Whew, it's been a fast week.
I went to DC on Wednesday. I was tired when I got there. So I walked down the street from the Mayflower to Fuddruckers, at me some lunch/supper, went back to my room and went to bed. It was about 6 p.m. I didn't get back up until 6 a.m. I was that tired.
We had a good visit in DC. McKinley High School is one of the most unique high schools I've ever been in. The kids there are doing some incredible things to prepare themselves for careers in math and science. It's truly inspiring. In one lab, the students were using a game they've been using to learn about how phages connect to molecules in your body to make you sick. They learn how to attack the bad phages and get the body they're swimming around in healthy again. Tell me you did that when you were in high school.
Afterwards, I went to a dinner at Old Ebbit Grill with some heavy-hitting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics people. Former VA Gov. and Sen. George Allen was there at the dinner. While an elected official, he was one of the leading governors in the nation sounding the call for a greater emphasis for STEM programming in public schools. There were a host of other important people there. Some from Microsoft, Kiplinger, George Mason Universtiy, and hey, I even sat next to a gent at dinner who is friends with my former superintendent in Oklahoma City.
Back here in Texas, Kari was tending to the needs of our seven kids. And of course in the middle of everything, while she was trying to keep the 4 yo entertained, my ex decided she needed to have our new health insurance card information once again. This led to a series of phone calls and an expectation that Kari jump into action to meet her request. I kept getting text messages and voicemails, too, but if you've ever been in the Cabinet Room at Old Ebbitt Grill in DC, you know it's in the basement so most phones don't work down there. My iPhone didn't anyways.
So that produced later text messages and a voicemail telling me how important it is for us to drop everything we're doing to raise 7 kids and do our jobs out-of-town to tend to the requests of my ex. And so now, according to my ex, Kari is as big a liar as I am.
We've been talking for awhile about how dinner at our house with the seven is LOUD. Our Aspie son often times is the loudest, or at least to me, he drownds everyone else out. It's become my least favorite part of the day. So this week we've tried something different. Kari had each of the kids' name drawn to determine the order of us having two kids per night join us in the formal dining room around the corner and letting the other five stay in the kitchen dining area. Each night our Aspie son still has come into the formal area–it's not been his turn–but I have to say, this is reducing our stress levels associated with having dinner. I wish we could all assemble around one table, but it just hasn't been working.
My greatest frustration lies with our Aspie son. He's now 16 and with his age, I've come to expect that there would be some maturation in his decorum. That doesn't seem to be happening. He's loud and argumentative about almost any subject at the table. And the other kids now how to do little things, like move their hands, wiggle their noses to more blatant things to stir him up, and instead of being tollerant of it, he gives them the satisfaction of getting stirred. When he demands that someone stop their offensive/non-offensive behavior, it escalates into more noise, and of course, another kid doing something else to take him to the next level.
My wife said earlier this week that when he was younger, his imaturity wasn't as obvious because of his age, but as he has aged, the gap between his maturity and the expectations for how he should be acting has widened significantly.
And in my mind, any talk for allowing him to get a driver's permit or even his license is on hold for awhile. I just don't see the wisdom in allowing him to operate a car any time soon. Definitely not on his own.
And that's sad to me. On my 16th birthday, Dad picked me up at school when it was over and I went and got my DL. I was driving to school from that time on–of course, only when mom would allow me to take our HUGE station wagon. This son is going to miss out on that for many more days to come.
For the first time I've had them in my care, I let the twins spend the night at a friends last night. Kari and I in turn took our two 11 year olds to a Chinese place for supper, along with our 4 yo. Our two 11 yos we so excited to be going to dinner with just us–I don't think we've ever done that before–they couldn't contain themselves. They were giggling, laughing, joking and LOUD.
Now maybe I need to go back and accept the line from the band Madness who in the early 1980s wrote the song, Our House, and except that "there's always something happening and it's usually quite loud," or maybe it's my age, but it just is.
Kari and I struggle to emphasize to the kids about how loud they're being. The 11 yo son even said he was "whispering" when he clearly was not. I don't know where the volume thing has come from. I know my dad always used to tell me to turn down my stereo, but I don't recall being told to talk softer as much as we tell the kids.
HONEY DO WORK
I have some projects I still really want to work on in the yard. I need to get some bulbs planted for next spring. We have two trees that didn't make it through the summer's heat this year so I need to take them up and plant two new ones. I may go with willows. Four were planted a year ago and they've grown more than any other trees I've seen in the neighborhood. They're beautiful and if they grow this next year like they have this year, heck, they'll be 15 feet high next October.
And I'm getting to the point where I'm ready to get back into the shop area of the garage and finish making that outdoor chess set we started a year ago, but with the job change from Dallas ISD to OKCPS to my present job, there just hasn't been the time to get to it.
My calling of late is to really get into my GrowingUpMac project. I talked with my good friend Bernard Harris of the Harris Foundation while in DC about my idea and he's given me some good insight about creating a foundation. Kari and I need to do some talking about it.
CHRISTMAS IS COMING!
I was in Wal-mart shopping for groceries yesterday, and stopped by the Garden Section looking for a fall flag to fly in the pool area of the backyard. Well, they didn't have any fall stuff out. And to my delight as I entered the area, I saw one lady putting Christmas trees together, and then inside the section they were putting up lights, ornaments, and all kinds of other Christmas goodies.
Yes, I know, it's not been Halloween yet and we've still got Thanksgiving to go. But I'm usually the one who has a real tree up by dinner time on Thanksgiving and we've hauled out all the ornaments and decorations.
Kari and I both have tons of Christmas stuff. We have a habit, too, of putting up some five trees throughout the house. We have large animated Santas and you should see our fireplace with stockings for nine. Actually, 11 when you count the two dogs.
SPEAKING OF WAL-MART
Through Twitter, I've become fairly good friends with some of the 11 moms of Wal-Mart. @JessicaKnows is one of my regular Twitter friends and it occurred to me that if there is a Walmart 11 for moms, there probably ought to be a program for Wal-Mart dads. I mean, afterall, I do almost all of our grocery shopping at Wal-Mart. Brenda the door greater in Mesquite knows me, as does Frank in the meat department. They've seen me as a regular for years. One of the check out ladies often asks me if I miss being on TV all the time with Dallas schools. (The answer is NO.)
I know my way around a Wal-Mart store. I've already mentioned being in the garden center. I'm sitting outside on the Deck right now on some great wicker furniture our friend Ray suggested we pick out. My flying Santa Claus and Reindeer I bought from Wal-Mart in the early 1990s and with a little fishing line and some ceiling hooks, all from Wal-Mart, I've entertained our kids' imaginations for more than a decade.
Last week when we were shopping there in Seagoville, Kari wanted to know where the bread crumbs were so she could make friend chicken, and without hesitation, I told her it was on the flour and sugar aisle, half way down on the right. Tell me I don't know me some Wal-Mart.
So as a Dad of seven kids, and a husband of the greatest bride in the world, I'm really thinking there should be a dads program for Wal-Mart. With seven kids, it's where we can get some of the best deals, bar none.
Okay, the sun now is about to come up over the eastern sky here in Balch Springs, TX and it's time to get busy making breakfast. I'm making Grandma Claxton's version of breakfast. She was born in North Alabama 83 years ago and I learned how to cook up some breakfast from her. Southern style don't you know. We're going to have us some cheeeeeezy scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, and homemade gravy. Oh yeah, and I bought all the stuff to make it at Wal-Mart.
You're welcome to join us for breakfast. There won't be much left over. I'm passing on Grandma Claxton's tradition to my kids, too. And this breakfast is something they all request on weekends.