Monday, September 15, 2014
Look at that face! Oh, how I just want to transport myself back in time to the summer of 2007 when this photo was snapped. He was about to enter third grade, celebrate his ninth birthday, lose some more teeth, start soccer practice and still thought I was the coolest chick to walk the earth. And today, he's a sophomore in high school about to get his driver's license. And I'm pretty sure he simply tolerates me.
But, oh how I love this middle child of mine. Ever since Ian Joseph came into this world, he has never been one to suffer fools. He either liked you or didn't. He had a strong will and could rarely be swayed or bribed to fit into your agenda for him. When we tried to train him to "cry it out" as a baby, he cried it out for close to an hour a night for 6 straight months. When he was a toddler and anyone attempted to capture a picture of him, he'd cover his eyes and scream. He hated being the center of attention or fussed over. He attempted sleep overs but when we refused to come get him after his midnight plea, he started walking home. This kid has a mind of his own and while it certainly hasn't made life easy as a parent, I've come to appreciate the benefits of this "what you see is what you get" personality.
In addition to never having to guess where you stand with Ian, he is also the most low maintenance, pragmatic kid I know. He is a simpleton in the truest sense of the word. He rarely asks for anything. When I knew he was going to be gone this summer for 2 weeks, I asked if he'd like me to paint his bedroom during that time. His response: "Why? All I do is sleep in there." Every August when the local fair comes into town, the other two boys are usually clamoring to get out there daily. A couple summers ago, I offered to take everyone out there for the day and purchase the overpriced all-day-ride bracelet. Ian requested the cash instead and invested it in his bike.
I could go on and on about all the qualities that endear me to this young man but I think I've made my point.
Happy 16th birthday to you, Ian! You keep me on my toes and fill my heart with joy.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Summer is my absolute favorite season of all. I love everything about it:: The sunshine. The longer days. The spectacular sunsets. The warm evenings. The laid back feeling. No school. No schedules. My fondest memories have usually occurred during the months of June, July and August. Not this year.
Summer of 2014 will go down in the weather record books as one of the sunniest, warmest, driest seasons in the Pacific Northwest. Those of us who call this region home live for these ten weeks of the year. And when the weather is superb, it spurs us on to endure the 6 months of gray skies that arrive in November. Unfortunately, try as I might, I found myself looking at the calendar in late July, realizing it was almost August and wondering why I was in such a funk. I shared my confusion with my mentor who has the ability to take any situation and put it into words in the most poetic, profound and encouraging manner. Her response made so much sense. She recalled the summer days when her daughters were in high school and rarely spending their days at home. Suddenly, they had jobs, boyfriends and a typical teenage social life that ranked higher than hanging out with Mom. She told me how she remembers being in the same emotional state I was describing to her. "I was home and available to my girls making sure they had what they needed to go off on their adventures but I was no longer going with them. We weren't having any fun together and I had lost my buddies." I knew exactly what she meant! The past 16 summers have been full of countless family adventures from camping to road trips to lazy days at the lake. Every year we planned something all of us would look forward to even if there were some individual trips mixed into those three months. This year was the summer of the boys going on their own adventures but the way it played out resulted in those trips overlapping each other and our family going 5 weeks with at least one of us gone. It really took its toll on my heart as a mom. It felt like 5 separate lives were being lived under the same roof with very little interaction. The disconnection was sobering.
Adding to the mix was Trey's summer travel schedule that resulted in his absence for 3 out of 4 weeks from late July to mid August. And, of course, everytime he was flying through the skies a crises ranging from the cat being hit by a car to the dryer breaking to flat tires reared its ugly head. I grew weary of holding down the fort and making decisions alone. However, it wasn't all as depressing as my rendition of the story is making it out to be. I did have some sunny spots that broke through the clouds of single motherhood. During each one of the solo parenting weeks, a friend visited from far away that I hadn't seen in a while. And I never get visitors. In July, Ashley was here from Rochester, Kristy came from Denver. The first two weekends of August found me hiking, biking and drinking in wonderful, soul-filling conversation with my dear friend, Ashlee followed by Amber coming from Austin the following weekend and offering more of that same great connection. I know these visits wouldn't have been as sweet if they were competing with 4 boys in the house.
