Saturday, March 29, 2008

Movie Madness

The movie choices lately just stink.

My son and I love to go to the movies. As he's gotten older it's become one of our greatest pleasures, especially since he doesn't want to do a whole lot of other things at present. Last year we spent at least three of every four weeks at the theatre starting in May thru the first of August. We saw "Transformers" three or four times (for me, mostly for Steve Jablonsky's orchestral soundtrack, which we bought as soon as it became available).

The moment the music starts, we begin guessing who wrote the orchestral pieces (among Danny Elfman, James Newton Howard, James Horner, or our favorite, Hans Zimmer). Most of the time I get it right, but he's really developed an ear for music and can now pinpoint styles and artists fairly quickly, unless the credits appear at the beginning of the movie and mess us up. Of course, the audience probably appreciates the fact that we aren't whispering back and forth anymore if the mystery has already been broken.

This time of the year is really a bore when it comes to movies. There's a huge assortment of R-rated or PG-13 that have little to be desired. When it comes to movies I'll take my son to, I whole-heartedly and happily admit - I'm a prude.

At fifteen his sexual identity is just beginning to develop. Attitudes toward women, himself, and life in general are really exploding as reality and hormones creep over him. As a parent I have always felt that it is my duty to ensure that he receives a healthy dose of reality commiserate with his age. Hollywood is definitely NOT reality, in my humble opinion. Even a decent message contained within a movie sometimes gets swallowed up in swear words, blood and gore, and sex, sex, sex.

Therefore, I am very careful to watch the content of movies before even considering taking him to be exposed. I realize there will come a point in time when he will be able to make decisions of what to see, so we discuss movies quite a bit after we've seen them. Occasionally we still get surprised by a scene, but that just gives us more fodder for discussion later on. My hope is that he'll develop a healthy sense of what is good to allow into his brain and make wise choices for content as an adult.

Many of my family and friends give me grief for being so controlling when it comes to movies I allow my son to see. Usually I'll just tell them, "uh, it's rated R for a reason" or something about being accountable for my son's well-being. Plus nowadays there's a really good crop of movies at different times of the year that I actually can enjoy with my son without experiencing remorse. We can have a great time at those kinds of movies.

That is until February rolls around. By then we have to figure out something else to do, but my pocketbook thanks Hollywood for saving me money for a few months.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Letting My Hair Down (and other strange anomalies)

Having a creative outlet is as essential for me as...well, breathing!

In my younger days I pursued piano, flute, drama and ballet (does horseback riding count as a creative outlet?). Later on I took up singing and picked up again on ballet after a hiatus. During what my son and I call the "difficult days", writing became my one and only creative outlet. I poured myself into it as an incredibly cathartic experience.

When I was young I used to plink around with my parents' ancient typewriter (can't imagine doing that today), writing stories, poems, and even a mystery screenplay. Teachers would comment on my vivid writing style, but I never thought of writing as anything more than an assignment.

As an adult, by chance I took a short-term creative writing course offered through a local community college, and through that offering several of us decided to put together a critique group in order to share our writing and receive constructive criticism (key word - constructive). Though we've been through ebbs and flows over the last six years, we now have a small, tight-knit group that meets twice a month. I live for those second and fourth Thursdays.

Over the years, our little group has maintained pretty much the core of "oldies", our original membership created from the class. We all come from various backgrounds, are of varying ages, and we all even have different favorite genres and specialty areas of writing we like to pursue. A common genre isn't what keeps us together. I think it is actually the mutual desire to help pull the best from each other's natural abilities. We've developed a trust factor that even when we receive a difficult critique, we can know that it is meant as a help and not as a hindrance.

Of course, it also helps that we all let our hair down during our meetings (at least those of us who HAVE hair). Maybe that's why we've slowly been pushed toward the back of Border's music department where no one has to hear us (or at least see us). I suspect management has hired bodies to pretend they are other critique groups in order to take up all available space and encourage us to leave. Last night they even hired someone to pretend they were building shelving in the music department, revving up the drill and blocking out the sound of our voices. Heck, next time we might just have to meet in the storage closet!

I don't care where we meet, as long as I can continue to let my hair down twice a month. It's become essential to my well-being. It also keeps me breathing, you know.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Priorities, Priorities, Those Pesky Priorities

Sometimes it's hard to put our children's needs ahead of our own desires.

The Russian Ballet with the Russian Symphony is coming to town this weekend. It doesn't happen often. My best friend will be playing percussian with them. The symphony is playing the opera "Faust" on Saturday and then the two will perform the ballet "Sleeping Beauty" on Sunday afternoon. This Sunday afternoon. At 3:00. The exact same time of my son's big choir performance.

