Celebrating Mediocrity

Bob Parr: It’s not a graduation. He’s moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.

Helen Parr: It’s a ceremony.

Bob Parr: It’s psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity.

I would like to congratulate all of those 8th graders who have made it this far in school. I remember when graduating from high school was quite literally the biggest deal of your school career. As a mom for 25 years, today I was able to witness yet another school-endorsed milestone before that long-anticipated, well-deserved high school graduation.  I’d like to say that today I sat through the last of 4 middle school graduations, but I’m pretty sure it was just child #4. We are two years into a new district and I don’t think our old district did this, but I could be mistaken. I know I’ve I sat through 4 preschool graduations and maybe 4 moving on day ceremonies when my 4th graders moved to 5th grade and then again when my 6th graders moved to 7th grade and quite frankly, was inspired by this last one enough to write about it.

My kids do well academically, but celebrating moving from one grade to another, and in our case, one building to another, a building that is literally connected and on the same campus, has me scratching my head. I guess they are graduating from walking out of one door, down the sidewalk and into another door? Or perhaps I’ve just been hanging around the school system too long, 22 years if you count preschool, and am just tired of the over emphasis on events that really aren’t that awe-inspiring. We now celebrate things that in the past were simply expected by our parents with no need for recognition until high school graduation.

I was that mom who back in the mid-90’s followed child #1’s school bus on the first day of kindergarten because I was sure the bus driver was going to get lost on the way to school. But by child number 4, had become that mom who counted down the days of summer vacation with restrained jubilee and showed up to school for events with sidewalk chalk and cookie dough stuck to my clothes, trying to remember if I had taken a shower or even combed my hair that day.

So kudos to those kids moving from middle school to high school. Did this warrant a mini graduation-like ceremony? My own 8th grader didn’t seem to think so. She warned me it was going to be long and boring and I’m pretty sure she would have preferred to have her fun field day activities that she excitedly talked about the day before as her last day of school instead.

The ceremony started at 9. I arrived at 8:40 thinking I’m way too early only to find that the school had multiple parking attendants directing traffic in a rural district that has less than half of the kids that were in our former suburban district. I am directed to park on the lawn. When I enter the auditorium it immediately became clear that there was no restriction on number of guests. I guess lots of parents arrived as the sun was making it’s appearance to reserve rows of seats for their extended family members and friends for this auspicious occasion. So after being rebuffed when asking if one measly seat was taken, I located a folding chair in an overflow makeshift row in the back of the room, thinking it was a good thing it was just me who came.

The kids were asked to dress up for the occasion and there were very clear instructions sent home for the young ladies to keep their shoulders covered. So my rule-follower daughter, who is always modest, wears a thin-strapped dress with a nice sweater over top.  The music starts and the kids start coming in looking thrilled (NOT) and I notice that most of the girls must not have received that same notice of dress instruction as evidenced by the bare shoulders AND open-backed, very adult looking dresses coming down the aisle. It appears that the problem with authority and obeying rules starts young.

I sat through the recognition of those who maintained the highest GPA.  Usually this is where you make a mental note that come high school graduation these names are going to appear again as valedictorian and salutatorian, right? Well, I couldn’t keep track of all the names that were read because they recognized everyone who maintained the highest GPA all quarters while they were in grade 6 (multiple teams), while in grade 7 (multiple teams) and while in grade 8 (multiple teams). Now I’m smacking myself in the head.  How about recognizing those two or three kids who maintained the highest GPA from grades 6-8 combined? Perhaps I shouldn’t have said to the lady sitting next to me a few minutes earlier that I wasn’t sure how I felt about these ceremonies only to find out that her daughter was one of those recognized for the highest GPA every one of those middle school years.

It’s as if they tried to include as many students as possible, but instead kept reading a lot of the same names over and over and it became so that the clapping was noticeably diminished by the time they read the names for the last quarter of the last team of the last year. It just makes it less special.

