Thursday, August 18, 2011

Twenty-four years ago

Twenty-four years ago, we began our adventure and support of the Texas educational system. Twenty-four years ago, pregnant with our youngest son, and holding our year old middle son, I watched as our firstborn climbed the steps and lined up for kindergarten. He did not even look back, as he was an old five year old...about to turn six on September 12th. He was so ready. And he thought his tall, blonde kindergarten teacher was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

Back then, it was half-day kindergarten. And if I walked him to school, I barely had time to get a few household chores done before packing his brother back in the stroller and meeting him when he came bursting out the door.

Now I am sitting here waiting for the youngest to call. This morning he takes his last final at college. He has already accepted a job in Austin at an electrical engineering firm, and been to interviews and orientation.

I took a picture of our boys the first day of school every year...and it seems fitting that Ben, our electrician-to-be installed a new light switch for me over his last picture in the hallway: A light switch for the front porch light.

When I think about all they carried in their backpacks: from crayons to pencils, folders, calculators, and now cell phones...I remember all the permission slips I had to sign. The first week was the worst---sometimes eight forms per son, and them standing over me barking: "just sign it, mom" as they were sick and tired of the rules sheets collected over eight classes.

Weighed down with an extra sack of supplies on the first day, we were required to bring two boxes of kleenex, dish soap, and glue. I never had a teacher ask for glitter, but the kindergarten teacher did boobytrap a thank you note with some. I read somewhere that this year kids are having to bring toilet paper, paper towels, and other essentials to shore up budgets.

I only remember one visit to the principal with firstborn. I think it was first grade: biting. By the time the middle son and youngest started school five years later, biting was no longer a sent-to-the principal offense, sadly. I think it cured him. I know I cried.

I used to make homemade bread when our firstborn was in elementary school. One day he requested store-bought bread so that he could be like everybody else.

School plays, school lunches, PTA meetings, band, music lessons, schedules, tee shirts for sports, band, and spirit days....working concessions, volunteering in the copy room, volunteering in the lunchroom, selling school supplies...I gradually ended up spending whole days at the school once the youngest was in kindergarten.

I'll never forget the call to the loud speaker in the copy room telling me that Mrs. Farnsworth needed to speak to me about my first grade middle son. Every year she had this lesson on "fortunately and unfortunately" where she had the students fold a big manilla paper in half and illustrate fortunately on the front, and unfortunately on the inside. James had proudly drawn: "Fortunately I have a bodm." Inside, he illustrated complete with gas bubbles: "Unfortunately, I frtiid..."

That is why my license plate reads: FRTID... in honor of James. (now a captain in the Army with a baby of his own)

Try keeping a straight face as your son's first grade teacher explains how this in somehow inappropriate. It was all I could do to bite my tongue and wish Bob was at my side to enjoy it with me.

I got the impression, 24 years ago, that the teachers were professionals, and they seemed to say, as we dropped off our children: we will take it from here, and try and undo all the poor parenting you have done thus far. Back then, I was insulted, but tried to instill in my sons a respect for authority, and love for learning. Once I started volunteering at the school, I saw an even greater need to be on site, and help out and keep an eye on whatall they were teaching. Saving the whales and the turtles was about the only thing our sons came home from kindergarten learning. James could spell TURTLE before he could spell his own name. Nowadays, you'd better have them reading BEFORE they go to school, or they end up in the lowest reading group in FIRST grade...setting in motion the struggle throughout junior high and high school for the "upper" math and reading classes who somehow got the better teachers and experienced better class order.

Don't get me started on the push for ritilin when our youngest was in kindergarten. We had to take him to the pediatrician and get written proof that he was not ADHD. And in first grade, his "testing" began. Tested for a learning disability, a label we fought for twelve more years. We had independent testing done, and even in high school aptitude testing in Dallas emphasized his gifts---spacial abilities that serve him well to this day. But, we learned, along with Ben, that not all children learn alike. Some learn better hearing it. Some are more hands on. Classroom modifications in high school helped, but the minute he turned 18, an federal funds were no longer flowing, they had him sign off that he was somehow miraculously "cured" and not eligible to take that two inch folder to college as had been promised. We learned the hard way not to trust the education "professionals" of Lamar High School.

