back in the hammock

May 15, 2013

051513sassyhammock051513hammocktreesback in the hammock

We have had a hammock in our backyard forever. I think it started as a first father’s day gift to my husband, which is a mean joke since he is the person in our family who uses it least.

We usually have to buy a new hammock each year, as the squirrels have a great fondness for chewing the rope to bits. Our current hammock is up for the season and is going on its third summer. Haha squirrels! One point for the humans! (Though it’s likely the squirrels may be avoiding it because it’s made from some unknown toxic substance so maybe, Haha humans!)

I cannot stand to just lie in a hammock, and say, nap, or read. I am not wired that way. I used to give my kids terror rides in it when they were little, which they have loved. (I am wired that way.)

Every now and then, over the years, someone says to another, “Want to go lie in the hammock?” And on warm summer night at midnight, they lie in the hammock, side by side holding hands, or head to foot, always complaining of the foot, listening to far off sirens and dogs barking and doors closing in our little town, trying to see stars through the heavy canopy of the giant maple that hold one end of the hammock.

Usually the two in the hammock would be my daughter and me.

Last August, on a very emotional morning when she said goodbye to her little bedroom, house, backyard, town and family for her first year away from home, the last thing we did before she left was to lie together in the hammock, side by side, holding hands.
That was hard. She was so sad and so uncertain.

And look at her now. She conquered her freshman year and all of the challenges it threw at her, which were many. She made the dean’s list both semesters. She sang, studied science, made new friends and learned what it’s like to attend a very small college (1,200) in a very small town.

And now she is home.

And we are back in the hammock. Side by side.

catching up

May 14, 2013

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photos:
1) the best birthday package
2) birthday heart from my 15 year old son, clean kitchen included
3) My dear mom and my dear sister Jen

Back from my blogging hiatus. I hope. Something had to go. I have been away from most of the past 4 weekends.

My dear sister from Seattle was here for a too short visit. Our family spent a weekend with my daughter for her birthday at the end of April. I had my final exam for my photography class. You roll your eyes, but there was a great amount of technical information to learn, such as the electromagnetic scale and length of the color waves that is viewable to the human eyes (400 – 700 nanometers in case you were wondering).

Then it was my birthday. Guess what was in the package from my amazing friend Cathy? A vintage red purse and a Catherineholm fondu pot! As I told her, I hugged them to my chest when I opened them! That woman! I have to be careful about what I post on my blog!

The night of my birthday my husband and I went to the simulcast of “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!” a nerdy NPR radio show that we love and have seen live several times. I came home to a giant chocolate chip heart-shaped cookie/birthday cake, made by my 15 year old son. Even more of a gift– he cleaned the kitchen when he was finished! Yes, my son cleaned the kitchen after baking. What?! Who is that manchild?!

The next day it was back to my daughter in Wisconsin to pack up her dorm room. Before leaving Ann Arbor, I went to pick up a rental van and was asked if I remembered to renew my driver’s license, which expired on my birthday, the day before. No van for me. Still haven’t renewed that license. Yikes. So we packed up my Prius, and what couldn’t fit we had packed and ready to go for my husband, who (new plan) would now be renting a van midweek, when he had planned to travel to get her anyway (after her last exams). While in Wisconsin my daughter and I drove an hour to meet my friend Cathy for lunch. I wish I could see her every weekend.

Back to Ann Arbor. The photography class ended. (A on the final, A- in the class. Gah! A MINUS?!) Two days later my daughter returned home. Hooray! My mother got in a car accident, not her fault. Her dear car which was old but low miles and pristine condition was totaled. Airbags deployed and she is fine.

Then it was mother’s day which included too short of an overnight with my mom, and too quick a visit with too few siblings and their families, shopping for teenager clothes (gah!), taking the dog to the vet, and a too short visit with my mother in law. Mother’s day weekend also included– white steamed pudding with raspberry sauce (made by husband), a peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake (made by mom), blueberry pie (made by husband) and lilacs— which are finally out and smell like the start of summer.

The last month also included nights volunteering at the Ark, an attempt to exercise more and oh yes, work— my busiest time of the year at work. I won’t sleep well again until my summer programs end on June 28.

Next up? Renewing my driver’s license. Helping my daughter find a summer job, and helping my son decide on how he wants to spend his summer (in addition to his volunteering at a zoo). Helping my mom get a new car—a team effort with her and my siblings. Putting my dog on a diet. Working on my flower beds. Exercising more. Maybe I’ll clean my house and do laundry one of these days! Oh yes, then there’s work…

In the spaces in between, I plan to blog…though it may be about how to get my whites whiter and how to get a pug to lose weight…That’s my life. And I’ll keep it, but I’ll understand if you need to move on in order to stay awake…

eggsredtub

eggbook

photo 111: i am the eggman

photos
1) this is the one I matted and turned in: eggs in a tubtrugs bucket with old green onions peeled from the bottom of the vegetable drawer, winter, sunday morning light
2) outtake: egg on “radioactive: marie & pierre curie: a tale of love and fallout” by lauren redniss. redniss is a “graphic biolgrapher” and if you have not seen her books, you should. gorgeous.
3) outtake: eggs in bowl my sister-in-law made. do you think our windows need a little work…ugh.

In January I signed up for an introductory photography class at our local community college. Blogging was a motivator, but also, I was looking for something that would interest my teenage son, something that would get him off of his computer. He was interested, so we signed up together. Since he is only 15, and dyslexic, I wanted to take the class with him to make sure he wasn’t in over his head. Turns out he helps me more than I help him. (Turns out we also have to keep one empty seat between us in class so we don’t argue.)

