Sunday, October 22, 2017

Was it really only ONE week? (Sheesh...felt like more!)

This week turned out to be kind of a chaotic one, and as such, when I finally sat down today to ponder how best to corral the events into any kind of unifying theme, even what I considered my most promising attempts still lacked...cohesiveness. (Translation: "sounded like a rambling mess". Wait, some of my posts end up like that anyway, don't they? Eh, let's make that "even less comprehensible than usual" and we'll just go with it, okay?) Thus I decided that the only real option was to use a hodgepodge approach-- which honestly is more indicative of how things unfolded--so without further ado, here goes:

--Riley's first season playing for his High School soccer team was supposed to have wrapped up on Friday...and it would have, if Monday's game hadn't been postponed until next Wednesday, due to the wet, squishy field conditions. (See, wasn't that confusing? Welcome to my world...) The finale was scheduled--as it usually is--against crosstown rival East Chapel Hill. Those of us rooting for the home team were rewarded by a hard-fought 2-0 victory, meaning that the JV Tigers and Wildcats split the series this year, each prevailing on their own turf. With only the makeup match to go, Riley has told me that--while he's definitely enjoyed being a part of the squad--he's feeling the fatigue from the combined effects of 3 months worth of nightly practices, and getting to bed late because he has to tackle his homework afterwards. He admits he's looking forward to a break--and he'll get it, all right...for about 2 weeks, until his club workouts begin. (Siiiighhhhhh....for both of us....)

--Meanwhile, Derek, having apparently internalized the Perils of Procrastination when frantically scrambling to complete and submit his first 2 college applications, said something along the lines of, "I'd really like to finish the next 2 that are due at the end of October before this weekend, if possible." (Pause: HAAAA-LE-LU-JAH ! Continue...) Aiding the process, one of them was already partially done, since it involved the Coalition App, which he'd "turned in" (you know, electronically...I just wanted to say that, because it amuses me in a nostalgic kind of way...) for University of South Carolina. One more pass of proofreading the demographic and other pertinent details...some Optional-But-Mom-Says-I-Have-to-'Cuz-It'll-Make-Me-a-Stronger-Candidate documents (which is an absolutely terrible name, right? I really should tighten that up...oh, yeah: "Recommended". Doh!)...and an edit of his autobiographical essay, to cut it down to the word count limit so he could include it as an also-not-required-but-why-not-it-can't-hurt Personal Statement....and that was that.

Oh, and the other one was substantially simpler, since they didn't really want any extra materials outside of his transcript (request already filed with the Counseling Department) and test scores (already ordered from the ACT program). Sooooo, the official count now stands at: 4 down, 3 to go...and the deadline for those isn't even until November 30th. Aaaahhhh....

--Switching gears: in seasonal news, we answered the doorbell on Friday night to find a plastic cauldron full of treats on our front porch, with the explanatory note that we'd been...BOOed. Not surprisingly, reactions around Team WestEnders varied, with Husband shaking his head and proclaiming it "silly"...and the boys more vociferously ranting about how they wouldn't support such nonsense, and couldn't believe someone had done this to us, an there was no way they'd follow the (very detailed) instructions and reciprocate. Whereas I walked into the kitchen to see what all the commotion was about and immediately exclaimed, "Oh, how CUTE! We're totally going to keep it going--who do you think should get BOOed next?" (Derek was predictably mortified--he gaped at me for a moment before snapping his mouth closed and retorting, "See? I KNEW she'd say something like that!" in his best tone of mock outrage.)

Hey, in my defense (if I needed one, which I DON'T, right?) our cul-de-sac street wasn't part of an actual neighborhood in Maryland, so while we often saw the evidence of these kinds of things, we were never included in them...and yeah, I'm excited to participate, so what? Anyway, I began considering what to purchase at Target to put into a basket for whoever we chose to "trick" the following night...but Derek brought the discussion to a screeching halt when he crowed, "Hey, I've got an idea! Let's just make it easy--put in 2 cans of beer and leave a sign that says 'You've been...BUSCHED'!" Oh. Good. Heavens. (You see what I have to work with? And this is why, my friends, I NEVER consult the Male Trio when planning holiday festivities...)

--And finally, since we're already sharing Derek's...ahem...razor-sharp-wit...or what have you...we'll bring this to a close with tales from the Senior's recent educational adventures. You see, he experienced not one, but TWO field trips this past week. The first involved a visit to a Health Careers Symposium at UNC Hospital. On a side note, Derek reported that--even though the High School kids' activities were confined to the medical portion of the campus--it was still interesting to be at the university when the undergraduate students are in attendance, and to witness the atmosphere that occurs during a semester.

As for the actual event, he got to participate in some hands-on lessons--for example, one involving fake (dummy) patients and the practice of health care techniques. The directions said to "administer a solution of sodium chloride." At which point my beloved child tells me that he turned toward his friend Mac, who was across the room, and called, "How about we just give them SALT, instead?" (Face...palm... ) Of course he was kidding, and achieved his desired result, which was reducing Mac to hysterical laughter. However, when recounting this to me he commented that, "Now a bunch of kids from snooty private schools think Chapel Hill is full of idiots!" He sounded entirely too gleeful--and satisfied--about this, if you ask me...but at least he had a good time? (Whatever...he didn't get thrown out, and I didn't get a call from his teacher, so we'll just move on...)

His other excursion had him traveling to a spot in Durham on the Eno River, to collect soil samples for analysis by his AP Environmental Science class. Beforehand, he was entirely unthrilled by the prospect of wading, in late-ish October. When he returned, though, he admitted that it had been fairly amusing--even if the only reason was because he missed yet another day of confinement in the actual school building, and instead got to advance his knowledge in the Great Outdoors.

So, there you have it: a week full of sports...Halloween stuff (both K-12, and higher learning varieties). And now, for a weekend full of....N-O-T-H-I-N-G...whoo hoo!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

That's two Carolinas...checked off the list!

This will go down in the history of Team WestEnders as the week of %$*& College Deadline...Distress. First off, I did mention in a previous post that the applications were all available more than 2 months ago, right? And that the Senior (bless his heart) procrastinated until the calendar read October before actually, you know, beginning to take any steps to complete them? (Which is the reason why it has become a code word in our family--if anyone mentions putting off a task, or not having enough time to do something, someone will cut them off by yelling "AUGUST!", effectively silencing their complaining and letting them know there's no sympathy for those who wait until the Last. Possible. Minute. Yeah, we've heard that word a LOT in this house lately, as you can imagine...)

Even though the actual applications are now online (unlike when I was doing them, and had to copy the details by hand, over...and over...), they still involve a great deal of information, and therefore take time and effort. (I mean, seriously--name, address, parents, blah blah blah...sure, those are tedious, but make sense. But is it really necessary to enter each and every class you've taken in High at a time? When you're getting an official record sent to you separately anyway? I'm asking for a frazzled friend, of course...) Also, we were dismayed to discover that, after all the big talk about the Common App, only one of Derek's potential schools actually uses it. Another two use the Coalition App, but that still leaves 4 unique submissions he's going to have to manage. (Bottom Line: more work. Yaaayyyy....)

