Sunday, May 12, 2019

Happy (Non)Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day, a time set aside to thank the mothers in our lives (and spend too much time and money looking for the right card/flowers--and if you're like me, remember that the US Postal service will take TWO days to get a card to my mom in Vancouver).

All the sale ads and Facebook posts got me thinking about all those who may not be mothers themselves, but who also deserved some recognition today.

To the friends and neighbors who help you coordinate rides and play dates and what the theme is for Wednesday's Spirit Week at school. Who keep an eye on your kid when they're out in the neighborhood and don't judge you when they hear you yelling at them (because they know we all lose it now and then).

To the teachers and coaches who encourage your kids to try their hardest.  Who notice when your kid is having an off day.  Who keep in communication with you, but still make the relationship with your kid focused on them.

To the parents of your kids' friends for mothering them when they're away from home. Who host sleepovers and make that special breakfast you've never made (and introduce them to foods they'd never eat at home).  Who hug your kids when they're going through their grumpy teenage phase and will barely talk to you, much less allow physical contact.

To the strangers in the grocery store who smile at the baby and don't mention they should be wearing shoes.  Who give you a reassuring smile as you struggle to try to herd three children past the toy section, negotiate peace between siblings, and still remember to get everything on your list before someone has a melt down. (And who don't give you the judgy look when someone ultimately does have a screaming melt down.)

To the grandmas who hold the babies so their daughters/daughter-in-laws can have one moment's peace. Who bounce and coo and spoil.  Who notice every wonderful trait and love your kids almost as much as you do. (And who also refrain from giving too much unsolicited advice.)

To the aunts, who remember their nieces' and nephews' birthdays, who ask about your kids' milestones (without comparing them to their own kids' accomplishments), and who will also happily hold a screaming baby for however long it takes.

Happy Mother's Day to you all! Thank you for being my village--I couldn't have done this parenting thing without you.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

So You Want to Be a Substitute Paraeducator

My "rookie card"
Have you ever wondered how to add to your financial well being while partaking in your love of the great outdoors?  Have you dreamed of nurturing young minds while trying to stave off the flu? Do you want to be personally responsible for the safety of 100 children who are hopped up on too much sugar and not enough sleep?

Welcome to the exciting and rewarding career of the Substitute Paraeducator!

Your job as a substitute paraeducator is to fill in as teacher's aid wherever there's a need.  From playground to lunchroom to classroom, the substitute paraeducator (or "SPare") is the lifeline of any school district.

The tools of the SPare are vital to your success with the students.  Having been in the position for over four years, I've learned the all-important Honest Essentials for Lunch and Playground (or HELP):

-You will need a whistle to be heard over the joyful screams/angry yelling of the playground. (Occasionally you may want to break out the bullhorn.)  One whistle means "I see you about to throw that ball at Timmy's face," two whistles means "Hey, stop standing on top of the fence," and three whistles means "The recess teachers give up--everyone back to class!"

*Actual playground may appear more chaotic.
-Always wear easily-washable, dark-colored, water-proof clothing. No white, no silk, no Italian leather heels. Recess happens in all sorts of weather;  there will be mud, occasionally mucus, and if you're filling in during a stomach flu epidemic, vomit. Luckily the only time I've been barfed on was during the spring and I was wearing flip flops. Wash and Wear is key to your survival!

-Smell nice and dress for success (SNADFS). Kids will tell you if they think you stink. On days I'm going to be at the school I always use my scented lotion and make sure I don't look like I expect to be vomited on. My hope is if the kids want to be near me (because I smell nice) and present myself as someone deserving respect, they will not scream in my face or vomit on me.

-Speaking of communicable diseases, you will also want to invest in some hand sanitizer.  Keep in mind the reason you got today's job is because another employee finally succumbed to the miasma of germs doing the back stoke through the school.  While I generally avoid all the antibacterial hype, I've seen enough fingers in noses to justify a case of that alcohol-laden slime.

Thank you, First Graders!
It may seem to the uninitiated that the career track of a SPare is fraught with danger (lice, and tantrums, and barf--Oh My!), but the secret perk of this position is what keeps me coming back.  You, as someone who has not spent the last three hours trying to get them to sit still and work, walk into that school like it's party time. You are a friendly face and fresh set of ears, taking them to the playground and letting them run and swing.  It's like you're the fun parent (though your own kids might think otherwise).  And to those hard working teachers, you are much needed reinforcements. The SPare is kind of the rock star of substitutes. (But you will never be as cool as the Volunteer Dad. If there is a Volunteer Dad anywhere on school grounds, you are chopped liver.)

