Sunday, May 27, 2012

When you know down inside that I really do

Today's post about dressing a growing girl for summer is at Toxophily.


And summer it almost is, at least by the holiday calendar here in the U.S. Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Two ends of the spectrum

Tomorrow Archer's school is going on a field trip to Wild River Country, a water park in Little Rock. Noel often goes with him on school outings, but this one is especially important. Archer's not a strong swimmer, is highly nervous and sensitive about getting splashed, and freaks out if his head goes underwater. Not only does he need help, but he needs to be protected from his peers who might goad him into dangerous situations or tease him for his lack of ability.

But our usual way of handling this -- send Noel with him for the day -- has been foiled by a couple of time-sensitive assignments. Noel has a phone interview mid-morning tomorrow, and is flying out to New York mid-afternoon. As a chaperone, he's out.

Last week when we were on our way to dinner in the car, Noel explained to Archer that he wouldn't be able to go, and we discussed the options. Archer absorbed the conversation. Then he explained to us how he felt, and he did it this way:

"There are two ends to the situation. If you don't let me go on the trip, I'll fall off the negative end. If I do get to go, I'll fall off the positive end."

That was a cryptic way to put it. My first reaction was to ask: Ends of what? "Happiness?" I guessed. Archer paused for a long time. "Maybe," he said. I hadn't quite gotten it right.

"Well, I can go with you, big man," I offered. That seemed to be the right answer. He relaxed and said "Okay," the way he does, with finality and agreement.  When he says "Okay" with that inflection, it means: "That sets the world in a configuration that makes sense to me. I can work within the world that creates."

Thinking about the strange "two ends" analogy he had proffered, I finally came to an understanding of what he might have meant. I think he was saying that either outcome held dangers and anxieties for him. He wanted to go to the water park, but he didn't want to be there without one of us. In a way, unless we were there to catch him on the positive end, there was no way for him to avoid disaster.

So I'll be there. And as Archer grows and is expected by his schools and friends to be more independent, we'll have to listen carefully to find out where the ends of his spectrum are, and to make sure he feels confident he won't fall off either way.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Or as we will always call it, Toe Sock Days

We were pretty busy two weekends ago. Then last weekend we weren't busy at all, thank goodness. Which, if you know me and how much I love my no-responsibility, no-work weekends, goes a long way toward explaining why I'm just now getting around to posting photos from our visit to the 2012 Toad Suck Daze festival on May 6.


Arrival, incognito. Well, at least the movie star among us is keeping a low profile.


First order of business: Lunch. We considered the Walking Taco, but it lacked one essential qualification.


It was not on a stick. Unlike this cheeseburger on a stick.


Time for some rides! Archer's got his ToadBucks ready.


First up, the ever-popular and picturesque carousel.


And you can't go wrong with the super slide, as Archer demonstrates.


Archer also really likes this little Tokyo Drift-style speedway ride. Guaranteed peals of laughter when it whiplashes you around the turn.


All three of us were laughing and screaming on the Scrambler, which has been one of my favorites ever since my dad took a home movie that featured a close-up follow shot of my hat falling off in mid-ride.


Dad and Archer rode the ferris wheel. Far as we could tell from down below, that's the two of them in the turquoise car up top.


We've earned some dessert. How about deep fried Oreos and Hershey's kisses?


It was a really hot day for this early in the season. But no matter whether it's graduation weekend or not, you can't just let Toad Suck Daze pass you by.


If you have a movie star in the family, though, do take the precaution of attending on Sunday when the paparazzi can be more easily evaded.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Are we there yet?

I don't usually complain about my life or my work. I have an amazing life, full of love and joy from those around me every day. My job is meaningful, my students are astounding, and my colleagues have so much to teach me.

But I've had a crummy week for a lot of reasons, and I'm ready for it to be over.

First, for exam week when classes aren't meeting and only grading is left to do, I've been incredibly busy. There have been meetings and presentations to attend. My students' projects generated stacks of data that I had to design receptacles for, and once those spreadsheets were prepped it was less work to do the entry myself than to train someone else to do it. I expect my pace to ease up a bit during exam week, especially given the exceptional grind I've undergone throughout April, but it seems like I'm still working flat out.

Second, I've been engaged in a knock-down, drag-out, slow-motion struggle over multiple e-mail threads with various segments of a group to which I belong. It's about process and principle, personalities and priorities. It's been ugly and frightening at times, frustrating and angry-making most of the time. I get sucked into composing extremely carefully worded messages, trying to say exactly what I mean and no more, expressing a dissenting point of view to keep it alive in the face of efforts to declare premature consensus, and then an hour later have to come back and do it all over again. It has left me exhausted, day after day. But it's trench warfare; I'm fighting as hard as I can just to stand my ground. It's hard to know whether any progress is being made.

And yesterday I was entrusted with a confidence I'd rather not have been given. It's a burden. I've done what I had to do with it, but every time it crosses my mind, I feel the heaviness. The world is sadder and more complicated than it was before I knew it.

I was looking forward to my first date night in months with my husband tomorrow night, and then I got the news that I was working all three commencements tomorrow instead of the one I had been previously scheduled for. I drew the line at working two and spending my whole day lining up and sitting in a gym, rather than my whole day and part of my evening, which would have entailed canceling my long-awaited dinner and a movie. Such a simple thing that I have wanted for so long, but for a moment it seemed the universe was telling me it was too much to ask for. An appropriate cap to a week that has piled on the stress. I'm still waiting for the payoff for what feels like some of the hardest work I've done in years.