Total Pageviews

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Project Bonus Kid

      Question: What would you do if your teenage son's friend asks if he can stay with you and your family?

     Answer: Of course, yes, absolutely!

Would I do it again? Of course, yes, absolutely! But this time with my eyes wide open.

     Project Bonus Kid was an interesting experience for our household, and  I think everyone has been changed for the better. Ten months we gave refuge to a kid, who for reasons still not clear, was left behind. One parent went out of state to care for an elderly family member, the other parent has never been involved.  Like any new relationship, it brought with it promise of freshness and new beginnings. And like most relationships, over time it became stale and sometimes stinky. I am trying to be politically correct here, so as not to slander or implicate said teenager. At some point, most teenagers are stinky. Even my own. One main difference, my own stinky teenager usually knows when he stinks, and then does something about it (such as jump in the pool, take a bath, or spray some Axe on said stinky teenager). Many options in various degrees of simplicity are available for correcting the stinky problem. How to you tell Bonus Kid to clean up? There are only so many ways to hint at the problem, carefully, not to crush the poor kid's spirit. (Yes, he has one, even if he doesn't believe so). For instance, at dinner, one might say to Bonus Kid, "Ahem, I think it's time for a shower." At which Bonus Kid could respond with, "I took one last night." Bonus Kid is the size of a full grown man, and really could use two showers per day. Or at least one shower plus one jump in the pool. The smell of chlorinated water is still better than Teenage Stinky Smell. But when it's your own kid, it's more tolerable. It's like when the boys were in diapers. I really didn't mind changing my own baby's diapers, but someone else's baby? Sure, they are cute and all, and I will hold and play with them, even bottle-feed them, burp them and wipe their spit-up and put them to sleep. But another baby's diapers? Sorry, that's on you. Back to Bonus Kid, to his credit, once he actually got in the shower, he made up for the negligence. It takes time to get clean, I know, but forty-five minutes is a tad overboard. I didn't mind, tho, because I was so happy the problem was being addressed, at least for the time-being. And afterwards, Bonus Kid smelled fantastically clean and looked sharp! It just didn't happen often enough!

     Bonus Kid looked like he was my own kid, with blond hair, blue eyes and fair skin. He had the musical talent that my own boys have. Talent which he still doesn't know he possesses. I still wonder how great he would become on the bari-sax if he actually practices. He is so confident playing the bari-sax, that one time he performed without a mouthpiece. He left it at home, and during warm-ups the director walked through the sax section, right in front of Bonus Kid, who had no mouthpiece. He played the part, pretending like he was playing, and had only the cover of the mouthpiece. I believe the director knew this, but gave the kid a break because of the 'situation.' As much as the director is a perfectionist and demands the best of his students, I am sure the director knew that Bonus Kid had no mouthpiece, and let it go. Choose your battles, right? That is the philosophy I often parent with. 

      Bonus Kid fit right into our family in many ways, such as his sense of humor! Bonus Kid and my husband could crack up at nothing, with just a look shared between them. Brothers from another mother, separated at birth. They both excel at grocery shopping, and BK went with my husband which was a big help. BK also excels at cooking, and he wants to be a chef.  Bonus Kid taught me how to make German Potato Salad. He made great Chop-Suey. But he didn't clean up after himself. Which I didn't mind so much, because he was cooking, contributing to the household. Still, I reminded him that the best chef has to start with dish-washing. When he was only cooking for himself, or snacking, and didn't clean his dishes, or even take them to the sink, well, yes that bothered me. Greatly. Disturbed me to no end. Caked-on pizza rolls residue, dried-up fruit juice in a glass, overnight and day-old cereal bowls in his room, soda cans tipped over and not cleaned up, ruined carpet. Choose your battles? Oh, right. I forgot. Bonus Kid got the blue-ribbon for eating, however. And for this, I miss him. Especially on Sundays.

     One way BK did not fit into our family was in school work. BK is very smart, honestly maybe too smart for high school. He is smart with street-sense and life's hard-knocks. His outlook on homework, however, was not smart. Why should he do this stupid stuff when he already knows xyz? ("Just do it, if you already know it, it won't take you long to do it! Turn it in, done! I can stop nagging you to do it!") I chose to fight that battle, and I didn't win. But you know what, neither did BK. No one won. I advocated for extra-credit with a couple of his teacher's, and he didn't do it. That was the decision-making point. I can't care more for his grades than he does. Done, over, move on. And yet, I miss him, especially on Sundays.

     Many involved in my life have often said, "He will thank you when he is older." "You did what you could." "You went beyond the call of duty." I respond to them, "You would do the same, if a kid asks you to live with them." Just a bit of perspective here, remember that a teenager is much more difficult to train than a puppy!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer Reading List 2012

     I don't read books. I consume them. And since I have recently rekindled my relationship with, I am receiving two to three books per week, delivered by mail. If you have not discovered, I suggest you try it, unless you are of an addictive nature, like me. Then stay away from, because it has the potential to ruin your life, turn you into a hermit, and drain your bank account. Yes, the books are free, but the postage is not. I could get cheaper media-mail postage by driving over to the post office and actually send out my books. But what fun is that, when it is so much more convienent to "click here" to create a shipping label? Besides the fact I am too paranoid to drive, but that's a topic for another day. So, the idea of getting free books without leaving my home, and swapping out books I no longer want, is just delightful! And we all need to be delighted, given the current socio-economic, political roller-coaster that is called 2012.

