Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fine Arts and Father's Day

J still had company at work Friday when it was time to make the drive to PA for the boys, so I headed off on my own. We had a pretty quiet ride home, with Pie absorbed in his video game and Boot in his thoughts. So, I listened to Neil Gaiman reading the stories from his book, Fragile Things. Every once in a while, Boot would pipe up, most frequently with weird and worrisome questions about how heroin addicts get their needles and whether they can be re-used and how you "open an account with Western Union." Handling the teen years with any kind of grace is a dance that requires great skill. When he asks me things like that, I want to interrogate him about why he is asking. But, I've learned that the full picture develops over time and that interrogation not only doesn't work, but makes him feel as though I think he's not trustworthy. What came out is that he is very interested in obtaining steroids through an online venue, wiring money to some former Soviet place or other. He's become obsessed with steroids in recent months, which scares me. Pie's obsession with energy drinks scares me, too, but it pales in comparison to this. We have talked to him about how badly steroids can mess up his body, about the ramifications of their illegality and so forth, but he persists. His coaches tacitly encourage it, too, which pisses me off. He is bound and determined that he is going to do this. He is saving up money and intends to make his way to a Western Union service in PA. His father doesn't communicate with us, so we can't call and talk to him about it. All we can do is warn Boot that he is likely to either lose 50-some dollars or to get pills filled with dirt or dried horse manure. I hope he will start to think about that. And, frankly, I hope he does get ripped off. I do not want my kid on steroids. I am afraid, so very afraid, that he will do damage to himself with these drugs. Further, I worry about the 'roid rage you hear about. He already has anger control issues and his brother bears the brunt of that, telling us that he has spent the beginning of his summer vacation being beat up. Nothing we can do about it, as part-time parents. If he were living with us full-time, I would take him to be tested every so often, but almost all the parenting is out of our hands now. And in the hands of an incompetent.

When J got home Friday night, she made cheeseburgers, with tortilla chips and dip and baked beans on the side. We hung out and talked, but went to bed pretty early because J had to be back at work early. She'd promised Boot he could go with her and in the night, he put a series of notes outside of our bedroom door: 1. "Wake me up pleaze" 2. Take me to *work and let ME *work" 3. "Wake me up so I can get $ paid" 4. "If you take me to work you a promoting a good work ethic." Where does he come up with this stuff? So, they got up before 7 and headed out. Boot is a hard worker. J let him pack a little, intending to pay him out of our money. At the end of the shift, though, he told her, "No, Mom, I don't need money." He'd just wanted to share time and experience with her, I guess. He is planning to work full-time for her next summer, though. He definitely has a good work ethic already. Pie, on the other hand, stayed home with his step-mama and both of us slept in. Then, I went grocery shopping. I missed out on the farmer's market because I couldn't find one parking space, so I indulged in Heinen's fabulous produce selection. Boot immediately climbed back into bed when they got home and slept until 9 that night. Pie told us his brother always catches up on his sleep over the weekend. Neither boy wanted to go to Crocker Park with us. J worries that they will feel neglected or be bored. I told her it's normal, developmentally speaking, for teenage boys to want to sleep and play video games all weekend. What's unusual is for them to want to spend large amounts of time socializing with their parents. Nonetheless, she is planning structured activity for their next visit and won't take "No thanks" (Pie's likely response) for an answer. Maybe a water park, maybe the movies. I'm game for it, anyway. The boys most often say they would prefer to relax at home, although Boot is usually happy to hit the mall or go out to eat with us. He noticed Houlihan's over this last weekend, so I think I'll take him there sometime. He'd like Melt, too.

Since the boys were out for the count, we gave them pizza money and headed over to Crocker Park for the fine arts festival. It's a moderate-sized craft show, nothing like Summerfair in Cincinnati, but okay. I only saw a couple booths that tugged at my purse strings, but I refrained. One artist creates wonderful cat pictures, the other pictures of women on the beach with fun sayings added to the picture, stuff like "What happens at the lake stays at the lake" and other girlfriend getaways kinds of things. We had lunch at Aladdin's. It was delicious, as always, but I think it made us sick. It was either that or Coldstone Creamery, where we got ice cream. In the late evening, we were both attacked by classic food poisoning symptoms. No fun and I worried that I might still be ill in the morning for church. Yikes! I wasn't, though. Anyway, after we'd had our fill of the arts, we did some more grocery shopping. J wanted to make ribs. I'd planned to make chili, but allowed her to steal my cooking night. When we got home, both boys were asleep, so J snuggled in for a nap, too. I read some magazines and watched Alton Brown watching andouille being made. When it was time to make dinner, J wasn't ready to get up, so I offered to make chili after all. It was soooo good. Our oven has broken, so I wasn't able to make the honey cornbread I wanted to go with it, but the tortilla chips were a decent substitute. I hate not having an oven, though, and I don't know how long it will take our landlord to replace it. J said the chili was the best I've made her yet (and I've made lots of chili in the 7+ years we've been together) and Pie ate all of his and pronounced it good, even though he commented on its spiciness. 3 tablespoons of chili powder bought at a roadside stand in ChimayĆ³, New Mexico will do that. Lucky for him I didn't add any cayenne.

