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Friday, March 25, 2011

Back to School

Teachers need to be paid more. I'm not just saying that because my husband is a teacher. I'm saying that because I visited my son's school today and I was exhausted after 40 minutes.  Its a sharp contrast between the educators I work with, professors, and elementary teachers,  actually its a alternate universe.  Apparently the extra letters after their name equals $$$. I had a professor tell me that he believes the pay scale is backwards, that elementary teachers deserve the big bucks and professors have it easy. Not that he wants to change that.   Even if you calculated the weekly hours between what my husband puts in to a professor (tenured) does, there is a sharp contrast between 60 and 6...I know, I know during that paid yearoff they are spending hours upon hours "researching"in Vienna . I can also say that because I have family members with Ph.D's and friends for that matter.  If elementary teachers made more however, it may attract a different group all together who would be in it for the wrong reasons.  My husband certainly didn't choose this career because he hoped to make his future grandchildren heirs to a fortune , he chose it because he hoped to help his future grandchildren and other children make a positive future (and possibly a fortune) for themselves.
Even in the short time I was there I longed for the solitude of my office. And a hand sanitizer.
Guilt, and love got me there in the first place. Mostly guilt. Part of my job includes overseeing evening concerts, tonight is one of those times, and it also happens to be my son's 8th birthday.  I already dropped the ball on the cake I promised to make him. Just looking at the ingredients last night sent me strait to the grocery store to buy one. At least they put his name on it, it also gave me a chance to get balloons, always a great distraction, and a pacifier for jealous siblings.
Because I won't be able to have a celebratory dinner, I thought I would surprise him and bring him a McDonald's lunch and sit and have it with him.  Its hard for me to keep surprises to myself, I have been known to divulge Christmas presents before Thanksgiving, but this was a good one. I packed his lunchbox (empty) and told him I would see him tonight.
By 9am this morning his teacher had emailed me and said he was in a panic because he didn't have a lunch or money to get one.  She knew I was coming so she kept the secret and told him he would just need to make do, that I'm sure freaked him out even more, but why was he digging into his lunch box before lunch anyway? When I arrived I hid near the teachers lounge and watched them line up. There I saw my little 8 year old standing in line holding a waffle and looking malnourished. Its hard to believe that just 8 years ago, I was his only food source, not a packaged waffle that a janitor "donated" to him. I peeked my head around and he saw me.  His brother was just walking by with his class and I had to hide because I didn't bring lunch for him. His lunch is at 10:20 in the morning, and McDonalds doesn't serve lunch until 10:30, so a clear dilemma. Plus he doesn't have a good history of having visitors. The last time I chaperoned on a field trip he clung to me like a monkey and wouldn't let go when it was time to depart, forcing me to threaten him under my breath so that other "perfect moms with perfect kids" couldn't hear me.
Once the coast was clear I escorted my visably happy son to the cafeteria.  We sat down on the little round chairs that are connected and began our lunch date.  Its amazing that in just 3 hours he could go from groomed to homeless looking.  The hair I brushed this morning was now parted in the middle, and the side, if thats possible . His glasses looked as if he had let everyone in class put their prints on the lenses. His shirt was untucked, his belt was wrong side out (must have missed that one) and I realized his socks didn't match (another oversight on my part).  As I licked my hand and tried to smooth his hair I was able to get a glimpse of second grade lunch ettiquitte.  For those who pack your kids lunch, they don't eat it.   The freakle faced awkward kid sitting across from us sat with a fruit cup in front of him for 35 min. until he spilled it. The girl next to me opted for the school lunch and was picking all the cheese off of her pizza, the green beans were left untouched.
