Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Our summer of Many Corners Turned

It's hard to get a good picture of someone flipping a drumstick.  I'm not so good at the picture-taking part, but N-son happens to be pretty good at the stick-flipping part. In fact, he just won a pair of drum sticks from his teacher in a stick-flipping contest.

It's also hard to give a good picture of what's going on in our family life with so much changing so quickly.

N-son, for example spent the spring in what I can only call a low-initiative state.  Lots of game-playing on his phone, but very little exercise or homework or other, unless his dad and I put in almost more energy than he did.  And sometimes, even when we threw ourselves into high-energy-parent mode, N-son took the boulevard of least resistance.

The worst of it happened when he (a) did not turn in his a major school assignment---in fact, did not even do it---and (b) repeatedly told us that he done it at school and  had turned it in and (c) told his teacher that he'd done it at home and would soon turn it in.

The story takes enough twists and turns that I'll leave much of this out, at least for now, but eventually N-son wound up helping with food preparation at the local soup kitchen, and falling in love with the place.  Now he's volunteering there whenever he has the time, sometimes spending 8 or more hours a day there.  He's got a bunch of mentors looking out after him.  So, that's a corner turned.  Flip, catch.  Flip, catch.

This time last year, there was a lot of dread and angst in the Miser Mom household.  Much of this dread and angst walked around in the person of my husband, who was nervous about his up-coming retirement.   Would he lose all his professional contacts?  Would he have to sacrifice his bike-racing time to rearing troubled children?  Would he have to live an overly-frugal life, now that his own income had stopped and his wife calls herself "Miser Mom"?

But in fact, he's thrilled with retirement. He still gets to go volunteer at events that his former employers hold (they even pay for his travel), and he loves the chance to gossip and have lunch with his former colleagues.  He's ridden his many bikes many miles (his newest bike alone has over 1000 miles on it, and that's since the end of March).  And we have managed to find a financial equilibrium that seems to keep us both happy.    His retirement is another happy corner turned, probably the most stable story in this lot.

But where my husband's change is the most stable, probably the biggest change of direction comes from J-son.  Where N-son's woes have come from a peculiar version of conservation of energy (his own), J-son's struggles have been largely driven by impulsive action and lack of focus.  Things with J-son were kind of hard last summer, and they got very scary bad last December.  But somewhere between his learning to apologize and his learning to beat people up, things got better.

Last summer, J-son asked to learn to box.  And over the fall, he got stronger and more skilled.  And in the same way that we rewarded N-son's drumming by giving him more drumming, we fueled J-son's interest in boxing by letting him do more boxing, eventually getting him his Junior Amateur license.  Along the way, he's started working odd jobs for his coach.  And he's had three fights so far (win/loss/win) that, together with all the training that goes into preparing for these fights, have taught him a lot about persistence.  In the last six months, J-son has learned humility, determination, and even a lot of self-control.  There's part of me that knows he could still veer off this path he's learning to tread, but I know the more he practices this, the easier it will get for him.  And it's so good to see him becoming a young man that I'm proud of -- and so good to have him be proud of himself.

And as for me . . . I know it's typical to view the summer after a sabbatical with a bit of a worried eye toward the fast-impending school year.  But I've managed to get much of what I wanted to accomplish (mathematically speaking) done -- to my surprise, actually. Things have gone better than expected in both my professional and personal life.  So I'm actually enjoying this summer a lot, futzing around rather than throwing myself into last-minute frenzies of research.

I might even ask N-son to teach me to flip sticks.  Life is good.


  1. happy days are so good, makes the sad ones bearable

  2. I feel so very happy for you and your family. Even though I don't know you in real life I am a faithful reader of your blog so I feel like I know all of you very well and so this report is absolutely delightful.

    1. Thanks so much. This summer definitely has a more relaxed feel than most of our previous ones. It's very, VERY nice to see all the effort and persistence we've put into this family bearing such good fruit.