Last week roared in like a lion and trudged out with a whimper.  Off the heels of a great weekend including a BBQ birthday party for our now thirteen-year-olds, I awoke early on the 22nd to get the traditional birthday cinnamon-roll cake into the oven.  The day was filled with fun, memories and sunshine.  The kids went to school after their breakfast cake and stayed after for just a few minutes to check in on the hatching trout eggs that our daughter was using for an experiment for the upcoming science expoThey asked us to take them out shopping for gifts for one another with gift cards they’d received from their grandparents.  It was a good afternoon with each getting their sibling something they really wanted.   They’d specifically asked for their birthday dinner to be at the local casino buffet, which was a break for me from the kitchen where I’d baked a total of three cakes from scratch already that day.  As a mom of a food allergy kid, eating out doesn’t happen often (don’t worry; this post isn’t about food allergies).  After dinner, we headed home so that Dad could get to bed (he’s a first-shifter at his job and has to get up at 2:30 every morning) and then the kids and I went to our favorite beach and took in the sunset and low-tide.  Really, an excellent start to their new year and we couldn’t have asked for a better day.

The week started flying by. I was finishing up some new artworks in preparation to install my first new show in six months in Seattle.  The coordinator / curator e-mailed me late Monday asking if I could install early rather than wait until the scheduled install date the following Wednesday.  We agreed I’d install on Saturday, but that meant I had to get focused a.s.a.p. and finish the last eight pieces and get them gallery-ready.

Meanwhile, our daughter’s trout eggs were hatching nicely and we’d planned to help her do a 50% water change on both tanks on Thursday after school.  Around 11:30, our daughter texted me that we couldn’t do the water change because there would be no after school activities. Before I could ask why, the school emergency line called to notify us that an 8th grader had died suddenly that morning.  This wasn’t ‘just’ an eighth grader. He was the kid that so many others wanted to be.  He was dynamic. He was intelligent.  He was multi-talented. He was the student body president and really, one heck of a good kid.  Our daughter had been in the first semester school musical with him.  I’d known him from that as well as from having him as a student when I was substitute teaching.  He was the boy that would light up the room when he entered.  The news came as a huge shock, and for our kids and so many of their peers, grappling with the loss of someone their age proved overwhelming.

The school gave us the opportunity to pick up kids early on Thursday and also said any absences on Friday would be automatically excused.  I went to the school to pick up our kids.  I hugged several parents and we all tried to stifle our tears before our kids emerged from the halls needing consolation.  I watched the staff trying so hard to maintain composure and just finish out the day.  I’d never seen the school so quiet.

A friend sent me a message that there was a prayer service being planned for that evening and both of our kids asked to attend.  We opted as a family to go to the beach and walk in the sunshine.  I blew bubbles from a green bubble wand (green was the boy’s signature color) and we walked along the shore together.  Suddenly we remembered that our daughter and I had acupuncture appointments in just a few hours and our son had his boy scout court of honor that evening.  Our daughter stopped walking and said “It seems so weird that time doesn’t stop and that we’re expected to just go on living our lives”.  Indeed.

We kept our appointments, went to the court of honor where our son achieved his First-Class rank and where we learned that, through some valiant efforts on the parts of many in the community, the Scout Shack sale has been canceled. The troop and its history will remain intact!  The news felt hollow on that particular day, but the gratitude for all who rallied to keep the troop in its home is both real and heartfelt.  We adjourned after a moment of silence for their lost schoolmate and went to the prayer service as a family.

While a huge number of students were absent on Friday, my husband and I agreed to send our two to school.  I explained to our kids that each teacher there (6th, 7th and 8th grade) that had had Jamin as a student had given a little piece of their hearts to him, as they do for all of their students.  Those pieces shattered when he left.  If they’re able to be a bright spot in the day for even one of their teachers, then that was the best way to honor this boy.  They agreed and were on the look-out for teachers and friends who needed extra support.

My husband surprised me by coming home early on Friday and we together opted to surprise our daughter by going to school early to help change the tank water for the trout fry.  Our daughter met us in the office and we went down to the lower level science storeroom where she’d set up her tanks so they’d be out of the way and less likely to be messed with.  We knew as soon as we opened the door that something was wrong.  The cold water tank was twice as milky and foamy as the warm water tank and the room smelled of fish.  Our daughter saw that someone had turned on the tank heater on high killing all of the eggs and fry.  More tears.  We completed the water changes with heavier hearts and hoped for some survivors.  The science expo is next week. There’s not enough time to order more fish eggs and repeat the experiment. While we may never know who sabotaged her experiment and killed the fish, we are working with her on utilizing the data she was able to collect and drawing conclusions enough for a presentation.

I nearly hated this week.  I say “nearly” because it’s not my nature to hate, but this week really challenged our natures.  I am so grateful for the two amazing teenagers that I have the privilege to call my kids.  I’m proud of their achievements, their kindness and their willingness to be thoughtful of others even when they themselves are hurting.  I am inspired by their curiosity and fortitude.

I am proud of the new artwork I completed this week and, with significant help from my husband, got installed throughout the 2nd floor of the Saturn Building in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood (30 pieces in all).  I am happy to have my work in a place where it is so well received and in an area that was such a huge part of my pre-parenthood life.

I am thankful for our friend who, recognizing how overwhelmed we were, came to our home and picked up our kids Saturday as my frustration over printer issues and general pre-installation panic hit a fever pitch.  She announced that she was keeping our kids and would bring them home tomorrow.  Knowing the kids were in good hands, my husband and I took our time in Seattle and went on to have one of the nicest dates I can remember (in 21 years together, that means a lot). 

Life is not a balance sheet.  I awoke this morning with an old song in my head and am running with it as my theme for this week.  I hope you do too.


Accentuate the Positive

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene
To illustrate his last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do
Just when everything looked so dark
Man, they said we better, accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
No, do not mess with Mister In-Between
Do you hear me?
Oh, listen to me children and-a you will hear
About the elininatin’ of the negative
And the accent on the positive
And gather ’round me children if you’re willin’
And sit tight while I start reviewin’
The attitude of doin’ right
You’ve gotta accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom, down to the minimum
Otherwise pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene
To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they say
Say when everything looked so dark
Man, they said we better accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
No, don’t mess with Mister In-Between
Songwriters: Johnny Mercer / Harold Arlen
Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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