I watched the school’s head and vice principal, the superintendent and the guidance counselors sitting on stage and wondered if they recall their middle school years and what they think about all of this hullabaloo … the parents and grandparents coming in with bouquets of flowers, the high powered cameras to capture the “moment”, the parents blocking views and tripping over one another to get videos, the speeches, etc.  I have estimated that by the time child number 4 graduates I will have sat through over 250 band concerts alone … just band concerts, not steel band concerts, not guest artist concerts … just band.  This does not include award ceremonies, moving on day ceremonies, dinners, swim meets, track meets, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if that number exceeds 400 by the time number 4 walks across the high school stage!

My kids struggle with so many of the things that most kids struggle with at these different stages, but they are grounded and well-rounded. They do well in school, they play sports, they play musical instruments, they sing, they teach, they create, they volunteer, they work.  I like to think they became how they are because my husband and I love them unconditionally (and if you don’t yet have middle schoolers or high schoolers  … wait, your patience will be tested and you will quickly and painfully learn the meaning of unconditional). Those toddler and early school years are but a distant memory of a wonderful, magical time. I am reminded and convicted daily of my failures as a parent, but my kids love and have parents who love the Lord and who teach them what’s really important in life … relationships, not awards (of which they have received plenty), not stuff (also recipients of much).

So today I am most thankful because the last of my children survived the drama, chaos, mean-spiritedness, traumatic, clique-ridden world of middle school, mildly bruised, but basically unscathed. I congratulate my daughter, not with flowers, adoration or accolades, but because she persevered, passed the 8th grade and now has the privilege of continuing her education.

Love you to the moon and back Abby!

Wigwams and Muck Boots

Three years ago if you would have asked me about living anywhere but the suburbs, I would have laughed. We lived in a very nice tree-lined subdivision. Our house was manageable in size to clean, when I actually felt compelled to clean, and maintain. We had just enough lawn for me mow so I could get my yearly exercise crammed into the late spring, summer and early fall months. I could walk to the end of my driveway in my slippers to get the mail in all seasons and we were minutes away from the convenience of grocery stores, clothing stores, gas stations, big box stores, restaurants and the kids schools. For 16 of our 25 married years we dwelt in suburbia. Lancaster However, from the day we moved from our blue collar neighborhood of 1940’s cape cod houses bordering the city to our white collar, tree-lined neighborhood of late 1990’s colonial houses bordering a park, I felt unsettled. 14 years later, God pricked our hearts and we started to look for a piece of property to build a home on. This has always been a dream of my husband’s, but the older we got, the more we resigned ourselves that perhaps this wasn’t to be for our family. I thought as I wrote this about how we teach our kids that with God all things are possible, yet we resign ourselves to “not possible”? So we ventured out on weekends and looked at parcels ranging from 1 to 25+ acres. If it didn’t have trees, Tim didn’t want to look. I showed him this one particular piece of land online in July 2012 that I had been watching for some time but thought he would balk at because it was raw land and would require a well, but he agreed to go take a look. Needless to say, we were beyond overwhelmed. Trees would not be a problem and there were multiple ponds as a bonus (which my Dad, the fisherman, has already begun to stock). So we went home, prayed and began to run the numbers; a month later we became the owners, but it would be almost 2 years before any building would occur. God had plans for us, but we had to be patient. Woods One of the very first things Tim said after we bought the property was that it wasn’t going to be just for us. This house and property was meant to be a blessing for many people, people we already knew and people we have yet to meet. We weren’t going to move out there and shut ourselves off from the world. This is easy to do as you get older and comfortable with your day-to-day life, but I don’t believe that’s what God wants for us. We are relational by design. I am not a very spiritual person, but how can we be a light if we have no place or opportunity to shine and express God’s love? Over the course of the two years before the construction happened, we had brought family and friends out for tours which ended up being more like hikes … I was exhausted each time! My lawn mowing exercise was over-shadowed by these tour-hikes.  Our brother-in-law was the first family member to see the parcel outside of our kids. It was important that Tim share this with him, not only as a brother-in-law, fellow architect and hunter, but as his long-time college friend. Another hike occurred with our good friends. They were so excited and encouraging to us and would be throughout those two years. But that day they took the tour-hike, they prayed over the land. Never having been part of something like that, it was at that moment I knew we were supposed to be here. DSCN0358 We were supposed to be there, but I honestly don’t know how or why people would want to build multiple houses in their lifetimes. We only built one and I am convinced that God wanted to teach us patience and lots of grace because in the course of 7 months we designed a modest home, sold our old home, moved in with my parents for 5 months, built the new house and began our life in non-suburbia going into the long and cold winter months. Our journey to this point was not without its struggles, both in our marriage, temporarily moving back in with my parents and in the building process itself. There was more stress than I like to think about, but God who took us through … got us through all of it and did it through His grace.  Even though it wasn’t easy at times, there were so many good things that happened throughout this to-be-continued adventure that can only be explained by saying that God was totally in control of every part of it. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6 So I’ve traded my suburban mailbox slippers for Wigwams and Muck boots to begin the part of our journey in small-town USA. Pond

