Monday, July 7, 2014

How To Be Responsible With Your Library Card

Back when I was in sixth grade, I checked out the "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" from the Buena Vista Library in Burbank.  Then I never turned it back in and I lived my middle school and high school years in terror of police showing up at my door and dragging me off to jail for my crime.  The day after my high school graduation is the day I left Burbank, and I remember  thinking about that book as I was driving away from Griffith Park and the Disney Studios.  I felt both guilty and relieved- like I had gotten away with something.

(That's a true story, and for those of you who don't believe that a mix of that much dorkiness and goody-two-shoeness can exist in a single human, I'm here to assure you that it can, and has.)

Fast forward 22 years.  J and Roo want their own library cards.  PG has had one for a few years, so I give them the same spiel I gave PG.... it's a privilege, they have to be responsible for their own books, if they get a fine it comes out of their own wallets, etc, etc.  We check out books.  Two weeks pass.  We troop back to the library to return their books.

The kids put all their books back in the deposit.  I start fishing through my purse looking for their library cards.  I can't find them.  I remember that I changed purses last week, so they must be in there.   I realize that the only card I have is Matt's (and when he ever did step into the library to get a card remains a mystery to me).  I decide that we can check out new books using Matt's card.  I hand the card to the librarian and she hands it back and tells me that there are twenty-five dollars in overdue fees on the card.  They date back to 2012.  She shows me the book titles.  I vaguely remember checking the books out.  Shoot.  I can't blame Matt for this one.

I decide to model accountability to the children.  Since the library takes cash only, and I'm only carrying $5 dollars, we drive to the nearest gas station where I buy a water and get $20 cash back.  The gas station charges me an additional dollar for the trouble of using my ATM card, which I find ironic since I'm only using my card at the gas station because the library won't take it.  I'm irritated.  I shrug it off.

We return to the library.

A new librarian greets us and takes the payment.  We give her the books we would like to check out.  She then informs us that Matt's card needs to be updated and that he needs to be there to do it.  We still can't check out any books.

I grit my teeth and tell her that since Matt is not here, and since I don't have my card OR the kid's cards, I'll pay the $1 replacement cost for my card.  I am determined to check out library books.  I am responsible!  My children are responsible!  We love reading!  We love the library!

Now the librarian informs me that my card has $30 in overdue charges on it.  This time, they date back to 2010.

I give up.  We trudge back to the car empty handed.

I set out on this trip to the library wanting to show my kids a love of reading, and we came back without books.

I wanted to show them how to be responsible with their cards, and I couldn't find any of our cards.

I wanted to show them how to be responsible with their books and I had racked up $50 in overdue fines.

The lesson here is that if you want to know how to be responsible with your library card, just watch me and then do the exact opposite.  Also, it's clear that I'm probably suffering bad juju leftover from The Witch of Blackbird Pond, so if anyone happens to know how to cleanse my bad library vibes, let me know.  Thanks.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

In Other News...

You guys.  It's like E!News Central around here.  The air in this household is abuzz with gossip. Hushed murmurs abound.  You wouldn't even believe the vibe here.

9 has a girlfriend.

Before I go on, let me stop and say that I am NOT writing this simply to announce on a mom blog that my teenage stepson has a girlfriend.  That would be stupid and lah-ame for a variety of reasons. It'd also be boring because it's not really anything special.  That's what teenagers do, right? They date.  9 has had girlfriends before.  So this is not news, and this is not what I am writing about.  I repeat, this is not what I am writing about. What I am writing about is the reaction of my family members to the change in 9's relationship status.  It's bananas.  The drama!  The excitement! The betrayal! (I'll get to the betrayal thing in a minute.)

It started a few weeks ago with a text that Matt sent me.  It said "9 just told me that he has a gf."

The thing is, that though he meant to text it to me, he accidentally texted it to 9.  And 9 was all "Uh, did you mean to send this to someone else?" So then Matt had to explain himself and kind of apologize.


Then the kids found out.

Pg is totally laid back and whatever about it.  J doesn't understand why 9 would want to date a girl because in J's world, all the love stuff is stupid and embarrassing.  Whenever we tease J about getting married someday, he insists that he won't because (and this is a direct quote) he "wants to have a happy life." So, clearly Matt and I have been a wonderful model of love and marriage for him.

In fact, if I had to guess about which kid, if any, would have a problem with 9 having a girlfriend, I would've guessed J.  A few years ago, at Knott's Berry Farm, 9 got pulled out of an audience to take part in a shotgun wedding skit in which he was forced to "marry" a man dressed as a hillbilly bride.  9 had fun with it and was playing it up.  I was laughing so hard that I had tears coming out of my eyes, until I looked down at J and discovered that he was crying for real.  He thought 9 was really getting married off and leaving us.