We learned teacherspeak words like: sequencing, graphia and while a UTA aptitutde test showed James that he ought to persue accounting, independent testing in Dallas showed he had poor graphia (ability to scan a page of numbers) and would be a better engineer. (now a captain in the Army)

I always thought that a "bursar" was a funny name. Before the advent of computers, I got to troop down to the bursar's office each semester to help James pay at UTA. And getting Andy's payment in after "registration" was a hoot---checks had to be postmarked early August and first week of January. (when our son was home---not at the actual college---which would have physically made payment a little easier.) By James' final semesters, it was all done online. I no longer had to stand in line at the bursars nor the parking lot line for the sticker so James could park his truck. Paying for parking at college is a way to gouge parents...and give parking lot security folks something to do. We learned the hard way not to pull forward in a parking spot at UTA.

Our sons somehow survived our parenting, learned to drive, and have flown the nest. I find it somehow poignant that the very month our youngest is done, graduated, finished---our first grandchild starts preschool. There will be no break from the prison I call the school year calendar.

We look back and marvel at how every Friday night used to be marching band---then Saturdays saw us traveling down to College Station to see him march in the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band. Good memories.

Ben just got home. 11am. Thursday, August 18th. The end of an era.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Last Birdie Flees the Nest

Our youngest completes his electrical training at Texas State Technical College this week. He has job orientation already tomorrow, so today I helped him haul stuff home. All I had to do was drive the minivan to college. He loaded everything up. And his spacial skills kick right in, and it was packed nice and tight: dresser, shelves, boxes, weights, etc. guy stuff. Even his bowling ball and shoes. (a new hobby he picked up at college)

We hauled it all back, and he unloaded everything, rewired a front porch light, and took off after supper. Gotta get used to seeing those tail lights. The new job is in Austin. I said something about maybe God has a bride down there for him, but he snorted at such an idea. Cynical from too many snooty girls at college towns. But, surely, there is a gal out there who appreciates a handy man electrician...and in God's perfect timing...

I am happy for him, proud, and yet sad. Sad to see him go. But, Austin will mean a clean break, a new start. A new place to explore. And they have a train. Can't wait to hear his opinion of Austin. Most of the state looks down their nose at the most liberal city in the state. The legislature is not in session, so he may change his opinion next year.

Born in 1987. He turns 24 the end of October. He is not much for ceremony. Did not want the gown/robe thing. Relieved to have a job, as he watched the linemen buddies get snapped up first. Probably not safe for electricians to wear class rings, anyway.

So we will be a place with a couple of guest rooms. Ready for visitor, toddler, babies and grown ups. With grown children scattered to the four winds. Our PTA days are over. Now even our college days of tuition, registration, dorm rent, and bursar are done. And the granddaughter starts pre-school in a few weeks.

Our journey with the education system here in Texas---with Bob finishing his degrees at UTEP in El Paso, to Wimbish Elementary, Shackelford Junior High, and Lamar High School for our three boys...I remember walking home from a PTA meeting, and Bob doing the math telling me how many PTA meeting we had to go. Well, we are done.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Exodus 20

Then God spoke all these words, saying:

"I AM the LORD your GOD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

You shall have no other gods before Me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.

You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your GOD, am a jealous GOD, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate ME, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love ME and keep MY commandments.

You shall not take the name of the LORD your GOD in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes HIS name in vain.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your GOD; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LROD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your GOD gives you.

You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

Repeated again for the next generation in Deuteronomy 5

Moses repeated the Ten Commandments exactly, word for word.

verse 8: "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth."

"...or any likeness..."

I was wrong to steal the picture and use it on my facebook profile. I was wrong to justify it in my own mind that we are to reflect Christ. Yes, I need to remember that Christ sees everything and knows everything...and to watch my words. But, it is wrong to pretend to be Christ in any form. The "Heaven is for Real" book is wonderful, and powerful, and God is using their test and trials in amazing ways.

