Category Archives: life lessons

Comedy of Errors

That’s the only way I can describe yesterday. Seriously. The office was actually closed for Presidents Day – something I didn’t realize until last Thursday, so that was a nice surprise – and the minions were off of school. The Spouse had to go in for one of those incredibly stimulating Teacher Work Days (translation – spend the day working through technology competencies online) and the three of us were home alone. So, being the Type A that I am, I attempted to plan the Perfect SAHM Day.

I was a machine. Up and moving way before my normal time, I had dusted, vacuumed, whipped through two loads of laundry and scooped the cat poop before 9:15 AM. Huzzah!! Minion #1 actually got up of his own free will AND MADE HIS OWN BREAKFAST!! Double-score! I was on a roll! Told the minions that we would head out to run some errands around 10. And get this – they were actually getting along and sharing! I settled in with a second (ok, third) cup of coffee and a book.

10 AM – piled into the car with no resistance. Granted, Minion #2 had figured out the Netflix app on my phone, so they were watching a movie – but they SHARED it and actually put the phone in the middle of the backseat so they could both see it. If you’ve got more than one kid – or grew up with siblings – you know exactly the kind of miracle that happened here. Surreal.

Stop 1 – getting the car serviced. Normally a 20-minute job.

And that’s when everything changed.

“Ma’am, there’s something that’s not working here, and we’ll need to get it replaced as soon as possible.” ** And can I just tell you how much I hate it when anyone over the age of 20 calls me ‘ma’am’??

“OK, can I just pull over now and have you take a look?”

“Well, no – see, we’re really backed up today. But you can call Corporate from here and book an appointment to come back. ASAP.”

First of all, I’m confused why they can’t schedule their own stinking appointments. But I smiled, nodded, called the 800 number and got an appointment – for 3:30 in the afternoon. Ok, so the roller rink was out. But surely there was something else fun we could substitute, right?

Stop 2 – Haircuts for Minions. I don’t make them appointments. I have NEVER made them an appointment. We always go to the same place, walk in, and walk out 30 minutes later with two fresh cuts. Hannibal Lector said it best here: “But not today…”

Apparently, since school was out, every other parent in H-town made their kid an appointment for a haircut today. At the ONE place we always go. Was told that there was ‘at least a 40-minute wait.’

WTHeck? Really? A place that cuts kids’ hair expects me to wait 40+ minutes and try to keep two BOYS entertained? On a school holiday? Seriously, they could have planned ahead and scheduled more staff. I wasn’t having it. We left – to go to the other haircut location. And it started raining. And we drove uphill, through blinding hail, both ways…

… to find that there was only a 20 minute wait there. Sigh. After all that, I was bound and determined that these kids would get their hair cut. So we waited. I gritted my teeth and smiled when the A/C blasted us into chill-blivion. I gritted my teeth harder and smiled when a woman with three kids signed in after us and got taken back first. She had an appointment.

Lesson learned, OK?? Got it! I will NEVER take my sons for haircuts without appointments on a school holiday again!

Minions were – still – surprisingly well-behaved, so we stopped and got ice cream to soothe their shorn-headed dignity. Then it was on to get Minion #1 new glasses – since he has somehow managed to break both nose pieces off of his. Don’t know when or how, but it is what it is. Quick jaunt into Vision Center, right?

On ANY OTHER DAY, yes. Presidents Day? Heck no. Two opticians. One occupied with a lady who spoke little, if no, English. So she passed the woman over to the Spanish-speaking optician. Ok, our turn, right?

Wrong. The first optician patiently waited for the second one to translate for her instead of just switching customers and helping us.  Really? I’ve worked in retail. Believe me, I’d want the harrassed-looking woman with two kids dripping ice cream on the floor (that was me, at that point) out of the store as fast as possible – and would have done anything to make it happen.

Not these opticians. No way. I held my ground. Dangit, we were there to get glasses and we weren’t leaving without ordering glasses.

Until I realized that the Spanish-speaking lady was ordering not one, but five pair of glasses. For five different people. Who weren’t there. She was nice enough to try and take their preferences for frames over the phone – while we all waited.

Stick a fork in me. I was done. Sticky drippy sugared-up minions back in car and home.

That only took three hours. Oh, and two hours later I was at it again, back to the auto shop. At least by then the Spouse was able to get the minions from me and take them home. So much for my perfect SAHM day with the kiddoes.

