Worst. Student. Ever. (but i still get the grades)

I am a terrible student. I, traditionally, have not had a good attendance record. I tend to start papers the night or the morning before the papers are due. For instance, I had a paper due this morning at 8:15, but, last night, at ten o’clock, I had still not started the paper. I did get it done. It wasn’t that big of a paper: a summary of my observations of a group. No resources needed. Also, I have a group paper due at 11:30. The group part is done, but the one page summary of my participation is still not done.

Also, I don’t often read the texts. It’s terrible. I get the books, I intend to read them, but I just can’t make myself do it. This semester, I am doing better. I actually have done some reading and I have studied the DSM pretty seriously. It’s not that I don’t want to learn or do the readings, it is just I get so caught up everything else going on in my life that school sometimes takes a back seat.

Oddly enough, even though I am not a superstar student, I have a desire to continue learning. I want to get my PhD in Social Work and my MA in Sociology. I have such a yearning for more knowledge and I want to better myself through education.

I wonder, if I actually did my school work and really put the effort in, would I still have a desire for continued education?

Lindsey wants me to call this post “the outlaws” I think that’s lame

So my family has grown quite a lot in the last six years. I have three new brothers and two new sisters.

My sister Gina married her husband, Josh, on February 5th 2005. Josh is great. He grew up playing with cow pies. Also he is kind of a genius. I remember meeting him when I visited Gina at school. He lived off campus in an apartment with his friend Barry. I thought it was cool, he was one of the first people I knew who had an apartment! I know I am weird, but whatever. Now, it feels like he’s been in the family forever. In fact, my youngest brother Caine doesn’t have any memories of life without Josh. Gina and Josh currently have three rocking kids: Coen “CoCo Bean”, Cadence “C-Diddy”, and Noble. Coen and Cadence are both little blonde blue-eyed kids, and Noble is this kick-ass-normal-size-almost-as heavy-as-Cadence-ginger. The Andersland kids rock. Coen is the oldest grandkid in the family which makes him the super boss. Cadence is my god-daughter and first granddaughter in the family which means she is also super special. Another perk with these two is they are four and two which means they actually interact, play, and talk– making them infinitely more fun than new borns that just poop and eat (sorry Kennedy, I love you, but you’re boring). Noble is this little ball of sunshine; really easy-going and used to older siblings stealing attention and toys from him.

Matt is married to Laura as I mentioned in an earlier post. Laura is really cool: like I-want-to-live-my-life-like-she-does cool. She is like this tall lanky thang who is super fashionable and has rocking hair. Laura grew up on a farm (I’ve never asked, but maybe she played with cow pies too!) and has super awesome parents and a really great family. Right now, Matt and Laura have one kid and are expecting their second due next fall. Camden “Camie Cam!” (said like flava flav) is a year and a half. He is a spunky little kid. Like seriously quirky. It’s awesome. He is also reaching optimal small child age where interaction, play, and talk happen. It’s delightful.

Emily is married to Eric Peterson, the distinction is needed because we have two Erics now. Eric and Em were high school sweethearts of sorts. I mean they dated, then they didn’t, then Eric wanted to be a priest, then they dated again. Eric grew up really close to us, but didn’t go to the same schools as us and we didn’t even know about him until Emily was a sophomore. Now he’s our brother. They have a daughter: Charlotte “Chuck” is six months old. She is awesome. Seriously, if you see her, you would totally say she’s a Chuck. She is spunky. She looks a lot like her dad, but don’t worry it’s cute. Six months is also a good age, but still a little on the boring side. Right now she is going through her first individuation period and is having serious stranger danger. I hope it passes soon.

Kendrick is married to Lindsey (yes, the Lindsey from the title and the post “Messing with Lindsey”). She is nice. She jumped into the whole big family thing right away, it’s cool. Plus I really like her parents too (mostly because she is mean to her mom so I feel protective of Barb, I don’t like when people get picked on). Oh a really fun trick with Lindsey: give her a baby and walk away– the smaller they are the funnier it is. Yeah, we get along really well; we text a lot too. They don’t have any kids right now, but are in the process of looking for a three bedroom house (what do you think two people need all those bedrooms for? [babies!]).

