Star Student

So 9 is Star Student this week,  which means I will be hiking up the yoga pants for some serious errand running. Now we have had an established pattern of no homework on the weekends, so I dont usually check the backpack Friday nights. I  still do the occasional  obligatory check in by asking her. I didn’t this week….of course. Hey, its May.

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At bedtime on Saturday night, I reminded her that there should have been a dirty spoon in her lunchbox that needed to go in the dishwasher.  Happy to delay going to bed, she ran to her room to produce said spoon. Instead of spoon, she dances back in the kitchen to announce that she is Star Student.

Now while I’m happy she was (finally, it’s May) selected, I  am mentally going over tomorrow’s packed schedule trying to figure out how we are going to do the prep. We need a poster (with pictures), snacks for the whole class (no red dye, nuts of any kind, milk or milk by products), a letter to be read to the class (“Dont embarrass me, mom), and an item that is special to the student.

Somehow tomorrow we need to come up with all these things, grocery shop, laundry, and hit a soccer game where we also have to provide  snack this week. Did I mention I’m a college student that has a 15 page paper due on Monday?

Now I love the idea of kids getting to take turns in the spotlight. I  realize that these activities fill important social emotional growth opportunities for both the Star and those in the audience.  Sharing the carefully crafted poster gives students a chance to be creative, practice writing skills, and public performance practice. Basically no down side right?

Unless you are mom. Over worked, over scheduled,  seriously who has gluesticks left in May mom. Forget the gluesticks…who prints pictures anymore? Now long ago, I let go of the idea that perfectly crafted, pinterest worthy projects meant I was mom winning. At this point, I’m happy with kid did it themselves and all the major areas are covered.

So to fulfill my requirements,  we swooped by walmart for the poster, snacks and glue sticks after the soccer game. 9 searched through the box of pictures and detritus leftover from my scrapbooking phase in the basement to comeup with a few that weren’t totally humiliating. While the rest of us slogged through chores there is only time to do on weekends (haha time on weekends) with what was left of the dwindling day, 9 happily pasted away, colored and glittered her poster. To her credit- she only cried twice.

Poster down, we moved on to finding the right bag to bring the snacks in. Now just put them in the backpack you say. How could you suggest such a thing? Obviously the backpack would be too big to fit on her back in the seat. The bus driver will yell at her for not sitting properly and the 6th grader she shares the seat with wont be nice to her anymore if she gets in trouble. How about the Wal-Mart bag? “You can see right through that mom! I want my snack to be a surprise.” What was I thinking? We needed the bag she got from the invention convention over a year ago that hasn’t been seen in months. Since I may have thrown it out, I  used my considerable negotiating skills to reach an agreement with a summer camp towel bag that has sturdy handles and would hide the delightful treats from prying eyes. This was buried under layers of stray puzzle pieces,  broken crayons and lost game parts from 2003. It took 40 mins to find.

We are sadly only half way through the week’s items and I have forgotten all the earlier benefits of said project. I  am now sending Mrs. A terrible wishes under my breathe: standardized testing, pinkeye, whole school assemblies. How could this women not understand that it takes superhuman effort to just keep my children clean, fed, and where they need to be almost on time at this point in the year. This is her way of punishing me for letting 9 eat sugar cereal twice a week for breakfast, I know it.

Guess what’s on the menu tomorrow?

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Student Driver

Remember putting your child on the school bus for the first day of kindergarten and crying because it was so scary to send them out into the cruel world alone and unprotected? Me too. Her curls bounced as she bounded up those steps in her shiny new school shoes ready to take on the world.  I smiled and waved until the bus turned the corner then sat on the steps and cried real tears thinking surely this milestone was the hardest. HA!

Many more difficult times layed in wait for me. So many times over the years I have watch her struggle, fail and grow with more grace than her poor mother regulated to the sideline. Watching an anxiety ridden preteen face down a middle school bully was especially harrowing. Yet all these things pale in comparison to handing over a set of car keys.

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I was literally putting my life and the lives of others in her hands. In the hands of a child…who takes very little seriously…who can not possible know what its like to lose something  precious…who does not know that she is precious. I was sick with terror.

