Thursday, October 30, 2008

My ESL friends

In the process of volunteering at Hunter Street Baptist Church's ESL program, I have bonded with some of the students, of course, but the students in this type of ESL program easily move from one type of life to another. One minute they are just arriving and know no English, the next they are seeking jobs and getting into culture and language even more.  The ones that stay are those with young children or those that work somewhere or time that they can continue to come to classes during the day.  Or the wives of working men that can afford to stay at home.  Anyway, you get the point.  There is quite a bit of coming and going.  And because I am in and out of different classes, I am getting to know a lot of the students, but none "deeply".  But I do love them.  Anyway, this year, the bonding I have done has been more with the teachers.  I got to know the "hostess" who welcomes everyone, tests and places our students, and organizes a lot of other things like copies, snacks, etc.  She is very sweet and fun.  I have also gotten to know the "coordinator" who was a missionary and school music teacher, loves music and is a whiz at teaching, and organizing all the classes (finds teachers and substitutes).  She is also the leader at "break time" when we sing sweet funny songs, spend time with each other, and have snacks. There is the English whiz and former high school teacher who loves grammar and phonics (and the students, of course) and is very gifted in the advanced class.  There is the former kindergarten teacher who loves and nurtures the beginners.  I also can't forget the young Indonesian mommy who helps in every way and every thing.  And also, the "assistant" in the beginner's class who plays with babies, sits patiently beside one older lady helping her understand, and supports in a lot of other ways.  So, you see, these people have really filled my heart with love for themselves and for the students that we teach.  They are special, special people who all have a distinct place to fill.  And, most important for me, they have welcomed me with open arms even though I don't go to church there.  In the beginning, many thought I did.  They would say stuff about Sunday morning as if I was there.  However, now that they know I don't, they are still ready to accept me for who I am.  They are loving, kind, encouraging, complementary, and full of the Lord.  I so appreciate them.  And I appreciate the fire God has lit in my heart for internationals, for you see, I now know what I want to do "when I grow up".  I want to teach ESL.  I want to be a part of peoples lives who were not born here, but chose to be here.  I am sure there are things they don't like about our country, but they have a innocent, fresh perspective.  And I enjoy learning to see things from someone else's eyes.  So, thank you to the people who make ESL at HSBC a great place to love, learn, and build friendships!  And, as a side note, thank you to my sister who encouraged me to get involved in an ESL program.  

Monday, October 27, 2008

Vintage, Creepy, Beautiful Good Time

The weekends are a time to recover.  And for my husband and I, it is a time to nurture our relationship the way we can't during the week.  Every Saturday night, almost without fail, my husband and I go for our date night.  Last Saturday, we left not really having a purpose for where we were going.  Finally we settled on going to Sumo's for dinner.  On the way to Sumo's we were surfing the web on spouse's blackberry and I remembered this event at the Alabama Theatre downtown.  The event was a silent movie with organ accompaniment.  So, we head off downtown quite late for us (the movie was to start at 8:00).  I was excited driving up to the old theatre seeing the old lighted sign.  We entered and saw some pretty strange characters dressed up in different ways.  There was one haunt creeping around behind posts and lurking around.  I am easily spooked so I made sweetie go with me to the restroom (well, not with me, but to that area - you know what I mean).  The thing is, this old movie palace really played into the whole night.  It is beautiful, but in a creepy, forgotten, out of the way kind of way. For instance, you have to go down a set of stairs to the bathroom into a hidden area of the theatre in the basement.  Anyway, we found our seats, enjoying the heavy organ/screaming/rattling chains music.  The patrons continued to be seated and we continued to enjoy ourselves, talking and being together.  Maybe a little more together than usual in this setting on this night.  The stage was lit eerily green with a wind-blown gauzy backdrop.  There were tombstones scattered on it and the wonderfully ornate organ was prominently displayed.  At 8:00, the lights went out and the drama began.  Several haunts paraded down the aisle, the leading ones with huge and ornate candelabra.  They proceeded up onto the stage and rolled out a casket.  The casket opened and the occupant rose, "Dracula-style" from its depths.  The occupant was the organist who proceeded to take his place at the organ with the haunts slowly putting out the candles one by one with their bony fingers. The movie started (silent film version of Phantom of the Opera) complete with an hour and a half of (appropriate to each scene and situation) organ music.  VERY COOL!!  Of course at the end, the haunts came back with the coffin and escorted the organist away complete with a Red Phantom. The movie was very strange.  The story is much the same as the other tellings, but the actions are, of course, exaggerated and the actors were over the top in their facial expressions and make-up.  But, the setting, the music (especially the music) and the theatrics all went together to make it a very enjoyable evening, and particularly like no other evening.  During the summer last year, we went to the Alabama Theatre several times to enjoy classic movies and the organ concert before each one.  They were my favorite dates that we have ever had.  I loved the setting, the movies, and the company of my sweet husband.  But, this night surpassed them all.  We both had such a great time.  It was just my speed for creepiness (not the Saw V kind) but a vintage, beautiful kind of creepy good time!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Things at home

Most of you know me very well and therefore know that I have four children.  They are 17, 14, 12, and 9.  So, I have three who are teenagers, or at least two "official" teenagers and one who is "hot on their heels".  Then I have a 9 year old who is at times a sigh of relief in our home and at other times, another emotionally complex being in our home.  

