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Just like everybody else…only cooler.

What I Did This Summer : Family Edition

I know that teachers nowadays are way creative and no longer require students to write the quintessential “What I Did This Summer” essay, but I remember doing a few of these back in school. I wondered what it would be like if I asked my family to submit their own “What I Did This Summer” essays. Just a guess…

What I Did This Summer
By: Mom

The summer was just really great. I mean, I didn’t even mind that there was no rest whatsoever between those crazy last two weeks of school and the start of a new set of activities for everyone. It just did not bother me a bit that we traded homework for afternoon swim team practices. And I am telling you right now that I am completely fine with all the towels that I washed and dried this summer.

We went to the beach, where we sweated buckets and sprayed $18 cans of sunscreen into the wind and carried all the things to all the places. But it was a resort and we did not wash any towels, and that made it a vacation.

We went to the lake, which was kind of the same, except we carried all the things onto a boat, so we could see what it’s like to cram all our things under the seats and not be able to find them when we needed them. And then we could carry them off the boat later when we were really, really, REALLY tired. We are completely convinced that wet towels are 100 times heavier than dry towels.

Meanwhile, back at the homestead, I opened and shut the back door approximately 57 times a day so the dog could go in and out at her leisure and not do her business on my already dirty floors. By doing this, I generously provided cool air to the entire backyard. Always giving back.

I called the air conditioning repairman 8 times because it felt like the AC was struggling to keep up. I don’t know? Is 85 degrees an acceptable indoor temperature? Whatever. Nothing works like it’s supposed to.

I went to the grocery store almost every day. Turns out, every single being that lives here has to eat. Every day. Multiple times!

Do we get extra credit?  Because I can also tell you what I DIDN’T do, which is cook the food from the grocery store. I didn’t even act like I was going to. For 3 months, all the people in my house consumed food that came in crinkly packages, and no one is even remotely close to dead. Even better, the kids have learned that they can actually prepare this kind of food by themselves, and I am beginning to think that once they learn the Amazon password, I may be out of a job.

Something else I didn’t do? Schoolwork. That’s right. Aside from sporadic required reading, which served the dual purpose of getting everyone away from everyone else, I basically stood at the top of the Summer Slide and pushed my kids down it. (Sorry, teachers). Wheeeeeeeeeee! Then I greeted them at the bottom of the Summer Slide and handed them iPads. It was in those moments that I knew I was loved.

I didn’t take my kids roller skating, something I hear about every other day from my 7 year old. I didn’t let my tween get a YouTube channel because I don’t even know how it works, and it sounds like a bad idea, no matter how many times she tries to convince me otherwise. I didn’t do any home improvement projects. I didn’t plant a garden. I didn’t keep the house clean. I didn’t declutter the playroom. I didn’t book next summer’s vacation. I didn’t read a ton of books. I didn’t lose my cool, except once…a day.

You want to know what I did this summer? I WASHED ALL THE TOWELS. I KEPT ALL THE LIVING THINGS ALIVE.*

(*most of the outdoor plants were dead before summer actually started, so they don’t count)

 

What I Did This Summer
By: The Tween

The summer was ok. I mean, better than school, I guess. Mom made me do swim team, which I HATE. Because swimming every day and being with my friends is THE WORST. She let me play on my iPad a lot, which was cool, except sometimes, out of nowhere, she would yell, “Oh my gosh, you are such a zombie!” And then I would have to stop, right in the middle of what I was watching, and try and find something else to do. And that’s’ hard, because there’s nothing awesome to do, ever. Sometimes, if I was really super bored, I would do stuff with my sister. Mostly we would just pull out a lot of junk that we never play with anymore, and leave it lying around in what Mom calls a “very inconvenient spot.” I mean, does she want us to play with the stuff or what? She’s always saying, “We buy you all these things and then you never play with them,” but then when we do, she wants us to just put it right back where we got it. Whatever.

We went to the beach, which was fun, except for the sunscreen part. Sunscreen is the WORST. Mom says that being sunburned is actually the worst, but, I mean, how does she even know? She sits under an umbrella the whole time. Whatever. We went to the lake, too. I really like being there and going out on the boat, but there’s no Wi-Fi anywhere near the lake. Nowhere. There’s a TV, but it only has 4 channels. But, Mom lets us eat ice cream twice a day, and we can have potato chips for breakfast, so… Whatever. Summer’s OK, I guess.

 

What I Did This Summer
By: The Little One

The summer was awesome! Swim team was so cool. I loved hanging out with my friends, and I think my dive got a lot better! I missed being at school a lot, but I asked Mom to let me buy a workbook, and I almost finished the whole thing! I thought that since I finished it all that I could skip the second grade, but Mom says it doesn’t work that way. We went ice skating one day, which was awesome, but we didn’t get to go roller skating like I wanted to. I kept asking her about it because I didn’t want her to forget, but all she said was, “Camp Mom is over. Play with some of this stuff you leave lying around everywhere.” So, I did, and it was so fun! I made a lot of crafts. I like cutting things into teeny tiny pieces. Some of the pieces I glue to other things, and some I just leave on the floor. I like being creative. Sometimes my sister would play with me, which was the best. Mostly she would just make me bring her stuff in her room, and act like I was on her pretend YouTube channel, but I didn’t mind. It was fun! Summer is the best!

 

What I Did This Summer
By: The Dog 

Summer? Summer? What’s Summer? Can I eat it? Does it squeak? Can I eat it while it squeaks?

No? Soooooo, Summer is a period of time? Oh, so all these days it’s been really hot and all the Little People are around all day, that’s Summer? Yeah, it’s ok, I guess. I have a hard time deciding if I want to be in the house, hiding from the Little People, or if I want to go outside, where it is H-O-T, so I just get The Lady to let me in and out, over and over. Sometimes I don’t really even want out, but it’s funny to see her get worried that I’m going to pee somewhere I shouldn’t. I like to wait until she’s either sitting down or has her hands in a sink full of dishes. HI-LAR-I-OUS. Her face. Oh, man, you should see it. But, you know, now that I think about it, she might not even care about that whole potty business inside the house thing anymore. A long time ago I went into the fancy room no one ever goes in and left a little “present,” if you know what I mean. It was just too hot to go outside and that big neighbor dog was out there, always giving me the evil eye even though I bark and bark and bark at him. Anyway, The Lady never even yelled at me and my present is still sitting there, behind that fancy chair no one ever sits in. You know, I think I’ll go poke it around a little bit right now. Is Summer still happening?

 

What I Did This Summer
By: Dad

What did I do this summer? I WORKED. Like I do in the Spring, and the Fall, and the Winter.

So, um, hey, what’s for dinner?

 

**Featured Image courtesy of IFC.com.

 

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Beating the Bully

“Fighting means you could lose. Bullying means you can’t. A bully wants to beat somebody; he doesn’t want to fight somebody.”–Andrew Vachss

bully collage

Greer, SC. 1986. I’m wearing my favorite Rainbow Brite t-shirt, and my head is pressed against the cold metal of a bathroom stall door. With one eye, I’m squinting through the crack of the door at Cheryl Hawthorne, who is propped against the painted cinderblock wall by the dirty porcelain sinks. Cheryl is the meanest kid in all of the third grade. She has close-cropped black hair, a loud laugh and she cracks her knuckles constantly. She is in trouble with the teacher every single day. This moment is the most patient and calm I’ve ever seen her to be, waiting for my stall door to click open. I’ve assessed all my options at this point and I see exactly zero ways that I can get out of this bathroom without Cheryl turning me into her personal punching bag. We are predator and prey, and I am about to be eaten for lunch.

