Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

I think Nat King Cole must have had a more leisurely family life than we do when he wrote about those "lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer"; only one of those adjectives fits our family's typical summer experience and this coming summer will be no exception. Even despite my best efforts to resist all temptation to sign the kids up for every class and camp I could find, we're still going to be moving in a dozen directions, all at once, for the majority of the summer months. Here are some of the upcoming highlights:

Marching Band: Zach will again participate in the Pleasant Grove High School Marching Band, with practices and parades on most days of June (through the July 4th Freedom Festival parade in Provo) and then a July break before picking up again in August to prepare for the fall field competitions. We don't know what Zach will be playing yet; last year he was on the front line playing marimba; this year he's auditioning for marching snare but will settle for bass drum. He refuses to play the tenor quads because he thinks they are too big and heavy to carry around, but I secretly hope that's what he is assigned because I think they're cool.

Color Guard: Izzy auditioned for the color guard about a month ago and made the team, so she'll be marching right alongside Zach and the Marching Band in this summer's rehearsals, parades, and competitions. Since Chris was in Marching Band all the way through BYU (where he was the drum major his senior year), and since I was on the color guard when I was in high school, we both feel a sense of pride in watching our kids follow similar paths and we hope they have as good an experience as we did.

Hummingbird Music Camp: Last summer we took Zach and Izzy down to Hummingbird Music Camp in New Mexico. This is another "living vicariously through our children" moment, as Chris attended Hummingbird for many years during his own boyhood. The camp is fun, but also wonderful in that the kids get to choose two instruments (a primary instrument and then a secondary one if they want), and for each they receive private and group instruction every day of the week they are at camp, culminating in private recitals and band/orchestra concerts on Sunday when the parents come to pick up the kids. This year, Zach was selected to be a Counselor-in-Training (CIT) and so both he and Izzy will spend two full weeks at Hummingbird in July. Joey is going to join them for the second week. Zach chose to learn the tenor sax this year; Izzy is sticking with her viola, and Joey will play both guitar and trumpet.

Clearcreek Camp: This is Joey's year to attend a week at Clearcreek camp--the Alpine School District summer camping program for kids moving into the 6th grade next fall. Joey had a choice of attending either an all-boys session of the camp, or a co-ed session; this was a "no-brainer" as Joey quickly chose the mixed gender camping group. He'll be attending camp from June 13 (early morning) until about noon on June 17, and this will be his first experience of spending an extended amount of time away from home. I'm a little apprehensive about how he'll do, especially since his peanut allergy and his recurring asthma always complicate things a bit for him in ways that most other kids don't worry about, but at the same time this will be an opportunity for him to mature a bit (and get a preview for what his week at Hummingbird in July will feel like!).

Private Music Lessons: School may be out, but right now Zach takes private percussion lessons, Izzy takes private viola lessons, and Joey takes private guitar lessons. Our plan is to continue most of these at least throughout June, and then we'll have to figure out whether it makes sense to try and continue during July and August when we're doing some traveling, or whether it's best to just put the lessons on hold until the fall. I'm leaning toward the latter.

Family Vacation: This year we plan to spend the first week of August (or so) in Oregon, Washington, and Northern California with my sister and her family. The itinerary includes a couple days in the Portland area visiting with family, then a few days at the "Great Wolf Lodge" in Grand Mound, Washington (a fun water-slide resort that we hope keeps the kids entertained for hours on end), and then a couple nights camping in Eureka, CA where we'll spend a day or two admiring the biggest redwoods in the country.

Girl's Camp: We will return from our family vacation the day before Izzy needs to pack up and head off to ward Girl's Camp in Heber Valley. She had a great experience last year at stake Girl's camp, and she's very excited to go again this summer.

Scout High Adventure: Originally the scouts (Zach) were going to hike, camp, and fish in the high Uinta's as their summer scouting activity. As I understand it, though, that has been changed and now the plan is for all the scouts to head down to Moab, UT and mountain bike through the redrock. I have no idea when this activity is supposed to occur, but it's tentatively on the calendar anyway...hopefully without conflicts with Marching Band, Hummingbird, family vacation, etc.