And the kicker?? This morning I get tears from Minion #2, who said, ‘I want to stay home with you today. We didn’t do anything fun yesterday. It was boring.’ You have to insert the 7-year-0ld whiny voice on the italics to get the full effect. Trust me.

Sigh. I agree, kid. I agree. Teachable moment – life happens.

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Filed under Houston, kids, life lessons, Moms, working moms

The Big V-Day

Thought I’d jump on the bandwagon here and post a bit of my thoughts on today. Valentine’s Day. It’s kind of a double-edged sword around my house. Don’t worry – if you’re wondering, you know I’m gonna tell you why. Cause that’s how I roll.

See, growing up Valentine’s Day was kind of a big deal. Especially in high school. Not because of all the loot I pulled in – heck, no. Remember – I’m the girl who ended up selling Cokes at Homecoming while my date danced with his mom. Secretly I hope he somehow reads this and cringes at the memory – but that’s another story. No, it was all about the romantic dreaminess of the day for me. Somehow I always wondered if there was someone who would just – completely out of the blue – have a card or other mushy V-Day stuff for me.

Haha. I was the dork, remember? Never happened. Even in college, when I actually dated someone up to the beginning of February. We broke up and the guy had the nerve to send flowers on V-Day. Because he felt bad that I didn’t have a date. Guess what? I didn’t call him to thank him for the roses. Shocker.

And then I met the Spouse. Oh my. He was The One. I was thrilled and giddily swooning at the thought of V-Day. He was one of those teddy bear romantics on any given day, so I had high hopes for the Big Day. I’d worked out a complicated plan to swipe his keys, sneak into his apartment and decorate his room. Went off without a hitch.

And when he came over to my place for dinner, he walked through the door and said, ‘I didn’t get you a Valentine.’

Yeah, right. I knew he was playing me. Only – he wasn’t. He was telling the truth. He REALLY hadn’t done anything, not even scrawled ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ on a piece of scrap paper (and believe me, there were plenty) in his car. Seriously.

I was crushed. Absolutely crushed. I’d finally found The One – and he dropped the ball on V-Day. WTHeck?? I tried to hold it in, but eventually the filter came off and I let him have it.

Needless to say, V-Day was a Really Big Deal the next year. And for a few after that. And then I got tired of the commercialism. Honestly, how sad is it that we let the media and commerce convince us that we need one day in the year to celebrate those we love? So we dialed it back. Now we celebrate with cards and a nice dinner. Remember, a ‘nice dinner’ is relative these days. Usually it means going to a restaurant that doesn’t pass out kids’ menus and crayons. But it never fails – we always get seated next to a family with eighteen kids, all screaming, yelling or texting. Irony. Every time.

So today it’s something different. We’re cooking. At home. After the minions go to bed. A meal that doesn’t involve mac ‘n cheese, chicken nuggets or ketchup in any way.

But part of me got snippy and felt slighted last night when it hit me that nothing sparkly, silky or shiny will be coming my way today. What’s up with that? We’ve had this deal for a few years now. It was enough that I took off the filter and mentioned our first V-Day and how he still owes me for mental distress, scarring, you name it. PMS anyone?

Huh. Guess my awareness of media campaigns doesn’t make me totally immune to them. Bummer. I always thought that enlightenment and awareness would help me evolve past stupid immature reactions.

Not this time. But since it’s the 20th anniversary of that infamous first V-Day, I’ll cut myself a break. And focus on the other 364 days of the year.

But something sparkly and shiny sure would be nice…

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Filed under Family time, life lessons, Relationships, Uncategorized

Back to School, Part 3

If you’ve kept up with this blog for any length of time, you may remember my posts about Secret Teacher Insights – Schooled and Schooled, Part 2. Well, with Valentine’s Day tomorrow, and this being my first V-Day out of the classroom, I’ve been thinking. Last week, someone asked me if I missed teaching. My honest answer? Sometimes. But the ability to go to the bathroom whenever I want during the work day totally outweighs any sadness at beign out of public education. Seriously. If you’ve never taught, you won’t get this one. So think about it – teachers can’t just drop everything for a bathroom break whenever. It takes planning. And time, which is something teachers have very little of. But that one simple question got me thinking about other possible topics for my book. Want a taste? Ok, here you go…

If you teach long enough, kids grow up. This one seems like a no-brainer, so hear me out. Remember how weird it was to see your teacher away from school? Like at the grocery store or a restaurant? They just didn’t look right. Especially if they were in shorts and a t-shirt. Well, that goes both ways, folks. Happened just the other day. I had to print off resumes for the day’s interviews at work, and I recognized a name. Looking closer, I realized that it was a kid I taught WAY back in the day. I ran to my boss and excitedly told her, and she asked if there was anything the Head Honcho should know before the guy came in to interview. Hmmm… Should I have told her that he was the kid who sat with his hands down his pants through my entire first official observation? That’s a tough one. Of course I told her. But I made her promise (after she picked herself up off the floor laughing) not to pass that one on to the Head Honcho. Still, it was weird to see this tall young man in a business suit come through the office. I couldn’t for the life of me erase the vision of the kid with both hands busy in his wind shorts.