Call your local school district today so you too can start your exciting journey to the wonderful world of Substitute Paraeducating! 

(No, seriously, we need more subs--it's cold and flu season. Apply here.)

Walking into the school during cold and flu season

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Letting Go: 10 Not-So-Easy Steps

My daughter leaves for college tomorrow.  She's my second-born so this isn't my first time on the Great Wheel of Emotional Feels--pride, loss, happiness, nostalgia, and grief sometimes all in one day. I know this is what is best for her, I know she needs to leave and experience the world (without her mother reminding her to take out the garbage), but that doesn't make it any easier. So I have to stop and remind myself what I learned from when the first-born left the nest.

1) Let them go.  This may seem obvious, but seriously, let them go.  Don't try to talk them into a year at the local community college or insist they come home every other weekend. They are ready (well, not ready-ready, but as ready as we were at that age).  They don't want your input and they will only resent your interference. Just let them go.

2) Cry.  I once teared up over a coffee mug in a Marshall's (because I thought my daughter would like it, and wouldn't it fit great in a dorm room...Wah! She's leaving me). It will come and go and come again.  Try not to sob around them, they don't need your emotional baggage--they need to go.

3) Shop. Apparently the way I approach any significant time away from my kids is to buy them stuff:  food, laundry hamper, just the right coffee mug. For some reason my psyche is convinced that they will be fine if they only have the right bath towel.  Whatever, it gives me something to do while I count down till move-out day.  And it gets me out of the house where I can sob in peace.

4) Pray. Pray that you will survive their newly revived adolescent attitude.  Something about that sweet smell of college freedom puts their attitude in over drive--everything you do is dumb, or boring, or parent-like compared to their impending campus life.  You will survive this.  Remind them who will be making those tuition payments, tell them to take the attitude down a notch, then go have a good cry in the department store (because they really need another set of bed sheets if they're going to be successful).

5) Delegate. Give them something to do.  Again, they are restless and moody and need to be out of your face (But not too far--you don't have much time left with them! But definitely in the other room so you can't see them roll their eyes.)  My daughter is currently painting our guest room--I'm paying her, mind you, because I really don't want to do it myself (and she's honestly does a better job than me). In the other room (I know where she is and that she's safe), not giving me attitude (because I'm paying her), thereby guaranteeing her safety. Win-win.

6) Silence.  Once they move out, do not speak unless spoken to (which is also how survived my son's  middle school years).  Let them have time to spread those wings, fall a little, and try again before you start badgering them with questions.  My son's first text message to me was two weeks after he'd moved out--he wanted to know if he really needed to separate his darks and lights when he did laundry.  What I read into that? "I miss you, Mom, and I wish I'd paid more attention to you while I was at home."  Yeah, he just had a laundry question, but whatever.

7) Cry (again).  Once they move out, you don't have to worry about upsetting them anyway.

8) Look. Now that you had a good cleansing cry, look around at where else you can put your energy.  Without the time spent on senior year activities (which I'm convinced are planned just so we parents will be happy to let them handle college on their own), maybe you could take up a hobby, rediscover your husband, have an adult beverage with dinner.  And hey, I still got one more kid at home! Maybe she and I can go for a mani/pedi and then go buy matching outfits at Forever 21.  Poor thing, she's going to be ready to move out by spring--too bad she's got 3 more years left of high school.

9) Enjoy. Yes, you miss them and you worry they're not eating right.  But have you noticed there are no longer wet towels on the bathroom floor?  And you can go all week on one jug of milk.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my kids and miss them like crazy when they're gone, but I don't miss their bad habits. Even though I still have one more kid at home, I am now on the Easy Street of parenting--she can't complain that her other siblings don't have to do chores if they're not here. (And I've seen those pics you empty-nesters are posting of your last minute trips out of town, not a care in the world. I'm going to pretend you sigh heavily every time you come home to an empty house.)