I usually have signed my kids up for a few nights at Space Camp, but haven't done that (yet) for this coming summer. If time and opportunity arises, I might still try to get them in--Joey especially is anxious to have an overnighter at Space Camp--but it's tentative. Also, while all three of my older children are excellent swimmers, Ben hasn't really had much opportunity to strengthen his swimming skills, so I'm feeling like enrolling him in some swim classes this summer will be invaluable. On the upside, we did purchase a swimming pool (aluminum/vinyl lining kind of thing) that we'll be setting up this summer, and I'm very excited to have a pool in the yard where the kids can splash, swim, and escape some of the summer heat. It's a big pool--10' x 20' and 52" deep, so it should provide a great deal of fun during the hot summer months!

Also, I have not signed any of the boys up for golf lessons, Izzy probably will not do summer orchestra this year, and as far as I know, Zach won't have honor band or steel drum band since he's moving up to the high school this year, and those (I think) are junior high programs. So that simplifies the schedule a bit...I hope...

At any rate, I am looking forward to the end of the school year, and a hiatus from the daily grind of homework, school responsibilities, etc. But this won't be a lazy, hazy summer. Bring on those crazy, crazy, crazy days of summer!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Two Funerals

As autumns go, this one hasn't been the best. I don't mean that the season itself has been bad; in fact, the fall colors have been quite spectacular this year. What I mean is that the Tolen family has faced some challenges recently that created a pretty significant amount of stress for us.

The most prominent of these stresses were the passing away of Chris's grandfather, and three weeks later, his father. Grandfather (age 92) lived in New Mexico. His passing in September was unexpected, and yet not unexpected, either. While not in dire health, he had declined significantly over the past few months. Upon the news of his passing, we quickly arranged to drive to New Mexico for the funeral services.

Grandfather's funeral was held in the St. John's Methodist Church in Santa Fe--a beautiful structure, and a kind, loving congregation among whom Grandfather had been an active part for all his life. My children, never having experienced any other religious practices outside of our own, had several questions about the attire of the leadership (the robes, sashes, etc. worn by the priests (bishops? Deacons? I'm not sure what the proper terminology is), and about the service itself, which involved lectures about the scriptures, unfamiliar hymns, and several instances of repeating lines back to the clergy as they read from service books and hymnals. I had the opportunity to sing as part of the service, which was humbling and quite an honor--especially to sing in such a beautiful edifice. Both Chris and Zach were pallbearers for Grandfather,and Zach especially felt special to be included among the grandsons in this sacred duty.

Perhaps the most inspiring part of the funeral service, though, took place at the Veteran's Memorial Cemetery, where Grandfather was interred. Following the funeral, we all followed the hearse to this breathtaking cemetery--thousands of perfectly spaced white grave markers--where the Navy reserve conducted a second, smaller service to honor their fallen comrade. The service included the folding and presentation of the flag, a 21-gun salute, and a "send-off" by military officers. I think all of us were particularly moved by this patriotic presentation.

We had only just returned from New Mexico, though, when Chris's father (Richard) took a turn for the worse. He had been living in a Beehive Home (an assisted living facility) nearby us since last summer, and seemed to be thriving there. But Grandfather's death seemed to be particularly hard for him, and he was in quite compromised health to begin with. Only a week after Grandfather's funeral, Richard passed away, too.

