THE GRADUATE

Last weekend was the college graduation of my stepson, Derek. Much to my surprise, as the ceremony began, I teared up and thought I might even require emergency Kleenex. I definitely did some serious damage to my eyeliner and mascara. I don’t know what came over me exactly. Happiness, pride, relief, years of worry… But whatever it was, it sent me on a little trip down memory lane.

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For being so smart and so talented, Derek was a reluctant student to say the least. As someone who made straight As in school and nearly had a stroke if I forgot a homework assignment, I just couldn’t relate to the attitude of “homework is optional” that was rampant in my new household. I look back on the various attempts I made to encourage good grades and sigh. The A and B bar was eventually lowered to “Just complete the assignments; I’m begging you.”

I remember our first Parent Teacher night. Robert and I were sitting at the lab table in Derek’s science class. The instructor was telling the parents about a student who was still receiving a zero every day – since the first day of school two weeks ago – because he had not put a cover on his text book.

As soon as the bell rang to change classes, we were in the hallway on the phone to Derek. His father asked, “Do you have a cover on your science book?” I knew what the answer was when I visibly saw Robert’s blood pressure elevate. My first parent teacher night and we were already the parents of the kid the teacher was using as an example. I threatened to buy a t-shirt that said “not genetically responsible” for future events.

What followed over the next 5-6 years was an all out assault on Derek as we tried to find someway to motivate him. We begged. We cried. We threatened. We cajoled. We made promises we knew we wouldn’t keep.

But then, it was over. He was accepted to a good college where he could pursue his life long ambition of becoming a sports journalist. Lord knows there was no escaping his being a sports fanatic. It was in his genes. And he’s good at writing. Really good. The whole thing is a no brainer.

Like most everyone, he had a bumpy start at college, but eventually got his feet under him and reports improved. When we saw Derek throughout the years, we noticed little changes. He was becoming more mature. More considerate. He was grasping the concept that what he does now will affect what he becomes. This last visit, he was even LOOKING FOR A JOB.

He’s worked hard and we’re all proud of the young man he’s become. He’s got his whole life ahead of him, and enough talent to go far. It’s up to him to make it happen, and there’s no doubt he will.

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And when I get too sentimental about how grown up he’s become, I remind myself:

He still thinks the entire neighborhood wants to listen to his playlist.
He’s still the last one ready to leave the house for any occasion.
And he still acts as though taking the trash out is a fate worse than death.

So it’s going to be okay. No matter how mature he looks, he’s still our boy.

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So, Derek, to steal a line from the note you wrote for your dad’s and my wedding, “It’s been great knowing you, and I know it’ll only get better.”

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DRIVER ON BOARD

Well, it’s happened.

My last little chick has sprouted wings (to match his cute little horns) and passed his driver’s license test. Don’t ask me why it took 2 years past the expected date to accomplish the task, but it did. I am not complaining about that at all, by the way. Frankly, (and you people better not tell him I am saying this), I would not have wanted him driving at 16. At 16, Austin was still accusing inanimate objects of bad behavior and was incapable of closing a cabinet door.

Now that he’s 18, he closes cabinet doors, but is incapable of locking the door to the house. You know, the door that, when unlocked, allows bad people to come in and either kill you or take all your stuff.

Hopefully he will be better about locking the car. As for me, I once had a cute little Mitsubishi convertible that was broken into 3 times as it sat parked behind my condo. The fourth time, it was in the parking lot at the office. I got so tired of replacing windows and/or slashed convertible tops that I seriously considered just leaving the car unlocked from that point on.

(Not actual car. Well, it is an actual car, but not MY actual car.)

Jerks. Took all the fun out of owning that.

Anyway, Austin succeeded in getting his license on something like his 5th trip to the DMV. The DMV is apparently a lot like Home Depot, in that one trip is never enough. You always forget something. I have never known a single person who can visit Home Depot just once in a weekend. If you go once, believe me, you’re going 2-3 more times.

The first trip to the friendly and helpful DMV, (snicker), the vehicle’s inspection sticker was out of date. The second trip turned out to be a national holiday, so they sat staring angrily at a locked door. The third time, Austin actually made it into the vehicle to begin the test, which unfortunately involved parallel parking as the first step – a strict Pass or Fail element. Austin had NEVER parallel parked before. You can imagine how well that went.

