Will Either Of My Kids Have Moxie?

Looking to read some great stuff and laugh at the same time? Then you’ve got to read this post by fellow Blogger, My Least Favorite Child Today.

My Least Favorite Child Today

July 22, 2016

I’m a typical Dad.  I want my kids to be safe, happy and healthy.  I want them to be smart and well adjusted.  I want them to be thoughtful and kind.  But more than all that standard crap I want them to have Moxie!

My desire is to have entertaining kids with pluck.  I want them to be fascinating scamps who will do precocious things you never expect that catch you a little off guard and leave people amazed. The type of kids who always turn up in viral videos that get millions of hits because they’re full of spunk and spirit. The problem is they’re not giving me that.  They’re giving me this.

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Sure, they’re cute but they’re not Mayim Bialik in Beaches.

ccbloom(OK, maybe I don’t need them to have this much moxie.)

Is being precocious hereditary?  If so, they’re got a 50/50 shot.  I…

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These Summer Days

 

I can’t think of a season I enjoy more than Summer.I love all the seasons for different reasons but summer is unquestionably my favorite. It has always been. I have stored in my brain so many delicious memories of summers past.

Summer is just the sweetest of seasons.  Time slows down.  There is something magical in each and every day.  I savor the gentle sounds of the fans whirring in the rooms of my home, the hum of the air conditioners, Red Sox games in the background on the television, grilled dinners, frequent trips to the park and library, splashing around in our pool, weekly visits to our local farm stand, reading on a blanket under the trees in our yard, the way afternoon sunlight slices through the trees creating shadows on the ground beneath them, the scent of sunscreen and the gritty feel of sand on the bottoms of our feet … I could go on and on about all of the things I love about summer.

I have searched high and low for a blog post I read several years ago about one woman’s perspective on what makes summertime so coveted, because I wanted to share it here. When I read it for the first time, I thought, YES!  Someone out there, whom I’ve never met, knows exactly what’s in my heart for summertime!  How could another person know this so well, this thing in my heart?

I am going to try to impart what I took away from her beautiful words, and in the meantime, I will continue to look for it.  It’s gotta be out there somewhere.

She spoke of being at home as a child, away from school, classmates, the everyday-ness of usual life, and instead spending hours in her backyard, at the library, enjoying the seemingly never-ending days of summer.  She mentioned “the emotional safety of summer.”

Summer was, and is, time away from the everyday-ness of my usual life.

As a kid, that meant no homework, no teachers, no classmates, no expectations, no pressure, all things which I did not mind all that much between September and June.  In fact, for many summers, I presented with symptoms of anxiety caused only by an interruption in the everyday-ness of normal life.  My poor parents. And my poor younger sister, who had little tolerance for my nonsense. I feared kidney failure, cancer, a ruptured appendix, AIDS caught from a mosquito bite, and a plane crashing into my house while we slept. I also loved, but feared, thunderstorms accompanied by lightning.  As far as I was concerned, we were just one lightning bolt away from our house being struck and going up in flames.

But aside from those dramatics, I loved summer.

I loved being in charge of my own learning.  I read constantly, I wrote constantly. Topics that were not offered as learning opportunities during the school year took on lives of their own during summer:  space, nutrition, the 50’s.  I made up my own projects. I felt smart.

My sister and I played endless games of Trivia Pursuit.  We watched Clue the Movie over and over again, laughing hysterically every single time. Our best friends came over for swimming and sleepovers.

We boated and tubed on Captain’s Pond, docking from my grandfather’s own little corner of it.  We spent a glorious week at Lake Winnipesaukee in a cottage on the water, meeting new people and making new friends, and then Dad got his own boat and we started weekending there. I picked wild blueberries with my Grammy and slept over her house as much as I wanted.  I went fishing with my grandfather.  I rode bikes with the other neighborhood kids on my street.

I tried different camps and detested them all. Home was where I wanted to be.

As a younger teenager, I spent as much time as I could in the pool, reading, writing, and video-taping myself talking.  I closely watched my dance recital videos and tried to memorize my favorite dances.  I got together with friends from school whom I really liked which was a new thing for me.  Hanging out with friends during the school year was one thing; seeing them during the summer months was a whole different ball game.  It was like inviting them into my secret world.  Of course, there was still the Lake and Dad’s boat.

As an older teenager, I had boyfriends and friends and we all had licenses so we were at each other’s houses and the beach.  But I still loved my alone time to read, write, listen to music, swim, and just be free to daydream.  And there was the Lake and Dad’s boat.

As a young adult, Husband and I spent days together on end, and then for days on end I would be with friends or by myself.  I worked.  I took classes that just felt so different in the summer. I drank a lot of iced coffee.  I read and read and read and wrote and wrote and wrote.

Once I started teaching, summer became this dreamy 10-week break that none of my friends had but me. Unless, of course, they were teachers, too, and they were not.  And neither was Husband. So I had a lot of time alone, reading, writing, tending to my living space, preparing for the upcoming school year.  I loved it.  Every single second of it.