On August 17, Trey finally returned and all 5 of us were under one roof. As excited as I was for this, it kind of felt like showing up at your high school reunion and wondering "who are you?" But, time was of the essence as I knew we had 36 hours before high school football practice started. The following morning we packed up 2 cars, all our camping gear and Millie and headed for the hills. So to speak. I was desperate for some connection with everyone unplugged before the craziness of the school year was upon us. We went just 40 miles away to our favorite rustic, primitive campsite on the river. It was unoccupied as if to say, "I've been waiting for all of you."
We set up camp and jumped in Ian's jeep and meandered up the mountain to a glorious hike ending in a pristine glacier fed lake. The boys all took turns documenting each other jumping in and decided their dives counted as taking part in the "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" due to the freezing temperature of the water. Of course, I didn't want to lug my camera on the hike so I have no documentation myself but I did snap a bunch of photos throughout the 24 hours. We played in the river, feasted on our traditional campside dinner of barbecue chicken thighs, corn on the cob and watermelon, roasted marshmallows and reminisced about all the camping trips over the years. It was positively glorious.
Some seasons you just have to take what you can get.
While I never want to repeat many parts of summer 2014, I will let my final memory spur me into a school year of many lasts and treasure every single one of them knowing it will be June again before I know it.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
I come from a loud, proud, lively Croatian heritage. My maternal great-grandparents immigrated to America from Lokve, Yugoslavia (now known as Croatia) in the early 1900's with two young children in tow. Once they landed in Michigan (their first stop) my grandmother and her younger sister were born. From there they made Roslyn, Washington their home. A small, Croatian coal mining community where my grandparents met and fell in love. If Josephine and Nick could see now the legacy their union has produced. I doubt they ever would have imagined that 63 people would gather back in the town where it all began honoring and celebrating what was started over 100 years ago. But that's exactly what happened on July 4th weekend, 2014.
Let's start with the "back story." Most of my extended family has remained close to home in the Seattle area. There are a chosen few of us that have ventured away from the nest for reasons ranging from love to jobs to wanderlust. When my mom's cousin Tom and his family of 7 came to visit from Chicago, someone would throw together an impromptu picnic and softball game. This happened every few years but once the next generation grew up and more of us moved away, the visits were less and less frequent. As were the reunions. Weddings and funerals seemed to be the only venue where we would see our distant relatives for a quick catch-up. Inevitably, the subject of a reunion would enter the conversation only to be forgotten as soon as we all drove (or flew) away. In 1991, we all gathered at my great uncle Charlie's property for a pig roast (yes, we really roasted a pig) but no softball game followed and within a few years he passed away.
|Although we knew we were the real winning team.|
|These sore losers declared they beat us. Yeah, right.|
|Judy tied with Tom & Nancy for most grandchildren|
|Owen, age 3 months (his big brother Charlie accepted his award) got a baby Beaver for being the newest ancestor. Their last name is Beavers.|
|Uncle Bob has the best laugh|
|Charles & Gloria had the "staying power" for being married the longest: 47 years!|
Sunday, June 22, 2014
I am a football fan through and through. American football. The kind where grown men go out and pound each other. I love the complexity of the plays, the craziness of the fans, the size of the men, the sheer grit it takes to perform on the gridiron. Baseball? Not enough action. Too many steroids. Basketball? Stinky gyms and a short court. And soccer? Not a particular favorite. But soccer in the Northwest is like football in Texas and 3 of the 4 men in my household absolutely LOVE it. Regardless, I still hadn't crossed over to the dark side. Until recently.
When Quinn was in 6th grade, he began what appeared to be a long soccer career with a competitive club team. We poured our time, money and energy into his passion as we got sucked into the club sports lifestyle. But it wasn't the best lifestyle for our family. I began resenting the fact that we were constantly apart because one of us had to accompany our soccer player all over the state for the better part of his middle school years. For most of the other families on the team, they had just two kids and their player was their youngest child. There weren't two other children being drug around to games. They were happy to have their family vacations be weaved into a summer soccer tournament. I wasn't. I felt like we were the only ones who struggled with stretching our budget to cover hotels, gas and meals. I'm sorry to say I did not handle this situation with much patience, grace or kindness. I was flat out bitter. So bitter that I saw nothing good come from this adventure. I only saw it as taking away from the family life I envisioned. Add that to the fact that my son's interest began to wane with each passing season. When he wasn't willing to start contributing his own finances, the decision was made, at the end of the 8th grade season, to concentrate on high school sports.