You’re thinking, how did it come to this? Well, my dears, Be Kind and Rewind, and let’s go back to three hours before this restroom standoff. Back to Mrs. Fowler’s third grade classroom at Woodland Elementary. Back to morning reading groups, when someone was talking when someone wasn’t supposed to be. Insert a teacher who was fed up at 8:30 that morning; who was probably fed up 20 years before that morning even dawned. A teacher who said, “If someone doesn’t tell me who was talking, you’ll ALL be inside for recess!” Enter Stage Right a pale blond little girl with a Rainbow Brite t-shirt and a penchant for people-pleasing. Willing to fall on my sword in order to get the entire class outside for recess, I spoke up.

“It was Cheryl.”

Cue the ominous music and gasps from the audience. With a satisfied half-smile, Mrs. Fowler sauntered over to the chalkboard and added a check beside Cheryl’s name, which rarely ever left the board. It was Cheryl’s second check of the day, which meant once again she wouldn’t have recess. But the rest of the class would, so I’d made a worthy sacrifice.

Or had I? The rest of the morning, Cheryl never took her eyes off me. Each time Mrs. Fowler turned her back, there was Cheryl, giving me the evil eye, or making a menacing hand gesture. As I walked to the pencil sharpener, she hissed “I’m gon’ git you, girl.” In the lunch line, she stood as close as she possibly could without actually touching me, her breath hot on my neck. She hardly touched her lunch; instead, she used that time to shoot more venomous stares my way.

I tried hard to let the whole thing roll off my shoulders. I wanted to save face in front of my friends, but I was seriously shaking in my jelly shoes. I kept thinking surely this would all blow over soon. If I could just get through the day, tomorrow we would start over, no one would have any checks on the chalkboard, and we’d all get recess. By this time tomorrow, the whole thing would be forgotten, right?

Cheryl’s eyes narrowed as they caught mine (I’d been doing this thing all day, where I’d look to see if she was looking at me, and if she was, we’d lock eyes, then I’d quickly look away, or act like I was actually looking at something just past her. It wasn’t working. She knew I was looking at her.). Her balled up fist smacked the palm of her other hand as she nodded her head and said, simply, “The Bathroom.”

Sweet mother of Debbie Gibson. I’d forgotten about the bathroom! Every day after lunch, Mrs. Fowler’s class went to the bathroom in “the tunnel,” a brick breezeway between the buildings. Even if you didn’t feel the urge to use the facilities, you still had to go in there, because Mrs. Fowler didn’t let anyone go to the bathroom any other time. Well, unless you had an “emergency.” But everyone knew that “emergency” meant you had to go Number Two and admitting to that was a social infraction that would take weeks to get over. The post-lunch bathroom break was not up for negotiation.

I held off as long as I could, hoping against hope I could somehow skirt the mandatory bathroom visit. Cheryl was near the front of the line (no doubt because she wanted to start the pummeling as soon as possible), so I got in the back, thinking maybe she would have to leave the restroom before I got there. Oh, but no. Cheryl might have been a meanie, but she was no dummy. She just waited as the line of girls wound their way through the stalls and sinks. My friends offered no real assistance, but I saw their lack of teasing as a sign of solidarity. Their sympathetic looks and silence were a way of paying their respects. They were grieving me already. I didn’t fault them for not coming to my defense; no one wanted to tangle with Cheryl. And Mrs. Fowler didn’t tolerate tattling. My predicament served as a cautionary tale for anyone contemplating their own David vs. Goliath scenario.

Oh, you all enjoy your recess, friends. I’ll just be in the health room, having my face reattached and my broken limbs reset. No, really, it’s fine. Happy to take one for the team. You go have fun.

So, there we were. Wolf and sheep, penned together in a four-stall, 2 sink, brick and block prison. It didn’t take long for me to know that I couldn’t hide out in that stall any longer. For one thing, the longer I waited, the more people outside were going to suspect I was in there going Number Two. For another thing, it was well past time to get this thing over with. I ripped the stall door open and made a run for it (What? Did you think I was actually going to fight her?). Cheryl caught me halfway to the door and punched me in the stomach. I got a few more steps towards the door before her right hand clutched my neck and shoved my back against the wall. I eeked out some sort of panicked animal noise that caused Mrs. Fowler to open the door and bellow, “What’s going on in here?” There was no explanation needed. Cheryl was sent to the principal’s office and she never so much as glanced my way again.

Someone asked me, “Have you ever been bullied?” And I now know my answer is, “Yes. For three hours, in 1986, Cheryl Harcourt bullied me and made my life a living hell.” The comedic nature of two little girls in a bathroom standoff like a Clint Eastwood movie is something I can laugh about now. But something has to be said about the fact that this happened 30 years ago, and yet I can still remember the feeling of fear and dread in the pit of my stomach. I’ve long forgotten many of my friends from elementary school, but Cheryl’s face is burned into my brain forever.

What if those three hours had stretched into six? What if instead of just that one day of bullying, I had to face Cheryl and her threats every single school day? What if my friends chose to distance themselves from me so they didn’t have to bullied, too? What if my teacher said, “Oh, kids will be kids,” and chose to focus on her curriculum instead of the social dynamics in her classroom? What if I spent my entire school year waiting and praying for it to be over, so I could be in a new classroom where Cheryl wouldn’t be? Would the story be so funny then?

You don’t have to have school age children to know that “bullying” is a serious issue facing all ages. So, what do we need to know about it?

First, of all, what is bullying? There are many definitions, but the most encompassing one I found is the one used in the legal sense:

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 1.06.45 PM

That’s right, the legal sense. There are adults dealing with this, who feel so intimidated that they will plead their case in a court of law. There are all types of bullying, but most can be divided into two types: Aggressive and Social Isolation. Aggressive Bullying is usually physical in nature, and can mostly be attributed to similar physical aggression at home. Physical intimidation can be harder to hide and easier to prove, so it seems to happen less in our schools because punishment is swift, once it is recognized. Social Isolation Bullying is stickier for many reasons. Social Isolation can go on for weeks or months before an authority figure recognizes what is happening. These bullies are usually very skillful in denying their behavior, and their victims are reluctant to come forward, out of embarrassment. In a battle of words, context is very hard to prove. “But that’s not what I meant!” is the battle cry of many Social Isolation bullies.

Social Isolation bullying is for all ages. You see kindergartners freezing kids out of a game of Red Rover. Teenage girls post slumber party photos to Instagram with full intent of ostracizing other girls. Social media gives rise to more sinister Social Isolation bullying, too, with some kids sending out sexually explicit photos to large groups of people without their subject’s authorization, thus decimating that person’s social life. And adults aren’t above it, either. The “popular kids” have popular moms, who are quick to post those same slumber party photos, but just with the kids. And what about Direct Level Marketing? It’s one thing to be annoyed by a friends’ constant Facebook posts about her “amazing new job,” but it’s quite another when she bombards you with personal messages, phone calls and “party” invitations until you just break down and buy the stuff already. Bullies may be born on the playground, but they are refined in the workplace. Bosses who require that you stay late, repeatedly. Co-workers who consistently take credit for your hard work. Clients who insist you buy just one more round (the company’s paying for it!). Bullying is repeatedly intimidating or taking advantage of someone you perceive as weaker.

