Sunday, October 31, 2010

Girded Loins [American Standard Style]

I probably should have checked out the translation before the group started BUT I was running late and I was grumpy and I didn't even want to be there in the first place...

Let me back up.

It had been one of those weeks.  A million projects.  A million roadblocks.  A $1500 video camera that doesn't work nicely like the $400 one.  A photocopier that spits your paper out off-centre when it's not jamming (the little elf inside giggling incessantly with every groan).  So I was in a mood.  And I had to run youth.  And it was the last place in the world I wanted to be.  My parents were keeping the kids overnight. Just imagine: a house - EMPTY, QUIET...what a beautiful thing.  All I wanted was to curl up in bed, watch a movie as loud as I wanted to and eat chocolate until my tummy hurt.  But, no.  I had to run youth.

I drove back to Hanover.  I turned off the radio and sang some worship songs really loud to try and bounce myself out of my funk.  I powered through the leaders meeting.  Decided to totally mix the order up just to see how it went.  Called all the kids in just to dismiss them to Life Groups right off the bat - radical, I know!  And we were short leaders, so I had to lead one of the groups.

I ended up in a Sunday School classroom with three girls, some bristle board, markers and an American Standard Bible.  Our assignment was to read Ephesians 6:10-18 and then draw our interpretation of The Armor of God.  I got to verse 14:  "Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH..."  These are teenage girls.  Much giggling ensued.  The "Belt of Truth" became a jock strap on our very muscular armored man drawing.  And I laughed with them and kept them on task and tried to direct conversation around why we need this armor and how we can get it and whether or not we actually have it.  And somewhere in the middle of that hour I realized that I was having a good time.  My mood had shifted and I was actually happy to be there.  

I had fantasized about being "too sick" to go, knowing that my sister would have stepped up and taken my place in running things but what a blessing that I followed through on my commitment instead.  I actually learned some things, listening to Heidi's lesson.  I was moved by the alternative worship that was simply a group prayer time in which kids spoke their praises out loud - no music - no band.  And what an amazing thing to hear Janneke share about the freedom she experienced at Acquire the Fire the week before!  There could have been no better cure to a hard week.

And my empty, quiet house was still waiting for me at the end of it all and I got to enjoy it with a full, happy heart, a sharpened sword, peaceful feet, a righteous helmet, a strong shield, a shiny breastplate and , of course, girded loins.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lucky 'Cause He Has You

He climbed onto the bed beside Scott who was hiding out from all the birthday party kids.  He sat there for a while.  A little weird.  But he's practically our own.  Zander's BF since first grade.  As welcome here as family.

"Zander's real lucky, you know," he says.

"Yeah, why's that?"

"Cause he has you."

And he goes on to say that his dad just moved out and he hasn't seen him for a week and he misses him so much.

And all I want to do is hug him and tell him how sorry I am and that he's welcome here any time he wants or needs to get away.

But he's almost eleven.  Hugs aren't cool.  So he accepts a pat on the back and a Saturday night sleep-over invitation and my promise to always let him in when he knocks on the door.

And he looses his cloudy mood in party mix and birthday cake and proclaims loudly to the room full of boys, "Zander's mom's cool.  She says fart!"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Zander's Ninth Birthday

The birthday waffles

He came bouncing down the stairs at 7:25 chanting, "Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday," with each step until he could see into the living room and then he said, "OOOOOOO, balloons!"  It's nice to know that nine years old isn't too old to appreciate my efforts.

When I tucked him into bed the night before he told me firmly that "just because it's a school day tomorrow doesn't mean that we can skip birthday waffles!"  So I set my alarm half an hour earlier and set a steaming pile of our Rusnak tradition, fresh-off-the-iron waffles, topped with melted butter, maple syrup, raspberry jam, whipped cream, rainbow sprinkles and a candle before him at the breakfast bar beneath his sleepy-eyed grin.

His party was after school.  I created a big scavenger hunt that would take two teams all over town.  Questions like: What costs $50 at Strands Hair & Aethsetics on Main Street? (nose piercing) or What is the metal container called to the right of the red mailbox outside the Post Office?  (butt stop)  Each letter from their answers was assigned a number which they used to decipher a code message full of trivia about Zander and the day he was born.  I worried that they might think it was too much like school but they were beyond excited.

