Monday, June 29, 2009

My Boy, The Ace Athlete

How can it be that my five-year-old son cannot ride a bike very well? Could it be because he's just too lazy?

We took the kids' bikes to a park today so they could get better, uninhibited practice - Hannah practicing without training wheels; Seth practicing using his legs. It's a novel concept to him. Once we got to the park, he decided that two minutes of such strenuous exercise was sufficient and that he wanted to play on the park equipment. I told him that there would be no playing at all if he didn't practice riding his bike for much longer. Now, how many moms have to resort to that kind of a threat with a BOY to get him to ride a bike? He also complained about wearing a bike helmut, but I told him that he wouldn't be riding a bike at all if he didn't adjust to using a helmut. It's not that I'm overly worried about him not wearing one, but it is the law. Yes, I would prefer him to wear one once he starts doing his pop-a-wheelies and bike stunts (if he EVER does), but at this time I'm not too worried about the few inches he manages to rotate his wheels at once. I mean, talk about serious bike riding.

He would make a half dozen revolutions pedaling, and then suddenly brake, just when he was gaining momentum. He wanted me to push him, which I in no uncertain terms WOULD NOT. He huffed and puffed like he was being tortured, made a few more turns of his wheels, braked, and started the cycle all over again.

After about 15 minutes of this, with my persistent reminder that he was not playing in the park, he actually started improving. Going a dozen revolutions at once is twice as good, right? I had been trying to tell him that if he wanted to stop pedaling that he didn't need to push the pedals backwards, that he could just stop and that he would coast along on his bike. He didn't get what that meant for the first 15 minutes. It just so happened that the lightbulb went on at just the point where there was a slight dip in the pavement, causing him to gain momentum going downhill. He started to panic. I told him to just move the pedals backward to use the brakes. What do you think he did? It's amazing how he seemed to forget what the reverse motion of his pedals would do since he spent the first 15 minutes perfecting it. He did manage to stop without falling, but it was not because he used his brakes.

I tell ya. This boy of mine really tries my patience sometimes.

He is active in most other things like a normal boy is. But, I have realized that if he can get out of doing something that requires a little bit more labor, he will. It's definitely something I have to keeping pushing him to do as he gets older.

Because, unfortunately, his comedy routines and charm won't bring home the bacon.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Well, my first year driving school bus has come and gone. It ended on Wednesday morning. I was unable to drive the final after school run because it conflicted with my niece's graduation. Hannah was particularly sentimental. She got up and carefully planned what she was wearing on her last morning of riding the bus. She has grown rather fond of a few of the kids and wanted to say goodbye to them. To Seth, however, it was good riddance. He couldn't wait to be done.

I began my morning bus run but noticed after I picked up the kids at my first stop that the next couple of stops had no kids waiting at all. It was only when a parent came out at a stop to inform me that a bus had already gone by and picked up the kids that I realized that there was a misunderstanding at the office and that they had scheduled me off the entire day instead of just the afternoon. A quick call to the office confirmed this.

When my soft-hearted girl realized this, she promptly burst into tears. This was her last chance to say goodbye to some of the kids. So, I managed to meet up with the other bus driver at the first school (I had the kids from my first stop to drop off anyway) and explained to him the mix-up. I told him that he could go on home and that I would finish the rest of my bus run. This was only a slight consolation to Hannah, however, because she really wanted to say goodbye to some of the kids at the first school that were on the "other" bus. Unfortunately, she had to be satisfied with seeing some of them in the school yard when I pulled up to the school.

Here are some pictures of my favorite kids. The ones who pulled at my heart strings. The ones who were the best behaved.

This is Tyarah. One of the girls from foster care. Very polite and generally very well behaved.

Here is Jaycene, from the same foster home as Tyarah. I don't know if they are related or not. Jaycene was generally very well behaved, but definitely seemed to have a lot more anger issues than Tyarah. Some days I would find out she had been sent home from school earlier, so she would not be on the bus on the way home.

