Tuesday, October 30, 2012

four.

Sweet Melissa, you are 4 today. Can you believe it? I cannot. I took a personal day from work today JUST for you. First, Daddy is taking you out for his annual Melissa-Daddy birthday breakfast. Next, we have to go to the doctor to figure out why that nasty, hacking nighttime cough won't go away. Then, we will play at an interactive neighborhood museum for awhile, and do arts and crafts. Then, we will buy some socks for you. Last, we will go out to dinner and open your special birthday present. You know, the special birthday present you tried to manipulate out us of last night. I took today off for YOU, sweet girl, because I love you and everything about you.

Okay, okay, fine. And I also took today off because there is a full moon out, and now that I'm back to classroom teaching, I find teaching during full moons to be ridiculous and unpleasant. Neil Degrasse Tyson would tell me I am not being a scientific thinker by typing that statement, and normally I would agree with Neil Degrasse Tyson. Except that I'm pretty sure Neil Degrasse Tyson has never had to teach a large group of easily excitable 7 and 8 year olds during a holiday period AND a full moon, and so what does Neil Degrasse Tyson know about full moons and children anyway? Stick to deep space, Dr. Tyson.

Anyway, back to YOU (because at this point, you're extremely angry and grabbing my face and demanding I focus on YOU, STOP talking about the moon.)

So much has changed in 4 years--you are tall and strong and full of wildly imaginative thoughts. Sometimes you will walk by me, still on your tippy toes, then suddenly speed up and say (to the air), "Come on! Come on, Tinkerbell! We have to save them!!" And you are off...though never very far, because you remain convinced the Big Bad Wolf truly lives in our house's shadows and lies in wait for you to leave the safe vicinity of my eyes or your father's so he can gobble you up. Also, Tasha the Cat has creepy eyes--we did establish this long ago. You also don't like it when she steals your sofa spot. That really rubs you raw.

So half the time I have absolutely no idea who you're talking to, or what you are talking about, and this brings so much joy to my heart because I think all children should live lives embedded in magical worlds of glittery freedom. One day you and I will talk about how not all children get to and why, but for now, I love watching you spread your fairy wings and run around in yours.

Our cat is old. She won't be here next year when you turn 5. This is hard for me (not for you--you live in a world where everything is magical, and you are shielded from the deep understandings of what loss really is). She is the only pseudo sibling you have ever known. When you were 2, you treated her like a sister--tattling on her, complaining about her, becoming insanely jealous of her if she sat on me or got a head pat or hug. I've had to make the hard decision to let her go before we leave for our Thanksgiving vacation next month. She is old and sick and for some reason not really letting go; I do worry about making that decision for her. What if there's a reason she's clinging to this side of Life? And who am I to take it away from her? I cry about it all the time in front of you, and I apologize if it ends up psychologically damaging you in any way. I hope it's making you compassionate; I don't know. It could be making you impatient with whiners.

But then again, the other day, when I explained that Tasha would be going to live with God for a long time and she couldn't come back, I asked you if you would miss her. "No," you said pretty breezy, with a lot of confidence.

"Why not?" I asked (silently horrified at the callous nature of children--what IS it with you people??).

"Because she'll be here," you said then, pointing at your heart. And my own heart melted. Did I tell you that once? Or a teacher at school? Or did that come from somewhere amazingly mysterious, like when I used to show you pictures of your Grandpa Samson and Grandma Eula and ask if you knew who they were, and you'd say, "Angels" which was totally mind blowing because, at 1 year old, you had no real concept what that word meant and we had no idea where you had learned it in the first place. Neil Degrasse Tyson would have a scientifically literate way of explaining that away, and this is when my Spirit Self tells my Science Self to shut up, sit down, and stop being such a party pooper or my Science Self is uninvited to my birthday party forEVER.

You are like your daddy in that you do not have patience for my weirdness. You are like me in that you are extremely weird yourself. But in other ways you are just you, and we are just we, and we all live together in this green house we never thought would have any children in it. I feel so blessed that you are with us now.

Because here you are! You are you: if left to your own devices you'd eat candy all day like a starving man would eat a salad, and after you inhaled all the candy you'd turn around and demand more treats as if you were Marie Antoinette her own diva self. You are the scariest grumpiest angriest little girl when you wake up, and you will throw a little daycare friend under the bus faster than you can say Bubble Guppies. I love and adore each of these things about you even and, in spite of, when they drive me absolutely nuts (and you do, on a daily basis--which is your job of course, as my job is to reign you in and silently laugh at your ridiculous reaction to being reigned in which drives you nuts, on a daily basis).

At four years old, you are a sports playing, princess obsessed, fairy loving, impatient, demanding, sweet, silly, creative, and smart girl with unnerving diva tendencies. You think the term "private parts" is hilarious and disgusting, and when you dance, you give new meaning to KC & The Sunshine Band's "Shake Your Booty."

