Thursday, December 23, 2010

Decking the Halls, Trimming the Tree, and a Little Bit of Crying

December 23, 2010

My daughter made me cry last night. I'm not even kidding. We were all together, having a great time decorating the tree, each kid hanging their own ornaments. Each of us, each year, get a new ornament to hang on the tree, and one of our favorite things is to reminisce as we're decorating--where we got each one, who gave it or who made it, what significance it holds.... It's one of our best family traditions. So there we are, in the midst of all that feel-good Christmasy spirit, when Bree turned to me and carelessly, cavalierly, said, "Hey Mom--when we pack these back up this year, can we package up a separate box so that I can take mine with me?

For a second I thought, "Take them with you where?" And then it hit me. She's going to be gone next Christmas. No longer a regular inhabitant of our household. Sure, she'll come home, but her place will be elsewhere. Her tree and her ornaments will be elsewhere. It's beginning, and I'm not ready for it.

"I am not trying to have this conversation right now!' Bree turned and looked at me, a little bemused, laughing a little at her overly sentimental mama. "Look! You're making me cry!"

"But Mom," she said. "They're MY ornaments, right? They do get to go with me, right?"

Yes, child. Yes. That's why I started the tradition in the first place, so that when you went off to college, and your brother and sister after you, you wouldn't have to start your own traditions, your own decorations, all over again. You would be able to take a bit of home and a little bit of your Christmas memories with you. Yes. I understand all that. I planned all that, in fact. But here, today, it struck me how close it is. How real it is. How soon it is. She needs her independence, her chance to grow and explore the world on her own. Oh, I know it's going to happen, and that it should happen. That's not going to make it any easier on me. I'll probably have a bigger adjustment than she will when she actually moves out.

"I am not trying to have this conversation right now! Let's finish getting this tree decorated." She giggled at me again, laughing at my sentimental foolishness. But she turned to hang more ornaments on the tree, content to let me keep my little girl for a little while longer, for this year, at least.

Just One of the Great Things About Christmas Vacation

December 23, 2010

I love seeing former students when they come back home from college for the holidays. It's wonderful to catch up with them and hear about what's going on in their lives. This week I had a couple of reunion get-togethers with kids from the past couple of years' AP classes.

Jackie, Me, and Brittany at Panera
Andre, Adam, Me, Taylor, Raed, James, Jeremy, Mohamed, Tianci, and Megan at Sweet River Cafe

Holiday Potluck at Work

December 23, 2010

Instead of doing an evening thing this year, our department decided to do a lunchtime potluck and Secret Santa exchange. I'm so lucky to get to work with all these people everyday:)

Allison and Victory
Steve and Marshall. (Even though Steve retired, he's still around a lot, subbing. He's always there on the party days.)
Marcos and Ed. Those boys really like each other!

Random Observations

December 20, 2010

I found this post on, which appears to have come by way of I don't know who the original author is, I just know it's not me. I thought some of these were pretty funny, though, so I thought I'd share a modified version of the list of "Truths."

1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

2. Nothing's worse than that moment in an argument when you realize you're wrong.

3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

5. MapQuest needs to start their directions on step #5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my own neighborhood.

6. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

7. Bad decisions make good stories.

8. You never know when it's going to strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

9. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have re-start my collection...again.

10. "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this--ever.

11. I hate it when I just miss a call by the last ring, but when I call back, it rings nine times and then goes to voice mail. Where did you go? Did you drop the phone and run away?

12. I hate leaving the house feeling confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance all day. What a waste!

13. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

14. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

15. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

16.Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger, and suddenly, I realize I had no idea what was going on when I first saw it.

17. I would rather carrying in 10 overloaded plastic bags in each hand than take two trips to bring in my groceries.

18. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

19. How many times is it appropriate to say, "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said?

20. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

21. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch three consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

22. Even under ideal conditions, people have trouble locating their keys in their pockets or their cell phones on the counter. However, I'll bet no one has trouble finding the snooze button, in the dark, eyes closed, within seconds of it going off--first time, everytime.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What's in a Name, OR Who's Clarence?