So you can imagine my surprise when it turned out that Roo is the one child who is having the hardest time accepting this little change.  I was totally unaware of her feelings because if the subject ever came up, she stayed pretty quiet.  However, yesterday 9 was home from his summer camp job for the first time in 6 days and Roo announced at the dinner table that she was calling a family meeting.  She took the floor and hmmed and ha'd for what seemed like forever.

"Um, I really want to ask 9 a question?  But I'm embarrassed too?" She was shuffling her feet and staring at the floor.   I had a feeling that since the question was directed at 9, it would have something to do with his girlfriend.  I said a quick prayer that she wasn't going to ask anything that I didn't want to know the answer to, and told her that it was okay.
"I feel really weird about this." she said.
"Well, you called the meeting Roo, so spit it out."
"Oooooooooookay.  Fine. 9.  Is it true that you have a girlfriend?" she asked.
9 smiled and said "Yes, it's true. I have a girlfriend."
Roo made this weird groaning sound and then she took a deep breath and asked "Is it true that her name is Lily?"
9 said, "Yes, it's true that her name is Lily."

And then Roo got this embarrassed smile on her face and ran from the room.  9 and I exchanged "What was that?" expressions as I left the room to follow Roo.  I found her in her bedroom, laying on the floor, with her feet up on the wall.  I asked her what was going on.

"I'm never talking to 9 again."she said.

"What? Why not?"

"I don't know.  Because I feel weird."

"Because his girlfriend has the same name as you?"

"No!  I just feel weird."

I tried to reason.  "Um, okay.  You know, he would still talk to you if you had a friend named Kynen."

I got an eye-roll response, so I shrugged, turned, and walked away.  I was half way down the hall when I heard her get up, stomp to 9's doorway, and loudly proclaim to him "I am NOT happy for you!"

Then she stomped back to her room and slammed the door.

I walked to 9's room.  "Did she just tell you that she is not happy for you?"

He was still laughing. "Yes."

"Oh, PLEASE can I write about this?"

He told me to go ahead.  He's a good sport about stuff like this.

What cracks me up is that if 9 ever decided to bring this girl around us, it wouldn't be me or Matt she would have to impress.  To win Roo over, this girl better show up with really cool hair and makeup, glitter or sequins somewhere on her outfit, and she had better know the words and harmonies to each and every song from Frozen.  It'd be for her own good, because truly.......

does this look like a face you'd want to mess with?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

This Is Summer, This Is My Brain On Summer

Hallelujah, the summer days are upon us!  School let out 6 days ago and though it feels like it's been much, much longer than that, it's (surprisingly) not because my family has been driving me nuts here at home.  In fact, they've been dreamy and by dreamy, I mean half of them have been gone.  9 is working a job up at a summer camp in Big Bear, PG is at her third year of camp at Hume Lake, and Mr.C has been at a three day planning committee thing that he's repeatedly explained the purpose of and I've repeatedly forgotten.  So, it's been me and the littlest of the littles and they spend most of the day deeply entrenched in imaginary play.  Here's a pic I snapped of them this afternoon:

Part of me worries that J is getting too old to get so lost in his imagination.  I wonder if he shouldn't be a little more self-conscious or embarrassed to don the crazy outfits he comes up with, if he shouldn't play more sports, if I should ask that he spends more time here in the real world with us.  Then I remember that I am an advocate for stories and storytelling and that I have a son who spends most of his time bringing all the stories in his head to life and that most of the famous and talented artists and storytellers that I know of speak of spending their childhoods in much the same way.  When I remember that, I feel better about it. (Not much, but enough to make me worry less.  Because worrying is apparently what I do.  I know.  I'm just as annoyed by it as you are.)

Anyway, I got off track.  I was explaining why this week has felt so long.  It's not because being trapped in the house with the kids has made it feel has been the case in some past years (ahem, I'm looking at you 2004-2011, aka "the baby years").   It's just that the lack of schedule has turned my time into a long, meandering tunnel of no demands that opens up into a vast, sunny meadow of no obligations.  With this, I have no problem except for the fact that it's messing with my writing.  Without a schedule, my brain is on like a hippie free-flow drive and I can't focus on getting one common theme to thread into an interesting post.  So, forgive me this twisty-twirly post.  It's just reflecting summer's effect on my mind.