In the morning, I got up before 7 this time. J stayed in bed, promising to make it to the later service. I was at the church by 20 'til 8, visiting with the early service folks and greeting the guest preacher. The first service went quite smoothly. We visited with the folks in the adult Sunday school afterward, had some good conversation about how we are all called to ministry, not just people who do it full-time for a living. Then came the main service, in the main sanctuary. I was decidedly nervous, especially about how the offering and children's sermon would go. The mikes made me nervous, too, but they turned out to be a breeze, thanks to our well-seasoned sound guy. Mostly, my first main Sunday service at this church went well. I did manage to bulldoze right through the prelude, totally forgetting to stop between announcements and call to worship so our organist could play it. She is a good sport, though, and told me afterward that the extra time not spent prepping the prelude while she's on vacation will be great. I also almost forgot the children's sermon, skipping right to the offering. Oy vey! Luckily, the guest preacher reminded me and the acolytes are very flexible & well-trained kids who jumped right in to help with the offering. The children's sermon, once I finally sat down for it, went very well and the kids were great participants, not to mention so adorable that I wanted to squish them all. I got a drawing from one of them later. I'd invited "the young at heart" forward, too, and our wonderful Christian Ed director, Lucinda, came up and sat with us. It was deliciously calming to have her up there. It was also good to have J sitting right up front nodding encouragement throughout the service. The scripture readings went beautifully. I do really well when I can just stand in the pulpit and read...when there's blocking and I have to memorize lines, not so much. LOL!

After church, I went home and changed. J took the kids to the grocery again. Pie spent all the money Grandpa gave him on energy drinks, which I wish J wouldn't let him get. She says it's his money. Boot, as always, is saving his, this time for steroids. Augh! When they got home, Pie settled in on the couch to watch Sci Fi, allowing me to tuck him under a quilt, and promptly fell asleep. Boot helped J grill and I hung out to talk to them. Pie didn't want to get up for lunch, so it was the two of us and our Boot eating ribs, chips, baked beans, corn on the cob and strawberries with cheesecake dip on the deck. He was delightful company and even helped clean up without being asked. He is one of the most helpful teenagers I've been around. I may not like his foul mouth or some of the things he talks about, but I have never seen a kid be so perceptive about what needs to be done and or so willing to do it. Take the trash out? Sure! Carry a heavy box upstairs? No problem! It's really nice. Once we'd gotten things cleaned up, it was getting close to time to take them back, so we roused Pie, with great difficulty, and got him out to the car. He slept the whole way home while Boot joked around with us (or, just J when I nodded off) the entire time. Pie was really crabby when Boot awoke him just before we turned onto their street, wanting to sleep more. I said, "I bet you're going inside and going right back to sleep." He nodded with drooping eyes.

When we got home, J put on the stereo and sat on the porch while I made dinner. She kept popping in to help and made the steak for me. I made pepper steak with cherry tomato salsa on garlic toasts, lemon asparagus and what I now consider to be the best drink in the world, the Latin Lover, all fruity, slushy goodness. Wow! Those go down easy and I could happily have consumed 20. J loved them, too. We each only had one, since we're not really big drinkers, but man o live were they fab! We sat on the porch watching the fireflies, listening to Taj Mahal and sharing memories of my granddaddy, who loved Taj and introduced me to his music when I was but a wee one. People talk about the traditional lullabies their folks sang to them, but for me "Fishin' Blues" (along with other blues, Taj and otherwise) is my childhood music. That and memories of my mama singing Grateful Dead songs and the "Swaying" song about the elephants to me. Oh, and my uncle Vic jiggling me on his knee and singing "Froggy Went a-Courtin.' " I was taken to the Mariposa folk festival up in Toronto at a tender age and went to a B.B. King concert with my grands when I was 10. Then, there was the Dead Kennedys concert at Antioch College when I was 16, where my mom hurt her ankle slam-dancing. Aaaaah. Such good memories. I am truly blessed.

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