December 20, 2010

In honor of my brother, who is celebrating his birthday today:

Every younger brother suffers the whims of their older siblings now and again growing up. Usually, it's just light-hearted amusement to alleviate boredom. Our family was no different, in that on occasion when we were too bored to watch t.v. and we didn't want to read anymore and there were no good songs on the radio, we turned to our younger brother to entertain us. We weren't mean, my sister and I--we weren't into embarrassing him or making him cry. We just wanted to pass the time.

Take for example the day we changed his name, just for fun. Lisa and I were in early high school and junior high, respectively, and Scott was in elementary school. Our schools got out before the elementary school, so Lisa and I were home before anyone else. Home alone, and bored. What to do, what to do.... I'm not sure what made us think of it, but we suddenly decided it would be funny to see if we could get Scott start answering to another name. We picked one at random--Clarence. I have no idea why we settled on Clarence; perhaps it was because we didn't know anyone with that name. It sounded like a little old man's name, one who wore a Sunday hat and walked with a cane. Definitely NOT my little brother.

We heard the door handle jiggling. It was showtime. Scott walked in the door, and we greeted him with, "Hey Clarence! How was school today?"

Nothing. He walked past us, completely unaware that we were talking to him. He went into the bedroom to put away his backpack, and Lisa and I collapsed in a giggling fit.

Later, he'd sat himself down in front of the television set. Lisa walked into the room. "Hey Clarence--what are you watching?" Scott turned his head and glanced curiously at her, but did not respond. Throughout the afternoon we continued to address him that way, and continued to be greeted with silence or perplexed expressions.

At dinnertime: "Hey Clarence! Mom says it's time to come to the table."

"Why are you calling me that?"

"What do you mean? Mom said it's time to come to dinner."

He paused for a few minutes, shrugged, and just said, "Okay." He had given up trying to figure us out, and decided to just go with it. (It's a well-known fact that teenaged girls are typically the most unpredictable and puzzling creatures. He somehow intuitively knew that there was just no rational explanation, and that his best possible course of action was just to go along with it. Kind of like training ground for adult men who have realized that sometimes it's best to just nod their heads and say, "Yes, Dear.")

That night, when it was time for bed, I said to him, "Clarence, Mom said to go brush your teeth and get your jammies on." Without missing a beat, he looked at me and said okay and headed to the bathroom. The transformation was complete--Scott was now Clarence.

Who knew all those years ago that Clarence would become more than a way to alleviate boredom on a single adolescent afternoon. We kept it up, the next day, and the next. It became a term of endearment. Mom started calling him Clarence, too, and then our youngest sister. We addressed birthday and Christmas cards to Clarence over the years, and eventually close friends of the family started calling him Clarence, too. Nobody really knew why he was Clarence, but eventually they always asked. The answer? No reason. No reason at all. And yet he was--IS--Clarence, just the same. And to this day, Lisa and I both still probably call him Clarence with far more regularity than Scott. He's our Clarence, and he always will be, just because.

Happy birthday, Clarence. We love you!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wouldn't It Be Nice If They Were All In a Good Mood at the Same Time?

December 15, 2010

It would be especially nice if they were all in good moods when it was time to take the Christmas card picture, right? It seems this year, that was setting the bar a little high. The first photo shoot was rained out. Not literally. I think it was tears of frustration. Some of them were crying, too. I had given them forewarning the day before that I was taking pictures so that they wouldn't roll their eyes on me if I sprung it on them at the last minute. It didn't work. I mean, they know I'm going to take pictures if there's an event involved--choir, drama, robotics--and they humor me. But when I create my own event--family Christmas pictures--it's somehow met with more resistance. Everyone was busy, no one could find the right thing to wear, they didn't want to walk over to the park...there were histrionics involved. My husband gently suggested I put it off for another day just as I was reluctantly deciding to throw in the towel.