I guess if I had to pick a theme for this post, it'd be hair, which I know is cheap because my last post was about hair, but I can't help it if the Universe chose this week to make hair a theme in our household.  Besides, part of what made hair a theme this week was the aftereffect of the great bang massacre that I wrote about last week, and I'll explain all of this in a moment (I'll be honest with you- it's not that interesting, especially now that I've built it up), but I first need to point out that if hair was not a theme before, it most certainly is now, if for no other reason than the fact that I've now typed the word "hair"SIX times in just this one paragraph.

So.  Let's talk about hair.

Roo crawled into bed with me the other morning.  I happened to be Googling "Rockabilly Bandanna Hairstyles" because I was looking for a way to hide my bangs and a bandanna seemed like a good place to start.  (By the way, my sweet friend Alisha commented on the last blog that I should just "sweep my bangs to the side" until they grew out.  Dear Alisha, "sweep" is a word that suggests an element of elegance, and I assure you, there is nothing elegant about what happens when I try to "sweep" the hot mess that lays on my forehead to the side.  I'm sorry.  And I love you for trying to help.)

Anyway, Roo watched a few tutorials with me and asked me if I could give her "Rosie the Riveter" hair for the day.  I have to say, I love this about my Roo.  She Loves (capital L intentional) hair and makeup.  I remember exactly when this obsession started.  It was Halloween a few years ago, in which we dressed the kids as Lock, Shock and Barrel.  She was Barrel, the Skeleton, and as I sponged the white face makeup onto her face, she was absolutely enthralled.  Not like giddy, happy enthralled; more like serious, all of her senses open to the experience, taking it all in enthralled.  She loved the nearness of the other person's face as they patted her makeup on and filled in her eyeliner.  She loved following my directions of "blink" or "close your eyes" or "stick out you lips".  For months after, she relived all of it through her play.  I spent quite a lot of time letting her apply fake makeup to my face, the soft puffs of her breath on my nose as she ran a soft brush across my eyelids, giving me directions on opening or closing my eyes and alternately holding a mirror up to my face.  She a girly-girl for sure, but for her, it's about the transformation.  She loves it. So naturally when she saw the tutorial for Rockabilly Bandanna hair, she was interested.  And when I did it for her, I nearly died from the cuteness.

I've always regretted not being part of the Rockabilly Movement (was it really a movement, or just a trend?).  I may be able to live vicariously through my Roo though.

Here's the other part of hair in our household this week: J got his head shaved.  Here's the before and after.

When I was looking at this picture, I realized that the before picture is exactly how I fear J is going to look in the future after he's moved out and doesn't have to listen to me tell him how to take care of himself: scraggly hair, food on his face, and wonky eyed.  I think it's his default look, lord help me.

Now that I've written close to a thousand words about pretty much nothing (I'm so sorry), let me leave you with this one last thing.  Yesterday I was vacuuming PG's room when I came across a ring of index cards filled with quotes.  I guess her teacher had them write a quote a day and keep them on a ring in their desk.  Maybe I'm just feeling extra sentimental from missing her while she's away, but reading that ring of quotes made me just fall in love with her teacher.  That one little activity didn't have much to do with math or reading or writing, but what a beautiful way to teach children perspective.  I got a little teary-eyed reading through them.  No one should dare say anything against educators to me for quite a while- this one act has made me feel fiercely protective of them.

So, I leave you with this one quote from my daughter's ring full from her fourth grade year: "Today, me will live in the moment... unless it's unpleasant, in which case me will eat a cookie." -Cookie Monster

I'm going to make that my motto for the summer.  No plans.  Just living in the moment, and when life gets rough, I'll have a cookie.

Have a great night.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Last night Matt asked me to help him shave his head.  (Shaving off his hair is a last day of school tradition for he and Jake.)  I said "Um, no."

He asked "Why not?"

I said, "Do you not remember when I helped you last year?"

Last year was the first and last time that I helped him.  He had handed me the razor with the blade guard on the shortest setting and instructed me to "just start at the back and run the razor in rows over my head." I did what he said, but I have notoriously bad hand-eye coordination or WHATEVER, and by the time I was finished, his head kind of looked like this:
I had shaven him completely bald in spots, different lengths in others, and then just for good measure, I had left a few sporadic tufts of long hair to complete this stellar look.

It's pretty sad when you have to call a hairdresser to fix something that even Brittney Spears managed to do perfectly well all by herself.  Not only that, but there were probably a lot of Paparazzi bulbs flashing in Brittney's face, so it's likely she shaved her head blind.  I had two hands and two eyes, and I still botched it all up.  