As is a natural fit, most high school football team kickers have a soccer background. This worked in Quinn's favor in freshman football. I secretly hoped his soccer days were behind us and he would fall in love with the best sport in America. But then, spring arrived and so did soccer tryouts. He made J.V. and was back in soccer mode. Three weeks into the season they gave him a shot in the second half of a varsity game and he scored the winning goal. This secured his spot as a swing player (playing both JV and Varsity) for the remainder of the season. HIs high school team made it to the first round of state that year and were knocked out in a 4-1 loss. His sophomore year was a strong season again, in spite of graduating 8 seniors, but the team never made it out of districts in the post season. This junior year was a different story.
From the first pre-season game, everyone knew this high school team had something very special. The chatter was abundant before tryouts even began. By the third week, even the skeptical were convinced. As the numbers increased in the win column and the loss column remained a big fat zero, the excitement began building. With each passing contest, we wondered if this was the game that would knock them off their perch. For the first time in school history, they won the conference AND were district champs. As they headed into the sweet 16 of the state tournament, all the chatter was about their undefeated record and 12 straight games without the opponent scoring on them. But this was state, after all. They were likely about to meet their match aswe all know the cream rises to the top.
The first two games of state would be held at our home field since they owned the best 2A record. We scored in the 7th minute of the first game and followed with 6 more goals before yet another strong statement was made. This was the team to beat. The second game was on Friday night of Memorial Day weekend and garnered a packed house. It was unbelievable to see the amount of community support in a soccer town with 3 competing high schools. It didn't matter what school you were from, everyone was there to cheer on Squalicum. A parent whose son had played at the high school in the past, said to me, "this is better than watching the Sounders. They are amazing." Yet, they were more like the Seahawks. Their defense was phenomenal and their roster was deep. The 22 young men were so good that the coach could rotate players every 15 minutes and the second string was just as strong as the first. They were making not only making history but bringing our town together. The second opponent definitely presented a challenge at the onset yet they went into halftime with a 1-0 lead then sealed the win with two more goals in the second half. It was on to the state semifinals!
The final four teams were ranked #1, 4, 5 and 8, respectively. As we settled into our seats in the packed stadium 150 miles south of home, the energy and nerves were equally as charged. The stadium was packed with friends, family and student section at least 250 deep. This was the big stage. And they came to play. The opponent was a physical, quick team from the eastern side of the state who also came to play. Unfortunately for them, they had never seen the likes of this bunch. We were up 3-0 at halftime and finished the game at 5-0. Another shutout and on to the championship game.
The final game was a different story altogether. The opposing team was 20-2 with a goalie the size of a linebacker and the speed of a sprinter. Squalicum's timing was off and their nerves were getting the best of them. We were all left wondering where our team went? Halftime: 0-0. Whatever words the coach shared at halftime did not fall on deaf ears and lit a fire under them that couldn't be stopped. Within 3 minutes, their freshman phenom broke free and scored. Six minutes later, this same gunner put it in the net and the momentum kicked into high gear. The opponent just didn't have the stamina to keep up with the fresh legs rotating in and with 9 minutes left and a 3-0 lead, the coach subbed in 6 players for their last high school game. 11 seniors: the exact amount needed to field a team. Final score: 4-0. Class 2A Washington State Champions! As the headline read the next morning, it was "A Perfect Storm."