Next, who are the bullies? Anyone can be a bully. Budding gang members (yes, there can be a gang presence in school, even elementary), sweet-looking kindergartners, children of abusers, teenage girls (hello, Snapchat), PTA moms, athletes, honor students, soccer dads…all these people can use their own brand of intimidation to subdue and tear down another person.

Why do people bully? I asked my kids if they knew any bullies. “Oh yes,” they said. They went on to explain, “Bullies are ‘bucket dippers.’ Their buckets don’t have enough happiness, so they want to steal yours.” (Props to our school’s teachers for giving my kids the confidence to recognize this behavior, by the way!) Every bully is different, but their core motivation is the same. What they want is power. They want the upper hand. They want to win. A bully recognizes an area in his life where he is not winning, and he wants to put himself in the place of power. The easiest way to do this is to intimidate the person who he sees as the winner and force that person give up the top spot. In sports, this could show up as repeated, harmful “trash talk” in an effort to make a teammate’s mental game diminish their performance. In teenage girls, it could be leaving snide comments on social media posts or sharing unflattering photos to make another girl retreat, bringing the attention back to the bully. You might see little kids taunting emerging class leaders because it’s the first time in their lives they haven’t been the focus of constant praise and adoration. Some bullies are modeling behavior they see at home. In homes where physical abuse is present, a child may become a bully simply because that is the only way he knows how to interact with others. Or, if the child is the abuse victim, assuming a role as a bully over a weaker person is the only chance he has to wield power. But physical abusers aren’t the only bullies at home. What about the dad that constantly screams at the coaches on the kids’ soccer field, or the mom that daily belittles the teacher and her ridiculous homework assignments? We’re sending our kids a message when they hear our disparaging remarks about other authority figures, or see us strong-arming those same people into doing what we want on behalf of our child. There’s a fine line between standing up for yourself to get what you deserve and using your power and influence to gain preferential treatment. When your child sees you cross that line towards something that looks like intimidation, why wouldn’t she try to do the same thing?

I talked to several teachers and school administrators while writing this piece. I was astounded at how many people saw bullying in schools as a consequence of affluence. Cheryl Harcourt isn’t the bully anymore. The new bully is an articulate, well-liked child from a prominent family. This kid singles out and attempts to weaken another child or group of children at school, and gets in trouble for it. The kid shows very little remorse, and continues the behavior, getting in trouble again. The parents swoop in, in disbelief that their little angel would do such a thing. This goes back and forth between parent and teacher for a while, with the parents usually undermining the authority of the teacher. How much damage has been done by the time the teacher has to hand if off to a higher administrator? What has it done to the self-confidence of the child being bullied? Has that child’s parents completely lost faith in the system? Now, consider what happens if the bullying problem goes to the administration, and mom and dad stand in the principal’s office, reminding him/her of how much they’ve contributed to the school this year and what a shame it would be if Dad’s office pulled his company’s sponsorship of the school fundraiser. The bully has successfully intimidated his/her targeted classmate, the classmate’s parents, the other classmates that feel like helpless bystanders, the teacher, the administration and the set of rules it has put forth AND he walks away with the feeling that this is how life will always go for him. I don’t think this is a common scenario, but I’ve heard the same story with different players enough times to know it’s not rare. At any rate, it’s a good example of the multi-level nature of bullying.

Lastly, what can we do about it? The same thing we do about everything in parenting. Talk to your child. Know what they’re up to. Know their friends and their interests. Ask questions, even if they don’t want to answer them. And don’t just try to get the facts: show your child that you’re genuinely interested in them. Even if it feels like they have zero interest in you and would rather gargle river rocks than listen to what you’re saying, showing true interest is a form of showing love, and they’ll remember that.

Keep the lines of communication open, and make sure your child has a trusted adult in their life. Ideally, that trusted adult should be you, but find a spare because there are some things kids just won’t bring to their parents. While I was writing this piece, a friend of mine shared her experience with her son being bullied at school. She and her son had a very open and honest relationship, and she felt that he would come to her with any problems. However, her son suffered bullying for months without saying a word to anyone. Finally, a friend of his confided in his own mother, who then shared the situation with my friend. It turns out, my friend’s son didn’t want to tell his parents about it because he was afraid they would be upset and sad for him. He was protecting their feelings! This is a prime example of how important communication and trust are in these situations. More than one child had to be trusting of an adult and willing to communicate. Further, the adults involved had to be trusting and communicative as well. I also thought this was a great example for us all to know that helping someone doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Just because you don’t literally stand between a bully and his target on the playground doesn’t mean you can’t be just as helpful, but in a quiet way.

Be open and understanding. In the bullying situation described above, did I mention that the parents of that child were a school counselor and a psychologist? These are involved parents, well-educated and trained to spot such behavior. It would be easy for them to say, “This can’t happen to my child; I would catch it immediately.” But they didn’t. They were open to knowing that you never say “never” with kids. You do all you can to educate your child and teach them the things you think they need to know, and then you hope it sticks. Parenting is a life-long calling. Your job is never finished, so stay open and understanding to your kids, and to the people that care for them.

Cheryl Harcourt was a bully, but our altercation was not a severe case of bullying. A marker of bullying is that it’s a repeated behavior. The intimidation makes the victim feel hopeless, as if it will never be over. Ours was a one-time incident, and I am grateful that my school’s authorities put a swift end to it. But, as I said before, it made a big impact on me. When you’re nine years old, a brick breezeway is a giant tunnel and the walk to the lunchroom is a miles-long trek. The whole world fills the space between home, school and church. Your entire life’s memorable experiences wouldn’t fill up a marble-backed composition book. When you’re a kid, all the little things are BIG things.

Know. Talk. Keep your mind open. Be a good role model. We face bullies in every stage of life, but we don’t have to give them our power, and we don’t have to sit back while they take someone else’s. Make small, quiet stands for what’s right. Guard your heart and your bucket and help others do the same.

For more information about bullying, go to https://www.stopbullying.gov/index.html

 

 

 

The Walking Man

“Lord, I was born a ramblin’ man. Tryin’ to make a livin’ and doin’ the best I can. When it’s time for leavin’, I hope you’ll understand…that I was born a ramblin’ man.” –performed by The Allman Brothers, written by Forrest Richard Betts

walking man

I can’t pinpont the exact day we first saw The Walking Man, but we were definitely on our way to school. They way I remember it, we saw a man walking alongside the road, and I said, “Oh dear, it looks like that man must have had some car trouble. I sure hope he doesn’t have to walk much further.” My girls craned their little necks to get a better look at the morning’s diversion. We shook our heads sadly, tut-tutted about his misfortune, and kept on our way. No, we did not consider giving him a ride. Mostly because we live in an age where a woman with two small children is taking an unjustifiable risk by offering assistance to a stranger. Also, chances are good that we were running our usual five minutes’ behind, thus limiting our opportunities to be Good Samaritans. Whatever the reasons were, everyone’s day progressed as planned and none of us gave the unlucky walker another thought.