Then there's the fact that he neglected to ask for recommendations...until 2 weeks before they were due. "Um, honey? It would probably be in your best interest to give your very busy teachers more of a come up with and write down complimentary things about you." (Since it's your future, and all....just sayin'...) Aaaannnnd, the transcript requests, which the Guidance Department would process and send out...with the properly completed form, an address (email or physical), an envelope if the particular university demanded a paper copy rather than an electronic version...and the designated fee, of course.

But before we could even turn in those "please send my transcript to X, Y, and Z institution" papers, Derek informed me we had to sign...the FERPA. I'm sorry, the what, now? (All I could think of when he told me was the Disney cartoon, Phineas and Ferb, and I couldn't imagine what they had to do with higher education. In my defense, it was nearing midnight in the midst of a grueling session of college...stuff...and I was a little loopy at the time....) Anyway...I would say that both of us are intelligent, computer literate, and sensible people...and I'm here to tell you that it nevertheless took our combined efforts, 2 different attempts, and about 30 minutes of precious time to locate that stupid FERPA thingie, nestled deeeeeep within the Common App's endless pages of data. Aaaaarghhhhhh!

But with that having been digitally accepted--by simply typing your name into the box, thank goodness--we could once again move forward. Um...where were we? Oh, yeah: checking to see whether Derek's test scores had already been sent to the various schools...which at least for the ones due this weekend, was a "yes". (Whew! We'll order those other ones...soon....) And then, I kid you not, Derek finally faced the writing portion of his job. You heard me: the day before the deadline, he composed 2 short answer responses and modified a longer autobiographical essay his AP English teacher had assigned at the beginning of the term...for just such an emergency. (Wise man, that one...remind me to thank him profusely...)

He then asked me to proofread/edit/make suggestions--which I was quite willing to do, of course. However, he was probably...less pleased...with my actual comments, since they involved such things as, oh, reworking entire sections, adding more personal examples, and in one case....starting over from scratch. (Yeeeahhh, it was a loooong afternoon o'fun, I tell ya...) Oh, and let's not forget the crucial step of--how shall I put this? "Cutting the fluff and tightening things up" to meet the strict word-count requirements of those unforgiving boxes in the online applications. Oy. I'm pretty sure it's the left side of my brain that hurts at the moment. (So what am I doing in my free time? Yep, writing about it...that's it, I've officially lost my marbles, y'all...)

Finally, at long last, there was only one step left: pay the "Admissions Office". Could it possibly be as easy as entering the credit card number and clicking "Submit"? Hahahahaha--of course not! The Common App caused us a bit of panic, since after we'd dutifully, thoroughly "Reviewed" the magic "Continue" button appeared to guide us along our way. Derek and I each tried...multiple times...even clearing the browsing history and closing down Chrome to see if it could be a random glitch in cyberspace. When even those drastic measures failed to solve the problem, we abandoned Derek's computer to try another machine...which for whatever reason cooperated beautifully and allowed us to finish the process. ("I don't know, honey--maybe it's something in your security know....cookies...or whatever." Yeah, they don't call me Tech Support for nothing...snicker...)

Derek and I looked at each other--somewhat weary and shell-shocked--and suddenly broke into huge grins, and high-fived. "Whoo hoo! Two down, buddy! Doesn't that feel great?" He agreed that it did, indeed...and what he tactfully DIDN'T say was that it was also a huuuuuge relief that now his mother could quit nagging him about it for a while...or at least until the next 2 are the end of October. GAH! But for the moment, he's earned some video game time, and I'm gonna spend a quality evening with whatever light and cheerful TV programming I can find. And just some preliminary testing of the Halloween chocolate...all with the goal of resting up and mentally preparing for Round 2, naturally!

Monday, October 9, 2017

A Day in Durham

Friday was a gorgeous October day--warm but not scorching, brightly sunny, lightly breezy--that just screamed, "Get outside, spend some time in the fresh air, and enjoy this weather!" But first, there were things to do, of course...a physical therapy session...unavoidable Target and grocery store excursions (darn my family's insatiable demands for food...and personal hygiene products! Wait a minute, scratch that last one--it's true that the Male Trio doesn't require many toiletries, but I'll happily purchase them...for obvious reasons...). By the time I finished with the Must Do list, it was already noon, so I didn't want to venture too far afield for my entertainment.

Hmm....where to go that's relatively close by...offers an opportunity to walk around and sightsee a bit...and most importantly, provides lunch options, since by now I was starving? Well, when you put it that way, our friendly neighbor known as Durham seemed to fit the bill. Besides, I feel like I almost never go there, which is ridiculous, since it's right next door, so to speak. So I grabbed my camera and saddled up--um, "hopped in the Subaru""--for a short drive to the Bull City.

I used my phone's navigation app to direct me to an address "downtown", because the only place Team WestEnders goes on a regular basis is the DBAP for baseball games...but I needn't have bothered, as the parking deck where I left my car turned out to be within sight of the ballpark anyway. (Yeah, it turns out that "downtown" isn't all that big--file that useful little tidbit away for future jaunts!) Therefore I recognized where I was, for sure, but still hadn't actually strolled the sidewalks of that particular area before--so off I went.

Aaaaannnnd, Durham did not disappoint. I think what I appreciated most about it was the charming mix of history--as evidenced by the well-preserved buildings and commemorative statues sprinkled throughout the center of the city--and modern cool, with a seemingly endless variety of hip coffee shops, trendy boutiques, and unique restaurants.

In fact, it was while I was snapping pictures in front of one of the former (a grand, stately post office) that an intriguing sign for one of the latter caught my eye. From a distance, it appeared to show I stood there for a moment, pondering out loud several things that were running through my mind. Such as, "Why is the poultry blue?" "Why isn't there a name of any kind on the banner, which might explain...anything at all about it?" And finally, "I wonder what kind of establishment that actually is?"

Clearly, I had to find out! (And I also figured it would be best to move on, before people started looking at me funny, since I was standing in the middle of the sidewalk...essentially having a conversation with myself. If I'm being honest, I do this probably more often than is strictly, you know, "normal" One of these days it's probably gonna come around to bite me in the butt. Until then, I'll make the most of my freedom to be out and about in the big, wide world...without appointed supervision...)

Anyway, the answer was: a small cafe called Scratch (which was helpfully noted on the OTHER side of the sign), serving what appeared from the menu to be delicious organic, farm-to-table types of dishes. Um...yes, please--this has ME written all over it! The chili-roasted sweet potato salad (on a bed of local lettuces, with bleu cheese vinaigrette and pecan cornbread croutons) called my name...and it was deeee-licious. (Bonus: my children would have been utterly horrified by the...let's call it "crunchy granola tree-hugger nature" of this place, so the fact that I got to savor a meal here on my own was hugely satisfying...)

And for the icing on the cake, if you will, when I emerged back into the sunlight from my lunchtime rest and refresh and took a good look around, I instantly knew where I was...a mere block or so away from an awesome venue called 9th Street Bakery...where past (scrumptious) experience reminds me that they sell a mouth-watering vegan, gluten free pumpkin bar. But since they make everything in-house, it remained to be seen whether they'd be stocking those fabulous sweets on this given day. Sure enough, when I walked in the front door, holding my breath, I immediately spotted them in the display case...and BOOM, my Durham adventure was...sweetly complete.

Suffice it to say that I was one happy camper as I headed back to my car. Photos, food, and fun...on a free Friday--what more could I ask for...except maybe another pumpkin bar? ( time I'm buying TWO of those things...) Thanks, Durham--and peace out, for now!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"Applying yourself" (or...not...)

