I'll be spending the next three evening recovering from what will SURELY be long, exciting, fun-filled, disausting days of school.
I'll be spending the next three evening recovering from what will SURELY be long, exciting, fun-filled, disausting days of school.
When the girls still lived at home (sniff) and I would have my pre-school inservice days, I would come home at the end of the day and find, perhaps, dishes in the sink. I might also find that they had used my make-up, or played board games or maybe there would be bikes and roller blades strewn about the yard.
This is the only field trip I'll be able to take this year that doesn't cost ANY MONEY, and the only one I don't have to convince the powers that be that we HAVE TO DO.
I work in one of ten elementary schools here in Smythe, Oregon. We are lucky to be the home of Oregon State University, which multiplies our population by about three gazillion every September, and changes our small town “feel” to one of big-city, crazy, amazing youthful expectation.
The official population is about 40,00 in the downtown area, and probably doubles in size with the surrounding townships. Bitchy’s high school enrollment (grades 9 - 12) was about 2,500 students, and three years after her graduation it remains about the same.
Our elementary schools continue to grow in size, and each of the kindergarten teachers in our particular school learned last week that we each would be starting the year with 26 students in our classes. That’s right; twenty-six. (@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ @@@@@@) ( In case you wondered what that LOOKS like. ) Any teacher who has worked in kindergarten KNOWS that the real feel for 26 is 100.
We were overjoyed when we received the email the other night letting us know that our school board had approved the hiring of four new teachers, one of whom would be joining us in kindergarten. (I’m sure you heard my screams of joy Tuesday night about 9:45 p.m.? And no, it wasn’t THAT, it was because of the new teacher; honest.)
We were introduced to Chloe Smithjones yesterday, and I instantly remembered her! She was an absolutely adorable recent graduate of our Oregon State University student teaching program, and coincidentally had been in our building for a two-month stint for a teacher on medical leave. Sure, she looks twelve, but that's a brilliant disguise on her part. She has weathered the insanity of a new school, new room, new EVERYTHING with an amazing maturity and a great sense of humor.
The four of us gathered today for another marathon meeting to outline our year, our fall, our first week and our first day. We talked about supplies, class lists, resources, field trips, literacy centers, resources, parent volunteers, recess, rules, philosophies, after-hour cocktail recipes, funny stories from the kids, fights with our own children and favorite foods to eat when stressed. We covered only the most important stuff.
It wasn't until a friend came into the room and I introduced her to Chloe that the light bulb went off. She said to my friend (whose daughter Saucy graduated with Bitchy), "Hey! Is your daughter Saucy? My brother graduated with her!"
I sat, feeling just as POLISH as I really am. (Which is a LOT.) She not only went to our University, but graduated from our local high school.
"Oh my God." I said. "Your brother is Sam? Sam Smithjones? He took Bitchy to the Junior Prom. Good grief, we're practically..."
"Sisters!" She shouted with a smile.
And it was at THAT moment, I knew.
She's not only cute...but brilliant, as well.
(She must be MUCH older that she looks.)
Parents of potential kindergarteners: Just thought I’d give you an idea of what your children will be doing when in school. Oh, and don’t worry, the teachers are like new moms and poop; at some point what they do neither shocks or surprises us.
1. Your son or daughter will go into the bathroom and leave the door open while doing their business. They will also probably break into song.
2. Your child will pick their nose in front of the class for about 6 months, until they are SICK of the teacher telling them in front of everyone to “Get a Tissue!!” Then they’ll graduate to doing it with a hand in front of their nose. THOSE kids are talented, brilliant, and have learned good manners.
3. Your child will forget to go to the bathroom while out at recess, and accidentally pee in their pants.
4. Your child will walk out of the bathroom with their pants around their ankles. Oops. Frankly, I expect it.
5. Your child will call the teacher mom, dad and grandma at some point during the year. The first two will evoke a chuckle, and the latter will result in a shriek and a run to the Hand and Face lotion in an attempt to smooth the wrinkles. She will also probably take a long leisurely bath or go straight to the liquor store. Or both.
6. Your child will tell an incredibly embarrassing story about you, your husband and your family. More than one. The teacher will chuckle, make a mental note to remember that for the family picnic, and move on to the next child. Teachers also know not to use real names when repeating funny stories. They know that their OWN kids are in someone else’s room doing the SAME THING.
