Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Bully Factor

It's one of the facts of child rearing - eventually your child WILL be bullied. You hope it will be later rather than sooner. You hope your child will handle it well emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. But really, you hope it just won't happen at all - of course that's a pipe dream. Today was our day.

Zach was at a birthday party for his best buddy when one of the other party guests decided to bully him. I'm not sure when it started, but it apparently escalated over a toy car that Zach wanted to play with. He picked it up when the other boy tried to grab it from him. Zach tugged back but when he saw it escalating he backed of and just walked away (like we taught him) then the other boy tosses the car aside and comes back at Zach, pushing and hitting, Zach tried to walk away, but the other kid kept at it so Zach took a swing. Thankfully, the mother of the birthday boy (and one of my best friends) intervened and made bully-boy stop and apologize.

I am very proud of Zachary for how he handled himself. That may sound strange considering he took a swing at the kid, but he did everything we taught him. You walk away when someone is being a bully and unreasonable. If he pursues you or corners you, you don't escalate it to a physical confrontation, however if the bully does and you can't get away - you defend yourself.

When I asked Zachary what happened he was confused "He hates me Mommy" - that was hard to hear. We had a talk on the way home about why bullies are mean - they don't hate you, they don't like something about themselves and when they see positive characteristics in you it reminds them of their own faults and they lash out. Zachary is not perfect, but he has plenty of positive attributes and there is no reason for anyone to "hate" him. I know, I'm biased, but really.

The concept of bullies hating themselves and lashing out at others may be a bit much for him to get at this point, but I think he understood the basics - that there is nothing wrong with him and it's ok to defend yourself. That's my main concern. I remember what it was like to be bullied. It sucks, it pulls your self-esteem right down to zero. I don't want that happening to Zachary at age 6.

So yet another milestone in our journey together as a family. Zach is losing his first tooth - soon we'll have a new milestone. I'm sure we will all handle that one well too. At least it has a monetary pay out.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Boy This Generation is a Bunch of Brats!

Last night my small group from church talked about living out our Christianity every day. What does that mean? Well it means acting Christ-like every day in everything you do. Stepping up to help when you see an opportunity - some one struggling with groceries on the street, a neighbor who can't rake their own leaves, actually NOT getting angry at someone who is tailgating you, but blessing them instead (ya, I struggle with that one too). A big part of our discussion was those so called "little" acts of kindness vs. the big ones like adopting an inner-city elementary school class or working for a soup kitchen, etc.

What I think it really comes down to though is living like a Christian every minute of the day, not thinking that you are doing something kind or not, but that you are just being you - a Christian, isn't that what being a Christian is? If you act "Christ-like" during church activities but not during the rest of your life - is that emulating Christ? I don't think so.

So - what does this have to do with the next generation being "brats"? Well, today I actually got "tested" on my discussion from last night. Zach's school sells hoagies every month. They have volunteers who put the hoagies together on Wednesday afternoon and people pick them up Wednesday evening beginning at 4pm. I came by a little after 4pm and the volunteers were still putting the hoagies together. So I put my things down, told Zach to go play with the other kids and asked how I could help. I saw a need - they were behind and looked stressed - it seemed natural to step up and help. The volunteers were very thankful - I mean overly thankful. I said, "well, what I'm going to see you in need and say, 'I'll be back later have fun making hoagies?" But apparently that's what several of the other parents said who stopped by to pick up their hoagie orders. Wow. Ok, well maybe they were busy.

I put on my plastic gloves and started making hoagies. Sure enough, parents started coming in to pick up their hoagies heard that we were running behind and started sighing, complaining, yelling, everything BUT offering to help. One mother in particular had been there about an hour - she never helped mind you, just watched us all work, then asked me how long we were going to be. I told her I didn't know but if she wanted to help it would go faster. Oh no, she said, she'd already worked 7 hours that day and driven a long way to get there, she was tired. Uh-huh. Let's see, the woman I was wrapping hoagies with works nights, goes to school two days a week, has two children she picks up every day at school and is at every single event I have ever seen or heard of for St. Joe's. Give me a break. But that's how the story went all evening. At one point we had about 15 parents lined up waiting for their hoagie orders complaining, talking about how horrible we all were (right in front of us), rolling eyes, making faces, etc., but not one offer of help from them.

I guess what really burns me is this is a Christian school. We send our children to this school to be in an environment of Christian love and learning. But all the school can do is re-enforce - it has to start at home. I promised Zachary when we were done picking up the hoagies we ordered that we would go on an errand to buy Hot Wheels cars (Zach had saved his own money to buy these), when we got to the school and I saw that we needed to help I told him that was more important than buying toys right then, we would go when we were done. Zach didn't like it, but that's a lesson he has to learn - sometimes others needs come before our own wants. If those 15 parents had stepped up to help rather than disparage we would have been done in a half hour. Instead we were there until 7pm. So parents, if you wonder why your or other's children are selfish, impatient, perhaps you should look to yourselves first. When you have the opportunity to help do you step up or step in it?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Don't Evade the Census Taker - I WILL Find You!