Well, folks, here we are...T-minus-12 days and counting until the first bunch of Derek's college applications are due. Okay, okay, there are only 2 of them in this initial batch. And admittedly, this deadline is for "Early Action"--that is, if you want to get your name in, have your credentials evaluated, and be informed in January, rather than wait longer, with the kids who go the regular decision route and hear back later in the Spring. So honestly, there's no actual penalty for missing the October 15th date, per se...but (this will come as a HUGE shock, I'm sure) I've been prodding Derek since the Summer to just to ahead and get stuff out of the way.

Why the...parental pressure? For one thing, at each of the campus tours we took, the Admissions Office made sure to highlight the fact that they tend to select a large portion of their Freshman class from these Fall submissions...and consider them for the full range of potential scholarship monies as well. (C'mon, say it with me--cha-ching!) Furthermore, let's face it, Senior year isn't going to get any easier, the deeper into it you get--not with 3 challenging AP courses on your plate, anyway. And finally...wouldn't you just prefer to find out how you stand--one way or the other--sooner rather than later?

With these compelling (says me) arguments in mind--and also because it's no secret that I'm...super-obsessively...organized (notice how I'm using the most positive spin?) even if my son isn't...I organized a Word document for Derek, listing the due dates and required materials for each of the schools he'd selected. (I know, I know, "Of COURSE you did!" And also, "Aren't you coddling the teenager? Shouldn't he really be doing this himself?" And I reply: "Yes...and yes." And in my defense....ish...I've already copped to the Type A personality, right? So I kind of can't help myself. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it...)

Besides, in theory, Derek should totally have his act together...since I'd dragged him along with me to the High School's Senior Parent Information Night in September. When I informed him he'd be accompanying me, you should have seen the flabbergasted look on his face. His voice rising incredulously, he sputtered, "You mean...I have to GO to that?" My rationale was something along the lines of, "It'll do you good to actually hear the presentation yourself, rather than me coming home and just telling you about it." (Which I'm sure he'd vastly prefer, but at least he had the sense to refrain from saying it...out loud...)

Aaaaannnd, you can probably guess that I got quite a bit out of it--as my copious notes attest--but he didn't retain many of the pertinent facts. Mostly he sat beside me and produced a steady stream of smart-aleck comments under his breath, causing me to shush him repeatedly so I could pay attention. (Sigh...I swear, how is it that sometimes our beloved almost-adult children can seem to be 17...going on 4?)

Oh the very least, it prompted him to seriously ponder his pool of desirable universities--and even chat with some of his buddies who are in the same...pre-collegiate boat, if you will. For example, Derek relayed a very useful tidbit from Mac--namely that NC State requires you to apply to a specific major, rather than a general studies track. Also notable, Mac reminded us that State is known for several specialties (among them, Engineering, Architecture, and Veterinary Sciences)...and therefore, if you don't happen to want to do any of these things, you might not be happy there.

Sounds like the basis for quite a thoughtful and mature conversation, doesn't it? Would you like to hazard a guess as to how Derek actually conveyed this newfound intel to me? He'd just come home one evening from working a shift at Subway...and was headed to the shower when he bumped into me in the hallway and shared his NC State revelations. After getting all of that out in somewhat of a rush, he paused and grinned, "But we can talk about this more later. Because I probably shouldn’t be making any important college decisions... at 11:30 p.m…in my underwear!" ( probably goes without saying, but I completely agree...)

Anyway, the result of these and other discussions was that a few institutions disappeared from the Master List, one was added, and the final tally came to: 7 (of which only 2 of them needed to be completed by October 15th, as I previously mentioned). However, did I leave out the fact that the applications generally become available around August 1st? I'll give you, oh, one guess as to how much effort Derek put in...before the school term began? Or, in September? That's right, WHY NOT wait until less than 2 weeks before all of the pieces are due, and THEN start thinking about preparing your writing samples, filling out the online demographic data, requesting letters of recommendation from teachers, gathering transcripts and counselor statements, and forwarding standardized test scores? (Seriously, dude, are you TRYING to drive your mother out of her ever-loving mind? 'Cuz it's working!)

Ay yi yi. The good news/bad news of the situation is that UNC is one of the first up....and also by FAR the most rigorous application among Derek's choices. So...he'll be hustling to wrangle all the parts in time...but then he can relax when it's finished? Fortunately, the only other one due right now is the more southern of the Carolinas...which has waaaaay less stringent demands. He can't exactly take too much of a breather, though, as a couple more of his schools have November 1st Early Action dates. And then--whoo hoo--he has the entire month of November to get the final 3 turned in--which by that point should be a piece o'cake, yeah? (Fingers most definitely crossed...)

Whew! The upshot is: someone has a LOT to do in the next fortnight or so...which realistically I expect will also involve me, in some kind of support capacity--even if only to enter the credit card details for each university's application fee! Hmmm...come to think of it, I feel like I'd better check what I wrote down from that presentation last month, as I vaguely recall something about a form I'm supposed to complete, describing my child, so the counseling department can familiarize themselves with him before sending references to colleges, blah blah blah. Oops--looks like I have some homework of my own to do, to keep this process moving forward! Sooooo, I guess we'll suck it up and suffer together...Mother/Son bonding, here we come....yaaaaayyyy...

Friday, September 29, 2017

At least I picked up HALF of what I need to know...

This week, I attended what used to be called Back to School Night, but has recently been re-branded the Open House. (Please indulge me a moment while I skate off onto a mini-tangent: may I just say that this strikes me as ridiculous marketing...bogusness? I mean, at Open Houses you have swanky hors d'oeuvres and trendy cocktails, right? And what do you get at Back to School Night? Syllabi...and PowerPoint shows...which, don't get me wrong, would TOTALLY be better with booze and snacks. But they're trying to fool us with some kind of tricky spin campaign, I tell ya, and I'm not buying into it. For crying out loud, we don't even get...cookies and lemonade--sheesh! Someone tell me why I drag myself to these things again? Oh, right...the beloved children, and supporting their learning, and all that jazz. Oh-kay, back on topic...)

The first thing I feel compelled to mention is that I'll only be forced--I mean "privileged"--to show up at ONE whatever-they-want-to-call-it this year, for the first time since the kids were in 5th and 2nd grades and enrolled at the same Elementary School. Fast forward seven years, and they're both students at their final stop on the old educational train: Chapel Hill High. This means that I only had to give up one evening, rather than two, to learn all about my children's teachers and courses. (Yay!) However, it also presented a dilemma, as I'm obviously only an individual...with two how was I going to cover both of their schedules?

Now, I can imagine what you may be thinking: "Two parents, two offspring...what's the big deal? Aren't you being dramatic for nothing?" But you see, Husband has participate in these types of events. I don't know if he's secretly intimidated by the prospect of wandering around an unfamiliar building, surrounded by crowds of strangers (as I've done for years, by the way, with nary a scar to show for it). Or if he dreads sitting through the instructors' presentations (which are always at best, very interesting, and at worst, utterly benign). Whatever the case, he just...won't do it. This year, in fact, he tried to float the following excuse: "C'mon, Derek's a we reeeeallly have to check up on him?" Um...the short answer is I guess that leaves me to be the Team WestEnders usual.

