Thursday, September 29, 2011

The first truth of Family Vacation

It is not lost on me that on this dreary Wisconsin morning, a week ago I was in the sunshine and salty waters of North Myrtle Beach. Generally, this sort of feeling leaves me a little depressed. But I am glad to be home. I suppose that's a sign of a good vacation: great to get away; great to come home.

This is the first vacation my family has taken on our own dime, which is important milestone in itself. Throw in the fact that our itinerary was of our own creation, and you have a monumental milestone in grown-upness.

Perhaps people have already discovered what I'm about to tell you, like the guy after Columbus that "discovered" the new world. But I am the center of my own universe, and therefore, I proclaim these five things as a new discovery to benefit the rest of mankind:

Five Universal Truths About Vacation (in a five part series)

1.) A Buick is two-thirds blessing, one-third curse.
When we made our vacation plans, I called my aunt to let her know we were coming. She offered her spare car for us to use while we were there, so we were able to cancel our rental car (and at $350 for 4 days, I was happy to do) and use her Buick.

These are not my kids. For one thing, they aren't hitting each other.

If you've ever put three kids in the back of a Buick and proceeded to road-trip, you know that it's not always Skittles and Beer. Especially three kids that were just getting used to the closer quarters of a mini-van (compared with the Not-So-Mini-Van, which died in the Spring). The beach was about 3.5 hours away from my aunt's house. And with Disgruntled Husband's navigational skills, it was about 4.5 hours. With three kids in the back of the Buick. Here are some things that came out of my mouth in that car:
- Mini-Me, we do not lick people.
- Boogers are not weapons.
- If you two can't stop hitting each other, you will hold hands for two minutes.
- No singing when the radio isn't on.
- Don't sing a different song than what's on the radio at the time.
- Please stop talking about butts.

There was a lot of punishment hand-holding going on. And in case you're wondering about the booger offender, I hang my head in shame when I admit it wasn't either one of the boys.

But something else wonderful happened in between booger warfare and in-subordinate hand holding. They learned to get along. Kind of. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of imaginative game playing; a lot of, dare I say, bonding in the back of the Buick.

But I still had a new appreciation for my mini-van.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sweet Tea and Biscuits and Fried Oysters

Howdy, ya'll.

Greetings from North Carolina. The family and I got here yesterday after a night in Milwaukee and two flights and brief time in Cincinnati. No real problems, got here just fine, thanks for being concerned.

This is our first family vacation on our dime, unless you count our one night in Green Lake, Wisconsin three years ago. Which I don't.

I'm at my aunt's house in beautiful Cedar Grove, heading for the beach today.

I will write more later, right now I'm expected to take a shower and otherwise get beautiful. I just wanted to let you all know I wasn't trapped under something heavy.

Because I know you were all moments away from sending the search party.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Halfway out the door

Today is Larry Potter's 9th birthday, which means I only have 9 more years to convince him he doesn't know it all before he legally becomes an adult. Inspired by Tina Fey's "A Prayer for my Daughter," I have written LP a letter imparting my wisdom. Or whatever is standing in for my wisdom these days.

Dear Son,

Today, you are halfway to manhood. That scares me on so many levels. On one hand, you are my baby, my first born and I want you to always be 5 years old and holding my hand. On the other hand, sometimes I want to lobby to Congress to make the age of emancipation 8 and-a-half. It's a mixed bag.

I hope in your life you learn what makes you happy quicker than most, that way you won't learn by process of elimination what doesn't. Trust me, it's a lot easier that way. For both of us.

I want you to experience things because you want to, not because your peers do, you see it on TV, it's advertised on a billboard, or you see someone "cool" doing it. Advertising agencies depend a lot on the dumbness of kids, and you are way to bright to succumb to their brainwashing.

Anything involving a needle isn't going to do what you think it's going to do, whether it's a tattoo or an earring. Yes, I have a tattoo. It didn't do what I thought it was going to do.