Because Richard had spent most of his adult life in Santa Fe, we found ourselves packing up the car yet again and heading back to Santa Fe for Richard's memorial service. This time, my children got to see what it's like to attend a High Episcopal church service in the Holy Faith Episcopal Church in Santa Fe. If I'm being honest, it was not a comfortable experience for us. Our own religion has some ceremony, yes, and so did the Methodist service. But this was nothing like any of us expected. The rituals and rites were confusing--sometimes spoken while walking down the aisle carrying banners and flags, sometimes sung to some of the loudest (but greatest) organ music I've ever heard in a church, sometimes chanted from the back of the chapel, and sometimes spoken from rameumptoms in the front of the room. Candles were lit and extinguished, wafers and wine were issued to the believers...honestly, I have very little idea what most of it was about. And the kids are even more baffled. But we all agreed that this would have been the service that Richard wanted, after his many years of service as a deacon within the Episcopal church.

In addition to the funerals, all the kids have been busy this fall with their own activities. The abbreviated version features Zach marching with the high school marching band, including a tour to Southern California last weekend. Izzy auditioned for and was cast on the junior high Shakespeare competition team, and they traveled down to Cedar City (in between funerals) to compete in the national competition there. PG junior high took all-around first place--a rewarding payoff after an endless stream of rehearsals. Joey began art lessons in September, and Ben...well...Ben hasn't done anything new. He's just been Ben.

Chris has been traveling quite a bit this fall, too, as his business has seen some action of late. And my teaching schedule is nearly killing me. Fortunately, the semester is starting to wind down.

I'll add more details later of our comings and goings. We're all looking forward to a California vacation during Thanksgiving week...more travel, yes, but under less stressful circumstances. And perhaps as we move into winter, life will settle back down.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Summer In, Summer Out

I don't know how time slips by so quickly. But here we are facing another school year, and I haven't updated the family blog since January? Wow. Well, fortunately, nothing happens around this house, so you haven't missed much. Stop smirking. I'm totally serious.

Zach's life is exactly as it was before--consumed by banging on things with sticks. This summer, since he is moving into the 9th grade, he signed on with the Pleasant Grove High School Marching Band (4A). He is a part of the "pit"--which is the group of percussionists who play the big, non-marching instruments on the field. Zach is particularly excited to be assigned to marimba, where he plays both two-mallet and even a little four-mallet music. The band's entire field show this year features the music of Billy Joel, and Zach is loving it. He also joined the junior high's (9th grade is still at the Jr. High in PG) steel drum band, where he plays rhythm (bongos, congos, trap set, etc.). And now that school is starting, he is ALSO playing in the school Jazz band that meets before school, and in the Symphonic band that meets as a regular class. So, in case you missed it, this fall Zach will be playing in the Marching Band, the Steel Drum Band, the Jazz Band, and the Symphonic Band. He asked if he could try out for the golf team, too, and I punched him. (no...not really...I didn't punch him. But he did want to try out for golf.)

Both Zach's and Izzy's musical skills veritably exploded this summer after we sent them to a week-long music camp in the mountains of New Mexico. The camp, called Hummingbird Music Camp, is something that Chris attended every single year of his boyhood, even working there as a paid head counselor when he was 17 or 18 years old. Since we started having kids Chris has been anxious to give them an opportunity to attend Hummingbird, and this was the year. The kids had a great time. Zach "majored" in percussion there, while Izzy "majored" in viola (their primary instruments). But they both also took the opportunity to learn to play the saxophone, too, as a second instrument. Granted, neither of them is ready to go on tour on the sax, but it was fun to watch them pick up a new skill in a short amount of time! They are both excited to go back next year.

Izzy is playing viola, and was accepted into the advanced orchestra this year as an 8th grader. She seems to enjoy it very much, but her heart really lies in drama. This year she is taking both 8th grade drama and musical theater, and would like me to see if there is some kind of children's acting classes or company that she could join once school starts again. I'm on the lookout... Izzy and Zach are both part of the Peer Advisory Leadership (PALs) group at the junior high, so they will have some fun this year helping out with school activities, etc. In fact, as I type this they are both at the junior high giving tours to the incoming seventh graders. Izzy had a great time at Girl's Camp this year, too, learning to be a "D.O.L.L." (Daughter of Light and Liberty).