But then we saw him the next day. And the day after that. Every day that week on our way to school we saw this young man, with a head full of sandy dreadlocks and a dusting of light blonde facial hair on his fair skin. It became obvious that his reason for walking was not a result of car trouble, so we began to consider that maybe he didn’t have a car at all, and that he was walking his way to work. But after a while, that explanation didn’t hold up, either. I noticed that his walking time stretched throughout the day, and it seemed there was no real destination. I crossed paths with him all day, as he walked slowly and methodically beside the same roads my big SUV wore thin as I zoomed through my daily errands. His attire and appearance were best described as grungy, but clean; kind of like a kid you would find on a college campus in the mid-90’s. That being said, it was not appropriate for any job I could think of near his walking route, nor was it suitable for the amount of walking he was doing. The only difference I could see in him from day to day is that he would pull his hood up if it rained. Without a good explanation for this seemingly pointless walking, my mind began to wander, and the angry, torch-burning villager in me piped up with the thought,“What is this guy doing? Why is he just out walking all day long? What is he up to? Is he some sort of predator?” I didn’t like him being so close to my home and my children’s school. I had a fleeting thought of calling some sort of authorities. But who? The police? What would I say? “I’d like to report a man walking?” Ummm, no. Reason quickly prevailed and I realized that this is just a man who walks. I don’t have to know why. And so, The Walking Man became a part of our morning routine. Eat your breakfast. Get in the car. Look at the horses: they’re wearing blankets! There’s The Walking Man. Almost to school now; go ahead and unbuckle. I love you.  We all went about our respective days. The kids at school, the parents doing their jobs, The Walking Man walking.

Then one day we didn’t see The Walking Man. We were a little concerned until he showed up a few days later. After that, his appearances were erratic. Sightings of The Walking Man slowly became less frequent until finally we just didn’t see him at all anymore. Just like I can’t say exactly when I saw him the first time, I also can’t say exactly when I saw him the last time.

To be honest, I just forgot about him.

After the craziness of those last few weeks of school in the spring, we settled into our new summer routine of swim team practices and various other activities. My older daughter’s horseback riding lessons were adjusted to early morning and late evening hours to take advantage of the cooler temperatures of the day. Once again we found ourselves riding the roads near our school, and once again I took notice of a man walking along the roadside.

The first time I saw him, I assumed he was out walking for exercise. He was outfitted head to toe in high-quality, technical running gear. But that explanation was a bit of a stretch, because he wasn’t moving at an exercise pace, and he also didn’t show the signs of exertion that would suggest he was resting from a run. And while the roads we travelled are considered secondary, they’re busy and not conducive for pedestrian use. Even a novice runner would recognize this was not a safe place to get exercise.

It took me three, maybe four, times of seeing this walking man to realize that he was The Walking Man. I laughed at my surprising discovery. Like finding a $20 bill in last year’s coat, I didn’t know I’d lost him until I found him. How long had he been hiding in plain sight? Those sandy dreadlocks had been replaced with a close-cropped haircut, topped off with a black visor and a slick pair of earbuds. His beard was gone, revealing a set of chiseled cheekbones and a somewhat gaunt face. The trademark baja sweater and baggy jeans were gone, too. The Walking Man now sported dark-colored, dry-fit clothing and what I could tell were some really expensive running shoes. His appearance had drastically transformed, but that moderate walking pace and deliberate stare remained exactly the same. He was the same man with the unknown mission; in no hurry to get anywhere, but determined to arrive. His eyes and mind were focused on a destination that I could not see.

There is so much I don’t know about The Walking Man. Where is he going? How many hours does he walk each day? How long has been doing this? How far has he been? How far does he want to go? Does he feel constrained by the relatively small radius he travels? Or is he content to walk the same roads day after day? What is he thinking about all those hours? Does he ever get tired? Does he want to stop, or does he wish that his feet were able to carry him even longer?

All these questions will go unanswered for me. But there is one thing I believe I can safely surmise about The Walking Man. He is loved. BIG.

Somewhere he has a home. Someone in that home makes sure he has clothing and shoes, and that they are kept clean and in good condition. Maybe that person makes sure he starts his day with a good breakfast, because she can’t be sure that he’ll eat again until he comes back home. Maybe she knows what time to expect him home, and she’ll have another meal waiting for him then. Or maybe she doesn’t know when he’ll be home, and instead she wanders the house, watching the clock and looking out the windows, hoping that the drivers on the roads aren’t too careless. That no one takes their eyes off the road for just a minute, and slips off the shoulder. Maybe she even drives out and looks for him on the days that he’s gone too long, pulling over to give him a bottle of water and check to see if he put on sunscreen. Maybe when he does come home, she pretends like she hasn’t worried over him all day, because she doesn’t want him to feel like he’s a burden. Maybe the person that loves and cares for The Walking Man has asked him many, many times “Why do you need to walk? Can’t you just take the day off and rest? Aren’t you just a little tired?” And maybe he has given her an answer that explains it all. Or maybe he doesn’t answer her questions, and even though she desperately wants to comprehend, she realizes it’s useless to ask anymore. Because it’s not her job to understand. Maybe she’s decided it’s her job just to love him, to keep him safe, and help him do what he feels he was put here to do.

This is just a man who walks. I don’t have to know why. But to the person who loves and cares for him, I want to say that I know why you do what you do. And for that reason, I watch out for him, too. I take it slow around the curves. I am more understanding of those that don’t act the way I expect them to. I try to show grace in situations where it would be easy to jump to the wrong conclusion. My inner torch-burning villager is a lot slower to emerge. You have allies out here, helping you keep watch.

This is just a man who walks. But to the one who loves him, he is just… everything.

What Does Your Elf Say About You?

“This place reminds me of Santa’s workshop except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me.”  –Buddy the Elf, while in the mailroom

If you have children, your home is Santa’s workshop.  The business of making holiday magic is an around-the-clock job right now.  Some parents can feel as though they’re going to crack under the pressure of making everything so damn magical.  Who can remember all the things we have to do to make it all so memorable?  And as if getting the Ungettable Gift and cooking up the most delicious meals and making your living areas look like a Winter Wonderland wasn’t enough, there’s all these other PEOPLE doing all this other STUFF and telling YOUR kid about it.

Some of the stuff the other people are doing revolves around the Elf on the Shelf.  As if Santa and the reindeer and all that wasn’t enough, we have to add in yet another magical, mythical creature with a backstory and the need for ongoing parental duties.  Am I the only person that feels kind of bad about all the b.s. I’m shoveling towards my kids in the name of giving them a magical childhood?  The clock is ticking on how long I have to keep the magic alive, which is sad to me, but I also think a part of me will feel a little relieved once the jig is up.  It’s been several years of feeling like I stole something, and I can’t even enjoy what I stole because I know I’m going to have to turn myself in and give it back eventually.  I don’t know.  Maybe that’s just me and I should sit back and enjoy tricking my kids and not worry about how they’ll feel about being lied to for their entire lives.  I mean, they got a lot of really good presents out of the deal.  We should surely be able to call it even, right?

Anyway, back to the Elf.  I’ve got one.  You’ve got one.  We all know somebody who has more than one.  He’s everywhere!  He’s everywhere!

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Magical memories my parents gave me: Ray Stevens.

Being the very deep thinker and highly observant person I am, I’ve summarized the most commonly found Elf Parents I’ve encountered.  Let’s see if you see yourself here.