Evasion of the Census taker seems to be a regular occurrence for some neighborhoods. It's a good thing I don't take these things personally. Rejection that is. No, no. For me it's a challenge. You tryin' to avoid me????? GAME ON!

Here are a couple of my favorites thus far. For all you conspiracy theorist nuts out there - no names or addresses are used so no PII (personally identifiable information) is being used and thus I may tell these funny stories without fear of violating my sacred Census Enumerator Oath.

  1. The old sneak behind the door and wait until I leave. Excellent - except if you live in an old house where the floor boards creak if you even think about walking on them. Hint: I hear you! I know you are there, that's why I knocked 3 times and called out "U.S. Census". I will be back. And you just look dumb. Open the door. It takes less than 10 minutes and if you don't want to participate it takes less than 1 minute to tell me that.

  2. The "I'm on my way out", "Just sat down to dinner", "I'm shaving the dog" but I'll call you when I'm done". Awesome, except you never call. Then when I come again you pull the #1. This one just isn't cool. You flat out lied. Now I just don't like you. So I'm going to stalk you until I find you and you submit or confess your desire to opt out of the census. BTW the "shaving the dog" one really was shaving a dog and when I came back they submitted very nicely.

  3. This is a version of #2 - you send your child out to lie to me. Really - can you get lower? Your child? How do you manage to stand without your spine?

  4. This one cracks me up - really. You lie to me and tell me that you are not the homeowner when clearly you are. I had one of these yesterday. Had been to the house two times already and it was a #1 (see I'm tenacious), asked a neighbor if they knew when the people were home (playing dumb), they told me that their cars were all there so they were home. I knocked - 4 times! And a man in his boxer shorts answered the door. When I told him who I was he claimed to be the babysitter. His neighbor across the street ratted him out by yelling across the street - "You ain't no babysitter _______, be a man and answer the lady's questions!" - ahhhh, cooperative neighbors, a Census Enumerator's best friend. Man was shamed into taking the survey :)

  5. This is another version of #1. After hiding behind the door you assume that you are safe and come out of the house to do yard work, auto work, sit on the porch, etc. I had one of these yesterday too. I was on my last run of the day and conned Zach and Paul into coming with me by promising a trip to Dairy Queen when we were done. We were on our way to Dairy Queen when exiting the neighborhood I saw a #1 type respondent in his front yard weedwacking. I yelled at Paul "Stop the car!" thoroughly freaking Paul out. I jumped out of the car and asked the man if he lived in the house. He sheepishly admitted that he did, to which I said "Caught ya!" He laughed at that and took my survey.
  6. And my personal favorite - those who are not thrilled to see me come back but when they get lemons, make lemonade. Case in point - I went to a house with three college boys on Friday. Only one young man was there that evening and he did not feel right giving me his roommates personal information - understandable. So my supervisor sent me out to try to catch the other roommates. I went again on Saturday. The first roommate was not too thrilled to see me, but being an intelligent young man, he realized that I was NOT going away until I got what I came for so he being of quick wit devised a nice plan for his roommate. He called up the stairs, "Hey _____, there's somone at the door for you". Response I could not hear. "It's a chick!" I heard feet beating a path to the front door faster than a 5 year old at Christmas. I couldn't help it, I started laughing immediately. He whipped that door open so fast. I told him two things, "1. That was funny as hell. 2. It's ok to show your dissapointment." He was a gentleman to the end, he gave a charming smile and gave me a nice, "nahhh, how can I help you." He then chastised his roommate for not giving me the information the previous day and answered my questions. Now THAT was funny. If you have to do something annoying, at least have fun with it!

Note for all Census takers out there - always kill them with humor, in all the above situations it's pretty hard to be mad at me when I'm laughing at myself and having a good time!

The Census was started 1790 and we have been doing them every 10 years since then. It helps establish our congressional representation, federal programs, etc. Maybe you agree with the Census, maybe you don't. I don't really care. It is supposedly mandated by law that you participate in the Census, but no one is going to force you. If you don't want to give information, just open the door and say, "No thank you, I don't wish to participate." That took less than 30 seconds. I think it's probably a whole lot less than all the evasive maneuvering above. Although the above does get me paid more (read waste of government money) and is much more entertaining. Chances are, if you evade me I'm going to ask your neighbors and find out something anyway. If you refuse, you put an end to it. I'm not going to ask your neighbors, I'm going to know that you don't want to be counted and respect that. So man up and answer your door for the little lady!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Hey God! Can I Be Mad at You?

A very dear friend of mine lost her father yesterday and she's mad. Mad at God. OOOOO, I heard the collective in-take of breath. But you know what? I think that's ok. She can be mad at God. That was her daddy. And from all accounts he was an awesome dad. And he was still very young - only in his early 60s. And from the series of ailments that he went through - survived cancer, but the chemo taxed his liver to bring back a hepatitis incident from a 70s blood transfusion that he didn't even know he had! - God seems to really be saying it was his time to be called home. My friend wants to know why. When there are so many crappy people out there, why her father? I don't think that's an unreasonable question.