What Do You Mean There Can’t Be Two Chiefs?

One Christmas morning years ago my husband gave me a book called The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger.  I looked at him, laughed and distinctly remember asking, “Is this is a joke?”  The mere receipt of this gift was so impactful that, to this day, I actually remember where I was sitting in my family room when I opened it and that’s saying a lot since I can’t remember what I did yesterday.  When I saw the look on his face, I knew it wasn’t a joke.  I guess he felt like I needed some help.  I set it aside, but as is my way, my curiosity got the better of me and weeks later I picked it up, prepared to read it and complain about everything written within its pages.  Much to my surprise, Dr. Laura was right on … example after example she took on the whiny, overbearing wife, the wife who struggled for the upper hand in the marriage, and put her in her place, which I soon discovered, was not the head of the household.  Even more surprising was that I found myself in more of the examples than I wanted to.

So began some self-reflection for me.  For someone who has trouble admitting failure or someone who can defend a point of view to the death even when it their own mind they know it’s completely wrong, is not as easy task.  It was more important that I “think” I’m right; whether I was or not didn’t even enter into the equation.

When I first started coming to the church I currently attend, I had just read this book.  This topic fascinated me to the point where I thought it would be interesting to have a Women’s Bible Study on this very subject; find out if there are other wives out there who felt like me and struggled with this.  When I approached the then Associate Pastor’s wife about it, she chuckled and referred me to the Senior Pastor’s wife, whom she fondly referred to as the “Right Reverend Mother.”   Nine years later, I am still pulling for a small group on this topic because I consider the “Right Reverend Mother” one of my mentors.  I go to her often when I need advice on tweens, teens, college kids and yes, submission!  She is my fellow melancholy but as an outsider, who knows my family, she gives unbiased feedback and has the wisdom to redirect me when she sees I might be wandering.  She has been on both sides of this sticky thicket of a topic, so I keep trying to “encourage” her that this would be an awesome small group!

It’s really not hard for me to see fairly quickly and with pretty good accuracy who “rules the roost” in a husband-wife relationship; my mentor says I may have a gift of discernment.  Unfortunately, it’s also easy to see what happens when the wife dictates the course of the family.  We live in a culture that demeans men and their role in order to put the woman in a higher place.  Remove any marital aspect out of that statement, and it still never ends well; it’s just tearing others down to build oneself up.  It’s amazing when you actually pay attention to how men are portrayed on television.  It’s quite blatant and it’s no wonder our culture is a mess.  Our young men and women are getting their direction on how to treat one another and what their roles should be from television shows or even from what they see in the home.