This is the impish Tyrell, also in the same foster home as Tyarah and Jaycene. He has a glint in his eye and sports a huge grin. He always wanted to be the first one on the bus and sit in the first seat directly behind me. One day a week before school was over, I noticed as I was pulling up to their stop that he had pushed in front of Tyarah, who was first in line. When I pulled up, I opened the door and informed Tyrell that he had to get on the bus last because of his pushing. He took off running, stopped, and contemplated not getting on the bus at all. Deciding it was in his best interest to get on the bus, he came past me and informed me that "he was done riding this bus". I amiably told him "alright" and went on my way. When he got on the bus the next morning, I couldn't help but remind him of what he had said about "being done riding the bus", to which he replied, "Nah. I was just kidding." I really, really love this boy.

This is Tristan. Hannah's particular friend. They would have the most interesting conversations. He too, is in foster care, although not the same one as the kids above. Every Thursday Tristan did not get on the bus because that was his day to visit his mom. A few months ago, I noticed that Tristan's behaviour had changed significantly. He was being uncharacteristically rude to me. He made a huge mess on the bus by dumping tons of fine sand on the seats and floor - a mess which took me quite a while to clean up. His behaviour changed so drastically that I had to call his foster mom just to let her know that I was a bit concerned.

Then it dawned on me. I realized that he had been getting on the bus on the Thursdays instead of going on his regular visitation with his mom. And I realized that I had a very angry, hurt boy who was just acting out. And, although I was never unreasonably stern with him, I did become more kind and gentle after that. Every child needs to be loved, especially by their mommy.

Nicholas was one of the nicest boys I've ever met. He quite often had a hard time sitting still and I often reminded him to sit down. I realized early on, however, that he never meant it defiantly. He just kept forgetting. He was always kind to me. He engaged me in conversation, asked me about myself, said thank you on a regular basis. A wonderful boy.

Riley is my pre-kindergartner that is also a great kid. He is so cute with really long eyelashes. Quite often he would sit with Hannah, especially if I suspected he might fall asleep. My sweet girlie would keep an eye on him to make sure that he wouldn't fall off of the seat.

Tristan and Kaden were two of the best behaved boys of all time. Wonderful, polite kids with a great mom, who was always waiting for them at their stop, always polite to me, always waved goodbye. They obviously learned their good manners from her.

And perhaps my favourite kid of all is Austin (pictured below). I really can't help myself. He's in grade six and lives with his grandma. After riding the entire year with him, I have realized how many issues he has. I've seen his anger displayed - not directed at me - where I actually had to call the vice principal to come and help me get him to sit in a seat because he was just standing on the steps, not moving, staring into space. This only happened once this severe, but on most days he was a truly remarkable kid. He chatted with me, told me about his life. Spoke so kindly and highly of his wonderful grandma. Cried when a bully said something nasty about his beloved grandma - which sealed his endearment in my heart. I see him as having so much potential if he can work through his anger issues.

He also was special to both of my kids. He took time for them. It became a little game that when Austin was leaving the bus, Seth would try to scare Austin, and Austin would pretend that he was scared by falling in a seat behind Seth. Seth would laugh hysterically every time, and Austin would leave the bus with a smile on his face.

Yep. I think Austin is the "Diamond in the Rough".

The reason I'm a little emotional about all of this is because I just found out a couple of weeks ago that I will not be doing this bus run next year. I thought all along that I would be back and would get to see some of these kids again. However, I was given first choice of doing the run right around my house, which cuts my bus time in one-third (for the same pay). For the sake of time, and the fact that I will be starting to homeschool Seth next year, I really couldn't turn it down. Instead of being on the bus an hour and a quarter in the morning and again in the afternoon, I'll be on 20-30 minutes each time. I also realized that I couldn't make a decision based on how much I would miss some of the kids because I have no idea how many would even still be going to that school. In the course of my run last year, I must have lost 50 kids because they moved away.