I love you, sweet Princess Melissa. I hope you never have to kiss a frog. But I also know your DNA heritage and realize you will, and you will kiss many. I will squish them for you if you'd like. And we will dance together wearing sparkly shirts and shiny pants to bad 70's disco. I'm so happy I get to be your mommy. Happy 4th Birthday, big girl (who regularly invites and uninvites me to phantom and real birthday parties including but not limited to ones I'm paying for...and regularly threatens to grow up really fast and never be my baby forever if I don't do what she wants). You help me get out of bed on rainy, gross mornings.

Love always,
Mommy

video



Saturday, October 13, 2012

random insomniac update things.

I still have insomnia--it is 3:00, Saturday morning. This is not the first insomnia bout of the school year, and will probably not be the last. I had hoped it was just a Summer thing, but nope. Turns out it's an Amy thing. C has pointed out it may be a now-you're-in-your-40's thing. Whatever it is, I'm glad this bout is happening on a Friday and not a Sunday. Insomnia at 3 am Monday morning on a school week when you are in complete charge of a class of 23 rambunctious, talkative 7-8 year olds stuffed into a trailer classroom like sardines is simply not as doable as 3 am Saturday insomnia.

I have not posted a blog entry here in months. Actually, just three months, but it feels like half a year. School life as a classroom teacher is immensely different than school life as a support teacher. For one thing, I find I really have to time my bathroom breaks well. It's the weirdest (and probably poor kidney health) thing to leave work after an almost 11 hour work day and realize you have not used the bathroom all day...THAT'S my special super power (what's yours?). And 30 minutes for lunch is actually not that long, but having to share it with 23 children is pure torture (I usually don't have to share my 30 minute lunch period, but when I do, it is always with 23 children). Planning periods are precious commodities--I never knew I could get so ticked off over a mere 40 minutes...don't waste my 40 minutes: I will CUT you. Also I never skip recess unless there is a torrential down pour--kids these days don't get enough fresh air, and that's as much a break for me as it is for them. So sometimes we go ten minutes over what should be the end of our recess time...I have had many of those days this year, days in which I say: I need ten more minutes out here. Children are begging me to go back inside, but I am firm. Fresh air is good for you, and NO I do not know or care what that weird smell is out here...go climb the monkey bars. Ms. S is still decomposing from that Math lesson.

I had big (BIG!) ideas going into this year. Too much pinterest, I think. Honestly, I don't know how some of these people have time to teach, raise families, and live life...their ideas are cute in theory but in practice do not execute in ways that are practical and doable for the kind of school I work at. I suspect I need to seek out other Title 1 teachers on pinterest, or start my own pinterest board--Title 1 students and parents have different needs than non-Title 1 people. That is not a judgment call; just an observation.

Anyway, I quickly realized I needed to scale back my overall, arching plans for this year. And when I say "scale back," I actually mean: raise a white flag, retreat, reorganize. Next year, I will be more prepared. I will know what to expect (I'd forgotten what Title 1 classroom teacher/parent/student interactions are really like), and I'll know exactly what to do with the 10,000 folders and reams of notebook paper and red pens and yellow highlighters I received at the beginning of the year (actually, I don't think I'll ever figure out the red pens/yellow highlighters, though the 500 black dry erase markers are truly coming in handy). I'll also be more savvy about grades, homework, and that home connection binder that was such an awesome idea? Not really working out...simple homework folders would be more practical for where I work. The Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) principle--will embrace it next year. Fancy ideas are for people who have time (like education policy makers who work in quiet, comfy offices and can spend hours researching research to support that one education reform idea they had in that chili-induced lucid dream during that nap they took on their quiet, comfy office sofa the other day--that is SURELY going to fix ALL the problems!).

I'd also like about 3 more feet of width on either side of my trailer, and then life would be truly perfect. But that's magical thinking, and I no longer have time for it.

I did not watch the Vice Presidential debate, in spite of the fact it took place in my hometown. I watched the Presidential debate, and came away so perturbed: those two guys didn't agree on anything except how awesome NCLB and Race to the Top education reform ideas are. We can't agree on how to fix the economy, but we do agree that kids need even more testing and teachers need to feel more pressure over things beyond their control. Way to fix poverty, America. Also, I feel that shows like "Honey Boo Boo," "Jersey Shore," "Keeping up with the Kardashians," and "Real Housewives of (insert big city name here)" are direct results of NCLB and RTTT. In fact, I am pretty confident the founding fathers did not fight a whole war and start a brand new country just so future citizens could go slack jawed watching people in overalls on a show called "Swamp People" on the History Channel wrestle/eat alligators or watch a melodramatic woman on a show called "Dance Moms" scream at young girls and roll her eyes at their horrified, over privileged mothers when she tries to dress their 9 year olds in burlesque stripper costumes because she honestly doesn't get what the big deal about that is. America: Giving Thomas Jefferson post mortem heart attacks, since 1982.

Diane Ravitch is sponsoring an October 17 letter writing campaign to President Obama about his RTTT experiment. I am participating, and I will be sure to point out in my letter how the plethora and type of reality shows being offered to Americans is a direct result of programs like RTTT. I do not have research to back up that allegation. I will point out to President Obama that I would like to have time to do research to back up my allegation, but unfortunately every Monday I have to stuff Homework folders, Tuesdays-Thursdays I have to stuff small brains full of RTTT-backed Common Core curricula, and Fridays are Common Core curricula quiz and Spelling test days and also I have to stuff Friday Folders and help this one little boy locate all the jackets he's lost throughout the week so his mom doesn't think I'm a bad teacher.