My son devoured his quarter-pounder and fries, understandable, since all morning he had thought he was going to starve to death.  We sat there not talking most of the time, he did have his hand on mine though. Kids are ok with awkward silences, its not awkward to them.  I asked him who different kids were, he gladly told me and what each of their" issues" were. So- and-so is a whiner, so and so's grandma always has lunch with him etc.  I mentioned where I worked and that sparked a chain reaction that everyone at the table enthusiastically participated in. Oh, my daddy works there, my mommy went there, oh my uncle has a t-shirt from there. Wow, what a coincidence being that it is the largest employer in our town, but I kept my sarcasm to myself.  I noticed a fat little dad having lunch with his daughter, he raised the bar when he went through the lunch line with a tray and had a 2nd grade school lunch.  I couldn't help but think, Dork. Then I realized I was morphing into my second grade self and reminded myself to be nice. I glanced at the wall, they were lined with motivational posters. Like
"respect each other" and "your future is bright".  It must be time to go by now. I was wondering why we were still sitting there and realized that we were waiting until the entire table was quiet.  Did those noisy hulligans not understand that my tush fell asleep 15 min. ago  and I need to wake it up? As much as I love my son, I was ready to return to adultville.
Finally our table got the ok and we were free to go.  I kissed my monkey goodbye and decided to visit my husband (who also was going to get a suprise McDonald's lunch)  I found him hidden in the dark windowless teachers lounge along with an unusual amount of microwaves and a few other teachers seeking adult solitude. As a kid I remember how a teachers lounge seemed like a beautiful childless territory that no child had ever ventured  and your passport to get in was being a teacher.  I felt a combination of giddyness and butterflies crossing the line, (not being a teacher and all). Wow.. I say that with the most sacrasm one could imply, I must have really had an active imagination as a kid.  I looked around and discovered there were also posters on their wall, but these were "a child is a sponge and you are the water" Ok, it didn't say that, but I can't remember the exact saying. It was however motivating them to stick with it, just like the kids posters were. I could think of few good ones that could line my office wall, but I don't think that make motivational posters with swear words.
I also realized that my husband is surrounded by women, just like I'm surrounded by men all day. And gave me insight to not attack him with requests as soon as he walks in the door.
He experiences that all day. One woman is asking him computer advice, another asking him to fix her phone, another asking him to open something.  In my office nobody asks me for help with anything, one because they are men and two they assume I not competent enough to figure it out anyway.
But as with any new experience it gave me a chance to reflect on my day and I have come to 3 very distinct realizations.
1) I could never be a teacher.
2) I'm proud to have one for a husband, and even prouder that he is the father of my children.
3) I should really design curse word motivational posters, it could be very lucrative.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The day I became a mother

My oldest is having his eighth birthday soon, and as excited as I am to have another cake in our house that I can sneak eat after everyone goes to bed, I have also been reflecting on how my life has changed since that day.  He proudly boasts to anyone who will listen that he is the only one of his brothers to come out of my vagina. The problem is, is that he doesn't even know what a vagina is, in fact, he thinks its just the feminine name for a woman's butt. He established this thought in the numerous times he had accompanied me in a handicapped stall as I hovered over the toilet. Even with strict instructions not touch anything he had no choice to visually explore, despite my efforts to tell him to focus on a ceiling light. I remember distinctly on a road trip when his awarness to this difference was loudly announced to the entire truck stop bathroom "ARE YOU PEEING OUT OF YOUR BUTT?! What is that? Is that your hianus? I don't know where the term hianus came from, but up until recently he thought that was the proper term.  Essentially, he thinks he came out of my butt, and I'm not ready to divulge any additional info.
I was 25.  We had been married for 1 year when I found out I was pregnant. I had always envisioned the moment I told my husband we were having a baby would be similar to the "I love Lucy" episode where she surprises Ricky at Club Babalu  and he sings "we're having a baby, my baby and me!!"  It was quite the opposite. I took a pregnancy test. It came out positive. I took the second one immediately following and shockingly it had the same result, 2 bright pink lines.  There wasn't the warm feeling I would have in future pregnancies. It was a little bit more of a sheer panic. I went to visit Don at work, in retrospect not the best place to share the news, but I was not going to freak out by myself.  He was alone at his desk when I told him. He pretty much had the same reaction as I did, except he said. "Um..." and that was about it.