Theresa is married to Eric “Moose”. Eric and Theresa are like this epic couple. On and off since eighth grade, it has been and continues to be a roller coaster ride for everyone involved. Eric is great. He is really kind-hearted but tries to hide it with his odd sense of humor. Some of my first memories of this guy are stories from when my mom substitute taught. She would essentially put him in the corner when he was misbehaving. He terrorized my mom– out of love(it was his middle school plan to woo Theresa). They have two kids: Leopold “Leo” and Kennedy “TBD”. Leo is old, like two and a half or something. He is hilarious. He picks up on things so quickly and he is a great learner. His new thing is to tell you he is “sticking it to the man”, but one time, he accidentally said he was “sticking it in the man”. I almost choked on a chip. Kennedy is new. Like really new. She was born in January. She is really cute but doesn’t do much yet, so there is not a lot to report on her. Except that she is my god-daughter and she did just have her baby exorcism (aka baptism). So that was lovely.

I married Matt Trueblood. He is probably the best addition to our family. He rocks. He is so funny and smart and rocks at trivia games. He is nice and generous and patient. Also, he had the good sense to marry me! So you know he is a winner. Going to stop the rumors here: We have no kids, and we are not pregnant.

Finally, there is JC who is engaged to Anna. The date is set for August 18th 2012. JC is a good sort. He is really supportive of Anna as she struggles with CF and is dedicating his life to help find a cure. He tries to experience what she goes as much as he can. It’s good. He is also really artistic which I  think is neat. We don’t have too many artists in the family. Some of us are kind of crafty, and Clara is artistic but otherwise not a lot of room for the arts.

And that is the current status of my family. I hope you enjoyed reading about the people who shaped me and the way I was raised. There are always more stories to tell, but I think that’s enough for now.

Messing with Lindsey

So I am somewhat a prankster. I love to cause mischief and mess around with people. I have an unhealthy level of child immaturity that I can’t quite shake–not that I am trying to shake it. In fact, I would say I urge my inner child to express itself when it gets the fever.

My recent mark is my sister Lindsey. She is very easy. Even though we are 450 miles apart, I still manage to mess around with her and, hopefully, get on her last nerve. My most recent exploit was phone messages. I called her up to ask her a question on Friday and there was no answer from her. So I left a message.

Messages from Maria are a lot of thing, but normal is not one of them (just ask anyone I have ever left a message with). So as I leave this message, my husband is walking next to me shaking with laugher which is when I get the brilliant idea to keep calling and leaving messages.

It was great. I think I left eight messages on her phone in about 30 minutes. Then she picked up the phone and so I let it go. I left some pretty creepy messages. On one of them, I was just breathing. Another one, I left a super awkward pause before I said goodbye; it was so awkward, my husband had to ask if I was still on the phone. I know that this doesn’t seem so prankish, but can you imagine going to your phone and finding eight messages. Then listening to those messages and realizing they were all about nothing? I think it’s hilarious. And pretty crafty for being so far away. Anyway, now I need a new trick to play on Lindsey from this distance. I’ll let you know what I come up with (or you could let me know too…)

Fall and Winter

Now, not to be outdone by spring and summer, fall and winter also kicked butt in the Novak household. Fall is my favorite season. It was a special time at the Novak house too.

When I was pre-K it meant spending days at home with whoever else fell into that range (Kendrick, Emily, Theresa, Anna, and Molly [variably]), and mom. When I was younger, my mom was a substitute teacher. This meant that some days she would go to work and some days she would stay home. We had an interesting array of babysitters over the years and some were definitely better than others. Anyway, fall meant the start of the school year, and I remember waiting excitedly the whole day for my older siblings to come home–looking back I wonder why I wasted my time. Anyway, I loved everything about the fall. The smells, the sounds, and the traditions. We went apple picking and to the pumpkin patch–not at the same time, but in the fall. I love the crinkle of leaves and raking them up for the purpose of jumping into them. We had so much fun gathering up leaves. Sometimes, one person would hide out in the pile and we would scare each other by popping out as someone came running up to jump in. Classic. Fall also meant soccer games. I loved soccer. I think all of my siblings, so far, have played at least one season. It is a staple of childhood for suburban kids to play soccer. Soccer games meant orange slices at half time; whichever mom was on schedule for the week brought a huge bowl filled to the brim with orange wedges and by the end of half time they were gone. It’s amazing how many orange slices eight kids can eat in fifteen minutes.