The President is a busy man. I know his day to day stresses are far and beyond my day to day stresses, and that, as public servants to the greater good, neither of us is compensated at the level of which we really deserve for the hours/stress/work we do for the greater good and we are constantly working our butts off and getting a lot of tomatoes thrown at us in anger; it's the only way Americans seem to know how to say "I don't agree with you, but thank you for doing the best you know how to do" these days. The difference is: I don't get Secret Service protection, Air Force One rides, a cool spy code nickname, and my house doesn't have a bowling alley and movie theater in the basement. I think if the President and all future Presidents can find a way to get me Secret Service protection, a cool spy code nickname, some dinner outings with Clive Owen and Gerard Butler, renovate my entire upstairs and master bathroom, and give me a weekly house cleaning service until retirement, we'll call it a day and I'll do their stupid, dumb educational experiments with easy-to-acronymize titles without another single, whiny complaint. Unless my planning period gets cut. Then all deals are OFF, traitors.

Melissa is turning 4 in a few weeks. This time 4 years ago, I was on forced bed rest and hating it. Clearly, I was insane due to pregnancy hormones--I now believe there should be a National Bed Rest Day, twice each month and never on a Saturday or Sunday.

Melissa is a willful child. This is both good and bad--good because it means she's smart, and hopefully will be an independent thinker; bad because sometimes Mommy just needs to get out of the house before 7:15 AM without any arguments because if she leaves at 7:20 we'll hit that big traffic wall and Mommy's WHOLE WORLD WILL BE RUINED.  Four year olds don't seem to understand adult work stress, and if they do, they certainly do not care. Brushing their teeth and going potty the way THEY want to do it are far more pressing and stressful, and you and your work stresses can just take a hike. Walls of traffic and your high blood pressure issues?? Psh. Who cares about those petty issues?? I am going to throw a tantrum because you just wiped my butt the way I don't like and I wanted to turn off the bathroom light! This is so tragic, and you are the meanest mommy ever and you are NOT coming to (insert random kid's name)'s birthday party!!! (This is a running theme in our house each morning, and I suspect it is not unusual in other households containing willful 4 year olds.)

 Melissa also loves all things princess-y and fairy. I really tried hard to keep her neutral and away from that--I wanted her to like the colors green (nature) and purple (creativity) and play sports and read books and be a girl who can move between the girl and boy cultures and be fluent in both. I do not know how I ended up with a girl who is obsessed with princesses, fairies, and the color pink and likes to do "movie star" kisses but only to mommy and daddy because she's been warned at school that "movie star" kisses are not appropriate for friends. Bright light in tunnel: she does ask for boy toys instead of girl toys sometimes, saying, "It's okay for girls to play with boys' toys, right Mommy? That's okay. And boys can play with girls' toys too." Which makes my heart happy and proud and hopeful, even though she can take that too far--today she said everyone who was coming to her birthday party in a few weeks had to wear a dress, even the boys. (She then backed up and clarified the boys need to wear brown prince dresses, because the girls will be in pink princess dresses.)

So life is busy and crazy and stressful, but there have only been two moments where I've thought: I really, seriously may need to check myself into a mental health facility; this is a very spiraling-downward feeling I'm having. But I continue to believe we are never tossed into a churning sea without a lifeboat: I work with some incredibly fabulous, wonderful co-workers (the majority of teachers are like this--we are like Army soldiers in an uphill battle, and all we have is each other), and I have a willful girl who needs me to explain why some of her boyfriends may not be so hip on wearing her prince dress, and so we pull ourselves up and go on.

And there is no problem so big that God can't handle it--my favorite prayer is, was, and will always be "Help." It is instantly answered, and I have never, ever been ignored. (When I ask for more specific things, that's when the Universe decides It has a sense of humor--my advice when communicating with the Powers that Be: keep it simple. Don't make any sudden moves that reminds Anyone Anywhere They have a sense of humor.) (I mean, look at what's become of the entire American political system...this is no time for shenanigans, people!) (And turn off those reality shows and FOX News! You'll rot your brain.)

The End.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

summer wind down

I am down to a mere two weeks left of summer vacation and I am beginning the process of mourning my life. No one around me who works all year long has any sympathy, of course, and this just re-affirms my need to learn how to play the lottery. I'm pretty convinced I would make an excellent rich person as I have zero desire to be famous, just a deep, driven need to lay around thinking soothing thoughts all day and sipping lemonade on hot days/flavored coffee on cold days. And occasionally meandering to the mailbox to pick up my latest lottery installment check. I would do various rich person philanthropies to keep my mind sharp and my ego in check, and I'd write really lengthy blog entries here off and on. I keep hearing kids today are being educated for lucrative careers that haven't even been invented yet, and I hope this is one of them: Lengthy, Haphazard Blog Writer.

Here is how my summer is wrapping up:

SWIMMING POOLS AS MICROCOSMS OF SOCIETAL PROBLEMS:
Embrace your cute geekiness.