Now that Girlfriend and Monkey are my life, summer is filled with a lot of the same things but in a totally different way.  Summer is about making memories with them, not around them or for them.  And their memories are always going to vary from mine, despite sharing the same experiences together. It is pure joy to know that I am helping them build their memories of summer in much the same way mine were created.

We are living in a very technology-driven, very fast-paced, very loud, very materialistic world that slows down for no one and no thing.  It is up to me to make time slow down for my children.  During summer, I’ve embrace the opportunity to do just that.

We have a little bit of planned fun – Camp Invention and Summer CCD – Mother Goose Story Time – maybe a nature camp mid-August – and a lot of unplanned fun.

How awesome is it to just wake up and be able to say, “What should we do today?” and we make up the idea to go to a local farm that has amazing produce, baked goods, candy, and animals.  Monkey finds a plant cart on wheels and decides to take it for a spin which keeps him occupied for a good 15 minutes.  I just follow.  He becomes intrigued at a constantly crowing rooster and perplexed that Mr. Rooster won’t let him get closer than about 4 feet. Girlfriend finds what she’s been looking for … edible flowers!  She swings joyously from the branch of an apple tree that is only starting to grow its apples that we will soon be picking for pies and other delicious Fall treats.

And of course, there’s always time for reading, writing, art, baking, and dancing.

I would bottle Summer up if I could.  

All I need is a big mason jar.

 

 

 

What If I’m Not a Good Teacher?

A question that still swims through my mind!  Fellow blogger Elisabeth Ellington nails it.

the dirigible plum

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Today, I’m tackling another question posed by one of my Methods students:

What if I am not a good teacher? What if I fail? Yes, I know, these are technically two questions, but they are related so they count as one. (My blog. My rules.) These are serious questions I have about my future as an educator. I do not want to fail my students and I do want to be a good teacher, but what if I just suck. What then?

What then? You’ll try again and get better.

Teaching is such a complex and complicated act. It is composed of philosophies, beliefs, techniques, strategies, and methods that may be shared among teachers, but even when I use the same techniques and methods as another teacher, even when we share the same pedagogical vision, my teaching does not look like hers.  I teach who I am. I teach…

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That Week in December

 

Before December 10, 2013, I had experienced bad “teacher days.”  I think we all have. One of the kids, or a lot of the kids, are just really off from the moment the opening bell rings; a team meeting doesn’t go well; you have a heated debate with a colleague; a parent meeting doesn’t turn out the way you hoped.  You know.

And before December 10, I had hit some teaching milestones.  I earned tenure. I had my first child, enjoying an extended maternity leave I had only witnessed others do.  I made my 10-year teaching mark. I hosted a student teacher who has since gone on to do amazing things. My first class ever graduated in 2012. (Although I was no longer teaching in that district by this time, I went to their graduation and saw them receive diplomas.  It was awesome.)

I have not yet experienced the worst day of my life.  I am extremely lucky.

December 10 was no exception.

I would never say that December 10, 2013 was the worst day of my life.  It wasn’t.  I have enough clarity to know that.  That suffering belongs to the friends and family of the child who died.  Not me, one of his many teachers.  So let’s get that straight from the start.  I know my place. As far as my teacher life goes, December 10 was the worst day I’ve ever had. That was a day that I will never forget, one that I hope to never repeat, and selfishly, one that I hope never happens to me personally as a parent because that’s just too much hell.

December 10 also marked a milestone that we teachers all know exists, but hope to the highest power it isn’t one we ever experience.

December 10 began as it normally does on any given school day.  I woke up, I drank my coffee as I read a few chapters in whatever book I was into at the time, went about the routines of getting my family out of bed and on the move for their days ahead, got myself ready, and went to school.  Nothin’ to it.

Usually I turn on my computer when I arrive to the classroom.  I probably did that day, too. But I did not open my email as I usually do.  I remember that.  I don’t know why I didn’t, I just didn’t.

I finally did open it when my students were in class, settled, and reading at their desks, waiting for the morning announcements to begin.  After, we would take care of lunch orders and meet for our beloved Morning Meeting.

The first email I saw was titled, “Student death at the high school.”  Upon opening it, I discovered that a student at the high school had died, and staff was directed to let administration know if details were needed.  I thought that was strange because unfortunately, in the last several months, we had had more than our fair share of tragic events occurring with folks at the high school but not once had we been invited to seek details in the office. This felt very different.

I looked at my students.  They were quiet, reading, waiting.  I looked toward the door of my classroom, into the hallway.  A colleague was walking by.  I hesitantly stepped into the hallway and asked her if she’d seen the email and if so, did she happen to know who the student was?

She told me sadly.  His name was Cameron.  We called him Cam.

I swear, I had just been punched in the stomach.  A hot flash washed over my face.  My scalp tingled for a few seconds like it does when I’m scared, like an adrenaline rush.

“He was mine,” I managed to say.  “What …. happened to him?”

“He died in a car accident last night.  That’s all anyone really knows right now.”

He died.  In a car accident.  Those cold words tumbled over and over again in my head.

I must have looked like I was going to throw up or some other dreadful thing you shouldn’t do in the hallway of your school, because she then said, “You should go for a few minutes.”