Not like this should have been a surprise, or not welcomed, we had been married for over a year now. It still was not easy to comprehend.  I remember calling my gynocologist immediatly, when asked if it was an emergency I said yes, they asked what it was, and when I explained that I was pregnant, they didn't classify it as an emergency and said to call back in 6 weeks, six weeks? Maybe it wasn't an urgent situation to them, but to me, I thought the entire world should stop. Hello? Does anyone care that there is a growing human inside of me?  Eventually we warmed up to the idea and I was shocked to discover that 9 months is a myth, its actually 10 months, 40 weeks. Little did I know that my bun would cook longer and it would be 41 and a half weeks.  People said I was a cute pregnant woman but after looking at pictures I know they were lying.
My due date came and went and with a little doctor membrane stripping my labor began. We went back home to take a walk. * spoiler alert for first time mothers*
Contractions hurt like a bitch. The most excruciating pain I had ever felt. It felt like some one was giving my fallopian tubes an Indian burn.  I broke out the dumb exercise ball, tried every position and nothing worked.  We timed my contractions and went to the hospital. Once there, as I was lying in my hospital bed. I whispered to Don to come to my bedside and get close by , this is when I gave him my last words...Raise this baby, I'm not going to make it. I'm going to die.
Once the epidural was administered I was a much happier camper and much less dramatic. I'll skip all the inconsequential birth details and fast forward 22 hours later to the first moments I was a mom. It was the best and most unbelievable energetic feeling I have ever experienced. Surreal really. There he was, and in that moment I knew what it meant to give up your life for someone, I would, and just moments before, I thought I was.
We quickly discovered that we knew nothing about parenting. The first night all three of us were crying, sitting on the kitchen floor. " I just (gasp) don't (gasp) know what is (gasp) wrong (gasp) with him"! Don was at a loss too.  I would love to have known that babies have gas, but we had to figure that out on our own, and after a couple of sleepless weeks we did.
Even though its only been 8 years, I find that I have forgotten some of the little milestones. It would only be 17 months of just the 3 of us, before we added another brother, then another, then another. But what I do know, is that every morning when Parker wakes up, I'm excited to see him.  We have grown up together. I didn't realize how selfish I actually was until he came into my world.  He has my sense of humor and Don's empathy. He is refreshingly flawed. He has just the right amount of patience and forgiveness as we were broken into parenting.  He still enthusiatically hugs us in front of his friends. He told me I was the best mommy in the universe..( this was after he told me I was the worst, and that he was running away, but I will focus on the positive.)
So on Friday, we will celebrate the beginning of his life, and in a way, the beginning of mine too.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The epidemic of Birthday Parties

I was a little overzealous with birthday parties for my first two sons. First birthday parties 2nd, 3rd were huge productions. We rented out a place, invited a million other kids and their parents and at least $300 later we are at home with a crabby boy and a million toys that came from the clearance section of Walmart. This year, instead of parties, I decided to focus on the experience of their birthday rather than the party.  For Fin's 6th birthday we took the fam to LegoLand in Chicago, not exactly cheaper, but it was fun. I modified it even more for Parker's 8th birthday celebration and said he could invite 3 friends, (one of which had to be his brother) and we would go to the place of his choice.  After coercing him that he really didn't want to go to Chuck E. Cheeses we ended up at a bowling ally.  Why I believed that 4 pm on a Saturday would be an ideal birthday spot will baffle me until I die.  Parker is at the age where parents just drop kids off, which is good, because I don't have the pressure to entertain adults as well as children.  We had a babysitter for the 2 younger ones because the thought of a baby crawling on an ally floor brings out the germ-a phobe in anyone.  2 adults, 4 kids, do-able.
We purchased wrist bands that would allow them to have access to glow in the dark putt putt, go-carts and bowling.  I put our name in for a lane and I was given the wait time of 2 hours.  A long time, yes,  but we were there to have fun and gosh darn it we were going to. At least that is the lecture I gave Don before we left.  There was quite an interesting crowd at the bowling ally. As Don stood in line with the boys to ride the co-carts I parked myself at a picnic table with our mountain of coats.  I could feel Don glaring at me from the line and mouthed to him to watch our coats while I got a snack for the kids and a diet coke for me.  After the very "enthusiastic" teenager gave me my popcorn I headed back to the table. Only to be bumped by a dad walking around holding a beer.  There is a bar attached to this place.  Isn't there an open container law or some law about drunk men in a kids establishment?  When I decided to stop staring at my popcorn and look around,  I discovered that there were a lot of people carrying beers around as if it were tailgating during football season, except 99% of all the attendees were under the age of 12. By the time I got back to the post Don looked like they had moved about a foot and I motioned to him to come and get some popcorn, knowing very well, he was stuck in the fenced in holding area.