7. Your child will tattle on their best friend, make mean faces to them, and then play house or legos with them all within the span of 5 minutes.
8. Your child will take a tumble on the playground, get pushed by someone, skin his or her knee and then bounce up and get back in the game. (Wish we were so resilient.)
9. Your son will forget to push his penis down and pee all over the bathroom floor, wall, toilet and his own pants. (He might also throw the wet underpants at the teacher.)
10.Your child will find a way into the teacher’s heart, and the teacher will cheer and laugh and wipe a tear from her eye when your baby reads her first word, writes her first sentence or makes their first friend. It’s what makes it all worthwhile.
It's a love story that will last a lifetime. And we will never, ever forget their name. It is Hope.
I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to volunteer at this year’s BlogHer10 convention. In exchange for a few hours of registering and greeting fellow attendees, my conference ticket was free.
I was thrilled with the offer.
I worked the desk with some awesome bloggers who were amazing, friendly and awesome. The time passed quickly as we shared stories, embarrassing facts about ourselves, and fantastic food we managed to steal from the free breakfast located one floor above us.
We discovered quickly that the cool swag bags we were passing out were filled with some awesome stuff, and for this teacher the bag of Play-Doh was a great surprise! Many of the ladies that I worked with, however, did not have children and had to think carefully about what they were shipping back to their home bases.
Over the course of the second morning, much to my surprise and delight, the girls I worked with and several others I met while working the desk brought me their bags of Play-Doh. I MIGHT have let slip the fact that I teach kindergarten and was THRILLED at the prospect of an extra stash. Before I knew it, I had five bags of Play-Doh stashed behind the desk!
When my shift was over, I carried my stash as best I could to the elevator to wait an eternity for a ride to the 28th floor. (The Hilton hired some kind of tortuous elevator designer, who decided it would be fun to only have one or two elevators that went to certain floors, where you then had to catch OTHERS to get where you MIGHT want to go. See. I'm exhausted just writing about it.)
The doors opened, and my Play-Doh and I managed to squeeze in. As the car started it's climb, I noticed some little heads around my knee area. (Keep in mind, I hadn't seen ANY CHILDREN on any elevators since I arrived.) I asked the child next to me if she wanted some Play-Doh. She smiled, looked at her mom, and then nodded. I was happy to hand her one of my stashes.
I looked behind me and noticed ANOTHER child. And beside him? Yeah. Another one. I happily gave them each a bag, and had two more left. The door opened one floor below mine, and guess who boarded? A woman. And her daughter.
I walked into my room with one bag of Play Doh, a happy heart - and a direct order from my daughters to turn right around and head straight to the Expo Hall to find some make-up.
When I entered the hall I made a bee-line to where I was told the make-up was located. I knew there wouldn't be any openings for make-overs, as those fill up the first hour that they start scheduling, and it was the second day of the conference.
I walked up to the lovely girl who had a chart in one hand, and her phone in the other. I was hoping that perhaps I could snag one of the bags of make-up that came with the makeover. She was standing beside the make-up artists and was obviously in charge the very popular booth.
I stared at her. Sure, she was gorgeous, but there was something else that held my attention.
Her hearing aides.
I couldn't help but stare, and with a smile I thought of my sister. She looked up from her chart and said to me, "Hi! We JUST got a cancellation. Would you like to be next?"
I almost fainted! Would I? WOULD I? I practically threw myself in the open chair.
And that was when I realized that those five Play-Doh's that were bringing smiles to kids somewhere in the Hilton? They had just paid for my free, fantastic make-over, and something even better.
The ensuing visit with an enchanting and inspiring young woman was the real gift that I received that day. And I'm convinced that it was no coincidence.
My father came for a visit last night.
Bitchy, “Mom, did you do something to me on Twitter?”
“Because I tried to respond to something you said and it wouldn’t let me!”
“I MIGHT have blocked you. But that was a LONG time ago. Like, weeks!"
“Well, It was really kind of a test to see if you would notice.”
“I’m only on Twitter to watch famous people. Not you.”
“And if you blocked me so I couldn’t see what you were writing, it didn’t work. I could still see ALL of your tweets. Good job!"
“Well then what good is the block? Dang-it!”