Working on the code...

So there we were.  Two teams.  Scott led Zander, Nathanial, Jarett and Logan.  I led Simon, Tyson, Carter and Liam.  Racing through town.  Ignoring rain and cold because everyone was too busy yelling and bouncing and screeching and pointing to care.  Learning what the old train used to carry and what strange creatures live under the benches behind the Art Gallery.

We got back to the house with wet hair, numb fingers, red noses and high spirits.  My team was first back but Zander's team was first to decipher the trivia - Nathaniel singing their answers along to Owl City's Fireflies - and they won coupons for a free ice cream cone at McDonalds.

I served pizza and hotdogs for supper.  A cake shaped like a Nintendo mushroom.  Party mix.  Cream Soda.  (My apologies, Canada Food Guide.)  When it was all over, Zander hugged me and thanked me and said it was, "the best!"  I told him it was my pleasure.  And it really, really was!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Anyone for Tuna?

It's 10:45 pm and I'm tidying the living room while the cake bakes because it's the only moment I've found to get ready for Zander's party all week.

And this is what I find behind the book shelf:

The picture doesn't really capture it.  This is tuna casserole.  Three week old tuna casserole.  Practically petrified.  A nice, furry little cloud of mould spreading towards in the middle...

The rule in our house is No Dessert Until Your Supper Is Gone!  The question is, which kid owes me a dessert and how in the world were they able to sneak away from the table and hide it before I knew what was going on and what does this say about my house-keeping?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Only Human

Zander's birthday party is on Friday.  I put minimal effort into his invitation.  But he loved it.  And that's what matters.  He took them to school on Monday.  Handed them out.  Waited for R.S.V.P.'s...


"Hi, is this Zander's mom?"
"This is Jared's mom.  Do you know you put your mother's phone number on the invitation?"

And I was mortified.  Yes, Ma'am, please leave your child in my brain-farting, mostly capable care.

I called my mom.

She answers: "Hello, Austin's Party Planning Services, how can I help you?"

At least she has a sense of humor about it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Twelve Years

                                                        October 17, 1998
It was raining when I woke.  I don't remember caring and I don't remember eating breakfast.  The dining room was packed with giggles and hot-rollers and pretty make-up bags and bottles of hairspray.

After much deliberation I settled on Claire Danes (in Romeo and Juliet) hair.  We tucked little sprigs of babies breath into the braided crown.  I had never been prettier.  I wore my mothers dress.  I had tried on many and loved none.  The moment we found her dress hidden in the musty closet of her childhood home the decision was made.  It was exactly the dress I was supposed to wear: simple, short train, square neck and bell sleeves - very Princess Bride. ("My dear, sweet, Wesley!!!!")  I floated through the day in a bubble of eighteen-year-old bliss.  And through the eyes of a child-bride, everything was perfect.

I refused to hold the ceremony in my home church because it was orange and had no center aisle and I had spent too many hours as a little girl pouring over our hard cover Royal Family wedding album to compromise on something so important.  The church I chose was regal and gorgeous and stiff.  The ceremony was not.  It took much negotiation to earn permission for our very non-traditional whims but we gained it, he with his persuasive personality, me with my "oh, please make my dreams come true" sweetness.
My roses : )

We began with Bon Jovi's If I Was Your Mother filling the sanctuary while the guys danced down the aisle to their places at the front.  This set the mood.  And my Great Aunt Carol did not have a heart-attack at our sacrilege.  We laughed.  A lot.  We sang a song we wrote together for our parents.  We joined in the snickers as we watched the look of horror spread across the best man's face and the whisper down the line of groomsmen and the panicked dash out and back and the obvious hand-to-hand pass of the forgotten rings.  We shared a shameless kiss to cheers and applause and skipped down the aisle when it was all over to We Go Together (because, like I could get married without a nod to Grease and my forever crush, J.T.).

