Family

The other day I stopped at World Market to pick up hagelslag*, otherwise known as chocolate sprinkles. They’re not crappy chocolate sprinkles like you get at the grocery store, they’re real European chocolate sprinkles and that’s what my kids like to put on their toast and bagels. While we were in there trying to decide what other delicious chocolate things to buy, York decided to use the bathroom.  In order to get to the bathroom, York had to walk through the wine section. A woman stopped him to ask if he worked there. When he replied no, the women sighed wistfully and said she was trying to buy a bottle of wine for her friend’s birthday but had no idea what to pick.

York glanced over at the wine bottles closest to him. “Why don’t you try some Pinot Noir?” York offered, “it’s a little sour and a little sweet.”

Let’s just pause here to remind everyone that York is not only eighteen, but a Mormon. So he’s about the last person you would ever want to ask for a wine recommendation. But there is a bar where he works and he has to be vaguely fluent in alcohol-ese so that he doesn’t sound like a complete idiot when someone asks him a question about drinks.

“Pinot Noir?” The woman pondered. “That’s a good idea.”

York picked up the closest bottle of Pinot Noir he saw and handed it to the woman. “This is a really good year. I think your friend will like this one.”

Yep, he just grabbed a random bottle and recommended it to the lady. But he has already learned the first important lesson of being an adult: “being confident and sounding like you know what you’re talking about will take you far”.

 

*Hagelslag is a Dutch thing. I can’t remember where we first heard about it but we’re quick to try anything that involves chocolate for breakfast. You can read more about the delightful world of hagelslag here.

*I know it seems like I only write about York.  He has always had the funniest things happen to him, for one thing. He is also very good-natured about me writing about him. Some of the other kids get a little weirded out by it.

 

Sunrise jumping

I grew up surrounded by Night Owls. Everyone in my family stayed up late all the time, particularly on weekends. This was mostly due to the fact that my mother has always been a chronic napper. We all knew that every afternoon was quiet time and there was no reason in the world–none–in which you should wake her up. She was also a champion sleeper-inner. Again, there was no reason that she would ever be woken up.  (“You missed the bus? Too bad, so sad, now get walking. So what if you have to cross a ten-lane major thoroughfare on the way to elementary school. You should have thought about that earlier. And it’s snowing? That’s what boots were invented.”)  This set her up for a pattern which continues to this day. She has to stay up late because she took a nap. But she’s so tired since she stayed up late that she has to take a nap. To this day she refuses to believe that this is all a self-perpetuating problem.

Breakfast growing up was mostly made by us. it usually consisted of cereal which would be eaten while sitting on top of the heating vents in our kitchen, with our nightgowns tented over the top to trap all the warm air.  (Michigan was always cold, even inside).  Lunches were packed by us and starred a PB&J sandwich that had been previously made and frozen. These sandwiches were all lined up in a neat row across the door of the freezer. Frozen, they were actually pretty decent with the peanut butter retaining a pleasant hardness that never froze entirely. But once they were defrosted they were a hideous soggy mess that was particularly susceptible to apples. I can’t tell you how many times I would dump out my Charlie’s Angels lunch box only to find a wet apple-sized dent in the middle of the bread.  Even now I have PTSD flashbacks when I see a package of Uncrustables in the grocery store freezer. I can’t imagine paying money for such a thing.

So, yes, mornings were a time of cold, dark unhappiness. Best to avoid them entirely.

College was a revelation. Classes could be scheduled whenever I wanted? Naturally I never chose anything before noon. I couldn’t understood why everyone wasn’t on campus at 9 p.m., after-dinner seeming to be the most civilized time to go to school. So what if walking home down “Rape Hill” was simply terrifying? At least I didn’t have to set an alarm clock ever.

Even when I worked I waited tables (“I’ll take the lunch shifts, please”) or had a retail job that would let me come late and stay later. Only idiots and weirdos would get up early on purpose!

But then I went and had babies. No matter what I tried, they just didn’t like to stay up late. Or rather, they liked to stay up late just fine. But they also like to get up very early.  And the crummy thing about babies is that once they’re up, they’re up. It’s not like a dog where I could just let it out into the backyard then climb back into bed. No. These tiny people wanted to be fed and played with. So inconsiderate.

