Sunday, May 27, 2012

Amanda's Art

Amanda was selected to participate in the Jr. VASE competition (VASE is the Art equivalent to UIL). She entered the piece above, called "Layers." She presented it before a juror (an art teacher who discussed all the symbolism with Amanda, even over-interpreting as is often the case with art appreciation). She worked very hard on this canvas at school, and she was rewarded with the highest rating.

Her teacher had an art show this year at the school, inviting all of her students -- whether 6th grade beginners or 8th grade high school Art I students (like Amanda) -- to select one of their pieces from the year. There were photographs, sculptures, paintings, drawings, still-lifes, and lots of talent!  In addition to the Jr. VASE piece, Amanda was allowed to select another.  She chose her "contour drawing" to display.

We are glad that Pops and Tutu live as close to Amanda's school as we do, and once again, they showed up to lend support.

Kyle has taken to carrying a book with him wherever he goes. This thrills me to no end, especially because it keeps him occupied when he gets tired of admiring his sister's artwork.

I've been thinking about how his love of reading (which I still ponder while crossing my fingers), and so today over at 5 Minutes for Books I've republished "Encouraging Tween Readers." in honor of Kyle's 8th birthday TODAY, which is when some begin to classify kids into the tween demographic.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

We're all okay -- except the dog

It's been one heckofa month. On April 14, my stepdad called to tell me that my mom had a major seizure and was in the hospital. On Sunday, they found a brain tumor. On Tuesday, she had brain surgery, and we were told that it was cancer -- brain cancer (GBM to be specific). That's serious.

She recovered really well from the surgery. They allowed her to wake up after surgery (sometimes preferring to keep the patient in a medical coma to let the brain recover). I went in to see her and tell her goodbye so I could head home to my family, and she said, "Give the kids a kiss from me. And you can give Terry {my husband} a French one." Yep -- that's my mom!

And then there was Mimi. My 91-year-old grandmother had been living alone in her home, which I had rallied against for the last couple of years. But my mom lived nearby and looked after her, so that was her business. Knowing that Mom -- an only child -- was going to be treated for cancer and couldn't drive due to the seizure on top of it, made Mimi my responsibility. I spent the next week researching and visiting assisted living facilities on my side of town.

My mom, sister, Mimi and I, Mother's Day 2012

 In two weeks, I put many miles on my car driving from the NW side of town where I live, up to the far North (Houston truly excels at Urban sprawl), down to the SW side where Mimi lived. I got Mimi moved, but in addition to visiting my mom in the hospital, I had to check in on Mimi daily to help her adjust to this big change. I have been thankful for many things:
  • a teenage daughter who could take care of her brother after school on those long days I didn't make it home until dinnertime
  • my husband and father who have both helped me take up the slack
  • the fact that I CAN do these things -- that I didn't have some sort of job that would have hindered my desire to help
But the dog? As I mentioned, my dear children survived a couple of weeks with little attention from dear old Mom. They were capable and understanding. But even though Shadow spends 80% of the day outside (at her preference), paying NO attention to me, she decided that she should eat and claw her way through the fence to escape her poor neglected doggie existence. She got out numerous times over a week or so. I'd ground her if I could. But to my thankful list, I can add a neighborhood that truly cares for pets, so even when she did escape, she was captured and held until I could get to her.

After a busy and very atypical month things are beginning to stabilize. Mom is home and started radiation therapy yesterday. After 3 weeks, Mimi is sort of adjusting to her new living situation. She still has good days and bad, but fortunately doesn't really remember the bad days.

 Last weekend, we finally got the fence repaired, and Shadow will have to learn to deal with it. I'm learning to accept and even appreciate my own "new normal."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Cake Fight

I was 13 or 14 years old, when cool reserve sometimes begins to creep into the mother/daughter relationship, when peers become more than parents -- more fun, more relevant, more important. And yet, my mother continued to shape my world.

 I can see the birthday cake sitting on the avocado green formica kitchen counter. It was one of the large standard sheet cakes from the grocery store. It was getting old and crunchy. Somehow my mother started a cake fight. I don't know how or why, but whatever small move she made prompted my friend and I to forget we were cool teenagers and to go all out. She didn't stop us. She didn't reprimand the childish (and messy!) behavior. She did however send us outside.

When I think of the kind of mom I had growing up, this memory comes to mind. I don't even recall my mom being with us outside, but I know she started it. I remember running in our large front yard throwing and dodging pieces of cake. I can see my best friend's smile and hear her surprised and delighted laugh, for this was not the kind of behavior she was used to mothers engaging in.

Fun. Exuberant. That's what my mom was then and still is today.

A recent pic of my mom on vacation
I'm more buttoned-up. More prone to become exasperated by my children than to join in or even create some excitement. I have my moments, such as singing loudly to 80's tunes when they come on the radio. My own teen daughter, at exactly the same age I was then, acts embarrassed, but her friends react in the same way my friends did back then.

 I hope Amanda will remember the fun moments, which might or might not include a food fight. And perhaps one day she'll have a cake fight with her daughter's friends.


This essay was inspired by Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers. Please read my review today at 5 Minutes for Books, and also read Elizabeth's essay at 5 Minutes for Mom. If you leave a comment on that post, you can enter to win your own copy! (both will go live at midnight)

Monday, May 07, 2012

Kids' Picks, May

When I volunteer in the school library a couple of times a month, I spend time looking around for books, series, or authors that my 2nd grader Kyle might like. I suggest series or single books. Sometimes he accepts, and other times he scoffs.

This past month, I've hit the bullseye!

On a family trip to Half-Price Books stood out to me: I, Freddy: Book One in the Golden Hamster Saga. . I remembered these books being popular with Amanda and other kids when I volunteered at her elementary school library, and Kyle enjoyed reading about another hamster, Humphrey, so I thought we'd give it a try. He liked it, so when I was at our county library, I checked out another in the series of five, and he enjoyed it too.

While scanning the shelves, I noticed book one of a series called The Code Busters Club, Case #1: The Secret of the Skeleton Key, and to my delight, he enjoyed it too! I thought that there was more than one in the series, but in fact we have to wait until September for book 2.

But the jewel in my crown is getting him to actually pick up Niagara Falls, Or Does It? #1 (Hank Zipzer) by Henry Winkler (Yes, that Henry Winkler, aka the Fonz). I don't know much about Hank Zipzer. I haven't read the books and probably won't, but I know that they were popular in Amanda's day. I also know that there are over 15 slim volumes in the series, which is a good thing, because it ensures that he will always have something to check out at library time.

As for Amanda (13 1/2), she's still wanting to "read what she knows she'll like." She's re-read the entire Uglies series (definitely worth checking out if your teens like dystopian lit -- it's older but good!), and also re-read Divergent in preparation for the 2nd book Insurgent which I told her was coming out soon (and I just noticed released last week). We've also been enjoying our morning (over breakfast) read-alouds, to which I want to devote an entire separate post.

Check out what other kids are enjoying over at 5 Minutes for Books the 2nd Tuesday of each month. Link up or add to the discussion in the comments.