Category Archives: Education

I’mma let you finish this preschool graduation, but first let me say…

Ladies and gentlemen, parents and loved ones, distinguished guests and, especially, educators just white-knuckling it until you’re finally free for the summer…welcome. And thank you for that wonderful introduction. Granted, I realize no one technically introduced me since I just hopped up here and grabbed the mic, but hey, no one has full-body tackled me yet and I’m having some Big Feelings right now, so I’mma go with it.

I am truly honored to be here today. So honored, in fact, I even put on my good leggings. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Riker’s mom. That’s him. Right there. The most adorable little boy in the world. Wave hi to everyone, Riker. Oh my god, will you just look at those red curls of his? You know he had a full set of those red curls when he emerged from my womb? Even the doctor was impressed. He was so little back then…and perfect…and time went by so fast…*sob*…no, no, I’m fine *sniffle*.

Now, I’ll admit, before I had children, I thought the idea of a preschool graduation was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard. Like, congratulations on learning what a triangle is, kid. Here’s a diploma for blowing your nose correctly. But then I became a mom. And soon realized the dumbest thing I ever heard was the theme song to the children’s show “PJ Masks.”  

More importantly, however, I realized how wonderful the idea of this graduation ceremony really is. And not just so I can take 500 photos of my kid standing on a stage picking his nose. But also so I can then share all those photos on social media and shove them down the throats of people I barely know in real life.

I MEAN JUST LOOK HOW GORGEOUS HE IS.

In fact, you all look gorgeous today. With your tiny dresses and your little button-up shirts…and…oh, look at that one, she has a flower in her hair…I just can’t…*sob*...oh no, I’ll be alright, Mrs. Ferris. Sit down. No, really. I’m not done yet. I said SIT DOWN.  

I want to tell all you children how proud we are of you. You’ve come so far. Remember the first day of school? All that crying and clinging and whimpering? And you kids were pretty upset too.

Look at you now though. So much more mature. So much more independent. So many new curse words in your vocabulary (sorry, other parents, that’s…that’s mostly on me).

Even though you guys are just starting out on your life’s journey, it’s important to remember on this special day that the road to success is filled with no parking signs. And permit parking only signs. And those indecipherable signs that say you can only park here on Tuesday from 1 a.m.-5 a.m. Which reminds me, if anyone sees a 2004 red Hyundai with a gray hood being towed, please let me know. We are definitely parked illegally out front because for some reason this school has the world’s smallest parking lot.

But no matter where the road takes you, dear graduates, my advice is to follow your passion. Unless that passion is to pick your nose. Knock that crap off. RIKER! I mean it, mister! And as you prepare to enter the real world, a world where there is only one snack break and no longer two snack breaks, remember this: there will always be more snacks over the horizon. Be patient. The world is full of snacks. And should you ever find yourself in an unbearable snackless situation, look for the nearest grandparent. They will immediately find you a snack. They don’t even have to be your grandparent.

And so, in conclusion, let me just end with this quote from the inimitable Dr. Seuss: Do not hop on pop. Or mom. Seriously. Stop it. It hurts our backs.

Oh, and one more thing. I know it’s only 8:30 in the morning but the next time you guys have one of these things, maybe put in an open bar or something because some of us are having a LOT of emotions right now and a Bloody Mary or three would really help ease the…oh, and it appears my husband is now trying to pull me off the stage…hang on, honey, I’m almost done…I just…*sniffle*…you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, Riker…you and your little sister, who I lost track of like 20 minutes ago and…HANG ON, RYAN…and …I know you’re going to do wonderful things and…WAIT, WAIT, STOP PULLING…oh, just look at Riker’s little horrified face! I made that face with my lady parts…OK, OK, I’M LEAVING…

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Like walking to Mordor

If my social media feed is any indication, every single child in the world had their last day of school last week.

Everyone, that is, except my son.

Who still has FOUR WEEKS LEFT TO GO.

Oh, that’s right. His last day doesn’t happen until mid-June. Because our local schools hate parents. And summer. And sanity.

Of course, being that he’s in preschool, the demands placed on both myself and my son are pretty low. So as much as I’m dying to have a very strict summer schedule of absolutely nothing, the problem isn’t that we have one more month of rigorous scholarly obligations (since pretty much our only requirements are that we’re both wearing pants when I drop him off). No, the problem is that I’m lucky enough to live in a neighborhood that is within walking distance of my son’s school. Nice, huh? Yeah, I thought so too. Back in September when I was naive and happy and and hadn’t pulled out all my hair. Back before I realized how exhausting it would be to also tote his toddler sister with us every morning and afternoon.