I didn’t know where to go, so I went to my friend, the nurse’s, office. I wasn’t about to go to the main office.  Despite the invitation.  This was way too personal. I couldn’t find any words that made sense. My friend, the nurse, was kind and that’s all that mattered in that moment.

The rest of the day is a blur.  I felt numb, shocked, and I was just … in disbelief.

What I most remember about this day is the memories.  My mind was exploding with memories of this student, his class, that school year so long ago that I had packed away in my brain.  I couldn’t get his adorable, freckled little face out of my mind, his smile, his puppy-dog personality.

Dead.

Car accident.

My student.

I thought about his peers at the high school, his teachers there. What they were feeling. I could not even fathom their experience today, walking in and seeing his desk empty, his parking spot devoid of his truck, the texts that must be blowing up their phones, the tears.

I thought about his parents.  How were they getting through this day?!  What were they doing?  How was his sister?  Were they being taken care of?  Were they breathing?!  I had not thought about them in years and now so many memories came rushing at me … their names … their enthusiastic and constant participation in my classroom … their kindness … the love they had for their children … his sister doing some student teaching upstairs when she was a senior in high school … I had not met her before and introduced myself to her when I found out who she was because her brother was a special kid in my heart.

As I navigated my way through the day, I saw lots of Littles from behind that looked just like he had … short, blond, ears sticking out.  My heart sank each time.

And this weird thought kept creeping in.  All those years ago, whenever I talked to him, read to him, taught him, hugged him, held his hand, corrected his papers, watched him alongside his other wonderful classmates, did I ever know, even a teeny bit, that this day would happen?  And I looked at my other students now with that thought … could you die? could you just be gone? Like I said, a weird thought. I know this.  I wish, nearly three years later, that I was able to say I don’t think like that anymore. But that thought crosses my mind often.

By noon, the story had made the local news with details.  Late at night.  Black ice.  Truck slid, vaulted over the guard rail, rolled down the embankment, coming to a stop on its tires, facing the wrong direction of the highway.  Found dead at scene.

Sick.  I felt sick.

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When the end of the day finally arrived, and I was able to grab my keys off my table, hit the lights and walk out, I rounded the corner and walked smack into a parent who thought we had a meeting scheduled for that day.  She had the date wrong; it was actually scheduled for the following Tuesday.  She was so flustered about her mistake, and I was so … quiet. VERY unusual for me.  She was embarrassed and apologetic, and on any other day, I would have been like, “No, you know what? You’re here, let’s sit down!”

But I just couldn’t.  I couldn’t.  I know she took my quiet demeanor personally, but I just wanted to leave, more than I had ever wanted to leave anywhere.  I wanted to go home, I wanted to talk to Husband, I just needed to process what happened to this kind, sweet, adorable, wonderful little boy who was my student ten years ago in second grade, who died, alone, in a scary accident, last night, during his senior year of high school, driving home from one of his favorite places in the world:  the ice hockey rink.

I called Husband the second I got in my car.  I told him, “One of my students died.  No,  not one I have now.  One from before, he’s a senior now … well, he was.”  And I looked up and it was starting to snow lightly.  “Can we NOT go to your mom’s tonight for dinner? The roads are going to get bad, I saw that on the news.  I just want to stay home, I don’t want to go out.”

“Yeah, no problem,” Husband said.  He called his mom.  He told her.  One of my students died.  I was upset.  She was very sorry to hear that happened.

I had to go pick up Girlfriend.  At this point, I knew where the accident had occurred.  It was not far from her school.  I drove past it.  The dents in the guardrail was undeniable.  This happened.  This was happening.

We saw the news that evening.  WMUR.  There was a segment.  They showed his senior photo.  “He grew into his ears,” I commented.  The reporter, standing in front of the high school, said the entire town was “in disbelief and just devastated,” not only the high school but the middle and elementary schools.

My mother called.  “I just saw the news, that student in your town, did you know him?Ohhhhhhh, he was yours … I was afraid of that.”

I should have called in sick the next day, and maybe even the day after that.  As a highly sensitive person, this situation in my mind was bigger than me, it was taking everything I had to process it, and it was really messing with me.  I was devastated.  This was a kid who was so loved by everyone, so genuine in who he was and how he was, so full of life and energy and passion for the things he cared about.  He made an effort.  He was a good kid. He loved his family and his dogs.  He respected and liked his teachers.  And we all respected and liked him back.  I just could not wrap my brain around this tragedy.  Why him?  I could not think of one good reason for his life to be cut so short.

It was an awful week.  In rudimentary language, his death just made me feel really sad.  I felt like a piece of my teaching life was gone because he was no longer part of that world in which I teach.

I thought a lot that day, that week, and the weeks following, about him when he was in my class.  I remembered his friends, especially his two buddies who, with him, made a crazy trio.  I thought about how hard he worked.  I thought about the card he made for a little girl in our class who was moving.  I thought about the school picture he gave me of himself, glued to a pretty piece of paper with his name and mine hand-written in pencil, hearts and stars drawn around his photo.  I now have that photo framed and sitting on my desk in my classroom where I can see it.  Occasionally, someone will ask, “Who’s that?”  And my answer is the same every time:  “A little boy I used to know.”