As I watched the boys hoist the trophy to a screaming crowd, my throat ached and tears streamed down my face. In that moment, I realized that this magical ride was redemptive on so many levels. First, as much as I resented the competitive club program for all those years, the reality was that without it this championship would have never happened. This team roster essentially had two complete club squads on it and their years of training and competition enhanced their ability to clinch the state title. Second, as I was about to put my camera away, my mom started screaming "Quinn's getting an award!!!" I looked up and there he was with the director of the tournament and a player from the other team standing in the middle of the field. The man with the microphone announced that each boy had received the Sportsmanship and Character Award from the WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association). After the struggles of sophomore year, this showed me that despite what I see at home, what the world sees is a young man of honor, hard work and integrity. And yet another stream of tears flowed. Finally, as we snapped family pictures after the celebration, I looked at the images on my camera and thought, "Wow. As flawed and fragmented as my extended family is, we were all there together supporting Quinn and cheering him on together." A redemptive ride for sure.
|Ready for the final|
|Announcing the award|
|Bringing home the hardware.|
Sunday, May 4, 2014
This was my response to a friend's text saying, "I'm dying to hear about Mexico!"
Every winter when we are weary of the gray skies and never ending rain, we begin to ponder a tropical spring break getaway that never comes to fruition. For the last 7 years that we've had school age kids, the first week of April comes and goes and we feel like we're "the only ones" who are left behind while "everyone else" galavants off to a sunny, exotic locale and returns with their golden tans and stories of their "perfect vacation." The past 3 years with me being in school meant that my spring break schedule did not jive with the boys' week off. Prior to that, there always seemed to be a more pressing monetary need that trumped a frivolous expense like rest and relaxation. Car repairs, a root canal, bills for E.R. visits, food on the table, etc. "Someday.." we would say. 2014 was our someday.
Our original desire was to visit Costa Rica. The surf was the main draw followed by the natural beauty. Everyone we know who had been there, couldn't say enough about the magic of the area. We rallied and got the kids' passports and began plotting our adventure. While plotting, the typical hijacking of spring break prices began and suddenly the airfare alone would have wiped out our entire vacation budget. Plan B. After asking around and doing some research we settled on Puerto Vallarta. Ultimately it made more sense than Latin America. We'd stay in the same time zone and not spend an entire day flying each way. The break is not long enough to warrant a trip that far or the huge expense. Costa Rica went back on the "Bucket List."
Back to my response. I don't want to come across as not being appreciative that we got to have an amazing vacation to a beautiful warm and sunny location. I do feel very grateful for this awesome privilege but I was already dreading the question, "how was your trip?" before we even got home. It's so tempting to respond with "the Facebook version" where I say: "It was incredible. The weather was perfect, our accommodations were beautiful, the kids got along amazingly, no one complained, my husband and I felt like we were back on our honeymoon it was so romantic, we all achieved a perfect tan and no one was sunburned, we agreed on every meal, went on fabulous excursions and loved just being together. We can't wait to go back." But that's just not me. I think you can be honest without being a downer.
But, when someone then prefaces that question with their story of how boring their break was or "I'm so jealous", I suddenly feel the need to downplay the fact that we went away. Also, I want to be honest about how it really was. The reality is that just because you're in a beautiful place doesn't negate the fact that you're trying to navigate your way around a foreign country with 5 people who all have their own agenda while trying to create "amazing memories." It's just hard. When you wait so long and spend so much money, you really want the experience to be epic. And usually, it just isn't. And anyone that tells you otherwise is not being honest with you or themselves. I always set out with the attitude that I won't have expectations but I always do. Several times during the trip, I thought, "wow, being stuck in a condo together really guarantees that all your family issues will be staring you in the face." I can't say I was expecting that. Jellyfish stings, allergic reactions to sunscreen, sinus infections, running out of cash, staying in an area with no accessible restaurants, teenagers who struggle with getting along, having to pay for two taxis instead of one because you have a family of five and not four were some of the challenging realities of a real life vacation. Being in paradise doesn't remove these obstacles. It just makes them more palatable.
