2011: The Year in Posts

Apparently 2011 ends tomorrow.

What a year it was around here! Since the year-end-wrap-up seems to be the hot ticket in Bloggyland, I thought I would follow along.

I’m easily persuaded by peer pressure. And shiny things.

I’ve picked my favorite posts from each month in 2011. So if you’re new around these parts, you might find something you enjoy. If you’re a relative of mine or one of those nice ladies I pay to read my blog, keep moving; there’s nothing new here.

January started with one of my very favorite guest posts Waiting for Departure over at my beautiful and talented friend Nichole’s blog In These Small Moments. She has since become a very cherished and dear friend of mine. This post was about watching my 15 year-old son pass through customs on his way to Germany; I still get choked up thinking about that small moment.

My favorite post about my tween daughter, I Still See Her, came later that month. I ended the month on a stressful note with Driven to Insanity, a post about adjusting to my son being a licensed driver. Makes my skin crawl just to think about it now.

In February Hubs and I were lucky enough to get away on a ski vacation with awesome friends and no kids. This prompted the post Worry which pretty much sums up how I feel when I leave my kids behind, no matter how much fun I will be having.

In March I wrote the tongue-in-cheek post Envy, which was later syndicated on BlogHer. What Mothers Remember was a post about a little girl who lost her mother, and how that touched me as a mom.

April found me thanking my first employer for training as a mother in the post Thanks, Jack! As my son’s high school graduation grew nearer, my mind was racing with images of his childhood, which prompted the post Photo Finish.

In May I wrote Dress Me Up Again, about dress-up clothes past and present. My daughter’s Sex Ed Unit at school prompted the post Booby Prize, about those girls we all love to hate. May was also the month I decided to move myself to WordPress, which went fine until the very end. I raised my white flag, screamed bloody murder, and called in the awesome Booyah’s Momma who took me across the finish line. Whew.

June was the month my son graduated from high school. First Door on the Right and Pomp and Circumstance were two of my favorite posts about this milestone. My Father’s Day tribute to hubs in the form of the post If You Give a Dad a Daughter still makes me smile.

In July I loved Do We Have Time? and Voices Unseen, two posts about how quickly time passes. Obviously I had issues this past summer.

A dear friend lost a dear friend of hers in August, which prompted me to write Milestones Lost. When my son also experienced a big loss in his life the same month, I wrote Mourning Lessons about his journey through the feelings of loss from toddlerhood to teen.

September found me getting ready to see my son off to college. The Sounds I Hear is about the relationship between he and his sister. Dreams is the first post I wrote after dropping my son off at college. It still makes me teary to read it now.

In early October I wrote about a funny going-away gift my son received in the post Gift Horse, and how life comes full circle in the post What You Wish For.

In November our house seemed a bit empty, but not all bad, as I noted in Table for Two.

December prompted me to write about my favorite Christmas gift of all, in the post My Christmas Secret.

 

Happy New Year to you all, and thank you for reading my words. I can’t wait for 2012.

Gift Horse

Gifts.

Whether for a birthday, anniversary, graduation, Father’s Day, bar mitzvah, parole hearing, promotion, or just because we choose gifts for special people in our lives to represent our feelings about them on their special occasion.

Brides are given gifts that are useful in setting up a new home. College graduates might receive a professional-looking black leather briefcase or maybe a fancy pen.

And don’t forget the oohs and aahs associated with baby shower gifts of onesies and cuddly blankets.

What about someone going off to college for the very first time, learning to take care of themselves for the very first time with no parental involvement? No reminders of when-to-d0-what?

What would the perfect gift be for them?

Maybe an alarm clock, a bottle of multi-vitamins, laundry soap, an umbrella, an endless supply of clean underwear, or maybe a bottle of aspirin and a box of band-aids?

Nope.

Frogs.

Amphibious frogs that live in a tiny tank and spend their whole lives imitating fish with legs.

Apparently when you are just learning to be responsible for yourself, remembering to eat on a regular basis and do your own laundry, the next logical step is to give you two more lives to be responsible for.

My son came home from a good friend’s house with two frogs, given to him by the friend’s mother as a going away gift.

