A Prayer On The Eve of My Son’s First LAX Game

(Original post date: Tuesday, April 01, 2008)

Oh God – if you’re out there, help me to be a good sports mom tomorrow.

Let me have faith in my son’s helmet and assorted pads. I didn’t know LAX was a contact sport when I said my son could play, though the cumbersome and expensive array of protective gear should’ve been my first clue.

Let me not stand up, point and yell, “Hitting!” I know they’re not in kindergarten, but it’s just not nice, so help me keep that opinion to myself.

Let me not have to cover my eyes or gasp and speak in Yiddish, causing those around me to gawk. I can’t help it if I channel my grandmother when I watch people get hurt or hit each other with sticks. It seems that the hitting with sticks is inevitable, and people getting hurt can’t be far behind, so I’ll need some help with that.

Let me think only generous thoughts about the other players and assorted adults. It would be good to get through this without thinking “@$$&#!*” even once… though I can’t even drive from here to the grocery store without thinking at least one of those, so perhaps that’s asking too much.

Let me not end up sprawled on the ground, my brand new fold-up chair on top of me as I say, “I told you those legs weren’t locked.”

Let me not complain bitterly about the cold and the fact that it was over 70 degrees the day BEFORE I had to go sit in a field for an hour.

Most of all, God, help me be calm and supportive, and let my son see how proud I am of how hard he’s been working. Despite my qualms about him playing a contact sport, I am proud that he’s busted his butt – and I don’t think it’ll hurt him to know how to get knocked down, get up, and keep on playing.

Oh, please disregard this prayer if you don’t get done feeding the world’s hungry, smiting all total schmucks and creating world peace by 5 pm tomorrow.

Either way, I’ll try my best.

Amen.

Clearing Up Misconceptions

(Original post date: Monday, March 24, 2008)

Until recently I don’t think my kids knew who Jaime Lynn Spears was… unfortunately, now they do. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, JLS is Brittney’s little sister, she’s 16, and she’s knocked up.

Now, as a rule, I try to stay as far away from the Disney Channel as possible, but the other day I was straightening up the family room when my daughter came in to watch a show. I looked up just in time to see JLS looking all pure and virginal.

“Ugh,” I said. “Is that Jamie Lynn Spears?”

“Yeah,” my daughter replied. “Isn’t she pretty???”

“Yeah,” I muttered. “And foolish.”

“Why? ’Cause she’s pregnant? I heard she’s giving the baby away.”

Oh boy was this not the conversation I’d had in mind when I went in to straighten up.

“Imagine having to do that, though,” I answered, heading up the stairs, attempting to escape from any in-depth discussion about JLS’s decision making.

Alas, my son had heard her name and was waiting in the hall.

“You know,” he said casually, “I just think she’s unlucky, that’s all.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you usually don’t get pregnant the first time you do it,” my 11 year old son replied breezily.

Oh, jeez. Where should I start? “Who said that?” I demanded.

“Everyone on the bus.” Of course.

For those of you without school-aged kids, let me warn you: the bus is the root of all evil. It starts in kindergarten when they learn what the middle finger means on the bus. Then you’ve got to get into what the f-word means.. that’s a whole other issue. I recommend tellling them it’s like a really strong “darn it!” until you’re ready to have “the talk.”

I take it back. Don’t listen to my advice. It’s so easy to tell others what to do when what comes out of my own mouth is so often NOT what I ought to be saying.

Case in point…

Best answer: “Son, let me calmly address two problems with that opinion.”

What I actually said: “Oh, ya think it was her first time, do ya?”

Not the best lead in, I realize. I did manage to get it together. I explained that yes, you most certainly CAN get pregnant the first time, and that you should ALWAYS use a condom to avoid pregnancy and diseases.

“Oh. Okay.” he said. I thought we were done. Whew.

Nope.

“So what exactly is a condom?” he asked.

That’s no big deal to explain, right? Yeah sure. Go ahead explain exactly what it is to an 11 year old boy. Try it… I’ll wait. But I forged ahead and explained. He looked at me like I was making it up, then laughed his head off.

