Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Highlights and lowlights

When the kids were preschoolers I belonged to a Tuesday morning mom's group that began every meeting with "highlights" (and sometimes lowlights) - the best and worst of our week. The things you were just dying to share with someone over 4: your husband's promotion or layoff, a romantic date night or your mother-in-law's extended visit, your daughter's first words or your son's first broken bone.

More than the coffee and baking, the secret sister gifts, and the girls-only outing, what I miss most about the mom's group is having someone ask me every week about my highlights. So as I reflect on the coming of the New Year, I'd like to share my highs and lows of 2008 with you.

Highlight: Holidays.
We went to Disneyworld with my parents and little brother in May, to a cabin on Gull Lake in August, and spent a weekend visiting old friends in Brandon in September. I've always been careful (read: uptight) about spending money. I like to invest my money in something that will last or save me money in the future (like new windows or insulation) but this year I learned the value of buying experiences. Meeting the little mermaid and fishing for minnows, jumping out of our skin when we fell down Splash Mountain and when that giant pine fell on the powerline. We're going to be talking about those memories and enjoying the pictures for years!

Lowlight: Cancer
My grandma's rapidly progressing lung cancer has been a weight on my heart since September. I worry about her pain, her medication, her appetite, her spirits. I dread saying goodbye.

Highlight: Math, manners and the boys next door.
K. went from being 2 years behind in his understanding of basic numeracy in June to doing grade level math in September. We have no idea why! We're chalking it up to prayer. All the school staff are also noticing in K. a newly developed awareness of his peers. It may be partly thanks to a social skills class he took this fall in which an OT led a room full of boys with Aspergers or PDD to practice turn-taking, active listening, and saying "please" and "thank you."

But a bigger factor was the boys next door. When I asked K. today what his highlight of 2008 would be, he answered without pausing, "Meeting B." Whenever a For Sale sign goes up in our neighbourhood I pray for the new neighbours. Maybe out of fear of the unknown (Could they be gun-slinging, paint-spraying crazies?) or maybe out of a desire for a greater sense of community on our street. God has never answered my prayer like this one!

I was painting their side of our fence (but not with spray paint) when the new neighbours pulled up for the first time in September. The question "So do you have kids?" led to the realization that we both had 9-year-old boys who had already met - in the same class! B. and his younger brother have been here pretty much every weekend since. And my boy (whose idea of 'playing' used to be talking to himself beside someone else) now saves the Mars Colony right alongside B. (when he's not playing the villain), and let's him have the final say on all "Inspector Bebop" movie scripts. (I'm their videographer.)

Lowlight: Layoff and letting go
I still miss my coworkers and the creative challenges of the writing job I had to leave in September. I miss the Christmas parties, the coffee breaks (mmm...cinnamon buns), and the sometimes quirky, always brilliant visionaries I interviewed each week. In September I also had to let go of my baby as she started grade one. I went from an identity as "stay at home mother of preschoolers" to not being sure what I was! The good news is she's doing fabulously. (The fact that the rest of G.'s class isn't composed of halo-wearers also helps cast her in a more positive light!) She's only run away from class a couple times, because she "already knows everything she needs to know to be a mom!"

Highlight: Teaching
Two Christmases ago my mom said, "Wouldn't it be nice if you could use your Masters and teach a College course?" Last January I got to do just that. And I survived! What's more I fell in love with teaching and with my subject matter: the book of Revelation. I had the chance to teach Revelation again at church this fall. Wow, is it ever easier the second time around! Learning to present material creatively and clearly, stir up discussion, captivate attention, and bring ancient literature about a living God close to home is exciting stuff! I feel more confident, not just as teacher, but about everything I have to offer, because of the experience.

Now I'm set to teach College for the second time with a new subject - the minor prophets - which I suspect will reappear in my highlights of 2009. I'm hoping another week at a cabin will also be in my future!

But there are some new highlights I'm hoping for in the New Year as well. A deeper friendship with my husband. A banishment of G.'s inner whine-monster. A garage where my snow-covered car is standing (and where I can put all the tools and lawn furniture that are currently cluttering up my basement!) A closer friendship with my mom as we support each other through the process of losing our mom and grandma. Maybe even a book idea. (Hey, I can dream! My "novel" went from one page long in 2007 to eight pages in 2008, so who knows, in 2009 it might even grow into a short story!)

And above all a greater sense of peace. Of enough. Of the Hand that guides me through the losses, challenges, revelations, and joys of 2009. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Of chipped stars

K. and G. had a practice for the Christmas pageant this morning. They knew their lines perfectly. But K., aka the angel Gabriel, did a lot of flapping and jumping off the baptismal tank, and very little standing quietly next to Mary.

On the way home K. bought a star for the Christmas tree. We walked through the dollar store looking for something worthy of the week's allowance. When he brought it to the till I said, "K. did you notice? It has a tip missing."

No response.

"Was there another one like it? Because this one's broken."

No answer.

When we sat down to eat I saw the silver star glittering on the tree. I remarked how its angles made it shimmer.

"See?" he said. "From here you can't even see the missing tip."

"I picked it because it was chipped, you know. It's special because it's unique."

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Fly high!

The Graf Zeppelin, the R101 and the Hindenburg are regulars at our dinner table.

One of the most intriguing things about Aspergers is "perseverations" - obsessions with learning, reciting, drawing, watching and/or collecting everything to do with a particular topic. Some are typical childhood interests: trains, dinosaurs, video games. But some kids choose to more unusual subjects, such as weather statistics or the flags of former communist dictatorships. K. has done plant biology and pipe organs. Now we're into airships, thanks to Kenneth Oppel.

K.'s grade four teacher has been reading them bestselling Canadian author Kenneth Oppel's Airborn and Skybreaker, a series set aloft in an airship or zeppelin. So....since September K. has been designing airships on paper, creating them out of Lego, rereading every encyclopedia page he can on famous zeppelins, and bemoaning the fact that they haven't become humanity's main mode of air travel. Yet. He also reads from his own copy of Airborn and wrote a school report on Kenneth Oppel.

And last week he got to meet him!

Now the photo of a beaming K. standing beside Kenneth Oppel is on the school wall and there's an upcoming story in the school newsletter. The other students are in awe. I'm sure they all would've loved to meet him and have him write "fly high!" in the front of their books.

Yesterday I told my life story to a group of women I'd never met before from a variety of backgrounds. (I mean they invited me as a guest speaker, not that I just stood up in a public place and started sharing!) Someone brought up the topic of God, evil, free will, suffering, Satan, and judgment. (Nothing too heavy!)

The idea came up that perhaps heaven is special because only a few get to go - like an exclusive country club membership in the sky or a backstage pass to meet God after the show.

I disagree. But I didn't come up with a response to that one in the moment. So here's my answer: I think heaven will be special because we'll get to meet God. That's it. I'm talking about the Author of sunsets, Christmas spirit, champagne, mountains, kisses, palm trees, that new baby smell, and the cocoa bean - in all his glory. And he's promised he's saving his best ideas for last! Who would want to miss out on that?

So I say, 'The more the merrier'! Let the book launch begin!