10) Wait.  They will come back--sometimes just for Christmas vacation, sometimes because they're broke, but they will be back.  And they will be easier to talk to, and may occasionally clean up after themselves, and they might just even appreciate one or two of the millions of things you've done for them.  My mother once claimed sending her kids away to college was all worth it because when we came home we put our dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Yes.

This parenting thing doesn't get any easier, the problems just change. As I watch my daughter pack her stuff I just have to keep reminding myself that this is what we've been working towards for the last 18 years. She is ready.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Class of 2017

Today our high school seniors will be presenting their best works and lessons learned from their years at Lakewood to staff members and community volunteers.

I will be watching someone else's kid sweat through their 8-15 minutes, while my daughter presents to another group. She doesn't seem overly worried--after all, she's been doing Powerpoint presentations since 2nd grade. She has been preparing for this day since she was seven-years-old . She is ready.

Thank you, Lakewood School District for helping her along on this journey.

I've heard recent grumblings from other parents that the school district isn't what it used to be, that it is somehow failing their kids. From the beginning, my husband and I agreed that when it comes to public school, you get out of it what you put into it. They are one of the many members of your team when it comes to raising your child. Use them as a tool, be involved in your child's education, expect your kids to step up to the plate. A free and quality education may be our birthright as Americans, but you, and especially your kids, decide the outcome. Do not throw away your shot (quoting Lin-Manuel Miranda quoting Alexander Hamilton in his Broadway show "Hamilton").

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2017. You got this.

("Hamilton" reference thrown in there especially for my all-things-Hamilton obsessed, soon-to-be high school graduate. Go get 'em, Abbie.)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

I Do Not Want a Wall At All

You say we need to build a wall,
without it our country will surely fall,
but I do not want a wall at all.

I don't want it with a tax.
I don't want it with alt-facts.
I don't want it if it's tall.
I don't want it if it's small.

I do not want a wall at all.

You tried to pass it off to Mexico--
they told you no and where to go.
I do not think it will even work
and it makes you look like a real big jerk.

I do not want a wall at all.

You say to trust you, we will see,
but it's a bad idea even if it's free.
You may think it's all your call,
but I'm not paying for your stupid wall.

I do not want a wall at all.

Friday, January 20, 2017

2017, So Predictable

Here we are, three weeks into 2017, first day of a new presidency, half-way through the first season of NBC's new show "This Is Us."  You might find yourself asking, "Kristin, what does it all mean? What can expect of 2017?"

Luckily, Kristin-damus, world-renowned psychic to the stars, has compiled a brief, but important list of what's to come this crazy new year.

In 2017 my middle child will graduate from high school and go off to college...and her mother will be a baby!  There will be tears, sleepless nights wondering of she's okay, anxious waiting for a call or text.  And then...slowly... we will all get used to this new situation.  She will gain more independence, I will learn to let go.  I will start storing stuff in her bedroom, maybe consider a new office space...But 2017 will be a year of growth.

At some point in 2017 some sports team will win big in some bigly sports-themed tournament-thingy that everyone will be really excited about...everyone but me.  The water cooler talk and Facebook feeds will revolve around that which is completely foreign to me.  (But then I will get to go to Costco on a Sunday afternoon and not have to fight the crowds and I'll be like "Yay sports!")

This year (if I have read the stars and plotted my charts correctly), will see Kellyanne Conway finally have a mental breakdown as she once again tries to put a positive spin on some crazy thing her boss has tweeted/done/claimed to have done or not done despite video footage that claims otherwise.  During a  live television broadcast, Ms. Conway's eyes will start spinning around in her head, she'll tear off her mic and storm off the stage muttering expletives as she plans her getaway to Tahiti.  And she will shave her head, à la Brittney Spears' 2007 tour.  (Okay, I just threw that last bit in there--but I think it would be a fitting way to break from the craziness of this political cycle.)

The character of Toby on "This Is Us" will come back from his major heart attack (where the show left us on a cliff hanger when they took off for the mid season break).  BECAUSE NOTHING BAD HAPPENS ON CHRISTMAS EVE! 

In 2017 famous people will die.  But WHO you ask?  Well, an older celebrity, one who's been struggling with addiction, and probably one who's been fighting some up-until-now undisclosed disease.  And a bunch of other not famous people will die, people you might know and love.  Because that's how life works, it ends whether you're ready for it to or not.  But babies will be born, to the famous and not so famous alike.  People will beat the odds against cancer, addiction, and the Lottery.