We have an assignment every week that we edit, print and mount on matte board in class on Monday night. On Wednesday nights in addition to a technical lecture on our camera, or Lightroom, we have a critique. Our work is displayed anonymously and we have to vote on which photos we like the best—with the idea that clusters of votes will help illuminate key elements to a good photograph.

The matted photos are pinned to a bulletinboard/wall and the instructor puts a push pins above each photo that gets votes, one push pin per vote. Then we go in order, from the most push pins to the least talking about our process and getting critiqued.

I have had many weeks with no pins (votes), but two weeks ago my son and I tied for most votes. He gets votes almost every week and frequently gets the most votes. Once I told him it is even more exciting for me, as a mom, when he gets votes, than if I do. His response was, “No! You don’t get to claim credit for my work! No!”

For our egg assignment, we had to take a photo of an egg with the goal of getting a well-exposed, sharp image. I liked my image and technically it was good. But it received no votes from my classmates. My son put his egg on our pool table and had it in the foreground sharply focused and all of the colored pool balls in the background out of focus. He received many votes. One girl broke an egg in the snow and had a small LED flashlight illuminate it from underneath. There was a layer of snow between the egg and the light. The whole critique was really eye opening to me. Think creatively, or, take the egg out of the kitchen.

We only have 3 more weeks left and both my son and I are sad it’s coming to an end. As much as missing the photography class, I will miss the time with my son. He will get his driver’s license at the end of the summer, and it’s clear to me he can handle the classwork on his own. He is planning to take another photography class in the fall, without his mom. Of course, as a mom, I am proud of his growth toward independence, and I will let him know this, at the risk of him accusing me of claiming credit.

what now son?!

March 29, 2013

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what now snotty son?!

photos:
1. my boy at 4, he looks just like my sister
2. my boy at 6
3. my boy 15, who will now not let me take and/or publish photos of h
im

When my kids were little I remember commiserating with a friend about parenting a toddler.

You may be familiar with the frustrations of toddler logic:
If is see it, it’s mine.
If it touched it, it’s mine.
It I want it, it’s mine.
If its yours, it’s mine.

Her advice was, “Just make sure that when someone walks in on you dealing with your toddler, it’s clear which one of you is the toddler.”

Oh how these words have been echoing in my head as I parent my teenage son. He frustrates me so much sometimes…I’m not sure it would be clear to someone walking in on us arguing, who is the teenager and who is the parent.

We are taking a photography class together two nights every week at the community college. We now keep at least one seat between us so we don’t get into any more arguments during class.

I am sure just my presence- that I exist- often drives my son up the wall. It’s the way I felt about my own parents at his age. I remember blaring the Elton John song “The Bitch is Back” when I was mad at my mom. I’m sure it was prompted by her telling me to clean up my bedroom. What a brat I was. (Sorry mom! You know I adore you!)

My friend Suzanne’s daughter is a junior in college and her daughter, with whom Suzanne has a great relationship, recently said to her, “I don’t know why I couldn’t stand you when I was in high school. I really don’t understand what my problem was.”

I do get it, this need for independence. I think it’s tricky for my son because I know he actually likes his parents. He has told me that he likes taking the photography class with me…though I never would have guessed that by his snarky behavior toward me during class. But I get that too.

Last night I was trying to help him format a paper for school and he was frustrated and stressed with how much more work he had to do. He has some crappy word processor on his computer and I was trying to help him figure it out.

I told him there was likely a formatting window, like there is in MS Word, where he could just put in his parameters, and he wouldn’t have to “eye” it. He told me in a mean and snotty way that I didn’t know what I was talking about, that he WASN’T using MS Word! There IS no formatting window!!! His subtext: You’re an IDIOT and I hate you.

Guess what I found a few minutes later. The formatting window.

OH! What now son?!!
(I didn’t actually SAY that, but I THOUGHT it. And he knew it. See, what I mean about not being able to tell who is the teenager? )

This negative interaction went on until I finally said, “Forget it. You’re going to treat me like this while I’m trying to help YOU? Nope. I’m going to bed.” A few minutes later I heard him meekly call down the hallway, “How do I make a citation?” My reply, “Google it.” And I went to bed.

I felt badly lying in bed not helping him when I know he needed help. I knew he was stressed and frustrated, and none of us are at our best when we are stressed and frustrated. But trying to help seemed to only fuel his frustration, and mine.

He and I both need to figure out how to better handle these situations. Sigh. Is it possible to teach your teenager who both loves and hates you how to treat people civilly even when they are completely stressed out? And when I say people, I mean me.

Luckily his ever-patient father arrived home and helped him with the rest of the paper.

My son is a really good guy. He is funny and loving. He apologizes when he should. He marches to the beat of his own drummer, which I admire. He is dyslexic and dysgraphic, so school can be challenging—but he works hard and does very well. He loves learning. He is comfortable with himself. He is comfortable with people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. He still gives his grandmother and aunts and uncles full-on, sincere hugs when he sees them—often towering over them while doing so. I do adore this man-child.

It is tricky business parenting a teenager, and I imagine it is trickier business being one. I supposed if my biggest challenge with this kid is to get him to treat me better when he is tired and frustrated and needs my help…I have it pretty easy.

But I’m not sure that is my biggest challenge with this kid.

My biggest challenge is how I react to his behavior…Ugh. More wine please.