Joey had a good summer, too, but not nearly so busy a summer as his older siblings had. The poor critter had to have five baby teeth pulled out over the summer because his mouth is just so tiny that some of his permanent teeth were beginning to come in through the roof of his mouth, simply because there was no room for them anywhere else. Now, with five spaces opened up, things are looking a little better. However, the orthodontist (who already has Zach and Izzy in braces) said that he probably wants to put braces on Joey's upper teeth, just for six months or so, right away because Joey has a cross-bite that causes his upper jaw to lock over his lower jaw and prevent the lower jaw from growing as it should. Needless to say, Joey is NOT happy about the prospect of having braces on his teeth as a fifth grader. Yes, you read that right: Joey is moving into 5th grade!! I really can't believe it myself. He's such a diminutive creature--but only physically. What he lacks in height and weight, he makes up for in personality. Joey is also musically gifted, and I've been putting him through the horrors of piano lessons. But his ultimate goal is to get to a place where I tell him he can take up the electric guitar. That's his true passion and ambition--to get and learn to play the guitar. Perhaps that's why he spends so much time playing Guitar Hero on the Wii.

And then there is Ben. Sweet, strange, mostly-naked Ben. If you track my other blog ( then you know about Ben's special needs. He's truly a remarkable kid, with an interesting perspective on the world. However, if you ever show up at my house unexpectedly, be warned that Ben will likely greet you in his underwear. He understands that when we leave the house he must put on clothing. But the minute we walk through our door again, Ben vanishes for about two minutes, and then returns in just his skivvies. He claims that clothes make him feel hot and "don't feel comfortable." We have gotten so used to the au natural Ben, actually, that a couple nights ago, when Joey bequeathed an old pair of pajamas to Ben, I did not recognize who was curled up on my bed. I gave the pajama-ed child a squeeze and said, "You look so cozy in those jammies!" He nodded, and let me tuck him in. The next morning, he emerged from his room completely undressed again. I surrender.

School starts again next week, and I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, I am entirely ready to reclaim some solitude, and can't wait to see what it's like to clean a room in the house and two hours later, still have it clean. On the other hand, school brings a demanding schedule, homework, projects, lunches, etc. that wear me down after too long. And Ben's special needs mean that I can't ever just merrily send all the kids off with a kiss and a wave. There are behavior charts to create, and IEP's to update, and teacher conferences / principal conferences / school psychologist conferences / speech therapist conferences to attend. And homework with Ben is like root canals with Ben--long and painful. So school starts again next week. Hurray, and hang on tight.

Because I am insane, I am teaching five classes this fall-three at UVU (Utah Valley University), and two at Kaplan University. Right now, I'm desperately trying to revamp my syllabi so that my students will have less papers to turn in to me, and more papers that they work on in groups, and grade as peers. I haven't come up with a perfect plan yet, but I'm working on it. I will continue to play the organ at church, though I will not be teaching Relief Society anymore (the women's class at our church). Teaching my college classes will require about 60 hours each week, and I have to fit those in during the hours when the kids are either at school, or sleeping. Because when they are home and awake, I will be taxiing to marching band rehearsals, jazz band rehearsals, orthodontist appointments, music lessons, drama rehearsals, church and scout activities, etc. On top of those, Chris's father is now living in Utah, and while his day-to-day living needs are taken care of by the facility in which he lives, we are still required to get him to all the doctor appointments that he requires for his diabetes, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, etc. I'm so glad that he is here with us, and that we have this time to spend with him. But the appointments are time-consuming.

Chris has just accepted a position in our church to work with the Young Men's organization (he is the new YM secretary). This means that he will be attending the weekly YM activities, as well as camp outs, hikes, summer camp activities, etc. I think he's happy about the calling, though. It's always fulfilling to work with the youth. Chris is still working full-time for the State Hospital as a psychologist and as director of the APA internship there. He's also finally picking up more testing clients, which is good for our bank account, but it means that he is not home very much anymore as he juggles all his work and church responsibilities. On top of that, he has been invited to teach for the University of Phoenix, and so he's attending some preliminary training sessions during September in anticipation of teaching a class or two for UoP this fall. Again, good for the bank account (which we've desperately needed for a while now), but harder on the family schedule.