Melissa finished up her swimming lessons last week with a bang (literally, with a bang!: a thunderstorm rolled through and they shut the whole pool down, effectively ending all swim lessons 20 minutes early). We never managed to convince her to put her whole self underwater, but after I bought her an orange swim cap with a monster on it and matching goggles, she did let Miss C dump entire buckets of pool water on top of her. She says she would be okay with me dumping water on top of her during our shampoo sessions, too, except her monster cap has to be on. Which, uh, defeats the purpose of the shampoo. This is so difficult to explain to 3 year old people who are all ego and id with very little reason.

The lifeguards at our swimming pool are both wonderfully watchful and woefully belligerent. I deeply appreciate the serious approach they take to their jobs, as swimming pools are essentially little more than deep, watery death traps. But these lifeguards also scare the holy living bejesus out of me quite frankly, and I find I walk on eggshells around them. I'm constantly seeking their approval and excessively avoiding their disapproval while at the pool, just like a dysfunctional people pleaser naturally does. And I'm passing that people pleasing dyfunction on to Melissa who has also spent her summer in awe and fear of them.

Example: When we play under or near a chair a lifeguard is sitting in, I talk very loudly about how lifeguards are our friends and helpers and we have to follow their rules. We make sure we always walk when out of the pool, stay well away from the blue rope when in the pool, don't even LOOK like we're trying to jump in the water, and never ever (EVER!) eat granola bars near the pool (the ants are also under lifeguard watch, apparently). I'm a total, shameless lifeguard butt kisser--who knew a teenager would have so much power over me at this age? I don't want them to blow their red whistle at me and use their firm tone of voice, "M'am? M'am! You can't do that here. M'am!! STOP!! If you don't stop, you'll have to leave."  (That was an actual quote, except it was directed toward a "Sir." One day, I watched a 50-something man get in a 19 year old lifeguard's face about being allowed to flip his kid high up into the air over the blue rope, very close to the cement edge...it was just a matter of one wrong flip and that kid would have been a quadriplegic forever and ever. The man was pissed off he couldn't recklessly toss his child around, and the lifeguard was pissed the man didn't want to follow pool rules. Like I said: Death Traps. Water-y, suspicious death traps. God help you if you're a kid with a crazy parent with no sense of this. I have no idea why our culture even needs them, except they're attractive to sit around and quite refreshing on a hot summer day. Pools are attractive and refreshing, let me clarify. Not crazy parents. Our culture would definitely be much better off without crazy parents.)

Lifeguarding as a career must be extremely stressful...I'm sure they're ready for fall and winter as much as teachers are ready for their summer breaks. In addition to Cement Edge Flipper Guy, this summer I've watched parents hang out on their iPhones at the pool totally not paying attention to their still-in-waterwings small children in the shallow end, I've seen parents doing very intense work (or something) on their laptops ignoring the very water-y death trap their child was playing in, and once I saw a mom (? I'm still not sure if she was a mom or not--she was playing in the kiddie section of the pool and no children were around her) in an entirely too flimsy swimsuit come absurdly close to exposing children to more than just the danger of accidental drowning that day...I mean, the swimsuit was practically falling off of her and I could SEE everything. It's the kiddie part of the swimming pool, m'am, not the set of Girls Gone Wild.

CAT TALES:
Last time, I wrote about fearing my cat Tasha was about to kick the bucket. I've now come to the conclusion my cat Tasha is actually working on her 9 lives. Being an indoor cat, she's never really had many opportunities to utilize these. Now that things are winding down for her at 18 (human) years old, I think she's decided to cash in finally. My feeling is that she's on Life #5 or 6, judging by the vertebrae sticking through her skin. The very day after I wrote that blog, she started hanging out with us more downstairs. C thinks she's just cold downstairs; apparently he enjoys working in a sauna and chooses to keep the air off while he's up there. Old cats and their old bones really love sauna-like atmospheres. So do masochistic husbands trying to save on electric bills.

I'm still nervous we'll come home to a house of dead cat smell, though. Or a cat who's taken up a nervous cigarette habit or has gotten into the liquor cabinet when we return. Ha! Just messing with you--we don't have cigarettes or liquor in our house. (Just a drawer full of knives...good thing cats don't have opposable thumbs.)

FEAR AND LOATHING IN CHILDHOOD:

My child is afraid. Deathly afeared. Afraid of what? Most everything. Things she is not afraid of: cookies, cupcakes, birthday cake, candy, spaghetti, presents, parties, pizza, ice cream, pajamas, cartoons, a handful of school friends, and Tasha. But everything else in the world? Melissa is deeply skittish.

The one I'm saddest about her fear of dogs. I love dogs. Dogs are to people as water is to ocean. The only reason I do not currently have a dog is due to having adopted a neurotic, dog-fearing cat ages ago and now she's so old I just can't subject her to the indignity of having to share her last bit of happiness and peace on earth with a slobbery, rowdy canine. Were it not for Tasha, I might have 10 dogs right now.  I could potentially be the Crazy Dog Lady across the street at some point.