So we're back to the issue of the uneven parent/child ratio, of course. In an attempt to resolve the disparity, I jotted down both the 9th and 12th graders' daily agendas side-by-side, to help me figure out how to...divide and conquer, if you will. And guess what I discovered by doing so? For the most part, their core classes overlap (Math 1st period, English 4th, History 6th, etc.). Which also puts their...ahem..."fluffier" courses (Yeah, I believe they call those "electives"...) in the same time slots. In other words, I'd have no choice but to decide which important subjects to blow off, for each of them. Oy.

Derek happened to be with me in the kitchen while I attempted to puzzle this out, so he weighed in with his two-cents whenever I was waffling about which direction to go. Here's how it shook out when we rolled the...academic dice: 1) Riley's Math, since he'd expressed a bit of concern about it in the early part of the term; 2) Derek has his Study Period, and Riley has I planned to skip both of them and wander the halls...hopefully not appearing guilty, like I was playing hooky (which I totally was...SHHHH, don't tell!); 3) APES (A.P. Environmental Science); 4) A.P. Lit (these won out due to the higher level of content and potential impact on college credit).

Oh, Heaven help me, I'm only halfway through the day? Okay, to continue: 5) Honors Drafting (Riley's--because again, he was feeling a little shaky about the topics and techniques that would be taught. And also, Derek had an intro to Graphic Design at this time...taught by one of the soccer coaches with whom we're both familiar, so it's safe to say I already felt reasonably comfortable with that whole setup...); 6) Derek's History class (simply because he talks about how much he likes this instructor, and how funny he is, All. The. Time...and I just couldn't pass up an opportunity to meet him for myself); and FINALLY 7) Riley's Biology (you guessed it--one more instance of the Freshman experiencing some "growing pains" as he adjusts to a particular educator's style of presenting the subject matter).

Whew! It's a darn good thing each mini-lecture is only 10 minutes--and I suspect this is for everyone's benefit, school staff and parents alike! As for the actual time spent parked in those unforgivingly...tush-numbing...student desks, it was mostly the standard stuff: "Here are my classroom policies, teaching methods, contact information, blah blah blah...." The only thing that broke up the routine--as anticipated--was Derek's American History teacher.

It just so happened that my "commute" between 5th and 6th periods was the longest walk of the evening, so I sauntered into the room a minute or two late. I tried to do this quietly, politely, and in a thoroughly non-disruptive manner, but Mr. C had other ideas. As I slid into a seat, he finished his sentence, then extended his arm, pointed at me, and boomed, "And whose parent are you?" (It's worth mentioning, here, that he's quite tall....and has a rather deep voice. Although he only seemed curious, rather than angry, it was a little daunting to be singled out and....interrogated...I'm not gonna lie.) "Oh well," I thought, "Better to just own up to it right away, I suppose." Therefore I admitted to being Derek's mother.

As for Mr. C...neither his tone nor his facial expression changed much, but he nodded in recognition and replied, "Ah, yes...Derek." He paused just a beat--barely long enough for me to begin wondering whether I was about to be congratulated on my fine son, in which case I'd offer a humble, brief expression of gratitude...or publicly chastised for his behavior/performance/attitude/what have you...for which I'd need to hastily prepare and deliver a sincere apology. Fortunately, he ended the (short-lived, mercifully) agony of suspense by continuing, "I'm glad he got that bug thing taken care of, right?" Oh. Good. Grief.

I burst into a (relieved) chuckle and agreed that yes, indeed, banishing the...little parasite problem...was a positive development...and then, thankfully, we were able to move on to other matters. (That's my darling son, the minor celebrity....siiiighhhh...) So anyway, Mr. C's entire chat was characterized by the same dry, humorous demeanor, sprinkled liberally with mild sarcasm and gently scathing social commentary. It was hi-lar-ious, I tell ya--as in, I continuously struggled not to laugh out loud and draw even more attention to myself. No wonder Derek loves the guy--I hope he keeps bringing home stories, so I can enjoy him vicariously this year!

It was an entertaining way to end my mock academic experience, no doubt. All in all, I left the school feeling enlightened and informed, which is, after all, the goal of these events. And for the moment, my parental duty is DONE...oh, for about a week...until October 4th, when they're holding a Financial Aid Workshop for parents whose kids are planning to attend college next year.'s totally Husband's turn--maybe I can get him to take this one...I'll just tell him it's an Open House...with finger sandwiches...and BEER! (I'm soooo off the hook, aren't I? Whoo hoo!)

Monday, September 25, 2017

September Saturday...Stuff

If you could do anything your heart desired on a glorious Fall Saturday, how would you choose to spend your time? Well, for the Male Trio of Team WestEnders, this is what they'd call a classic no-brainer. In fact, you wouldn't even be able to finish the question before they'd shoot you an incredulous look and interrupt with two words: College. Football! (The "DUH" would be clearly implied, but I'd like to believe they'd be polite enough to refrain from actually saying it aloud...a mother can hope, anyway...) As for me, two Rs would top my list of preferred activities--reading...and relaxing.

And this week, we would definitely get around to those delightful leisure pursuits...that is, after we took care of the other pressing matters on our agendas. First up, the lads were scheduled for a service learning opportunity from 10-2. This was the Eco-Crew that Derek got hooked up with last year, in which he'd go to a nearby farm once a month and help out with various maintenance tasks around the property. Since Riley is now in High School and eligible to begin accruing his required hours-- and also because Derek had found his manual labors to be both satisfying and enjoyable--I suggested that the younger brother tag along and see how he liked it.

When they returned home after their shift--tired, dirty, and hungry--they both reported that they had, in fact, spent a pleasant chunk of time doing "lots of shoveling...and". The way I see it, they not only provided some valuable assistance, but they thoroughly earned their sports-watching snacks and couch time for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. To use the inevitable athletics metaphor: Everybody wins!

Meanwhile, I would be busy with a different type of physical endeavor--a 5K run I'd stubbornly signed up for a month or so ago, when I'd decided to ignore my uncooperative knee...and hope for the best. I was originally drawn to this particular event because of its intriguing title, the Blue Blood Rivalry Race. A visit to the website revealed that it's set up as a Duke vs. UNC competition of sorts, in which you're able to designate which color shirt you want, in order to demonstrate your support for either school. Light Carolina blue, darker (mumble mumble "that other institution") blue, or even a white option, which I'm assuming is for those who are so bold as to wish to represent NC State.

Okay, that was amusing enough to get me interested, but I was completely sold when I read that the proceeds would benefit UNC's Lineberger (Cancer) Center and Duke Children's Hospital. Done, and DONE! Also of note to me, I hadn't yet participated in a run held in this neighborhood, so the course would hypothetically be new, fresh, and exciting. Whoo hoo! (Of course, there's always the chance that it could also be difficult...or even unpleasant...but ya pays your money, and ya takes your chances, I always say. Or some such nonsense...)

Some other perks became evident on the morning of the actual event--such as the fact that it took me less than 15 minutes to get there. And because the Starting/Finishing line is located in a shopping center, there's plenty of easy, free parking, only steps away from all the action. As for the route itself, it wound through residential streets, with plenty of volunteers lining the path to keep you on track... just in case you missed the helpful arrows they'd chalked onto the actual road itself for you to follow. (Note: well done and much appreciated, organizers!) Oh, and any time you might encounter traffic, like at intersections, there were friendly police officers to manage the situation, ensuring the safety of both cars and pedestrians.