Teachers hear everything that goes on at home. Case in point: the kindergartener who told me his mom would be a few minutes late picking him up from school. When I asked why, he plainly told me that it was because she needed extra time to move around. “My mommy’s having trouble bending,” the wide-eyed cherub said. “Is she OK?” I asked with concern. “Yeah, but ever since she got the ring in her belly button she has trouble bending,” the cherub replied. I kid you not. I’ve said it before – I can’t make this stuff up!

Some parents can be overly sympathetic. This is a funny one here. Just warning you. One of the schools had very strict rules about class parties. It was a newer school, and of course the administration wanted to do what they could to preserve the carpets, etc. So the rule was – at parties – that every kid had to remain seated until all of the food/drink/sugary stuff was cleaned up. Sensible, right? Not for one mommy. She rounded on me in the middle of the room and lambasted me for not allowing her sweet little daughter – who didn’t like Sprite – to get up and drink some water. For goodness sake, the mom yelled said, the poor darling was going to get dehydrated. I stood my ground. Of course, the forty other parents stood around and watched this happen.

When it was over and the mommy had stormed to the office determined to confront the principal on this one, another mom sidled up to me and whispered, “Strawberry or Apple?” My natural reaction was to look at her like WTHeck?? And I’m sure I had that ‘deer in headlights’ look of a teacher who’s just been yelled at. She was nice enough to clarify. “I can be back in five minutes. The gas station has Boone’s, and I know you need it after that. So, strawberry or apple?”

Like I said, I’m not creative enough to make this stuff up!

School nurses really can work magic. My first year teaching, I had an adorable girl named Annie in my class. Annie was the sweetest, most loving child. She always tried her best. But she was one of those that you’d just look at and think, ‘Bless her little heart.’ In southern-speak, that translates to ‘she’s just not the sharpest knife in the drawer.’

One afternoon, Annie went to the bathroom. For a really long time. In fact, she came back just as we were packing up to get on the buses to go home. And she looked panicked. She told me that she had lost her tooth. Being the new, good teacher I was, I tried to reassure her and get her a treasure box for her tooth. ‘That’s the problem,’ she sobbed, ‘I swallowed it.’ She was hysterical. I sent her to the nurse. Just as we left for the bus, Annie came back, smiling and happy with a fresh treasure box proudly held in her hand. She told me that the tooth was inside.

Huh? I marched my happy self down to the nurse after school and demanded to know what she’d done.

‘I got it out,’ the nurse told me. ‘The tooth. I got it out.’

I believed her for about ten minutes until she finally busted out laughing. Who says ‘gullible’ isn’t in the dictionary?

I’ve got many, many more tidbits here, folks. What do you think? Should I keep this up and turn it into a book? There’s millions of gems stored up in my head!

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Filed under Childhood, Education, Field Trips, life lessons, Moms, Public Education, Teachers, Teaching, Uncategorized

It’s Like Mama Always Said…

Isn’t it funny how so many of us swear as kids that we will NEVER be anything like our parents when we grow up? I don’t know about you, but I’ve blown that one to smithereens so many times it’s not even funny. Especially since I’ve had kids. Scratch that. Make it – especially since I’ve left home. I can’t even count the number of times that I open my mouth and a Mom-ism comes out. It’s like a cartoon. I can see my mouth opening in slow motion, a speech bubble comes out, and it immediately fills with one of Mom’s sayings. And I have no way of stopping it midstream.