Perhaps, if I'm fortunate enough, some of these kids might move into the school district that I am now in and again end up on my bus. One can always pray.

So, I leave with emotion. These kids meant a lot to me. I've shared some of their stories and their ups and downs. But, I can always still pray for them. After all, they belong to the Master, who loves them more than I ever could.

And so, farewell.

For Sale

For Sale: Two children. Ages 7 and 5, girl and boy. Very bright. Very active. Both rise with the dawn EVEN WHEN THEY GO TO BED LATE. And fight. And wake up their parents. All offers considered.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

We took a short trip yesterday, and part of this trip included a ferry ride across the Saskatchewan River. It was a highlight for the kids. It was fortunate we did take the trip because it turned out to be the only thing we got to do for this Father's Day weekend because we were rained out today.

Dave was born to be a father. It's really too bad that he had to wait so long to be one because he really would have wanted a "quiver full". He delights in teaching (I think he missed his calling in life) and is particularly an excellent teacher by experimentation, which I am very thankful for because he can take over in this area of school.

All in all, it was a pleasant, relaxed Father's Day weekend. It ended tonight with Dave finding clips on You Tube on how the great Egyptian pyramids were constructed to show his beloved daughter - because she wanted to know, of course. They both listened and watched in rapt attention.

I am so thankful that one of us is able to patiently teach our child-with-the-insatiable-curiousity. My husband. The patient teacher. Thank the Lord.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Homeschooling Through High School

"I often think that I would've liked to remained home schooled simply because the influence of the world is not the best thing, and especially at that young of an age. "

I asked my youngest niece, Jenna, if I could use this direct quote from her own blog, and she graciously gave me permission. She is graduating from high school this year after having been homeschooled until the eighth grade. This statement of hers really impacted me because one often assumes that just because their child makes it through the public school system - without backsliding - that they made it through unscathed.

And I can't help but ask these questions (not directly to my niece, but in general): How much innocence was lost in those years? What kind of kinks were unnecessarily added to their character that might not have been there otherwise? Did "toughening them up" help their Christian character grow for the better, or for the worse?

My own husband and I do not see eye to eye on this issue, and I mean no disrespect to him. He uses examples of a bygone era of saints who put their kids into public school to "toughen them up" because it'll either "make them or break them". And again I ask the question - where are those kids now? Are they still living for God? If they are, I'd like to ask them if they would say the same thing as my almost 18-year-old niece.

Since the most vulnerable ages of kids (with their peers) are 12 to 18, why would it be so hard for parents who started out homeschooling their children to not complete it - WHEN THEIR CHILDREN ARE SO VULNERABLE AT THE TIME THEY WOULD ENTER THE PUBLIC SYSTEM? When their children are the most susceptible to falling prey to the influence of their peers?

I'm sorry, folks, but I just don't get it. A diploma on your wall is nothing more than a piece of paper since you can now enter university without one. If you can't in your area, you most certainly can in many other places. And, homeschooling through high school has NEVER been easier because there are scads of resources right at our fingertips. As well, there are so many ways we can teach our children to be a light and example to others without putting them into the public school system to do it; places where we parents are still the primary influence. There is honestly not one GOOD reason to put my children into public high school at all, in my opinion.

The less baggage from the world our children carry, the easier it will be for them to get in contact with God. And that's my goal.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My Saintly Cherub

I asked my son to clean his room tonight before bed. I told him he could leave the wonderful mansion he built with his legos intact, but to just clean up the unused blocks. Although his room was cleaned as I asked, when I went into his room a little later, I almost tripped over his mansion because it was in the middle of the floor. I tried very earnestly to move the house without wrecking it. However, I was unsuccessful, toppling his marvelous masterpiece over.

Feeling terrible, I broke the news to him gently. He ran into his room and looked at it, and promptly burst into heartwrenching tears. And my heart broke. He had loved his house.

So, I told him that we would sit down right there and then and build a new one. His tears were instantly gone and were replaced with a brilliant smile.