Therefore, with nothing else to worry about, I could focus on, you know, the "running" aspect of the 3.1 miles. Aaaannnd...let's lead off with the upside: no complaints from the knee. (Well...honestly there shouldn't have been, since I'd gotten a cortisone shot only a week ago--but apparently, it worked, so that's terrific!) However, for some reason my legs felt very tired, making it seem like I was slogging through, I don't Play-Doh, or something. (Hey, just trying to stick with the theme, here...) Which was a bit of a shame, really, since my initial impression of this course is that it was the easiest one I've experienced, since moving to Chapel Hill. Mostly flat, with only gentle inclines--it was kind of ideal, actually. Too bad I didn't have more energy...I doggedly chugged along, breathing hard, on leaden legs, feeling slooooow.

So it came as a total shock when I approached the end and caught a glimpse of the timer flashing above the Finish Line--somehow I'd managed to complete the race in 29 minutes...a feat I'm pretty sure I've never accomplished while running in North Carolina. So...we can reasonably conclude that it's definitely a fast course...and thus perhaps my new favorite--ha! As a bonus, everyone who successfully finishes gets a medal, which was heavy and attractive and kind of cool, as it includes the blue shades of both universities. It wasn't until later, though, that I realized the most awesome aspect of the souvenir: it's a bottle opener! You know, for when the two schools' football teams face off against one another...which was happening later that day. Yeeeaaahhhh...I missed that, like completely, 'cuz I don't follow football the way my kids do. BUT if anyone needs their beer--or soda, whatever--cracked open, I'm now your girl!

Anyway, after this...practically life-changing--revelation, there was still more fabulousness to come. For instance, the samples being offered by vendors at the site...vegan protein shake, anyone? All-natural energy drink made from tea and juice? (Both yummy, by the way, in my humble gluten-free vegetarian opinion...) And finally, something I'd never seen before, in any previous race: electronic score reporting. That's right: you just walk up to the table, allow a very nice gentleman to punch your bib number into his tablet, and watch in astonishment as a machine spits out a...receipt-looking-thingie...with all of your stats plainly displayed. Mind. Blown.

So I've gotta say, all-in-all it was a pretty entertaining way to spend a September Saturday morning. (Just...maybe...minus the actual kilometers of pounding the pavement? Joking! No matter how challenging it may be, getting your exercise out of the way early is always of my Life Mottos...) And you know what? Now that I'm paying attention, I've figured out that there's another, BASKETBALL edition in March, so maybe Team WestEnders can plan ahead and all take part in that one together. After all, it's for a worthy cause, it's a useful training distance for our fitness-minded family...and frankly, the more folks decked out in UNC gear at this party, the better! (Go, Tarheels!)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Made it to Friday...whoo hoo!

It was "one of those weeks"--you know the kind I'm talking about, right? Not traumatic or difficult, or anything like that, thank goodness...just lots of places to go/details to keep straight/items to check off the To Do list. (Wait, I know there's a word for that; what was it again? Oh, right...LIFE.) Maybe you can relate to this as well: my ironclad organizational system, my reserves of energy, and my allowance of patience--all of which seemed solid on Monday--begin to dwindle and fray as the weekdays march onward. Therefore, when Friday finally arrived I felt thoroughly discombobulated (Where am I supposed to be going, again?), mildly exhausted (Ugh, all of this...stuff...needs to get done today?), aaaannnnd a wee bit grouchy (But I don't waaaaaanaaaa!).

However, right there in black and white (or, you know, "pencil") I could clearly read where I'd written, "appointment with physical therapist", and if there's one fact I can always count on, it's that the planner never lies. So, off I went to kick start my Friday with some super-fun...exercises. Yay? I'm kidding--it was fine, really...and if the treatment succeeds in finally convincing my obnoxious left knee to calm down and behave (read: "stop hurting when I run, thankyouverymuch") it will be totally worth every ounce of work. Besides, the practice I chose to administer my p.t. program has two important things going for it: 1) they did a fabulous job with Riley when he saw them to rehab his broken leg and 2) they're located a Dunkin' Donuts to justify a coffee run either before or after each visit. Yep, that's what we call a Win/Win, y'all!

Once that task was accomplished, I opted for a bit of fun, taking a Friday...flower...Fall...field trip. I'd read about a rose garden--free and open to public wandering--located behind a theater in Raleigh. Although today technically marked the Autumnal Equinox, the weather didn't seem to have gotten the message, providing yet another blazingly sunny, scorchingly hot, damply muggy day. So it was somewhat of a sweaty endeavor, admiring all of the brightly colored, well-manicured blooms...but at least I couldn't complain about the conditions, which were perfect for my camera to capture the beauty. And the occasional obliging insect as well!

 After Part One of the entertainment portion of my day, I had a couple of hours to knock out some chores: buy new socks, check; squeeze in a quick workout, check; pick up my race bib for tomorrow morning, check. Then...oh, yeah...leisure activities, Part Two, the Soccer Showdown. You see, the Chapel Hill Tigers (my kids' school team) were facing off against their cross-town rivals, the East Chapel Hill Wildcats (okay, the campuses are really only about a mile apart, but trust me, in a town this size, it's a Big Deal when they play each other, nevertheless). This first meeting of the season would be at East, so I headed over to cheer on Riley's squad.

Alas, in the initial 2017 Junior Varsity clash of the...ferocious felines....East came away with the victory. But fortunately, when I caught up with him after the game, Riley didn't seem too bothered by the defeat. Of course, this might perhaps be due to the fact that he'd already asked if we could pick up dinner at Subway...since it conveniently lay directly in our path on the way home....and because he knew his brother would be making sandwiches behind the counter that night. Believe it or not, somehow we had not yet stopped by to torment--I mean "offer our patronage to"--Derek during one of his shifts, so I agreed that it was high time we did so.

And I've gotta say, Riley seemed to get a huge kick out of ordering his older brother around and getting him to construct a sub to his exact specifications. On the other hand, there's really nothing I can eat there, so I had to amuse myself in a different way. Such as asking Derek as many inane questions as I could possibly think of  while we had his full attention (there were no other customers at the moment who needed him--probably much to his chagrin). "Do you have gluten free bread?" I began. "Mom," he replied in an exasperated tone, "NO--this is SUBWAY!" Not to be deterred, I tried, "Is there any tofu?" He just glared at me and declined to respond, so I felt compelled to continue, "Are your vegetables organic?" He sighed. "Are your ingredients locally sourced?" Now he was completely ignoring me, but I was on a roll. (Ha! Sorry, that was actually unintentional...but see how I'm not erasing it? I'm just cracking myself up, at this point...) Finally he'd finished putting together Riley's sandwich, so I had to throw in my last query, "Honestly, do you guys make sure the animals where you get your...artificial, preservative-laden lunchmeat...are ethically treated?"

I'm probably lucky he didn't choose to chuck something at me, in hindsight...but he was absolutely a good sport about it--though I can only imagine how thrilled he must have been when he could ring us up, take our money...and get us (well...ME) the heck out of his hair. To be fair, I put a nice tip in the jar for his troubles, so I think he'll forgive me--eventually. Oh yeeeaaaeah, this is Derek we're talking about--the one whose ability to hold a grudge is, oh, approximately I'm sure he's entirely forgotten about it by now! (That simply means I can get started on thinking up a new list of ridiculous things to badger him about the next time we just so happen to wander into his place of employment...mwah hah hah!)