He thought they were pretty cool, but it was a total surprise to him.

And me.

I’m pretty sure this breaks section 5, article 23 of The Mom Code, which stipulates “under no circumstances are you to gift anything that breathes or poops to the child of another mother.”

But off to college the frogs went, sloshing around in their plastic prison tank and most likely getting carsick on the way.

I’m so skeptical they’ll survive life in the dorms that I’ve actually wagered money on them.

But at least I know what to buy a certain friend when he goes off to college in two years.

Want Fries with That?

First jobs. We’ve all had them.

Some of us even think we learned a lot from frying burgers or waiting tables.

With college looming this fall for my son, a part-time job was just the thing to help him save some spending money.

He didn’t realize that a part-time job is also perfect blog fodder.

Once he started telling me some of the stories I knew he needed to write them down. Because while we’ve all been at the counter ordering fast food, we haven’t all been that person behind the counter.

So I give you the inaugural blog post by my soon-to-be college freshman…ten bonus points to anyone who gets the reference in the title.

 

Riffraff With Cheese

As you, the reader, may have heard from other posts, I’m Sherri’s 17-year-old son.

Unlike a previous post written by the dog, I’ve actually written this one.

Having recently ended a five-week tour of duty at a Wendy’s restaurant inside of a Shell gas station, I was naturally called upon by Mom to expound my newly-formed opinions in a blog post and make the world a better place.

Actually, I had to beg and plead and whine and sigh until she took this and posted it.

After almost three months of job-hunting, including over thirty applications, five or six interviews and far too many “Oh, we’re not hiring”-s, I was hired as a “front counter associate” (pronounced lack-ey) to work evenings and weekends at the aforementioned Wendy’s. Its convenient location next to a major freeway, several business parks, a construction zone and a community college made for an eclectic bunch of customers.

Sure, there were plenty of normal, polite, and unmemorable people who came and ordered food at one time or another. The others, however, were far more distinctive, including:

– Three vegans, each of whom wound up watching the cashier (me), the manager and the cook jabber at each other for several minutes to try and figure out how to ring up and prepare a “veggie burger”. Even worse, each one walked right past the gas station’s large rack of bananas.

– Five college kids with bloodshot eyes and clothes reeking of smoke. They all came in at the same time, about 10:00 PM, and ordered about forty spicy chicken nuggets each, concluding their transactions with a wheezy “Thanks, bro…”

– Two businessmen from the UK, complete with awesome accents. Cheers.

– Endless kids hell-bent on trashing the dining room, unrestrained by their parent(s). Some of them at least said “Thank you” when they got their food.

– Four acquaintances of mine. I only messed up two of their orders.

– Dozens of people who deemed their telephone conversations more important than their clear and concise communications with the cashier. For the record, though, one of them was an ambulance driver.

– Two customers in a row that decided the “Pick 2 Sides” promotion actually meant they could pick 3 side dishes for the same price as 2, and that neither the cashier nor the manager could read the menu, and that they would take their business elsewhere. Both were missing two or three teeth.

– One twenty-something-year-old man who, upon receiving $12 or so in one-dollar bills, remarked “Good thing I’m going to Vegas!”. The previous day, he had commented on his small bills being primarily spent in exotic bars.

– More than a few people with gas-station-related questions. Gasoline isn’t on the menu for a good reason. Talk to the guy with the “SHELL” vest, not the “WENDY’S” hat. Bathrooms and coffee dispensers aren’t our problem either.

– A handful of individuals who were displeased with the fact that, yes, we need a minute to cook your chicken sandwich. Should’ve ordered it raw if there was a rush.

– One health and safety inspector sent in from our corporate office. There has not been a more agonizing three hours in my recent memory. I believe the final score was 85%.

– And, despite many orders of chili, not a single finger comment. Dad threatened to come in after work and order a “large chili, hold the finger”. I informed him that he would not like the finger I would hold.

There are three Wendy’s restaurants in my college town. One of them might even be on campus. When it comes time for me to find another part-time job, I’ll know to look elsewhere.

Family Tree

The tree might have been the real reason we bought this house.

A massive Chinese Elm spreading long, graceful branches over the grass and the gravel area beneath it.