As I sat there working with my son, I pondered the day I had with him. He really is a cheerful, charming little chap. There is not a time that I can recall when, after praising him or loving him that he doesn't reciprocate. For a busy, active, five-year-old boy, he is NEVER too busy to love me right back. If I say, "mommy is so thankful for the wonderful boy God gave her", he'll say, "and I'm so thankful for the wonderful mommy God gave me", usually with many kisses to go along with it. If I kiss him once, he'll kiss me twice. It's not that Hannah doesn't appreciate any of this (as any child would), she just does not always respond in like manner.

The moral of this little story? Even though I posted recently My Confession, expressing my frustration about my boy, I want it known here and now that it was all A LIE. That story was about somebody else's little boy. Not my perfectly precious, saintly little cherub.

My conscience is clear.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Morning Hike

We went on an adventure today, and the kids had a blast. We went hiking at Beaver Creek (or "Crik", as a very good friend of mine says, whose first name starts with an "M" who lives in Calgary.........hee, hee), as well as on a scavenger hunt that is organized by the staff of Beaver Crik. The above picture is the kids studying the objects that they had to locate.

Seth loves wooden bridges. Hannah hates them. Consequently, he ran out on all of the bridges on our expedition (there were at least four of them), while Hannah cautiously went across with me close beside her.

It was the perfect hiking weather. Very few bugs. A perfect morning to begin our day. The kids want to go back as soon as possible and take daddy with them. Perhaps Hannah can actually FIND all of the items on the list. It was difficult because Seth wanted to forge ahead, but Hannah, the private eye, wanted to inch her way so as not to miss a thing. When we go back, I think I'll take one trail with Seth and let Hannah go investigating with her dad on another.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

My Confession

I have a confession to make.

My son is a rascal. A turkey. A monkey-face. A king-sized pest.

Okay, I'll just admit it. He's a BRAT.

I could go through the list of all the excuses, but I realize the bottom line is I just have let too much go. Again. I go through this cycle that most imperfect parents (who are honest) go through, pull my hair out and then pull my socks up - until the next go-around. The strive for consistency is turning my hair prematurely grey.

A couple of weeks ago, he was being particularly bad in church while I was trying to pray. He was determined to bug me the entire time. Normally when he's being that much of a pest, I take him downstairs into a private room for a particular mode of punishment. This time I decided that since it was attention he was so desperately seeking, I was going to give him no attention at all. This is supposed to work after all, right?


For 15 minutes he poked and tickled. And kissed my cheek. I ignored him. It would work with time, I was sure. He continued, finally ending his little game by climbing on my back and whispering a certain word in my ear over and over that's forbidden. I'll give you a clue what that word was. It begins and ends with the letter "p" and has two "o's" in between. It's a word I've forbidden because he only uses it as "trash" talk.

It's been over these last couple of weeks that things have escalated, period. In my exasperation, I asked him one day last week what in the world I was going to do with him. His reply?

"You're going to keep me and let me do whatever I want!"

Tonight in church he reached across Hannah to her book and, with a red crayon, made a straight line, as quick-as-you-please, on her page. He was quite amused with this as was demonstrated by his smug grin after the fact. He also poked, prodded and PUSHED my derriere. And pushed me over the edge because that is NEVER, NEVER, NEVER allowed to me or anyone.

It's not that none of this goes unpunished. It's just not as consistent as it should be. And truthfully, he seems to need so much physical attention that it seems that no amount of affection and attention given to him is enough. I get worn out and then fall into the trap of ignoring.

I blog these stories as memories to me and my kids when they're older. I blog these stories because sometimes writing them exorcises some frustration. I blog these stories because sometimes I hope that some kind soul will think to pray for me. I am the first to admit I'm not perfect and need to be more consistent, so I really don't need lectures. Just encouragement.