The Tiger Elf Parent

The Tiger Elf Parent has this whole Elf on a Shelf thing on lockdown.  The Elf is rarely actually on a shelf, unless it is staged to look like it’s rapelling down said shelf to get to a stash of mini marshmallows artfully sprinkled in glitter.  This parent has a spreadsheet of all the different scenes the elf will enact, and has gauged the lighting in all areas of the house so as to get the best photo to post on social media.  There may  be video footage every few days, just to keep things interesting.  Unless you’re up to the challenge to Tiger Parent your own Elf, don’t show these pictures to your children, because they’ll wonder why their own Elf isn’t so adventurous.  At least then if the Tiger Parent’s kid tells your kid about how silly Eduardo the Elf landed his hot air balloon into a bucket of cotton balls, you can always just respond with, “Eh, he’s probably lying.”  Your word against his, really.

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This kielf mischief makes me especially nutty.  Who do you think has to clean this crap up?  And the elf can’t be touched?  Because he has to go back to Santa?  So I have to look at it all day?  *eye starts twitching*

Santa Says:  Keep up the good work.  We are quite entertained.  Oh, and I’m sorry for the things I said when I was watching your Instagram videos and feeling inadequate about my own lazy Elf.

The WTF Elf Parent

The WTF Elf Parent is way too cool to get bogged down in this foolishness.  He/she says things like, “And what is this ELF that everyone is doing?  I DO NOT have time for that.  Who has time for that?  I mean, it’s so stupid.  Did you see that video that Tami posted the other day?  The ELF swinging from a chandelier?!?  WTF is that?  Who has time for that?  I do NOT have time for that.”

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Santa says:  We get it.  You don’t have time for it.  Google it.  It gets 10,000,000 hits, so don’t be acting like you’re too cool for the Elf.  We’re all in this together: NO ONE IS COOL ANYMORE.

The Mob Boss Parent

This parent uses the Elf to scare the crap out of their kids into behaving.  It wasn’t enough to start back in October with the “Santa Claus is watching yoooouuuuuu…” comments every time your kid thought about stepping out of line.  Oh no, now we have concrete evidence that a freakin’ report is being made to Santa.  Every.  Single.  Night.

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“You thinkin’ of havin’ an extra cookie when I KNOW you didn’t finish your peas?
I wooden do dat if I was you.”

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Santa Says:  You might need to think about acquiring some different parenting skills.  All the magical creatures have an expiration date and your kid is GOING TO BE PISSED when he finds out you’ve been jerking his chain all this time.  

The “Oh Sh*t” Parent

This parent consistently fails to move the Elf, and may have even forgotten to put it out in the first place.  I talked to a parent once who didn’t even realize that the Elf had to be moved EVER.  She had just seen the Elf in the store, thought it was cute and gave the whole kit and caboodle to her kid to play with.  It was not until they had a playdate with another child that they found out they weren’t supposed to even touch the Elf.  All the kids were horrified that they had robbed the Elf of it’s magic.*  But they were also very excited to finally be able to touch one of the darn things.
(*quick research on the internet reveals that an Elf’s magic can be restored by exposing it to cold temperatures, either outside or in the freezer.  “Oh Sh*t” parents need to be really careful about this, because you might accidentally leave the Elf outside too long and a stray animal will carry it off to threaten its own young.)

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Santa Says:  You are NOT a Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins.  You are a human.  In approximately 30 years, your kids will look back and think, “OH, THIS is what she was doing.  How did she do it?  And why was I such an ass about the damn ELF?”  Just hold on, “Oh Sh*t” Parent.  Your just reward arrives in 30 years.  

As for me, I’m a combination of all these parenting types.  If I ever do get the Elf in a clever setting, I want to share that online to get a social media back pat.  And I’ve had moments that I wanted to stuff the thing back in it’s box and act like we are above the hype.  Almost every night I have the “Oh Sh*t” moment and this is when an early-t0-rise husband really comes in handy.

Our elf is named Lelf and he has currently just been rotating between the family’s stockings.  This came about because he started in one, and was left there for approximately 4 days.  My older daughter made the comment, “I guess Lelf just likes it in that stocking.  I mean, he can see us really well, and it’s warm there.”  What a fantastic observation, daughter of mine!  Let’s roll with it.

I will say that looking at all these pictures of elves has inspired a little.  I’m considering relocating Lelf to the stove, thereby absolving me of cooking duties for at least the next 24 hours.  Make the Elf work for YOU, friends!

boozy-elf

 

Want. Need. Such a Fine Line.

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” — Anna Lappe

My kids want Hatchimals.  If you don’t know what a Hatchimal is, I am so very happy for you.  I was you once, about 3 weeks ago, and I would like to return to that blissfully ignorant time in my life.  But, chances are, even if you don’t know about the Hatchimal, you understand the concept of the “Ungettable Get.”  Substitute “Hatchimal” with “Tickle Me Elmo” or “Cabbage Patch Kid” and you’re with me.  The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken this year and deemed that the Hatchimal will be the toy that throws adults and children alike into a complete frenzy.

When my kids first described the toy to me, I thought, “Wow, that sounds kind of cool. I’ll have to look into getting one of those.”  Really, I was only half listening, so I can’t even tell you what it does.  From what I can tell, it’s a big egg, and after an indeterminate amount of time, and maybe a few tasks on your part, the egg hatches and there’s a little bird in there.  Cute enough, right?   I mentioned it offhandedly to a friend that my kids wanted “some sort of toy that hatches out of an egg?  I’m not sure what it is?”  My friend stopped what he was doing, looked at me and said, “A Hatchimal?  Do you HAVE one?”  “Ummm, no, not yet,” I responded.  “Why, are they, like, expensive or hard to get or something?”

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My Elle Woods Hatchimal Moment

The answer is Yes OR Yes.  Yes, they are hard to get if you want to pay regular price, and Yes, they are expensive, if you don’t want to make it your life’s mission to obtain one.  The age-old conundrum: spend your money or your time.  I heard today that employees at Wal-Mart have admitted that they have Hatchimals in the stockroom RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE, but they can’t release them because they’re saving them for Black Friday.

All this consumer game-playing reminds me of the Jonah Hill “guy in an eBay store” character in the movie “Forty Year Old Virgin.”  This guy wanders into an eBay store and finds a pair of fabulous silvery glittery boots that have goldfish swimming in the clear acrylic heels.  He’s enamored.  He wants these boots, without a shadow of a doubt.  But he can’t get them, because it’s not really a store.  It’s an eBay store, which means he would need to go home, search for them on eBay, bid on them and have them shipped to his house.  He’s confounded, and rightfully so.

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‘Tis the season to be a consumer, for sure.  But I’m a consumer all year round, and this sort of game-playing is not my cup of tea.  I don’t mind couponing every now and then.  I’ll sign up for a loyalty card if it’s a store I actually  frequent.  Things like that.  But what I don’t like is being manipulated.  And the “Ungettable Get” is all about manipulation.  It’s building hype in children who don’t understand supply and demand, and it’s playing on the emotions of the people holding the wallets who feel like they have go to great lengths to make the magic happen.

So, if I want a Hatchimal, it seems my choices here are to (a) go on eBay or Wal-Mart.com and pay $300 for a $50 toy (which, let’s be honest, is probably not worth a fraction of the $50 retail price), (b) show up at one of the Black Friday venues and risk taking an elbow to the nose and having the resulting video footage end up on the evening news, (c) try to lay my own damn egg and hope there’s a cute bird inside, or (d) wait until the Spring, when the stores will be using them to make shelves on which to just stack all the overstock of them.