Too often I believe we remember we are human in our relationships with each other but then expect so much more of ourselves when it comes to our relationship with God. We extol the virtues of communication with each other to make sure that we have good relationships with our spouses, family, friends, co-workers, etc. But when it comes to God, we too often feel like we have to accept what we think we were given and then be angry and snipe about it "behind His back".

Let me first point out that there is no "behind God's back" - he's like the ultimate supermom - he really does have eyes and ears everywhere - so you're not hiding your anger. And the only way we're going to find out why and how to make peace is by talking it out. Yes, talking it out with God. Feel like an ass talking to someone you're mad at who isn't actually in the room? Start talking to God, ask Him to come to you; you'll soon find you are not alone in the room.

Paul and I recently heard a great sermon on relationships with other people and one of the points that was made was about forgiveness. We have to forgive people even when they don't know they have offended us. We have to forgive ourselves. Well guess what - sometimes we have to forgive God. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying God makes mistakes that need forgiveness from us - he doesn't. But sometimes He does things that are in our best interest, but damn if they don't hurt and make us angry. We have to come to a point in our walk with God that we have to say - maybe I don't know why, but I trust and therefore I forgive the hurt. If you harbor a grudge against God for anything then you have not forgiven Him. I think this is important to realize. We are human, we get angry. It's normal. What's healthy and right is to forgive.

Now let me add one more point on here. Some people get upset when I say God does things that hurt or are bad, so let me clarify. God may not actually do those things to you, but He does allow them to happen. Why? I don't know except to say that God's plan is always good and it's always good for you. Some of the worst things I have ever gone through have ended in very positive places and I see the hand of God in it. So did God take my father-in-law? I believe so, and I was happy when He did - Heinz would not have wanted to suffer. Did He give him cancer in the first place? I don't know. Was I pissed off when Heinz was taken from us? You bet I was. That was a fine man and we needed him. Was I pissed off at God? You bet. But we talked it out God and I. Give it a try, angry is no way to go through life. Oh and remember - being angry doesn't mean you don't love the one you are mad at.

So go ahead my friend - be angry, it is your right as a human being - just don't forget to talk too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My "Gig"

So I'm officially working on the Census gig - no good stories yet - other than getting lost A LOT. But what has been interesting so far is the people I'm meeting. Today I met a man from Uzbekistan, an older couple in their 80s who have been married for over 50 years and a woman who's aunt is over 100 years old. Each of these people was fascinating and shared just a tiny sliver of their life with me. They were so welcoming and friendly. Ok, the old folks griped a lot, but hey, they've had 80 years of life, you're bound to have some pent up bitching.

One didn't know what the Census was but took my word that it was real then listened with interest while I gave him the history of the American Census (take that all you who said my History degree was worthless!) Another told me all about the history of their house and how they came to have it. And yet another told me all about their neighborhood. For a social historian like me, it was just wonderful.

But it also reminded me of a collection of books by Studs Terkel. I was also reminded of this by my husband who brought home another of Mr. Terkel's books. If you have never read one of his books I greatly encourage you to do so. Studs Terkel writes books which are a collection of essays from every day people. His most famous work was "Working" in which people described what kind of jobs they do. He talked to people from all across America all walks of life. This body of work was done again in the 90s in a book called "Gig" which I also highly recommend. But back to Studs Terkel.

Terkel has written many books about the American experience. Race, the Great Depression, WWII, Working, Chicago, American philosophy, and on. What makes each of them just wonderful is that he talks to America - ordinary men and women who can tell you about the subject matter. For instance I read the book on the Great Depression and he interviewed people who lived in the cities at the time, dust bowl, southern blacks, politicians, people who were children at the time - everyone. It gave such a perspective that you usually do not find in text books. We usually only hear about what was happening at a macro-level, not a micro level. Not what was happening in the neighborhoods, in the houses like yours and mine. That's what Studs Terkel brings home.

It occurred to me that in taking this job I have the opportunity to have my own little slice of a "Terkel event" if you will. I'm going to meet a lot of interesting people in this little journey. Some are going to be really interesting, some will be scary I'm sure, most will be just average people like you and I - and I get to be a part of it. I'm thinking it will be cool.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Teacher from Hell?

Ok, let's take stock. Still not working. Local school district is not up to snuff. St. Joseph School tuition (if they stay open) is about $3,300. So, having to look at home schooling for the fall term with Zach.

I'm a bit nervous. It's a huge responsibility to make sure that your child grows up knowing all the academic things they should as well as social, moral, spiritual, etc. I suck at math and science. I have to teach him math and science? I made my teacher's cry. I'm going to be his teacher? Oh dear Lord, help me.

I've been talking to other home schooler's just to get some questions answered and the one big difference between them and us is that they have more than one child. At least their kids learned how to share, settle arguments, have a difference of opinion, etc. with someone. Zach is an only child and it looks like that's not going to change. My worst fear is that he'll grow up not knowing how to interact with other people who aren't like him (or his parents). Not know how to settle disagreements and stand up for himself with overbearing people of the world.

I do like the idea of spending more time at home with Zach and seeing his progress and being a part of that. It would be a part of his childhood he'd never forget. Although he'll probably be in counseling about it in another 30 years.