Anyway, apparently Matt didn't remember any of this, so in order to not seem like a jerk, I had to start coming up with legitimate reasons for why I shouldn't shave his head.  The best one that came to mind was that in Kindergarten, my teacher Mrs. Stone, put me in the low reading group based solely on my ineptitude with scissors.  This was totally offensive to me at the time, because I was a good reader.  I knew I didn't belong with all the nose-picking babies didn't even know their ABC's.  However, back then, poor fine-motor skills were considered a sign of a slow learner, and there was no doubt about it.... the jagged rips and tears that zig-zagged across the dotted lines of my cut-and-paste worksheets screamed THIS CHILD WILL NEED RESOURCE SERVICES.

Eventually my teacher realized that I was a good reader and that my lack of small motor skills wasn't a sign of anything other than the fact that I'm just really, really bad with scissors.  So, she moved me up to the advanced reader group, where I began my lifelong love of reading, as well as a lifelong feeling of self-righteousness that washes over me whenever I recall this particular memory.  (Seriously.  Me in a low reading group? The woman could have at least apologized.)

Anyway, I explained all this to Matt, but when I looked up to see if he was convinced, I saw that he was asleep.

I'm taking that to mean that I'm off the hook.

However, I'm telling you all this because I am still terrible with scissors.  I know this about myself, yet that didn't stop me from attempting to trim my own bangs today.  They'd gotten really long and I told myself that it'd be okay, that I'd just follow my brow line from one eye to the next and that it'd all be lovely when I was finished.

And now I'm rocking' Jim Carey's look in Dumb and Dumber. 

What do you think?  Don't hate me because I'm beautiful, right?  

The worst part about all this is (besides explaining it to my hairdresser), is that Mrs. Stone was right all along.

I am a slow learner.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Basement

A few weeks ago, another blogger wrote that May was the springtime version of December.  Reading that felt like such an epiphany because YES OF COURSE IT IS.  May is the month of last-minute school projects and graduations and end-of-the-year programs and teacher gifts and so many other things.  In this week alone, our household is celebrating two graduation ceremonies (one preschool and one high school), one eighteenth birthday, and one big party combining the two.  There has been so much to do and not enough time and my general feeling about May is that it is beating me up.

<Insert visual of me waving the white flag here.>

However, it's also a time of celebrating.  It's a time to be proud of things accomplished.  It's the last push of energy and exertion before we exhale and relax into summertime and easy living. It's also a time of reflection. It's that reflection that I want to write about tonight, but I'm not sure how because writing about this particular topic is hard.  Whenever I think about sitting down and writing it all out, I'm not sure if my instincts are encouraging me to be fearless and to just do it, or if they are actually cautioning me about being reckless.

I guess if I publish this, you all will know which voice was loudest tonight.

So, enough dancing around it: what I want to reflect on with you tonight is teenagers.

You guys.  It's really hard having a teenager.  I also vaguely remember that it was hard to be a teenager, but (and maybe this is the distance of time speaking) having experienced both now, I'm almost certain that it's much harder to raise a teenager. Here's why: as an adult, one has all this hindsight.  You try to offer it to the teenager.  You try to use your experience and hindsight to guide the teenager when you see them making mistakes.  You offer your hindsight and (here's the sucky part) .... they don't want it.  They don't give a rat's ass about your hindsight.  It has absolutely no relevance to their life.  They don't need it.  They don't see it.  They. Do. Not. Care.  They have girl problems (or boy problems).  They have acne.  They have hormones.  They're just trying to figure it all out and sure, yeah, you can try to help, but at the end of the day you're just in their way.  You're basically left on your knees, hands lifted in supplication, reaching out, weakly calling "But....I- I have this hindsight."

And you realize that somehow, you have become as lame as you feel.

Wait. It gets worse.

When you are a new parent there is all this information.  If you need to talk to someone about your baby, you can go anywhere.... the Internet, a friend, a bookstore, heck- walk into any grocery store- and someone there will have a listening ear and an opinion about whatever it is you want to know about your baby.  But then, if you fast forward thirteen years, you will find that you'll have SO MANY questions and hardly anywhere to turn because no one can really help you with your kid.  These problems are as unique as your child is, so there are no answers.  You are on your own.  Furthermore, you won't WANT to share these problems with the world because some of them will be horrible and shameful.  You won't want to expose your child (or yourself) to that kind of judgement from the world.  They may be teenagers, but what they really are is itty bitty baby adults, and you start to understand that what we're doing during the teen years is birthing little baby adults into the world.   I would no more want anyone judging my baby-adult harshly than I'd want someone to judge an actual baby. They are just too new.  The world is just too mean.  So you keep them under your wing best you can- but it's a bit like loving on a barbed-wire fence.  It's prickly and frustrating and painful and.... lonely.