What brought this up? I’ll tell you. Politics. Last week’s inauguration brought out everyone’s political opinions in full force. Again. Now, I have nothing against politics. Far from it. I generally have very strong political opinions that I’ll be happy to share with you – if you ask. If you don’t ask, I’ve learned to keep them to myself. It’s less trouble that way. I tend to avoid conflict. I don’t like it. Well, I don’t like it unless you’re going to agree with me. Isn’t everyone that way? And for a long time my political opinions were in the minority around here.
Back in the day – during the last Big Election – when Facebook was brand spanking-new, I connected with tons of friends and acquaintances from childhood and high school. It was fun to be able to finally answer the question, ‘I wonder whatever happened to…’ Fill in the blank with random name: BFF from kindergarten, the Kid Who Could Never Sit Still, the class president, the kid who used to carry my lunchbox in second grade, etc. The list goes on and on. But then I connected with SS.
This was a guy I’d known since elementary school. Saw him here and there around campus during college. Had friends who knew him. So connecting via Facebook was a cool way to catch up and see what was going on in his neck of the woods – far from suburban north Texas.
Not the best move. Apparently this guy had REALLY STRONG political opinions. And he’d decided to make Facebook his forum. Anything extremist, negative, highly charged and/or controversial? He’d post it. We’re talking seventeen, eighteen posts a day. Along with his VERY STRONG statements that his beliefs were correct. He was right, and anyone who didn’t agree with him was not only wrong, but stupid. I kid you not.
This brought out my personal inner seven year old. Along with an age-appropriate exit line. It’s a good one. Back on the playground, the ultimate putdown/argument ender/having-the-last word one liner was…
“You think you’re hot snot on a gold platter but you’re really just cold boogers on a paper plate!”
It’s a good’un, right? I mean, what could any kid possibly use for a comeback line? And it’s what came to mind as this guy was spewing his I’m-always-right-holier-than-thou junk all over Facebook. Um, hello? It’s called a social network. For social networking. So it might not be the best forum for that kind of stuff…
Well, of course not everyone agreed with this guy. And back in school he’d had a bit of a surly personality that didn’t always attract friends. So you can imagine that – eventually – he started to get a teensy bit of negative feedback on his posts. Just a little, tiny, miniscule bit.
I called it Free Entertainment. Heck, it beat seeing everyone’s Farmville accomplishments in my news feed. But apparently he didn’t agree. Not only did he express sadness and anger that his Freedom of Speech had been compromised – this was America, after all – but he just could not believe that anyone would dare to criticize his views, not to mention him personally. He posted a long-winded defense of his views and tried to put a positive spin on them. Didn’t work. More negative comments. And you know what he finally did? The guy with such strong opinions that he was so eager to share them with cyberspace??
He deactivated his Facebook account. Hasn’t been seen – or heard from – on there since.
And that’s where I saw the speech bubble slowly crawl out of my mouth, inflate and fill with her words before I could stop them.
“Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.”
My mom is wise. Very very wise. I’ll keep that Mom-ism for my own kids, thank you very much. And if you don’t agree with me?? Please comment. Argue. Disagree. I take that as a compliment that my writing has stirred up emotion in another human being.
And isn’t that one of the reasons I’m doing this?

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Filed under Facebook, life lessons, Mom Sayings, Moms, Opinions, Politics

Honestly

Monday. Blah. Working while the Spouse is off. Lucky guy. And my parents are in town, kids are off. Hmph. It’s a living, right?

We actually had a lovely weekend. Weather was nice, lots of outside time with the minions, shopping with my mom in the ‘burbs, dinner out. Lots of fun. And now back to the grind. Whee.

So what should I talk about today? Something that’s been on my mind a lot this weekend, and something seriously lacking in today’s society.

Honesty.

See, I’m all for being honest. Sometimes bluntly, sometimes gently – but honesty is always the best policy, in my opinion. Because I truly believe that most people would rather hear the truth up front, however much it might sting at the time. Really. Just think of all the problems it would solve. Job interview? It would eliminate days or weeks of anxious waiting for a callback. Fashion choice? Any woman would much rather know up front that yes, it really does make your butt look fat. Something in your teeth? Oh, please just tell me now so I can fix it. Fly down? ASAP notification is a requirement. Relationships? It hurts to find out that a friendship is over, but again – I’d much rather know right away, deal with it and move on. Forget the ‘I’m just so busy right now,’ or ‘I know it seems like I’m avoiding you but – ,’ or ‘I’ll support you no matter what.’ Please. All of those statements give false hope, whether that is the intention or not. Like I said, yes, the truth may hurt in the short term – but that’s nothing compared to months/years of trying to rekindle a friendship only to be met with vague excuses and promises. Really. And that goes for any age – kids or adults.