Am I over reacting? Probably. Maybe I'll find a job between now and July and we won't have to worry about it. Maybe we'll do it for a year and then he'll go back to regular school. Who knows. Right now Paul has 2001 on TV, clearly Kubrik didn't fare well from his "formal" education. Yes, he's made money, but wtf? He's weird.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Legos Make a Come Back!

When Paul and I were in college we loved Lego's. It became a bit of an obsession. Actually it started as a way to avoid studying for fall semester finals. That became an awesome memory for me. I remember it clearly.

We were renting a tiny house in Tucson on East Circle Drive East (ya, weird address - try explaining that to people - they always thought we were drunk). It was December 8th and Paul and I were celebrating St. Nicholas Day (a European holiday in which stockings or shoes - depending on which country you are from - are filled). Paul put a small Lego set in my stocking. I had never had Lego's as a kid and I loved the little kit. It was awesome. So in a desperate attempt to avoid studying for finals we ran to Toys R Us and bought each of us a bigger set to put together while watching the 007 Marathon on TBS and not study. It was great fun. That underlying fear because we weren't studying, but having a great time watching James Bond and putting together Lego's. What could be better.

For some reason the same thing never happened in spring semester finals time - something just didn't hit the time right. Maybe because it was too hot by then, no 007 marathon, no Christmas season, I don't know, but it just seemed like a fall semester thing. So it became a tradition - even after we graduated - for a couple of years. People would tease us that when we had kids they would be thrilled with our collection and we'd roll our eyes - whatever - we aren't having kids. Blah, blah, blah. All in all we'd amassed about 25 decent sized sets of Lego's - no small collection let me tell you. And no small representation of money we spent either!

Then careers took over and other interests and the Lego's got put away in a box (smartly in plastic bags which protected them from a moldy basement later) and forgotten for about 10 years. Until yesterday.

Zachary has been playing with a Lego set he got for Christmas last year and showing real interst in actually building original creations with it. So when he went upstairs to potty yesterday I sent Paul down to get the mother lode of Lego's in the basement. When Zach came back down his eyes were as big as saucers. We kept pulling out bag after bag after bag of Lego's. He was hoping up and down and giggling. It was great. And suddenly I had that feeling again. Put the 007 marathon on, get some take out fast food, I'm avoiding studying for finals! Seriously, I actually had to remind myself that I wasn't blowing anything off and it was OK to play with the Lego's! I felt like such a rebel!

Zachary and I spent the afternoon today building Merlin's Tower. We had a blast. To think I'd get a double blessing out of those Lego's! The thrill of putting them together with Paul the first time and with Zachary almost 20 years later! I guess all those people were right after all. Zachary IS thrilled with the mother lode of Lego's. So am I.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I'm a Census Taker!

It's officially called an Enumerator. Why did I want to be an Enumerator? As Paul says, it's better than being a denominator. Ba-dum-bum. But seriously, I signed up because I can work about 20 -30 hours a week in the mornings, evenings and weekends and still be home with Zachary in the afternoons and still look for a full-time job in my marketing field in the meantime.

What does it mean to be an enumerator? Well so far it means doing a lot of personnel paperwork that seems to say the same thing over and over again, taking an oath of office to defend the constitution (?) and protect all data within an inch of your life and have your fingerprints taken (first time, I swear).

I have to admit, when Paul first suggested I take the test to become one MY first thought was Hannible Lecter eating his Census taker with fava beans and a nice Chianti. OMG! You want me to do what? I don't have life insurance you know! And so far in our training we've had lots of instruction on protecting people's privacy and identifying ourselves so they don't get scared when we knock on their doors, but our protection training has consisted of - 'if it doesn't feel right, don't go in". Ummm, yeah, that and a big can of mace and I'm ready to go!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Stations of the Cross Are Not a Downer! Really.

I had another very cool experience at Zach's school again this week. Being the season of Lent, Zach has been going to the Stations of the Cross service every Friday for the past few weeks. Having NOT been raised Catholic I have never been to such a service, however I have seen the Stations of the Cross in both Catholic and Episcopalian churches and they always look somewhat macabre and a "downer" so I was a little concerned that the material might be a bit heavy for my 5-year old who hides behind the couch whenever Thomas the Tank is about to get in trouble or have a crash on TV.

So today I went to the service to check it out. First, let me tell you this, if you are a Christian and have NOT been to a Station of the Cross service - I highly recommend you go. God doesn't care if you are not a Catholic, as long as you worship Him and you won't regret it. The service was amazing to me. Father Rich walked through each station and along with the children, explained what the station was - what Christ was doing, thinking, feeling; how others were reacting around him. Then discussed how we can take the lesson of each station and use it in our lives.

I learned more about Christ's journey to the cross today than I have in quite a while. I think as Evangelicals we sometimes gloss over the passion and go right to the Salvation. Now, I'm not saying that the Resurrection of Christ is not important, but there are a lot of lessons of Christ in that journey from arrest to Resurrection that are very important as well.