To anyone else, the yard might have seemed plain or ordinary. There were no stone retaining walls or peaceful waterfalls; no fancy covered deck with seating areas or fire-pits; and even the plants were non-descript.

But to the mother of a two year-old boy, this yard was a magical place just waiting to be discovered. Somewhere to run or to drive a Cozy Coupe; to be a superhero, pirate, or knight; to splash in kiddie pools and eat popsicles in the heat of the summer.

The tree held this magical place in a massive hug of shade during the hottest parts of a summer’s day.

Sold.

When you take a little boy who has lived in a small condominium with no yard and unleash him onto a quarter-acre lot his world suddenly becomes quite a bit bigger.

Over the course of the next fifteen years, the tree shaded several kiddie pools, playhouses, and teeter-totters; a sandbox and a fort; countless backyard birthday parties and endless rounds of summer popsicles; two crazy puppies and a little girl reading her treasured books. It has supported pinatas and a rope swing; bird nests and squirrels running amongst the branches.

Two little kids have grown before my eyes in the shade of that tree.

Yesterday my son was outside doing some yard work when he first noticed it.

A huge vertical crack down the trunk of our tree, almost breaking the trunk in half. It was so deep, I could have put my whole hand inside.

This huge branch, such a critical part of our tree, had been trying to split away for some time now without us noticing.

And now, suddenly? This branch was ready to go, the massive tree no longer able to hold on.

Like my son, who had already been busy that morning.

Hey, I thought I might start packing up some things in my room. You know, get a head start for September when I leave for college…

And I was powerless to stop it.

If I didn’t act quickly and the trunk let go too soon, the branch would hit the house and cause a lot of damage.

My eyes were teary. I felt sick inside and certain that we couldn’t save the tree; that this part of our home I had loved so much would be cut down and turned to mulch. Nothing but a memory from here on forward.

Nothing but the memories.

I made a pile of things to get rid of before I leave; you know, stuff I’ve outgrown or don’t want anymore…you can look through it if you want.

The arborist came and carefully examined the split, making notes and giving advice.

It would take all afternoon and a crew of seven men, but he felt that they could save the tree.

Finally I could catch my breath. I hadn’t realized just how much this particular element of our home meant to me.

Where the huge branch once grew now there is a raw scar, glaring at me out the kitchen window. A reminder of what once was, which will heal over in time.

And without it, the tree will still thrive.

I’m taking this duffel bag with me, so I can pack enough clothes for my visits home…

And go on to the next round of adventures beneath it’s shade.

Pomp and Circumstance

Granada graduationI almost don’t recognize him as he walks down the hallway from his bedroom.

Long black gown adorned with honor cords; black cap and 2011 tassel in his man-sized hands.

He’s ready to go.

His graduation is the end-result of spelling tests and learning cursive; of sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the rug and using his listening ears.

Of years of group projects, PowerPoint presentations, and cramming for finals; of early-morning alarm clocks and the pounds of heavy books he carried on his back.

And while somewhere deep inside me I can feel the tears, as he stands before me now I just feel pride.

The tears can wait for now.

Truth be told, there were tears earlier in the day. Pre-emptive tears, shed while dusting the family pictures and feeling mournful of the little boy smiling back at me from the frames.

I offer him a ride to the school, so we won’t have too many cars there when the ceremony is over.

Always logical, this mom.

The first time I left him in this parking lot, I watched him walk in with his backpack loaded and new shoes, ready to take whatever high school was ready to throw his way.

I can’t help but watch him as he walks in for the last time.

Walking tall and proud, in his gown.

Now he’s ready to go.

An hour later I sit in the football stadium, the dull roar of family and friends surrounding me. People have made banners and signs; hold bouquets of flowers and balloons for their graduates.

I hold nothing but my breath.

The band cues up the traditional Pomp and Circumstance song and far across the field I see the line of graduates begin filing in.

Gold gown, then black; girl, then boy.

Over five hundred of them, but there’s only one I’m looking for in the crowd.

At least one hundred students march towards their seats until I see him enter the stadium.

I bite my lip to catch myself from crying as I stare at this young man who used to hold my hand to cross the street; who wore footie jammies and loved mac and cheese.

