I Wonder – Hal Goes To Church Camp

The kids are off to summer camp this week. It’s Hal’s first time and he’ll be there all week – at age six. That’s a little younger than the camp usually allows for all week attendance but the half-day camps weren’t the same week as Jane’s and he’s only 3 months too young and I really didn’t want to make the drive twice. And the camp is small and accommodating.

So they are off to camp. Daryl is in the same small cabin as Hal, just on the other side, and Jane’s cabin is across the road. They’ll see each other at meals and probably a lot of other times during the day. Like I said, it’s a small camp. I hope frequent contact with each other is a good thing, not bad. I’m a little worried because Hal’s counselor said that Hal’s group is all at the older end of the age range. I hope they don’t exclude him or find him obnoxious. I have little hope that he’ll brush his teeth or change his underwear, but I guess that’s part of it.

When we were packing for camp, I noticed that the suggested packing list didn’t include pajamas (or shirts or underwear, but I digress). So I told Hal, who usually sleeps in just his underwear, to go get some. I went into his room to help and saw him grabbing his winter fleece alien pajamas.

“Oh, no, Hal,” I said, “you can’t take those to camp! It’s summertime and you’ll be in a cabin and it’s way too hot. Let’s take your summer minion pajamas.”

He clutched the PJ’s to his chest and said in the most pathetic, plaintive voice he could muster, “But someone that I care about very much gave these to me and I really want to take them with me to remember them!”

“Hal, I gave you those pajamas.”

Without missing a beat, he said, “And I care about you very much!”

“Well, that’s good. I gave you the minion pajamas too, so we should be good.”

He wasn’t happy but knew he’d lost the battle. I fully expect to hear all about how the air conditioner in the cabin was run on high and he was freezing all night because I wouldn’t let him take his alien pajamas.

I wonder if he’ll even remember that he has pajamas. I wonder if he’ll be comfortable changing clothes in front of those other boys. I wonder if the counselor will make sure he wears sunscreen. Or his hat. I wonder if he’ll remember to put his dirty clothes in the bag we gave him for that purpose. I wonder if he’ll wash his hair or just stand in the shower. I wonder, I wonder, I wonder.

Funny, I don’t remember wondering this much about the other two their first week at camp. Am I getting old? Or is this just the way it is with the baby of the family? I wonder.

Feel The Music

Well, surprise, surprise! Still not getting around to posting my Texas post. Maybe tomorrow. We shall see. Got distracted by something cute on Facebook.

I’m not all fluff – honest, I’m not! I also read a very long back-and-forth about the Confederacy’s reasons for seceding. And an article about why it’s so hard for white people to see racism and white privilege. And another article about why “color blindness” shouldn’t be our goal. Oh, and Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. Interesting stuff. Deep stuff. Valuable stuff. You should go look for it.

But for whatever reason, I find myself reluctant to be the purveyor of such material. Part of it is that I don’t want to start a fight or have any conflicts. Part of it is that I’m not confident I can articulate my thoughts well. Part of it is because that’s not the flavor of this blog. How much of that is just cover for the other, I don’t know. But here we are. On to the cute stuff.

I shared an article on Facebook that I came across a few weeks ago. It argued that we shouldn’t “defend” music education by claiming it will help test scores and performance in other subjects because music has intrinsic value and doesn’t need to be justified by other benefits. That share of mine then had more of my friends turn around and share it than any other I’ve put out there. I had struck a chord.

(See what I did there?)

And then I stumbled onto this adorable bit of cuteness last night.

{I’m not sure this whole embedded video thing works consistently so I’ve provided both the embedded video and the link. One or the other should work. And I’ll include a couple of screen shots below. One is of the baby crying before the music started and the other shows the excited surprise after. You should watch the video though. It’ll make your day.}

As soon as my face lit up with laughter at what I was watching, the sensible, intellectual part of my brain that wasn’t busy saying “Oh, goo-goo-goo-goo-goo-goo! Aren’t you just a precious sweetheart?! Oh, yes, you are! Oh, yes, you are!”… was thinking that this video was proving the point of that article.

Proof.

Right there.

Music is part of who we are. It speaks to a part of our being that we don’t have words for. We respond to it in ways that we can’t understand. I’m not saying that nothing else can inspire us like music can. I know that words can – both on the page and spoken by a powerful orator. I know that beautiful scenes in nature can too. But still. There’s a reason movies have soundtracks. The music completes the deal.