My own mother cooked and cleaned, worked a part-time job, and as is usually the case, was the primary care giver of us four girls while my father worked to support his family. So what broke down between her generation and mine?  Why, when I was first married, was I so hell bent on making sure I was the complete opposite? Did I grow up seeing what she did and think that I was going to be different?  I would cook when I felt like it, clean when I felt like it, iron what?, etc.  If it didn’t get done, then oh well!   For those of you who know my mother, she is a feisty, opinionated, food-bearing, w/a tad OCD Polish lady who took good care of my sisters and I and my dad; and still does.   I’m sure she may see her role as mundane some days, like many of us see those same roles in our own lives, but it works and has worked and I know that my dad would do absolutely anything for her.

Years later, I would come to watch these roles exhibited in my in-laws 50+ years of marriage.  They live out Ephesians 5:21-33.  Their devotion to one another is rare.  I have no doubt that my mother-in-law has a say, but I also believe she knows that my father-in-law’s place is as the leader of the family.  There is a reason God put this order and it’s not a bad thing.   Our husbands are our covering.  We may come across as “I can take care of this myself”,  but if we’re honest and get out of our own arrogant way, I think we want to be taken care of.  It’s our nature and while it took me years to figure this out, it’s okay!

I look at the different areas outside of our families where this authoritative structure should also be in place, school, church, government, etc. and is not.  The dysfunction is rampant.  There seems to be little to no respect for authority and that starts in the family.  I am convinced now more than ever that feminism has played a significant role in the demise of the American family.  I worked outside the home from age 17 to age 34, took a break to stay home when children 3 and 4 arrived, and went back at age 40.  I am not a feminist, I do not hate men, I do not think men oppress women, I know I can do whatever I put my mind to and I like to work, go figure.

Recently Candace Cameron-Bure (DJ Tanner from Full House) was getting a lot of flack from feminists about a small comment she wrote in her new book about being submissive to her husband of 17 years.  One video clip I saw was of a panel discussing this issue, consisting of feminists and non-feminists.  The non-feminist panel member could not even complete her statement (which ironically was Biblically based) because the head of the panel cut her off, stuttering and stammering her anger that there are actually women out there who think this is okay (like we’re living in the dark ages).  The venom with which she spoke with was so disturbing that I had to “Google” her to find out what could possibly have caused her to be so angry.  If feminism is supposed to be a good thing, why did this woman seem so unhappy?  I was not surprised to find that dysfunction wove it’s way though this woman’s childhood and adult years.

Does being under my husband’s covering mean I don’t get a say?  Have you met me?  I have a say and I always have an opinion!  Just ask my husband, my parents, my sisters and my friends.  But admittedly, the best and most peaceful times in our 24 (soon to be 25)  years of marriage are the times when I have submitted to my husband’s leadership.  Those early years were pretty rough.  It was my way or no way and when I look back, it was not a good thing.  We could have saved ourselves a lot of aggravation.  Those lessons I learned are important to me to pass on to my daughters.

So I still find myself occasionally reverting back to my old ways of trying to get the upper hand, but the difference is that now I can see it when it’s happening and at least try to stop my stubborn self.  All it really takes is that I just have my say, leaving those big decisions to be made to my husband, remembering how much calmer and happier I am.  And he can vouch for just wanting me to “be happy”.

Years ago, I loaned that original copy of The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands book that began my period of self-reflection out to a woman at our church and is usually the case, it was never to be seen again.  My hope is that it’s circulating.  In the meantime, a replacement copy went on my Amazon Wish List a few years ago and I’m happy to report that it’s back in the house again.

 

I Do Believe That’s One Of Our Apples…

I guess I thought I was doing my part in raising our kids to be self-sufficient. My two oldest think they are because they had lived (recent graduate) and are living (junior year) away at college. I suppose in a way they did function as if they were independent, because the good Lord knows, I can count on one half a hand the number of phone calls we, their birth parents, received from them. The threat of turning off their cell phones if they didn’t respond in a 24-hour period usually prompted a courtesy check-in call from them which I know was done on “the way to class” so they wouldn’t be subjected to any call longer than a walk from the dorm to their next class.  They love to remind their two younger siblings how “tough” they had it growing up. They enjoy telling them how I made them make their own school lunches when they were just barely able to reach the kitchen counter, how they had to clean the bathrooms, eat foods they didn’t like (ask our oldest about the time we had him eat an apple), how they never received an allowance for any chores they did and how I didn’t tolerate grades below a 90.