2017 will be the year that I don't get into swimsuit shape (as opposed to all those other years).  But this year it won't be because I forgot/was too lazy/discovered the hidden stash of Halloween candy.  No, 2017 will be the year of "If you don't want to see my tummy stop looking" shape.  I will wear that two piece if I want to, so nibble on your kale and drink your cleansing smoothie while I sip a cold frosty drink poolside.

2017 will be a year of great change.  A whole generation of young Americans have become swept into the political process and will not sit quietly now.  Women have decided that their voices need to be heard.  Artists and musician and actors, butchers and bakers and candle stick makers have woken up to an America they don't recognize, one filled with divisiveness and anger and ugly rhetoric.  Now all of us who thought things were looking okay--paying our bills, raising out children--are going to have to step up and get involved.  Sure it would be nice if our government were looking out for our best interests, but it seems it's time we start speaking up for ourselves.

Welcome to a new year and a new America.  Put on your seat belts--it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Aunt Kristin's Back to School Survival Guide

The new school year starts this week and many of us are still on vacation mode.  Luckily Aunt Kristin, survivor of more back-to-school registration days and open houses than I care to count, is here to help you and even the most resistant offspring ease into the new year.

Most back-to-school "experts" will advise you to start putting your kids to bed early (and up at the crack of dawn) a week or so before school starts. Do not fall for this trap!    Do you know how easy it is to get a child, who has been lying around all day watching cartoons and playing XBox, to sleep before 10 pm?  About as easy as getting your teenage son to hug you in public.  They won't fall asleep until the wee small hours and when you try to wake them early there will be all sorts of ill-tempered churlishness in your home.  Why would you intentionally make your children grumpy while they are still in your care all day long?  Let the teachers deal with the difficult transition from night-owl to early-bird--that's what they get paid the big bucks for! (An apology in advance to my kids' teachers...But you have been warned.)

When doing your new school clothes shopping, do not buy them an entire year's wardrobe.  Sure those boots look cute, but they will not fit in two months.  I always found that if I bought my kids the new expensive jeans they wanted for the first day, those same pants would be an inch too short come November.  I don't know what it is about the first month of school that makes them grow, but it never fails (often in direction proportion to what you just spent on clothes). Everyone gets one pair of jeans, a few new tops, and the cheapest pair of shoes they'll agree to be seen wearing in public.  Oh, and don't forget to bring your valium and your credit card, because if they're anything like my kids they'll push every single one of your buttons until you would pay any price for the shopping trip to be over.

The school supply lists seem to get longer and more detailed every year.  Do your best.  If there really is no such thing as a "3 5/8' X  8 3/4" matriculated ruler, standard size ONLY" you very kindly, using your best grammar and punctuation, email the teacher.  Explain, to the best of your abilities, there is no such thing in this hemisphere.  You will look like a leader, while the other parents are still frantically calling every office supply store in the tri-state area (afraid they are failing the very first test of School Parent).  Little do they know the way to a teacher's heart is not by following every little rule listed in the syllabus, but by sending little Mabel or Oswald, Jr. with chocolate.  Oh, and volunteering--a lot.

On the subject of school supplies, when you see them on sale stock up.  In our cupboard there is currently about 20 college-ruled spiral note books, 10 packs of filler paper, four packs of pencils, two packs of pens, and both lined and unlined index cards.  My kids, being in high school, do not receive a supply list--each teacher lets them know what they'll need once classes start.  It never fails that someone, about the third week of school, needs something akin to the above mentioned non-available school supply...Tomorrow.  Somehow my mothering abilities are so legendary that both my child and their teachers assume I can magically produce any office supply at 9 pm on a school night.  (Well if it's a spiral notebook or a box of #2 pencils, yes I can.)

Good luck to all students and parents--have a great year and learn lots!  And if your kids don't do well in school this year, no worries.  They can always live at home a little longer, eating your food and using your wifi, you know, just until they find their real calling...

No, no, no, no!  Hand them their spiral notebooks and their #2 pencils and push them out the door, quick!

*Disclaimer:  Teachers do not make "big bucks," nor do they want to deal with your sleep-deprived children.  I am not a child behavior expert, nor do I play one on TV.  Follow this advice at your own discretion.