But, on the flip side, there were a lot of really positive anecdotes to share as well. A spacious, well appointed condo with a beautiful view of the pool, palm trees and ocean; a local manager of said condo who bent over backwards for us with her kindness, honesty and professionalism; warm nights walking on the beach with oodles of bright stars in the sky and the ocean waves crashing at your feet; yummy authentic margaritas, guacamole and salsa; happy, friendly local people who truly serve their guests; zip lining and riding ATV's in the rainforest; snorkeling and kayaking at "Hidden Beach"; an unexpected day trip to Sayulita, a super cool surfing town off the beaten path; cool conversations with my teenagers because they weren't distracted by friends; picturesque nightly sunsets; early morning coffee dates with my hubby; meeting fellow Americans and Canadians everywhere we went: devouring books by the poolside and sleeping in.
I do think it is possible to answer the question in an honest way that has equal doses of what you loved and what you didn't. So the next time you go on vacation and come home to inquiring minds, don't stress about what version of the story to share. Just share the real one.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
I'm happy to report that after 13 different substitute assignments, I don't yet resemble the woman in this picture. Partly because I have spent most of those 13 days in the elementary school, the middle school I taught at, my son's middle school and my son's high school. I don't have any horrendous stories to share. My biggest challenges have been my own child addressing me by my first name in his English class and a second grader farting in his classmates face. (The primary grades are definitely not where it's at for me.)
One of my relatives, a retired teacher, sent me an email asking about my future plans. I told her that no jobs have been recently posted so in the meantime I continue to enjoy subbing. She replied: Umm...... "subbing and enjoy don't usually go in the same sentence." From the horror stories I've heard, this is typically true but for right now it really is the best of both worlds. I can say no if I don't feel like working and when I do take an assignment, it's like an auction (if you check the website and see a job posted, you know you need to snatch it up or someone else will in the next five minutes) followed by an acting job. Each time I click on "accept" I get to take on a role pretending to be someone I'm not. I've been the elementary school librarian, a seventh grade math teacher, a high school P.E. teacher and a second grade teacher. Each job has its pros and cons but all of them mean I get to spend the day with kids which is so energizing--even when they try to get away with their typical antics because I'm the clueless sub.
As my student teaching was nearing the end, I often said I hoped to get a short term leave replacement. This seemed like the best way to get your feet wet without having to make a contractual commitment. Last month, one of these positions came open at the alternative high school. It was a maternity leave that would start after spring break and end in June. I got an interview along with three other candidates but they ultimately chose the teacher who student taught in that classroom last year. It made perfect sense but I did feel a sting of rejection. Even though it's not where I ultimately want to be, I thought it wouldn't hurt my resume and would challenge me in ways beyond my limited scope of high school experience. But, alas, God has other plans so I'll continue to enjoy the ride and see what's on the horizon. Who knows, I might have ended up looking like the woman in the picture at the beginning of this post.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
As the end of my time in the classroom was nearing the end, I was regularly being asked if I was going to walk at graduation, if I was going to have a party and how I was planning to celebrate. In answer to the first question, it's complicated but I'l try to simplify it. Because I was not earning another degree but a teaching certificate with an English endorsement, I wasn't qualified to participate in commencement. It is kind of silly being that I completed over 100 credits and spent the equivalent of a new vehicle during this process. But, I didn't feel strongly enough about it to make a stink. And because I knew the university would tack on another $100 or so if they made an exception. I wasn't about to pay them another cent.
Since I'm not one who enjoys having all eyes on me, I was hesitant about a big party. I did want to celebrate with those who supported and encouraged me along the way, though. I did agree that this was a huge accomplishment and one that should be recognized but, at this stage of life, it felt a little silly. Trey asked me to give him a list of the friends and family and offered to hold a graduation open house. It would be low key on a Sunday afternoon and guests could come and go as they pleased. He promised to do all the planning and preparing as long as I gave him some direction .Done. Because I rarely do anything like this, it felt so vulnerable and risky. And because of this, I knew I would take it hard if no one responded to the invitation or didn't show up. I should have gone with my gut.
Two weeks after he sent out the invitation, Trey got word that he'd be needed in California for a Monday morning meeting but required to arrive the day before. When? You guesssed it: the day the party was scheduled. I didn't have it in me to reschedule. Again, he promised that I wouldn't have to lift a finger but what were the chances of that, really?