Have you ever had to walk anywhere with a toddler? If so, you have my deepest condolences. You are a superhero and don’t let anyone tell you any different. If not, well, what’s the best yet nerdiest way I could possibly explain it to you? It’s like…it’s like taking the journey to Mordor every single day. And at this point in the year, I’ve turned into Gollum in both looks and personality.

Or maybe that’s a bad analogy. Because those hobbits had it fairly easy. For instance, they were able to leave the house. Just like that. They only had to grab the one ring to rule them all and some snacks, and BOOM. They were on their way.

Meanwhile, our journey begins long before we even open the door. There’s the five-minute fight about why we have to brush our teeth and another ten minutes trying to solve the mystery of why there is not a single pair of matching shoes in the entire house and then, my favorite, the daily wrestling with my 2-year-old to put on a fresh Pull-Up while simultaneously arguing with her about why we should take the stroller today. (An argument I lose. Every time.)  

I bet Gandalf never had to watch in exasperation as Frodo ran around laughing maniacally with a diaper on his head.

Then, upon immediately exiting the house, I’m already being bombarded with requests for second breakfast. But a second breakfast for the world’s pickiest eater.

“Can I have a snack?”

“It’s eight o’clock in the morning.”

“BUT SNAAAAACK. I’M SOOOOO HUNGRY.”

“Fine. I think I have some ancient Teddy Grahams in my bag.”

“Which ones?”

“I don’t know. The ones shaped like Paw Patrol, I think.”

“NOOOOOO…not thoooooose!”

“They literally taste the same.”

…*bursts into tears*…

You know, I don’t remember Bilbo ever complaining that his stale bread wasn’t bear-shaped.

And then there is the pace. In the time it took a fellowship of nine people to cross all of Middle Earth, we are still within nine feet of our porch. Because while we may not be battling orcs, there are seasonal obstacles we must constantly overcome. For example, in the fall, every single leaf that has fallen off a tree must be picked up, examined and handed to me. And I must hold onto them FOR ETERNITY. In the winter, there is snow. Snow that has to be picked up, kicked at, sat in, licked and thrown. Spring brings flowers. Flowers that MUST be picked regardless of the fact that they are the prized tulips of the scary lady down the street who is definitely going to murder me if my daughter picks one more from her garden. And late spring brings out the bugs. The bugs that must be inspected. At bug level. Lying on the ground. Then picking them up and accidentally squishing them, prompting an exhaustive dialogue about what is death and where do things go when they die.

Of course, this is all only if she’s in a good mood. If she’s in a bad mood, say, because I won’t let her run out into oncoming traffic, she’ll sit down and refuse to move. And when I pick her up, she hits me in the face and kicks her shoes off.

I would gladly give up a finger to Smeagol, maybe even two, if just once, ONCE, we could make the ten minute walk to preschool in ten minutes.

Of course, the good mom in me, the one who realizes what a beautiful and fleeting moment in time childhood really is, wants to relax and just enjoy this time; to slow down on these daily walks through our beautiful town with the two people I love most in the world and let it all sink in.

But the human in me, the one who has a natural aversion to torture, is internally screaming every curse word I know and is ready to burn down the entire goddamn world because no one can be forced to move this slow and not lose their mind. Especially considering that we have to turn right back around and make the journey back. A journey back that takes so long it could also easily be stretched across three three-hour movies.

And worst of all is the knowledge that in the afternoon, we have to do the whole thing over again.

So, yeah, those hobbits had it easy. But at least I’ll always have my precious.

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Snow Day But Today

It begins with a whisper. A mere whisper of a rumor. Riding on the coattails of a rising and moaning wind. But it’s enough. Just enough to light a tiny spark of hope against the unrelenting bleakness of a never-ending winter.  

However, since nothing is in writing yet, it’s business as usual for the moment. You head up to your room, almost giddy. You haven’t felt this kind of anticipation since Christmas Eve, which feels like an entire lifetime ago. You told yourself you weren’t going to do this but the urge is just too delicious to resist. So as your head hits the pillow, you allow yourself one small maybe. Not likely, no. Slim chance and all that. But…maybe.

Then the what-ifs come quickly galloping in. What if, though? What if it actually happens? All that time, that unstructured time, stretched out before you.