Twelve years.  It feels like a blink.  It feels like forever.  He gave me roses.  He never gives me roses.  We have so much behind us:  three children, four homes, five cars.  It has never been easy but it has always been worth it and I can't wait to see what the next twelve years will bring.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

One More Run

It was his third and final race of the season and it actually felt like fall this time.  The wind had enough bite to make the tips of our noses red but the sun was working hard at breaking through the clouds and it's efforts kept the temperature bearable.  We froze last year so, this time, we came prepared.  Mitts, hats, coats, sweaters.  Perfect.

The meet was hosted by the Meaford Tank Range.  We had to sign our lives away to enter the property.  No sir, I will not hold Her Royal Majesty responsible to any harm done to myself or my personal property. Yes, sir, you may quote me on that.  Yes, sir, I will do my upmost to treat properties under the mighty reign of Her Royal Highness with the respect and grace that only she deserves.  Yes, sir, I understand that you have the right to search my person for contraband without probable cause or to escort me off the Queen's land at my own expense if I fail in any one of these capacities. Yes, sir.  Fine, sir.  Good day, sir.  And there were uniformed soldiers stationed all around to make sure I did just that.  I was even escorted to an "army sanctioned port-a-potty" by a chivalrous man in green.  Yes, today was a good day, indeed!

235 tyke boys.  You should have seen them; a mass of jersey-donning third and fourth graders in a blue, green and yellow rainbow of chaos, hopping and stretching and getting impatient along the painted white line, waiting for the gun shot that finally sent them off in an undulating wave of bobbing heads and brightly coloured shoe-laces.

This was an easier track than the other races.  All basically flat.  Mostly dry.  Zander's goal was to beat at least 30 kids.  He had no delusions of gold.  His expectations are realistic and attainable and it makes me proud.

He gave a good push at the end.  Passed a few more on his way to the finish.  He came in at #189.  Out of 235.  He surpassed his goal and was very pleased.  His coaches congratulated him, Mr.Klein checking his clip board and saying, "You're better every time, Zander.  Great job!" and Mrs. Napper-Sharpe telling him that he's a veteran now - two full seasons under his belt.  He beamed beneath their praise and then drank his complimentary chocolate milk in two big gulps .

We spent some time checking out the tanks on display, smiling at soldiers and attempting some of the obstacle course.  And we got away without offending Her Majesty or any of her hired guns!

Not My Favorite Drive Ever

A rusty pickup truck rode my bumper.  He'd been there since Grey Road 13.  A human skull was sitting on his dashboard, staring me down through the rear-view mirror.  I tried to let him pass but he just slowed down with me - those empty eyes leering - a cold sweat on the back of my neck.  I was completely creeped out and the longer it went on the more I felt like I must be in a Liebesman movie and a man wearing a mask of human skin would lean out the passenger side window with a chain-saw and broken teeth.  This would be the opening scene.  I would be the first to die, of course, and then my skull would join the one on the dashboard and together we'd stare down the next victim...

He was there all the way to the lights in Durham.  We stopped at a red.  I put my blinker on once I saw that he was going straight.  That's when I could read the words on his hood visor:   Dar-Lyn Pools & Spas.  Great advertising.  I never wanted a pool anyway.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

For A Car

"Mommy, can I get a bank account so I can save money to buy a car?"

This came out of nowhere.  He's almost nine years old.  He is not old enough to be saving for a car.

But I was all, "Of course you can" because I'm certainly not going to buy him one once he is actually driving.  "How are you going to make money?" I asked him.

And together we created a chore chart.

The kitchen chalkboard - bottom right
We put it on the kitchen chalk/magnetic board (thank you, IKEA!) and he marks each completed chore with a magnet (thank you, Dollarama!) and at the end of each week we add up what he's earned.  (Of course, we had to make Liam his own chart because he wants to be just like his brother.)

And you know what?  It's working!  He's getting something he wants (though I'm suspicious it may go towards the purchase of new toys or games before a car) and I'm getting some much-needed help around the house without the old whine and grumble that used to accompany said chores.

And what is better than twenty minutes of one-on-one at the kitchen sink, instigated not by myself but by my eight year old son?  Nothing!  That's what!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rounds Ranch

Good Ol' Bessy and the kids in the HUGE corn maze
It's mid-October and over 15°C.  Blue skies beckon outdoor play and while the air smells like fall, the sunshine feels like summer.  We unload from the car and are immediately thrown back to a simpler time - to homemade play structures and homemade wagons and homemade signs and homemade french fries and pumpkins, pumpkins, and more pumpkins.