Some of my friends will recall my hesitation in putting Zachary in a Catholic school since we are not Catholic. I have to say, the more we progress through the year the more thrilled I am with this experience. Zach is bright and learning more academically, socially and spiritually every day. That's exactly what I'd hoped for, what I didn't count on is my own growth in the process as well. I'm thrilled with that. Just goes to show you that God will find you and grow you in the most least of expected places, so always keep your mind and your heart open.

And let me also just put my plug for Catholic schools in here. I am not a Catholic but I would recommend Catholic schools to anyone looking for a Christ-centered education. Zachary would never get the type of education in public school that he is getting at St. Joseph School. We are very involved parents so we talk with him about everything he does at school, religion included. Obviously if there is something I'm not familiar with - I go check it out. Zach is getting a well-rounded education and will be all the better for it. If you think you can't afford it, think again. We are on a very tight income right now with me not working, the school helped us make it work. Zach is worth it. We'd love to have you at St. Joseph - ask me how if you like. If we're not in your area, check with your local Catholic School, I don't think you'll regret it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Is It OK To NOT Mourn For Your Dad?

A serious blog today. I found out yesterday that my father died Thursday morning. It's not a complete surprise, he's been having heart problems for a year and we knew this was coming. The problem I'm having is that I'm not really that sad, and that makes me sad.

See my Dad and I have not been close for a very long time. My Dad was a pretty bad father, he was always more interested in how he looked to outsiders than how he actually interacted with his kids. Always more interested in having fun than with being a father. The last interaction I had with him he left my 1 year old son and I stranded in Western Wisconsin. My father-in-law (who was going through cancer treatment at the time) had to drive 3 hours to come rescue us. My father never understood why I was mad about that, after all he had an invitation to a great beer party with a good friend - who wouldn't dump their daughter and grandson for that?

After that I told him I couldn't have him in my life anymore. He'd hurt me many times, but now I had a son and I wasn't going to let him hurt my son they way he had me my whole life. Now we all make mistakes and sometimes we just need a wake up call. Had Zach ever told me to get out of his life I would camp on his door step until we had figured this whole thing out. My father however never talked to me again. Not that I'm complaining, that's what I asked for and it worked for me. I'd get calls from my older sister telling me about what my father had done to her and we'd talk, but I was always grateful for my decision because he could no longer hurt me or my son.

So when I got the call today, I wasn't surprised or sad. It bothered me. It bothered Paul - I think he thought he might have married an ax murderer or something. But when we talked about it became clear. When we found out Heinz (Paul's father) was dying last year, I was devastated. I had a pit in my stomach, I was scared of a world without Heinz and I cried when he died. Why? Heinz was always there because he loved us. Family came first. Heinz lived his life preparing his family for the day he wasn't here. And I missed him for that. I was sad because while I knew he was going to be with the Lord and would be healed physically from his cancer, I selfishly wanted him here for ME. I loved him.

Conversely when I learned my Dad was dying it didn't have much of an effect. My Dad never lived for anyone but himself. He didn't care if his kids got an education, lived well. He was always concerned about how well he lived and what the world thought of HIM. I won't miss him because there is nothing to miss. It is sad, but I think it was sadder for him on earth that it was for me. I was blessed with family to make up for it. He was blessed with family that he wasted.

Now lest you see no upside for him let me assure you there is. See a long time ago my Dad sought the Lord and found him, he was saved. And the love of the Lord is so good that even someone as lacking in love as my father is STILL loved by God. I am a Christian and it is my firm belief that my father is healed of his selfish ways now. Too late you say? Nah, never too late. I'm fine, I am loved and I love. And now he can love too. If you think God can't or won't love you? Think again - if someone like my Dad can have God's grace so can you. Try it on for size.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Name's a Name

I have a strange name - apparently. My full first name is Christian. A name usually reserved for men. My Dad wanted to name me after my mom, Christine, but my mom didn't like that. She didn't want any pressure for me to feel I needed to be like her. Whew! Thanks mom. So instead, they chose Christian. I don't know how or why, they just did.

I had it better than my sister I think, she was named after my dad's girlfriend of the time - although he was married to my mom. She has since redeemed her name and made it her own. She's an awesome sister.

When I was a kid I was always mistaken for a boy because my mom made me cut my hair super short and go by my full name. I hated it. Now that I'm an adult I go by "Chris" and most people assume it's short for Christine, Christina, etc. So when I run into an 'official" issue I usually get the run around about whether or not I'm really Christian Zupke. Sometimes I get somebody really stupid and even after I show them two forms of picture ID as well as my social security card, Zoo membership card, etc. they still don't believe me (because I'm so cool someone would want to pretend to be me), but have no choice so then they start into why my parents would name me that. Seriously? Just take my information and keep your opinion to yourself. I mean, what special name have you reserved for your kid? Is Christian really that strange?