I had loads of digital pictures.  I had so many that Husband got me a back-up drive to store them all.  Being very organized, I had moved each school year into their own folders.  His pictures were saved in “School year 03-04.”  I opened the folder and the past came back to life on my computer screen.  Our spider projects, the Miss Spider’s Tea Party where his dad was his guest, our Christmas celebration where his mom was his guest, our visit from children’s author Marty Kelly, whole-class photos from various days, random photos from a number of different days in class and out at recess, and on field trips.  I took out the yearbook from that year and there was a photo of him and I together, on a local field trip to the salmon farm.

Cam

Have you ever seen a brighter smile?

Dead.

This child was dead.

People close to me did not understand my grief.  Some were patient, others thought I was melodramatic, others still were surprised I would even remember a student from that long ago and be this heartbroken over it, considering I had not seen or talked to this student or his family since 2004.  One individual suggested I was out line by talking to the family and offering my support. So, I really didn’t have anyone to talk to about it.  People were sorry, they felt terrible, the entire community mourned, but there was really no one to tell my thoughts and feelings to, to ask, “Why is this hurting so much?  When will it stop?”

Girlfriend slept in our bed with me that week.  Just hearing her breathe comforted me.  I didn’t want her to be out of my sight.

The next day, I met with a small group of teachers who talked with a grief counselor at the high school.  I said that I felt guilty feeling so overwhelmed with sadness, I didn’t feel like I had the right to grieve this hard.  The one thing I took away from the meeting was the counselor’s warning to all of us:  “Death happens.  We’re teachers.  At some point it is going to happen to a student.  We have to accept it.  Feel the sorrow.  Miss the student.  But you can’t stay stuck in the sadness.  You have to move away from it and get on with every day.”

Husband and I went to Cam’s funeral on Friday, December 13.  It was more of a memorial service.  The parking lot was jam-packed.  We parked 1/4 of a mile down the street from the venue.  It was freezing cold.  It took us about 15 minutes to get there, surrounded by others who were going to the same place.  I would have walked a day in this cold for this kid and his family. Once we arrived to the building where the service was being held, we stood in line for quite a while before even getting inside.  The rooms were filled with family, friends, classmates, teachers, and coaches.

There was absolutely no place to sit.  So we stood.  I saw many former students and parents. Lot of people were crying.  Others who were normally very outgoing were quiet, having sedated conversations with each other.  In my hand I held an envelope with some pictures of Cam that I had, to give to his family from our time together in my classroom.  His mother, beautiful as ever, looked broken.  His older sister, holding it together, was the pillar of strength.  His adoring father looked like he hadn’t slept in a year but was still managing to smile and talk.

His dad and sister arrived at the podium.  His father spoke.  His daughter supported him. Friends got up there and spoke.  A coach spoke.  Powerful words spoken, powerful memories spoken about. Powerful was this child. Members of the audience laughed and cried. Every single thing they talked about, I thought, YES, that’s Cam! That is the Cam I knew – and he never changed!  This was the Cam we all knew, who we were all so lucky to know.

It was hard to leave at the end.  Because I knew this was goodbye.

When we got home, Girlfriend was at my parents’ house for a sleep-over, so it was just us.

“Want dinner?” Husband asked.

“Nah … I don’t even know what I feel like.”  I sighed.

I put on my pajamas.  Husband made a cup of tea for me.  I drank it. I went to bed.  As I closed my eyes, the tears finally flowed, fast, hard, unrelenting.

I did not know at the time that this grief was going to last for as long as it did, or how it would eventually turn out.  I did not know how many “Godwinks” were in store for me.  I did not know how much this experience would change my life.  Those are all stories for another time.

One thing I did know, that I still know, was this: Cam was a delightful force in all our lives. I loved being his teacher.  I love that he was “mine.”

I may never be able to put into eloquent prose just how deeply his death affected me. But I can honestly say this was one of the most affecting experiences of my life. He is tucked away in my heart, and as horrific as this experience was, the reality is I am stronger, better, fiercer for having been a part of his short but meaningful life.

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**written with express permission from the Ricard Family.

 

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Bumbleberry Pie

bumbleberry pie

It was winter of 2010.  I had been back at work since September and things were going really well.  I had loved every moment of being on extended maternity leave with Girlfriend between March 2008 and late August 2010, and have so many wonderful memories to look back on.  But let’s face it.  Being a stay-at-home-mother has a downfall or two – for example, the pay is really bad.

But it was so important to both Husband and myself that I stay home with Girlfriend for as long as I was able to.  That would be 18 months and then it was time to head back to what I call real life.  Almost my entire maternity leave was unpaid, but we’d planned for this for, well, forever.  We knew when we were around the age of 23 we would someday get married, have a family, buy a house, and that I would be at home with our children after teaching for a few years, and we even had a silly ‘ole dream that maybe we’d summer at The Lake. We saved what we could and hoped hard for good things.

