Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Different Paths

All three of my kids are smart. Grace has a terrific memory; she excels at writing, literature and, at one point, understanding DNA. Spencer was always a math hound who loves history. He wipes most people away at chess, as he sees the board and all it's possible moves. He can tell you pretty much every play he ever made in every game in his high school basketball years.
Tucker, my youngest, was the most well-rounded. In addition to an excellent
memory, he had a good balance of reading, writing, and math. He loved history and created fun stories in journalism. He took mostly Advanced Placement classes his last two years of high school. He understood how to succeed in school. He got they system in a way that Grace and Spencer never did after all those years of homeschooling.
Last year, when we went for his annual checkup, the doctor asked what colleges he was thinking about. He told her he'd been accepted at Pitt, University of Missouri and Ohio University. The doctor turned to me and said, "It doesn't matter where he goes; He'll be fine."
And I agreed.
School was pretty easy for him.
Then college happened and things seemed to go downhill quickly.
Circumstances lined up against him. He started having panic attacks in the summer. Then he had his wisdom teeth pulled the week before he left for college. They became infected the first week he was there.
He came home nearly every weekend for doctor or dentist visits.
He also had a steady girlfriend who was still in high school, so he came home regularly to see her.
Living in the dorms did not agree with Tucker.
He had three roommates. One of them was his best friend, Josh. The other two were also friends from home. With four guys in the room, Tucker never had any alone time. As an introvert, he needed alone time to restart his engines.
At my insistence, he took his guitar alone to school. At home, we would frequently hear him playing the guitar in the basement. At school, he took it out to play only once, when another friend begged him to play a song.
All of these circumstances, plus some apathy since he didn't know what he wanted to do, caused him to end up with bad grades in almost all of his classes.
We agreed to let him come home in December and take classes at the local community college.
He signed up for 4 classes, and yesterday I asked him how his grades ended up. He only passed one of those classes.
None of them were too hard for him. He had Calculus in high school and failed an Algebra class in college. History, one of his passions, he failed too. Economics joined the dominoes of failures.
So after a year of college, he has two classes that he passed.
I don't even want to add up the amount of money we paid for those two classes.
This summer, Tucker, 19, is signed up for a welding class.
I don't think he'll like it. He has never been the kind of guy who played with Legos or built things. But we're giving him a chance. He can earn a two-year degree in welding at the community college.
This class is his final opportunity with us footing the bill though. He'll need to do well in this class for us to help pay for the rest of the welding classes.
And if he decides he wants to go back to college in the future, he'll be responsible for the tuition there too.
That's a hard choice, because we've paid for college for Grace and Spencer. They've taken out the government loans available to them and we've paid the rest, taking out some loans ourselves.
But Tucker's choices force us to draw the line.
While he's in school, we're paying his rent, but if he's finished with school then he'll need to pay for his own apartment too. Not to mention his phone. When do we stop paying for his contacts and his monthly medicine too?
I'm not sure, but I know he's going to face the real world much sooner than the other two did.
I'm not counting Tucker out as a failure. He has just chosen a different path.
Tucker and a friend have started a landscaping business. They're working quite a bit and that could turn into a money maker for him. I fully support him in becoming an entrepreneur, and maybe he'll be the most successful of all of our children.
I just never pictured any of our children not going to college, and especially not Tucker.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday Intros -- Oh! You Pretty Things

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.

I picked this up at the library because the cover looked so appealing. Oh! You Pretty Things by Shanna Mahin is about a woman in Hollywood, trying to make it big, and her relationship with her mother, a failed actress. Here's the intro:
A few hours before I quit my job, I'm stuck at the light on Rose and Pacific, watching a string of kids wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the name of their preschool -- "Blackberry Atelier" -- as they cross the dirty asphalt. Harried teachers urge them onward while supermodel-beautiful moms in Fred Segal sweatpants bring up the rear, tapping urgently on their cell phones. 
I like the sound of this irreverent, detailed scene.
I'll look forward to seeing what everyone else is reading.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dreaming of France -- Religious Symbols

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
France is a dichotomy in the fact that it celebrates so many religious holidays, yet demands that people show no outward signs of their religion.
As we were walking in Aix en Provence one day, we came upon this government building.

And we were surprised me to see this statue of Mary, the Virgin Mother, on a government building. I guess people can't wear signs of religion, but the government is still catholic deep down. 

In 2004, the government passed a bill against wearing any veils or signs for religious reasons in public schools.  Most people think the goal was to prevent Muslim women from wearing the hijab in school. But for a country that wants no signs of religion, it's curious that it celebrates both Ascension and Pentecost in May with three-day or four-day weekends. 
Even in a country I love, I'm not going to agree with everything. 
But I see no harm in the occasional religious statuary on government buildings, like this one of Mary.
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave a comment and visit each other's blogs, too, so you can get your fix of France dreams. 

Another Chance

Yesterday, I wrote about the challenges I face while raising my sometimes stubborn and emotional 19-year-old, but earlier in the week I had been reminded that the two of us have more opportunities to work out our relationship.
On Thursday, my husband called from the newspaper and asked if I remembered a boy named Chase. I did. He ran track with Tucker, and we had been at some parties with his parents.
The boy died in a car accident the night before.
He was 19, going to college, running his own lawn care business during the summer, and he crashed on a curve in the country near his college campus. Not wearing a seat belt, he was thrown from the car and died on the scene.
As I ran the next morning early, I passed the boy's house, and I wondered if his parents were awake. Then I wondered if they'd slept. How could you possibly sleep if suddenly you son was dead?
I knew that they must have been awakened by the police the night before since the accident was at 1 a.m. The police would have known the boy's identity and notified his parents.
As I continued to run, I remembered the feeling when my own 18-year-old sister had died. That feeling that it must be a mistake, that she would walk through the door again any minute. That feeling continued for weeks afterward -- the anticipation that she'd be home.
And I also remembered waking the morning after with the sun sparkling in through the window and feeling happy, until, like a brick hitting me in the chest, the realization came that my sister had died.
There's a moment, just after waking, when it feels like everything might be okay, until the memory flashes the tragedy and it all comes back.
I didn't know Chase well enough to go to his funeral, but I'll be thinking of his family, and being  a little more gentle with my own kids.
We're so lucky to have them alive and in one piece. If we've had a fight or said hasty words, we have another chance to smooth it over.
No matter what path they've chosen, they're alive and at least we have another chance.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Boys to Men