I remember being a teen learning to drive. A boyfriend taught me in his mustang on a country road in rural WV. It had a manual transmission. My biggest fear was embarrassing myself with the clutch. He was laid back and confident I wouldn’t scratch the cherry red paint. I hadn’t even bothered with a learners permit yet.

This was very different and not just because I was in the passenger seat this time. To begin with, I handed over keys to my still relatively new suv. I am not even a year into a large car loan and don’t even get me started on insurance. We live in a good size suburb of an urban area. Even the neighborhood streets are busy with bike riders and moderate traffic. This was not like keeping it between the ditches on an old back road.

Before we backed out of the driveway, we discussed the gravity of the situation.  I tried to impose the responsibility of driving what amounts to a very dangerous weapon on her soul with my words of warning and grave tone. I received an ” I know mom” huff in response. Ascertaining that the coast was as clear as we were likely to get and all proper precautions given, I  let her put the car in gear.

Until this point in my life, the word horror had no meaning.  I had to shut my eyes and concentrate on not vomiting.  Having had zero experience negotiating gas and brake petals, she zoomed backward out of the driveway at breakneck speed promptly hitting the curb across the street with back tires. I screamed stop resulting in her stomping the brake and squelching the tires again. We sat there for a second in the middle of the road each processing. 

When I  began to order her to put it in park, she jumped in to say she was sorry and just nervous. “Its ok. I got it now. I promise. ” I  was not reassured,  but I tried to tell myself that it takes practice  and that everyone has to learn. She put it in drive and with more confidence straightened up and eased forward.  For about 9 seconds,  I was brave and supportive. We passed a car coming toward us with only a little fright and she got cocky and picked up too much speed.

I yelled to slow down. More than once. She slowed slightly.  I yelled again. More I got it moms. Some slight slowing. I told her to come to a complete stop and prepare to turn. She took forever to stop- for.ev.er. There was more yelling. Stay on your side of the road, slow down, get over more, slow down, slow down, slow down. 15 miles an hr felt like 200. It was awful, for us both, but mostly me.

We circled the block, with me becoming increasingly hysterical, back to our driveway where the trip ended with her almost crashing into a telephone pole and then my husbands truck. She put it in park half in the road, half in the driveway, left the car door wide open and stomped into the house. It took several minutes to unclench my fingers from the door handle and make my way around to the drivers door on legs shaking so hard I could barely walk.

My husband stood on the front stoop laughing. I hope he enjoyed it. Next time, he would be handing over his own keys and sitting in the passenger seat. I’m sure the view from the stoop will be hilarious.

Five Secrets To Loving The Drive In

On our last visit to our hometown, we drove by the place that used to be “The Drive-In”. It closed two years ago. I  am not sure if it had a real name as no one ever used it. There were exactly three places for entertainment in the entire county: The Pool, The Bowling Alley, and The Drive-In. No need for identification beyond the obvious.

It broke my heart to see the dilapidated screen holding court to an overgrown lot of weeds and the aging snack shack. I have fond memories of cart wheeling down the hill below the screen with hordes of other children who all came early with parents to get front row parking. The smell of buttery popcorn hung heavy in the air. It was a special treat for my family and maybe one of the rare occasions my sister and I would sit side by side without trying to tear each others eyes out.

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We are very lucky to live near a drive-in now. Many have closed over the years as result of light polution encroachment,  increasing land values, decreasing profit margins and technology advancements that allow families to stream movies at home or to mobile devices with the touch of a button. 

A few years ago, the few surviving drive-ins had to commit to an outrageously expensive projector upgrade as film companies moved to digital and stopped producing films in the reel format. Those that decided to take the risk had to invest upwards of $75,000 per screen. Many of these family owned small businesses had to take out loans or close.

Ours is another one of those family owned businesses. They have been able to survive 50+ years of changing times, and I hope they will survive 50 more. We try to visit a couple of times a summer to share the simple joy of drive-in magic with our children. I am always happy to see the next generation of cartwheelers playing under the screen.

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Drive-in date with 9 to see Angry Birds

We have learned a few tips and tricks along the way to get the most out of the experience. Hopefully one might encourage you to find a drive-in treasure and give it a try.

