Thursday, December 31, 2020

Out With the Old

Many are looking forward to putting the dumpster fire that was 2020 behind us, but I can't help but wonder if 2021 will really be any better. I mean, "New Year, New Me" is hard to fathom after how some people have acted through all of this. While a vaccine is now available, it's unlikely we'll be seeing an end to Covid-19 anytime soon. We will still dealing with all this social distancing, contact tracing, new normal well into 2021.

So what can we do to make the new year better than the last? Unplug and reboot? Move to a commune and live off the grid? Maybe New Zealand will take us in...

I started thinking about how, in the past, when we've done any home remodeling, all furniture, knick-
knacks, tools, storage boxes have to be moved out of the way. Then when it's over, before we start putting things back, I do a major purge: the instruction manual for a mixer we don't own anymore,  Barbie wrapping paper remnants, and 53 keys that unlock nothing in our house all must go. Getting rid of junk you don't need is almost as good as the remodel. (And it's cheaper.)

What if we took all the "stuff" from 2020--the presidential campaign, the pandemic, the discovery of space aliens (and how they didn't even stop to say hi)--and laid it all out on the lawn, dug through the piles, and only kept what we really want/need? (Unfortunately with the exception of Global Pandemic, that toxic second cousin that no one wants sleeping on their couch, but who we can't quite get rid of until we get him sorted out.)

Think of it as a kind of Marie Kondo method. Does it spark joy? If not, kick it to the curb. If so, maybe buy it a nice new frame or a cute storage basket and put it on your mantle so everyone can see and remember:  "It wasn't all bad."

One thing I would definitely keep from 2020 is all three of our kids graduating --two from college and one from high school. Our "Great Graf Graduation" party was not as big as I'd hoped (social distancing!), but we celebrated the best we could. The fact that they were able to finish their schooling virtually and then move on with their lives (new jobs, new homes, new plans) during a shut down tells me they will be able to succeed at most anything.  Also, with two kids out of college and supporting themselves, it's like my husband and I have received a substantial raise. Win and win.

I would also keep all the family time we've had over the last year--whether we wanted it or not. Sometimes by just hanging out with people--not going anywhere, not celebrating anything--you find out just how interesting they are. On the other hand, we may have occasionally had a little too much family time (and will perhaps need a nice long break from each...or possibly therapy). But we will definitely never forget it!

I will proudly keep all the projects I completed in 2020 (that I had been putting off for the last decade). Painting the kitchen walls and cabinets, new counter tops and sink; planting (and weeding!) a vegetable garden; cleaning out my bookshelf and starting a neighborhood Free Little Library; lots and lots of reading; turning our son's old room into a craft room; completing two quilts and countless face masks; and updating the front office of my husband's company. (Phew!) I have been so productive that I hardly recognize myself--I'm afraid all this has permanently damaged my "easy going/I'll get around to it someday/I should think about doing that" personality. Is there's a support group for this? Maybe a 12-step program (that you only graduate from if you complete less than seven steps...and then talk about how you'll do the rest when you have more time).

Things I will NOT be taking with me into 2021: trying to figure out people who don't believe in science (or really, trying to figure out people in general); wearing uncomfortable clothing (I have officially accepted leggings as pants and will be taking no further questions); or the idea that I should give up bread.

Once this pandemic is over I will find just the right place for whatever I'm keeping and leave everything else at the end of the driveway with a free sign. And, like after the 1918 influenza pandemic, will look forward to the "Roaring 20's"...but I will probably still keep my hand sanitizer nearby, just in case. 


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Grateful Thankful Blessed

This time of year some people like to post on social media daily reasons they have to be thankful.  I've tried this, really I have, but I quickly lapse into  "Thankful the dog didn't poop on the new throw rug" or "Grateful for cheese." I am not naturally the sentimental type (sarcasm and snark are more my style) and I don't have one of those signs that say "Grateful Thankful Blessed."   Yet I do have one or two (or 30) things for which I'm thankful:

1. Dogs (even if they poop on the new throw rugs)--live-in crumb cleaners and unconditional love.

2. Cold, clear mornings of fall--because we know what wet, dark days are like.

3. Coffee, coffee, coffee--enough said.

4. Lindt Lindor Dark Chocolate Truffles--dark chocolaty creaminess at only 75 calories and 7.5 g fat per

5. We Rate Dogs--sometimes the only bright spot on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook (They're ALL good dogs.)

6. Husband who doesn't expect me to be "normal"--because why be average?

7. Kids who aren't "normal" (well, one of them is, but we make allowances for him).

8. Sno-Isle Public Library (even the teeny-weeny Lakewood/Smokey Point location)--books that I can read for free? Yes, please.

9. A free press--journalists may be the only thing that saves us from our current political "situation."

10. Netflix--binge watching an entire season of a show in a weekend is the only way to go (unless it's  "The Walking Dead"--that I do not recommend).

11. SNL--because sometimes you need to laugh at it all or you'll (rage) cry.

Mirage Hotel pool, Las Vegas
12. Garlic--good for you, adds deliciousness to most any dish, keeps vampires at bay.

13. Las Vegas--the Disneyland for grownups (please don't bring your kids); sunshine and cocktails.

14. Preschool teachers--they teach your kids how to learn before they have to learn; and they deal with a lot of fingers in noses.

15. The internet--what did we even do before the Worldwide Web? Just not know stuff?

16. Elections (and the voter's pamphlet)--if you don't vote, you don't get to complain; it's a thing. (We voted on it a couple years ago; Referendum 86934-09-218B, aka "Show Up or Shut Your Pie Hole.")

17. Target--because who doesn't love a good deal on toilet paper AND a pair of cute boots?

Diablo Lake, North Cascades
18. North Cascades National Park--beautiful campgrounds, hiking trails, and stunning scenery. (Don't tell anyone; it'll be our little secret.)

19. School Bus drivers--they are the unsung heroes of the public school system, true story.

20. Our neighborhood/community/school district--we live in a small community where even if you don't know someone, your kid is probably in class with their kid, or their cousin is you hairstylist.    And they'll probably let you borrow a cup of sugar, or fill you in about the recent car prowler (but please don't ask them to participate in your kid's fundraiser--nobody needs more wrapping paper).

21. Our house--the back deck is rotting, the carpet needs to be replaced, and there is approximately 10,000 tons of dog hair in every nook and cranny. But it's cozy and ours and home.

22. Texting/FaceTime/Snapchat--do people actually call each other on phones anymore (like it's the  1950's)? If my daughter didn't insist she FaceTime the dogs, I might never hear from her.

23. The diversity of political candidates--love 'em or hate 'em, maybe it's time to think outside the "old white man" box (no disrespect, Joe and Bernie)

24. Elected officials who really care about their constituency--if you hide from your voters and side with the big business, maybe  "public representative" is not your calling.

25. Cyber Monday--because who even goes Black Friday shopping anymore? (Unless it's online, then "Hooray Black Friday!")

26. Pie, mashed potatoes, and all the Thanksgiving fixings--bring on the fat pants.

27. US Post Office--I'm continually amazed that anything I drop in the mail box actually gets to its    destination (and getting personal mail is the best).

28. Smart phones--Computers. In. Your. Pocket.

29. Soup--chicken noodle, potato, or bean, nothing's better on a dark, cold day.

30. Finally, that there aren't 31 days in November (PHEW!)

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.