(Okay, this didn’t happen.)

The fourth visit to the DMV took place on Tuesday of this week, with a scheduled appointment. Only, the appointment was actually scheduled for Thursday, so Robert’s head exploded. In public. Is anyone else beginning to picture this whole mission as doomed?

Well, not so fast. Dearest mother-in-law, Didi, stepped into the yawning breach of Austin’s driver’s license pursuit on Thursday and I was very pleased to get a message in the afternoon from the 6,100 texts a month texter: I PASSED THE DRIVER’S TEST!!!!!

That’s the first good news I’ve had all week. I treasure the thought of his independence – and the thought that neither his father nor I have to get up early on weekends to drive him to work anymore.

At least, I will treasure his independence until the first accident, at which time, my head will explode.

May it be a long time coming.

For now, “DRIVE, Austin, DRIVE!!”

And keep your eyes on the road.

And both hands on the wheel.

And for God’s sake, DON’T TEXT WHILE YOU DRIVE OR I WILL BREAK YOUR NIMBLE LITTLE FINGERS.

MUMBLES GOES TO SCHOOL

School is starting.

But not for me. No more urging a sleepy teenager out of the house at 7:15 a.m. and repeating all the way to school,

“What? 

What?

Are you talking?

Are you moving your lips?

Are you sure you’re moving your lips? 

Well, I don’t think you are.

Austin, enunciate!

Speak. Up!!”

Nope. No more of that. Or is there?

Austin registered for community college yesterday. I believe it’s going to be a rude awakening for him after attending HPISD, which is one of the highest ranked school districts in the nation. In fact, he returned yesterday from about 4 hours spent at his new campus and reported, “That place is run by monkeys.” Obviously, Austin has never experienced the DMV before, or he would have saved that descriptor.

I would tell you what he registered to take, but I can’t. I know it’s two classes, but the details are non-specific. Why? Please refer back to the “drive to school conversation” mentioned earlier. That same conversation took place last night.

Now, before I celebrate too much about NOT having a sullen, sleepy teen in the car with me each morning, I have to admit Austin has not yet acquired a driver’s license. His brother didn’t until after age 18 either. I think it’s an attempt to make us insane and/or prolong some fantasy they have about being chauffeured for the rest of their lives.

So, I may be driving him to college. Daily. (Or whenever his 2 classes are.) By the way, the more I type that I have to ask, 2 classes?? Really? Gee, don’t strain yourself.

At least that will make for good conversation as we head downtown together. I’m sure he’ll have something to say about that. If only I could understand him. Then again, maybe it’s better that I not.

MY DAY IN AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE

After a Friday evening discussion with my stepson, the recent high school graduate, in which I learned he had no intention of brushing his teeth that night OR the next morning before being delivered to work by his friend, my brain shorted out. 

In a desperate attempt to escape the reality that I had failed to teach the most basic of hygiene practices in 8 years, (and afraid to ask exactly WHEN the last tooth brushing had taken place), my alter ego began channeling Auntie Mame. For those who don’t know who Auntie Mame is, please see the Rosalind Russell version of the movie as soon as possible. 

While I spent the weekend beating myself up and muttering a lot, the following is how my alter ego spent hers:    

Awoke from a delightful night’s sleep, excited about my plans for Saturday.  First on the agenda, outside to feed the chickens! (I highly recommend the apple laying chickens. SO much more interesting than the egg laying variety. Those are so…DONE.)

Next,  an al fresco breakfast in the garden by the water feature. It’s so much more peaceful now that the gnomes have been relocated. They did unmentionable things in the water feature. Ghastly. 

 

After breakfast, meditation.  The beauty of meditating is that you don’t need fancy equipment or mats. You just plop down wherever. It’s a state of mind, after all, and I can relax under the most austere conditions!

Feeling surprisingly rejuvenated, I popped back into the house to change for my dear friend’s wedding at the little white chapel. Not too dressy, just a small affair. It’s the bride’s day to show off her plumage, after all!

  

What a wonderful ceremony! And finally, throwing birdseed makes sense!

After a busy morning taking care of my mind and spirit, I was ready to do something constructive. I would finish that knitting project I’d been working on for weeks. It IS a rather large project. Imagine my frustration to discover the cat had gotten ahold of it! What a mess! (Dare I say it was a real catastrophe?)