“Would be please UN-BLOCK me now?”
Another plot foiled.
Things we discovered the day BEFORE we took Sassy to college.
1. We had forgotten to send the university the $200 housing deposit required for ALL incoming students – due a week ago.
2. While in a complete FAFSA fog, we had requested the WRONG amount for our Direct Parent Plus Loan for Sassy, and according to the university statement due YESTERDAY, we are short, oh, let’s say about ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS.
3. SASSY had neglected to fill out the FIVE online forms that her NEW COACH had emailed her a week ago to fill out BEFORE she checked in at school. Oh, and there were several that needed to be filled out and sent to the ATHLETIC DIRECTOR last week. Yeah. (This particular item reinforced the fact that I keep trying to convince Sassy of- that I AM her birth mother.)
4. We (when I am say we I really mean yours truly) forgot to pick up Sassy’s “allergy medicine” at the pharmacy before we left. I have instructed her NOT to make ANY new friends of the male persuasion, and there are to be NO sleepovers. (While I KNOW the medicine is for her PCOS, you can never humiliate your daughter enough in front of her new field hockey roommates.)
And then to make our somewhat stressful and hectic "delivery day" a complete success:
About 30 minutes into our drive HOME, Sassy called to let us know that her dorm keys were in Bitchy's Vera Bradley bag. In the back seat. With a sobbing and hysterical sister that we were ready to throw out the window. (That sobbing confirms, in fact, that I am HER birth mother.)
Oh, and if your husband decides to take a "short-cut" home? Odds are great it will turn a three hour ride into a 5.5 hour ride. This was, frankly, a brilliant move on his part. Not only did it completely negate my sadness at leaving Sassy at college, it cleverly diverted all my attention to him.
(One bitchy - one sassy = a crying, sobbing mess. They really DO love each other. Who knew?)
The doctor has said not to be scared.
“It’s probably NOT cancer, really, only about a ten percent chance. Don’t worry.”
But I was scared.
It started two weeks ago when Bitchy spotted a lump the size of Cleveland on my back. It was kind of below the shoulder blade, in a spot incredibly hard to reach but easy to spot when one wears a nightgown with spaghetti straps.
It was a Friday night. On Monday I called the doctor’s office, and was chatting with the good doctor by 10:00 a.m.
“That is definitely a fatty lipoma. We will schedule a sonogram, and then take it out.”
I smiled, and after a witty exchange, slipped out to the nurse’s desk where she arranged the sonogram for the next morning.
I continued to think nothing of it- and was amused when the sonogram technician didn’t even look old enough to drive. She smiled, her braces shouting out at me as she proceeded to inspect me with her machine. She was quiet during the procedure, and managed to brush of my interrogation techniques with a shake of the head and a wag of her finger. Honestly, it was my grandmother disguised as a pre-pubescent child labor dodger.
I left the office and made my way to the Amish Farmer’s Market across town. My thoughts of fresh peaches, blackberries and watermelon had sufficiently distracted me from the bothersome cyst that was hitchhiking on my back.
I walked in my front door only about 30 minutes after my procedure and my husband was waiting for me in the kitchen.
“Where were you?”
“At the SONOGRAM. Oh, and the Farmer’s Market!” I said, holding up my incredibly scrumptious purchases.
“The doctor’s office called. You have to call them.” He looked at me.
“Okay. Just let me……”
“NOW. You need to call….now.”
And then it registered. The phone call 30 minutes after the sonogram was PROBABLY not a good sign. I sat at the dining room table and called. The nurse got on the line.
“Well. It is NOT a lipoma. It’s a mass of some kind. So….as soon as we get approval from your insurance, we will schedule an MRI.”
My eyes widened, and I could feel them fill with tears. What? WHAT? I asked her to explain again, because surely I had misheard what she said.
Nope. I hadn’t misheard. And it was at that moment a memory came flooding back.
Last summer, while attending the BlogHer conference in Chicago, I had stumbled upon a booth that just HAPPENED to be giving massages. They coincidently had a cancellation, and I could slip in for a quick massage if I liked. I LIKED.
The talented masseuse (It was my FIRST massage, people) stopped at one point on my back and he asked, “What is this little lump in here?”
Yeah. I had forgotten about that.