Go Early and Bring Entertainment
Our box office opens at 8, but the movie doesn’t start until dark. This might mean an hour or more to wait. Going early is worth it to get a prime spot and have plenty of time to play. Playing under the screen is a right of passage for littles. On rainy nights we bring a board game. I  like to read or chat with families around us while we wait. It’s fun to hear stories about childhood visits. We bring camp chairs and get to know the neighbors. You will often find grandmas and grandpas in camp chairs beside moms and dads. Lots of “I used to bring my kids here in the 70’s”.

Visit the Snack Bar
Who can have a movie without popcorn? Hotdogs and sodas are some of my best memories. Nostalgia aside, many places do not allow outside food. Visiting the snack bar is important to the business. Most of the admission price goes to pay for the film. The business pays its people and makes its profit with food. I like to think of that box of snow caps as a small business investment and it usually costs less than what you would pay at a theatre.

Wear Your Pajamas
Our kids love to get dressed in pjs and leave the house. It’s like breaking the rules. We always wear long pants and bring a sweat shirt because even summer nights can get chilly. 9 has had some serious reactions to mosquito bites so long pants and sleeves provide some extra protection. We bring  Off clip ons https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DF970FQ/ref=cm_sw_r_em_apa_8ZiqxbE9F034D

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along for added protection for her but the rest of us are never bothered. The bonus to being comfortable is that they often fall asleep and can be put right to bed when we get home.

Bring Lots of Blankets and Pillows
I can stress this enough. The minimum should be one per person. When we are sure of a clear night, we take Sam the Ram, my husbands truck, and pile every blanket in our house in the bed. Nothing better than snuggling in and watching a movie under the stars. If there might be rain, we just take one per person for the car.

Bring a Battery Powered Radio
Gone are the days of searching for the best speaker or fighting over whose window to hang it on. Most places have switched over to radio broadcasting the audio which makes for a sound better experience.  There are a few drawbacks to this. If you want to sit outside your car, it can be hard to hear even with the windows down. The second is that your car has to be on auxiliary the whole movie. If you have a large digital display on the dash, this can be distracting. It can also leave you with a dead car battery. To avoid both these pitfalls, the Hubs suggested a battery powered radio and it has been great. You can move it to where ever you are sitting and never have to worry about finding a jump afterwards.

Are you convinced?
There Are 338 Drive-In Theaters Left in America — Here’s Where to Find Them http://www.nerve.com/entertainment/drivein-theater-open-find-location 

Second Child Syndrome

In the rush to get everyone where they need to be today, I  accidentally dropped off 9 at a public place alone. And drove away. Definitely not mom winning. Let me explain before you start dialing CPS. If they show up at my door and see the mound of laundry,  they may decide my home is unfit for humans.

Evenings are a mad dash. I worked at home today, so 9 ate dinner and did homework right after getting off the bus about 4. 16 got picked up from school and did the same around 4:45.  Hubby worked late, so I was car pool for soccer game and band concert. To make it work, I was driving across town to drop off at soccer,

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then heading midway back to the highschool to drop off 16. Then it was back to the soccer game until Hubby could meet up, the back to what was left of concert.

Rush hr traffic and my propensity to lateness meant we were going to be just barely on time. 9 hates to be even a second late, so the groaning started about halfway there with the time being chimed at me during every red light. 16 was griping about how lame the music is she would have to play and that she was hot in her nun dress which is required costume.

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Dont tell 16, but I like the nun dress

Of course, there was construction complete with flaggers and a mile long back up to the only soccer field entrance. As the seconds ticked by, 9 grew increasingly agitated. 16 repeated argued and taunted 9 and my blood pressure inched up.

Finally pulling into an illegal no parking area by the gate, 9 launched herself from the car with a “Great, the other team is already here”. The other team happens to be coached by a friend’s husband. They also have a 9. I gave my friend a quick wave and shouted for her to save me a seat, and hurtled back into traffic to avoid more grumbling from the remaining passenger. 

As we fought the construction back up in the reverse direction, I spotted 9’s coach, several cars deep in the incoming line. I gave a wave and didn’t think twice until almost to the high school. Then it hit me…if the coach was in traffic, who was in charge of my daughter at the field? Panicking,  I  called my friend who assured me the coach had made it and that she had her eye on 9 and would cover emergencies until I got back.