So why, why would we neglect music education in our schools? I’m an engineer but there are plenty of other, more normal people out there that aren’t using a lick of Algebra or Geometry in their day-to-day life. Read any online forum to get a sense of just how many people have forgotten their history lessons. Or geography. Or science. For that matter, look at just how many people fail to use basic English properly.

But I bet you nearly every single one of them listens to music. Feels music. Why not give them the tools to appreciate it even more. To perhaps be able to create it themselves. Give them tools they’ll use.

Why not?

baby_dance

Inside Out

So here’s my dilemma.

I’ve got this post I wrote a bazillion weeks ago. Ok, not really. I wrote it back in May but with all that’s happened since then, it feels like a bazillion weeks ago. It’s about my adopted state of Texas and one of its quirks. I should really read over it and publish it already. It won’t be relevant if I wait too much longer.

But then there’s how Sunday morning went and I really want to tell that tale – about how I really wanted to stay in bed and cuddle and listen to the rain but dragged myself to church instead. Because I had to, more than wanted to.

Oh, and then there’s my thoughts about my step-dad that brought me to tears during the Father’s Day worship service. But my dad-dad reads my blog and I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Could I write it in a way that would convey the emotion I was feeling but not hurt dad’s feelings?

And then there’s all the reading I’ve been doing about Charleston and all the different perspectives and my overriding feeling that we just aren’t ever going to progress to some place valuable as a nation. I want to write about that too but… Nah. I know for sure that I don’t have the energy to plumb those depths.

So what’s a woman to do?

I think I’ll talk about movies. I’ve seen some doozies lately. And by that, I mean really, really good ones. Seriously.

Several weeks ago… well, sometime after I wrote that post about Texas that I’ve yet to publish… I saw Mad Max: Fury Road with my husband. I was quite simply blown away. Blown. Away. That movie was perfect. There’s lots of good blogs and articles out there about just how perfect that movie was so I’m not going to try to bumble through it myself. Here’s one of them. I don’t have anything to add – that article pretty much sums up my reaction to the movie.

Sunday night, we had a movie marathon – Jane, Daddy, and me. First we watched The Butler. I was amazed again. And chilled. And thought about Charleston. And sat there still. And happy and sad at the same time. We decided to top it off with Forrest Gump. Because why not? And because Jane hadn’t seen it yet and that seemed like a shame.

So then we get to Monday afternoon. I was barely able to get off work in time to join my family at the last matinee-price showing of Inside Out. We had been looking forward to it for several weeks now. Or maybe a bazillion. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure we started looking forward to it long before I wrote that Texas post that maybe I’ll get around to sharing later this week. Maybe.

Anyway, totally different tale than Mad Max. That probably doesn’t shock you. But… again… I was blown away. Blown. Away. This movie is magical. It nails emotion. It found a way to explain the inner workings of the brain in a fantastical and magnificent way. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed out loud as much during a movie as I did in this one.

You have to go see it. You simply have. To. Go. See. It. Right now. Or when the theater opens. Whichever comes first. I loved this movie. My family loved this movie. I loved watching my family love watching this movie. Hal was on the edge of his seat near the end. I think Jane and I might have missed some of the on-screen magic just then because we were too busy staring at the in-theater magic sitting next to me: back straight as a rod, face intent, a slight smile, body leaning forward with anticipation.

It’d be hard to escape the theater without catching the at-credits extras but make sure you don’t. You can leave after the cat. But don’t you dare leave before the cat! I’m telling you – the entire movie was precious and sincere and lovely and funny and charming and insightful. But the cat – the cat was real. The cat got it right. So make sure you stay for the cat.

That’s all I’m saying.

So, yeah, I could have talked about what’s wrong with Texas’s obsession with football. I could have talked about my deceased step-father. I could have walked the minefield that is divorce and tried to discuss Father’s Day. I could have talked about faith and commitment and fatigue. I could have talked about racism and America. But life is heavy enough and you need a smile.

So go watch Inside Out. And stay for the cat. It won’t let you down. I promise.

Kindergarten Meets Geometry

Last evening at the dinner table, my just-graduated Kindergartner triumphantly announced that a square is made by cutting a rectangle in half.