I think I know where the dog fear started: on a summer trip two years ago, we stopped by an aunt's house for a family reunion/picnic and someone brought their very boisterous, overly friendly, and very large black dog. It towered over 1 year old Little Miss M, and I could see how jarring this might be to someone who'd never been exposed and up close to boisterous, overly friendly, and large animals with mouthfuls of teeth wanting to leap on top of small humans and slurp their faces all up. A dog's idea of Love Expression is actually not that different than a 1 year old's (ironically), but the execution is much more intense. Ever since then, she's been terrified of even small, harmless dogs like the two miniature weiner dogs next door, Lily and Lucy. She claims she doesn't like dogs sniffing at her, except that's what dogs do--it's all they have to navigate their way through this big, wide place. I've tried to explain this to Melissa, and we always end up in a long argument that eventually devolves into her having a tantrum about how dogs CAN talk with words just like people do.

Melissa's future dog, but with Sparkles.
So clearly we need a dog (after Ms. Tasha goes on to the Great Beyond). Here's the real bizarre-o part: Melissa loves the IDEA of dogs and talks about her deep love of them all the time; she thinks they're cute and awesome and really really wants one in our house. Swears up and down all the time SHE'S not scared, SHE loves dogs. But get her around an actual dog, and she's suddenly climbing you like a freaked out cat climbs a tree. She talks a lot about wanting a small, pink dog she would like to name Sparkle. I'm okay with a small dog named Sparkle; I'm not sure about the pink--I'm afraid PETA would come after me. Also, Sparkle would be forbidden to sniff Melissa "with her sniffy pink nose" (that's a direct Melissa quote from a recent conversation about Sparkle the little pink dog).

The Melissa fear that makes me both wring my hands and giggle with empathy all at once is her absurd fear of the dark. I mean, it's so dysfunctionally sad: even in direct daylight, if there's a shadow in the house, Melissa will shoot past it and/or cling to you like someone is about to leap out of it with a chainsaw aimed at her head. I say this causes both wringing of my hands and giggling with empathy because, during the day, I'm all: Seriously? Are you for real? It's just a SHADOW, silly goose. But at night, I'm all: Dude, seriously, yeah. There could totally be a Texas Chainsaw Massacre man in there. RUUUUUNNNN!!!!

The other night, I discovered the Bio channel's lovely "My Scary Ghost Story." I don't know if that's actually its title, but that's the title I'm giving it because about every 20 seconds through every entire episode I was all "Nooooooo!!! Don't ask the spirits THAT question! That's inviting them to start acting like poltergeists!! What is WRONG with you?!" and "What?! What?!?! Scary spirits can attach to you AND follow you home?! Holy --what entity must I contact to object to THIS ridiculous ghost world policy?!" and "What was that creaking sound in my kitchen? I feel like someone is watching me. Is that an icy patch that just wafted over me or the air conditioning? Don't look in the corner don't look in the corner don't look in the corner--I think someone's standing there!"

PAST LIFE REGRESSION RESEARCH:
The good news: I've read a lot of books this summer. That's good. At least my mind has been active. The bad news: I've become obsessed (please don't ask why, I'm totally floored myself) with Revolutionary Era stories. I'm not interested in romances; I'm interested in stories about strong women and what life was like in the mid-18th century. I may be experiencing past life regression issues. No, seriously: I've spent intense hours on zillow.com researching all the homes built prior to 1800 for sale in the state of Massachusetts (preferably Cape Cod area) I could move my family into so we could all pretend we're Revolutionary War era colonists. I'm not sure whether I'd be a Loyalist or a Patriot, but I still feel I would be very good at this lifestyle, and would like to try spinning flax at some point.

Anyway, if you, too, like mid-18th century setting stories that do not contain phrases like "He kissed her. Without permission, and without warning, he took what he wanted. She fought at first but then gave in as his tongue flicked..." Ew. Horrors, no, no. Just stories about potentially real people who could have actually lived (and maybe also you'd like to read some detailed paragraphs describing how to spin flax),  I highly recommend anything by Sally Gunning. I would like to write Ms. Gunning and demand she immediately get started on a new story...except by the time she's finished I may be life regressing in the mid-16th century as a Japanese samurai warrior princess.

SUMMER WIND DOWN:

So that's how I've been spending my summer. Swimming, researching mid-18th century recipes for tart pies, sucking up to teenage lifeguards, arguing about what powers dogs do and don't have, convincing myself that it actually makes much more sense to only own 2 homespun dresses and using night jars would really be no big deal, and freaking myself out on the Bio Channel's amazing amount of ghost story shows. That, and I've wasted more time pinning crap I have no time to make to various pinterest boards instead of actually making actual things. I mean, I could have made a whole 18th century shift and apron from homespun calico by now, for God's sake. I think I may have a fear of creating--I like the IDEA of it, but get me around a craft store and I start running away, freaked out like a poltergeist is after me.

Melissa on the other hand, has been far more productive (when not running away from ants, bees, flies, crickets, grasshoppers, and teeny gnats--more things she's terrified of): swimming, playing a little beginning soccer, enjoying summer mini-camps at school...so far, she's been to Ancient Greece, learned about the Summer Olympics, gone on several different types of Journeys of Imagination, and been an Outdoor Explorer. As a side hobby. she's become a gifted photographer. Medium of choice? Stolen moments with my phone's camera.