We named our son Zachary. Now as far as I know Zachary is a fairly old name based upon the name Zacharias which appeared as long ago as the old testament times (see said book in the bible KJV). Note the spelling - ZACHarias. So why is it that everyone wants to spell it ZACK? Are we really that stupid as a society that we can't even spell names right (I'm sorry if you named your child Zackary - you spelled it wrong). This is a phonetic spelling - another words it's spelled for people who can't read properly - is that who we are as a society? It drives me crazy when I see people spell his name wrong. People also rib us because Zach's middle name is Heinz. He is named after Paul's father who was one of the best people to ever be placed on this earth. Paul loved him, I loved him and we considered it an honor for us to be able to name our son after him. We wanted to have Heinz be Zach's first name, but we were afraid he would get teased too much - I guess we were right because people tell us we should have named him Zach Del Monte Zupke.

Paul was a substitute teacher a number of years ago and had two kids in his class who's names were Orangejello and Lemonjello. Pronounced O-raan-ge-lo and Le-mon-ge-lo (think French pronunciation).

When I was in high school we had an English teacher who freaked out every time we pronounced a certain Shakespeare character's name incorrectly. I don't even remember which character it was, but most of us were pronouncing it - you guessed it phonetically as we saw it. He lectured us for two days about how important it is to pronounce someones name right, how disrespectful it was not to. After a day and a half of this lecture I got tired of it and asked him how HE knew how to pronounce the name. Did he know Shakespeare personally? For all he knew HE was pronouncing it wrong. I earned a detention for that one, but to this day I still think I'm right.

I guess my point is a name is one of those things a parent agonizes over for close to 9 months and then worries afterward if they chose the right one. It usually has a lot of meaning - I know Zach's does, all three parts. I don't know exactly why my parents named me Christian, I doubt they even remember why anymore. I do know that I love my name now. It's unusual, it's cool and I'm proud of it. At the very least I get to make jokes about being transgender (when Zach isn't around) and freaking out the rude people who decide to be nosy and question it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Do You Have A Best Buddy? You Should.

I had the pleasure to witness yet another moment in my son's childhood last night - the wonderful bond of best buddies. Zachary's best buddy is a boy named Cooper who he met a few years ago (when Zach was 3) in daycare/pre-school. Cooper is almost a year older than Zachary, but they have so much in common that year doesn't seem to make much difference. Because of how their birthday's fall they are both in kindergarten this year so they will go through school in the same grade despite their year difference in age.

Because Zach and Coop don't go to the same schools we worried a bit about them not seeing enough of each other once they left the daycare, but we have kept in contact (made easier by the fact that Cooper's parents are great people and we love them too!) and they still LOVE to see each other.

My parents moved a lot when I was a kid - usually every two years until I got into the third grade. For that and other reasons too much to get into here, I didn't make close friends that easily so I never had a best friend like Zachary does. So I am in awe of this relationship they have. They remind me of a relationship that Paul has described between he and his best friend Tom - they met in the third grade and to this day are still good friends - Tom was the best man at our wedding.

I love watching Zachary and cooper together - there is no other friend that makes Zachary as happy as Cooper. He is so excited to see him and just grins ear-to-ear as long as they are together. it makes me feel good to see them together. They are both great boys. They are smart, polite, sweet - everything little boys should be. And maybe it sounds trite, but in a world where at the age of 5 or 6 kids are already talking about sex, violence, drugs, and other adult themes it's great to know that Zach has a best buddy who likes to talk about trains, their schools, burping (yes, bodily functions are still funny), cartoons, etc. makes me feel good. If the worst you have to reprimand your son for with his best buddy is too much "potty humor" then I think you have a good thing going.

Who knows what the future will bring, but I have hope that in another 30 years Zach and Coop will be exchanging emails (or whatever the communication vehicle is then) about their families and jobs like Paul and Tom do today. They laugh about things they did in the third grade and high school - when they were together almost every day and about the fun they had in college and beyond when they weren't together every day but that friendship remained strong. I envy both Zach and Paul. I'm just now finding some of those life-long friends - People like Cooper's mommy, Kim. I'm grateful for those friends that God has given me now, and I'm grateful that He has seen fit to send Zachary one this early. God is good. Thank him for your best friend - then hug her or him.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Motherhood Mishmash

Yesterday Zachary told me something every parent loves to hear, "Mommy my favorite part of school is when I see you smiling at me at the end of the day." Awwww. See I pick Zach up everyday from school because I LOVE seeing his little face light up through the glass doors when he spots me waiting for him with the other parents. It's truly the best part of MY day. I don't get that with the school bus, I love it. That little statement hugged my heart.

Then he said the one that wrenched it. "I'm glad you aren't the kind of Mommy that has to work. I'd miss you." D'oh! See, I'm not a stay at home mom right now because I love it (although I do), but because I've been out of work since August. Yes, part of the reason I wasn't sad to leave my last job was that it was taking way too much time away from my son. So I have been loving being here every day at 2:00pm to pick him up and spend time with him. But this can't last. I have to go back to work sooner rather than later.

So what can I say, another part of motherhood that is wonderful and sucks all at the same time. Zach and I are having a great time right now and creating memories that I am VERY lucky to have the opportunity to create. At the same time, I'm subtly setting the stage for the time when I have to go back to work and he has to go to full-time after school care. You know they tell you it's hard being a mom, but you never know just how hard it really is until you're in the middle of it. Still the best job ever.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Like Gravel Thru an Hourglass So Are the Days of My Computer

So, I bought a new computer. Or rather I'm buying a new computer. I needed one desperately for the home office and budding home business of marketing free-lance work (emphasis on FREE so far) so through the generosity of my big sister (who floated me a nice loan), I bought a new PC laptop. I would have preferred a Mac, but alas, I had a strict budget and hey, PCs aren't THAT bad right? Ha!

