Monday, August 24, 2009

Twas the Night Before School Starts

'Twas the night before school starts and all through the house
Not a kid is yet sleeping, no not even close
They're lying and waiting all nestled in bed
With thoughts of the morning occupying their heads.

Try as they might, the sleep will not come
Too anxious they'll be till the next day is done
The vacation's over, it went by so fast
Though they tried hard to make the days last

The school year upon them, the challenges new
Oh how to convince them, these days are so few?
For soon as you know it, the school days are done
The kids will head off on their own one-by-one

The moments are ticking off quicker I think
Like Mom used to say, they grow up when you blink

Okay - that's my brief attempt at a cute rhyme the night before Caitlin starts JUNIOR HIGH. What on earth? Junior High. When. Did. That. Happen?

I'm not worried about her, I know she'll be okay. It's all the other kids that are freaking me out. Like the ones at the park last night - about 10 boys and 5 girls around Cait's age all in one big circle, some of them hugging. I am just not ready for this. She's probably ready. She's had plenty of transitions during grade school - three separate schools because of the Magnet program though we never moved. And she's adjusted great. Which is a miracle because she loves her routine. Which is why she will do great this year. There is plenty of routine - much more so than the ramshackle summer she just endured.

Then there's the 5th graders in our house. Yes - that's FIFTH Grade for the twins. Maggie said, "Mom, I don't feel like a 5th grader. I still feel like a 4th grader." I said, "Good." They met their teacher tonight. I think he's 22. He just graduated college. He has red hair and looks like he's 18. I almost asked him to show me the diploma. Nice enough guy. I'm rooting for him. Maggie was a little disconcerted that they had a boy teacher for the first time. Ryan thinks he rocks. Could have to do with his being a Cubs fan.

Usually I start to anticipate this day earlier, but we've been so busy that it just snuck up and pounced on me. I'm sure the newly arrived panic is due to my own memories of junior high. Or actually the lack thereof. I have managed to literally block out the entire experience from my mind. I can remember two things from that period of time. A crush I had on a boy named Jerry Dumell who never knew I existed and when our drama teacher played the War of the Worlds tapes for us (yes kiddies, it was right after 8 tracks) during class. I cannot remember anything else. Not a teacher name, not a social event (probably didn't attend any), not a sporting activity (see previous note), nada. I probably couldn't even find the school again without an address and a GPS. I do remember a couple of kids who were nice to me (thanks L.K.) but really nothing else save for a general feeling of depression that lasted two years. And honestly, I think the lack of memories is God's grace, because who wants to relive that?

So I'm hoping the new memories are good ones. Memories formed by kids who are secure in their identity, know they are loved unconditionally and are quick to pray when things get dicey.

Man they are so far ahead of the game.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Starbucks - The New Melting Pot

I've come to terms with the fact that this site doesn't meet the technical definition of a blog as my last post was three weeks ago. Oh well. It isn't what it isn't!

So while Dan and I have gone out with lots of people all summer long and had a blast doing it, it occured to me with our kids going back to school that we never went out alone on a date for my birthday (which was in June). So my wonderful friend Claire graciously offered to babysit for FREE (yes she rocks) and we jumped at the chance last Friday night.

We went to Bonefish for dinner which we only do for special occasions, because they aren't the kind of restaurant that mails you big time coupons to lure you in. If you've never been I highly recommend it - get the Bang Bang Shrimp appetizer if you go (the name says it all). It's funny I never ate fish before I turned 40 and now I love it. Well, if it's longfin tilapia and you stuff it with lobster & crabmeat and sear it in white wine sauce, I love it.

Anyhoo Claire encouraged us to take our time and after Bonefish we headed over to the most hoppin' Starbucks in the area (Streets of Woodfield for you locals). We decided to compensate Claire for her generosity in whole bean coffee, and treated ourselves to a couple of Mochas in the process. It was packed. There were two empty tables (out of more than 2 dozen).

What an interesting experiment in social studies this particular Starbucks is on a Friday night. It was the most intergenerational, multi-cultural, diverse crowd I've seen in one place in a long time. In the six tables surrounding us, there were:

1) Two women in their late fifties playing a board game they brought with,
2) An older couple (late 70's) playing cards,
3) A bunch of junior high kids (if that old) crammed into two tiny round tables (boys and girls) and they all hugged each other when they left. A lot. I kept wondering if their parents knew where they were drinking coffee and touching.
4) Two 20-something girls who looked like they came from work,
5) Two teenage girls texting (other people or each other?) like mad,
5) Three guys with laptops at one little table not conversing at all. Their computers made a triangle - it was like Battleship with a third player - no one looked up much.