And there you are.  Alone with an angry baby-adult who thinks you're lame, and no one to talk to about it besides your spouse (That's if you're lucky. Even if you have a spouse, sometimes you won't even agree on how to care for the baby-adult, so feel free to go ahead and compound that lonely feeling by two.)

A few months ago, a blogger wrote about this same topic- parenting teens- and a few people in the comment section complained that it was too negative.  They said it reminded them of when people would tell them "horror stories" about pregnancy and child birth just to scare them.  I wanted to respond to their comments by replying back, "Shhhhhhhhhh.  We're talking.  Clearly this is not about you.  I'm sure your child's years as a baby adult will be perfect and stress-free.  Right now, there's someone here that's like me.  I need to hear because no one really talks about this."

Yet another blogger (Yeesh. This is the 3rd one I've mentioned tonight.  Perhaps I should stop reading so many blogs.) ...has a page on their blog titled "The Basement".  It's actually a brilliant idea- if there is something you need to share but aren't able to do so publicly, you submit your piece to her "basement", and she'll publish it for you.  There was a lot of heavy stuff down there, but you could see that it was a healing place too, since there was a lot "me too" in the comments.  In these last few years, it's occurred to me that parents of teens could benefit from a basement.

This has been a hard year for us and 9.  I'm okay with writing that. I don't mind if he reads that.  He knows it's true.  There were times this past year when I was so completely pissed off at him that I couldn't even talk to him.  I had to talk to friends or family instead and ask them to show me an empathetic perspective.  Then I had to actually work on feeling that empathy, like I was some kind of robot with programming instructions.  I had to actually practice feeling empathetic because none of the nicer feelings were coming naturally to me. There was too much anger in the way.  (It's okay with me if he reads that too, as he lived it and knows it to be true.)

Of course, details and events are all part of 9's story, and I won't be sharing them here.  I can only talk about my feelings and my reactions, which I know, leaves a big hole in the story.  That's why I said earlier that this is a hard thing to write about.  At the end of the day, here's what I would be whispering into the basement: he lost his mom four years ago and we all know that a lot of this past years' turmoil came from.  In the middle of all the turmoil were big mile markers; getting his license, attending junior and senior Prom, performing in the school play, birthdays.... and next week will be graduation.  Each time one of these events pass, as I'm snapping a picture of him behind the wheel of his jeep, or in his tux, or blowing out candles, I get choked up- not on pride- (although I feel pride too) but guilt.  I always feel guilty that I'm here and his mom's not.  It's a weird kind of survivor guilt, I guess.  Usually when I try to talk about this, people rush in and talk over me and tell me that it's good, it's so good, that 9 has a person to fill in the role of motherhood.  And I nod and give up, because yes, it's good.  I'm not diminishing my role in his upbringing.  But I'd love it if people would just sit in the knowledge that it is also really unfair.  It's a bad break for everyone, especially 9 and Michelle.  It's okay to say that without trying to make it "better".

Those big moments that Michelle is not here for, it's true that she should be here, but I know also that she'd have traded anything, all her worldly goods, to be here for the crappy stuff too.  She didn't tell me this, but any mom knows it to be true.  And understanding that puts a different spin on it.  It doesn't make it easier to deal with teenager angst and inexperience.  It doesn't make me feel less frustrated.  But it does bring more meaning to the task.  The good stuff is easy, maybe that's why I feel guilty about it.  The blood, sweat and tears that goes into the hard stuff feels more "earned" somehow.  It's still bittersweet.  It's still unfair.  But having a role, working with his family to help him grow from a baby adult to a mature (and hopefully happy, healthy, productive) man has been worth it.  And that is one thing that has always been clear.....