Another part of my childhood, especially during the winter and fall, was trips to the UofM where Anna (and later Jeph) had doctor appointments. On the way down, there was a giant tunnel, which was created by an eight lane overpass, and, of course, we had rules about the tunnel. You had to hold your breath from the second you entered until the car exited the other side. As you held your breath, you made a wish. If, for whatever reason, you let your breath out, your wish would not come true. Of course, for little Novaks, holding your breath meant proving to everyone else you were holding your breath. So our cheeks would be puffed and our fingers would be holding our nose closed. That way no one could say you were cheating. I always wished for McDonald’s, we never got it, but I really believed if I wished hard enough one time it would come true. The other exciting part, for a little Maria, was parking at the U. There is a parking ramp close to the hospital and that is where we parked. Except, we did not park on the first or second level; no, we went all the way to the top and parked up there. It was the same for visiting Mom in the hospital after she had a baby, we went all the way up to the top of the parking ramp. Now, realistically, we probably didn’t park at the top every time, but the few times that we did left an impression on me and I remember it as every time.

Winter was a magical time at our house. Every year there would be a giant snow fort in the front yard–sometimes two. There was the requisite snowman. And sleds everywhere. We had the best sledding hill by us and I loved going. We had two toboggans (I think my Grandpa Novak built them) which are the best sleds ever. We would pile six to eight of us on one and fly down the hill. Sometimes we crashed before the bottom and we always tried to get further than we did the last time. Not only did we go sledding religiously, we also went ice skating a lot when I was small. My dad had this big brown canvas bag full of ice skates. No matter how neatly he put them away the year before, the following year there was always a night where Dad had to untangle the skates. He also had to find a pair for all of us which took some time. After we got the skates sorted out, Dad and Mom would take us to a local rink, fasten on our skates, and take us out onto the ice. I am sure as soon as everyone was skate ready, some one would decide they didn’t want to skate any more and were too cold to stay outside anymore. It seems like a lot of work for a little pay off. In hindsight, I am so grateful that my parents did all of this for us.  I do not know how they had the time, energy, or patience. They just really love their kids. Anyway, while winter fun was great, I always liked coming inside. There was an endless supply of hot chocolate in the winter. We would come inside, peel off our frozen attire, ditch it either in the foyer or down by the furnace, and race upstairs for our hot coco with mallows. Our hot chocolate was amazing too. My parents would get out the biggest pot and pour the milk in. Milk heated on the stove makes the best hot chocolate. We would always fight over who had more coco mix in their cup and who sneaked an extra marshmallow (we had the jumbo ones). It was all the same. Mom would dish up the coco mix and put the marshmallows into our cups– she let us stir, but that’s as active as we were in the process. Still, in our family, there was no getting around fighting.

Half of my memories are of a quarrel with one sibling or another, but it was the best kind of fighting. We are explosive people, but, after we explode, it’s all over. So we would scuffle one minute and be best friends the next. As a semi-adult, I really appreciate the fighting now. My siblings are so honest. I never had (or have) to guess about how they feel about something. If I screw up I know it, and then we all move on. I can’t handle the passive way other people handle things. I even struggle with people who are not comfortable with yelling (obviously these are personal areas of growth for me). I love looking back at the fights we had (the stupid stupid fights) and laughing at how quickly we resolved our issues.

