Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Fine Art of Using Scissors

I hate that Nick and I still have to argue about homework getting done. I hate it. I do.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to do it myself.

For example, tonight, I looked at Nick's grades and noticed a missing assignment in math. Nick is in the advanced class for math. Math isn't hard for him. Yay! I can brag a little here, becuase, let's face it, I need to brag a little, damn it. I need it because of this:

Nick, it seems, is currently getting a B in Math because he was missing an assignment to put a cover on his math book and bring it in to show his teacher.

Yes, my son is bright. Remember that I just told you that he's in the advanced class? Did I tell you that the dreaded common core test results came back and he scored in the advanced levels for math and science?

Did I?

Did I tell you that? I needed to tell you that.

So what the hell is going on with wrapping paper around the outside of a text book and showing it to his teacher? What? The? Hell? Why is this hard?

Nick actually tried to blame me for not buying him a book cover. Who the hell sells book covers anyway? Don't they call those things paper grocery sacks? You pull out tape and a couple of grocery sacks and a pair of scissors. It always takes two sacks because you forget to close the book while you do the back cover. Then, you can doodle the hell all over that text book cover and it never gets messed up, not even when you spill milk on it. That grocery sack is built to handle a little Cheerio flavored milk.

But it took twenty minutes of arguing and the involvement of both parents to get that damned math book wrapped. Apparently, my husband has a very different view of how a book should get wrapped. Engineers. And you'd have thought that Nick was seven, the way he acted like he couldn't handle the scissors and the tape. Didn't they cover the use of scissors in second grade?

Am I being too sarcastic here? Or am I right? A book cover. In Nick's advanced math class.

The hell.

The damned thing is wrapped already.

Then there was more arguing about who had to put the damned scissors away.

Really? Really?

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Drama of the Game

I'm starting to see the fascination with football. Nick's team lost tonight. It was very nearly a shut-out, but one kid, number 85, got his act together and caught the ball in the end zone. Except for number 85, who started to shine at the end of the game, who made the team's only touchdown, the offense was off its game.

It was a really cool moment for me when I asked if anyone knew who 85 was on the field, when I said that kid was playing a great game and a big man two seats down from where Mike and I sat turned around and grinned and said that was his boy, Andy. I love when I can do that for people.

The team's defense was pretty good, but needed to catch up after a rocky start. Then, they sacked the quarterback a couple of times. It was Nick's friend, Jim, who was up there doing sacking and tackling and generally being a great defensive player.

We yelled a lot for Andy and Jim tonight. I may be losing my singing voice this season.

Nick didn't play at all this game. The coaches kept the first-string players on the field all night, but it wasn't enough. Nick didn't seem to mind all that much. He's sitting on the couch right now doing his math homework.

The interesting thing, the really interesting thing, is what Nick explained to me on the way home from the game, the thing that explained everything, the thing that made all the pieces fit into place in my mind.

During the game, Jim's mom, who keeps a running commentary about the plays so that I can understand what's going on, asked about two players who usually run the offense, whose names are usually called over and over by any kind of announcer that we have for the freshman team. I told her that maybe they were injured, that I didn't see them on the field.

It was more interesting than that. Nick told me that these two kids got caught stealing and drinking and now they're off the team for two years. Nick explained that they won't be allowed to play until the middle of the season in 2017. Nick went on to tell me that these kids let the team down with their actions. Wow! That explains a lot.

And the cool thing is that Nick totally gets how this works, including how he might not play for an entire game now and then, and especially how the actions of the team members off the field can totally impact everyone on the field.

Football can be a little bit like a soap opera.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Trying to See the Darkness

It's a clear night. Eleven minutes before the climax, Mike, Nick and I drove down the road to find the blood moon.

And there, by the Little League field, it hung, red and difficult to see in the headlights of other like-minded people, over the farm with the windmill and two horse barns and a long white plastic fence.

I thought of ancient people and their fear at a moon that bled in the sky. I was a little frightened myself, though I stood among quiet strangers with binoculars and real cameras. I wanted to know these people, to shine lights in their eyes to find friends. I wanted to hug a stranger as the full moon darkened in the sky.

