lucas will rise above adversity, hopefully always landing on his feet as he goes through life’s trial and tribulations.

Lucas is quite a kid, in my book, and I thank you for letting me introduce him to you.  I hope you find the delightful side of him more often than you see the mischievous side of him.  And when you do find that mischievous side, please know we are here to work with you whenever you need us.  I wish you a fantastic school year and I look forward to meeting you at back to school night. 

Warm Regards,
Jenni Combs-Pokrywka 

And so I got to do what I love to do...write for the love of my children!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Trying Not To Focus Too Hard

Today was the day...the first day of a new school year.  I can happily say my morning check list is done.

Kiddos up...check
Healthy breakfasts made and eaten...check
Lunches packed...check
Back packs ready...check
Buses caught for the two younger ones...check
Parking space secured for Zach...check

Last night I wasn't so sure this morning was going to go so smoothly.

Last night Zach had no idea if he was going to school.  He was diagnosed with mono on Friday and he didn't know if he would be able to make it through the day.  He had no desire to miss the first day of school but he knew he felt like total crap last night and didn't know what the morning would bring as far as how he was going to feel.  He also didn't know if he was going to able drive himself and if he did, he didn't know if he'd have a parking spot secured.  He's only a junior and juniors aren't guaranteed a parking spot at school.  So it's up to them to do some creative thinking to find a spot somewhere in a neighborhood bordering the school where they won't get towed.  Last night, Zach got on the phone, asked for a favor and was granted a coveted parking space.  After the parking spot was locked up tight, he and I went on a recon mission so he knew exactly where he was parking.  Mission accomplished there but we still had a big but to worry about for the morning because after our recon trip we still weren't sure whether school would be doable for Zach.

On to Claire...

Last night the tears came.  Tears flowed from her pretty eyes and onto my shoulder.  She really didn't want to leave elementary school behind.  She cried.  I listened.  I encouraged.  I loved.  I wished her a wonderful night of sleep, wiped the tears from those eyes and told her all would be well.  Last night sadness overwhelmed Claire.

Now to Lucas...

Last night we had to remind Lucas that 8th grade is the year to make a good impact academically.  It's time to put the shenanigans behind him and focus, truly focus, on trying to be the best student he can be.  I'm not putting pressure on him to be the star student.  I am putting the expectations on him to be his personal more suspensions, no more stupid boy pranks and a commitment to the best school work he can achieve.  Last night, I hoped the words sunk in.

This morning dawned bright and early and I had no earthly idea how everything was going to pan out.  More tears from Claire?  Zach unable to move out of bed?  Lucas coming down stairs in his  "Don't be a Richard" t-shirt, setting the stage, once again, for the title of class clown?  I plugged along, just waiting for the snags to occur.

Those snags never happened.  The morning was like clockwork, except for the cases of back to school nerves ~ which are understandable.  The kids were out of the house and off to school.  Luckily for me, all of the issues I told you about above kept me from focusing too hard on the inevitability of what a new school year means...they are growing up.

While I was concerned about Zach not being able to go to school because he was sick, I didn't have to focus on the fact that he can now drive himself to school and back.  It's a whole new chapter in our lives and just one more step in his growth toward independence and leaving home.  I didn't have to think sad thoughts about Zach leaving home in a mere two years.  I was not focused on me, I was focused on him.

When I was drying Claire's tears last night, all I wanted to do was succumb to tears myself ~ to mourn, just a little, that my baby is growing up right before my eyes.  I wanted to sit and have a good cry with her but I had to be strong for her.  I had to encourage my "little one," telling her she was more than ready for the challenges of middle school.  I had to dry her tears (or she dried them herself on my shirt) and try to make her laugh (by thanking her for snotting all over my top).  I had to focus on her.

With Lucas I had to use my energy to help him focus on being the best he can be this year.  I didn't have time to sit and dwell on the fact that this is his last year in middle year he goes off to high school and then before I know it, he will be getting ready to look at colleges.  He's such a dynamic and fantastic kiddo and I had to focus on making sure he remembered that and not the other boy can sometimes be.

It's a fine line for me to walk...the balance between not focusing too hard on what I know is inevitable (kiddos growing up and leaving home) and being out of focus and not in the here and now.  But I'll keep walking this line until the time comes for me to find another fine line to walk...for the love of my children.