One final memory for the road. I don’t think this one has a particular season, but it makes me laugh. We used to have these long benches that we would sit on at dinner. You could fit like four of us on each one. Well, we used to turn those benches on their sides and play church with them. They used to become pews and we would pretend we were at church. Someone (usually a sister) would pretend to be the priest (I know, heresy!). I think our interpretation of Mass was really bad and completely inaccurate. We used potato chips and crackers for Eucharist. I don’t think we followed any of the form; mostly we just wanted Communion because we were too young to partake at church. Kids always want what they can’t have.

I have come to the end of the post and I look back at the seasons and so many more memories come back to me. I didn’t mention Christmas at all, or any holiday. I didn’t explain summer family vacations. I didn’t talk about many of the “oops” moments my family had (and there are plenty). And that’s okay. Right now, these are the memories that are important to me. These are the little ones that shaped me.

Spring and Summer

My family is amazing. I know I am beating a dead horse here, but it bears repeating. Growing up, I always had a friend and there was always something going on. Each season really brings a different set of memories.

Let’s start with Spring, it is my least favorite season — which is not saying a lot because I like all the seasons. So it is the last of my favorite seasons. Spring was a big time for cleaning at the Novak house. My parents loved the “spring cleaning” spirit and the kids, inevitably, were sucked in too. Early Spring was the worst because the snow would melt and the grass was wet and muddy. Dad never let us go on the lawn and we got in trouble more than once for breaking that rule. Not only could we not go on the lawn, but we had to pick up all the garbage and toys and sleds that were buried under a winters worth of snow. But, there is something about Spring air that is so refreshing and, if air can be, hopeful. Spring air holds a promise. After the first melt down, we unload the playhouse, where all our summer toys spent the winter. I liked this part. It meant we could ride bikes again. Dad usually spent one weekend during the spring fixing chains, tires, handle bars, and other random problems with our bikes. From then on, it was non stop adventures on our bikes. Most of springtime was spent re-bruising and re-scrapping our bodies as we skidded wildly out of control on loose gravel. It was great.

Springtime was also filled with jaunts to parks to fly kites, play games, and hang out. I remember going at night after my dad got home from work. We would eat dinner at about five and walk down to the park together. Dad and Mom were so patient with us as they helped us get the kites to fly or pushed us on the swings or just chased after us.

Sometimes, over Spring Break, we would travel. It meant all of us piling into a van and traveling to some exciting destination that Mom and Dad had carefully planned. One year, we went to Florida to watch the Twins during spring training. I remember this in particular, because I got sick that day. I don’t remember what I was sick from (I often got carsick, but it could have been the flu), but I remember feeling just awful about getting sick. My mom LOVES the Twins, and it is mostly due to her influence that I am such a big baseball (Twin specific) fan today. Anyway, I got sick and Mom took me out to the van to clean me up and change my clothes, which took her away from the game. I felt so bad. I remember her sighing, but, even though Dad offered, she was still the one to take me out and clean me up. Theresa got really mad about me getting sick too– mostly because I was out of clothes and had to wear hers. I think that might be the trip she left her glasses behind (Theresa lost her glasses a lot growing up).

Spring would melt into summer and, as soon as school let out for the year, it meant long days outside. Growing up, there was a local public pool by our house– near enough that we could bike over there. Our parents would buy a summer family pass and we would spend from after lunch until late afternoon there almost every day. The pool was set up into two different areas. There was the “kiddie” pool designated for babies (anyone under age seven, I think) and the “big kid” pool. I remember longing looking over the fence during my kiddie pool days, just waiting until I could join the big kids. It was a big deal. The big pool meant you had to go through the locker room and shower first, plus you had to tell them your season pass number, but, most importantly, it was time away from Mom’s watchful eye. Additionally, the big kids often got to ride their bikes over separately which meant sometimes they would stay longer and sometimes they got to go and the little kids didn’t. I loved going to the pool in the evening. It meant that Dad was coming with and, when I was still young, I got to go into the big pool with him. He would teach us how to swim and dive. It was fun. After swimming in the afternoon, we would come home and have wafer cookies (or whatever cookies were on hand) and glasses of koolaid in front of the TV. We did not watch a lot of TV, especially during the summer, and one of the main times we did was during our afternoon snack. I have so many memories from that pool. Unfortunately, the city couldn’t keep the pool. I don’t know why: maybe the insurance was too much or there were fewer people using it or they couldn’t keep up codes, but it closed.