Anyway, thus ends a somewhat whirlwind week. Now it's time to relax....hmm....except for the 5K I'm running at 8:30 on Saturday. Oh, and shortly after that, the boys are volunteering for a 4-hour Eco-Crew for service learning credits. Then Husband has a soccer match. I was planning to pop out at some point to buy light bulbs at the home improvement store. While I'm at it, we always need a few things from the supermarket. Of course, there's the Fresh Air Fitness group I meet up with on Sundays..right, and church afterwards. Aaaaahhhhh! That's it, I'm going to bed now, before I think of anything else! 'Night, all....

Sunday, September 17, 2017

When real life is stranger than fiction...

Okay, folks...this doesn't often happen, but I feel compelled to offer a disclaimer for today's tale. Let's just say...the "ick factor" will be quite high...meaning it's not a narrative for the faint of...stomach. There, you've been warned (ominous, eerie music). So, shall we continue (chipper game show host voice)?

We have to start about a month or so ago, when--overnight, as best I can recall--large, angry, red bumps appeared on both boys' legs. I instantly jumped to the (logical) conclusion that something had bitten them--we assumed spider---while they were playing together in the front yard or on the school field that they tend to frequent for their pickup games. It just so happened that Riley's yearly well-visit with his pediatrician was scheduled for soon after that, so we asked the doctor about it while we were there. After inspecting the area, Dr. W diagnosed a minor skin infection called cellulitis, prescribed a topical antibiotic, and moved on to other matters. That seemed to be the end of it, since Riley diligently followed instructions in applying the cream--which in turn did its job and cleared up the problem.

In contrast, Derek's...battle wound...didn't seem to be ALL. Even when Husband and I advised him to start borrowing Riley's medicine, the spot remained large, scaly, inflamed, and crimson. (Hey, I told you it wouldn't be pretty, didn't I? Hang on, it gets much, much worse...) Oh, and did I forget to mention that it oozed? (Yeah, it was pretty grotesque, I'm not gonna lie.) Finally, (this past Thursday, to be exact) I'd had enough of this nonsense, and informed Derek that I was dragging him to the doctor for an expert opinion. He grumbled about it not being necessary, of course, and we had to negotiate the best time for me to take him away from his classes so he didn't miss anything too important, but I stood my ground and made the appointment.

That's how we found ourselves at the physician's office on Friday afternoon, for Dr. W to have a look-see at Derek's calf. Now, I feel I should insert just a little bit of background, here, and tell you that in the time we've been acquainted with him, Dr. W has always come across as a quiet, soft-spoken, laid-back guy. This occasion was no different, as he peered intently at Derek's leg and did some poking and prodding, while simultaneously asking questions about the symptoms and whatnot. It was all done in his usual calm and methodical manner...until I sensed his demeanor. It was verrrry subtle, but his expression altered just a fraction...and I couldn't immediately ascertain what it meant. His probing seemed to become more purposeful, and I got the impression that he was trying to camouflage something from showing on his face--but I wasn't sure whether it was concern...or excitement.

Right about then, he abruptly exclaimed--but still in his professional, soothing, "nothing to get alarmed about" voice--"There's something in there--do you see it?" Startled despite his best attempt to...probably prevent parental freak-out, I squeaked, "WHAT? WHERE?" It didn't even occur to me that both of us were completely ignoring Derek at this point--you know, the one whose body was supposedly harboring an alien life form? Nah, we were 100% focused on trying to catch a glimpse of the...creature--though to be honest, without a magnifying glass, I wasn't able to actually lay eyes on what had gotten Dr. W so hyped. But trust me, I was content to take his word for it. Now, I realized that the widened eyes and newly-animated tone to his voice meant that the good doctor was...kind of like the proverbial "kid in a candy store" in terms of how much he was thrilled by this...experience. (I'm not kidding--had he been a more demonstrative man, I truly thought he might jump up and down with glee...)

Satisfied with his investigation, Dr. W stood up and formulated a plan of attack...which initially consisted of consulting with a dermatologist, to figure out how the HECK to...extract this unwelcome guest from my child. He excused himself from the room...leaving Derek and me to our shell-shocked selves. In my mind, the conversation that ensued will go down as one of the most memorable in the annals of WestEnders lore, as I first asked my beloved offspring, "REALLY, Derek? Between your brother's traumatic seashell encounter and your exotic...bug infestation...could you possibly invent any more ridiculous ways to get injured?" To which he snorted and replied, "Yeah, you're welcome." Then he became more serious and wondered, "Oh, jeez, what should I tell people when they ask why I wasn't in school this afternoon?" Which led both of us to the realization that he absolutely had to relay the true story to at least one person--someone who would most appreciate the gory details: his former AP Biology teacher, who used to enthusiastically share with his students his own history of medical misfortunes from his time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa.

But the whole thing came entirely off the rails when in the midst of discussing the whole...situation...a crazy thought occurred to me: "Hey, do you think we can take it HOME with us?" Luckily Dr. W prevented Derek's response to this, when he returned with an update: "Well, the dermatologist has never seen one of these, either, so he said for me to just go ahead and remove it." Um...yippee? On the plus side, they'd been able to identify what, exactly, we were dealing with--a botfly larvae. (I'll pause here for a second so we can all go...EWWWWWWW. Seriously, don't think too much about it, just plow ahead with me...) You see, I had reminded Dr. W that the fam had traveled to Belize on vacation this year, which had helpfully led him to determine that Derek had picked up the rainforest. (And can I just say...Holy horror movie, Batman...Worst. Souvenir. E-V-E-R.)

But Dr. W had decided how to proceed by now, so he continued to explain, still in that reassuring way of his, "First I'll inject a numbing agent around the site, and wait a few minutes for it to take effect. Then I might have to make a small incision to widen the hole so I can get to the larvae. Finally, I'll use...whatever tool is get it out of there." He finished with an apologetic, "I  might have to dig a little. I can't say it's going to be...pleasant." Perhaps realizing that this wasn't terribly good news, he hastened to add brightly, "But when I'm done, it'll be gone!"

Oh. My. Goodness. Well, there was nothing to do but get on with it, right? (Yeah, easy for ME to say, sitting comfortably in a nearby chair...invader-free...and not "just about to go under the knife"... sympathetic shudder...) As Dr. W readied the needle, Derek only had one preliminary query: "Am I allowed to say bad words?" All of us in the room unanimously agreed that, "You can let fly with whatever you need to, buddy." (Oh, also, we'd now been joined by the nurse who'd initially checked us in and taken Derek's vitals, as well as another physician we hadn't me before, who was just observing, to satisfy her own curiosity. Yep, it had become quite the circus side show, my friends...)

Without further ado, Dr. W began the (ironic) process of systematically jabbing the sharp object into Derek's flesh, to deliver the pain-blocking serum--an activity that looked about as delightful as it sounds. To his credit, while Derek winced, sucked in his breath, and let out a heartfelt, "OWWWW!" he did not burn anyone's ears with stronger language. And then, it happened. On the third stab, Dr. W said, "Ooh, it doesn't LIKE that! Here it comes!" I swear, people, it was like something out of a sci-fi movie--a picture popped up in my head of a flat desert landscape, with a...worm-like organism...rising up out of it. Except, you know, it was my kid's hairy calf. And a freakin' subtropical parasite. Yes, we can all take a moment here....aaaaaahhhhhhhhh!