The oddest thing started happening, though. I found that after a couple of years that I had more energy and vigor (or was it vim) in the morning.  I actually started waking up before the kids to shower and get ready. I seemed to accomplish so much more when I would get up early. It felt like a revelation!

I also started getting very tired at night. I tried to force myself to stay up but the lustre was gone. I didn’t want to see midnight movies anymore. I certainly didn’t want to have a late-night job.

This summer I have realized that the night-owl in me has completely and absolutely died. And I’m quite happy about that. I love to wake up before everyone and read my scriptures and check my email and computer stuff before anyone is awake. I have so much more energy and find that I get a million more things done when I get a big jump on the day. Part of me feels like this is lame. I never in my life thought I would see the sun rise every single day. And that I would be OK with it.

I do wonder, though, what will happen when I don’t have to be up and around for little kids. Will I stay in bed all day again? Or will I keep my early bird ways?

 

This year we got our Big Summer Trip out of the way early on. We had a family reunion with most of Mister’s family out in San Diego. Mister’s Mother turned 80 this year and we all got together to celebrate. We rented a bunch of condos right on Mission Beach and had such a lovely time. The weather was in the 70′s the whole time and we hardly knew what to do without sweat running down our backs constantly. The ocean was mighty cold and it took the kids a while to get into the water.

San Diego Hildie (1 of 1)

I have been begging Mister to please let us have a trip to the beach for years but he finds the beach boring and much prefers traveling to cities where there are piles of things to do and see. But how could anyone hate this? Although the mornings in San Diego were a bit chilly, I liked nothing more than to sit on the balcony outside our bedroom and read a good book before everyone else woke up. Mister gave me a Kindle for our anniversary which was on the first day of our trip. I’ve resisted Kindles for many years but as I’ve entirely run out of bookshelf space, I’m having to rethink my view on e-readers.

San Diego Mission Beach Panorama

 

San Diego Bella Ada Beach

 

The place where we stayed was especially nice because it had a large outdoor terrace right on the boardwalk that runs along Mission Beach. The boardwalk was constantly full of people walking, biking, skateboarding and generally being completely fascinating.  We also had a lovely fire pit on the terrace that we sat around every night. It’s so fun to watch the cousins hang out now that they’re all getting older and the age differences don’t matter as much as they did when the kids were young.

San Diego Cousins Fire

Here is perhaps the most magical wonderful thing about this vacation: there were no bugs. None. Zero. I had completely forgotten that it’s possible to actually be outside in the evening without mosquito repellant. I guess it’s the strong winds coming off the ocean or whatever. But I was blessedly itch-free for a whole week.

Naturally we couldn’t go to Southern California and not hit Disneyland. We haven’t been there in forever. And we haven’t ever gone with cousins. We had a few issues with rides being mysteriously “shut down” off and on all day. It turns out Kim and Kanye were there for North’s birthday. And because they are the most special people in the galaxy, they didn’t have to wait like us rabble. No sireee, they got the whole ride shut down so that they and their cheesy entourage could go without waiting.

San Diego Disney Teacup

 

I made T-shirts for some of the younger cousins. They all requested their favorite Disney character. (Stitch? Really?) I’m truly proud that there wasn’t a single Princess.

San Diego Disney Cousins

We had Grandma’s birthday dinner at Ariel’s Grotto one night and were disappointed that they only do characters at breakfast and lunch. If you go for dinner you won’t get to do a conga line with Minnie Mouse and Pluto but you will get tickets for VIP seating at the cool evening show, World of Color. We enjoyed the show immensely (although I think the girls were secretly disappointed not to see Belle). Normally I hate crowds and all that stuff, but if you have a nice spot already it makes everything so much better.

Hanging out with Grandpa is the best of all, though.

San Diego Grandpa

 

 

Because we were in San Diego with so many relatives, we decided it would be nice for India and York to be able to go through the temple for the first time with their grandparents and aunts and uncles.  What a great experience! And that San Diego temple is sure impressive. (But, honestly, our little San Antonio temple is much, much prettier on the inside.)