“Oh,” he said again, “Okay.”

I could tell from the look on his face that there was another question coming. What now, I wondered. I braced myself.

“So, um, Mom.”

“Yes…”

“Can I ask you a question?

“Yes…”

“Can I have some ice cream?”

“YES!!”

Whew. So here’s what I want to know: what’s the world coming to when this type of conversation is sparked by a Disney show??? What’s next? The Wonderful World of STDs?

Bye.

Lies I’ve Been Told Lately

(Original post date: Thursday, February 14, 2008)

I wrote the essay but my dog ate my jump drive.

We’ll be there between 9 and 12.

I already cleaned my room.

You said I could.

Our classes are heterogeneously grouped.

It was smoky when I came in.

My teacher didn’t give us any homework.

You promised.

I looked in the library – it’s not there.

He started it.

I told you about that.

There are no hidden fees.

That’s not my job.

Everyone else has one.

It’s not burned, it’s crunchy.

You look exactly the same!

I’ve got the flu blues.

(Original post date: Friday, February 08, 2008)

It started with my daughter earlier this week, then my husband started running a fever yesterday, then the middle school called ’cause my son was running a fever, and I walked around all day trying to convince myself that the sore throat, painful cough, chills and wooziness were allergies. I admit it – I’m a goober. But it’s research season and there’s stuff to do. Now, however, I feel like total crap. I need REAL chicken soup… with matzo balls and little noodles – but I don’t have the energy to make it. Out of desperation I bought a can of chicken soup with matzo balls – I swear I must’ve been delirious! Canned matzo balls? What kind of sicko would think that up? And what desperate moron would BUY it? Oh, yeah, me. Just one more piece of evidence that I’m not playing with a full deck.

Here’s what I want right now: I want my mommy! I want her to make me her chicken soup, drive it out here, heat it up, and then tidy my house. She used to tidy up my room when I was sick. Cool, fresh sheets, no clutter… it always made me feel better. I’d do it myself but I’m all worn out from having the flu, taking care of a husband and son with the flu, and making sure my recently-over-the-flu daughter is eating actual meals occasionally and not watching rated-R movies or something while I’m in bed, curled up in a ball. I have no doubt that if I called my mom and shared these wishes with her, she’d be on her way out here with enough chicken soup to cure an army before lunch time tomorrow. But that would be selfish and childish considering I’m a grown-up and she lives 2 hours away with, you know, a life of her own. So, instead, I’m just going to sit here and sulk.

FYI, until I’m well enough to remain standing long enough to make my own soup, we’re sticking to Campbell’s. It ain’t homemade chicken soup with matzo balls, but it’s easy and it tastes like soup… not like sewage like the aforementioned abomination.

Enough with the pity party. I’m going to pass out now.

Couches

We have a ridiculous amount of mismatched furniture. The problem is, no matter how we arrange it, it still looks like mismatched furniture. Occasionally, I’ll find myself sitting on the stairs or standing in a doorway trying to envision a room that is calming rather than chaotic.    
    