Yes, I almost cried.

At one time in my life (looooooong ago, in a far-away land) pointe shoes were merely an extension of my own skin. My feet felt naked and in the winter without them. I lived for the moment my toes slipped into the shoes, snapped the elastic against my skin, tenderly enveloped my ankles with pink, satin ribbon, then leapt and bounded across the dance floor. They traveled with me wherever I went. I wanted to be a prima ballerina. Alas, it was not to be.

I still love the rare occasion when I have the chance to attend a ballet performance of excellence. No offense to my dear fellow Americans, but the Russians have been and probably always will be the premier performer of ballet. So when I found out they were going to be here, I pulled out the checkbook and quickly calculated the cost to attend.

Until my son reminded me of his performance this Sunday. This Sunday at exactly the same time. Oh it hurts like a dagger through the heart, like the agony of thirst unquenched, like the...okay, I'll stop the melodramatics.

Still, over the years I've given up so much for my little man. I'm happy to do it. This is his time to shine. This is his time to excel. My time will come again someday, so it's time for me to live vicariously through the wonderful performances of my son. This just could be the leaping point for his own career aspirations, and I want to be a part of the incredible journey. It will only be a few more years now until he's off chasing his dream on his own.

There will be plenty of time then for the ballet, probably more time to myself than I'd imagined. Let there be no regrets when that time comes.

I need to stop now and go pull out my old pointe shoes.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Singing In The Shower

My son's in the shower. Around this house that carries quite a bit of entertainment value. You see, my son loves to sing, portray various character voices from movie scenes, and just be an all-around goofball. I, on the other hand, get to sit in the family room and enjoy whatever comes barreling from his mouth. I love every minute of it.

They recently finished reading "Romeo and Juliet" in his English class. His teacher loved his accent so much that she had him read the part of Romeo all week. Then the last few days she gave him a break and offered him three various minor roles. She never realized up to that point that he had her feeding right out of his hands. He took those three roles and did a different voice for each of the characters and really hammed it up. Had the entire class in stitches. That's when he's really in his element. Next year he's taking forensics (no, it isn't anything to do with dead bodies). I'm sure he'll practice his lines and skits on me. Oh goodie.

Every morning when I take him and his best bud to school, I get my day started off with "Hey, Abbot!" or some other rousing rendition of stupidity from a movie scene or clip they've seen in youth class. It never seems to get old for them, and I end up in a coughing fit from laughing so hard. Then they'll start some stupid song from a comment or word spoken and spend the next five minutes bouncing phrases off of each other trying to make each line rhyme. My abs are rippling from the daily workout (I wish!).

Sometimes it is almost too much, but in those moments I always stop and remind myself of when the laughter and songs were absent in our lives. Sometimes life gets messy, and even our kids forget how to laugh because there is nothing for us to laugh about. When our spirits shrivel up the music and joy in life dies.

As parents, we must remember how important laughter is to our children. They need to see us smile, note the sparkle in our eyes, see the laugh lines crinkle around our face (and in our house sing lustily). Our kids take their cues from us in so many ways, and we need to be careful that our adult cares and worries don't come home with us too often. I forgot that for awhile. But now the sun is shining once again.

And the shower is filled with song. I just wonder what HE'S laughing about in there.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tradition - An Ode to Easter

Tradition - everytime I think of the word, I hear the strains of Tevye's voice from "Fiddler on the Roof" in the faint recesses of my mind. Of course, it then causes those pesky memories to surface of my college days when we performed said musical, and I had the devious pleasure of bringing the audience to tears. Then again, that college musical also had the audacity to send me to the hospital emergency room and chuck me on crutches for a few weeks. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

With Easter celebrations now past, I had a few moments to feel nostalgic about family Easter traditions long gone. Now that my son is fifteen, he has no interest in coloring eggs and eating chocolate until he nearly throws-up. No more cute little Easter suits (of which he's glad), baskets with fake grass, egg hunts, cute little bunny-bunnies, etc. I felt sorry for myself and blamed my son for having the audacity to grow up.

Yesterday we were invited to the home of a friend of mine from church. This wonderful young woman and her husband were originally from Canada and recently had the joy of securing their permanant residency here in the good 'ol U.S. of A. There were several other couples at the dinner that we had the pleasure of getting to know, one of which was from Indonesia. During dinner, we discussed some of the Easter traditions and foods they grew up with in their native countries. The conversation was lively, entertaining, and also very enlightening. We even learned more about some of the Jewish feasts still celebrated in various Christian circles as a lead-in to Easter. I was full of questions while my son just soaked it all in.