A few days later, we tried again. Two out of the three were pretty cooperative this time, but the third was under a dark cloud. Look at the pictures--can you guess which one? I wanted a nice picture of the three of them to send out on Christmas cards, recognizing of course the irony of trying to manufacture happiness and closeness when they weren't, in that moment, feeling it. Don't get me wrong--they do love each other, and often get along. They can be remarkably sweet to one another. But this week--this week when the window was closing on reasonably getting out festive holiday greetings--they were typical brothers and sisters spending too much time in close quarters, and they were getting on each others' nerves. And yes, I know I should have just let it go, not bothered with Christmas cards, or just sent out New Year's greetings. Maybe I just should have baked them all cookies and relished the moments, rather than trying to capture them on camera. A good mom probably would have done that.

But you know what? I don't ask for too much. Really, I don't. But I do like a good picture of my children every now and again, and ALL TOGETHER, all at once, especially since Bree is likely going away to college next year, making this the last year they'll all be under one roof. So I was flexible on several points. Pictures of smiling children out at the park on the jungle gym? Okay, I can let that go. Inside on the couch. Outside after dark. We'll make it work. Matching clothes? No, I don't mean identical Christmas sweaters; I just mean the same color. No? Too much to ask for? Okay, let's just try not to clash. I'll settle for solid colors that can reasonably co-exist. (Yes, I should have been more specific. NOT tank tops, please. I know it's a solid color, but we are taking winter pictures, here. Outside.) Big happy smiles? Genuine affection? I know you love each other, but just don't like each other a whole lot right at this minute. I get it, trust me. How about pleasant looks? Pretend, if you need to. Aren't some of you children in drama at school? Think of it as an exercise. Try not to grimace--it's not the same thing as a smile, I promise.

So here we are: Lutjens children, 2010. We made it work. I did, and they did. And even though it was a bit of a chore, we'll look back on these pictures later in life and smile and laugh, and maybe even remember the story behind it.

December Literary Food Festival

December 15, 2010

My A.P. Lit. class held one of it's famous Literary Food Festivals this week. The rules are simple: the kids can bring in food, but there must be an allusion to a piece of literature--ANY piece of literature. Even kids' books count. Obviously, creativity is encouraged. Here are some of my favorite offerings from December's feast:

Jeff's Who Pudding, from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Very season appropriate. I'd love to give him credit for the extra effort he made 'wrapping' the Who Pudding, but I highly suspect the praise should go to his lovely mom, Karen. There were enough Who Puddings for everyone in the class, both chocolate and vanilla. For the record, Who Chocolate pudding gets a thumbs-up.

Sam's Sour Patch Kids, an homage to Jonathan Swift's, "A Modest Proposal." In case you are unfamiliar with it, Swift's essay is a satirical response to overpopulation and famine--just eat the children! Nothing like killing two birds with one stone. Sam's allusion made me laugh out loud.
Angel's branded cupcakes, an allusion to Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Forbidden AND tasty!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Karaoke at Thai Fusion!

December 13, 2010

Rosa, Doug, Nancy, Me, Edward, Jeff, and Jim--our karaoke buddies
If you'd told me ten years ago I'd look forward to going out and singing karaoke on the weekends, I'd have told you you were crazy. I guess it's true that people can change!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bree's Winter Choir Concert

December 13, 2010

Two Mondays in a row of winter choir concerts. Bree's winter concert is a huge production involving all of the high school choirs, the orchestra, and the band. This isn't much different from Danielle's choir concert, except that these are kids who, by and large, choose to be in these organizations (rather than participating because their parents think it would be 'fun'). Most of these kids have been refining their talent for several years by this time, and the level of performance professionalism is quite impressive. They sounded great!

Bree, Nicole Meister, and Simone Leighty

Bree and me
Bree and Macie Mellor

Bree, Shelby Jett, Alberto Martin, and Austin Woodard
Austin and me

Maddy Roubicek's solo

Austin and Dhan
Emily Blake, Natalie Meier, and Kendra Carlson

Nicole, Simone, and Maddy
Anna Haines and Macie Mellor
Shelby and Bree

Kaitlyn, Mallory, Layla, Bree, and Shelby
Macie and her parents, Greg and Cindi