San Diego Temple Kids

 

San Diego Temple Grandp

 

We had a remarkably great time on our trip. Most of the cousins are teenagers and older and we had all the single people stay in one condo together. It was the best idea we’ve ever had. Not only did the parents like it but so did the kids. Arabella and her cousin Daisy never get tired of having lots of time to hang out. And the trip was blessedly free of drama. When was the last time you could say that about your family reunion?

San Diego Arabella Deisy

Do you want to know the most incredible thing of all? We had all suitcases unpacked within one day of getting home. It’s a miracle!

 

 

 

 

York just graduated from High School over the weekend. It was . . . how shall I put this? Less than interesting?  I’m certainly glad he graduated.  I know high school was a big pain and we are very proud of York for making his four years there a success (he was voted Most Talented and Class Clown. Guess which one I’m more proud of?). But there are very few more boring events than graduation. Do we really need several perky girls talking about how fantastic they are and how their futures are going to be so awesome!!!!!!?(And yes, it was all girls in York’s grade. Out of the top ten students, only one was a boy. Naturally.) These are probably the same girls who wouldn’t dream of talking to most of the kids in their grade only a week earlier.

Instead of a bunch of boring speeches, how about an elaborate musical number, complete with a rotating stage and ostrich feathers? Now that would be entertaining!  And instead of just announcing the grads (all seven million of them), how about pre-recording each one introducing themselves with a little personality and verve, like they do at the beginning of the Miss America Pageant?  (“Representing the Lakeline Villas Apartment complex, my name is McKenzie Kay Larson!”)

Nowadays they have the graduates wear medals and tassels of different sorts. I guess it’s so that the kids all feel better about themselves, like it’s the Olympics or something. One of the medals means “I’m graduating!” For real. You get it just for showing up. As if the cap and gown didn’t tip everyone off.  Sadly, nobody knows what all the different accoutrements mean. There’s no explanation in the program. All I can assume when I see a graduate walk by with a bunch of medals and tassels is that she must be a really high-strung, Type-A person.

Naturally York couldn’t find his mortarboard when it was time to leave for the graduation. I asked him if he had it earlier  and he said, “no, my gowns been lying on the floor all week and I haven’t seen it.” Oh, super; wrinkled shiny polyester. But he had a cap by the time he walked across the stage so he must have found it. Or maybe they have extras for just such an occasion.

Because graduation ended at almost 11:00 pm (don’t even get me started!), we were pooped and York was antsy to get on with his Marvelous Future, he agreed to pose for one–and only one–picture with us. Naturally he used his his-ultra fake smile that he reserves for all the most important occasions.

York Graduation

 

Let me include one of his senior portraits where he looks a whole lot better. If you know us in real life, you’ll be getting your announcement soon! I like to wait til after the event (just kidding, I didn’t get them done in time.)

York grad serious-1-2-Edit

 

As you probably know by know, we’re Mormon. And one of the rites of passage for Mormons is going on a mission when young adults turn 18 or 19 years old (it’s strongly encouraged for boys–being the fools that they are–but optional for girls). Part of the reason is to tell people about Jesus and all that traditional missionary sort of thing. Part of it is to help them learn to get outside of themselves and serve others; community service being a huge part of missions. I can’t think of many teenagers who don’t need a big fat dose of “you’re not the center of the universe”. Part of a mission is just to help kids learn to work hard, do what’s right and solidify their belief in Christ and all that’s good in the world.

Missions are paid for by the missionary and his family. It’s pro-rated by the church so every missionary pays the exact same thing ($400 per month) whether he’s living in Tokyo or a tiny village in Guatemala. The prospective missionaries do not get to chose where they will serve. They go where the Church needs them. Physical, mental and emotional  considerations are taken into account and church leaders prayerfully decide where each prospective missionary will go.  It’s always a total thrill to open the letter (referred to as “a mission call”) to find out where in the world the missionary will be going. It’s always a big joke that you’ll end up going where you don’t want to go. Or to Idaho, which is laughed about as being the lamest place to serve a mission. Although everyone I know who has gone on a mission in Idaho has absolutely loved it. But Idaho and Utah are always the butt of everyone’s jokes.