Wow. How different it really is with #2. I never would have done such a terrible thing when 16 was little. I had more time and sleep and brains then of course, but still. That diaper commercial  about the differences in screening baby sitters for #1 verses #2 is spot on. https://youtu.be/1jSHzYS9V88 I have watched it like 25 times and still laugh.

If I think about it, poor 9 really has gotten the short end of the mommy stick. I take less pictures. There are no carefully crafted baby books with locks of hair or 1st steps. I don’t have time to sing silly songs, smell the roses and bask in the sun like the first time around. 

But you know what? Now that I think about it, maybe there is something to be said for the opposite of helicopter mommying. 9 is much more responsible and independent than 16 because she has had to be. She does much of her own problem solving. She is in many ways stronger and more resilient.

I hope that mistakes like today are few and far between. I am glad to have friends who stand in when I drop the ball. Most of all I’m thankful for a spunky kid who rolls with the punches. She didn’t even notice the snafu today. She was just excited to play with her friend. And ice cream covers a multitude of sins. Today, we will get a double scoop. 

Finals, Not The Basketball Kind

I am proud to say, after many years of dabbling with a class at a time at a community college,  I  finally finished my associates degree last year. Night classes suck. It took forever and I was miserable the whole time.

All those who are working full-time and going to school nights and weekends know what I  mean. The last thing you want to do after working a 9hr day is go to class. In that time, I acquired a husband, a house and had two children.  I have had three different day jobs and a weekend bar tending gig that was supposed to be temporary but lasted 3.5 years. I have had very different bosses ranging from supportive to “What do you mean you can’t work late tonight? Just don’t go to class.”

Struggling to stay awake through biology homework or finish that paper at 2:00am almost did me in. I have had to beg to join soccer carpools or trade band picks to ensure my littles didn’t suffer. My poor husband has had to carry a lot of the load when it comes to dinners, activities, and housework. But every ounce of sacrifice was worth it when I walked across the stage with my family cheering me on from the stands.

In fact, I was so inspired I enrolled at a local state school the next semester to pursue a 4 yr degree. Now what I didn’t realize is that tuition is much more expensive.  I  had to take loans to afford to attend. Did you know you have to take 6 credit hours to get loans? Me either. Double the classes and triple the cost, no more time to bartend. I’m broke, in debt and so tired I can’t see straight. This is what they should tell high school students about to encourage college enrollment. 

Show them my picture.

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You don’t want to be this person kids. Go to college right away. This person sometimes forgets her own name. She falls asleep sitting up during dinner, or in the shower.  Her children have to ask 6th graders for help with homework on the bus.  Her husband eats leftovers and takeout every week . She is wearing clothes from 10 years ago because she has no time or money to shop. It is not a pretty sight.

It’s finals week. All the traditional students in my classes are making study dates and talking about getting beers at the bar after class. They walked here from dorms around the corner after getting up at noon. They have perky ponytails and hot dates.

I hate them. I have sore feet from walking the 3/4 of a mile from the parking lot in my work shoes where I spent 10 minutes digging around my car seat looking for enough quarters to pay the outrageous fees to park there. I got up at 6 to shower and throw something in the crockpot for dinner that my children will hate because it contains vegetables. I was at work by 7:30 after driving 30 minutes through the rain in rush hour. My pony tail says needs a haircut, and the only hot date I have is a soccer game that I  am going to be late for.

There is however light at the end of this semester’s tunnel.  One more week- that is my mantra. Then look out Hubby,  we are going to drink wine, clear a whole season of Scandal off the dvr, and maybe even go to bed at the same time.  I might even read a book that has nothing to do with grant writing techniques.  Thats alot to fit into the next three weeks before summer semester begins, but a girl can dream.

Mother’s Day Yard Work

Somehow, over the years, we have developed a tradition of 8+ grueling hours of yard work, punctuated with one or two soccer games and at least one trip to Home Depot. Fancy, right?

Now you maybe asking, where are the flowers…where is the breakfast in bed?

Tradition demands I get to sleep in while Hubby, 16, and 9 make me breakfast and coffee. I get to sleep till 8am, non-negotiable. Then its right to the manual labor. The flowers come in plastic flats- not glass vases.