I submit the following as evidence I am raising a soon-to-be-famous (phone camera) photojournalist:

Melissa's self foot portrait

Oh, wait! I forgot to mention I've also been watching History Channel shows about shark wrestling Great White Sharks in Australia and South Africa which led me to do some YouTube researching about things like "bull sharks in the Florida Panhandle." I hope the Florida beach people are okay with me bringing these sharp, authentic 18th century whaling weapons I bought off the internet from a belligerent, teenage Cape Cod lifeguard, as I think they'll be so handy in fighting off Floridian bull sharks which I hear tell are a real problem. I hope Florida doesn't have poltergeists--I don't have weapons for those.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

midsummer growing and letting go dilemmas (with one brief, over-indulged and spoiled American rant)

Is the summer slipping away? I feel like the summer is slipping away. I wish winter felt this way. Winter always seems to stick around, like a house guest who comes for a 2 day visit and somehow is still there 2 months later (I've never actually had one of these kinds of house guests, but I've heard about them in scary urban legends).

Growing Dilemmas

Little Miss M has had a big change in her schedule: she is now a member of the EL-2 class at school (a promotion from EL-1), and has been slapped with a Great Life Growing Up Dilemma at a tender 3 years old: To be a big girl or not, that is the question. On the one hand, she wants to continue her babyhood. And, really, who can blame her? I'D like to be right back at babyhood--free milk on demand, back rubs, and no home mortgage worries. She wants to sleep with mommy and daddy at night, drink out of sippy cups, and make sure we'll absolutely kill all the bears if necessary (we've moved on from Big Bad Wolf fears to just a preternatural concern with....bears? Too much Goldilocks...blast you, Brothers Grimm!). On the other hand, she wants to dress herself, do everything herself, and basically is just desperate to do everything (I quote) "the tall people" do.

I do empathize with her--I feel this way about working. On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoy having a real reason to get out of the house each day, having a schedule that keeps me on my toes and focused, and getting a paycheck every now and then. On the other hand, I would like to just lose perpetual focus and vegetate in my house everyday, perusing Pinterest and Google all day long while half-listening to The Doctors and The View, scoff at the thought of these ludicrous, creativity-crushing things called "schedules," and......okay, fine. I'll always love getting some money every now and then. Money is good. Living beneath a highway underpass is not--that's not the kind of schedule scoffing and lollygagging I like to do.

Letting Go Dilemmas


I've been having midsummer insomnia; I think I wrote about that before. Anyway, last night I was an insomniac again and, at some point, maybe around 2:30 AM I realized: I have not seen Tasha in quite some time.

Our cat basically lives upstairs right now; it's where her litterbox and food/water are, and she can puke on the carpet to her heart's content without me freaking out on her. So, currently, upstairs is not my favorite. My friend Lisa (who never lollygags and lives a highly motivated life) says our house is perfect, and wishes she had it. We do have a cool, walk-in pantry, I'll give her that. I'll miss the walk-in pantry if we ever move. In my next house, if I don't have a walk-in pantry, I'll have no idea where to throw junk fast when I don't feel like putting it where it really belongs. But these compliments from Lisa came well before Melissa forced her upstairs to see Melissa's underused bedroom, of course. I'm sure Lisa had a much different opinion of our house after the Upstairs Viewing.

What I'm trying to say is: if I'd known then what I know now, I'd have bought a ranch on a basement. And made sure there were granite counters in the kitchen with under cabinet lighting, because that's what HGTV does. And I'd have insisted on all tiled tub/shower set-up with a built-in tiled shower seat with grout that never mildews and double shower heads, possibly an overhead rain shower nozzle (or three).

Did you know my mom has a heatilator in her bathtub so her bathwater never gets cold? (I would like to note here how horrified and amazed I am at what I'm typing down right now--horrified at the fact Americans are so spoiled and overindulged and no wonder people around the world roll their eyes at us a lot; some people in the world don't have walk-in pantries or even food and they certainly don't have bathrooms at all--some of them squat over dug out poop holes in the ground and don't bathe for months--and a lot of them can't even access clean drinking water. And here we come with our jetted tub heatilators and whining about not having granite countertops or undercabinet lights in our kitchens. But then again, I'm totally amazed because, helloooooo! Your bathwater Never. Gets. Cold. We've come so far since our Neanderthal days when just having a really big cave campfire was a home upgrade.)


Okay, so I'd be happy with just a one-story house. Maybe even a condo. But with a bathroom that was totally mildew resistant. But mostly: noooo stairs. I hate stairs. I realize they're good exercise, going up and down. But quite frankly, they're a piece of work to clean (which is why I never clean them...I just casually run a lint brush over the bottom three steps occasionally and only fully do a full-on vacuum job when we have non-family guests over and even then I don't focus that hard on the hard-to-reach middle steps). So basically I never go up there unless (a) I can smell cat box and realize: oh yeah, I guess I need to clean that, or (b) I need something and I can't re-create it downstairs. Melissa refuses to sleep in her bed (bears and wolves), so she never ventures upstairs either. Even if she needs a toy from her room. But this isn't due to sheer laziness like me; this is due to the fact Melissa is certain Something Sinister lurks up there. And I've sometimes wondered that myself, too; it gets pretty creepy up there at night. So I'm sure there is Something Sinister up there, and we should all just stay where it's safe: downstairs.