…what if…

Before you know it, your eyes snap open. A brief moment of confusion in the dark and then you remember. You scramble out of the intricate tangle of blankets. You run to the window and allow yourself one furtive glance outside. A lacy wall of beautiful white battling the dark sky greets your eyes. You give your thumping heart permission for one small leap.

Maybe indeed.

It’s the only time the news is actually relevant to your life. Boring people saying boring things. But underneath them are the slow and sacred scrolling words that could change everything.

Please, PLEASE, you quietly breathe to yourself in the blackness of pre-dawn. Most days you can’t bother to wake up before the sun. But not today. The stakes are too high. You can’t risk missing a moment of this potentially epic day.

You just need a break. From the daily grind. From the expectations. From, let’s face it, life.

Sure, you’re only 8-years-old, but are you not human too?

They’re only up to the B’s. Who knew there were this many places in the world that started with the letter B? You know it will be many, many long minutes before they get to the specific words you are oh-so-desperate to see. Still, you barely allow yourself to blink.

After what feels like a lifetime, and maybe it is (you are only 8 afterall), there they are. Those beautiful, beautiful letters floating past, practically smiling at you.

YOUR SCHOOL: CANCELLED.

A scream escapes your lips and you run around the living room, arms raised above your head, releasing all that pent-up anticipation in a series of feral whoops.

A snow day. SNOW DAY! An entire day off. Just for you. An unexpected holiday gifted to you from the very weather gods themselves.

And to thank them, you promise not to waste a second of this beautiful gift.

Cut to 30 years later. You are now a parent yourself. While making dinner (that, let’s face it, no one is going to eat), you hear it again. It’s been a long time since you’ve heard it, but you could never forget the sound of that whisper. Ten inches predicted overnight. Maybe…

What if…

You need this. You need an unexpected day off to remember what’s important. To remember that life is not just one long and mindless march forward, going to the places you are supposed to go and doing the things you are supposed to do. That it isn’t just putting pants on tiny, squirming, resistant legs and hollering at them for the seventh time to brush their teeth because you are going to be LATE FOR SCHOOL. AGAIN.

You allow yourself to look out the window. Nothing yet. You sigh and stir the spaghetti.

Just one day off, you plead to the air. One day off where you aren’t required to do anything. Where you don’t have to get anyone anywhere at any certain time. Where you don’t have to try to stuff wild humans into domesticated clothes and then stuff them into a coat and hat and gloves and then stuff the entire package into the car. Please.

Suddenly your phone dings. Then pings. Then vibrates. An email. Followed by a text. Followed by a voicemail.

YOUR KID’S SCHOOL: CANCELLED.

A bit anticlimactic, sure. Not like the old days. But still, that old feeling of pure joy manages to comes through.

Thank you, weather gods. I promise not to waste a moment of this beautiful gift.

Starting with not bothering to put pants on anyone.

 

No one told me there’d be a quiz

I had big plans this winter, guys. BIG PLANS. I was finally going to give in and jump on the hygge bandwagon. That Norwegian…or is it Danish?…Swedish? practice of making everything super cozy and charming. And you know what, it doesn’t even matter the origin because I planned on practicing a super-Americanized version of it where I spend the next three months in stained thermal leggings under three dog-fur covered blankets, dutifully ignoring my children and ordering calzones from Grubhub whilst binge-watching “Elementary” on Hulu.

Oh, and, of course, a lit candle. Because the candle is the fine line that makes the whole thing cozy and charming and not a symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  

But then…sigh. Then two words ruined everything.

Kindergarten. Registration.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to register a child for school. Or what is required for school registration where you live. But I barely survived getting my oldest into preschool last year because, where I live, registration requires 132 copies of random documents that you haven’t the foggiest of how to get your hands on. Oh, you mean don’t have a notarized copy of your rent agreement signed by your son’s pediatrician and your electric company? Well, ma’am, we really need those before he can attend. And also receipts from every time you bought diapers for your child. In triplicate.

Then there were the 27 forms just for emergency contacts. Everyone I know is now my son’s emergency contact. Even you. Yeah, you, reading this right now. You are an emergency contact.

And that was just preschool. The JV squad. It doesn’t even count. Kindergarten is the big leagues.

That’s the thing no one warns you about when you’re thinking about having kids. You will spend approximately 40 percent of your post-children life filling out forms. All the forms. There are so many forms. You cannot escape the forms.