Summer was also filled with trips to the library. Our local library had summer programming one morning every week during the summer and we went every year. Sometimes the programs were hosted at the high school and sometimes they were on the library lawn, but we were always there. The library shows were a part of the summer reading program designed to keep kids reading throughout the summer. My family went to the library once a week to check out new books. The older kids, and when I was old enough me too, would bike on their own if we couldn’t make it. I don’t really know how my mom did all the things she did. She would bring us to the pool, take us to the library, play with us at the park, and let us have more friends over than any other house on the block (let’s face it, if one of us had a friend over everyone else wanted one too and, just by the size of our family, that meant more friends than anyone else). She did all this while having a constant flow of small children to take care of. We were really lucky with where we lived; we could easily get to any place a kid could want to go.

During the summer afternoons, we would also play a lot of imaginative games. One of our favorite was “run away kids”. The story would vary from day-to-day, but either we were orphan children running away from the terrible orphanage or we were running away from a mean parent. We would hide out in the play house until it was too hot to breath (which happened quickly), and then we would run around the yard to cool off under the pretense that our local was discovered by the evil adult.

We had the best play house and swing set imaginable. Both were built by my dad. Our play house had an attic part and you could only go up there if you could get yourself up and down (clearly the older kids had their priorities straight). On the main level, it had a giant chalk board and three windows complete with plexiglass. We had an assortment of chairs and a table and a cabinet. The playhouse was yellow with a brown roof to match our house. The play set was epic. It had five different levels with a huge fireman pole. I think the pole actually came from a firehouse, it was legit. The play set had a wheel on it, because what kid hasn’t imagined they are driving a get-away car or are a pirate on a ship. And, coming off the top-level, was the longest slide you have ever seen. The original play set is gone, but the slide lives on and you can still see it to this day in my parents backyard. Coming off the main structure where three swings and a set of gym rings. Two of the swings were tire swings aka baby swings, and the third was a “big kid” swing. There was a lot of fighting over swings when the mood struck. We also had a giant sandbox on the other side of the swing set, and, for a time, there was a set of monkey bars in the sandbox. I told you, we had the ultimate set up.

I hope, by this point, you have realized a theme: rites of passage. There are certain things you got to do when you reached a certain age, like bike to the pool and library, or climb into the attic. I think much of my childhood was spent anticipating “the next level”, which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy every minute of growing up. There was always something I could do, but there was also a sense of perpetual anticipation. I loved seeing what was to come.

The second half

The relationship between older siblings and younger siblings is interesting. Growing up, nd even into adulthood, older sibs feel a certain responsibility to their younger siblings. My relationship to my elder siblings is one of hero-worship. I tagged along with them and wanted to be them. I could not wait to do everything they did. I am sure I was a pest, because often that is how I viewed my younger siblings.

I loved them when they were babies but at soon as they could walk it seemed like the younger ones were always in my business. Anna was probably the worst. I did not like her very much growing up. She never had to clean our room, she always got out of chores, and she got to eat whatever she wanted: as I grew up, I understood it was due to her having cystic fibrosis. She had to eat fatty foods to keep up her weight, and, while we were all goofing around during chores, she was often alone with one parent or the other doing her treatments. The reason she got out of cleaning our room, though, had nothing to do with CF, dad just had a soft spot for her. Even though there were many fights between us, I still had her back. I remember one time, we had the terrible baby-sitter who brought her awful daughter with her to work. We had to be nice to her but she was terrible. One day she was making fun of Anna and bullying her and I was fed up. So I pushed her. Hard. And maybe there was a bench placed behind her that she fell over, I am not saying there was, but there was. And she fell hard. Of course that was not a wise plan, because the girl went upstairs to her mom. Anna and I were sent to our room until our mom got home. Let me tell you, when mom got home I proudly told her what happened. Nobody gets to bully my family, nobody.