So, like I said, not much is happening here in the Tolen household. Just the normal insanities of raising four children in a fast-paced world. I can't complain. They are talented, active, involved kids, and though it's exhausting to have them involved in so many things, it's also quite fulfilling. And everyone keeps telling me that no matter how hard things are right now, the time will quickly come when everyone is grown, and out of the house, and opportunities like we have now will be gone.

Carpe Diem, I suppose. But thank heavens for Diet Coke and chocolate.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year, New Post.

Well, it's the holiday season. I must admit that as I've opened and read through other families' Christmas letters, I've felt some guilt that I not only never wrote a letter this year, but I haven't even updated our family blog for quite some time. Duly chastened, and suffering guilt even unto repentance, I hereby make amends:

This year, for the first time since Joey was two years old and Ben was...well..not a Tolen yet, we took a family picture. Chris and I put aside our feelings of self-loathing (well, I actually just wadded mine up in my fist and hid it until the dastardly deed was done), and called a local photographer to take a few photos. [By the way, she is a wonderful photographer; if you live in the Utah County area and are looking for someone who is great with kids and family photos, her name is Julie Taggart and her website is right here on blogspot:]

Except that we didn't take a few pictures. We took 432 pictures--give or take a few. That's how many are on the disc that Julie gave us. And aside from the fact that Joey and Ben were certain that they were perishing in the Arctic chill, we had a pretty fun go of it, even in the snow and ice. We like this one, except that Ben is making the strangest face possible. Then again, of the 432 photos that Julie took, Ben was smiling normally in exactly four of them...and those were all individual portraits. Smiling naturally is not something he does easily.

So, now you've seen us; read on if you'd like to find out what we're up to these days, too.

Zach (14): Just finished his Eagle project, and is working hard to join 16 of his fellow scouts in February at a giant Eagle Court of Honor. He's playing percussion in the Advanced Percussion group at the junior high and taking private percussion lessons each week--making good use of the drum kit he received for his birthday in November. Zach finished performing as part of "Oberon's Posse" in the junior high's fall production of "Midsummer Night's Dream," and now he's rehearsing an ensemble part in the spring production of "Guys and Dolls."

Izzy (12): Just finished performing with Salt Lake's Ballet West Ballet Company in their annual Nutcracker show. She was a blue soldier, and enjoyed being carried off the stage upside-down each night by an overgrown, large-headed mouse. Strangely, she always marched right back on to the stage moments later, obviously having overpowered the foul rodent somewhere in the shadowy recesses of stage right. Izzy is learning to play the viola--quite well, I might add--and is contemplating her future as a dancer. Her interests lie more with drama and music right now, and I suspect that her quite successful foray into dance is coming to an end.

Joey (9): Seems to be letting go of his obsessive need to know everything there is to know about the Titanic. Then again, perhaps he has just exhausted every available knowledge store and is out of new things to learn. We continue to worry about his weight (or lack thereof); he has an appointment with a pediatric endocrinologist next week and we'll see if she has anything to say. Joey is really into all things art and science lately. Never does a day go by that he hasn't spent several hours cutting, tearing, painting, gluing, stapling, and stringing up various projects. I admire his initiative. Now, if I could only inspire some desire to clean up after himself...

Ben (6): Made it through the holiday season with only moderate stress (hurray for good medication!). He is doing well in school...that is, he's not acting out too much, and he's picking up a few academic things here and there. Spelling is particularly difficult for him, and he's not interested in reading much yet. But he's learning. It occurred to me over the Christmas break that if there is a good year to hold him back, it would be first grade. After all, he has a July birthday, so he's already one of the youngest kids in his grade, and when you add his autism into the picture, he might just need another year to catch up a bit. I don't know, of course. We'll see what this winter and spring bring. Ben doesn't develop on a smooth curve; he makes jagged upward leaps at the most unexpected times. Perhaps he'll leap, yet.