I woke up that Sunday morning and went to the store to get ice. When I returned home, I left my phone in the car and went about my business inside. A couple hours later, I retrieved the phone only to find it full of messages from my Seattle friends and relatives that none of them were coming because of the snow. We had nary a snowflake and yet 90 miles south it was enough that no one would risk driving north. I decided to carry on, knowing my local friends would be there but suddenly I was overcome with emotion and tears and just didn't have it in me to put on a happy face for 20 people. I wasn't expecting to respond this way but instead of pretending, I gave in and let myself be sad. I called my close friend, who has been my biggest cheerleader and was coming early to help. When I broke down, she and another friend swung into high gear and rearranged the plans. They called everyone who was planning to attend and let them know not to come then rallied my closest girlfriends (who I should have just planned to celebrate with instead of having a party) and told me they'd pick me up at 5:00. I crawled back into my warm bed, had a good cry and slept off the afternoon.
The intimate celebration ended up being at one of my favorite restaurants followed by returning to my house and enjoying the overpriced cupcakes that were ordered for the occasion. It was such a sweet, loving gesture on behalf of my friends but looking back I realize that this was the beginning of my letting down and I had a hard time enjoying myself. I didn't recognize how emotionally and physically fragile I was now that this journey had culminated. I had been operating in survival modeand living on an adrenaline rush with deadlines hovering over me and hoops waiting to be jumped through for the better part of the last 3 years. It took its toll and my body was paying the price. My fragility made it such that a legitimate excuse felt like a huge rejection and I didn't have the reserve to see it for what it was. But it also made me realize how I needed to give in and rest. I literally slept away the next two days, caught a nasty cold and slept another day away.
As I write this, I'm a month removed and wish I could go back, have a do-over and be a little more rational. I wish I would have seen it coming and realized that a massive letdown was inevitable. Regardless, it can't take away from the reality that the verse I wrote on the front page of my journal in 2011 is as true now as it was back then.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Just when I thought life might slow down post graduation, it seemed to only switch into a higher gear. Less than 24 hours after completing my internship, Quinn and I were on a plane to Mile High City--the weekend before the Super Bowl. In the fall, he was able to tag along on a business trip of Trey's and check out Clemson and Duke. When I saw that his college wish list also included University of Colorado-Boulder and The Air Force Academy, I said, "I will accompany you on this trip." I also reminded him that it's rare for high school juniors to actually visit the campuses they are interested in. It just so happens that the 6 on his list all are located in cities where we have close friends or family. And we're always looking for a good excuse to visit them.
|At CU with "Ralphie"|
|Since they couldn't make my graduation party, we had our own little celebration. So sweet.|
|Ty loved his big cousin taking him for a ride in the laundry basket.|
|Storytime before bed.|
|About to enter the beautiful campus.|
|Everyone loved our poster mocking the naysayers.|
Monday, February 10, 2014
Three years, seven months and two days have resulted in this girl being a certified teacher!! My lack of posting is indicative of what an all-consuming, demanding profession teaching is. I honestly had no idea. The simple act of using the bathroom or making a phone call requires planning and speed and the cooperation of another staff member. Teaching the same lesson three times in a row with four minutes inbetween is impossible without a level of precision and energy that I never knew I had in me. Attempting to meet the physical,emotional and social needs of 112 students while hoping to teach them a thing or two about writing and reading is no small feat. And while many times I wanted to throw in the towel, after spending an entire day saying goodbye to those 11 and 12-year-olds who stole my heart, I have no doubt God has chosen the most rewarding profession in which to be spending my second career.
I had all kinds of activities planned for my last day but I had no idea that Wendy had the students each make me a personal card. If I had already been emotional, these sweet sentiments took it to a whole new level. What I loved was seeing the difference in how expressive the girls were versus the boys. The girls decorated their cards with glitter pens, drew hearts and smiley faces and every other girly touch. The boys got down to business, said what they wanted to say and wrote their names. End of story. These were my favorites from the guys: "Good luck with that teacher thingy." "You spent a lot of time on our class, at least it seemed like you did." "I spelled most every word right and that's prob because of you." "I hope you get a job, as good of a job as a teacher can get." "I'm still going to see you on the soccer field so there's no point in writing this letter." Every single one of the girls' notes made me smile but I took pictures of my favorites.