Yes, I am tired of the sweet, syrupy hymns about Jesus. Jesus is not pale and enemic. And if He wanted us to know what He looks like, He would have made it known. The way He appears in the future in the Book of Revelation is of a Perfect Man with snow white hair. And we will recognize Him. (see Revelation 1:12-20)

I want to remember what our Pastor pointed out in the Abraham story in Genesis 22:1

"Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham..."

Abraham was not told he was being tested. We are. And we will be tested, too.

Throughout the story of Moses, in the book of Exodus, God gives Moses many signs, words of encouragement, warnings that things will not go smoothly with Pharoah, but God tells Moses that He will turn the cursings to blessings when "...under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land." (Exodus 6:1)

This is so encouraging to me today as our country is facing such tests. I hope and pray that God use them to turn us back to Him. And that our Christian leaders, lean on God, stand up for what is right, and when they are attacked by the press or by the nutjobs, or by the far right or far left, that they remember WHO is in control.

I confess that I have been confused by some of the candidates. One old man seems so bitter, strange, isolationistic and yet has this almost messiahistic following---yet he is evil in that he is against Israel, and anti-Christian, and anti-anything having to do with God and God's standards. I pray God reveal this man's evil in the light of day so that Christians are not confused. And I pray God keep me from apathy, and indifference. And help me focus on what is important.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Who entered the eternal state first??

Adam and Eve lived for almost 1,000 years. Cain murdered his brother, Abel. Where did Abel go? Heaven?

Our pastor is doing a study on Hebrews 11 and 12. The faith heros chapters. But, it got me to thinking about who entered the eternal state, and when.

In Genesis, we are given very specific math about how old Adam was when he begat Seth, and then how many years he lived after and how he had other sons and daughters, and even a total. And if you graph them out, it looks like Abel then Enoch, then Adam. And Bob pointed out that Abel was a type of Christ, murdered on the cross for us. And Enoch walked home with God when He was 365. No record of his death, no body, no funeral. A picture of the rapture? or, another type of Christ in that he is a picture of the Ressurection??

a murder.
a walk.
a death.

They did not see death too much before the Flood. Their bodies were so fantastic that they could live and work and build and have big families. Some did not even father children until they were over 100 years old. It will be like that again in the millenium.

So who entered the eternal state first? Abel, Enoch, then Adam and Eve. And then every hundred years or so, the next generation started dying. Someday, in heaven, I'd like to ask whatall they did for a thousand years. We seem to pack in a full life in under a hundred years or so here. Sadly, the generations do evil and need wiped from the earth by the 10th generation, so God puts the task of ark building on Noah. It takes Noah and his sons a hundred years to build the ark, and sadly, only Noah, his wife, and sons and their wives, a total of 8 people, are preserved alive.

We are not told how many believed God's Promise of a Savior before the Flood. We could guess anywhere from twenty to a million or more. But, the first three:

Abel, Enoch, Adam...

It would be like your son being murdered by his brother, then your great-great-great-great-great-great grandson going missing, presumed dead, and then you die. In heaven reunited with the first one you lost and the last one you lost.

My grandpa lived to be almost 100 years old. He buried his parents, but, at the time of his death, all his four children were and are still alive, and all of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and great-greats are being born now. One great-great attended his funeral as a six month old. And another great granddaughter was born just after he died. She lives in the same house and on the same farm where my grandpa was born and lived, and has a baby brother.

Cardinals at the Feeder

Cardinals, the birds, are quite the parents! I think the same pair are on their second set of teenagers! And the teenagers are noisy. The birds look like punk rock stars with their feathers not quite all in and in funky colors: not quite all red or muted. They prefer that their parents continue beak to beak feeding. So, they sit in the seed of the feeder and cheap. Too funny. And not just early morning and late evening, but like typical teenagers, they want fed throughout the day. Sometimes they peek in the window at me. It is hard to guess if this is a future male or female.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Free At to clean