Heather (you didn't really think I'd put my age here, right?): Just finished teaching English Composition courses at Utah Valley University and at Kaplan University. It was a stressful semester, as I had to put together new lesson plans and learn new curricula for two new courses. I didn't set things up as well as I might have, and ended up grading non-stop for three weeks straight before the Christmas break. It was not fun. This time around, I've made some adjustments and have all my lesson plans for the new term already in place, so I anticipate that things will flow more smoothly. In the meantime, I'm occasionally playing the organ at church, but have been assigned to teach the class that the women attend (the "Relief Society") once a month, too...which I enjoy.

Chris (tempting to put his age...but...nah...): Just completed his first year as a psychologist at the Utah State Hospital. As the director of the APA internship there, he had a big responsibility preparing the site for an accreditation process that took place during the fall. He did very well, and the accreditors had nothing but praise for him and for the program. Chris is currently heartbroken that his Pittsburgh Steelers did not make the superbowl playoffs this year, but I suspect that he will recover. He is teaching a class at church, and hoping that this year the economy will turn back around and propel some clients back into his testing and aftercare businesses. I hope so, too.

So there it is: our starting lineup for 2010. Who knows what these months will bring. But whatever comes, I will try harder to write about it, and share it with all of you.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Doctors, Dancing, and Drums

This last week, Valley View Elementary school celebrated "Rainbow Ribbon" week. I don't know why it's called "Rainbow" week, because the only two celebrated ribbon colors were red ("Say no to drugs"), and white ("Internet safety"). Red and white don't seem like much of a rainbow to me. I thought a nice green ribbon might at least be included, but I've recently discovered that green ribbons represent the movement to legalize cannabis. I guess that might be confusing to the kids, especially if they had just embraced red ribbons the day before.

Anyway, as part of Rainbow Week, the PTA held a big assembly on Friday which included guest speakers, fire trucks, and even a life-flight helicopter that landed on the playground. After school, Joey approached me with a big grin on his face. "Mom, guess what?" he asked with a giggle. "You had a helicopter land on the grass?" I said, thinking he'd be surprised that I already knew. Joey said, "Well, yeah, but that's not it. Guess what the name of the first speaker today was? MISS UTAH! Can you believe her name is Miss Utah? Who would name their kid Miss Utah?!" I couldn't stop laughing as I explained that "Miss Utah" was a title--not a name.

I love Joey so much! It's partly my explanation for why I haven't taken him to an endocrinologist yet, to follow-up on his last blood work results. I have such mixed feelings about dragging him up to Salt Lake for a battery of tests that may or may not reveal any significant problems. On the one hand, Joey struggles as it is to cope with all his allergies, asthma, and eczema. His self-esteem is already pretty low, since he considers himself to be inferior to all his peers who don't have to take medications and avoid certain foods and situations at all times. I don't know if his self-image can handle another blow. And he has a serious phobia about needles and tests, so I really have to be sure that he needs them if I'm going to inflict them upon him. On the other hand, if there is something wrong that, if treated, could help him gain some weight and feel more physically attractive, then I should find out what it is. I'm in limbo--trying to weigh the chances that something is wrong with him against the possibility that he's just a scrawny kid who needs more time to grow up.

Izzy made a big decision last week: she quit ballet. I'm surprised, but only a little. The truth is, she has wanted to quit for years. I pushed her to stick with it, hoping that once she moved onto pointe, she'd embrace the art and want to go as far as she could with it. But she's been en pointe for a year now, and still she has tantrumed and cried before every rehearsal, complaining that she doesn't want to go and hates ballet. I finally decided that if ballet isn't her passion, it's time to let her choose another path. She is still dancing jazz, which she loves, but she wants to get involved in drama and take viola lessons. I know that she loves those things, and if I'm paying for her to develop talents, they may as well be talents that she'll use for the rest of her life. After all, as much as I love watching her dance, I don't see her pursuing a dance career. On the other hand, she can play the viola in church and at community events, and act throughout her whole life.