Plus, who the heck wants to hang out in an area of the house filled with cat hair and cat gut contents? (C, that's who--his home office is up there, and he works from home most days of the week.) I realize I'm painting an incredibly horrifying picture and scaring off potential overnight house guests. It's probably not that bad, or I'd hear about it from C in great, pleading detail. Really, I just hate climbing stairs. I'm going to look into how much installing an escalator would cost.

At any rate, here's my point: at 2:30 AM last night, I realized my cat had been missing from downstairs for days on end, which meant she'd been hanging out with Something Sinister upstairs. So I found my courage and ventured up to her lair. So shocking, what I found. She's just not the cat I've known for the last 18 years. Over the last year or so, she's started to wither. She was once a HUGE cat, a cross between a small, black jaguar and bobcat. Now she is, quite literally, skin, hair, and bones. She's still eating and drinking just fine, and doesn't appear to be uncomfortable...other than, you know, she's about 126 human years old approximately. I know how I felt when I tried to do the splits at the gym last week at 40 years old, so I can get a pretty good idea of what it would feel like to try to go up and down stairs at 126. I'm sure I'd puke my oatmeal mushy breakfast up, too, every day. And sleep in a warm, sunny spot a lot.

So I'm facing a dilemma of my own: do I let nature take its course? Or do I take her to a doctor? I know what the doctor is going to say--I'm an internet doctor, and so I've already diagnosed her (just like I diagnosed myself with hand skin cancer that one time I had ringworm--if you ever have a medical question email it to me, I'm totally legit). She's in renal failure, which is how many if not most house cats tend to go when it's their time. So I think a doctor will just tell me what I already know: your cat is really old, and she's got renal failure (or maybe just ringworm), and she's going to die. And then I'd say, handing over $XXX, aren't we all, Dr. Veterinarian? Aren't we all going to die.

(On a side note, I'd like to share that, once--and this is way before the days when you could be a Google internet doctor, because I think my mom would have made a really fine Google internet doctor--my mom took both my brother and me to our dog's vet to ask if we had chicken pox. We kept getting some chicken pox-like rash/fever, and she thought you could only get it once. We had it about 4 times. So, knowing the vet's wife, and knowing they had 3 children who'd all gone through chicken pox, she scheduled an appointment for us to be looked at by our veterinarian, who announced we did indeed have the chicken pox, and we should be good and set for life immunity against that disease. ....And then he called his wife to talk about the crazy lady who brought her kids to a vet, and his wife called my mom laughing, and my mom was all: "Um, yeah. That was ME." See how cave campfires, bathtub heatilators, and Google/WebMD have upgraded our lives?)

So clearly, Tasha is on the downswing. But she's not suffering, and pretty cat-happy upstairs with her poopy litterbox and her fresh water/food and her warm sunny spot by the window. But we're headed to the beach soon. Do I really want to come home to dead cat/dead cat house smell? And, more importantly, I don't want her to die alone--she's a people cat, and I don't want her to be people-less when she goes. I sense she feels abandoned when we leave her alone for long periods of days.

Or maybe I'm humanizing her too much. No, no wait. NO, I am not. Because this is Tasha, who has been with me through thick & thin, as long as I've been a teacher. I've had two important pets in my life: Sassy, the little black dog who saw me through thick & thin and childhood; and Tasha, the big black cat who saw me through thick & thin and growing-up-adulthood. She's my Arizona cat, who suffered through a tranquilized daze of a terrifying plane ride to move to Georgia with me, and she's been there through at least ten of my Psychic Growth (aka Crazy) periods of life, walked me down one marriage aisle, was my pregnancy bedrest buddy, and is the only sister Melissa has ever gotten to have sibling rivalry about. Tasha is family.

And so dilemma solved: unless she starts showing signs of discomfort, I think I will let Nature take its course, and pray that she survives her Beach Trip Abandonment Period, and also gets through one more course of holidays. Winter (the hour of our discontent) would be a much better time for Nature to take its course.

I am going to go pat her head and tell her this.

A bigger Tasha and a smaller M sharing serious thoughts about big life dilemmas


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day 2012, by Melissa (and Mommy)

Father's Day: that day we honor all that our dads do for us (for our household, these things are--but not limited to--grilling, Home Depot/Lowe's runs, fixing the shower door, paying bills, and generally making sure we don't land in the poor house...Mommy would land us in the poor house).

To celebrate, I interviewed my young star Melissa. Ever since she entered the communicative stage of life, I've interviewed her a lot about many different things. It may have contributed to her drama queen/diva tendencies, I don't know. So what would a Father's Day be without a Melissa interview? My dad isn't here to enjoy any of this anymore, but I feel him around me often and so I conducted a self-interview. Just to give you a perspective on the difference of Life Outlook between age 40...and age 3.