I'm not a very honest blogger.
I think I avoid writing about the topics that are hurtful. Instead, I attempt to be funny or divert to book plots.
That's why, right now, I have a blog post languishing that begins:
So, he moved out yesterday and left without kissing me goodbye.
Both of my boys have now moved into apartments, and they were very different departures.
Yes, you can still see his ribs. He never did put
on weight while living in the college dorms.
Spencer came home from college for about a week. He slept most of the days away, caught up with his friends in the evenings, and even found some time to scrape the garage so we can paint it.
He drove back to school on Sunday with his car filled with clothes and an air mattress so that he can camp out in his house until we take his furniture down on Saturday.
He texts me things like, "Can you bring down a spatula?" and "The mac and cheese seems really watery." So I had to tell him he should drain off the water before he added the cheese.

I drove down Thursday with his desk, and we hung curtains and took a trip to the grocery store to stock up on essentials.
Spence is far from perfect, but he's interested in talking about things. So I can tell him about my classes and students or have conversations about Grace and her adventures. And he shares a lot with me too.
He hasn't even complained about the flamingo and palm tree dishes I bought for him at the garage sales last weekend.
Earl and I are going back down today with a truckload of furniture so he'll have his real bed, a couch and a dresser.
The apartment is fine on the inside, but the outside looks like typical student apartments, kind of run down with steps crumbling and the porch overhang a bit rotten. It's the kind of place that parents would never approve of renting, but college students are a bit more eager. I'm sure it'll be fine for one year.
Spence has already texted the maintenance guy about a leak under the sink, a crack in a window and a slow draining bathtub.
He's still waiting to have internet installed. He called before he moved in and set up installation, but that internet company had some equipment challenges. So yesterday he called the other internet company. He's learning about the frustrations of dealing with utilities. I'm sure the experience will be an eye-opener for him.
So there was the peaceful transition of one boy to his first apartment.

Tucker moved out two weeks ago, on May 1.
I was gone to work and when I came home, a beat up pickup truck behind the garage was partially loaded with furniture.
He and his new roommate carried out mattresses and a desk and dresser then bags full of clothes. When we asked if he needed help, he said, "No."
And he left then, without kissing me goodbye.

Even through all the tense times we've had since Tucker returned home from college in December and lived at home throughout the winter and into spring, he has leaned over to let me plant a kiss on his bearded cheek most days, whether in the morning as he left for class or in the afternoon as he left for work, or even when he came home at night from time out with his friends.
19 is hard.
He thinks he's an adult, but he's still making adolescent mistakes.
We had said we wouldn't help pay for an apartment. He could live at home, or he could go to college and live in a dorm.
All three of my kids on Tucker's 19th birthday in March.
This spring, we agreed to let him move into an apartment with a friend in the hope it might help our relationship. We didn't seem to have conversations, but terse snapping one liners at each other.
He hated being home and having to answer questions like, "Did you go to class?"; "How are your grades?"; "What are you doing tonight?"
The questions might even be polite, like "how was your day?" but he bristled each time.
So after he left, I was heart broken that things were so bad between us.

But just two days before he left, I was in bed around 11, with my door closed to keep the cats from annoying me, as they like to do when I try to sleep. Suddenly, the door was pushed open and Tucker said, "Mom, will you come help me?"
I jumped up and went into the bathroom where he was leaning over a trash can throwing up.
He had a splitting pain in his head. He felt sure it was a brain tumor, as many of us do.
"I think it's a migraine," I said.
I got a cold cloth and put it on the back of his neck. I found the Excedrin migraine medicine and he was able to keep that down.
I settled him on the couch and sat next to him until he stopped sweating and seemed able to relax.
Then my husband took my spot and sat up until he fell asleep.

So even as Tucker brusquely moved out of our house, I remembered that just two nights before, he had turned to me when he needed me.
And my goal will be that he knows I'm here for him. That doesn't mean that I will bail him out of every situation or give him money, but I'll always love him, and he can move back home if he wants to.

The day after he moved out, he came back home and ate with us. On Sunday, he texted me and asked what time family dinner was. I hadn't actually been planning a family dinner, but since Grace was leaving for Europe and Spencer was home, it was an excellent idea.
I saw Tucker most days the week after he moved out. When I went to the grocery store, I bought an extra gallon of milk for him.
I offered him a box of Raisin Bran Crunch that hadn't been opened yet.
"No, that's okay. We only have one bowl," he said.
So during the neighborhood garage sales last week, I found Spencer's flamingo dishes and another set of dishes for Tucker's apartment for only $5.
Last week, he and his roommate drove to Colorado to stay for the week and bring a friend home from college.
Crystal Lake at Pike's Peak
We've had some heated exchanges about the amount of data he's using on his phone, but he also sent me some lovely scenic pictures.
Garden of the Gods
Our relationship still has many mountains ahead, up and downs, but I know he loves me, and I'll keep working to treat him like an adult -- an independent adult, and hopefully he'll move toward that title.

Also connecting with Saturday Snapshot today because there are some lovely photos in spite of the very long post.