My hope for you is to always be the nerd you are and be true to that side of your life. Nerd is not a derogatory term. You are only 9, but I can tell you in the big picture that will be your life, nerds do better. I don't care what the "cool" kids are doing or what they have. If you stay on your trajectory, you will make 5 times what they will, and be 10 times happier. Money won't buy you happiness, but happy people make more.

Someday when you're in middle school and go through all those middle school changes, do not attempt to shave in-between your eyebrows.

If you decide to drink before you're of legal age, you best check there is no one there with a camera. Facebook is a blessing, but it can also be a curse. And I have ways of hacking your passwords.

I don't think I'm going to punish you in the traditional ways my parents punished me, because A.) I'm a lot more creative than they were and B.) it didn't do me much good. If I need to make my point by having you shoot a YouTube video apology or make you choreograph (and perform) a dance to my favorite song, then so be it. It really sucks having a creative mom sometimes.

Always have a pet, whether it's a goldfish or a tiger. Knowing something is depending on you to feed it does wonders for that urge to just take off for Vegas. Also, you're not going to Vegas.

Please know that whomever you chose in life to be your partner, I will tell them just how awful I intend to be. That person will leave my house the first time scared and wondering if they should stick around. If that person decides to stick around, despite me, you've found a winner. And I will never actually be that awful. I like to play the hero.

One day there will be a shift in power where you and your siblings will start to call each other worrying about me. When that happens, I expect you spearhead any decisions that need to be made. Not that you are solely in power, but rather that you will be the one to make the decisions to make decisions. I don't care that you do have a sister; we are not going to be that family.

Speaking of your brother and sister, though I expect you to be an example for them, I don't expect you to be their only example. Because the better you are, the worse at least one of them will be, just for comparison. You have my permission to let them think you are a bad ass. But I still expect you to narc.

Never buy generic peanut butter.

And finally, when it comes to your education, go as far as you can, but don't miss out on something fun when it happens. You can always re-take a class, but you can't re-make a memory. And you WILL re-take that class.

Happy Birthday, Son.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Support Group for Parents of Middle-Schoolers

This is a story for all you moms of middle school girls.

Or, this is a story about a mom of a middle school girl. Either way, it works.

My very good friend JDub is awesome. She is the mom to three kids, a dog, and sometimes, her husband Vitamin P. She's never met a fleece she didn't like, has been known to create school projects out of thin air (and her underwear's a long story), and is the queen of Papa Murphy's.

She's less snarky than I am, but that's probably good. You see, she's an involved parent. How involved, you ask? Last year she was the only employee at her school to not get paid.

JDub and Vitamin P send their kids to private Catholic school. And with this comes parental involvement like I've never seen. I think I'm Mom of the Year when I volunteer in Hoover's class once a month? She drives for field trips and gives teachers cash for Christmas. If there's a group at school, she's not only in it, but running the meetings (unwillingly), in charge of the pancake breakfasts or monthly carnival fun fairs, and has Vitamin P manning the booths she can't get to. Because she's too busy calling the cake walk.

(You get the picture, right?)

This year, something traumatic has happened to her.

Her daughter aged out of safe, private, parental-involvedness Catholic school and has gone to middle school.

And for some reason, they haven't asked JDub to come along.

So when JDub saw a flier for a Middle School Parent's Support Group, she put it on her calendar and notified her husband. A group! For parents! To help them navigate these scary, hormonal-filled waters. Just what she was looking for!

I didn't know any of this until I called her Monday. OJ, the middle-schooler in question, answered the phone.

Me: Hey, where's your Mom?
OJ: At a meeting.
Me: Of course she is!
OJ: Exactly.

(OJ will be taking over this blog someday, I'm sure. To JDub's excitement, I'm sure.)

I knew this couldn't be an important meeting, as she had just replied to a thread on Facebook 2 minutes earlier. So I called her cell phone.

If it really isn't that kind of support group, can we at least start a book club and discuss this book?