At the end of the hard day, I have a weed free patio with lovely flowers to enjoy my coffee on for all the summer weekends to come. While it is not a day for me to rest and be adored, I do feel appreciated. Bleeding fingers and aching backs are my gifts. I wouldn’t trade it for all the brunches in the world.

This year there was a few extras. I was suckered into a kids workshop at Home Depot http://homedepot.com which looked messy and included lots of hammering. I was not enthusiastic. 9 was all about it, so we signed up.

It was awesome! How have we missed these gems before? They are hosted free the 1st Saturday of every month. This month was a bird house that 9 assembled completely alone including hammering several nails that I dutifully held still with my eyes squeezed shut. Then she was allowed to paint it, and gorge on popcorn while it dried. They even include a cute apron to protect your clothes. We will do again!
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As a surprise Hubby constructed a frame for a porch swing that has been in storage since Neenee, his mom, passed away last year. He gave it a fresh coat of paint and we were able to have a quiet few minutes to enjoy it last night. She enjoyed beautiful flowers as well so it was nice to think of her and enjoy the hard work everyone put in yesterday. I certainly felt loved, which is what its all about really. Fancy brunch is overrated.

Nice To Meet You

Hello.

Thanks for stopping in. Im excited to share the view from my yoga pants. Or in today’s case, leggings…with a hole….that I wore to work that way.
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Hey when you stay up till midnight drinking coffee and binging on House of Cards with the hubby, 6 am comes early. Too early, and I  hit snooze -twice. By snooze I mean I  ignored the butt nudge from hubby, then the kick 15 mins later when I was still firmly ensconced in blankets.

I am not a morning person.  I don’t set my own alarm. He hates that about me. But he has lovingly (or mostly lovingly) been waking me up, often three or four times a morning for 16 years, so I must have other redeeming qualities that keep him around.

Since I ignored snooze one and two, I was running late. I use late loosely since it is my regular routine recently. I was picking  up a friend who needed a ride to work today,  so I literally sprang from bed, grabbed the leggings from the basket of clothes that never found a hanger this weekend  (its Thursday), and the first dress I could lay hands on, and ran to the shower.

I ask myself every time I do this, why I don’t just get up the first time. I don’t enjoy the last broken minutes of sleep. I hate the traffic when I leave late, and rushing makes me crabby. I go through the usual self torture as I turn on the shower to heat up and load the toothpaste. Then I remember I need gas.

S#&;t.

I  run to the coffee pot and get it going. Race back to the bathroom ripping off my oh so sexy sweats on the way. Flinging my toothbrush into the sink, i lunge into a *cold* shower. Whooping loud enough to wake our new neighbors,  but somehow not my children, I yank the water too far to hot. Now I need to use the curtain as a shield so I can reach the faucet.

I have wasted three precious minutes. I have 12 left before I need to tear out the door. I’m shampooing my hair with blue raspberry 3 in 1 for kids, and using my not so sweet 16’s face wash because all my stuff is still packed in my suitcase from an out of town training earlier in the week.

Somehow I get passably clean and tear back to the bedroom dripping wet. I forgot underwear on the 1st trip. My husband is still curled up in the middle of the bed. Feeling churlish, I shout a 5 second warning before turning on the light and dumping the rest of the laundry basket on the bed to find socks and undies I can make it through the day with. Precious moments are lost when I have to dump out my suitcase to find deodorant that does not smell like teen spirit.

Finally I pull on a flat pair of boots that can stand up to 2.5 hours of lunch duty, and the mile I will have to walk between the parking garage and my night class. I am feeling pretty good about my time. Only 3 minutes late. I grab items I will need to get through the day on the way to the kitchen: work badge, phone, textbooks, computer charger.

As I pack my three bags,  out of the corner of my eye I see the blue flashing light on the Keurig. I forgot to hit brew. I consider skipping coffee for a millisecond then realize the insanity of that idea.

I abondon the pile run to hit brew , run back and pack, frantically search for my key, mix the coffee, lose the key, find it again, drag the bags to the door, fear I lost my phone, search through two of the bags to find it, search through both bags again to find the key that I had in my hand while looking for phone then almost walk out the door without coffee.

17 minutes late. I still need gas and have to pick up my friend.  I suck at mornings. I didn’t even notice the hole until 2:30pm. Its 3 inches long. My underwear are also inside out.

How am I even a grown up?