“Yep!” he declared. “A rectangle is just two squares getting close together and kissing!”

“Or two triangles,” his now high-schooler sister responded.

“No! Not triangles!” he said, knowing without a doubt that she was wrong.

“Could be,” I said, before adding, “And a rectangle cut in half doesn’t necessarily result in two squares. It could be two rectangles.”

“Or two triangles,” his sister repeated.

“Depending on how you halve it,” his dad added in.

He insisted we were all wrong and soon everyone was scrambling for a piece of paper. Luckily, we are not tidy people which meant there were already both scraps of paper and writing utensils on the dinner table. With pencil and paper in hand, I drew the following:

shape1

“Well, I didn’t know you were going to draw funny looking triangles like that!” he said, and then after a pause, took the pencil and said, “Here! Let me show you how a man does it.”

“See?” he said, drawing his rectangle and dividing it.

shape2

“Um. Technically,” I said as gently as I could, “those are two rectangles, not two squares. See? These sides are longer than these sides so they aren’t squares.”

He glared at me. I drew a more exaggerated example.

shape3

“Well, but you drew it really long and skinny!”

“Yes, but it’s still a rectangle that got cut in half and resulted in two rectangles, not two squares. You don’t always get two squares when you cut a rectangle in half.”

“Well, look. I’m going to make a rectangle out of two triangles.” He then proceeded to make an equilateral triangle and then butt another up against it. He frowned.

“That’s a parallelogram,” his brother said.

“You are never going to get to a rectangle that way,” his sister added.

He pressed ahead and eventually announced that he had drawn a circle.

shape4

“That’s a hexagon,” I said. “It has six sides.”

“Yeah, it can’t be a circle,” his sister explained. “It has edges and circles don’t have edges.”

So he announced that he could draw a different shape and he did.

shape5

“It’s a scribblegon!”

For that, we had no response. He had drawn a shape that none of us could claim was any shape other than what he had named it. Geometry lessons were clearly over and silliness had taken control.

I Like The Person I Am Becoming

I have been insanely, crazy busy for the last several weeks. Way, way, way too busy to indulge in writing. It’s been painful to compose stories in my head without the ability to get them typed up and then feel them leak away, knowing later only that it had been a good one.

But this thought floated through my head tonight as I left our last nightly ice cream after-VBS party and I thought about how much fun I’d had being the director this year. How satisfied I felt. How much I had grown through the experience. How much I had enjoyed – gasp! – other people’s kids. I thought about many of the things happening to me and in me right now and this thought settled in, front and center:

I really like the person I am becoming. I truly do.

For those few people who know me well, they know just how big a statement that is. So I wanted to take just a minute to say it out loud – so to speak. I like who I am. I like who I am becoming. And I’m excited to see how I grow next.

The Middle Child

My kids may have all come from the same parents but they are certainly not cut from the same cloth. Some of this, I know, has to do with birth order, but not all. For example, Jane and Hal have quite a few similarities. They talk more in general than Daryl (although he’s not quiet by any means). They are also more expressive and show their love in more obvious and physical ways. They are also Daddy’s Kids.

Daryl is my Momma’s Boy. He’s also the most reserved. He’s more likely to keep his feelings and thoughts to himself. His hugs tend to be brief and almost embarrassed. He’s less likely to ask for help. He “needs” us less and, quite frankly, thinks about us less. As an example, when we dropped Daryl and Jane off to ride the bus to Tennessee for Destination Imagination Global Finals, Daryl took off. I mean, out of the car, onto the bus, out of site, no farewell, gotta go… I heard there’s wifi and plug-ins on there…

Jane, on the other hand, sought us out after claiming her seat and gave us long, endearing hugs, as if storing up all the mom-and-dad energy she’d need to get through the next few days. I had to hunt Daryl down on the bus and make him stop his video game prep long enough for me to mockingly scold him for not saying good-bye and then extract a hug from across the seat between us.

Throughout the week, he might look pleased to see me when our paths crossed, but usually he was just taking in the experience. There’d be time enough for mom later. When I’d ask him about stuff, he’d shrug and make non-committal kinds of responses. I couldn’t tell how excited he was about any of it. He just had a cool and confident air about him.