Everyone whispered so that I didn't recognize voices. We stood staring over that farm as the red shifted to orange, curled and lightened around the bottom edge of the moon. I thought of how a solar eclipse is more crisp and how in the lunar eclipse, the light bends around the earth to shadow the moon with the infrared end of the rainbow.

I wanted to see the moon more clearly. I blocked out headlights with my hands, even the lights from the horses' barns. I looked through a hole in my fist. I closed my right eye, the weak one. It was only a bit clearer, the ordinary moon's face darkened in sadness, anger, surprise?

No, just physics. Red light bends less than blue light. Am I right? The beautiful blue light of the usual moon was blotted out by our shadow. The moon was nearer than usual, at its perigee, hanging large at the horizon which added to the red.

I wish that someone with a real camera took a series of shots to capture the strange light of the moon. I took pictures with my phone. They were lame and blurry, but I took them anyway.

I took the stupid pictures because something happened tonight, something I needed to see, to stare at, to ponder. I needed to stand quietly among strangers in an empty field, looking out over a farm with horses in their barns, a sky full of stars, and a moon that speaks of bloodshed.

I needed to try to see.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I Am Not Dead

I am not dead.

Since I wrote to you last, I have collected $2200 in donations for an auction that doesn't appear as if it will be well-attended. At last count, fourteen people signed up. I've brushed Teddy's and Ringo's teeth daily only to find that plaque still wins. I've separated a friendly dog who has been exposed to kennel cough with no cough so far from other friendly dogs on the trail. The friendly dog is sad.

I've escorted a boy to the doctor to find that he's broken the same bone in the same finger yet again. He does not, it seems, know how to catch a football. I have yelled at said boy for getting all A's except for Art, wherein he was failing. Now, he's recovered to a C. How do you get a C in Art?

I've fed 180 football players and done dishes afterward. Then I've fed 125 Boy Scouts and did dishes afterward. It turns out that I like playing with an industrial dishwasher. I wish my own kitchen were as well equipped, stainless steel everywhere and a floor with a drain that can stand to get wet. Come to think of it, I'd love a whole industrial kitchen, separate sinks for handling meat and vegetables, can-openers that work, knives that are sharp, and a place for everything. I love having a place for everything. You should have seen me working in those kitchens. I could actually see myself being the lunch lady. I could. No laughing.

I've argued with a boy about how he can lose two pair of special-order shoes in a week. Don't leave your shoes in the stands before a game. Don't leave your shoes in the locker room after practice. One pair of shoes showed up, but not before I emailed the coach about missed games due to lack of cleats and, of course, not before ordering a new pair.

I have not cooked well for my own family. Chicken patties, sloppy joes, ham, just ham. Can you imagine having just ham for dinner and calling it good?

I guess we're all tired. I'll see you soon. I promise I'll come back soon.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, September 7, 2015

Finding Art in the Air, the Wood, and the Stones

Mike and I took Teddy down to the Snoqualmie Falls tonight. Magic. First, I found Mike's silhouette in the stones. He just happened to be standing there when I saw that the boulder right behind him had his profile. Did he do that unconsciously or did I see what I wanted to see, a face I loved reflected in stone?

Then more magic. The rainbow. Okay, it's true that if you walk down to the falls on any sunny evening, you're likely to find a rainbow in the spray, but it's still magic since I've only seen it twice. I love watching the roiling red mist and on the bottom side, the narrow band of purple haze. It never surprises me that the Snoqualmie tribe holds the falls sacred. There is energy there, pure, clean, and surprisingly powerful.

I wasn't done with the evening's magic yet. Mike had walked downstream while I scrambled around the big boulder to look at the rainbow as close as I could without slipping on the wet rocks. When I followed him back downstream, I got stuck in the sneaker-deep creek that joins the river just below the falls. Wet feet be damned. As I made my way through, I tried to get to the other side through tall grasses, not the kind the grows in your yard, but the kind with wide green leaves that grow thigh-deep in shallow water. I was about to crash through a web with a large spider in it. I stopped just short and there, to my right, was a Pacific treefrog. He held his blade of grass and waited. I leaned closer to see the black stripe that runs across his eye like a mask. I looked at his tiny toes, not webbed, but I couldn't see the disks that helped him hold on. I told him he was beautiful and though I could see he was about to leap to safety, he didn't. He might have let go of a held breath as I passed between him and the big spider web and trundled away to higher ground.