On Friday morning, I could not sleep, so I got out of bed at 3am, and poked around on the computer. I took the dog outside about 4am, and hooked her up to the cable. When I reached down to pick up the water dish and fill it, my back went out. I was barely able to put water in the dish, and unwrap the dog, as she had already wrapped herself around the pull up bars. Then, I staggered back inside and crawled into bed. Bob got up and let the dog back inside, made coffee, and drove into work. He had a big presentation Friday, and needed the car with the toll tags. I did not tell him about my back. I did not want him to worry.
I was able to sit up, and poke about on the computer. It hurt to get up and down. Taking the dog outside for a potty break took a while, but I knew Ben would be coming home after lunch. Ben did come home, and helped put the dog on the cable for a while when he was putting his laundry basket in the garage. He asked if I had any projects, but I suggested we wait and vacuum once the animals were gone.
I did not say anything to Bob. His presentation went well. I survived. Going to the bathroom was a challenge, and the pain was so severe at times that I was incontinental. When Bob called, to say he was coming home, I asked him to buy milk and pick up some fish sandwiches at McDonalds. Bob came home, we ate supper, and we watched some TV. Bob asked when did I hurt my back? I told him that I was afraid to tell him because he had the presentation, and was planning on taking the animals down to Lauren on Saturday. I did not want anything to interfere with that. The ice pack helped some, but I dreaded going to bed and having to get up numerous times in the night to go to the bathroom.
When I got up at 3am, (Saturday) it is like whatever had slipped out, had slipped back into place. I could get up and down without stabbing pain. I could go to the bathroom. I was afraid to bend over. But, the day was looking better than I had hoped. I asked Bob if he had prayed.
Bob got up at 4:30am, and made coffee, packed the car, and drove off at 7am with the animals. The boxes, the bags of mail, the bags of food for the animals, treats, leashes, cable, books, sheets and crates, Bob packed it all himself. And got down there before noon, off loaded everything, fetched them some lunch, called me, and headed back. What a day.
For 85 days we cared for Andy and Lauren’s big dog, Tifa, and Emma cat. Bob said they travelled well. Bob is so patient with them. He let Emma cat roam inside the car. He does not like to hear her yowl in her crate. Tifa rides in her crate just fine. Bob said he stopped in College Station for gas, and to give the dog a potty break and water. So, Tifa and Emma have now been to A&M where Andy and Lauren went to college.
For 85 days, our time and schedules have been centered around meeting the needs of the animals. Now we are free. No more watching the dog like a hawk. No more fear of the dog jumping the fence. No more food and water bowls. No more fear of being knocked over. No more making sure the cat was not trapped in a bedroom. No more dog poop. No more cat poop to clean, no more cat puke to clean up.
My friend, Mary could not get over how sweet Tifa was. Sweet personality. She leans on you to be petted. She would crawl up into your lap if you let her. But, she could not be trusted in the back yard alone. She was a fence jumper. Not only would she jump and take off, but she did not know nor care how to get home. She did enjoy playing with our 8 year old neighbor boy. She filled an empty hole in his heart because his dog had had to leave the week before we got Tifa. They would play, then come inside to cool off. I kept the frig stocked up apple juice, and drawing materials set out for Pedro, too.
The irony---now that we have delivered Lauren her dog and cat, she is now trapped in Houston. To come up and visit us, she’d have to bring the dog or put it in a kennel. So, I doubt we see them until January when they head back to Alaska after Andy’s deployment is over. We are back to the long distance relationship with Abby and David. We are thankful for their time here, but it was hard on Lauren having to live out of a suitcase, and be so far from her folks and friends. I hope the deployment passes quickly for her, and that she gets lots of help down there.
We hoped and prayed for our other daughter-in-law, that their deployment time pass quickly and peacefully. I hate time to drag…but, time is passing tooo quickly now as grandparents. Our moments getting to hold the babies are short. I hope and pray that Abby and Baby David are not injured by the big, big dog, or cat with claws.
News via email that a childhood friend has died, and the sad news that Gary Horton’s only grandson was killed in a car accident---my heart goes out to both families. Your Will be done, Lord. Please drive away any demonic influence from our families. In Jesus Name. Amen.