Lots of different options here that all end in one conclusion: my kids will be happy for a relatively short amount of time, after which the toy will sit in a corner, untouched, forgotten and biding its time before it ends up in the trash or the donation pile.

I’m not saying that those who buy into getting the “Ungettable Get” are in the wrong here.  I’m sincerely impressed with their skills.  Those skills aren’t in my toolbox, apparently.  I think what I’m trying to say is that, this year, I won’t let the ungettable get ME.  I’m moving on so I can overspend and overindulge in other places.  It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, dammit, and I have full intentions to spend too much, eat too much, stay up too late and overschedule myself because those things are EASY to do.  I’m not going to overdo overdoing it.

But, seriously, if you see a Hatchimal somewhere, hook a sister up.

This Is Just a Drill

“It may take a village to raise a child, but not every villager needs to be a mom or a dad.  Some of us just need to be who we are.”  –Meghan Daum

One day last spring I was volunteering at my children’s school, as I often do.  This particular day I was signed up to be with the kindergarten class, doing an activity called Baggie Books.  I’m sure most schools have this activity, but if you’re not familiar, it’s when you go to the school and take turns reading with the children.  It gets its name from the zippered “baggies” that the children use to take their book home and continue practicing with their parents.  I’m going to go ahead and put it out there that Baggie Books is one of my least favorite volunteering activities.  The books are boring, the chairs you have to sit in are doll-sized, and the kids, while very sweet and cute; well, most of them can’t really read.  Which is the point of the whole thing, I know, but if you’re like me and tend towards being a crankypants, the activity can be summarized as squatting in the hallway and sounding out words for an hour and a half.

Thank you teachers, for being amazing people so I can aggressively pursue mediocrity and grumpiness.  

So, anyway, back to Baggie Books.  I’m sitting in my plastic American Girl doll chair and listening to a book about “What Bears Like” or something equally ludicrous.  And I’m thinking, I know what bears like.  Bears like to eat people.”  And then I’m wondering, “Why do these books make us think that all animals are so freakin’ friendly?  I mean, do we really need to encourage our kids to be hanging out with wild animals?  I think kids are getting the wrong message, like maybe it’s a good idea to approach a bear and share honey with it?. Because that’s actually a pretty terrible idea all around, and as soon as I get home, I’m making sure my kids know that if they ever see a bear, they need to run away immediately.  No, no, wait.  Aren’t bears the one you’re supposed to play dead around?  Crap, I need to do some research.  But I am pretty sure that bears would rather eat people than share honey with them.”

Somewhere in between mentally preparing a Bear Action Plan for my family and gently reminding a sweet little boy about how a Magic E works, an ear splitting, brain jangling alarm goes off overhead.  Loud alarms almost always paralyze me internally (if I ever accidentally hit the “panic” button on my car’s key fob, I lose all intelligible speech and movement, only able to grunt and slap everything within reach until the alarm is silenced and I can slump over in a cold sweat), and since I’m already sort of glued to Baby Bear’s all-wrong-for-this-bum chair, all I can do is turn my head right and left to try and figure out what’s going on.  I look at my patient little kindergartner reader on my left and then I turn to the right and wait for a teacher to come along and give me the “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” that means some little kid has pulled an alarm and maybe we need to line up and go outside.  But the “wink, wink” moment never comes.  What does happen is that every door on the hallway opens wide, almost simultaneously.  Teachers charge forth from all the classrooms, some of them with red backpacks over their shoulders.  And the students?  All these tiny little people wordlessly line up and follow their teachers, no questions asked.

In 110% less time and questions than it would take me to get my own two children (two, just two children, WHY DOES IT TAKE US HALF AN HOUR TO LEAVE THE HOUSE, PEOPLE?!?!) in shoes and jackets and out the door, our entire school of 1,000+ students, teachers and staff are lined up outside the building.  Silent.  Awaiting instructions.  No one is panicked.  No one is goofing off.  No one is crying because they have to wear socks.

I stand on that playground with my daughter’s class and look around at all the neat lines of children and adults.  I watch those children stand patiently and look to the head of their lines at their teachers with all the trust they can hold in their tiny little hearts, and I get a giant lump in my throat.

I think to myself, “These people KNOW THE DRILL.”

After several minutes, the principal appears and climbs on a table with a bullhorn.  It is all, indeed, just a drill.  The tone relaxes a little and a few kids get some of their sillies out as we head back inside, overall still orderly and single-file.

It is now late in the afternoon and once we get back the classroom, my time slot for Baggie Books is over.  My little under-2-hour stint of responsibility is complete, and I am able to waltz out to my car with no more school duties or classroom concerns other than the ones my own children will bring home with them.

How had I never given more thought to this?  That on top of teaching my children how to read and do math (in all kind of crazy jacked-up ways) and be a responsible citizen, this entire team of people is in charge of keeping my children SAFE.  Protecting them from all kinds of harms that I don’t even want to think about.

My goodness, the world is so scary.  Tornadoes can form in an instant, upending entire towns.  Fire can rip through buildings, destroying structures while all we can do is watch. Earthquakes can move the very ground under our feet.  Pure evil can show up in any form and take away what is most precious to us in an instant.  This is the world we live in.  But, also, this world we live in is home to people that are full of love and compassion.  There are off-duty volunteer firefighters that will put themselves between a loaded gun and a schoolyard of children.  There are teachers who will work tirelessly until a student reaches an “aha” moment.  There are doctors that will refuse to leave patients until an answer is found.  People that rush in to save others, when logic says to run away as fast as possible.  People that don’t freeze when the alarm goes off, but that KNOW THE DRILL.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, to all the people out there that know the drill.  None of us can do this alone.  You are the light that keeps this village, and this world, from going completely dark.

 

 

Area Residents Fight for Right to Tolerable Daytime Television

“We’re just tired of being yanked around by people whose sole existence is to entertain us.  I mean, do your job,”  says local homemaker and mother, Mary Catherine (“MeerKat”) Mc Fadden.

A group of area residents are pledging to do whatever it takes to draw attention to their need for tolerable daytime television programs.  Prompted by the abrupt exit of co-host Michael Strahan from her favorite show, “Live with Kelly and Michael,” local homemaker and mother, Mary Catherine (“MeerKat”) McFadden has plans to incorporate a group of volunteers which she hopes will help bring decent programming to homes just like hers.

“There just aren’t many options for those of us who have the television on during the day.  Most of the talk shows are mind-numbing and the court shows are nothing but paternity tests!  The Price is Right is so campy.  And soaps?  Don’t get me started on the soaps.  All that skin and social issues!  Not at all like it was in our mother’s day.”  MeerKat fondly remembers her own mother, who followed “real love stories” on The Guiding Light and contemplated “serious issues” on The People’s Court with Judge Wapner.

“Wapner would think all these ‘justice’ shows are a bunch of poppycock,” MeerKat says with crossed arms and a look of indignation on her face.

And MeerKat is not alone.  When she posted an Event on Facebook to inform others about the decline of daytime television and what could be done about it, fives to tens of people showed up at the local Bun & Bagel eatery to hear more.  Most of the attendees agreed that something needed to be done, especially in reference to the co-host search for Live with Kelly.

MeerKat’s neighbor, Karen Duffy said, “We should protest!  It’s just not right that there aren’t more options for us.  Yesterday I had to turn on the Kardashians because there was just nothing else on!  What’s a woman with a college education supposed to watch all morning?”