Well, Life has its own plans and ours did not exactly turn out that way.  Yes, we got married. Yes, we bought a house.  Yes, we had a baby.  Yes, I stayed home.  But I was not able to stay home permanently, and we never did summer at The Lake for more than a couple of weeks. But Life was good to us.  We really couldn’t complain.

Back at work, it was very hard being away from Girlfriend, but it felt so satisfying to earn that regular paycheck, enabling me to contribute to our financial life and obtaining the things we wanted.

And then one dark February evening, Husband flat out told me that he was losing his business.  The business that he had worked so hard to build with his friend and partner, T-Man, over the last 6 years. The business that was raking in so many customers and so much money that you couldn’t shake a stick at them.

But this.  Losing the business?  What?

He told me then that it had been a possibility for months and he had been deeply worried, deeply ashamed, and deeply hopeful – so hopeful he did not tell me.  But now, there was no hope. The business was over.  He and T-Man were going their separate ways.

To add insult to injury, for the first time in my teaching career, I was faced with entering the upcoming new year with no contract.  Which did end up happening, lasting for two entire school years.

I can’t even begin to explain the financial burdens we experienced.  I am positive that I have never, in my entire life prior to this, been so angry and hurt and worried.

Thus began many months of the worst anxiety either of us have ever experienced in our lives.  We knew that if we could not get our mortgage lowered, we would lose our house. There was no question. But the bank would not help us.  They said I made too much money (I’m a public school teacher, trust me when I say I don’t make too much money!) and that unless we could prove we were bankrupt, they would not be able to help us.  Well, we weren’t bankrupt.  And thank God, we didn’t have a lot of other debt, just my car and college loans.  I wasn’t willing to stop paying my car loan but I was able to stop payments on the college loan for 2 years.

So, we had a serious conversation with our accountant who advised us to stop paying the mortgage.  Because if we wanted to make the point to the bank that we were a family in serious financial trouble and we could not pay our mortgage at the current cost, we would have to prove it by paying nothing.  We were told we would get phone calls.  Lots of phone calls.  We were told that our house would go up for an auction sale but that the date would continue to be put off because this was just how the ugly business of trying to get a mortgage reduction worked. We were assured that we probably would not actually lose our house when it got down to the wire, but we would go through every step and it would feel absolutely like we were going to lose the house.  We would even get notices on taped to our house.  All of that happened.

We spent many evenings talking about selling.  But the economy was so bad that our house was worth dirt even though it wasn’t.  To put it into perspective, $700,000 houses were going for $325,000.  We live in a standard cape. Wanna guess what our house would go for if we sold it?  We would lose an obscene amount of money if we sold. We would destroy our credit which was probably going to be destroyed once we stopped paying the mortgage.  We would be living in a condo and a not very nice one at that. If we could even get one.  And we didn’t have family we could live with.

I started to look at the world around me very differently.  It seemed to me that people, myself wholly included, just spent money so thoughtlessly, with zero consideration to wants versus actual needs.  I guess I always knew that, but it didn’t matter to me before, because I wasn’t in danger of losing the very roof over my head.  I bought whatever I wanted.  I went where I wanted.  I did not think that would ever change.  What did I know about having to scrimp and save?

Now, all I thought about was money.  Where is the best place to buy gas?  Are coupons really going to save a significant amount of money?  Where can I find the best ones?  Is Market Basket really wayyyyy less cheaper than Shaw’s?  I put together outfits to wear from the clothes I already had.  I actually made lists of what garments I owned so I could piece together outfits from those so that knew what I had, what I needed, and what I did not need. We started to buy generic whenever possible.  We changed grocery shopping from every evening to once a week and bought only what we needed.  We actually made meal plans, which we had never done before.

I was so sad.  And worried.  And embarrassed.  But I was honest with people.  I didn’t tell everyone.  I told my best friend and I told some of my colleagues.  I told my parents.

I started to look at people differently, too.  Did they have financial troubles?  Were they in danger of losing their homes?  Had they ever been?  Was this situation completely abnormal or was I one of many, many, many people going through something like this?

I yelled at the mortgage people when they called my house.  Soon, Husband made it a point to get the phone before I did when they called, which was every week.

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I did not understand why this was happening to us.  We were good people.  We were honest people.  We were hardworking people.  I was a public school teacher for crying out loud, my husband an engineer!

Where did we go wrong?

Why us?  Why now?

It was for no reason other than the economy.  2010’s economy, if you remember, was one of the worst our country has ever seen.  And we got trapped in it.

Several months later, one day, after school had released and I was driving to pick Girlfriend up at the early learning center she attended, I decided to stop in at the local farm store to purchase some cucumbers and tomatoes for a salad I’d been thinking about preparing with dinner.  As always, the scents of the place were immediately intoxicating as I walked through the doors, particularly the baked goods section.  I walked over and took a peek. Fresh out of the oven were sealed boxes of bumbleberry pie, one of my all-time favorites. The crust was so golden flaky, the filling so sweet and juicy, this pie was an angel on the lips.

And it was $20.