I sat people watching.  I noticed that most everyone there had a cell phone or smart phone and were half paying attention to there kids, that may explain why some little kid ate my popcorn.  I was kind of relieved when he did because I had consumed almost all of it by myself with in 5 minutes and would have finished it off if he hadn't stuck his grimy paw in it.  Just what I needed, sodium overload to make me appear that I'm 4 months pregnant again.
Now that I was feeling fat,  I was the one being cranky, not Don. Especially when he emerged from the line asking where all the popcorn was.
After losing a coin toss Don got to take them black light putt putting. Thankfully, because the last time I was in that area my hair looked like I had just stepped out of the playboy mansion and my teeth are equally vibrant, it is not kind environment for bottle blonds.
I happily held down the coat fort. I couldn't help but notice a very large bald man with manicured eye brows staring at me and when I would look over in his direction, he didn't glance elsewhere, he continued his glare, enough so to freak me out. He also was wearing an outfit that looked like he was on a day pass from prison.  Another observation was in comparison with other moms, I would be eligible for AARP. These woman must have had their kids at age 14.
Finally, our name was called and I lugged the coats over to our second location at lane 6 which was an oasis of normalcy.  I asked what size each boys shoes were and not a single one of them knew, including my own. I got them all size 2 , nobody complained or had blood, so I'm assuming that was a good choice.  I asked Don to go and get the boys sustenance that had some nutritional value, and he returned with nachos. But not the kind with meat and lettuce, the kind with just cheese, from a machine. Bowling and eating with your hands, what could be more sanitary?  After my son's took 1st and 2nd place (WTG, sons) it was time to go home. (Finally) We arrived and our 3 year old was so excited that we were adding two additional boys to our testosterone filled house.   They sprinted upstairs, they sprinted downstairs, this time without their shirts.  They sprinted back upstairs to put their shirts on. I considered opening a bottle of wine, but decided that it would be better until after the parents picked up, just for appearance sake.
I put a frozen pizza in the oven and took the cake out of the fridge.  By the time I called them down for dinner there was sweat dripping from their brows and their faces were pink. I don't think they stopped laughing from the moment they walked in.
After the last boy left I asked Parker what his favorite part of the party was, he said coming home.
So $100 later, all he wanted was to have some friends over to play.
Some of my fondest memories from my birthdays weren't the roller skating parties as much as  the times when my birthday fell on Spring Break and we were on vacation somewhere. In fact, the best that I remember was my 12th birthday and I was alone with my parents in Hilton Head, on the drive down I kept seeing billboards with the picture of Shoney's brownie ice cream bomb and after the 15th one, that is all I wanted. We stopped, they put a candle in it, and sitting with my parents at a dive, on the side of the bipass in a Shoeney's is still one to remember.  Not for another 20 years would I enjoy being alone with my parents again. My adolescence was ending and the  beginning of my teenage years was approaching. My only regret in blowing out the candle on my Shoneys cake is that I would have wished for some mercy for the next 8 years of my awkward teenage phase filled with acne and frizz.
I don't know when the epidemic of elaborate birthday's started, but what it has caused is a generation of spoiled teens, just watch MTV's my Sweet 16 and you will agree.  Perhaps it was an attempt to show your kid how much you loved them by the magnitude of the celebration, a nice gesture that gets lost in the gifts, cake and games. Proof of this is sitting on my kitchen island, which still has two gifts, that have been opened but not played with.
It was the 30 minutes spent with friends that my son enjoyed most, and next year I will know what to give him and it won't risk our sanity, or cost a thing...