She answered and told me she was at the middle school waiting for this meeting to start, and telling me what kind of meeting it was.

I started laughing.

She was not amused.

"You just wait. When your kids hit middle school..." her threat trailed off.

I apologized and told her to have fun at her meeting.

(I also told her that if the meeting room wasn't full of liquor, she was wasting her time. She agreed.)

And honestly, I felt a little bad that I had made fun of her going to a support group for parents of middle schoolers. I guess I didn't realize just how traumatized she was.

(I should have known though, after the epic tale of OJ trying to open her locker was told in a three-part mini-series.)

I talked to JDub yesterday, where she had an update for me.

The support group she attended, which her husband also came to, as well as her former boss Bitch Face, wasn't really a support group.

It was a group that SUPPORTED the middle school. With fundraisers. And activities. And had a treasurer.

She said she was never so happy to NOT have raised her hand with an issue she was currently experiencing.

(I joked that it could have been like, "Hi, I'm JDub, and I have a middle schooler. It's been 3 days since I last intercepted an eye roll.")

After the shock of not having group therapy set in, she and Vitamin P participated in the meeting. Where they talked about fundraising and ideas to get parents involved in school.

She didn't share this part with me, but I swear at this point, I bet she and Vitamin P looked at each other in disbelief. What? Parents don't get involved normally?

While JDub was trying to explain to the rest of the group what a cake walk was, Vitamin P asked if it would be okay if he came to eat lunch with OJ, like he had done at private Catholic school.

Apparently, no one had ever asked before.

After the meeting, where JDub was made president, she went home and reflected on the meeting.

And started looking for the REAL support groups. And people volunteering to spot her a couple of Xanax.

It's going to be an interesting year for them.

Friday, September 9, 2011

When life gives you lemon bars...

We're going on vacation in 2 weeks, seeing family I haven't seen since I was pregnant with Mini Me. After that, a few weeks later, I'm going to my 10th college reunion, which I wrote about here. My plans to be a mere shadow of my former self are not going well.

The only thing I've lost is my dieting direction, and perhaps my common sense.

I just can't seem to get it together. On one hand, I see everyone out there looking slim and fabulous and think, "Duh, Jessica, it can't be that hard." But in the other hand is a tray of lemon bars. And I love lemon bars.

I'm a contradiction to myself.

Most recently, I tried my bacon-wrapped hand at Atkins. I've done Atkins before with varying degree of success. What I like about it is there is very little guess work. Carbs are bad. Don't eat them. Done.

The problem with this diet is that after my weekly groceries are all eaten up, in 4 days, I go into one of two modes: not to eat anything because all the low carb stuff is gone, or carb-envy, which generally ends with, again, a tray of lemon bars.

Quit mocking me with your lemon curd-y goodness.

With Atkins, you gain weight back very quickly, which really doesn't matter this time around, since I didn't lose hardly anything to begin with.

I had good success with this diet my last year of college. You know, back when I only had to shop for myself and didn't have to deal with kids (or the body that had them) and when Disgruntled Husband was Disgruntled Fiance and was 6 hours away with his Little Debbie snack-loving, high metabolism.

So it looks like I'm going to have to do this the old fashioned way, with illegal amphetamines. (Kidding...unless you have some you are willing to share...)

Diet and exercise. Groan. I did it well in the early parts of 2010, I wonder if I can harness some of that determination again. I did it on my own, with out any program, just a weight loss blog I wrote. I may open a section of this blog dedicated to this side of my life, but I haven't decided just yet.

(I live in the boonies, and we only have Weight Watchers. I like Weight Watchers, but I don't like the lady that runs the one here. No one I know does. Maybe we should let Weight Watchers corporate know this and they would have more people from this area join. Or maybe I just don't care enough to do anything about it.)

(I also don't understand Spark People and it seems to take up too much time, mind space, and energy. Like an online cult. Wish it was more user-friendly)

It's high time I stop kidding myself. Online shopping to Sephora is only going to get me so far. They just haven't come out with that magic make-up that erases your double chin. I keep checking.