As for Zach, he's pursuing a talent of his own: drums. The problem is, he wants a new drum set for his birthday in November and can't understand why we think $750 is just too much for a birthday present. Seriously, this is hard to understand? We are going to start him up with some drum lessons (the band teacher at the junior high teaches private percussion), and he can practice on the drum sets at school if he's willing to stay after school (he promises that he will). He's been assigned the drum set part on a percussion piece that the band is playing this year, and he loves it. So we want to give him every opportunity to develop his talents. But I'm having trouble stomaching the drum set investment. How do parents do this?

Ben had an amazingly great week--he earned every single possible sticker that he could on his "good behavior" chart. And he said a few funny things, as usual... you can read his updates on the blog I've dedicated to him:

The snow threatened to fall this week, too. One day it was 90 degrees, and the next day the temperature plummeted into the 30s and snow fell on the mountains above us. I guess it's just been a strange, crazy, rainbow-ribbon kind of week. I wonder what comes next?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Curioser and Curioser

Thoroughly ensconced in Wonderland, Alice took a sip from a small vial and suddenly began to stretch tall like a telescope. This new and uncertain experience made her "curiouser and curiouser" to see what might happen next.

The Tolen family is increasingly curiouser ourselves these days. Much is happening, and much has yet to happen. For example, Ben finally has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) in place at school and is starting to get some of the services and help that he needs. You can read about that on the blog I have dedicated to Ben's progress: (

Joey went in for a checkup, and while we were there I said to the doctor, "Is there any chance Joey might have diabetes?" I got this notion from an article that my sister read about (of all things) the Jonas Brothers, one of whom was diagnosed with diabetes after a friend pointed out how skinny he was and a doctor looked a little closer at what might be going on. So our doctor, who agrees that Joey, age 9 and weighing in at a whopping 44 pounds, is pretty skeletal, suggested we do a little blood work and see if anything happened to come up. On Friday I got a call from his office saying that most of Joey's blood work was normal, except that his serum calcium is a bit high, as are the protein levels in his blood. Not sky-rocket high (in fact, the calcium level is only .4 above normal and just below the mildest diagnosis of hypercalcemia--same with the protein), but given Joey's seeming inability to gain any weight, the doctor wants us to see a pediatric endocrinologist at Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake, "just to be safe." I'm a little freaked out, partly because I know that when Joey finds out that he needs to go see another doctor who is likely going to take more blood from him (the last blood draw was a seriously traumatic event), he's going to pitch a fit, and also because that child has had to deal with serious allergies, asthma, and eczema all his life. If he now is told that something else is wrong with him, he's going to fall apart.

Izzy summoned all her courage yesterday and auditioned for the Ballet West production of the Nutcracker in Salt Lake City. She was cast as a soldier based on her height (I didn't realize that every single role in the traditional production is based on the dancers' heights!). She was at first quite disappointed that she wasn't called back for the lead role of Clara, but when I helped her see that nearly all the callbacks were for girls who dance at the Ballet West Academy (and every year the role is played by an Academy dancer), and then reminded her that if her own dance studio were putting on the show and they cast an "outsider" as the lead role, we'd all be pretty upset, she relaxed and was able to celebrate her success at just getting into a highly competitive production. I'm equally happy for her...though I have to selfishly admit that if she hadn't been cast, I wouldn't have missed the regular 40-minute treks that we're about to start making up to Salt Lake starting this week for rehearsals. What a great experience this will be for her, though, to work with a professional ballet company on a professional show.