When I was that age I was not only making my own lunch and cleaning bathrooms, but also doing laundry, making dinner, mowing the lawn which also included enduring numerous blisters from raking said lawn because for some reason my father never bought a mower with a bagger or if he did have one, we never knew where it was. I also had to take in and unpack the groceries week after week and eat whatever was made for dinner which was always something my father liked, never mind what any of us kids wanted. I never made my kids eat cube steak the way my dad likes it, DRY! As a matter of fact, I don’t even think my kids know what cube steak is.

I will admit when they first left for college I wondered if they would get up in time for their early classes, if they would eat healthy, if they would go to bed at a decent hour, how often would they do their laundry, would they study? I never really worried about them making friends because they both take after their father and get along with everyone. But because of that I did worry that they remember why they were there and not buy into this “whole college experience” malarkey that some parents want their kids to have. Your father and I are helping you pay for an education whereby the goal is to choose an employable field of study, attain a job in said field of study, earn a living and stay out of debt and out of our basement when you are older. After their first couple visits home I could see they were still alive and well and that they must have figured it all out, although I’m pretty sure my son knew before he left for college that he wasn’t supposed to do all his laundry in one load, as evidenced by the white socks and t-shirts not being so white anymore. Perhaps he thought he was making good use of his time saving skills?

My daughter’s recent visit home from college began with her dropping her bag in her room and noticing that her bed was not made. She came to me asking where her sheets were. I told her I had washed and dried them but they were still sitting in the dryer. Instead of her offering to going down two flights of stairs to get the sheets from the dryer she gives me a sigh, my guilt sets in and I retrieve a set of sheets from the closet and she begrudgingly makes her bed. Thankfully I had gotten rid of the Care Bear and Barney sheets before she got home.  It is getting late at this point (we had been at a very long swim meet and ate dinner very late) and I am now in bed, literally about to fall asleep when I am awoken by same daughter now asking where her “big blanket” is. “Probably in your closet?” I say groggily. “Oh.” she turns and leaves my room not to be seen until mid-day. I am wide-awake again.

The next afternoon I come home from work to find her watching America’s Next Top Model or Boy Meets World, both of which I am convinced are in programming cahoots with the college break schedule. I come home to a sink full of dishes that held whatever food concoctions she has made in the two hours between her awakening and my coming home.  Those in my family know that one of my pet peeves is dishes in the sink when there is a perfectly good dishwasher nearby that is ready and waiting to receive the remnants of breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I think my kids suffer from dishwasher dementia. They are unable to determine if the dishes in the dishwasher are clean or dirty even though the big red light tells them so, because they know if they are indeed clean they might be asked to unload and that will create a snafu in their attempt to do as little as possible, so instead they play dumb and resort to putting them in the sink and exiting the vicinity as quickly as possible.

Day three of her visit she awakes, comes downstairs, looks around the kitchen and proceeds to tell me how her friend Jenny’s mom makes Jenny and her brother breakfast EVERY morning when they are home from school. I respond with an eye roll and tell her there is yogurt in the fridge. I can’t keep up and frankly after four kids, I’m tired. I was 23 when my first was born and 35 when the last one arrived. Something happened in that 10+ year time-frame…I think I got old!

So she spent her time with us, eating, studying, watching TV, napping, along with a constant reminder that she needed some supplies (aka groceries) that she wrote on a list that she subtly placed on the part of the counter where she knew I would see it. “Who’s paying for this?” I ask. $60 less in my checking account, she flashes her big smile at me and I follow with yet another eye roll.