     I will begin by posting a review of the first book I read of this Summer of 2012. The book is titled wild by Cheryl Strayed, and is some-what of a memoir. This book was a spontaneous purchase at Costco, suggested by my husband, "Here hon, you would like this." He was right, but I know he equally enjoyed reading it. In fact, he told me he was taking his time reading it, because he wanted to savor it. (What?! is that how it's done? I can't put a good book down once I'm into it). wild is the story of a woman's desperate attempt to find herself after life threw a few curve-balls. (Mom died, she left her husband, drugs, etc.) Cheryl decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, but procrastinates about doing any actually training or day-hiking to get in shape and acclimated to the weight of her pack. Then she packs the thing with too much weight, and discovers the hiking boots she has are a size too big. In the process of her story-telling of the outrageous hike, she takes the reader back in time, hightlighting the events in her life which brought her to the decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She never gave up, although the thought crossed her mind once or twice. It was fun to read about her starting point in Tehachapi, a town we often stop for gas on our way up north. As she scaled the mountains of California, it was interesting to recognize names of towns and mountain-peaks we know and love. And her ending point took her right past Timberline Lodge, which holds a special place in my heart. Legend has it, that is the place of my mother's high school prom, dance, field trip? There's a photograph somewhere of my mom and her sister at Timberline Lodge. And for more significance, it is the spot of a Prine family spring-break trip, 2008. We flew into Portland, rented a car and drove to Mt. Hood, spent a few nights at Timberline Lodge, and continued our drive north to Seattle. Timberline Lodge is a magical place, and I love to gaze at the Sisters mountains from the picture window, and feel the spirits of ancient visitors. wild is a good read, if a little bit 'out there,' but it is real, raw and unabridged. It has brought up some questions for me, I wonder if it will for you?

     The second book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, was also a Costco find. I'm happy to have read it. But to fully read this book, it takes work and effort, in a good way. This book also brought up questions for me, and also a road-map to the answers. I am re-reading it and looking up some words I don't recognize (ebullient, for example). Reading The Happiness Project on the heels of wild showed a strong contrast between these two authors. Both women are from the midwest, and both took very different paths than what their parent's expected. Gretchen Rubin was a lawyer who decided to quit lawyering to become an author. Cheryl Strayed took over fifteen years to complete college, was sidetracked many times along the way, and maybe now these two authors could hold a conversation. But not before Cheryl hiked the PCT. I get the feeling Gretchen either has not had much drama in her life, or that she just has a sunnier disposition. Or maybe she has written about her struggles in more detail in another book. Compared to Cheryl Strayed's writing, Gretchen's life is very mellow. Back to Gretchen and the bluebird of happiness, it is a fun book with some concrete excercises to bring back the happiness to life. I have adopted some simple things from this book, but I think they are things I already knew, such as "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." At which point I might become mute, since many things that pop into my head to say are not nice, or at least are cynical or sarcastic. This book has reminded me to "put on a happy face" and also to "gaze lovingly" at the sleeping children in their beds. Oops, the children are now men, but I can still peek in on them while they are cherub-like, snoring, tucked in their beds.  I will be offering this for swap on

     I am recognizing a trend in the books I have chosen to read. Women who are PhD's
(is that a requirement to be published?) and who came from humble beginnings, who have gone down a path (either for good or bad) completely opposite of their original community would have expected of them. The third book, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen came in the mail on Thursday. I finished the book today, Sunday. I told you, I consume books! (sidebar- I have an abundance of idle time right now, since I am not able to drive). This book was a delight to read, basically because it made me laugh at the family dynamics. Mind you, I was not laughing at them, but laughing in recognition, laughing with Rhoda as she told about her funny mother and spend-thrift father. Road-trips and senior discounts, temper flare-ups of her father, bossy older brother (sound familiar?). Rhoda left the Mennonite community, spent twenty years in academia, and then after life's happenings, returned to her roots to reflect and recuperate. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is also a look into investing too much into another individual, taking the term "two shall become one" literally, and Rhoda losing herself in a fifteen year marriage that was filled with pain and suffering, once she decided to look at it head-on. Rhoda even shares her grandmother's Broscht recipe, among others. I am not swapping this one, but I will be sending it away to my girlfriend who lives in Mennonite country, so she can laugh with Rhoda.

     I am currently reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter, by Peggy Orenstein. I don't have a daughter, and if I did, Cinderella hopefully would not eat her. But I am enjoying this book, which is uncovering the marketing and commercialism theories for children's toys. I have a few friends who have young daughters, and they are over-stimulated with cheer, dance, Disney Princesses and pink everything. But who am I to judge? I have been over-obsessed with everything band with my boys, only that's not marketed and commercialized. I suppose it is, in music-stores and gear, amps, trumpet mouthpieces and mutes, but this is for art, for the love of music, which is genderless. Peggy Orenstein begins by describing Thomas the Tank Engine's new svelte, smaller train engina with a girly name ("Lady").
We love Thomas in this house, and I recently found the boys' train-set. It brought back so many fond memories of playing with them and the trains. Maybe we went a little overboard with Thomas (curtains, bedding, rug, sleeping bags, lunch pail, VHS tapes, books). But at least nothing was covere in Pepto-Bismol pink! Cinderella Ate My Daughter is "dispatches from the front lines of the new girlie-girl culture." I am torn on this idea, because little girls are so cute, especially when they are playing princess, and commanding court in their fantasy world. And don't you wish you could be a princess, if only for a day?

     Which leads me to the next book on deck, The Day Diana Died, from Diana was our princess, the people's princess, and I certainly remember my Mom wanted Prince Charles to marry my oldest sister; I remember the announcement when Charles and Diana got engaged, and I remember watching the Royal Wedding at Janice's house. I remember when Prince William and  Prince Harry were born. I remember following Diana in the media, what she was doing, and wearing, and then the divorce. And the Janice called me to tell me about the awful accident which took Diana's life. I look forward to reading The Day Diana Died. Is that morbid? She is most certainly a legend, a candle burned out too soon.

     Thanks for tuning in to Bev's Summer 2012 Reading List. What are you reading?