So readers, please help me. I need your best eating healthy/exercise tip. Or a bottle of Black Beauties.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Part Two

(I should have To Be Continueds more often. Lots of people hanging on that cliff. I hope the ending lives up to the hype!)

I called the school at 3, looking for my daughter. Who is four. And it was her first day of school. And the bus to school was a half-hour late picking her up.

The school secretary, whom I love, told me that Mini Me was still on the bus; I had missed her by 3 minutes. She put me through to the bus garage, where a guy named Ed controls the universe by CB radio. No answer.

I called the school back. The secretary said the bus was about 30 seconds from school, and could I just meet her there. Fine.

I got in the car, fuming, wondering why they didn't notify when I missed her and why I had to call them, instead.

I got to school just in time for them to load the busses for the older kids. Dodging kindergartners and zealous parents, I make my way to the office. No one's there but the staff.

"Well, where is she?"

The two secretaries, and the office assistant, exchange a three-way glance with big eyes.

"She must still be on the bus. It's parked [out in BF Egypt] by the basketball hoops."

I hit the roof.

I may have caused a scene.

I may have yelled at my favorite secretary.

Let's load up with four year-olds and not have a phone on the bus, and rely on a guy named Ed who may not be at the other end of the radio. Awesomesauce!

I said I was very upset, and why didn't they call me the second she wasn't dropped off, and then I demanded to see the 4K bussing policy when I got back.

MM was fine on the bus, (which, by the way, telling a parent her kid is on a bus at the end of the day is like telling someone to go get you that specific grain of sand over there on the beach). She was there with the driver, while the big kids were loading.

The bus driver told me that she radioed to Ed, who notified the school, and the last she heard, they had called me.

Um, no such thing happened.

(She also told me about how MM would be dropped off at the end of the day, and it wasn't right, but I didn't have enough energy to deal with that issue. Disgruntled Husband dealt with that particular issue later.)

When we got back to the office, my favorite secretary told me she had dropped the ball, and she was supposed to call me. I asked why the bus driver didn't call. She said the drivers don't have phones, just the radio.

The radio. With Ed. Who wasn't there when I was transferred there at 3 p.m. Good plan, school district.

I have half a mind to buy a $10 pre-paid phone and give it to the driver.

Or, as my friend Dan pointed out, don't be late again.

If it means my school district will allow my four year-old to be unaccounted for and forgotten about, then yes, I suppose I won't be late anymore.

Lesson learned.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

And so it begins

My long-time readers, this question is for you:
Does anyone remember why I started this blog, especially when the school year began?

Here, I'll make this multiple choice.

Is it

A) To write about the funny things my kids do
B) To funnel my frustrations about school into something that wouldn't black-list my kids
C) To avoid uncomfortable confrontations with staff I generally like
D) All of the above

It's D. And I proved it yesterday.

Let's do a bullet-point run-down of my day, up to 3 p.m.

- Got up, got the boys ready and gave everyone breakfast
- Told Mini Me I was getting in the shower and to put on her clothes
- Put the shower on hold while we attempted to find the best first day of school outfit, for the weather (a little cooler yesterday and she couldn't wear the dress she's planned for months.)
- Had 45 minute detente over choice of top. I ultimately won, but only since I bribed her with lip gloss.
- Finally got in the shower
- Took MM to sign up for her first activity ever. She wanted both dance and gymnastics. I asked if there was a break for signing up for 2 classes. The instructor said yes, a whole 10% off. Told MM to pick one class only.

Not exactly how yesterday turned out.