India and York have both decided to go on missions (in common Mormon parlance it’s referred to as “serving a mission”).  The paperwork and preparations take a couple of months and India had planned to go before York. But she ended up studying in London last semester and it was just too big of a pain to get everything done while she was overseas. So it ended up that York and India turned their paperwork in at the exact same time once India got back. Due to the huge amount of prospective missionaries, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll get assigned at the same time.

 

But they did get their calls at the same time! We invited a bunch of friends over to watch them open their calls. And here is my super high quality collage of the happy event. Before you watch it, let me tell you that India was kind of hoping to stay in the U.S. She was also a little nervous to learn a foreign language.  York wanted to go anywhere but Africa. Why, I don’t know. He just really, really wanted to go anywhere but there.

 

So they’ll be going to adjoining missions in Sao Paulo, Brazil! How crazy is that? They both will leave on September 9th to go to the Missionary Training Center in Brazil. If they get their visas in time; that is the big question mark right now. The Brazilian consulate in Houston seems to be one of the speedier ones, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed!

I remember when I had little kids. There was nothing quite like a Friday afternoon when I would anxiously count down the hours until the babysitter would arrive and then I would be FREE! I didn’t even care where I went as long as no children came with me.  I remember scrambling for a babsitter and wishing there were some way I could just find out who was available instead of calling a dozen girls every single week. (This was before texting, obviously, because I’m super old and so are my kids.)

Mister and I have always gone on a date every week. Always. Because if we didn’t have regular reconnect time, things would get ugly. There would be much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. I would get pretty upset too (ba-dum-ching). We always fit it into our budget because if you think babysitters are expensive, couples therapy and a divorce cost a wee bit more.

Then came the glorious time when our kids were old enough to take care of themselves. Gone were the days of laying out pajamas and trying to make our house look a little more presentable because for some reason I feel the need to impress a 14-year-old neighbor girl. Now I could just shout, “have some cereal for dinner and be in bed by 9!” while we walked out the door. I thought my life was home-free and I saw years of leisurely weekends in my future.

Oh, how wrong I was. Having teenagers makes the weekends crazy complicated.

Instead of going out with my husband, I am now chauffeuring children to and from parties and get-togethers.  It’s possible to beg other parents for rides sometimes, but the more kids you have the slimmer the chances of finding rides becomes.  Sure, Sally’s mom would be happy to take my daughter to the birthday party. But could I bring them back home? And what do you know, it’s also my turn to chaperone the dance! And then there are the times when a bunch of kids end up at our house and I find myself making cookies at 11:00 at night because I can’t just let a pile of hormonally-challenged adolescents go hungry.

Let’s not overlook all the productions and games they have too–one of which will always be on a Friday or Saturday night. If they aren’t playing in the football game they will be cheering at it or playing in the marching band or singing the National Anthem. And of course we must go and watch and be supportive because what kind of crappy parent doesn’t watch and cheer from the sidelines? You want your daughter to end up pregnant? Or on drugs? Because that’s how it happens! When parents don’t show up wearing blinged out t-shirts that say “band mom” in Curlz font, they’re asking for it! Ok, not really, but that’s how it feels.

Maybe the kids have a jazz ensemble concert or a chess tournament or a drama awards banquet. The list of things that teenagers do is eternal.

Some weekends we scramble to find a movie that will start after 7:45 and be done by 10 because that’s the window we have after, say, dropping Arabella off at her friend’s house and picking up Finn at the bowling alley.

As if this weren’t bad enough, we now cannot go to sleep at a decent hour on the weekends either. I used to have all these fantasies of going to bed early once I didn’t have pesky kids needing a drink of water every five minutes. Yeah, that’s never going to happen. Because now I have to wait for kids to show up when their curfew is over. It doesn’t matter how tired we are, we’ve got to stay up and wait. Mister and I are fond of playing a charming game called, “who is more tired”, the loser of which gets stuck on sofa duty waiting for children to come home, hopefully without car accidents being involved. This is even more nerve-wracking once the children have driver’s licenses. We are just positive that they will die before the night is over. If they don’t answer their cell phones it’s because they are dead in a ditch. If they are late it’s because they are at the Emergency Room. Probably the police will show up at any second to break the bad news.