Now, I didn't ignore my date all night, in fact it was really good to talk about things besides schedules and logistics for a change. Dan is really good company. But I did notice these other groups and found it really interesting how this seemed to be the perfect hang out for so many different people, that ran the gammit on the socialization spectrum.

There aren't many places you'd find such a diverse group together on any given night. I took a little comfort in it. And it's a great place to have a casual date.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Read All About It

I don't know how long this will last, but right now it's about quarter to 8:00, and; Caitlin is quietly reading a book in the living room, Maggie is quietly watching a DVD in her bedroom (portable DVD player, she doesn't have a TV in there), and Ryan is quietly playing a game on the Wii in the den. That last one is pretty shocking. "Quiet" and "Wii" rarely visit the same sentence around here. I honestly can't remember the last time something like this has happened while I've been home alone with them - Dan just landed in Denver for a business trip during which he'll get to see my sister for a couple of hours tonight.

I usually wait until everyone is in bed to type on the blog, but since it's so quiet, I thought I'd try it while the gettin' was good. How great to have a library that has something for everyone and three kids willing to entertain themselves for awhile without any loud & annoying music, DS sound effects, or arguing.

Oops - never mind - it's 7:52 and time's up (for the quiet anyway): A direct quote from Caitlin, "Finished another book in one day." Technically, it was 3 hours. She just bounded into the den where Ryan declared his score on the game then promptly announced he was going outside (better than screen time) and Maggie called down from her room - "Who's out?" and paused the DVD player to join him in the neighbor's yard. Caitlin is considering starting the 2nd book she checked out this afternoon.

I've been so out of anything resembling a routine lately that I was thrilled to have the morning to myself (well the kids were here, but that's normal). I slept in, read a little, ran the dishwasher, finally got on the treadmill, took a shower, paid some bills and started laundry all before lunch! It was oddly satisfying after a ton of activity to do some mundane things.

While having a cup (or three) of coffee somewhere in this lovely morning, I was reading the Daily Herald's front section. It was an odd mix of stories; some very local (the success of the annual Elk Grove bike race) some very international (how a long overdue crackdown on illegal opium farms in Afghanistan cut off the main source of income for the majority of the population who now may turn to terrorism as the only reasonable alternative for making a living). I've always found stuff like that a strange dichotomy. That those two stories show up on the same page. Same thing in news broadcasts - when they report on some heinous murder and then switch to the county fair to see the winner of the pie making contest. Like it's a perfectly natural segue.

I guess maybe to a degree they might be trying to offset some of the tough stories. But if that's the case, they don't quite pull it off when the bad stories have escalated to evil running rampant. I find it hard to read something like that Afghanistan article and then go merrily about my day. If I didn't have the Bible to give me an eternal perspective of what I believe is a true reality I would have had a pretty depressing day after that.

I actually love getting the newspaper - the whole experience of it. The idea of the paper is probably even more appealing to me than the actual articles, but we're fortunate around Chicago to have 3 great papers and I'm really sad that before long they may all be obsolete. Dan and I recently saw the movie "State of Play" (Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and some girl - wait a minute I think it was Robin Wright) and one of the main characters was an investigative reporter. It was a pretty good movie, I thought. Plenty of action, good acting, a plausible plot. But the scene I remember most was a bit of a montage of all the different machines printing out the newspaper copies and assembling them into stacks. Something about it made me nostalgic. I love newspapers. And I don't want to read them on-line or on a Kindle, or through any "unlimited app" iphone. I want to spread it all over my dining room table or fold it into quarters and read it on my couch.

I realize how old that makes me sound. It's the second time today. I was on the phone earlier with my 14 year old niece who likes a boy she met at camp. I remember liking boys I met at camp at her age and they always lived in a different state and so I asked her if she got his address so they could write to each other. She was silent on the other end of the line and then it occurred to me, they've probably texted each other a thousand times since they met and there was no need for something so silly as writing a letter and posting it snail mail and getting it a week later. When I figured it out, I asked if they were texting and she kind of laughed (more with me than at me?) and said "yeah."

But she's missing a little something in not having his handwriting in front of her or the chance to read the same thing over and over and wonder what he meant by it. Or maybe she's not. Maybe they ask each other what they meant right away now. It just makes me realize I've become part of that generation - the parent generation - the they-just-don't-understand generation. I guess we understand as much as our parents did at the time. I wonder if she would have known what I meant if I had asked her to 'read between the lines'?