Because it’s not just these endless school forms. Take my daughter’s first visit to the dentist. We walk in. We exchange smiles and chit-chat. And then they hand me a blank novella attached to a large clipboard with the friendly instruction to “fill it out.” Forty minutes and one cramped hand later, I realized I didn’t know anyone this well. Not even myself. Not to mention, the girl only had two teeth inside her head. She hadn’t even been alive long enough to warrant that many questions about her life.

My favorite is when they ask me for my kids’ social security number. Like, are you joking? Look buddy, no one knows their SSN until they go to college. It’s pretty much the only thing you do learn in college. And as for the actual physical copies, hahahahahaha…they’re probably in the back pocket of the maternity pants I was wearing when I gave birth. Which I burned in a ceremonial fire after deciding that two kids is enough and I’ll have more over my dead body.

Perhaps worst of all, though, is the oral form of the form. You know, when those well-meaning medical professionals verbally throw difficult questions right at your face, like “what is their date of birth?” I don’t know, man. You asked me too quick. I knew it thirty seconds ago. It was one of the cold months. Obama was still president. I mean, do you know how many things have happened between their birth and this present moment? You’re lucky I remembered to bring them with me.

No one ever wants to know the important information about my kids. Like that my son will refuse to eat reheated mac and cheese. And trust me, he KNOWS. You cannot hide the fact you reheated it. He is the Sherlock Holmes of boxed pasta. Or that my daughter will eat hamburger but only if you call it sausage, and that when she starts acting drunk you have exactly ten minutes to get her to sleep before a tantrum erupts from her body, volcano-style.

Sigh. And that, in a not-so-tiny nutshell, is why my winter is ruined. I will now be spending these forthcoming long dark nights gathering ridiculous amounts of paperwork and signing up unsuspecting friends and family as emergency contacts in order to register my child for kindergarten.

But at least I’ll still have my lit candle. Which should make my ensuing mental breakdown much more charming and cozy.

I believe you.

I am angry.

I am tired.

I am sad.

But mostly, I am angry.

All week I’ve been glued to social media, watching how people are reacting to the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. And realizing just how far we haven’t come.

I’ve also been watching as my female friends and family have come out with their own horrific sexual assault stories in the wake of this news cycle. And realizing just how many people quietly carry these scars in a world that refuses to believe them.

And I find myself left with nothing left to say. Nothing that hasn’t already been said. Nothing that will matter. Nothing that can make this world a place where men don’t rape women and children on a regular basis and never get punished for it.

So instead, I’m only going to write the two following things.

The first is this brief message: To all the women, men and children who have been sexually assaulted, I believe you, I love you and I am here for you if you need anything.

And the second is this list of resources should you ever want or need it:

The National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center: www.nsvrc.org

The National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-2253

National Teen Dating Abuse Online Helpline: www.loveisrespect.org

GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project: 1-800-832-1901, www.glbtqdvp.org

Take Back The Night Foundation: 1-866-966-9013, https://takebackthenight.org

For further resources, call RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) at 1-800-656-HOPE or go to www.rainn.org.

I survived the first week of school (and all I got was this lousy blog)

I was ready for the tears. I knew they’d come. From him. And me. Oof, so many tears. So much ugly cry. An absurd amount of snot leaking from our faces.

I was ready for the fear and the anxiety. Again, on both our parts. This is a huge change. Since the day he was born we’ve been by each other’s sides and now…well, now the real world was wrenching us apart.

And I was ready for the guilt. The guilt of abandoning my precious first-born to the unfeeling ABC factory that is pre-K. I had already been torturing myself with this guilt for weeks beforehand. He’s so little! His backpack is bigger than he is! He’s not ready! This is going to scar him for life! No one loves him like I do! Who the hell are these teachers!? They could be serial killers for all I know! Or worse, people who legitimately like kale!

What I wasn’t ready for, however, was that we had to do it all over again the next day. And then again. And then again.

School is exhausting. For the parents.

No one really warns you about this. And maybe it’s not this way for every kid. But my kid is the kind of kid who doesn’t like things. Things like other people. Other kids. Anything that is even slightly new. He made up his mind at 8-months-old what he liked and he’s pretty much stuck with that list since then.

And it’s a very short list.

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So, before 8 a.m. alone, I have to be a cheerleader and a prison warden and a life coach all rolled into one.

“But school is so much fun, honey! All those cool new things you’re learning! You’re doing so amazing!”

“If you don’t march into this bathroom and brush your teeth in the next 30 seconds, I’m putting you in solitary.”

“Fear is just the body embracing change, sweetie. Or something. Look, your feelings are valid. OK? Never doubt that. But also, we’re late so can you feel them while also putting on your shoes?”