When Molly came along she kind of took over my place as cute sunny child. I was phasing out of the cute phase anyway, but that didn’t make it easier. She was the cutest baby. And her baby fat stayed with her through elementary school which was adorable. She hated it. There was a time when I really didn’t like her too. My godfather had an inside joke with her and, when we saw them, he would pay more attention to Molly than me. I guess I had a lot of sibling rivalry with my closest younger siblings. It is hard getting edged out but it happened quickly in our family. Anyway, those two always were really close as a result.

By the time Melinda came around, I was at a better age and could appreciate having a new baby around. She was called Baby Joy, but really she just used her cuteness to be a little devil. Or she was a little devil but she was so cute we let it go. The point: Melinda was a trouble-maker; intentional or unintentional that’s just who she was. When Mel was younger, we taught her a lot of little catch phrases. She used to do the cutest accents and so, by age two, we had worked out a little routine with her. It was hilarious. She was like a trained monkey. It was awesome. Why did she grow up?

Jephtha is next. He’s alright I guess. He is a teenager now. like hardcore. But when he was little he had this serious fro going on with just massive amounts of curls. It was awesome. That might be all I have to say about Jeph….

No just kidding. He is a hoot. When he was little, he was Theresa’s favorite and Theresa was his favorite. It was due to a lot of bribery on Theresa’s part. He also has CF, but it didn’t affect me the same way as Anna. When he got special foods, I didn’t feel left out. This is for two reasons: 1) I was used to Anna already getting special stuff 2.) he was so much younger than me and I was older, so I didn’t feel like I was being shafted.

Clara is next. She is the youngest girl. And, due to being six years younger than Melinda and surrounded by boys, she is our little princess. We loved dressing her in the most girly clothes and always had fun making her look pretty. But it turns out, clothes do not decide personality (thank goodness) and she is one tough little cookie. Seriously, she’ll take you out! She and I write letters now, which is super awesome since she is only ten and I live in Chicago. We don’t get to see each other that much, and it kind of sucks not being a part of her life. The letters make it easier and it is just fun getting real mail for a change.

Josiah is nine (today) and has the worst temper. My mom says he has a temper like my Uncle Mark and my sister Theresa. It is really easy to set him off and it takes a long time to get him to calm down. He is also not very rational, which makes the situation more difficult. But, Theresa and Uncle Mark are both functioning members of society, and so I know Josiah will be fine. Aside from his temper, he pretty much rocks. He has an amazing imagination and, according to mom, it was difficult to keep up with him when he was younger. His games always have intricate rules, levels, and “powers”. If you wanna play in his league, you gotta bring your game face.

Last, and the shortest, is Caine. Caine turned seven in December. When I left for college, Caine was three years old. Probably the hardest part about being away for college is missing out on watching my younger siblings grow up. I tried writing Caine letters, but that was a fail, he is still too young. We try to talk on the phone, but he has a short attention span, and, like most of us at his age, he has serious annunciation problems which makes understanding him difficult. Still we manage to keep in touch. He acts very old for his age, because he is around a lot of adults a lot of the time. Especially before he went to school, his sense of humor was almost sarcastic and very adult. He is our little man.

And thus sums up my family. I tried to depict my perception of the relationship between my siblings and myself (not always directly). But don’t worry, this is not the end of my tales about my family. I just told you who everyone was, but I did not tell you tales of what we all did. So the saga continues.

Maria Struggles with Backpacks

Is it possible to wear a backpack wrong? If it is, I do. Either that or the backpacks I own are defective. Maybe it is just that I have too much booty for a backpack.

Let me explain.

My backpacks never sit flat on my back. They always curve and it drives me nuts when I am walking. What causes that? Am I loading my backpack the wrong way? Does my butt act a shelf so the backpack cannot stretch out to full length? Are my shoulder straps too loose?

It is a puzzle for me. Maybe my back is not shaped to wear a backpack…maybe backpacks everywhere conspire against me. Somebody help! I cannot handle the curve in my backpack that keeps it from laying flat on my back and causes it to thump against my lower back uncomfortably. So far the only solution I have ever come across is to pull my straps forward. It is a problem.