I had a desktop Mac. It's ancient, but really up until about 6 months ago, it was doing fine. I should have realized - ancient PC's - well there aren't any because their owners run them over out of frustration before they become ancient; there are ancient Macs though - beloved by their owners.

I bought a new Dell laptop, had my husband who knows of such things help me "build" it so that it would last a while, ordered it and got ready for the 5 weeks it would take for it to arrive. Huzzah! It only took 3 weeks! It arrived on a Friday and Zachary and I anxiously plugged it in and off we went amazed at the speed with which Thomas suddenly flew on the tracks! All was wonderful and amazing until three days later when it wouldn't turn on anymore. Really? You have to be kidding me. I've had it THREE days.

So I call tech support and they tell me its a bad motherboard/ac adapter connection and I can 1. wait 3 days for a tech to come with new parts and replace them or 2. send it back and wait 4 weeks for a new computer. OMG. Wow. I'll take door #1 thanks. Oh and have I mentioned that I'm just a tad irritated?

The parts come in and the tech is here on a Wednesday to replace them, but of course! They sent the wrong part! So it'll be another 2 or 3 days for the next part to come! In the meantime, I was at least able to work on the dumb thing with battery power, but now it won't power up at all. Nice. And I'm getting just a bit more irritated because, well hey, I paid a decent chunk of change to actually work on this hunk of plastic. He finally comes on Friday night, replaces the motherboard and we're in business.

Ok, so I should be happy right, one little glitch, it happens, no one is perfect. Fine. I have a computer and it works. Saturday morning - ready for it - I'm on Facebook sending out a group notice to my church knitters when Bam! I get hit with a virus! What the heck?! Didn't this thing come with security????? Shuts me down. Well, that was a good 12 hour run!

Off I go to Geek Squad at Best Buy. That will be $200 and 5 days to remove the virus. Seriously? Now I'm ready to tell Dell to come get their computer - it's in the middle of Vine St. being used as a speed bump because it seems to be so much more useful there than as a $1,000 paper weight on my desk! Thankfully I mention this mess to my big sister who tells me how to get rid of the dumb virus for $25. Done. Here's an aside - don't bother with Geek Squad - it's a rip off. Just in case you didn't know yet.

Ok, it wasn't that simple, some how I managed to set up a second user and actually installed the software to get rid of the virus there and now can't find my way back. And while dealing with all this I decided to have a cup of tea to relax myself and managed to set the kitchen on fire - I put out the fire with no damage, not to worry. However the house smelled like melted plastic for two days and my husband was not happy and now he plays Talking Heads, "Burning Down the House" just to torture me.

Everything seems to be in working order now - the computer, the teapot, the stove, me. But I just can't wait to see what Dell has in store for me next!

Now, in case you are one of those people who is wondering - Mac or PC? Let me just help you along a little bit. Don't be cheap, don't be silly - get yourself a Mac and thank your lucky stars you were smart enough to do so! Don't get me wrong - I'm very thankful for this computer as it will allow me to do much over the next few years that I could not before, but wow - is it me or have we really lowered our expectations for what is allowable in a product? I mean would our grandparents have accepted such shoddy workmanship in their day? I think not. And lest you tell me a computer is a much more complicated "gizmo" than anything they had then, I'll remind you that at the time of my grandparents at least, a TV was just as complicated to them as a computer is to us and they managed to get TVs that worked everytime. Just a thought.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lent Now 100% Guilt Free!

Well at least for me it is – maybe for everyone it is and always has been.  I didn’t grow up Catholic, I grew up Southern Baptist – we didn’t have Lent in the Southern Baptist Church.  My mom grew up Catholic and she talked about Catholic rites as if they were all meant to make you feel guilty, so that’s where a lot of MY impressions come from (forgive me my Catholic friends if I’m wrong). 

Anyway, my husband was also raised Catholic and although we are now non-denominational Evangelicals, he usually gives something up for Lent every year and I make fun of him every year and tease him about feeling “Catholic guilt” while he does it.

This year our 5-year old son started going to Catholic grade school.  It’s a great school and we love it.  He goes through many of the traditions of the Catholic church and we have talks with him about what they mean and why the Catholic church does them but his church doesn’t and that it doesn’t matter because in the end we all believe in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice as our Savior, thus uniting us all as Christians.  But as we discussed Lent this year, starting with Ash Wednesday and giving up something for the Lenten season, I realized that maybe there was something a bit more to all this Lent stuff.  So in solidarity with my husband and to show Zachary what Lent is all about I decided to take Lent seriously this year and really give something up (besides lima beans or liver – which of course I don’t eat anyway).  So I gave up chocolate and Starbucks. 