By the time we got to the last day, Jane was asking to spend time with us. Daryl was still blowing and going. The top ten finishes (usually more than ten teams because of ties) get recognized at the award ceremony. Daryl’s team made the top ten in their category. I was elated and tearful and I could barely wait to see my young man.

I stood eagerly at the top of the stairs to his section and watched his team wait for a chance to exit. When he made it to the top, I was rewarded with a true understanding of the depth of his emotions during that moment. I pulled him into a bear hug and he hugged me back fully. None of this single-arm, distracted stuff I normally get, but a full, heavy-body, can’t-get-enough body wrap. I thought I could hold him forever and he’d hold me back. Nothing existed in that moment but the two of us.

I get these hugs from Jane all the time. And fairly frequently from Hal too. I don’t want to belittle those experiences at all because they are incredibly special to me and I need them desperately. But Daryl so rarely lets us in. I know he cares but he rarely surrenders to the moment; he rarely lets it show. Yes, I was crying by the time I reluctantly released him so he could join his team who was now exiting the building.

Sometime after that, I saw some pictures the coaches had captured in the moments after they saw their team name on the JumboTron. One showed Daryl holding his head with both hands, overcome with excitement. In another, he’s facing the camera and his face is so full of unreserved joy that my heart burst when I saw it. No filter, no protection, no desire to look cool. Just raw, honest, open Daryl. Such a beautiful sight.

When I showed the picture to his big sister the next morning, I was rewarded with something else I rarely see: her deep love for him. Just looking at his smile in that picture made her break into her own unprotected, genuine smile of joy. She got it. She saw how precious that moment was for him and how rare it was for him to let it show. Any rough edges in their relationship were temporarily gone. She loved him and she loved that he had had that moment.

I am truly a blessed woman.

The Great Elevator Chase

We finished breakfast our last day in Knoxville after the Destination Imagination Global Finals closing ceremony. Hal was eager to return to the room – actually, he was probably just eager to return to the elevator buttons. It must have been heaven to be the only child at the hotel all week (the other two being at the dorms with their teams) and having no contest on who got to hit the buttons.

Jane was now with us, preferring to ride home in our company rather than on the bus. The three of us full-size folks headed down the hallway to the elevators. Someone was getting out so we stepped in. But Hal was nowhere to be seen.

“Where’s Hal?” I asked, suddenly unsure whether I’d seen him run off specifically down this hall or maybe some other direction.

“He’s on the third floor,” my husband responded confidently. This didn’t sit well with me but it seemed reasonably likely that Hal had decided to make the journey to our room on his own. I entered the elevator and rode to the third floor. Once there, I stayed in the elevator while my husband checked the hallway. No Hal.

“Ok, I’m going back down to the first floor,” I said, pressing the button. Just as my door was closing, I heard the other elevator door open and saw Hal dart out of it. I stopped my door from closing just in time and, probably not in a happy or relieved voice, asked, “Hal! Where were you?!”

I was confused on how he could have gotten in an elevator before us and arrived after. Or if he hadn’t been ahead of us, how he could have caught up that quickly. And I was annoyed at how close I had been to searching the bottom floor fruitlessly until (presumably) being called back to our room.

Hal was equally flustered. He was obviously upset with us, and my apparent unhappiness with him was simply too much. He didn’t quite cry but it was obvious he needed a hug. So I hugged him, assured him it was all ok, and eventually extracted the rest of the story from him.

He had, indeed, headed to the elevators ahead of us. And he had, indeed, secured an elevator and entered it. He attempted to hold if for his slowpoke family but the door began to close against his wishes. He then tried to push the button that would open the door, but he pushed the wrong button and the door completely closed.

That’s when we walked up and the other elevator happened to open and deposit a family onto the first floor. They walked away and we entered the elevator, discussing the possible whereabouts of Hal. As our door began to close, Hal had managed to get his elevator to return to the first floor (if it ever actually left, I wasn’t quite clear) and to open its door.

It opened in enough time for him to hear us getting on the other elevator. He didn’t have time to catch our attention nor join us, although he apparently tried. Fortunately, he’s a bright and resourceful young man, who quickly returned to his elevator and arrived at the third floor right behind us.

It was a comical moment. One that Hal and I were both able to enjoy immensely after the stress of unplanned separation was overcome.