I called the doctor’s office back, hoping to speak to the doctor. He called a bit later in the afternoon and I told him the story. He, in turn, tried to explain what they were looking at.
“It still COULD be a lipoma, but it just has some odd characteristics. It's deeper than we thought, and bigger, and the edges appear odd. But don’t worry – probably NOT cancer. Only about a ten percent chance it could be.”
So, the MRI was scheduled for the Monday following the conference.
I don’t think you want to hear about me attempting to slide into submarine-like tube, only to be unsuccessful. (And by that I mean crying, perhaps screaming a little, and saying some words that they assured me they've heard before.) They called in a prescription, and arranged for me to have the OPEN MRI that Thursday.
So, one tiny orange pill and one adorable blue sleeping mask later, the MRI was done.
I didn’t get the call until Monday.
I had just opened my email, and was shrieking with JOY when I discovered that the Today show had picked up a piece I had posted at the BlogHer website. The joy in my heart was overwhelming! Honestly, I was over the moon. I emailed my brother, sister, aunts, friends and coworkers to share in my joy.
Then, I went down to the basement to grab something from our office when I noticed the answering machine blinking. I played the message.
“This is the doctor’s office. Please call us right away.”
I sat down. In one moment I soared from the top of the moon down to the scary place where no one likes to go alone.
I thought, for a brief moment, that this is surely how it happens. You have a brief glimpse of pure happiness, and then are thrust into despair. I'd been there before- he's like an old friend I never want to see again.
I dialed the phone, and waited. The nurse came on the line.
“It’s a lymphoma.”
“WHAT?” I asked.
“A LI-poma. A fatty LIPOMA.” She cleared up what she said FIRST (heart attack, people. HEART. ATTACK) and went on the tell me about scheduling with the surgeon so he could remove it- and have it evaluated, but that it was definitely a fatty lipoma.
And never, never has fatty sounded so damn sweet.
(We interrupt this post for a breaking news story...I am being featured over on the TODAY Show WEBSITE. Somebody pinch me.
6. There are 2 Forever 21 stores in New York City, both within walking distance (meaning one thousand miles) of The Hilton New York. You can shop there at least nine times, and not realize you bought the same thing on trip number nine that you bought on trip number three.
5. The Forever 21 store in New York City has a great return policy, so if you run out of money on the second day in the city, you can return things for CASH, and turn around and spend it in the same store. And buy the same thing.
4. If you get into a Towne Car four blocks from your hotel, THINKING it’s a taxi, and the driver tells you “This is your LUCKY DAY!” - don’t believe him.
3. If you ask your mother to reimburse you the SIXTY dollars that the Towne Car driver swindled you out of, she’ll say “HELL NO!” (She claims it’s your lesson to learn. She is SUCH a @(#*#&.)
2. While these shoes are gorgeous, they are NOT conducive to running for your life down the streets of New York City.
1. Four days together in New York City is four days too many. And, conducting a knock down drag out fight in front of your mother’s blogging friends on the last night of the conference does not bode well for the ride home. (However, we did feel we had a responsibility to live up to our names. Go big or go home, right?)
We left early Thursday morning, hoping to make it to the city by noon. The weekend in New York City would be the last hurrah before each daughter packed and left for college. Excitement walked hand in hand with a tinge of sadness, at least for this mother.
We arrived at my friend’s home in New Rochelle, and parked along a tree-lined street in a quiet, lovely neighborhood. I left my keys on her counter and called the taxi that would take us to the train station. He loaded our gear in the trunk, and the taxi made one more stop before depositing us at the station.
The woman who joined us in the cab smiled as she heard our reply to the driver’s inquiry about why we were heading into the city.
“Are you by any chance going to the BlogHer conference?” She asked with a smile.
I replied that we were, indeed, and with a laugh she indicated the same. Thankfully, she was skilled in the art of train ticket buying, and had us all ticketed and seated before we knew what was happening. (And thank God, because I would have totally screwed that up.) We had a wonderful conversation, and I am no longer shocked when I find myself engaged in an interesting and fascinating conversation with a stranger. The fact that we felt connected by our blogging experiences and similar blogging friends was not a shock, as I’ve learned that we are almost all connected in some interesting and magical way. (My daughter’s have long given up on their quest to SHUT ME UP, so they just ignore me, and allow me to be who I am. Mostly.)