My Daddy
by Mommy, age 40

My dad was 53 on his last Father's Day.

My dad had black hair and hazel eyes.

My dad liked to wear cowboy hats and boots (I feel this was either a serious infatuation with Clint Eastwood or an unrealized life ambition).

My dad loved to eat steak and potatoes; he was not a health nut. His heart doctors would agree with me. My dad would agree with me; in fact, wherever he is right now, I know he's lecturing me about being at the gym more and using the phrase "do as I say not as I did" without the least trace of irony.

My dad was smart because he knew practically everything (seriously--unless you had quite a bit of free time you really didn't want to ask him how or why something was or worked. He was Google before there was Google).

My dad worked hard at being a decent human being. He wasn't perfect; he had many demons (don't we all, if we've lived life out loud). But he did the best he knew how to do at the time he did it. That's an important life skill--doing the best you know how to do at the time you're doing it and being okay with it (I don't think my dad was okay with it, and if he were here right now I would tell him he should be).


 My dad always told me I could do or be anything I wanted in Life, as long as I worked hard at it (and as long as it had job security and put food on the table..."Dream big, Amy," he once told me, "but not in a hippie commune. Hippie communes are where dreams go to die.") (Now that I'm 40, I wish I'd had the presence of mind back then to ask him how and why he knew that).



It made my dad happy when MASH was on...to visit with fellow Army guys young and old to talk grizzly old military people talk preferably with beers in hand...basically, just to talk. Talking was to my dad as oxygen is to life on Earth. Seriously, unless you had quite a bit of free time on your hand, you really didn't want to ask my dad how his day was going...he never responded with just "Fine." A question like that was a whole 2 hour process. (I'd like to note here that I do this, too, but in writing.)


If he could have gone on a trip, he'd have gone to either visit his family in the Pocono Mountains or on a road trip. My dad loved to visit different places and learn about how different people live. One of the first books I fell in love with was a book my dad gave me called BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE about what happened to Native Americans in this country. I was a 7th grader, and he thught Native Americans and what had been done to them by were/was fascinating, and that I would too. I read that book about 100 times, because Native Americans ARE fascinating, and good people...and I was so upset at what had been done to them...and then I was mad...and then really livid. ......Whenever people ask me: how did you get to be such a bleeding heart liberal from a family of such conservative Republican-like people? I say: because of my very Republican, conservative dad who was such a bleeding heart liberal. (My dad's Republican idol at the time he died was Colin Powell...go read anything Colin Powell has to say and you'll understand.) (Don't read Rick Santorum; my dad would have told dirty jokes about Rick Santorum.)

I really loved it when my dad laughed. He had a silly laugh, and it's something I can still hear in my head. He could be watching TV in a different room, start laughing at something, and I'd start laughing too--having no idea what it was we were both laughing about, I just knew if he was laughing it was ridiculously funny. It was that kind of a laugh.

If I could have given my dad anything, I'd have given him a hug and said I love you. I don't think we did this enough. If you have a dad who you don't do this enough with and he's still available to you to do it with, please go do it now. The sense of longing you will feel when the chance is gone is really, really poopy and it makes you cry a lot.

My favorite thing about my dad was his family obsession. After he died, a coworker came to my mom's house bringing dinner for us. As my mom started to introduce my brother and me to her, she stopped my mom and said, "Oh, I already know who everyone is and all about you. He had your pictures plastered all over his office and talked about each of you all the time." 

"He had your pictures plastered all over his office and talked about you all the time." That one phrase by a total stranger summed up my dad, more than all the words I could ever write about him could.

I miss him deeply every day. The largest sense of loss I feel is about the fact he never got to hug or hold or endlessly lecture or know his grandchildren. On the outside, my dad was like a Marine drill sergeant--friends would call my house, get him on the phone, and go: Amy, every time I call your house, I feel like I need to stand at attention and scream "Sir! Yes Sir!" But on the inside, my dad was nothing but a soft, furry kitten. My dad would have been such a GOOD grandpa; it would have softened his harder outer shell and turned his soft, furry kitten inner heart to pureed mush. Whenever I feel my dad around me, this is a soft impression I have from him.

Wait a second....are you still here? Why?! Have you hugged your dad yet if he's still around? Hurry up! And then come back and read Melissa's very thoughtful 3 year old viewpoints on fatherdom below.


My Daddy
by Melissa, age 3

My dad is 2 years old.

His hair is brown and his eyes are black.

He loves to eat meat and courage and corn.

He is smart because he knows all about playing and about playing hide and seek and tag and games.

My dad works hard at playing games on his computer and saying, "Yes, m'am."

Daddy always tells me Happy Melissa Day!

It makes my daddy happy when I kiss him.

If he could go on a trip, he would go to fishing and he would take an airplane.

I really love it when my daddy plays frisbee outside with me.

If I could give my daddy anything, it would be a long, long neck with a beautiful, long nose...it's called an elephant!

My favorite thing about my daddy is to scratch his back. 

Happy Father's Day! Go take your dad out for some courage and corn today, and maybe give him a good back scratch and an elephant.
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