As I started the season it was not that easy, I like both chocolate and Starbucks.  But I very quickly realized that giving up something for Lent was not about sacrifice to feel loss or suffering.  It was about giving up something so that just when you start to bitch and whine about what you don’t have you think about what Jesus sacrificed for you and then realize how much He loves you.  I’m willingly giving up an experience I greatly enjoy for 40 days, Christ suffered and gave His mortal life, took on our suffering because he loves us.  That makes me feel happy, warm, hugged – loved.  No guilt.  The best part – I think about that several times a day because I gave up two things I really like and think about having several times a day so it’s like getting a hug from Jesus several times a day.  What a blessing!  Lent ROCKS!  Who knew????

As my sister pointed out actually the best part is that after going through that sacrifice He still gave us chocolate and Starbucks.  Yeah, that’s pretty cool.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Love of a Good Dog

As anyone who knew our previous dog knows - she was a saint.  After reading "Marley & Me" by John Grogen, we have started calling her just that - "St. Kayla".  Kayla was one of those dogs that makes other people want dogs - and she was my girl.  Yup, she lived to be by my side and I LOVED it.  If I was ill, she laid by my bedside until I got up, forsaking food, water, walks.  If I left the house she pouted until I came home, "making do" with Paul.
She protected me when ever someone outside the family came near.  Quietly inserting herself between me and them, just in case.  She never complained about ANYTHING.  Not once.  Not even when she was lonely, had a full bladder or was in pain.  Yup, she was a Saint.
She often traveled to Chicago with us (a 12 hour drive, sometimes in the back seat of a VW Beattle) and really, she never complained - SAINT.
Ok, she did have the occasional run at the garbage or chew the occasional Thomas the Tank toy and she would bark at ANYTHING that walked by HER house.  So she had a couple of un-saintly qualities.  But all in all she was the perfect dog.  Ask anyone - they all loved her.  Even my in-laws who would ASK us to bring her with us when we visited.
So after Kayla passed away and I wanted a new dog I was of course concerned that I would never have the love of another dog like I had with Kayla.  
Well, Rosie came bounding into our lives and of course it was not the same.  But I took for granted that although we got her for Zachary, she would be my dog.  I walk her every day, I feed her, I make sure she has what she needs.  And just this week Rosie started showing that deep, devotional love that dogs show for their masters - that "Kayla" love - but it wasn't for me - it was for Zachary.  
Zachary had his first drum lesson this week and I put Rosie in the dining room with me so she wouldn't be a distraction, but Rosie wouldn't have it.  Someone she didn't know was in the living room with HER boy.  She whined, she cried, she pawed at the gate until I put her back in her crate where she could keep an eye on Zachary and his teacher.
And then I realized something I didn't even consider - I love that dog with all my heart, not because she has "Kayla love" for me, but because she has it for my son and I can't imagine anything better than Zachary growing up with a best friend in Rosie like I had in Kayla.  She's not a saint yet - far from it, but Rosie grew a whole bunch in my eyes this week.  She's a good girl.  She's Zach's girl.  Good dog.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Welcome 2010

Well here I go, never thought I would be a blogger, but a story my husband shared with me promoted me to.  Our son has been very keen on hearing stories about his late Grandfather this past year (since he passed away last January).  Christmas Eve he asked for a "Christmas story about Grandpa", this is what Paul shared.

When Paul was a boy living in suburban Chicago around Christmas time a small stray puppy was roaming his neighborhood.  One day it ran into his house.  The family ran around trying to catch this stray little interloper in their house but he ran out of the house, turned around and ran back in.  Finally Paul's mother, Betty, was able to wrangle him and hold him until Heinz, Paul's father, was able to put him in a box and take him down to the local pound.
Heinz, always being the animal lover, called to check on the little fella a few days later only to find out that he was still there and scheduled for euthanasia on Christmas Eve.  Heinz would have been mortified that a pup would be euthanized on any day, but Christmas Eve was not even a consideration.  He crammed his hat on his head, said "no one dies on Christmas eve" and headed out to he pound to rescue his pup.  Hence the family had a new family dog they named Freddie.
This was Heinz - a big, bear of a man, German, with a big booming voice, an anger that you did not want aimed at you.  However, he also had a heart of gold, he was known to tear up when talking about his mother whom he dearly loved or his experiences growing up in Berlin during WWII.  
His back yard was like a wildlife sanctuary - when chipmunks invaded his front walkway and tunneled under, thus threatening to collapse the entire walk, he did not poison them,  he trapped them in a live trap and drove them 10 miles from home to "relocate" them.
When I first met Heinz - visiting on spring break with Paul one year - he gave me a huge bear hug.  OK, this might have been because Paul's previous girlfriend was a complete freak and it was such a relief to see a normal girl - but I like to think it was because Heinz knew in his heart that I was the one.  
We lost Heinz one year ago and it seemed impossible that we would survive a month much less a year without him.  However to not survive that year would have been completely contrary to everything Heinz had prepared us for all those years - to be like him.  Strong, independent compassionate, loving to each other and holding each other up.  He would not want us to wallow I know, but I think he'd like to know that Zachary asks to hear about him so he can have the benefit of learning from his life - and reminding us of those lessons too.