Basically by the time Sunday rolls around we are physically and emotionally exhausted and the fun weekend we had in mind never actually materialized.

Yes, we didn’t have to pay a babysitter anything, but I’m just about to the point where I’d like to pay my kids to spend a quiet weekend at our house.

No, no, I’m not the one getting a job. Mister likes to tell me I ought to start winning the bread around here, but I’m much too good at being a stay-at-home mother. It’s time for the children to start looking for jobs!  India has just returned from college in London (I kept meaning to write about that and now she’s already home) and the boys are running out of spending money. So now comes the fun part of filling out applications and trying to figure out how to make the most money with the least work (isn’t that the eternal struggle?).

My first job was at Pier One Imports when I was 16. I spent my days arranging throw pillows and restacking baskets. I felt terribly grown-up, especially when I had to take someone’s charge card. Back in those days we had to put the card on a slider machine that would make an imprint. We’d give the bottom copy to the customer and keep the top copy.

credit_card_swiper

It felt like playing shop like I’d done a million times as a little girl, only this time I had surly customers that were actual humans, not Raggedy Ann. Once I had a customer make so many purchases that there was no room on the counter and I had to do the card slider on a stack of crates near the check out stand. Only I forced the credit card thing back and forth so violently that the top crate tipped over and out fell a huge stack of bowls. Every single one broke. I didn’t have to pay for them, thank goodness.

I also only made $3.35 an hour. Chances are you made $3.35 as well since this was the minimum wage for about fifty years.  Payday was the only time I liked having a job.  Who remembers the sheer thrill of receiving a paycheck that was over $100? I felt like the richest person in the world.  It sure beat babysitting which generally only paid $2 an hour if I was lucky. The really cheap people would pay $1.50 and hour and they generally had the most dreadful children of all. Nowadays my girls make much more than minimum wage babysitting.

I hated babysitting. Just hated it. I’m still not very fond of other people’s children, truthfully. I love my own but find other people’s kids annoying and problematic.  But babysitting was the only choice for a 14-year-old girl. It’s still the same today.

York, in true Ferris Bueller style, got the exact job he was hoping for and started today. Finn and India are still looking but both had interviews this week.  Mister is finishing up a Masters degree at the University of Texas and will probably be switching jobs or looking for something new soon too. So basically it means that all I do is help the people around me fill out applications and resumés. it’s as scintillating as it sounds.  But my job is to make my family self-sufficient and doesn’t self-sufficient children sound like the best thing ever?

 

I haven’t posted for over a month??? Wow. I hadn’t realized. I’ve just lost the mojo or something. I feel really bad because I didn’t even post any of the cool stuff that happened over the summer. Some of it made me sad. Like this:

Somebody flew the coop.

India Trees

 

 

India Jane senior

 

India Bluebonnets

 

Baby India graduated from high school. Mister’s parents came down, despite their health being not so great these days.

India Grands Graduation

I don’t know how that happened. I mean, one minute she was starting kindergarten and all of a sudden she was putting on her cap and gown. You know how old ladies at the store tell you when you’ve got your hands full of squirming kids that time flies and the kids will grow up so quickly? And you’re like, “yeah, right. Starting when?”  Because every day lasts for a hundred years when you’re children are small. You seriously wonder if you will ever not be wiping somebody’s butt and stepping on stray Legos.

It does go fast. Not until they get into school, though. Every year goes by a little quicker and by the time they’re Seniors in high school, the year lasts about seventeen minutes.

And then they’re leaving for school and you wish you could trap every day in a bottle because it’s the end of an era: the era of having your babies in your nest. Now they’re flying away and it’s exciting but it’s also terrifying.  People keep asking me how I’m doing and the answer is, “I’m kind of blue.” Not depressed, but just unmoored. Life is shifting and even though I knew it would happen, it’s unsettling.

I tell people I’m sad that India is gone but not half as sad as I’d be if she were still living in her bedroom with a lame future ahead of her. Because India is awesome she got a full-ride scholarship to college. And she got a couple of other scholarships too that are covering most of her room and board and books. So yay for that!