We arrived at Grand Central- and on Sassy’s insistence, lugged our HUGE suitcases up three flights of steps and up a bazillion ramps to exit onto the steamy, humid, packed with people, fantastic streets of New York City.
After watching a brief video in the taxi about how the drivers do NOT talk on cell phones, we hung on for dear life as our driver (while chatting on the cell phone the whole way) flew like a jet down Sixth Avenue to the Hilton. By then I was not only soaked through and through, but reviewing the many near death experiences I had had that day.
We checked into our room, and I was instructed to see the concierge before heading up to the 28th floor. I was shocked to be given a gorgeous black bag, courtesy of this particular designer, and we opened it when we arrived in the room.
The designer’s team (who I can only mention over here) had included subway passes, gift cards to Magnolia Bakery, Top of the Rock, and other various items to make our stay in the city memorable. It was incredible!
At this point we left the hotel to meet up with my incredible intern from several years ago, who is not only a phenomenal teacher at a gifted and talented school in the city, but a seasoned city girl as well. In fact, it was at her parents home that we had left the car.
She was about to show the girls what a real shopping spree looked like.
Part Two tomorrow. Apparently I'm supposed to be CLEANING around here...
Part Two tomorrow. Apparently I'm supposed to be CLEANING around here...
I was working on my column last night when Golden Boy plopped down on the coach with a loud sigh.
“I’m sad Sassy’s leaving for college soon. I actually LIKE her now.”
I looked at him, “That’s because we’ve been gone for five days. Don’t you worry, by the time she leaves next week you’ll hate her more than ever.”
“You’re probly right. Thanks, Mom.”
“Don’t mention it. Now get downstairs and start pissing her off.”
A mother's job is never done...
“Mom, can you give me a ride to the gym?”
“Sassy, I am on my way to the MRI! I can’t be late.”
“Come on, I just need to find my IPod, and then you can drop me off…”
I interrupted, “No! NO! I’m going to be late!”
“Can’t you just call and tell them you’re running behind?”
“I’m going to MY MRI! You know, to see if I have CANCER. To see if I might LIVE for Christ’s sake!”
“Jesus, mom. You are SO dramatic.”
It’ll be just my luck that he’ll give me fifty more years to live.
(AND, I've decided to stick around just to PISS THE GIRLS OFF. )
I want to apologize for bursting into tears and sobbing on the way home from our errands yesterday.
Granted, your screaming and ranting at me for daring to ask you a simple question is something I’m used to.
However, I received a call from the doctor not long after the sonogram. It was not good news.
And if I spend too much time trying to hold you close and tell you how much I love you – just humor me. Most likely after the MRI on Monday we'll be back to hating each other.
But for now, let’s rock this city and forget our troubles, shall we?
The Nikon party? Phhhhht. Point me to the tiny hand-held Canon party being held in the second floor ladies room. That's the party for me.
It was Saturday night. I was comfy cozy in my nightgown, standing in the kitchen cleaning up when Bitchy walked in.
“What is THAT on your BACK?”
I didn’t know what she was talking about, and she reached up and started poking at something beneath my shoulder blade.
“It’s a HUGE lump on your back. Gross!”
As most of you know, yelling is not an uncommon occurrence in our house, but this particular commotion caused the troops to rally. Each person felt the need to poke and prod this five THOUSAND pound bump on my back. After employing an amazing Elasta-girl technique, I managed to actually locate the lump.
It felt pretty big.
I tried not to panic, and this morning called my doctor to have it checked. Fortunately, they took me right away.
“It’s called a lipoma,” Dr. SmytheJones said. “Basically, it’s a fatty cyst. And it’s pretty big.”
“Great. It couldn’t be called something like ‘hot middle-aged woman' cyst.”
“A sense of humor! That’s good.” He said, as he smiled and filled me in. Tomorrow I have a sonogram to determine if the cyst is close enough to the surface to allow the procedure to be done in the office, and then we will schedule the "dig".
And frankly, since he felt the need to say fatty, ultrasound, middle-aged and surgery, I think I’m going to insist upon a little lipo and a lift for the twins. Then we’ll call it even.
The fact that I might lose about 10 ounces of fatty cyst? At this point ANY form a weight loss is a bonus.