On the drive home, I realized that we continue to practice some of the same traditions we've always followed on Easter. The bunnies, baskets, and eggs had their place, but now my son can participate in a more active manner. We still attend church Easter morning, celebrate the resurrection of the Savior, practice commununion in remembrance, and have a wonderful dinner gathering with family or friends. But now he has a much better understanding and appreciation of what the day/weekend means, and that is more important than hunting eggs.

But eggs still have a place in the celebration (besides as an appetizer). An egg consists of three parts: yolk, white, and shell. All three individual parts come together to make a whole - an egg. It reminds me of the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three individual persons come together to form One. It's an interesting analogy that our children just might understand and take with them from childhood into a more mature thought process.

That's all. No need for anything more. It is finished. The end.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Joy of Youth

With last night's festivities, I didn't get to bed until after midnight. The boys were still going strong with their pizza, chips, lots of caffeinated soda, and whatever else they could find as they scuttled about the kitchen. Their game system must have been on overload at that point, and I expected it to blow up at any instant. They'd conk out sometime during the morning hours, I figured. Make that almost afternoon TODAY!

During the night, I awoke momentarily and thought I smelled popcorn. I brushed it off, rolled over, and resumed my appointment with the sandman. When I left my bedroom this morning at 9:30, I was astonished to see the boys already awake (and yes, they'd made popcorn during the night). Oh, but no! My son informed me that they were just finishing their LOTR's marathon (the extended versions, of course) and hadn't yet slept. I smiled, remembering my teen years, and proceeded to cook them breakfast.

By the time the breakfast bell rang, two had crashed while the others were busy playing video games again. The only time my son gets any extended time with a game system is when he has company, and I lift a few house rules. I'm a stinker that way.

In order to enjoy a peaceful breakfast, I took mine into the office to read a few emails and let the boys continue their time together. Very soon the peace I'd left for spread throughout the entire house. It continues at this very moment. Never in my life did I think an entire group of teenaged boys could be so quiet nor fall asleep so quickly.

Ah - the joy of youth.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Break Sleepover - Misnomer?

Spring break is drawing to a close, and next week my son will be returning to school. To end the break, he's decided to have a big sleepover tonight with his friends. Yeah right.

I don't know about you, but when I was young I rarely "slept" at a "sleepover". We pretty much stayed up most of the night telling stories, eating junk food and chocolate chip cookie dough, and sometimes calling our boyfriends in the wee hours of the morning. I'll bet their parents really appreciated that.

My son and his buds can get pretty rambuncious, so I'm thankful we have a bigger house now for them to terrorize (my poor kitties!). They'll usually pummel each other, play video games, listen to music, and eat as much pizza and drink as much Mt. Dew as possible. Then the burping contests begin. My son usually wins with one that comes from his toes and lasts about ten minutes. How proud I must be.

Even though he didn't have male influence in his early years, my son is all boy. Before he started school it was evident the heavy female influence was not affecting his testosterone levels. Right now the "mandles" video on GodTube is the talk of our household, and he has to show it to everyone when they come over (1% wax, 99% testosterone). There's alot of debate about the nature/nurture studies, but my son proves to me that God created us male and female.

I'm so glad to be a woman!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Finicky Is As Finicky Does

My mother used to call me a finicky eater. I think I gave birth to myself times infinity.

As an infant my son would eat almost anything put before him - after all, he was a growing little man. Since he enjoyed food so much, I always had to gauge when he was full by feeling his belly. Otherwise, if I kept poking the spoon up toward his face he'd keep smiling and opening his mouth.

I don't remember exactly when he chose to go on a food strike, but it was somewhere in toddlerhood. Before he went on strike, he would eat green beans, peas, carrots, mashed potatoes, just about anything healthy. He wasn't all that fond of fruit, so I praised God for giving me a health-conscious child and passed the veggies.

During the food strike, I agonized over every morsel and tried to come up with the best dinnertime games. The airplane only worked for awhile. His favorite thing at the time was trains, so I even tried chugging the spoon down the track and into the tunnel. After two years of embarrassing myself at every meal, he finally found chicken strips. It's been a love fest ever since.

So no, my son did not die from starvation, but at the time I was convinced he was in a challenge with Ghandi to see who could arrive at their destination first. The love of chicken strips has never waned, but I've found ways to prepare chicken to satisfy his tastebuds as well as contribute to his overall better health. Veggies and even fruit have entered back into the picture, though most everything gets slathered in barbeque sauce.