“I have two Master’s degrees, and I just don’t really watch television.  I mean, except some NetFlix.  Sometimes.  I was under the impression that this was a group looking to raise awareness about doing away with television all together.  My family prefers to read, or listen to chamber music,” said Monica Purvis. Other group members looked at each other quizzically as Monica quietly excused herself.

“Well,” continued Karen.  “I mean, I don’t really WATCH the television.  I just have it on, as sort of a bit of background noise while I’m doing other things to, you know, care for my family.”  Much of the group nodded and added that they also don’t necessarily devote a lot of time to the television, either, and certainly won’t let their children watch such rubbish, but EVEN SO, it would be nice if there was something decent to look at, whenever it just happens to be on.

MeerKat’s across-the-cul-de-sac neighbor, Alexis Buncombe, also an ardent supporter of the cause, spoke up, bringing the discussion back around to the co-host search for Live with Kelly.

“Really, we have to let our voices be heard!  If they choose Josh Groban as the co-host, I will not be able to handle it.  Seriously, I will burn my couch in the streets in protest!”  This drew gasps and laughter from the group, as most people have a hard time knowing when Alexis is kidding or not, and she has been known to burn things from time to time.  Several discussions popped up around the room, regarding Homeowner Association rules and requests for specifics on exactly which couch Alexis planned to burn.

“I love that couch!  You should put that on the Facebook exchange group,” said one attendee.  “It would sell in a minute!”

“I’d buy it,” said another person, at which point Alexis and two other group members left the Bun & Bagel to go to Alexis’s house in order to negotiate a price for said couch and plan how to sneak it into her playroom without her husband noticing.

Undaunted by the dwindling numbers for her group, MeerKat pressed on with her agenda and requested that the remaining members start brainstorming names for their emerging group.

MeerKat began the discussion by presenting her idea for the group’s name:  Stay At Home Moms Support Good TV, or SAHMSGTV for short (pronouced Sahms-Guh-Tuhv).  She showed the group some examples of graphics for t-shirts and Facebook cover photos and then reminded all those present that they were welcome to have a snack from the tower of pastries she had ordered for the event.  All attendees waved her offer away, and said they were just fine with their skinny, no cream mocha lattes.

As MeerKat moved on to the next Order of Business, a letter writing campaign (“on thick, monogrammed stationery only, please, that’s what gets you taken seriously”), an attendee rose to her feet and began speaking.

“I would just like to say that this group name does not suit me,” said Linda Farmington.  “I’m on board with your ideas, but I am not actually a Stay at Home Mom.  I do stay at home, but only because my cats are there.  My housekeeper doesn’t speak English, so I have to stay home to make sure they’re not anxious while she’s around.  I don’t feel like I should be excluded from this cause just because I’m not a Mom, nor should I be labeled as a part of  a group of mothers just so I can support the need for quality daytime television.  It’s all rather unfair and excluding of others just because we’re a little different.”

A murmur rippled through the crowd as another woman spoke up.  “I agree!  I mean, I’m a Mom, but Lord knows I sure don’t stay at home!  More like ‘On the Road Mom,’ amirite?  Can I get an ‘amen,’ sisters?”  Many of the women chuckled and nodded their heads in agreement.

About this time,  a stout male with an unshaven face and distinct odor spoke up by saying, “Well, I’m not a Mom AND I don’t have a home, so the name doesn’t suit me, either.  I do like the show, though.  That Travel Trivia is a real hoot.”  The man, later identified as town drunk Stinky Pete, could not be reached for further comment, as he exited through a side door soon after stocking up on Buns and Bagels.

All the women turned to each other and began talking heatedly as to how busy their days are, how their roles are frequently misunderstood and their accomplishments often overlooked and rarely appreciated.

The meeting had to be adjourned quickly, as Bun & Bagel would be closing for the afternoon shortly, and several of the women had to go home to prepare an appetizer to take to Bunco night at Eleanor Giffin’s later that evening.  MeerKat called for a vote to change the name of the group to People Who Are Usually Able to Watch Daytime Televison and Have an Opinion About It.  But as most of the meeting attendees were socializing in the parking lot, it was determined that a quorum was not available and a new meeting date would have to be set.

When asked about her feelings regarding the results of the meeting, MeerKat said, “Well, the graphics can be re-worked; however, I’m not sure that the acronym PWAUATWDTVAHAOAI has quite the same ring to it.  I still think the letter-writing campaign is the way to go for ensuring a decent co-host for Kelly.  Gelman just can’t ignore an avalanche of finely crafted papers.”  After a brief pause and a wistful look into the distance, MeerKat quietly said, “You know, I’ve been meaning to clean out my husband’s closet.  Maybe we should do a coat drive for Stinky Pete.  I’ll do a Sign Up Genius for it tonight.”

Dog Days of Summer

“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.” ~Russell Baker

A mere 7 weeks ago, school was letting out, and everyone was getting all geared up, super excited about SUMMER.  Everybody’s all jumping for joy that summer is here, and we’re going to stay up late and then sleep in, and we’re going hang out at the pool and it’s going to be so awesome!  And then there are the people who are going to do all that, but also do some other stuff.  Like keep up with some schoolwork, and organize the house, and maybe do some leisurely cooking.  Little things like that.

So how’s that going for ya?

Let me tell you how it’s going for me.  I haven’t stopped sweating since Memorial Day.  There are about 4 more weeks until school starts back, and, I estimate, a good 8 weeks until I’ll stop sweating.

If Summer was your see-saw partner, it just stood up off it’s seat while you were up in the air.  Dirtiest trick in the book.

If Summer was a sweater (oh, and IT IS), it would have lots of those stringy things that you think you can snap off, but when you pull, it just turns into a giant hole, unraveling all around you.

If Summer was a beer, it would be warm and watery.

If Summer was an ice cream, it would be melted, low fat, low calorie frozen yogurt that fell off the cone.  And ants are eating it.  Ants that appeared from seemingly nowhere, and that will not go away no matter how many things you spray on them because they have some crazy internal instinct to go back to that exact spot where someone dropped that stupid ice cream that ONE time and didn’t clean it up and now we all have to suffer and be ant murderers for the rest of our lives.

I might have gotten sidetracked with the ants.  The point is that I think most of us can agree that the best parts of Summer may be behind us.  We love being together with our families, but there’s just so much…together-ness.  Sometimes all in one room with not enough beds.  Staying up late is all fine and good, but it sure does make everyone cranky.  The pool was great those first few weeks, but now the water is so hot it’s more like People Soup.

If Summer was a hotel room, it would have two double beds very close to one another and its occupants would include children that go to bed at 8:30.  It might have one shower that has no water pressure and a travel hair dryer from 1984.

Did anyone make any Summer Resolutions?  A Bucket List?  While we’re on the subject can we please clarify that a “Bucket List” is a list of things you want to do before you DIE??  As in “kick the bucket?”  Do people not know this?  Because I see Bucket Lists for everything.  But unless you’re trying to make it to the Great Beyond before Labor Day Weekend, you don’t need a Summer Bucket List.  So, stop it.  You’re freaking me out.  No Summer lists for me, which is crazy because I actually have a list of all my lists.  But this is not my first rodeo, and I’ve learned to have no expectations when it comes to Summer.  I knew what was coming. But I find no satisfaction in being right about this.  It is cold comfort.  No, it’s not cold comfort.  It’s a warm wet blanket of humidity comfort.