Much our furniture is pre-owned, which is to say they’re hand-me-downs. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, we had kids before we had any money, so over the years, whenever anyone said, “We’re getting a new couch,” and asked us if we wanted the old one, we said yes. Second, my parents are perpetually saying, “We’re getting a new couch.”  
On New Year’s Eve, we ended up hosting an impromptu party. Instead of grabbing food and sitting on the sectional by the television on the other side of our family room, people clustered near the food on the mostly unfurnished side, squeezing into a love seat and a chair and sitting on the floor. I’m an intensely casual hostess, but it seemed wrong that people didn’t even have comfortable seating. I realized that we had a full-sized couch in the adjacent, unheated sun room, so I ran out there and started shoving the couch into the family room. 
My husband called, “Hon? What are you doing out there?” (which is code for, “Why is that fucking door open? It’s cold!”). I yelled that I was moving a couch so people didn’t have to sit on the floor (which is code for, “I’m moving a couch so people don’t have to sit on the floor, so don’t give me grief about the fucking door!”). Peer pressure being what it is, all the men simultaneously hopped up, shooed me away, and moved the couch into the family room. It looked stupid jutting out in the middle of the room, but people no longer had to sit on the floor, so my mission was accomplished. 
After everyone left, my husband and I tidied up, but it was late and we were tired, so we left the couch where it was. Two days later, it began to bug me, but instead of just returning the couch to the sun room, I decided that there had to be a better configuration.
I am not good at visualizing things, so I no longer waste time trying to figure it out on paper. I just start shoving things around. This is no easy task. When you’re 5’2” you really have to put your whole body weight into moving couches and other large pieces of furniture.
I don’t measure conventionally, either. I use the “put one foot directly in front of the other and count how many ‘feet’ something is” method. Usually this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. I do a lot of shoving.
My first combination was terrible. I tried switching the couch with the love seat, but the proportions were wrong. I thought that the bookcase, which is 2′ high, 9 “feet” long, and enormously heavy, should go on a different wall, but my first shove resulted in a cracking sound. Since I was too lazy to remove and then replace all the books, it stayed right where it was. 
My second and third combinations didn’t work either, so I involved the television end of the family room in the swap, too. 
In the middle of all this, my daughter came downstairs to listen to her iPod and dance around and was delighted to find that not a single piece of furniture (except the bookcase, of course) was where it had begun. Her overjoyed, “Whoa! What’re you doing?” attracted the attention of my husband who, although not overjoyed, was at least interested in participating in the shuffle. 
First we had to discuss the arrangements I’d already tried.
“What about…?”
“Nope. Looked terrible.”
“Oh. Well, what about…?”
“That, too.
Then, we had to kick out my daughter and her originally entertaining but eventually annoying combination of questions and narration:
“Why is the couch over there? That looks weird. Mom, doesn’t that look weird? Daddy, Mommy thinks that looks weird. Can we do my room next? Uh oh, that didn’t fit. Don’t hurt yourself, Mom. Ooooh. That looked like it hurt. Hey, the chair is by the fireplace again. It looked better before. Is dinner going to be ready soon? Did you even start cooking, yet? What? No! No! I’ll stop talking! Really! No, really! Pleeeeeease? You guys are so unfair!” 
We finally settled on an arrangement that was embarrassingly close to the original. The television and big chair traded places on one side.  On the other side, the love seat was demoted to the sun room in favor of the long couch. That’s it. We moved furniture and delayed dinner for over an hour to switch two minor things.

It was a fitting end for a saga that began on New Year’s Eve, a time when people examine their lives, try to make sense of the chaos, and then make plans to change themselves. Gyms and closet organizing companies make a fortune during the first week of the year, when people shell out big bucks for memberships and organizational systems that they believe will help them rearrange their lives. In the end, though, when the next New Year’s Eve rolls around, most people’s lives are still embarrassingly close to what they had been before. We are who we are, and no amount of pushing and shoving, whether we’re talking weights, the contents of our closets, or even couches, can fundamentally change that.

Wiki Update and More

(Original post date: Friday, November 30, 2007)

Okay, so the wiki assignments I set up for my students didn’t go exactly as I’d envisioned. I don’t know why I thought that anything would run smoothly when I added 100+ kids to the equation. In any case, the first “post the cool websites you find about this topic” assignment was a MESS for the first group of kids. Their subjects are things like, “Katelyn’s Sites!” All of this would be well and good except that they weren’t allowed to duplicate other kids’ sites, and keeping track of every posted site was impossible. Susequent classes posted their sites in the subject of their posts, which created a somewhat easier to handle list of sites, but it still left me searching for their responses to classmates’ sites. OY.

Part of the problem is that wikispaces is free and full of cool features, but it doesn’t give me the control I need… for instance, I need to be able to type in a kid’s username and see everything he/she has posted/edited. BlackBoard, I believe, has this function, but since my school doesn’t use it, that’s not an option for me.