I decided to give up on my knitted lounge chair and go back to my other project. I’ve been making a dress. 

Or a lamp. Or maybe it’s a “dramp.” Here’s the finished product. It’s positively  illuminating, if I say so myself. I don’t recommend sitting in it, though. It’s more of a standing thing.

Now, for a little relaxation. A good book. What to select from the bookshelf?

Reading should be educational, entertaining, or enriching. Barring those, it should FEEL rewarding. But where to read? I always choose a room reflective of the book itself. Thank goodness I have the perfect room in which to read “To the Scaffold – the Story of Marie Antoinette.” 

Time flies when you’re reading a good book! But it’s time to get ready to entertain my amazing friends! I have such fun activities lined up! We’re going to have a few drinks and ride my latest find: The big lavender hot dog. I was going to call it “The Weiner,” but that has such dreadfully negative connotations now, thanks to former Representative, Anthony… But we shall persevere! There’s nothing more innocent or childlike than enjoying a ride on a rocking, inflatable object. Full report to follow!  

I’m back! What a perfect evening! We talked and laughed; we had cocktails!

Don’t be silly. Cocktails. Like this:

Then, we played that game where you find shapes in the clouds. I found a duckie. My newest, DEAREST friend, Vida Beatrice (pronounce the “a” as in “hat”) Cassidy Brown insisted she could see a horse in this formation. I think she’s too competitive.

 

I’ll have to keep an eye on Beatrice.  Between you and me, she may be delusional.

A few of my delightful friends may or may not have “overindulged,” so I wheeled them to the guest rooms in my newest conveyance.

A leather wheelbarrow! So much better than dragging people. My back adores me now!

Tomorrow is another day, but for tonight, adieu! What a wonderful day! I hope tomorrow is just as imaginary! I mean magical!

Sweet dreams. (Brush your teeth!)

P.S. Beautiful and strange home decor images from homeklondike.com

DEREK AND THE DASTARDLY DISHWASHER

My stepson was home over Spring Break, which aside from numerous grandparent dinners, was largely unexceptional. Until Saturday. Friends were in from out-of-town and Derek was kind enough to straighten the kitchen for me after I’d asked three times. I guess he wanted to make sure I REALLY wanted it cleaned. I have to admit, I was impressed with the final results. I only had to run a sponge over a couple of spots that were no doubt difficult for male eyes to see. Typically I’d have had to call him back in several times to explain that pots and pans actually have to be placed in the dishwasher, rather than left to “air clean” on top of the stove.

When my friends arrived I showed them into the den, adjacent to the kitchen, and offered drinks. As I approached the refrigerator, I noticed something on the floor. My mind grappled to identify what my eyes were seeing  as I gasped, which brought my friends racing to my side. I’m sure they thought I’d come across a mouse, lizard, or some such unwanted creature, but luckily, that wasn’t the case. Instead, my dishwasher was spewing white suds. 

A miniature lake of foam stretched across the floor. I think I spun in a circle about three times before I made the decision to stop the dishwasher.  (I’m not that great in emergency situations.) I then spun another three times deciding whether to go ahead and make drinks for my friends, and a double for myself, or simply to fetch the mop. Bad hostess or bad housekeeper? Eh, the floor’s slate. It would keep. As I tended bar I called my husband in to investigate.

So did the dishwasher just go wonky? Get clogged up? Nope. College boy put Dawn dishwashing liquid in the dispenser. Derek was called in to assist with mopping while my friend explained to her mesmerized 4-year-old the difference between dishwashing soap and dishwasher detergent. Hint: One doesn’t make suds.

Of course there was no lasting damage. We ran the dishwasher about three times on rinse and it was good as new. I now have a very clean floor, very clean dishwasher and a stepson who keeps asking why we put those two very confusing soaps next to each other under the sink. (We’re just diabolical that way.)

The entire incident reminded me of  his younger brother’s reasoning at the age of 9. Austin spilled a Coke in his room one day and refused to clean it up, screeching, “It’s not my fault!” 

“How is it not your fault?” we asked. 

“They made the can too slippery!”

Who can argue with that logic?

But boys grow up to become men, and this young man will return to school tomorrow with memories of all those dinners, a baseball game with his dad and granddad, and a bit more personal knowledge of a mop than I’m sure he ever expected.