So I got to thinking and asking myself what exactly is my job? If I didn’t bring the washed, dried and folded towels up from the basement and restock the towel “less” linen closet, would the kids resort to pulling pillowcases and placemats from the closet to dry themselves? If I didn’t replace the toilet paper on the roll or have extra rolls waiting in the wings, would they just sit there and wonder before panic sets in and they begin to yell in desperation? I wonder too how small they can let that sliver of soap get before they don’t think to reach under the vanity located directly across from the shower for a replacement bar? And my personal favorite … witnessing this game they play to see how much trash can they balance precariously on top of itself before thinking, “Hey, I should probably take that out.” And then decide, “Nah, I can make it fit in there.”

Now in all fairness my kids are great, but I don’t like to tell them that too often. Exhorting does not come naturally to me, as any fellow melancholy can tell you; some might see me as awkward if they ever caught me in the act. And in my defense, I think part of the problem with a lot of kids today is that their parents make them feel “too great” and these kids are growing up thinking they are the end all be all…narcissism, I think is what it’s called. We don’t make excuses for our kids and expect them to make good choices, knowing full well that will not always happen. But they know regardless that we love them…unconditionally. Part of our job is to get them ready to leave the nest. So without wishing time away, I admittedly look forward to seeing how they will function when they are really self-sufficient, out on their own, out from under our covering, how they will live with their spouses, how they will raise their families and how they will run their households, because as I have discovered after almost 25 years of marriage , which my father-in-law said the day he married Tim and I, “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.”

But that’s whole ‘nother story …

The Case for Mitt Romney

by Joshua Mertzlufft
‘Boldly cautious’ is the phrase that I would use to best describe the campaign for president that has been led by Willard Mitt Romney. He has proven to be a leader that the average working class American can rally around because of his goal of solving the puzzle that is our economy.

Mitt has been extremely bold throughout this campaign season, acting not simply like a candidate trying to gain popularity, but rather in a very presidential manner. His statements on major issues that occur, his demeanor both in public and in official debates, and his treatment of foreign policy show his ability to fill the role.  He has also held an unusually high level of respect for his opponent, although what he receives in return is a constant character assault. Romney has shown that he knows what he’s getting into and that he could handle the presidency well.

Romney certainly hasn’t hidden the fact that he has had an extremely successful business career, and that he wants to apply business principles to the federal government, such as balancing budgets by reducing overhead and unnecessary programs. For anyone, seeing that the nation is moving down a road to financial instability, it would be wise for the next president to prioritize the stability of the dollar and the economy that backs it.

He also proved bold in his ideas to mend the economy, refusing to support tax rate increases.  Even his VP pick, Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, shows that he’s truly placing the economy and the shrinking of the government at the top of his list. The shrinking of the government is something that is absolutely crucial if one wishes to see the overspending eliminated. Yes, one can argue that increasing the tax rate can help reign in the deficit, but anyone who observes history knows that as soon as the government gets more money, it’ll use it to justify an increase in spending rather than using it to eliminate the deficit. This is why Mitt has been correct to say that raising the taxes will not help get our nation out of the hole we are digging.

Romney has not been making abstract or unreal promises to the electorate or attacking his opponent in ways that irrelevant to the election or the presidency. Sure, he’s said things like the old ‘on my first day in office’ phrase, but what has always followed has been something that he can do on his first day in office, such as seeking tax cuts, treating China as the rule bender it is, and repealing Obamacare. The former two of these are easy. They only take a simple statement. The latter is a more intricate situation and it takes a greater understanding of the American government to see how a president can ‘dis-implement’ a law. Simply put, the legislative branch makes the law and then the executive branch chooses to enforce the law. Should the executive branch choose not to implement, even if the bill is already signed, it would take a great movement in the political world to overrule the non-implementation.  This great movement is something that Romney knows would not succeed even if someone did try to start it, so he would be able to effectively repeal Obamacare.