Zach is sure that he broke his wrist last week. The wrist that he can still drum with, skateboard with, write with, type on the computer with... He wiped out while longboarding with his pals, and landed hard on his hand. It isn't swollen, misshapen, or discolored, and he has nearly all range of motion except that when he flexes too hard it hurts. I contend that he's merely sprained it, and mildly at that. He thinks I'm being a horrible mom by not taking him in for x-rays. Maybe I am. Maybe tomorrow I need to take him to the doctor and just ease his worries by getting an x-ray. And maybe I'll find out that I've been wrong all along! I think doctors are largely overrated, and so personally, I don't go unless I'm certain that death is imminent. But I do try to take my kids in when they need it...OK fine. If he's still experiencing pain tomorrow, I'll take him in. At least he'll know for sure what's the matter, and I can get away from the "bad mother" condemnations!

So, as you can see, it's curiouser and curiouser for us. How will Ben continue to do in dealing with his Autism? What will the endocrinologist tell us about Joey? Is Izzy going to enjoy the long rehearsals for the Ballet West production? And has Zach really broken his wrist? Tune in to Wonderland central next week for updates.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Junior High Bus Drama

Suddenly I remember how much I hated junior high school. Such a petty, self-absorbed, cliquey time of life--someone once said that in the perfect world, we would move straight from kindergarten into college. AMEN.

Izzy came home earlier this week and said that her friend had been knocked to the floor of the bus by a 9th grader who was determined to get to the back seat. I doubt the friend was actually knocked to the floor; junior high students are superbly dramatic. But any contact is too much; any threatening or name-calling is inappropriate. So I made what I thought was a relatively innocuous and general post on Facebook that 9th graders had better not be bullying other kids on the bus over a seat, or else I'd start calling their moms. Doesn't that seem like an acceptable response? I thought so. But I was wrong, because I'm not the parent of a 9th grader, so I don't understand that tradition supersedes human kindness.

The parent of a 9th grader quickly responded to my post and informed me that although bullying is not OK, it is nevertheless tradition that 9th graders sit in the back. I guess at all costs, that's a tradition that should be preserved. The conversation escalated and a few others joined in. And ultimately, although it wasn't explicitly said, it was clearly indicated by the 9th grade parent that the only way to avoid bullying is to make sure that 7th and 8th graders don't even try to occupy the sacred back-row space. After all, the 9th graders were bullied, too when they were younger, and they've waited a long time to claim their rightful place. 7th and 8th graders should expect no less grief, and no more privilege. (Editorial note: In fairness, this parent really doesn't condone bullying. I think she was having trouble supporting me on this one because of some historical resentments that she harbors toward Izzy following a conflict between Izzy and her son last year. She probably felt a little vindicated to learn that Izzy had been bullied a bit. I might have too in her position...Izzy was the bully-er last year instead of the bully-ee. Not that any bullying is ok--then OR now, but...)

In order to try to keep some kind of peace with said parent and to disengage from the already over-inflated level of conflict that arose, I urged Izzy to stay as far away from the back row as possible. Just stand, Rosa Parks. The seats are saved for the white people, and we don't want to be causing any unnecessary trouble. This isn't the civil rights movement, and no one is about to applaud rebellion against the tradition (NO--I didn't say any of that to Izzy). But Izzy is a 7th grader. Which means she's stubborn and not great at seeing the big picture. So I shouldn't have been so surprised when she sent me a text this afternoon saying, "Me and Morgan were the first people on the bus so we're sitting in the back row!" What victory did she think she had won? And why was she surprised that the venerable 9th graders spent the bus ride home calling her a "douche-bag," a "geek," a "loser," etc. Verbal abuse can only be expected since she broke the sacred code. Right?

A mature person would have sat in the middle of the bus simply to avoid the conflict. A mature person would have let a 7th grader sit in the back without getting all upset about rights and traditions. A mature person would have realized that life is crappy enough without cluttering it with the most stupid battle ever waged. But these aren't mature people. They are junior high students. And the sooner they stop being junior high students, the better.