One more. When we went up the other trail, we passed over a large felled tree that had a chunk carved out of it so travelers could step over without having to scramble. Growing there was an artist's fungus - yes, that is it's real name from a book - a large semicircular fan with concentric brown and gray circles drawn onto the top and white as paper flesh on the bottom.

I think I met the artist down at the falls.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, September 5, 2015

As Long as He's Having Fun

I've been gone from here. I hadn't meant to be gone so long. Can we just slow things down? There was Nick's birthday, back-to-school business, football practice, end of the summer stuff, and then Nick was actually back to school and my free time was supposed to be free. The only problem was that I went  back to school as well.

Why do I volunteer my time away? I helped for pictures. I did a PTSA finance audit. Why did I agree to help with a PTSA finance audit? I don't want to add up numbers and crap. I just don't. I only agreed to do it because my friend is the PTSA treasurer.

I also agreed to help with meals for Nick's football team. I like feeding kids. I like the feel of the industrial kitchen at the school. It's so clean and efficient. I did dishes on Thursday. I actually liked doing dishes there. I wish my kitchen were set up so I could get water all over and that would be okay.

Next week should be easier. It should. I don't have much planned except for the food for the football team. The nice thing is that I'm not organizing it. I've organized food for 37 people for a camping weekend and that was crazy. I don't want to figure out meals for 158 people once a week. I'll chop vegetables. I'll serve portions. I'll do dishes. I like feeding the kids, but I don't want to organize it.

In the meantime, I'm drinking too much coffee. For three weeks, I've been waking up before 6:00 am even on days I'm able to sleep. After dropping Nick off, I've been going to a coffee shop and they give me a bigger size coffee than I'm asking for. It's nice, but there's a reason I'm asking for the smaller size.

This is all boring shit, you know. Boring. BORING.

So what else can I tell you about?

There's the waiting. Nick's football practice hours are a suggestion. I can show up on time to pick him up and he isn't done for a half hour. What the hell? I've had parents say that there isn't time to do homework on game nights. Really? He isn't expected to do his homework?

I'm sorry. This is boring too.

Can you see I've been sucked into the machine? I'm volunteering a bunch of my time for an organization that don't have any idea of what I really intend to do with my time. I wanted Nick to get exercise and he is. His calf muscles are showing the lines and form of each muscle these days. His shoulders are wider. His coach said he's as strong as an ox.

But I also want him to get an education. In the long run, he's going to need the education more.

I have to remind myself that this isn't about what I want for him any more. This is about what he wants for himself, with a little bit of mom-wanting thrown in for good measure.

But why did it have to be football? Why couldn't it have stayed karate? Why couldn't it have been swimming or music or art? I get those things. That's one of the challenges of being a parent, isn't it? It's my job to support what he loves, even volunteer my time for it. But football?

I have a boy who is a lot like me in temperament, but who is interested in stuff that is entirely different than stuff I'm interested in. I'm watching a bunch of football these days. I never watched football before. In the afternoons when the kids aren't done practicing, I walk up into the stadium and find myself looking out over a sea of red jerseys and searching for my boy's silhouette. What is he doing? How is he feeling?

I'm not entirely sure he's all that good. He's not experienced with football. I can see that he's not the first to volunteer when kids are called. He stands at the back of the crowd. By looking at his silhouette, I can't tell that he loves it though he says he does. When he finally gets into the car after practice, his chatter is all about bruises and plays and what the coach said. So what do I know?

So far, I haven't been expected to sit through college or professional football games. If I did, I'd pick a player that had Nick's solid silhouette and I'd privately cheer him on. I'd watch for evidence of his enthusiasm from across the field. I'd look for injuries. I'd try to see, after all the years of practice, if it looked like he was still having fun.

As long as he's still having fun, I think, but what about me?

Thank you for listening, jb