- Wrote a check for $150, before costuming and dance shoes and recital admission fees. (Note: this is more than any activity my boys have ever been in. Combined.) Threw down a hat and a sign next to where I parked my car, hoping to tap dance my own way to off-set those costs.
- Get home and get a call from my manicurist (shut up) telling me I missed my appointment. The talons are too long to function appropriately and look for ways to file down acrylic overlay. Fail miserably.
- Make MM lunch. She doesn't touch it. Ten minutes later, asks for a snack.
- Get out the camera and snap pictures for her first day of school. Wait for bus.
- Watch MM get on the bus a half-hour late and haul ass to my eye doctor appointment.
- Have the weirdest eye doctor appointment ever, culminating with the doctor calculating my bill and asking me how I'll be paying for it. Huh? Did I get my contacts?
- Have a very quick lunch with my friend C., since my doctor appointment took a long time to do absolutely nothing.
- Haul ass back to my house to meet MM off the bus.
- Arrive at home a few minutes late, check caller ID. No call from the school. I haven't missed her.
- Wait another 20 minutes, finally call the school.

Then, it was 3 p.m.

(To be continued tomorrow. Please feel free to guess what happened after that.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

First Day!

It's the most....wonderful time.....of the year!

Screw Christmas (okay, not really), first day of school totally beats out the jolly fat man for best day of the year.

We got up early, I made pancakes for breakfast, the boys had on new shirts, and we walked to school.

(We don't normally walk to school except for the first day. Because the line of cars extends all the way from the school to our house. Walking is simply quicker.)

Even with Mini Me here, I'm giddy with delight. We stopped at Starbucks to celebrate the day, after the 4K meeting for MM.

Why do I love the first day of school? Well besides the obvious (come on, it's like summer vacation for parents), it's all about new beginnings. Anything is possible, scholastically. Larry Potter is excited because his teacher is his friend's mom, and he thinks that will make the difference for him this year (not that he's had not-good teachers in the past). Hoover, well, he was excited to wear a new shirt. I'll take whatever baby steps he throws out to me.

And me? So glad you asked. Besides my  2011 school year resolutions, I find I'm actually looking forward to things like cleaning out closets and Swiffering...all without little heathens helpers.

I'm sure it will last all of a week.

The bus is here, kids! Have a great first day! I know I will!

But that's the thing about the first day of school...pipe dreams are not only normal, they're welcomed. Sure, everything can go to pot by Labor Day, but heck if you don't give it your all that first week of school!

Maybe I'm weird (okay, that may not be a point up for debate), but here are the things I love about/like to do  this time of year:

- Burn an apple candle in the kitchen (Like my current Fav Yankee Candle's Apple Cider)
- Take out any of my Gooseberry Patch autumn cookbooks and find new recipes
- Make a menu and grocery list for the month of September with all the down home cooking I'm sure I'll do (Generally, this is not repeated in October, or any other month, for that matter)
- Start thinking about the Halloween decorations and debate whether or not it's too early to take them out. (It is.)
-  Make a daily schedule for myself which includes things like dishes, quiet time, and catching up with the kids. It usually lasts 48 hours.
- Think about doing a fall craft, but end up just watching Ina Gartner on the Food Network
- Curse the hot weather, because it's supposed to be September, after all!

I had a few comments about my wrong name post that made me feel I should clarify a few things. Her name is wrong not only in her classroom, but in the office and on every official form they have (from emergency contacts to bus routes). It's totally not the teacher's fault, and when I called the district administration office, it wasn't to get the teacher in trouble. Not at was to try and find the right person to change it forever. In the past, when there's a problem or mistake, it takes about 85 people to notify before the "right" person can do something about it. Which is why I am trying to talk to as many people as possible about this. Because 84 of those people can write it down on a post-it note, but apparently only one can actually enter it in on the computer and hit save.

And my district is little. Three elementary school, one middle school, one high school. Maybe about 900 kids total in the district. I had more kids than this in my high school...and my high school was one of five high schools in the school district. Keep in mind, I'm in a small town. I did giggle when my friend Lisa commented about how the Chinese kids in the school feel (about having their names misspelled). We don't have any Asian students. My area definitely needs more multi-culturalism.

The more you know. :)