If I had to do a brief breakdown of our week, it’d look something like this:

Day One:

“Momma, I love you so much! Please don’t leave me!”

“Oh baby! I’m so sorry! I have to! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!”

*go home and sob in the fetal position while clutching his baby pictures*

Day Two:

“Please don’t leave me again! I love you!”

“Oh baby, I know you’re scared but you can do this. I’ll be back before you know it.”

*go home and Google home schooling options while sniffling*

Day Three:

“MOMMA! Stop leaving me! Please stay! PLEASE!”

“Yeah, I can’t. You’ll be fine though. Love you.”

*use crowbar to gently but firmly detach him from my leg*

Day Four:

“Mommy! I don’t want to keep doing this! Let me stay with you!”

“Nope. OK, bye.”

*already scrolling Yelp for nearby breakfast places*

Because as draining as starting the whole school routine can be, physically, mentally and emotionally, at a certain point you just have to get over it. This is the new normal for us. Life has to go on. We have 174 more days of this. Followed by 13 more years of this. And then probably college once we sell off some pretty major body parts in order to afford it.

Oh no. I started crying again.

Anyone know if liquor stores have back-to-school specials?

 

The last days of nowhere to be

I think there’s something wrong with my calendar. I looked at it this morning and it said it was the end of July in the year of our Lord 2018.

Which is practically August.

Which is basically pre-autumn.  

And that can’t possibly be right.

Because if that is right, that means my family is swiftly approaching the last golden-tinged days of childhood where we have nothing to do and nowhere to be. That our light-hearted existence of pure autonomy is coming to an end. So, clearly, whoever is in charge of calendars (the Mayans, or those arrogant Gregorian folks, or even the Moon in all her lunar wisdom) messed up somewhere.

Because according to my internal calendar, my baby is still a baby and preschool is still starting sometime in “the future,” and most definitely not on the concrete date of September 4th. Which is why it simply makes more sense that literally everything else in the world is wrong and I am right.

Because I am not ready for this.

Seriously, I’ve known that preschool would be starting for only four and a half years. What kind of psychopath can mentally and emotionally prepare for that kind of thing in only half a decade? I mean, sure, I’m assuming moms with names like Karen who have actual first aid kits in their bathrooms probably can, but what about the rest of us normal moms who use maxipads and duct tape in a pinch?

In my defense, it’s everyone else’s fault. They just let me leave the hospital with a BABY.

TWICE.

And then, a few weeks later, my husband went back to work, both grandmothers went back to their respective midwestern states, and we were pretty much left to our own devices. My kids and I have been so poorly supervised for so long, we basically live like old-timey hobos, free to tramp around and come and go as we please, gleefully ignoring the fundamental rules of society. Bathing, pants and normal voice volume all optional.

But now we’re expected to suddenly adhere to someone else’s schedule? To be somewhere? On time? More than once? Like, a whole crap ton of onces?

So, what? I’m now expected to wake my 4-year-old up every day to achieve this Herculean task? Wake up the kid who, if he doesn’t get a solid 11 hours every night, turns into a tiny Hulk? Ok, yeah, sure. I’ll just amble on in there with a helmet and a plastic Captain America shield and hope for the best then.

Oh god, and so I guess this means I also have to pack him a lunch or something? Like, a normal all-American lunch? But he only eats beige food. Plus, it takes him roughly 97 minutes to eat three beige-colored crackers. And do I make him a well-rounded lunch full of fruits and protein and, I don’t know, avocado toast, knowing full well this will cause him to starve to death? Or do I pack him things I know he will eat (animal crackers and tiny packets of butter I stole from semi-fancy restaurants) but will probably result in some concerned phone calls?

BREAKFAST. I forgot about breakfast. Don’t get me wrong. I love making breakfast. Big, full, diner-style breakfasts. Which, again, I’m happy to make. Whenever the hell I get around to it.

Oof. Clothes. He’ll probably need to wear clothes, huh? Best case scenario, they even match. At the very least, not pajamas. At the very least least, not pajamas worn with cowboy boots and my bright pink aviator sunglasses.

I suppose I’ll also be expected to wipe off the Groucho Marx eyebrows I drew on his little sister with a marker for an absolutely perfect Instagram photo before we drop him off.

Yeah, no. The calendar must be wrong. I’m not ready for real life. For responsibility. For really loud alarm clocks.

For pants.

Looks like it’s time to start Googling train schedules so us three hobos can find a decent one to hop on.