Emotionally complexity....that is some of what this entry is about. But, it is also about being together and quite simply, being a team.  Because I am trying to respect my children's privacy, I will not elaborate on what all the "insanity" is.  Just know that right now, our home is an emotionally complex place to be.  There are a few sane moments here and there, but mostly, we are very emotionally charged and that isn't always a good thing.  Even when things are good for one, that might mean that they are bad for another.  When one has a friend over, sometimes the others are very unhappy with that.  When one is doing well, another one is not and is not happy about it.  When one is getting attention, another one needs it and is letting us know.  So, we press forward, my husband and I "pooling" our saneness when we can and supporting each other in every way.  

Sometimes I feel that it is almost too much to expect everyone to ride in the car together or sit down to eat together.  I know, though, that the days of togetherness are short because the kids are growing up quickly, so I fight for the "team" every chance I get.  I fight for family outings, family dinners (with manners), family movies, and family devotions.  As we give some of ourselves to become a team, we become part of something bigger than ourselves - our family.  I believe in teamwork.  My family will fight me because they are each becoming their own person and I want that, but I also want them to continue to learn to give a little (or sometimes a lot).  Hopefully, we are finding a happy medium.  Meanwhile,  I hope I am not asking them to give up too much of themselves.  

Along those lines, last weekend, we were desperate to get our kids out of the house.  When we announced a family outing, our kids immediately started whining.  We almost gave up, but we pressed forward, making (and I do mean MAKING - for one of them physically) them go to a local preserve to walk in the woods for a bit and see the beautiful boulders there.  As we drove up, their complaining became very vocal.  But, again, we pressed forward. To sum it up, we ended up having a very blessed time running around, climbing (smaller) boulders, and watching the "pros" climb the really big boulders.  

Later that evening, we bought a "fire pit", ate supper around the fire and for a final touch, made s'mores in our backyard.  It made for a memorable day.  For the most part, they were cooperative (at least after the initial display of rebellion).  And everyone enjoyed it and had a good time.  AND, my fighting for the team turned out really well.  After the kids wandered off their different ways that evening, my husband and I felt very warm outside AND in sitting around the fire, enjoying the cool evening and braving the smoke blowing in our faces.  You, my dear reader, enjoy the pictures and have a good time in your family, fighting for the team!! 

Monday, October 20, 2008

ADHD - Staring into space

My #4 (who has ADHD), enlightened me during a recent car ride as to what he is doing while he is staring into space.  He says he is looking for tiny differences in things from one day to the next. Gee, nice to know there really is something going on in his brain!!  I always thought he was just "checking out" for a moment.  When my kids share something that is such a profound look into their mind, I am always ecstatic!!!   Especially right now with one child in the throes of adolescent change, I am comforted to know that in at least one of my children's minds, some little things make sense (at least to me).  Anyone confused?  Sorry!!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Field Trip - Why I Go

Every time field trip days are planned, I am among the first to respond.  I almost feel that the children can't go without me.  Each time, as the call goes out for chaperones, I ask my kids if they want me to go.  They always do.  And, if they want me there, I am going to be there.  But, more than going for my kids, I get to meet other parents, talk to the teachers, and get a good picture of my child in and around school.  I feel that it is important that I know as much as I can about their school experience.  I feel that it makes me a better parent.  Yes, I am fortunate to be able to go.  I have no job to take off from.  I could also have kids who are embarrassed to have me around.  I am glad my kids want me there.  

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Pain in My Heart

Right now, there is this low-level pain in my heart.  I feel it more deeply at some times than at others.  But, it doesn't really go away.  My child is being bullied.  All last year, he was subjected to teasing and heckling everywhere he went at school.  This year, although it continued, he chose to keep the horror of it from us.  As he held it in, he became distant, cold, difficult and angry.  Finally it all came rushing out.  As it came out, the guy that I know and love began to return.  He was back to hugging me and talking to me.  He was willing to work more on his academics.  He was not escaping so much with Legos and video games.  But, for me, the pain was just beginning. Before I knew what was going on, I was angry at him and figured that he was going through that growing up thing that can really sideline some kids.  I was a bit over the top with nagging him about his homework, lecturing him about all he was NOT doing, and trying to deal with a person I didn't know.  Now, I am trying to love him and heal him from almost a year of this torture and help him learn to make it quit.  I want him to deal with it himself, but mostly right now we are intervening by seeking the administration's help.  I am grateful for these people who love kids and want to help.  I just wish that we could have handled it ourselves.  Mostly though, my mind is caught up with how to make it stop and the WHY of it all.  Why would someone tease my child?!!  He is (to me at least) handsome, charming, sweet, moral, and up until now, a hard working student.  I don't deny that he is a "nerd".  He is smart and likes to talk about what he knows.  He is a bit awkward socially, a bit "aspergerian", although he does not have enough of these traits to be diagnosed.  But, I don't think he stands out that much.  But, when I have seen him at school, he seems to be not so different, but sort of in a bubble, socially speaking.  One step behind, one comment too random, one too many weird sounds or funny ways of doing things.  He knows he is different, but he is not willing to (or can't) conform in those tiny little things that everyone must conform in order to not stand out.  So, here I am overanalyzing the difficulty and hoping things change for him.  Last year, his one saving grace was that he loved his teachers and they, him.  This year, if anything, the teachers are a negative.  They are legalistic, strict, not encouraging, and sometimes taken to singling out kids to correct them in front of others.  This child, who gets along with adults much better than peers, is not getting along with the adults either.  Because of the pain he has endured, he is becoming prickly to everyone around him.  So, my solution is to pray and to love.   Mostly, though, it is to pray.  I know I can't change things for him.  Only God can do that.  And only God can change him.  Hey, maybe God can even change me in the process!!!