In any case, my plan is to go MUCH simpler for the next wiki assignment… like: respond to this question and to one other student’s response. Again, this is me coming up with the assignments w/o actual teenagers mucking it all up. So, we’ll see.

Meanwhile, I’m still coveting all things technological. I don’t care how many people tell me the iPhone is overrated… it’s SO COOL and I want one. I don’t want to pay for it or for the necessary accompanying service, of course. And therein lies the problem. So it’s a no go for the iPhone. Likewise with the Macbook, which I may also have mentioned before. Oh, and now, thanks to my pal E., I am coveting PhotoShop. I want to put my head on Paris Hilton’s body. LOL

I wonder if E. is on MySpace…. I’m going to go check now.

Ciao

Flip-flop Conundrum

Many companies and schools have a no flip-flop rule. That’s no big deal. After all, we’re professionals, right? But has anyone checked out summer footwear, lately? What’s a flip-flop and what’s not?

Opinions vary:

“Nothing can go between your toes.”

“It’s got to have a back or a strap around the back of your foot.”

“They can’t make that ‘flip-flop’ sound when you walk.”

“It has to cover most of your foot.”

“Stick with sandals, slides, and wedges.”

The problem with all of these answers is that none is definitive. I have shoes that I consider sandals, but they do go between my toes. Can I wear them? And I have a pair of slides that are WAY more casual than the above mentioned sandals. They do, however, make a “thwack thwack” sound when I walk, which brings us to the rule about the ‘flip-flop’ sound. Does “thwack thwack” count as a ‘flip-flop’? I think the person who volunteered that advice is in league with the “something around the back of your foot” person. And what’s “most of your foot”? I need details. Is there a percentage written into our contract? Maybe that’s the part right after how many sick days we can use for family leave.

Today I wore my “between my toes” sandals, and I asked at least half a dozen people what they’d call them. Most said “sandals.” One said “thongs.”

But the best answer? “Thongs, honey, but who cares? They’ve got bigger problems… like the tramp stamps sashaying up and down the halls. My goodness, boys are so distracted they’re walking into lockers. Someone’s gonna get hurt.”

So the “what’s a flip-flop” mystery remains unsolved. Looks like more field research is necessary. I think I’ll wear my snow boots with a springy dress on Monday and see how that goes over.

Impossible things I’d like:

(Original post date: Friday, May 11, 2007)

* every room in my house to be clean at the same time, for more than 30 seconds

* laundry and dishes that clean themselves and put themselves away

* healthy, delicious meals that cook themselves and that all members of my family like

* children who clean their rooms (not the shove everything in the closet or under the bed variety, either) without being reminded and sans whining, complaining, muttering or eye-rolling

* people to actually stop at the stop sign near my house

* a personal landscaper/gardener who works for free

* papers that grade themselves

* an extra hour or two a day that no one else knows about

* to be graceful (at least occasionally)

On my mind right now…

(Original post date: Saturday, April 21, 2007 )

Cutting down 30 year old, perfectly healthy oak trees because you “don’t want them to come crashing through the roof” is insane, and will not endear you to your brand new neighbors.

Pest companies to whom you pay a monthly fee should send someone right out to your house if you have huge black ants all over your kitchen.

In life, as with math, there is an order of operations: first you find out if the fence is yours, then you talk with the neighbor with whom you share the fence, THEN you take down the fence.

Refrigerated cookie dough is one of the best inventions ever.

If you ask 5 different people where your property line is, you will surely get more than one answer. Choosing the one that suits your purpose and ripping down everything you’ve decided is yours doesn’t make it legal and, again, doesn’t endear you to your brand new neighbors.

Shoving bills into various drawers and shoe boxes is an inefficient way to “organize” things. The time you save by not bothering to actually file things is completely negated by the hours it takes you to sort through everything when you finally get a desk and hanging file folders. It should not take 36 years to learn this.

Bullies at any age suck — they bring out my Jersey. Confrontation does not scare me.

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