Okay, deep breath....Dr. W was totally ready for it; he coolly grabbed the tweezers he had conveniently placed within arm's reach, gently but firmly grasped the...creepy crawly critter...and pulled it free of its host--um "my poor son". Then he plopped it into a specimen dish--for photography purposes, OF COURSE--and voila! Successful outpatient...larvae...ectomy completed! Now the only items that remained to be addressed were: dabbing the spot with Neosporin and covering it with a bandage; phoning in a prescription for an oral antibiotic...just to ensure there were no unforeseen side-effects down the road, from having harbored a parasitic Central American species for oh, approximately SIX WEEKS; and touching base one more time with the dermatologist to see if they wanted to keep the actual bug, or whether the pictures would which case, it could be ours. (Like some kind of twisted version of a...lovely parting gift? But see, I told you we'd get to walk out of there with it!)

After that, Derek and I gathered our wits--and our botfly larvae (who I think really needs a name at this point. I'm open to suggestions...) and headed home. Timing-wise, there was no point in returning him to school by now...not that he could probably have concentrated, anyway. However, Dr. W had been definite that there was no reason to stay away from work that believe it or not, Derek took his shift at Subway, as scheduled. I, meanwhile, relished my upcoming astound...and nauseate...Husband, with the extended version of...Derek's Infestation, 2017. Ha!

Whew! It was an utterly exhausting afternoon and, as Derek succinctly put it, "Soooooo NOT how I expected my Friday to go!" As we did our best to process all the...hoopla...I attempted to impose a philosophical overtone to the event. "Just think," I began, "We're so fortunate that we get to visit these awesome, unique places....and sometimes, I suppose, there can be dangers associated with that. But remember the snorkeling, and the waterfalls, and..." But Derek was having NONE of it. He cut me off with a vehement, "NOPE! Never. Leaving. The country. Again!"

Siiiiighhhhhhh. FINE, be that way...ooh, hold year's idea is to take an Alaskan cruise! It's technically still the U.S.--what could possibly go wrong? (And I mean it, no one had better dare to suggest, "One of you could get eaten by a bear,"!) For now, let's take a nice looooong time to recover...say, until the saga begins to fall more into the category of "Wow, that's kind of...legendary, really " than "Aww, you must be forever-scarred!" I predict we'll be totally back to normal by, oh, let's say travel time next Summer (fingers crossed)!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Senor Senior

A couple of weeks into the new school year seems like a pretty good time to check in with Team WestEnders' resident Upperclassman, yeah? (You know, BEFORE his inevitable, tragic case of Senioritis hits...any bets on how early this will happen? I'm just keeping my fingers crossed we have at least until the end of the first semester before we have to deal with this phenomenon...)

First off, regarding his classes, Derek reports--in his usual understated fashion--"Eh, they're...fine." He does become slightly animated when he describes APES (aka "A.P. Environmental Science"), which he claims offers a whole lot of propaganda to the effect of "It's our responsibility to Save the World!" along with a healthy dose of "Everything Trump does is bad!" thrown in for good measure. On a somewhat related note, he feels that his A.P. Lit course imparts "a constant stream of liberal media"...which as your typical, non-politically-tuned-in, somewhat-apathetic-to-world-affairs teenager, he swallows with a rather large grain of salt.

And while we’re on the subject of his English hour, you might recall that Derek was supposed to come into the fresh academic term having already completed not one, but THREE readings during his Summer vacation? Not only that, but wait 'til you get a load of what these assigned gems were: Hamlet (okay, no problem, that’s a good one…); Their Eyes Were Watching God (which I enjoyed, and he at least understood, but it didn’t really resonate with an adolescent male, if you know what I mean…); and finally (saving the most traumatic and difficult for last)…A (nonsensical) Portrait of the Artist as a Young (painfully odd, self-tortured and unbalanced) Man, by James (Freakin’) Joyce. (Can you guess how we felt about this particular..."masterpiece"? Oy.)

Now, I’m sure it won’t surprise you—or anyone who’s had the pleasure of witnessing firsthand the youthful Summer brain in action…er, make that “inertia”-- that Derek procrastinated until the last possible moments before cracking the spines on these collected works. However, complete them he did, even if it was just in the nick of time. And believe it or not, he was even inspired to share a moment of insight, one morning just before school started, when he commented to me, “I noticed a theme among the 3 stories. The characters’ problems are all basically caused by internal conflict, rather than external factors acting upon them.” Whoa! Where did THAT come from, dude? Oops, what I mean is “Hmm…I hadn’t thought about it that way before...but I’d have to agree.” (Well played, son…I hereby proclaim you ready to go forth and conquer the realm of…12th-grade literary circles…or whatever…)
It turned out to be quite fortunate that he’d followed through on the task—heinous as he might have found it, interrupting his video games and outdoor play, and other assorted leisure activities, and all—because the teacher gave a quiz on the second day of school, to check up on what his students had managed to take away from the texts. (Whew!) That being said, Mr. H also admitted that he, himself, finds Joyce to be somewhat…incomprehensible. So I suspect that this might be one of those “just get through it” units--hopefully leading to something much better? Only time will tell..

Okay, moving right along: in contrast, Derek LOVES his History class--mainly because of his instructor. According to my child, Mr. C uses his pulpit and captive audience to mock the kind of views that Derek lumps into the broad category of "hippie Carrboro stuff"...which is something that Derek and his friend group also tend to do on a regular basis. (

Next, let’s talk about something that happens every day in the middle of all this…studying and whatnot. That’s right: lunch. Normally this activity wouldn’t even merit a footnote in the overall scheme of…life—after all, it’s just a regularly scheduled event, in which I assume Derek congregates with his friends, scarfs down as much food as possible, and hopefully doesn’t cause too much trouble. All well and good...except that, evidently I was missing one crucial piece of data. You see, at Riley’s soccer game the other night, a mom-friend, whose sons and mine are buddies, mentioned that her eldest was under the impression that “Derek and his gang leave campus for lunch”.

I had been nodding along up to now as she spoke--"Mm-hmm, I hear you"--but this little tidbit succeeded in completely derailing my attention. "Hold on...I'm sorry...what, now? This was breaking news to me, so I brought it up with Derek later that night. “Oh, yeah,” he breezily replied, “We come home at lunchtime.” And by “home” he means “Lou’s house”, where they apparently hang out and eat until it’s time to head back for their next period. Huh. Well, that’s just…fascinating, dear. Just out of curiosity, at any point in time were you planning to, I don’t know, INFORM YOUR PARENTS OF THIS DEVELOPMENT? You remember us, right? The ones responsible for your well-being, safety, and behavior? The people who just might be interested in knowing where you are, during the hours you’re supposed to be incarcerated—or “at school”--learning and stuff?