Confident and proud, he carries himself around the corner and down the row to his seat.

The obligatory speeches follow, a medley of songs sung, the national anthem applauded.

And then, the names.

Over five hundred names. Air horns blow, cowbells clang, family and friends scream.

His row stands and begins their walk towards the podium.

More cheers, more cowbell.

And finally, they call it.

The name I wrote on that card in the hospital seventeen years ago.

There he is, my baby boy.

And he’s ready to go now.

Ode to a Peanut Butter Sandwich

peanut butter sandwichYour relationship with my son has been reliable, stable.

Always there, in that reusable Tupperware container in the bottom of the backpack.

Day after day, Monday through Friday.

Never on a weekend. Weekends are made for hot dogs or soup; for grilled cheese or leftover pizza.

Oh, there have been others before you.

I recall a particularly expensive phase of roast beef in fourth grade.

Several dalliances with a school lunch purchase; maybe a tempting order of Beef Nachos or Mini Cheeseburgers. Relationships that soured almost the moment the food crossed his lips.

And then you came along, simple and easy. Two ingredients, that’s all.

Whole wheat bread. Smooth peanut butter.

And suddenly, there was no other.

Somewhere early on in middle school, the relationship became exclusive. I was a willing enabler after a while, admittedly because you were easy.

I’m not ashamed to admit that, really.

So for the past seven years we’ve met each morning at the kitchen counter; danced our dance with a knife and a few crumbs.

Over 1,200 times, at last count.

But it’s over now; it’s time for me to let you go.

This morning was our last rendezvous by the pantry, the last time we’ll create crumbs together in an attempt to provide brain food to a busy high school kid.

I wish you well.

And while you and I won’t be together anymore, there’s still hope for you.

You might find yourself in a dorm room come September.

First Door on the Right

The basic contents of the room haven’t changed much.

A twin-sized bed, a small nightstand next to it, a dresser, a desk with a lamp.

Fourteen years ago, it was deemed The Big Boy Room and we moved his little-boy things in with great fanfare.

When you are three years old and enamored with the garbage man, the height of awesomeness is to have a room at the front of the house. That way, you are the very first one in the family to hear the garbage man coming around the corner so very early in the morning.

And you get to announce it to the whole house.

Loudly.

The Big Boy Room had brightly-colored cars and trucks driving around the room on the wallpaper border, Legos on the floor at all times, a huge stuffed dinosaur guarding the bed, and a jigsaw puzzle always occupied the desktop. A dream catcher hung from the bedpost, ready to spirit away bad dreams that hound even the biggest of boys.

He’s ready to catch his own dreams now.

This room down the hall is still occupied by the same boy, who seems to have doubled in size in the time he’s lived there.

The wallpaper is long gone, the Legos have been tucked away in bins and stored in the game room, and I haven’t seen the desktop in years.

Even the garbage man is no longer a source of excitement, but rather someone to grumble at when he comes too early in the morning and disrupts the groggy sleep of a teenager.

There are piles of socks that don’t quite make it to the hamper, posters of bands I can barely stand to listen to, and movie ticket stubs taped to the mirror next to prom pictures and photos of a hero.

Still Big Boy stuff, I suppose.

But the boy that occupies this room? He’s not in there all the time anymore.

He has his driver’s license, his friends, things to do and places to be.

He’s moving on, that Big Boy.

Come September, he’s moving to another Big Boy room in the dorms, with other Big Boys (and girls). He’ll have a mini-fridge, empty pizza boxes, crazy posters, a lava lamp, and a pile of socks that won’t quite make it to the laundry bag.

If he’s unlucky enough to be near the dumpsters, he may even be able to grumble at the garbage man.

And even though the room down the hall will be unoccupied soon, I have a feeling I’ll still find a reason here and there to open the door.

Who knows what memory I’ll see when I peek inside.

They’re all in there still; some buried deeper than others.

Or maybe just buried in socks.

*********

I am honored to be a featured blogger over at Mamapedia today! I would love for you to stop over there for a moment and read my post Mother of the Year: Before Kids, about what an awesome mom I thought I was. Until I tried it.