He's always been worth it.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The High Road

     Hey all!  I feel like I've been out of it for a while.  It probably hasn't been that long, but since the last few months have been all about flooring renovations and Matt being gone a lot and Prom and end-of-the-year things- with a little flu bug thrown in to the mix- I've learned a few things.  One is that time is weird.  Why does it feel like we've been working on our floors for a decade when it's only been a month and a half ?(Only a month and a half? Snort.) And how is it that 9 attended his Senior Prom when it feels like I just met him as a Kindergartner. There's no way that could have been more than five years ago.  Could it have been? 
     So weird
    The other thing I learned is that there is some kind of weird correlation between my bouts with the flu and the appearance of Hamburger Helper commercials.  Seriously. NO ONE with an upset stomach needs to see that many closeups of ground meat floating in fake cheese.  
     Anyway.  I wrote this post a year ago and never published it because I didn't have a way to finish it. Yet it's always stayed in the back of my mind because it's about a topic that is often relevant to my life.  It's about taking the high road.  Or not taking the high road.  It's also about being a grown-up and how much it blows at times.  Like I said, I didn't have a way to finish it.... until tonight.  Tonight there was an incident at the Costco Gas Station and I swear to you guys, it was like God came down and said "BAM! There's your ending!" And I was all, "Whoa, Lord.  You are SO right! Thanks, man." 
(Cause in my head, God is hip like that.) 
     Anyway.  Enough talking.  Here's the original post.  I'll jump back in to finish it off with the Costco story.  See you all there. 
     (Um, I mean, I'll see you at the end of the post, not at Costco.  Just clarifying in case you are confused- which I wouldn't blame you for.)
     Have you guys ever taken the Meyers Briggs Personality Test? I'm pretty sure anyone who's taken a Psych 101 course has taken the Meyers Brigg. I've taken it a few different times in my life, and the one thing that has remained consistent throughout the years is that I've always scored as far over as one can get on the "Feeler" side. That means I make judgements based on my feelings, rather than logical reasoning.  Shocker, right? I'll give you a minute to pick your jaw up off the floor. 
Kidding.  Logic and I have never been simpatico. My feelings are big, big, big.  Sometimes too big.  Often times too big.  That's one of the reasons I like writing..... writing often shrinks them down into a manageable perspective.  
     And while my big emotions are one of the things I treasure about myself, as I've matured I've also become hyper aware of some of the consequences of letting my feelings all hang out- especially the negative ones.  For one, sometimes it freaks people out.  Two, sometimes it gets me in trouble.  Three, it's often a terrible way to model appropriate behavior, especially....say.... on the road when your children are in the car with you.  
     So yeah, over the last ten years I've become much better at handling my emotions.  But in the process of reigning my emotions in, I've been swallowing a lot of anger.  That's probably why it's such a recurring theme in so many of my posts. And I've just spent a lot of time lately wondering what it is all you normal people do with your anger?  Because while I get that loosing it on somebody just reflects poorly on you and sends negative energy out into the world, I'm finding that I still feel punished after handling a situation the "mature and responsible" way because I end up being angry for days.  
    For example, a few weeks ago, my sister and I took our kids out for a hike at a nearby trail.  The hike follows the fault line out here for a while before ending at an oasis surrounded by palm trees.  It was a great day- not too warm, not too hot- and the trail meandered up and downhill just enough to make the change in scenery interesting. The kids, as kids do, were stopping every few minutes to pick up a rock, a stick, a chewed piece of bubble gum…. any random item they found interesting.  Sara and I were taking our time, intermittently stopping our conversation to herd the kids back together if a few fell too far behind.

    I'm telling you all this to point out that it was a great day.  We were all having fun, until the "incident".  As we got closer to the end of the trail, I turned around to warn the kids that they would need to drop anything they had collected before we left the path.  Then Sara and I picked up our conversation again.  A few minutes later, an older couple passed our group walking at a brisk pace.  As they passed, the older lady turned and to my surprise, starting scolding Roo. 
 “You know what, little girl?”  she said.  “You shouldn’t throw sticks!  Don't you know that?"
Roo, who is pretty shy around strangers most of the time, didn’t answer.  As for me, I’m used to strangers stopping to engage Roo in conversation, but up to that point it had always been because she’s cute.  It took me an extra second to figure out that wasn’t the case here.

     The lady continued on. “You shouldn’t throw sticks because they hurt people!”  And she continued to rant at Roo while I tried to figure out what the hell was going on. Being a former elementary school teacher, I’m totally comfortable with calling out other kids on their bad behavior, but if their parents are around, I leave them to it OR I talk to the parents.  This lady just lit into my kid while I was standing there and didn’t bother to clue me in as to what she was so angry about.  A quick glance at my sister proved that she was just as confused as I was.

     “I’ll take care of it.  Thank you.” I said, swooping in to grab Roo’s hand.  Admittedly, the annoyance I was feeling came through in my tone. 

     “GOOD!” the lady snapped.  Then she stomped away.