Doesn't matter to me. As long as he eats it, we both win.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Friendships - How Important Art Thou

Day three arrival home from the office. My son's best friend has come over, and they are busy in his man cave doing what typical fifteen year-olds do (don't ask me, they just call it "guy stuff"). I've been so thankful for their friendship since they met in the third grade. They're both good kids, and most importantly they understand each other (I'm clueless half the time about their humor), and he's become a valuable extension of our little family. Friends are so important to our overall well-being. I found that out the hard way.

In 1999, I lost my best friend of fifteen years. Death would have been easier. Our friendship reminded me of Anne in "Anne of Green Gables" when she called their friendship "bosom friends". That's what we had at one time. We met at church camp, went through college together, were maid-of-honor at each other's weddings, there for each other during divorce, childbirth, remarriage (for her) - you name it. We were closer than sisters and knew each others darkest secrets.

Something happened to her, and I'll never know exactly what it was. She betrayed me and left me holding an enormous debt for which I didn't have the money to pay. Miracle of miracles after holding the debt for several years, God brought about an amazing occurrance that allowed me to pay it off within three years. However, it was after the payment of this debt that I realized the true problem - my friendship was toast. She never expressed any remorse whatsoever, and I realized I had to hold a boundary against her to protect both myself and my son.

I also discovered that being without a true friend left me vulnerable to attack. My son and I struggled for several years as I learned to trust and live again. It is much harder to develop deep friendships when we reach middle-age. But God has been faithful and brought many wonderful new friends into my life over the last several years. I've also seen how He can use the most difficult moments in our lives to help others or just to soften us toward those who are hurting. II Corinthians 1:3-4 has been lived out in my life.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to
comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort
with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Therefore, my home is open to any and all of my son's friends at anytime. My new friends also know they can call, come by, or grab me at work or church at any time if they need me or just want to hang out. Friends help us live.

They also tell us when we have a booger hanging out of our nose.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Cats and My Computer Desk

I just arrived home from day two of my return to the office. My son is on the phone with a friend, so my only company presently is the cats. We were blessed in the last few months with the purchase of a lovely large home with plenty of space to roam. So what do my cats do? They commandeer my computer table everytime I sit down to write or read email. I knew it was a mistake to put it so close to the window.

Cat lovers, do you ever notice that every time you sit down you end up with a lap full of fluff? And I have two (cats, that is, not laps)! Every time I sit down at the computer to work or enjoy some moments of leisure, my screen is blocked by at least one cat's behind, and I find myself leaning over so far to see the screen that I almost tip my chair. Then when I finally am able to see the screen, it is blanketed with car fur. Static electricity can be a real pain.

My computer desk is in the perfect spot for the cats to watch the wildlife. I'm not a big fan of fleas and other various insects, so I've chosen to keep my cats indoors at all times. But they still get excited when birds begin to nest in the trees right outside the window. Of course, since it is March and there are yet to be any leaves on the trees, the cats get a clear view of all the activity.

I bought my desk in January. Do you think they'd honor their return policy for damage related to cats experiencing spring fever?

Monday, March 17, 2008

And It Begins!

My first foray into blogging - I've always wanted to do something like this. My plan is to share the ups and downs of single-parenthood, perhaps offer financial advise, writing tips, basically share with you various interests of mine. You might even get lucky and see some of the writing I've been working on from time-to-time. I try my hand at a variety of genres, though horror and romance are not my cup of tea.

Just recently I've had three months away from the office and able to be home as a stay-at-home mom for the first time in my son's life. Let me tell you, I could get used to this. I've always hated it that baby sitters have had more time with my son than I have. Sorry to say it, but people who say you can have your cake and eat it too are nuts. When you work full-time outside the home something is going to suffer, and it's usually the kids.

I remember when my son was just a few months old, and I came to a realization. Now understand, I am a very anal person and rather a bit of a perfectionist. I like things put away in their proper place and the house spic-and-span. But when my son came into my life, I realized that I could either have an immaculate home or a happy son - but I could NOT have both. So I learned to look past the clutter, the toys everywhere, dirty dishes sitting in the sink for a few minutes (today, it is sometimes a few days - see, you can teach an old dog new tricks) and spend time with my son. Of course when he got into Legos, it sure hurt stepping on those things in the middle of the night and biting my lips until tasting blood to avoid waking the household (and perhaps my neighbors).

So today was my first official day back in the office, and of course, the first day of my son's spring break. Needless to say, I don't think I'll be able to take any days off this week.