We dropped her off at Brigham Young in August and Mister sobbed the whole way back to the airport.  Real, blubbering loud sobs. I finally had to remind him that India is not dying. She’s just going to college and we’d see her at Thanksgiving. But he’s the softie in the marriage. I’m the mean, heartless one. But still it was sad leaving her there.

I can’t be too sad, though, because is there any time as full of excitement and awesomeness as the first time you leave for college? She’s got a shiny, spectacular future ahead of her and as sad and boo-boo as I feel for me, I feel happiness and excitement for her.

IMG_9989

 

India Jane college

 

Plus it’s not like I don’t still have fifty million kids at home. York is in 12th grade this year so we get to do the whole thing all over again.

Here are some other milestones we had:

My baby, my littlest kiddle, turned eight. Jasper Presents

 

Because we’re Mormon we believe that little children who die go straight to Heaven. Thus we don’t baptize kids until they’re old enough to know right from wrong which is at age eight. So Jasper was baptized. Having your youngest child get baptized in another milestone. It means you’re not a young mother. For so long I’ve always had little kids and that means I’m a young mother. But with my youngest being old enough to get baptized I feel like those days of having little kids is ancient history. Again, more unmooring.

Mormons do baptism the old-fashioned way: immersion just like Jesus did. So the baptisee and the baptizer both dress in white, symbolic of being born again and forgiven of our sins.  Jasper was baptized by Mister and it was a lovely ceremony.

P6213522

We had a bunch of fun Texas Tuesdays which I’ll tell you about later. Right now I’m just trying to keep afloat. Mister has gone back to school to get his Masters degree and I’m still as busy as ever. But I’ll be a little more diligent. I’ve got some cool new tutorials in the works; it’s going to be fun!

 

Erasers

Somehow in the raising of children you oftentimes start traditions that you didn’t mean to start. Of course these traditions usually end up being a complete pain but heaven help you if you try to abandon them. Thus we ended up with the Annual Buying of the School Supplies. Think Running of the Bulls in Pamplona but with children, not bovines. And in Target, not Spain.  Back when the kiddles were first starting out they went to a lovely little private school in Salt Lake City called Carden Memorial School. It was so wonderful and I am only now realizing what a blessing it was to attend there. The school was very picky about what products the students used so the cost of the school supplies was bundled into tuition and all we did was show up on the first day with nothing but a backpack. Everything else was provided. The notebooks were lovely little things imported from France and the crayons were some kind I’ve never seen before. It was all so nice.

But then we had too many kids and couldn’t afford tuition so off we went to a Charter School. This meant buying all the supplies ourselves. So off we went with six children under age ten to Target with four separate lists of products to buy. It was mayhem, to say the least. I was probably in tears by the time we left. But the kids had  grand old time. And the next summer it had already been established as a tradition. Kids have this weird way of assuming that any activity they really like is now a tradition even if they’ve only done it once. And we sucker parents, eager to create as many magical traditions and memories as possible, completely give in. Every single time. How else do we explain naughty leprechaun shenanigans on St. Patrick’s Day, $20 tooth fairy gifts or making a fancy birthday poster every single year (am I right, Tiffany)? So now we find ourselves at Target every August, trying to navigate the bins of pencils and post-it notes. I’m so dreadfully jealous of the moms who buy those pre-made kits of all the proper school supplies that are tidily wrapped, waiting on their child’s desk the night of the Open House. I suggested those to my children last year and they were all writhing on the floor by the time I’d finished the question. How dare I suggest they not pick out their very own scissors!

So it looks like tomorrow night will be the magical night we head over to our home away from home Target. I will commence to dig through the jillions of folders to find exactly the right ones (plastic, pockets, brads) in all five colors (“gosh dangit, how are the red ones gone already???”). I will explain to my children the nuances of a Pentel Hi-Polymer eraser vs. Pink Pearl (Pink Pearls are crap. I don’t care what the list from the school says), a pencil box vs. a pencil case. (“no, a box is much better. You can open it and see everything at once. With a soft case you have to constantly dig around inside. I know it doesn’t come in turquoise but you’ll thank me, I swear.”),  and the debate which isn’t even worth debating: Crayola vs. Rose Art (spend the extra 10¢ and get Crayola for Pete’s Sake. Rose Art’s quality is an insult to humanity. I do prefer Prang watercolors to Crayola,though, truth be told.)