     I leaned over to interrogate Roo.   According to the other kids, the couple had come from behind to pass our group and as they did, Roo threw her (small, 8 inch) stick to the side.  It hit the lady in her shin as she was passing.  So, bottom line, it was an accident.  As far as I could tell, the lady was not bleeding.  She was not limping.  Being that she was an adult and Roo was 4, I would think that she’d be able to see that it was an accident.  At best, she could have let me know and I would’ve made Roo apologize to her because yes, absolutely, Roo should learn to be aware of what’s around her before she throws things.

     But again, she’s four.  She’s learning.  It was an accident. 

     I reprimanded Roo by telling her she needed to be aware of her surroundings, but inside I was seething.  I felt like that one incident ruined a perfectly nice day.  I wanted to pick up a stick and throw it at the lady’s head.  I wanted to run ahead and confront her.  I wanted to spit insults into her face.   I wanted to run her over with my car.  All these things I wanted to do, yet when I looked at the situation without all the crazy making emotions, I saw that I had handled it in the most mature, adult manner possible.  I had kept my temper, got rid of the lady quickly, addressed the situation with the kids, and explained why the old witch lady went batshit was angry.

     In the end though, none of that mattered.  Taking the high road didn't make me feel any better.  I was still pissed as all hell.  And it stayed with me for DAYS.  
     That's where I ended the post when I wrote it last year.  Then, tonight at Costco Gas, I had a confrontation with another person in which I TOTALLY did not take the high road.  I gave this rude, rude woman a piece of my mind and told her she was a miserable person and I may or may not have given her a nice, long, extended look at my middle finger.  I wrote out every little detail for you in an indignant huff, but then I deleted it all because I realized that sharing the whole thing with the world is not going to make me any more right.  Also, I realized that you may not care about my drama as much as I want you to and I want to avoid being annoyed by that because in this case, I WAS SO RIGHT.
     I also deleted it because I'm already well over 1000 words. You're welcome, and don't worry.  I'll wrap this up.
     Here's what I'm taking away from this.... whether I take the high road or jump off of it with both feet, I still feel angry and frustrated at other people.  'Cause here's the thing about the high road-no one ever says, "Hey, good job taking the high road!"  And I feel like that's wrong.  YOU GUYS.  We need to tell people how awesome they are when they take the high road becaaaaaaauuuuuuse........(deep breath) BECAUSE when you take the high road over and over and over and no one ever acknowledges how hard that is, it starts to feel like the stupid people are winning.  And tonight, in my moment of confrontation at the gas station, I could not bear the thought of letting the stupid people win again.  This resulted in me acting beneath myself, which yeah, I feel bad about.  I guess that should be my motivation for staying on the high road.  However, I'd like to think that perhaps, maybe, if someone were there with me when the incident occurred, I would've handled it better and they would've patted me on the back and said, "Good job, sistah.  That woman was ridiculous.  Nice job taking the high road with her."

Because sometimes that's all you need to hear. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

ABC Countdown: Parent Takeover

Beginning today, we have exactly 26 days of school left.

Want to know how I know that?  I'll tell you.

I know we have exactly 26 days of school left because the school's annual flyer that announces the ABC COUNTDOWN showed up in the backpacks this week.

Does your child's school do this? Do you know what it is? If you believe the flyer's explanation, it's "a fun way for us all to enjoy the end of the school year!"  The first year, I believed the flier.  Truly, I bought into it one hundred percent.  I pulled that colorful paper with the cute clip art out of PG's Kindergarten sized backpack and I was all "Ooooohh CYYYYUUUUUTTTTE!!!!!!!  Look, baby!  We're counting down to the end of school!  Tomorrow you get to bring an apple to your teacher!  How FUN!  Then it's Bad Hair Day!  And..... cool! Look! Wednesday is Canned Food Drive Day!  This is sooooooo adorable! "

Then I commenced the next 26 days of assembling last minute costumes for "Future Career Day" and "Western Day" and having to make a stop at the grocery store on the way to school to pick up a rose for "Bring a Rose to Your Teacher Day" and cans of food for "Canned Food Drive Day", and...... let's just say that my enthusiasm for the whole thing had waned when it was all over.  By a LOT.  It's not that I don't appreciate the school's efforts to make the end of the school year fun..... I love that my kid's school does fun little "extras" like this.  It's just that 26 "extras" at the end of the school year when I'm at a crawl and the finish line is just riiiiiiigggghhht there, is a well, it turns out that it sucked.  Like, really hard.

The next year, I pulled out the flier and I'm pretty sure that my expression was that of a parent whose child had just handed over a "gift" of soggy Kleenex found on the ground.  I managed a weak "Yay!" and a forced smile while cursing under my breath.  Then I silently walked to the fridge where I
hung the ABC COUNTDOWN Calendar and looked forward to the day- 26 of them to be exact- when I would take it down and rip it into millions of teeny-tiny itsy-bitsy little shreds.   Because I am passive- aggressive that way.