Workbooks?  DIDN’T EVEN BUY ‘EM.  “Summer Slide” you warn?  “Wheeeeeeee!”  Sounds like fun to me!  Seriously, I’ve thought about doing some little educational sort of field trips with the kids, but I worry if we step foot outside the house we might all be incinerated on the spot.

Did I mention the sweating?

How about those little around-the-house projects we think we’re going to get to in the slow summer months?  Listen, I’m barely keeping the lights on in this place because I keep losing the damn bills they send.  Projects?  How about “Project Keep the A/C On” because we don’t need no stinkin’ lights as long as there’s Wi-Fi.  (Kids don’t know how electricity works.  Probably because no one is teaching them anything in the summer.)

If Summer was Wi-Fi, it would start out with a great signal, but then it would get progressively weaker, and you would wonder what was going wrong.  So you’d check your settings, but still your pages won’t load and finally you just have to lie down because you’ve gotten all sweaty again.

I used to think that Summer would be a good time to acquire some healthy cooking skills.  Makes sense, right?  All that extra time on my hands (which is where, exactly?  I’d like to know;  I keep hearing about this “extra time), the abundance of fresh ingredients, the little people in my house so hungry from all their romping around gleefully in the outdoors…

Y’all, I told the family we needed to eat up all the food in the house before we left for our beach trip and I haven’t set foot in a grocery store since then.  I’m not going to tell you if the “beach trip” to which I’m referring was last week, or right after school got out, or maybe even Spring Break.  It doesn’t matter; don’t judge me.  No one is starving, I can guarantee you that.  Hallelujah, drive-thrus are still open in the summer!!  One of the kids asked me, “Mom, can we just put Capri Suns in our cereal, since there’s no milk?”  To which I responded, “I don’t know, maybe you should try it.  It would be like a science experiment.”  BAM!  Feeding the body and the brain.  One late afternoon, I threw out the courtesy *big inhale, then exhale while speaking* “Sowhatdoyouwantfordinnertonight?”  My six year old barely looks up from an iPad, and with the flat inflection of a hardened-by-the-world 35 year old, she says, “You know, just, just…not… ham and cheese.”  And that made me sad, because that meant that I would have to eat the ham and cheese.

If Summer was deli meat, it would be one or two days PAST it’s expiration date: it’s probably ok to have it, but you don’t really want it and it might make you a little queasy.  And sweaty.

If Summer was a tomato sandwich, it would have entirely too much mayonnaise on it.

If Summer was a pretty lollipop, it would be crumbled in 45 pieces at the bottom of my purse, stuck to a receipt and my wallet.

4 weeks until school starts.  8 weeks until we can walk to the mailbox without fear of spontaneous combustion.  We can hold on and finish strong.  My little one wants to go bowling one day.  They have A/C and pizza, which means I won’t sweat too much and the kids won’t be too hungry.  Hey, if we can find something to learn there, this could count as an educational field trip!

I just might be getting all excited and giddy about SUMMER!  Maybe all I needed was to get warmed up.

 

 

 

Halfway House

“I think she is growing up, and so begins to dream dreams, and have hopes and fears and fidgets, without knowing why or being able to explain them.” –Louisa May Alcott,  ‘Little Women’

Today I have a 9 year old.  After getting over the shock of realizing I’m old enough to have “kids” instead of “babies,” it occurs to me that, in the eyes of the state, I’m halfway through parenting this child.  In actuality, I plan to never stop parenting my children.  I fully intend to continue pestering and meddling with both of them until they put me in the ground (or urn, or drawer, or a wooden rowboat, ceremoniously set aflame on a picturesque lake while a full choir sings hymns, you know, whatever the case may be), but legally we are halfway to the point where I could put this child out on her own to face and conquer the world.  As far as we’ve gone is as far as we have to go until society will recognize her as a citizen who can stand on her own.  Hey, good luck, society.

She’s halfway to being able to get a tattoo or a body piercing without my consent (although my generation has overused this vehicle of rebellion past the point of it being cool anymore, so I probably don’t have to worry about this).

She’s halfway to being able to buy tobacco, or, heaven forbid, vaping supplies (although she’ll likely try these things before then, and whoever offers it to her better hope I don’t find them).

She’s halfway to having the right to vote (and I plan to leave the room whenever she and her Daddy get into a discussion about who gets her vote).  And she’s halfway to being old enough to be asked to fight to defend that right, an idea that makes my heart catch in my throat.

She’s halfway to being able to take out a credit card of her own (please let her have better spending habits than her mother).  She’ll soon be able to lease an apartment (but probably not rent a condo for Spring Break, praise God) or buy a car (but not rent one, isn’t that weird?).

She’s halfway to being legally old enough to marry.  Which likely won’t happen, because she won’t be allowed to date. EVER.

She’s halfway to being able to buy her own fireworks and lottery tickets.  Which is good, because I’m totally tired of being the only person around here buying those things.  Maybe she can pick up some toilet paper and a gallon of milk while she’s at it, and save me a trip.

I do not take it for granted that we are in a sweet spot in this season of parenting.  My kids are old enough to take care of their basic needs, but still young enough to respect authority.  We’re able to go to the pool without an imminent fear of drowning. When we’re at home, they can slip out of my view for long periods of time and I don’t break out in a cold sweat.  They’re funny, loving and articulate, which makes them really great companions.  Even better, they still enjoy my companionship.

I want to enjoy this time and soak it all up, but the cynic and pessimist in me knows that, just like all the phases, this too will come to an end.  The cardinal rule of parenting is just when you think you’ve got it, everything changes.  I feel like I’m watching a storm brewing in the distance, not knowing if the clouds will bring a short shower, or blow the whole damn roof off.  The tween and teen years are looming, and I don’t look forward to trading out my loud and boisterous sing-along snackmobile for a thickly silent SUV.  I worry that one day I’ll shoo everyone out of the kitchen, and then they’ll just never come back on their own, choosing instead to hole up in a messy bedroom with a closed door.

I haven’t been able to carry my girls in what seems like a very long time.  And though they’ll always have a place to sit in my lap no matter how big they get, it already feels awkward, with lots of shifting around and legs and arms jutting out all over the place.  I’ve noticed that my older daughter doesn’t want to hold my hand as much any more.  But when she does, oh, be still my heart.  I hold my breath and say to myself, Be cool, be cool, don’t mess this up.  

From the moment you have children, people are always saying, “Take your time.  Enjoy this.  You’re going to miss it.  It goes by so quickly.”  It’s great advice, and almost always goes unheeded.  How can you enjoy anything when you’re so tired and frustrated?  Who enjoys sleepless nights, or potty training, or homework struggles?  But this, THIS, I am going to try and enjoy.  I’m going to practice my teen-parenting skills by telling my inner cynic to Go to your room and stay there until I decide what to do about this!  Summer is coming and of course I’m going to let them stay up late, get dirty outside and spend entire days in pajamas.  But the point is not just to let them do that, but to be present and do it with them.  Because who knows how long I have before their little laughs and silly faces are replaced with eye rolls and heavy sighs?  My coolness has an expiration date, and it should.  I can’t be their friend AND the one who lays down the law.

So, here we are.  Working to be present, be silly, and keep the roof on this Halfway House.

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