Barrel Bull Riding

Rounds Ranch is an old time family business, creating fun out of simplicity, celebrating pumpkins and corn and autumn on a laid-back farm between Wasaga Beach and Elmvale.  We made a day of it and

we did it all: pumpkin bowling,
pumpkin toss, barrel bull riding, obstacle course, corn maze, hay maze, pedal go-carts, picking our own pumpkins, corn cannon shooting, petting zoo, pie eating contest, zip-line and crazy drop slide.  It was exhausting and wonderful.  We pulled Noa around in Bessy, a plastic barrel that had been converted into a dairy cow, drank juice out of little plastic pumpkins and sunburned our noses.  It was magic!
Noa picked her very own - just her size!

A wagon ride to the pumpkin patch
A pumpkin paradise!

Sometimes It Just Feels Good To Be Mad

I am generally a happy person.  Most people would say that about me.  I am an optimist.  I am a glass half full kind of girl.  But there are a few things that irk me.  Being expected to have myself, three children, two pies, a diaper bag and a suitcase ready to get there in time for Thanksgiving dinner while he sleeps away the morning is one of them.  I'm tired too.  Why can't I sleep in?  Just once?

He got up ten minutes before we had to leave.  That means we left half an hour late.  That means I was frustrated and frazzled and quietly fuming.

He was in a great mood.  Any why shouldn't he be?  He'd just slept until noon.  He was singing as he got ready.  I was doing the dishes I that I wouldn't have had time to do if he had been up and ready when he was supposed to be.  He was singing some cartoon theme song.  My hands were burning in the soapy water.  He pulled me away from the sink, whipping me around, trying to dance with me, trying to dip me.  I peeled myself away.  "Can't you just let me be grumpy?"  I demanded, secretly happy that I'd just wiped dish-water hands over his clean t-shirt.  He laughed at me and started dancing with Noa instead.

I was over it once we were in the car and on our way.  My pie smelled amazing.  Tim Hortons was much needed and never tastier.  The Dixie Chicks were moving me into a better mood.  It was wonderfully warm for Thanksgiving.  Somehow, singing along with "Earl had to die" dug me out of my funk and made me appreciate the fact that I'll probably never have to feed him poisoned back-eyed-peas and roll him up in a tarp.  Things aren't that bad.  But sometimes it just feels so good to be mad.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Rail Land Cross Country

Rail Land Cross Country Run
October, 6, 2010

He rode the bus over with his friends and was hanging out in the soccer field behind the Catholic school board building when we got there.  He'd hung his coat and backpack in a tree and was proud of his innovation.  The day was beautiful - sun shinning, nice breeze, blue skies and two-seater planes overhead.  Zander was hoppy and hyper.  They ran almost an hour behind schedule.  Kids were wrestling in the field out of boredom.  It was not well organized but school spirit was high.  The older girls painted their faces with blue and white Spruce Ridge colours and when Zander's division finally lined up to run there was a mighty, "Let's Go Spruce Ridge, Let's Go!" that could surely be heard all the way to the Stork Club.  Dawnview made a pitiful effort to out-shout those Durham kids but they were put to shame and shut their mouths sheepishly.

He took off well, keeping in the middle of the pack - but as they turned out onto the gravel path he got tripped up in someone's feet and fell straight out, skinning both his palms and loosing a lot of ground.  An encouraging crowd cheered him back to his feet and he was off again, disappearing around the bend on his way to the old bridge while all the mom's along the sideline prayed that no one would fall through the big gap at it's edge.

Coming in to the finish
He was dragging as he approached the end, panting and red-faced until he heard me yelling encouragement from the finish line and he found new strength and pushed it to the end, passing two kids in front of him.

2 km.  83 boys.  He came in 54.  And proud as punch.  Me too.  Proud as punch!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Race Well Run

Flesherton Split Rail Festival
Cross Country Race
Saturday, October 2

We arrive at 8:45 am.  The sky is grey.  The ground is damp.  Last night we prayed away the rain.  So far so good.  Zander's excited.  It's the first race of the season.  He's a year older now and that means he has to run two kilometers instead of one.  I'm nervous.  He's not.  He's wearing his Spruce Ridge Timber Wolf jersey and I help him pin his number - 508 - to his chest.