As someone who is not a teacher, I am flummoxed by the huge amount of dry-erase markers that are required. Why do they cost so much more than regular markers? It’s a pile of noxious chemicals. Just make more!  And what’s so special about manila paper. Are you telling me that a ream of legal sized printer paper is not quite good enough?

Now that we’ve got older kids we have to do two big shopping trips. The elementary schoolers need everything by late summer or it will all be sold out. The older kids have to go to school before their teachers tell them what is needed. So we’ve got to scrounge around the leftovers during the first week of school hoping to find the elusive five-subject notebook. If you go to the school supply section in late August it looks like the bottled water aisle the day before a hurricane. There’s nothing there but a couple of Monster High folders and a pack of highlighters.  Then we’re left to search for notebooks at places like Walgreen’s. And that just feels all wrong.

So I’m girding my loins and mentally preparing myself to run the gauntlet tomorrow evening. Pray for me.

(First of all “license” is a really tricky word to spell. I know there are c’s and s’s but I can’t ever remember which goes where. Same thing with “excersise”. Or is it “exercize”?  I’m really a good speller, I swear!)

Texas DPS

York, although being 16, was a bit of a dawdler about getting his driver’s permit and license. We signed India up for a driving school and she did all her stuff and got her license and it was not too hard. We decided to do the homeschool option for York because . . . we’re dumb and cheap. The homeschool version costs about $120 less than a driving school. The would-be driver has to do an online course but you do every speck of driving with the would-be driver.

Let me tell you, it’s most definitely worth $120 to make someone else learn to drive with your child. You eventually are the one who has to put in the major hours with them either way, but it’s nice having someone else show them the ropes at the beginning when they are know-nothing idiots. There isn’t anything more frustrating than a teenager who thinks he’s a great driver just because he’s played lots of driving video games. You can explain til you’re blue in the face that the very nature of Forza Motorsport is the complete opposite of driving in the real world (you have to obey speed limits, stay on the road and no running over pedestrians), but he’ll think he’s an expert already. Ah, the hubris of a teenage boy!

York did an online course for Driver’s Ed that was pretty straightforward. The rotten part was actually doing the driving.  Here in Texas you have to do about a million and a half hours of driving before you get your license (a bunch of it has to be done at night, too). This is definitely a great idea but it’s se emotionally taxing that I found myself giving York excuse after excuse about why he couldn’t drive. I had just been through the white knuckles with India, I needed a year or so to recover before I got to this business with York. Not to mention I didn’t want him to drive with his siblings in the car; if he was going to kill us I wanted him to take along as few people as possible. When there are six kids at home it’s quite difficult to find a time when only one person needs to go somewhere.

When you have toddlers and older people laugh and say, “wait until he’s a teenager” you look at them and think, “what’s worse than a meltdown in the middle of Target?”. You imagine a surly teenager and wonder “how hard can that be?”  The idea of not having to hire a babysitter anymore/make food other than chicken nuggets/wipe anyone’s bum makes the teenage years shine from afar with a rosy glow.

It’s things like teaching your kid how to drive that are simply too hideous to explain to a young mother. How do I communicate the frustration and terror of making sure my child understands how to not kill himself and others with this one ton mass of steel and soft Corinthian leather*.

York and I (I am the teacher of children learning to drive. Let’s just say that Mister’s temperament is not quite suited to patience in the driver’s seat. Plus I’m a better driver to begin with) muddled through our many hours of driving together until it was the magical day to get his driver’s license. Instead of getting it at the dumpy little office ten minutes from our house, everyone told us to go to the big fancy office way on the other side of town because it was so much easier to get an appointment. So York made an appointment–only a two-week wait!– to take the driving test way over there. I looked at the DPS† website to make sure we had the proper paperwork, although the website is as vague and unhelpful as possible (“Bring the Driver Safety Form”. Well, which of the eight hundred forms and papers that I’ve been given over the last few months is that? Why can’t they just say, “the form you got from the online driving school saying you finished all the lessons”??? Oh that’s right, this is the government. Why make something easy to understand when you can be cryptic and misleading instead?)