I would like to take a moment to dispel a major myth being popularized by his opponent. Romney is not a ‘stingy rich guy’ that does everything in his power to avoid taxes. In fact, by performing even minimal investigation of the man’s history, you can find that he is quite the opposite. Sure, he did only have about fourteen percent of his income paid as his federal income tax last year, but by simply asking why, you can find that he donated thirty percent of his income to charity and only claimed half of that donation total for the associated tax deduction, therefore paying more in taxes than he technically could have.  Between taxes and his charitable contributions, he only keeps about half of his total income. I don’t think anyone can count that as unfair; after all, most Americans won’t even give a full tithe at church on Sunday. Time and time again his character is that of a generous man and a good steward of his assets.  You can tell that you have a good candidate on your hands when his opponents and the media try to make overwhelming deals out of miniscule slips or non-issues.

Federal taxes withheld from my paycheck have increased over the last two years while I’ve continued to make the same amount and remained a college student, so you understand that I’m not earning anything close to the seemingly lofty poverty line. That’s proof that taxes don’t just go up for the wealthy. The nation really could use a president whose primary goal is to make room for the American economy by getting the government out of the way.  We need someone who holds themselves to their beliefs and won’t change once in office. Mitt Romney has shown that if elected, he will be that president.

Josh Mertzlufft is senior physics major

Quantum Physics and Preparing a House

Me:  “What is Quantum Physics?” 

Josh (with a sigh):  “Mom, it would take me way too long to explain it to you.”

Our eldest child, and only son, was selected to do physics research at Cornell University this summer before beginning his senior year of college.  He was pretty excited, we thought because… well … it’s Cornell!  Recalling a conversation years earlier, we remembered that one of the best tracks Josh said he ran on during high school was at Cornell.  Financially he would never have been able to go to school there, so in addition to being able to do research there he also looked forward to getting himself back on that campus track.

Josh Skype’s us about once a week and updates us with stories of thin films, particle accelerators and cryogenic something-or-another.  He talks about something called CHESS, a word that sounds like its right out of the 1980’s War Games or Real Genius movies, but is actually an acronym for Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source.  And yes, I had to go on the website to see what it stood for.  Notice I said “stood for”, not what it meant; like I could even begin to understand this field of study.   Seriously, I feel like I’m getting dumber the more he speaks about these things.  I had to ask him if a guy named Lazlo comes and goes through his closet.

So we’re on Skype and for those who are as technologically inept as I am, on this program you not only see the person you are talking with, you can also see yourself in the lower corner.  So he’s chatting about these thin films that are a millionth or trillionth or something pretty thin of the thickness (or is it thinness?) of a human hair and I look at myself in the lower corner of the screen and see this middle-aged woman who squeaked through Coach Wagner’s trig class in high school, with this completely blank stare.  This child would read calculus books for fun in high school!  At this point, I’m thinking to myself, how can it be that I birthed this child?  I know how … my husband is an architect, my dad is an engineer, my father-in-law is a pastor, and my brother-in-laws are architects, engineers, and construction and facilities managers.  Clearly, those are the genes that run rampant in this child.  I’m now trying to determine if he has any of my traits in him at all.  I think he can make a decent pancake?

Josh likes to dabble in a bunch of things.  So much so, that we have had many a “chat” with him about staying focused on his studies for his first three years of college.  He was heavily involved in student government at the time and also doing some website design.  So right after one of our “chats” he called us to tell us that he auditioned for and was selected as a member of the college choir.  Tim and I looked at each other and without saying a word are both thinking, “What part of “focus” does this child not understand?”   How does one who is studying Applied Physics become a choir member?  For 19 years we didn’t even know he could sing!  He taught himself piano and guitar, but singing?  He tells us that singing is relaxing for him because he’s in such a difficult field of study at school.

I think that Tim has always been a little stricter with Josh than he is with the girls and when I ask him about it, he matter-of-factly states, “You’re darn right I am.”  Josh, as the man and future head of his home, needs to get his house in order before everything God has planned for him following college comes along.   Josh says what he’s doing now in his life is, “preparing his house.”

So if God blesses him and doing all of these different things, a lot which I don’t understand,  helps him to get his house ready, who am I to question?  I’m simply a mom, trying to let go of her first born so he can leave the nest and fly to his next home.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll pick up “Quantum Physics for Dummies.”