I do the walk-through with him.  It seems desperately long.  He's looking for shortcuts but I know he's joking - he wouldn't actually cheat - he doesn't have that in him.  The trail is slick with old rain.  Our shoes get muddy and the back of my jeans are wet almost up to my knees.  Zander thinks the trail must actually be ten kilometers but the idea of quitting - of not even trying - doesn't enter his mind.  I, on the other hand, am picturing tears and limping.

Over and over I tell him it's not about winning but about doing his best.

"And pacing myself!" he says.  And then, just in case, he asks, "but if I do win could we go to a hotel with a pool to celebrate?"

The people behind us laugh.

"How about hot chocolate no matter how you do?" I offer.

"Fine.  Are there bears in here?"

"No, Zander, they're are no bears in here."

"How do you know?  What if there are?"

"Sing while you're running."

"Yeah right - you're weird."
He is racing against 69 other boys his age.  He takes off with a smile but doesn't waste the time it takes to wave at us as he passes like he did last year.  He's invisible to us then - gone in the forest, swallowed by trees and grasses.  I have time to cross the football field and find a bathroom in the foreign Grey Highlands halls.  The first runners are visible when I come back out.  I line up along the finish line to wait for him.

When he appears along the path he's going slow but steady.  His cheeks are flushed.  His legs seem heavy.  But he's doing it.  And he finishes proudly.  59 out of 70.  Completely happy with the green participant ribbon.  Sated by a huge hot chocolate with real whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.  And saying confidently that yes, he would like to run in the Rail Land Cross Country Run in Hanover on Wednesday and could I please come and cheer for him again?

And I say, "certainly!"

What a surprise that any child of mine would have an interest in anything remotely resembling the sport of running.

Please Excuse My Boasting

I'm pretty sure PRIDE in your children is exempt from the seven deadly sins.  It has to be, right?  Being proud of my children is my prerogative and I'll do it with gusto, thank you very much.

Pride Point One:  
proud as punch!
The school calls.  "Your son will be presented with an award for Trustworthiness.  You may attend the assembly on Monday afternoon."

They have special kid-sized parent chairs lined up along each side of the gym.  We sit right at the front - all the better for the perfect photo-op.  Each teacher has nominated two students from their class that have demonstrated trustworthiness.  When Zander's name is called there's a whoop and a hop as he races to the front to claim his certificate - thrilled to be recognized - thriving on the cheering crowd.

That night I asked him what it meant to be trustworthy.  He said, "people can trust me."

Good enough.

Pride Point Two:
hanging out in the school yard
Liam comes home from school with the following handwritten letter from his teacher:
"Dear Mr. & Mrs. Rusnak, As I shared with Liam's dad at the block gate on Friday, Liam's colouring and concentration with crayons is exceptional for this time of year.  He also concentrates on stories well.  Next step for growth: begin to name some lower and upper case letters of the alphabet.  A good place to start is using the letters in his own name as that is relevant to him.  (smilie face)  Sincerely, Mrs. McCombie."  (First Place Sticker) COLOURING CHAMP! (another smilie face.)

I read this letter to Liam.  He beams.  He wants to write a letter back.  He dictates the following:  "Dear Mrs. McCombie, I wish I married you."  He thinks for a moment then says, "maybe I'll just write it myself."  He gets a new paper and very carefully writes his name saying quietly to himself, "A stick with a stick (L) a line with a dot (i) a circle with a tail (a) an upside down bum (m)."  Then he draws a rabbit that looks like a square-headed alien.  Then he opens a story book and copies every letter he sees onto his page.  Then he put it in his backpack.

When he gave it to Mrs. McCombie she went above and beyond to tell him how proud she was of his writing.  She hung it on the classroom wall.  My heart was full.

Pride Point Three:
Noa says cookie now.  She was holding a cracker.  Close enough.  "Coo-key!  Coo-key!  Coo-key!"  Brilliant!

I am blessed.