I didn’t have $20 for pie. I thought of the things I could use the $20 for.  And bumbleberry pie wasn’t on the list.

I picked out my cukes and tomatoes and continued on to pick up Girlfriend.

2.5 Years Later

We didn’t lose our house.  The bank worked with us.  Our mortgage payments were drastically reduced.  My credit score wasn’t damaged and to this day is still high.

The business never recovered to its original success, but it was doing fine – plenty fine. We were able to have new windows and siding installed – both definite needs, not wants. We had a pool – a need in our opinion.  Nothin’ fancy, just an above ground that served the purpose of cooling off, swimming like fish, and providing loads of family fun.  We were paying our bills, mortgage included.

By the Fall of 2013, we had settled into a comfortable routine of weekly budgeting.  It was just the way things were now.  And it made sense.

 

house

 

Girlfriend continued to attend the quality early learning center we had enrolled her in when she was a year and a half. Husband lost his business with T-Man, true, but soon after started up a new business for just himself, doing the same kind of engineering work.  (To this day he is still at it and working as diligently as ever.)

Sigh of relief.

But I have never forgot the way almost having nothing felt.

One hot afternoon, late in the summer, after working in my classroom to prepare for the start of a new school year, driving by that same farm stand as a few years back, I stopped in to purchase some fresh ears of corn to have with dinner.  And I saw, fresh out of the oven, sealed boxes of bumbleberry pie.  $20.  I bought one.  After dinner, we sliced it up and we ate some.  It was delicious.  We saved the rest for later.

Every summer since, I buy one, just one, bumbleberry pie, to eat and enjoy with my family. It serves as my simple reminder that there was a time when financial matters were so dire that I didn’t dare spend a single cent on anything we did not need, including an insignificant pie that before, I would not have thought twice about.  I am reminded of what it feels like to come so dangerously close to having everything taken from me, and in that, to be grateful, truly grateful, for what I have, and to never want for what I do not have. Including bumbleberry pie.  I eat my slice and I am grateful.

On Being Thankful

Everyone talks about being thankful. Everyone. Allow me to be honest when I say that I don’t believe that half of the people who talk about it actually know what it means to be thankful. I do not write this to offend. It just so happens that of all the people I personally know who go on and on about being thankful (on social media, mind you), most of them have never not had. For certain, they’ve all thought, “Thank GOD that’s not me with nothing.” But is that gratitude? Try coming within an inch of losing your house sometime through no fault of your own but a really bad economy. In that, I would plainly argue that I am one of those people who truly knows what being thankful feels like.

Anyway.

On 11/1/15, my absolute best friend (of 14 years) and I stopped speaking.  We have not spoken since.  It’s coming up on a year very soon. I know we will never speak again.  I am 100% okay with that because I have nothing (docile) to say to her, anyway. She clearly has had plenty to say to me, though, because for several months, she posted her very obvious feelings publicly on Pinterest, of all places. You can’t really hide anything on that social media site. I found that out the hard way because I got to see exactly what this so-called friend thought of me for so long (there is always going to be a mutual friend who leads you to the ugly evidence – and I’m  thankful it happened, actually, because now I know my best friend was never my best friend).

rude

My best friend of 14 years publicly posted that on social media.

First of all, whether or not this was actually about me, I did think it was at the time. And honestly?  I still do.  And back then, when I first saw it, I cried. A lot. For weeks. Because it’s mean.  And it’s not true at all.  At all.  I was so hurt. In some way, I always will be when I think about it.

The one thought I kept coming back to over the days and weeks that followed was:  For all those years, I chose someone like that to call my best friend, my sister?

I wondered, did she really, truly think this about me?  Like, I want what she has?  Well, huh.
Then the weeks passed. And I thought about it again.
Wait.
What??
confused
I started to really think about it.
Had I ever once felt jealous of my best friend?  Truthfully?  No.  Why?  Well, I’m not a jealous person. I’m just … not.  I wasn’t raised that way. Being jealous of others was highly looked down upon by my parents. But also, as far as I could tell, there wasn’t ever anything to be jealous about. She’s one of the most insecure people I’ve ever met in my life and she always was. All you have to do is spend a day with her, read her Facebook page, look at her Pinterest site. The truth is clear.
 I kept thinking.  It’s a bad habit of mine.  I’m trying to overcome it.

Why would anyone who is happy with her own life think that someone else wants what she has?  Is it not enough to be happy with your own life that you don’t actually stop to think (and take the time to post on social media), “Hmmm, who wishes they were me? Why, everyone, of course!  Everyone wants to be me!”  (insert Meghan Trainor’s “Me Too.”)

me-too

This was my best friend wielding around this vomitous attitude, the same person who stood up for me in my wedding, whom I stood up for in her wedding, who held my hand tightly through some pretty rough times, who’s hand I held tightly during some pretty rough times (and there were a lot of them for her). And after our friendship comes to a crashing halt over differences of opinion in parenting, suddenly it boils down to me wanting her life so that is why we can’t be friends, why we’re not friends?  Did I miss something?  Or should I have known better the last 14 years?