“Sure, I was gonna tell you,” he said with an annoying smirk, “when you asked.” (Must. Resist. Urge. To. Throw. Things. At. Offspring...) So, it seems like this would be an excellent opportunity to have a little chat about how you’re technically still a minor, (for 7 more months…gulp) and obligated to keep your mother and/or father in the loop as to your whereabouts and shenanigans, blah blah blah. Most of all--and I cannot stress this enough--do NOT make me hear things from someone ELSE’S Mom, okay? Thankyouverymuch…

So there you have it: all the current hot topics from a High School Senior’s first few weeks…of his last year in K-12 education. All joking aside, he’s—mostly—beyond the point where he needs much supervision for navigating his…scholarly career. Oh, with the obvious exception of the college application process, which is a whole different can of worms for another day. Yeah, and perhaps some extra practice with the “identifying and communicating crucial life-details to your loving, concerned parents”…issue. But one thing I’m absolutely certain of is: no matter what happensreal life can’t help but make a HECK of a lot more sense than…James Joyce! And we don't even need Cliff Notes--so here we go, let's DO this!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Sometimes I understand the teenage brain...other times, not so much

Now on to something MUCH lighter…let’s take a little field trip to Derek’s world, shall we? (C’mon, it’ll be fun! It’s just a glimpse into the murky thought processes of a 17-year old boy…that can't be scary at all, right? Stick with me, here..)

So, one of those things I gave up on a looooong time ago as a mother was attempting to force the children to fold their t-shirts and store them neatly in the dresser drawers. I mean, this was important to ME, but they couldn’t have cared less about whether their clothing lay in perfect stacks….or for that matter, whether they strolled out of the house looking like wrinkled messes. I simply had to accept that they had different priorities, like whether their faves were clean (which we could ALL agree on, actually), and whether they could easily lay their hands on the one they wanted to wear on any given day (which somehow, even without using my—clearly superior—arrangement, they manage to accomplish).

Imagine my amazement, then, when Derek approached me one day out of the blue with a gigantic grin plastered on his face and announced, “I just did something you’ll be very proud of…I organized my t-shirt collection!” Now, I have to admit, my thoughts did not immediately jump to, “Wow, buddy, that’s awesome!” Instead I glared at him and retorted, “Oh, really? You mean, that thing I’ve done countless times, and been railing at you about for YEARS?” His smile turned sly as he replied, in a tone of aggrieved innocence (as if I were persecuting him for his revolutionary ideas, or something. Very dramatic…), “Yeah, but now that I thought of it…it’s a much better idea!”

(Obligatory pause for maternal episode of banging one’s head against the nearest wall. Okay, carry on…) He continued, his enthusiasm undampened by my lukewarm reception, “Wanna see?” Well, suuuuure, honey. I can’t wait to experience this innovative new technique you’ve created (curiosity and sarcasm waging a battle within me, can you tell?). He pulled open the drawer to expose his handiwork, prompting me to exclaim, “It looks IDENTICAL to the way I’ve always done it!” (Seriously, three piles of folded shirts—this is your brilliant brainstorm? Yeah, I was decidedly…undazzled…thus far…)

He quickly denied this, protesting, “No, no, there’s a system!” He earnestly continued with his explanation, “See, there are three tiers. Say it’s a Friday, and I want to wear something special, I know to look on the left--that’s Tier One. On your average Tuesday, I might go for Tier Two, in the middle. And a Sunday filled with homework? That’s what Tier Three is for, on the right." He concluded with a flourish, "It’ll be so much easier this way!”

Ay yi yi. Oh well, I guess it could be worse…it only took 17-plus years for him to come up with a rationale for showing his clothing some respect—one that made sense to him and motivated him internally to change-- rather than continuing to cram his apparel randomly into his dresser. Perhaps there’s…domestic hope…for him, yet!

On the other hand, I don’t know why this incident surprised me in the slightest, really—given another recent interaction with my eldest in which I’d learned some…shocking? Disturbing? Okay, maybe more like “mildly disconcerting and unexpected” information. You see, one day when I had entered the teenager’s Inner Sanctuary—um, “bedroom”—I’d moved his pillow, making space for me to sit on the bed and chat. He reacted with (mostly feigned) alarm, “Make sure you put that back the same way!” I was bewildered, “Um…right. Why is that, again?” With his trademark smirk, he answered, “Because my pillow stays in exactly the same position at all times!” Far from enlightening me, this only served to further confuse the issue. “You mean, you don’t rotate your pillow sometimes, for a cooler spot…or a…ahem…fresher side?” He emphatically shut down the very possibility with an emphatic, “NOPE! No way!”

In case you’re wondering, don’t ask me for any further illumination into this….character quirk…because he was unable to provide me with any actual reasons, short of the cop-out, “I fear change!” (Utterly negated by the chipper delivery  and impish expression, by the way. And incidentally, this is a well-known catchphrase in our house, typically used by Husband to encompass any and all situations in which he wishes to continue doing things the same way he’s always done, without altering the tiniest detail or causing himself any discomfort or inconvenience. Well done, dear—you’ve taught your sons an avoidance tactic that I’m SURE they’ll NEVER take advantage of, or overuse…siiiighhhhh…)

Anyway, fast forward to the other night, when Riley was seized by a sudden inspiration to rearrange his bedroom. Specifically, he wandered into where I was relaxing and commented, “I know this isn’t like me, but for the first time since we moved into this house, I’m thinking about moving my furniture around.” Well…as someone who’s easily bored and sometimes changes things up just for the HECK of it, this came as a call to action. I probably startled—and possibly dismayed—him when I jumped right up and replied, “Sounds good! How would you like it?” He sputtered, “Like, right NOW?” “Absolutely!” I said, “No time like the present!”

Probably already regretting his impulsive proclamation, he trailed me into his room, where we discussed potential locations for his bed and desk, weighing the spatial considerations, the aesthetic appeal, and the functional merits of each option. Nah, I’m joking! There were honestly only a couple of viable possibilities, so we quickly shifted his desk to a new orientation, tested it out, evaluated its acceptability…and that was it. In one fell swoop, the new setup simultaneously solved the problems that he’d wanted to address, namely “I don’t like my back to the door” and “I’d like the overhead light to be shining directly onto my work surface” Done, and DONE! (And another satisfied client—oh, right..."son"!)

When Derek became aware of these goings-on, he naturally came to check out the new, improved Riley’s Crib. Of course, he shook his head and asked, bemused, “WHY? What was wrong with it before?” As if it was so foreign to his own nature, that he was struggling to comprehend a person’s desire to switch things around…even for a good cause. Therefore, I couldn’t resist teasing, “Hey, we’re done here…now do you wanna rearrange yours?” I began striding purposefully towards his room--with him following briskly at my heels. Now, he knows better than to panic, since I wouldn’t actually touch anything without his permission. However, he made his feelings crystal clear by stating, “When I go to college, I would honestly rather see my room turned into…an arts and crafts studio (which was probably the most extreme...ridiculous...and unlikely example that occurred to him, given his…unartistic…mother) than have anything MOVED!

Alrighty, then, sweetie: duly noted. But you know...suddenly a rather dastardly scheme is occurring to me…maybe for the next year I’ll periodically leave scraps of…fabric…and, I don’t know…stray beads? Bits of yarn? Whatever the DIY-creative-folks use these days…lying about his room for him to randomly discover from time to time! Ooh, and while I’m in there, I’ll…flip over his pillow! Eh, let’s just consider it a course in...real-life training...for when he’s going to have to share a dorm room with someone, who might handle his stuff on occasion, as people do. (Or, you know, it’s just for my own amusement…whatever…) Mwah hah hah!