I pulled York out of school early (Of course driving tests are only given during school hours. Of course!) and toodled over to the DPS (a 35-minute drive and $2 in tolls) and got in line for his appointment. The lady who worked there was sweet but very insistent that we were missing a form. The form that I had left sitting on the table because I didn’t realize it was one we had needed. Naturally. It was too late to go get it and return before the office closed (an hour and ten minute round trip, remember!)   At this point York was about to lose it because he was not about to wait another two weeks for his driving test. The Prom was in two days and he wasn’t crazy about his mother driving him and his date around.

The sweet DPS lady assured us that if we arrived first thing in the morning we would be able to get a walk-in appointment. So we were on the road at 7:00 a.m. the next day to get to the DPS on the other side of town when it opened. We had all the correct paperwork and York and the driving instructor set off.

And they were back sixty seconds later.

Seems our safety sticker had expired a year earlier. In all fairness we were driving India’s car and I had no idea. So we drove around the surrounding area until we found a shop that could do a safety inspection. An hour later we were back at the DPS only to realize it wasn’t the safety sticker that had expired, but the car registration (which is a sticker on the dashboard so it’s very easy to tell when the date passes.)  There is no way we had time to drive over to a completely different government office to get a new registration so we decided to go back home and get my minivan.

Fast forward half an hour; we were about to get in my minivan when I realize that it too has an expired registration (really, people, I can’t be expected to stay abreast of everything). Our only other option was the giant pick-up we owned that mostly just sits in the driveway until Mister decides that he needs to take stuff to Goodwill. Only India had taken it to school that day because we’d been using her car for the driving test.

So we went to the High School and had her run the keys out to us in the parking lot. We swapped cars (registration and safety stickers were up to date!) and drove back to the DPS. York had never driven the truck in his life but that just made it all the more wonderful.

By this point it was noon. We’d originally left for the test at 7 a.m. Yay for missing another day of school!

York took his test and passed (hooray, because I really would have strangled him if we’d gone to all that trouble and he’d flunked), and it was very anti-climactic. We were just happy to be out of there. As we exited we passed a sulky teenage girl who was standing there with her mother while a DPS employee informed them that the license plates on their car were expired and they’d have to come back another day. “But I pulled her out of school for this! Now I’ll have to pull her out again!”, her mother wailed. I hear you, sister. I hear you.

So York got his driver’s license, hopped in the car all by himself and drove back for the last couple of hours of school.

The worst part of all of this is watching your child drive away alone for the very first time. Your heart has just driven off and you are sure this child will certainly die on the road. You spend the rest of the time praying every few minutes that he will be safe and not be killed. Like really, honest-to-God praying. For the first week you will nearly cry with sadness every time your boy wants to drive somewhere, certain are you that you will never see him again.

But then a few days later you find yourself making dinner and realize you forgot to buy an avocado. So you hand your son some money and have him run to the store and it’s like angels started singing and the world is bright and wonderful now that you can make somebody else run your errands.

Just like all the other things that happen when you’re a parent and your child goes through milestones, it is bittersweet. This one is the most bitter and sweet I’ve experienced, though. It’s so great to not have to pick people up from play practice at 10:00 at night. Or drive them across town at 6:30 am for the SAT. Or to have an extra set of wheels when one kid needs to be picked up from a birthday party at the exact moment when another kid needs to be at a soccer game. This is pure bliss. But now my child has the power to inflict death, whether on himself or someone else. I mean, I guess he could have stabbed somebody before but it’s not quite the same thing as a car crash. He also has the power to say he’ll be one place and be someplace else far, far away. That could mean trouble.

This parenting job, though, is all about letting go and hoping it all turns out semi-decently. It’s hard but it’s good.

Of course I’m saying all this now but let’s see how much of a basket-case I am when we take India to college next month.

 

 

 

†Here in Texas we have the Department of Public Safety not the DMV.

*You younger people won’t get this reference. But you should. I totally remember this car commercial starring the ever-suave Ricardo Montalban. Most people remember him saying “rich Corinthian leather”, but that is erroneous. Also erroneous? The leather that Chrysler used came from New Jersey, not Corinth.