And then I wondered, Does my life suck and I just don’t know it?  Is she trying to tell me my life sucks or that I should think it does?

Well, listen.

I gotta tell you people something.

I don’t know if that snobbish posting was about me or not.  I will never know.  And I don’t care anymore. Because all that thinking got me somewhere.

Guess what, everyone?

I have a life I like.  And being someone who almost lost her house 5 years ago, I want to share why I like my life and why I am genuinely thankful.  And I hope my best friend is reading this, because she might learn a thing or two (but this is doubtful).

I’ve chosen not to dress this post up with personal pictures. If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know what my life “looks like” and you know that this post can stand alone without images to aid in visualization. My words are going to be enough.

I have two gorgeous children who are healthy, smart, loved, cared for, etc etc etc etc.  They have appropriate toys to play with, and wonderful books to read, and nice, clean clothes to wear, and nutritious food to eat.

I have a husband who is far from perfect but who is perfect for me. And I’m far from perfect, too. He loves me anyway!

I have a job that pays little but matters so much.

Our house is a standard Cape without extras, that we’ve done a lot of work on and still have a lot of work left to do.  I don’t know if we’ll ever be done.  It has so much great natural light, though, and we love our neighborhood.

The yard has more of a well-walked look to it, I jokingly refer to areas of our yard as a dirt pit but we take care of it the best we can and I think it’s okay.

We have a cool, clean pool to swim in during summer, and lots of space to play with our kids.

Our kitchen is small but we eat really great dinners as a family in there, every night.  We have a table to eat on (it belonged to my beloved Grammy and Pepere, actually), dishware and utensils to eat with, warm water and soap to wash those dishes and utensils, clean towels to wipe them dry, cabinets to store them.  We have a functioning stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher!!  A dishwasher!  Can you imagine having to wash every dish by hand?  And there are lots and lots of people who do!  Maybe by choice, maybe not, but I am sure glad I have a dishwasher.

Our children share a playroom that’s pretty cramped but the joy and creativity and reading and singing that happens in there is immeasurable.

Our living room is tiny but we’ve watched a lot of great TV in there, celebrated many wonderful Christmases in there, danced in there, read fabulous books in there, and taken refreshing naps in there.

The office has two nice windows that look out into the yard, with a good computer that allows me access to work and the outside world.

We’re lucky to have two clean, accommodating bathrooms.  I had one growing up and it was hell on earth, I tell you!  In these bathrooms we have all the things we need to take care of ourselves and warm water and we have fluffy towels that smell good too.

We sleep in comfortable bedrooms that keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

We drive nice cars that we can afford.

We don’t go to Disney, no.  We do not have a beach house in our family, either. We don’t go on expensive ski weekends. We can’t afford those things with two children and the cost of health care and child care. Plus, I’m afraid of flying and lately, of crazy people. We go on vacations, though. We go to the Lake where we build camp fires, and fish, and know our fellow townspeople, and pick wild blueberries, and swim in fresh water, and fall asleep to the sounds of the woods that surround us.  This summer, we’re going someplace new! And we take lots of day trips on the weekend to local destinations, because really, the goal is to spend time with our kids. It doesn’t really matter where.

And as soon as I get over my fear of flying and crazy people, and we don’t have to pay thousands of dollars a year in child care, we are going to visit some soulful place like Baja or somewhere.

My kids don’t need Disney. Do I feel guilty? You betcha. But what can I do? It’s not the end of the world.

My life is good. There is nothing wrong with it. I’ve never tried to be someone I’m not. I am thankful for every single part of my life.  I am grateful for the people in my life who love me, are there for me, teach me, and inspire me to be a better mother, wife, daughter, and teacher.  I compete with no one.

No, I don’t want someone else’s life. Especially not the life of that one person. And I just needed to say it.

everything that happens

This here is my social media post.

The Magic of Summer

A few days ago, it was a long day.  A really long day.  Monkey was up at 4:30, quietly cooing that then turned into soft whining that then turned into some controlled crying that by 5:20 had turned into full out “Get me out of bed!” dramatics.  The moment he saw me, the crying ceased and was replaced with, “Mamma … mamma … mamma …” all the way down the stairs, through the family room and into the kitchen where I promptly made his bottle and turned on the coffee.  Upon sucking down those 6 ounces in record time, he realized there was not a drop left; this started another round of dramatics.  Husband got up and joined us with hugs, kisses, and Good Mornings. All was well till it wasn’t.  The kinds of things that make it not well are situations like:

  • No, you can’t have that (tv remote, dvd remote, my current book, Girlfriend’s current book, the plug to the lamp, the diapers in the diaper basket, you get the idea …);
  • no, you can’t do that (climb over the back of the couch and lay there, climb up the stairs, go into the downstairs bathroom to stick hands in the toilet, you get the idea);
  • no, you can’t pull Kitty’s tail;
  • no, you can’t throw every toy you own over the gate and into the hallway from your playroom.

Well, eventually it was time to get ready for the day (and it was only 6:30 with no work to go to!!) so I managed a quick shower before Husband left to go to work. That left me and Monkey. We played, we read books, we colored, we sang songs. Girlfriend woke up and joined us. They played but there was lots of throwing and hair pulling, and of course, Girlfriend screaming, involved.