So, thanks everyone. For letting me blow off steam.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Uniquely Angie

It was while we were visiting the "antique boutique" owned by my pastor's wife that I first coined the phrase, Uniquely Angie. My best friend of at least 15 years was down to see me after a ten year hiatus, and one of her requests was to visit the little shop. My pastor's wife came out of the same church in the Seattle area and was someone whom Angie looked up to as a young teenager when my pastor's wife was a young adult. So, having the common interest of antiques, collectables and home decor, as well as wanting to see this wonderful, influential lady of her past, we went in to her store.

While I was circling the shop with interest, they were visiting and reminiscing. And talking shop. Angie has an avid interest in feathers, flowers or anything vintage - particularly old jewelry which she uses to make retro purses and sells for profit. Seeing her in her element, I told her after we left that she really needed to consider opening her own little boutique back home when the American economy improves. And name it Uniquely Angie.

I first met Angie 23 years ago when I went to some special services hosted by her church. I remember hearing her play the organ and thinking she was the best organist I had ever heard. She also has a great singing voice, although she claims she doesn't sing, but proved otherwise this weekend by good naturedly agreeing to sing along in a trio. Several years after I first met her, I was again down in the Seattle area to be in the wedding of another friend. After my friend got married, I needed a place to stay for a couple more days until I went home, and that is when I first got to know Angie and the unique, wonderful woman that she is. And that was the beginning of our friendship. Over the next five or six years, I visited often. She was married and had two small boys. I was single. It was her mission to get me married off, preferably to someone in her home church.

She was my matron of honor ten years ago and was finally able to come to see me for the first time. Having a husband and young children, it was much easier for me to go there. It was a whirlwind trip of which I remember very little - I was in my premarital wedding fog - but we did have a few days of late night, uninterrupted talks.

Ten years later, she returned for her second visit. Having older, independent sons made that much easier this time.

I guess we're all unique. Somewhat. But Angie is UNIQUE. Being half Italian, she is passionate about everything. She loves people, particularly youth. She is extremely gullible - you can pretty much get her to believe anything if you're a good enough liar. She is very creative. She is a wonderful cook and homemaker. She is the only woman I've ever met that can cook a wonderful meal, clean up, wash the floor under the table several times a day, keep her house neat as pin even when her two boys were little, and never stop talking while doing it. She is chronically late for everything. She is side splittingly funny and has no clue why - which is part of her charm. She is extremely clutsy - tripping going up the steps at my wedding rehearsal will always be one of my fondest memories. And, she is definitely opinionated.

She is the best, most loyal friend a person could ever have.

While she was here, my mom, dad and grandma spent time with Angie, at Angie's request. Angie lost her mom when she was just 13 years old to lung cancer. Her dad is an alcoholic; my dad is an alcoholic. She really connects to my family. She loves my mother, relates to my dad and thinks my grandma is the most classy senior she's ever met. She sat at the table, having a little "chat" with my dad with all of her Italian passion, letting him know how important family is and that he should not go to work out of the country (as my dad has been doing). My dad told my grandma the next day that Angie was right, he really shouldn't go, cementing the adoration my grandma has for Angie. Angie cried when she hugged my mom goodbye.

Angie has this down-to-earth quality about her that draws people in and that's....uniquely Angie. A person knows within a very short time that she is real and that she is genuinely interested in what you have to say.

My kids adored her, evidenced by the fact that they were picking dandelions for her the first morning she was here. In fact, Hannah loves her so much that on the last night of her sleeping on the floor in her brother's room, she commented on that fact. I replied back that she must be excited to get her bedroom back, to which she replied that, "No, actually, I would be happy to sleep here if only Angie didn't have to go home", and then promptly started crying.

And so, my wonderful, unique Angie, I really am going to miss having you here. You are a treasure of a friend. Someone who strives to see the good in people. Someone who loves passionately. Someone who has no idea of your worth and charm, which only adds to it. Someone who very few can't love, flaws and all. Because, dear friend, you are real, you are kind, and you are honest.

You are Uniquely Angie.