Before I go on, I'm going to stop and put my hand up, because I know what some of you are probably thinking of me right now.  You're thinking that I'm a kill joy.  A sour puss.  A disrespectful nuisance to the teachers and staff who create fun stuff like this for our kids to enjoy.  And to you, I say... just stop.  Stop right there.  Let's be honest for a moment.

There are 26 days of school left.  Aren't you tired?  Don't answer that.  You'll probably try to lie to prove your point.  I'm going to just tell you..... girl, whether or not you admit it, you are tired!  Your kid is tired.  Your kid's teacher is tired.  We are ALL tired.  And it's okay.  It's okay to be tired.  It's even okay to do the cursed ABC Countdown, but do we have to be genuinely excited by it? NO! No we do not.  I mean, you can be excited about it if you want. I wouldn't understand it, but I guess we could still be friends (after a short period of separation, because I would need it to gain some new perspective on you).  But the rest of us, we'll go ahead and  fake it a little for the kids, because that's why we're doing this, right? It's fun for the kids; the way the Elf on the Shelf thing is fun for the kids, the way the Tooth Fairy is fun for the kids, the way Chuck E. Cheese is fun for the kids.  We just grit our teeth and do it. For the kids.  Yay, kids.

However.  Because I am passive-aggressive and not a little dorky, I did come up with a fantasy version of the ABC Countdown that caters to parents.  If I was the boss of the world, this is the list I would be sticking on a flier and ending the school year with:

A- Alarm Clock Banishment Day.  Turn them off and get a taste of what summer vacation will be like.
B- Bad Hair Day.  Parents, don't worry about doing your kid's hair.  Take the extra time and enjoy a second cup of coffee.  You deserve it!
C- Celebrity Gossip Magazine Drive Day.  Stock up on your summer reading by exchanging gossip magazines.
D-Drink With a Straw Day.  Whatever you put in the cup is up to you! (wink!)
E-Every Excuse Flies Day.  Dog ate your child's homework? Did your alarm not go off? We're taking all excuses, no questions asked on this day!
F- Eff the School Parking Lot Day.  Nothing really different about this day.  We all think it.  Now it's just official.
G- Get to School Whenever Day.  Go on, you and the kids sleep in.  You get here when you get here.
H- Homework Pass Day.  No homework after school.  Wheeeeeee!
I- I Don't Care Day.  Tired of battling your kids over clothing choices? Hairstyles? Whether or not they brushed their teeth? Take the day off! It's I Don't Care Day, so you don't have to care.
J- Just Putting In the Time Day.  Again, nothing really different about this day except that it's the truth  we're all living at this point and now we're acknowledging it.
K- Kids Make Their Own Lunch Day.
 L-Lazy Day.  That's what they all are at this point.
M- Make You Kids Give You a Massage Day.  Seriously!  Refuse to feed them until they comply.
N- No Need to Come to School Day.  No explanation needed.
O- Organized Parent's Stay Home Day.  Honestly, you just make the rest of us look bad, so if you are one, hurrah! Enjoy your day off.  The rest of us will enjoy a day free of guilty comparison and feelings of inadequancy.
P- Project Recycling Day.  Got a project due? Today your child has a pass to just re-turn in an old project that they did at some point in the previous year.  No sweat!
Q- Quit Trying Day. This day actually occurred sometime at the beginning of May, but again, we're here just to make it official.
R- Recycle a Project Day- see "P" above.
S- Slap a "Stupid Driver" Sticker on the Car of Any Dumb Drivers Who Frequent Our Lots Day.  If you've been holding back frustration in the school parking lot, now is your chance to let off some steam.
T- Tardy Free day.  It's like Sleep In Day, but with a different name.
U- Useless Information Day.  It's going in one ear and out the other, so let's let it all go. (See letter Q if you need clarification.
V- Valet Parking Day.  Complimentary valet parking in the school lot.  Enjoy a stress-free drop off and pick up!
W- Wine Day.  Duh.
X- Xtra Hour Day.  No hard start or finish times! Pick up your kids anytime in the hour before or after school.
Y- You Are Almost There Day.
Z- Zip Up Your Backpacks and Go Home Day.

That one is actually a real day on the kids' ABC Countdown.  It's their favorite day. It's mine too. Twenty Six Twenty Five days until we are there!  Hang in there, parents!