Breakfast time arrived.  Some food was eaten, some food was thrown (thankfully by the younger child only).  There were tantrums and kicking and crying.

We were all able to get dressed because this was taking place in Girlfriend’s room, where there are so many things to look at and play with!  Of course, Girlfriend and I had to run around, swiping anything and everything that could be potentially hazardous to a 15 month old.  Not to mention the activity cards for the Tooth Fairy Girlfriend had made and was leaving out for her special guest that night.  Those almost didn’t make it; luckily, we were able to save them just in time before Monkey grabbed them.

Finally, finally, it was time for storytime at our local library.  Monkey loves songs and books.  Girlfriend was dying for a new batch of books for herself and I was going to get to sit down for a few minutes.  Win-win-win for all!

Except that sitting down did not happen.  

Oh, no sirree.  Nooooo sirreeee.  Monkey loved Storytime – he loved the songs and the books and he especially loved chasing the other Little Readers all around the room.  They liked it too, but not when he hit and pulled hair.  Thank Goodness for an amazingly warm Librarian and fellow parents who understood because aside from the hitting and hair pulling, their Sweeties were kinda crazy, too.  There were a few who sat angelically with their mothers.  I understood and I harbored no hard feelings.  I had an Angelic many years ago, too.  So yeah, I barely sat.  I stood and walked slowly around, keeping my eye out for Monkey antics.  I talked to fellow Mamas and then it was time to leave.  We joined Girlfriend in the Children’s Room.  She had chosen all kinds of books for herself and was so excited to sit Monkey down and share some baby books with him.  Our library has a really nice collection.  He was interested ’till he wasn’t, as running around and pulling books off the shelves was way more fun but certainly not allowed by any means so thus ensued screaming, crying, kicking, flailing, protests of “no, mamma, no mamma!”  I got The Eye from one lady but I’m 40, this is my 2nd kid, I teach elementary school, I’m a pro at nonsense.  Give The Eye all you want, that’s what I say.  Still, it was slightly … embarrassing.

So we checked out our books and headed back out to the car, buckled in and away we drove, home for lunch.  A little more eating, a little more throwing, Girlfriend wanting to read her books and watch a show.  I took Monkey up for a nap.  We read and read and read and sang and sang and sang and then he sucked down his bottle and went.to.sleep.  For 90 minutes. Hey — I’ll take it!!!

I sat down on the couch and Girlfriend said, “Mommy, you could take a short nap.”  I could? Yeah, I could!  OK!  Well, she proceeded to wake me up about 3 times to tell me various important things.  And then, groggy, and head full of sand, I woke up to the demands of Monkey.

We three snacked, and then there was nothing else to do but go outside and play.  It was 2:40.  Monkey loves outside.  We filled the water table and his little pool.  We managed a good hour outside, Monkey eating dirt, pushing the Step 2 Ladder back and forth across the lawn, attempting to help me rake up the pine needles.  Girlfriend tried to enjoy the sun in her lawn chair as she wrote her comic, but Monkey was far too interested in pulling, ripping, and hitting so she left us for the safety of indoors.

By 3:40 Monkey was covered in dirt so we headed in to take a bath which he loved.  After bath, he was so relaxed and I thought, Oh m y God, it’s 4:00.  Husband will be home in two hours!!  And this was a long day but no one died!  And I didn’t cry!  I didn’t even lose it a little!

I took a chance as I surveyed my disastrous downstairs … dishes piled in the kitchen, pillows and throw blankets littering the living room floor, toys everywhere in the playroom … I asked Girlfriend to keep Monkey entertained while I cleaned up the kitchen.  Record time – 20 minutes later the kitchen was spotless.  I thought about moving on to the other rooms but decided, no.

Print

Instead, we went to Dunks for a treat.  Girlfriend got a donut, Monkey got some munchkins and I had a delicious iced coffee.

Ahhhhhh.  Quiet.  Happy.  The end of a hard- but honestly??? -pretty darn good day in retrospect. Girlfriend wrote a comic.  We went to the library.  We read tons of books.  We played with toys. We ate lunch together in our kitchen.  We got outside.  A nap happened. And my kitchen was clean (for the moment!).  I felt tired, but peaceful, like I achieved something.

We drove into the driveway, and there was Husband’s truck.  We ran inside to meet him and tell him all about our day.

This kind of harried day happens all the time now that Monkey’s been added to the mix, but here’s the magic:  in the summer, there’s nowhere to go, nowhere to be, nothing to do but take care of my kids.  There’s so much mental space in my head.  No lessons or big events to plan, papers to correct, projects to prepare, phone calls to make, worries to process, items to cross off on a never-ending to-do list.  Being home with my kids is just so different in the summer months.  Yes, it’s tiring, yes, it’s frustrating, yes, it’s hard.  But it’s life and that’s all there is right now.  I want to bottle it up and save it, I know I’m going to miss it when September rolls back around.  So I’m just taking it day by day, hair-pulling and all.