Why bring this up now? Because I’ve worked really hard to be bluntly honest with myself. Seriously. Blunt. It’s hard. I don’t like it most of the time. But it really does make a lot more sense than continuing to delude myself about abilities, situations and realities. And since I’ve bitten the bullet with self-honesty, I find it that much harder to deal with outside people and situations. I’ve said before that I tend to over analyze and read too much into things. That’s because most of us find it too hard to be honest with each other. Especially with those we care about. It’s easier to be vague, try to ‘let others down easily’ or – especially in the digital age – use email and/or texting as a major method of communication. Without the facial expressions or tones of voice of others, words can just go out into the cyber void without thought. And I’m speaking from personal experience. It’s easier to be dishonest through email. Not proud of it, but it’s reality.

So do yourself and others a favor. Just be honest. Even if it’s hurtful. Short term hurt is much easier to face and doesn’t fester like long-term false hope. Really.

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Filed under Communication, honesty, life lessons, Relationships

Many Partings

“I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives
For a reason, bringing something we must learn,
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them,
And we help them in return.”

— ‘Wicked’

Ok, so I’m stealing a title from Tolkein today. Not exactly proud but it fits. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about people and relationships. Lots and lots of thinking. See, it’s coming up on a year – tomorrow, in fact – since a lot of people that I considered close friends disappeared from my life. That was a hard life lesson to learn – the fact that just because you consider someone a close friend doesn’t necessarily mean that they are one. Or that they feel the same way.

My naive little self just never realized that. And it was hard. And hurt a lot. Still does. A dream the other night about one of these people brought it all back, so that’s where my brain has fixated. Lots of introspection, and most of it not fun.

But then I have to look at all of the new, and positive, influences and individuals who’ve crossed my path since then. So many. Connections and reconnections who have helped me to grow more than I ever thought possible. I’ve learned so much about myself and my priorities that I can’t write it off as coincidence.

Ok, now I’m waxing sentimental. But you know what? I don’t believe in coincidence anymore. There is a grand plan. And I’ve learned to accept and welcome the fact that I don’t know what it is. All I can do is take the next step on my path. And that’s a good thing.

So I guess my question is, why are relationships so transient? Why do people drift in and out of our lives with such ease these days? Remember when you were a kid and you swore that you’d be Best Friends Forever? It seemed so normal and you never questioned that it would be that way.

Life doesn’t work that way, does it?

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Filed under friendships, Growth, life lessons, Relationships, Role Models

Standin’ on a Soapbox

Let’s just start out by saying that I’m gonna shake it up today and probably ruffle a few feathers. Hopefully I’ll start some thought-provoking conversation (or at least thoughts.) Today’s topic is one that has rankled me for a long time.

Homeschooling.

I’m gonna be honest – I’m NOT against homeschooling. I can think of many situations where it’s a good thing, and I know many excellent, kid-driven homeschool moms who have their families’ best interests at heart when making that decision. For example:

The mom of a large military family. They move around a lot, sometimes abroad. By homeschooling, she’s able to provide her kids with tons of continuity in their learning.

The Godly woman whose spouse travels so extensively for work that they would not get time together as a family if they couldn’t travel together and take school with them.

The mom of a child with special needs who can truly provide a one-on-one education for her child.

Several families who, for religious reasons, have chosen to educate their children at home.

These are just four, but I know many more. I’m not puzzled by those moms. I get it. I support their decisions. And they don’t judge me for choosing to keep my kiddoes in public school.

I start to question the decision when it’s not made 100% about the kids. I’ve talked to many women about this, and I get concerned when I hear moms say things like, ‘We just don’t like that school, teacher, class, other kids, so we took him/her out and keep them at home.’ Or a few that just hate The Establishment and want no part of that for their kids. Now, I know that homeschooling (or not) is a personal decision, but consider the following:

I’m a product of public school. I didn’t always like it. But there are some life lessons that I fully believe kids need to learn in order to become fully productive members of the society in which we live.

  • Life’s not fair. It just isn’t. There’s always going to be someone who has more, does better or simply succeeds ‘just because.’ I didn’t like it in school (still don’t) but as an adult, I can’t just walk away from a situation where this happens.
  • Sometimes people won’t like you, no matter what. I can count on one hand the two teachers who didn’t like me. For whatever reason, they didn’t. My parents encouraged me to speak up for myself and be proactive when I felt like something was out of line. There was only one time where they got involved. And you know what? I can’t just leave a job because I think my boss doesn’t like me. I learned how to handle it.
  • Kids bully. They can be mean. It’s the truth. We’ve all been bullied, and I definitely had more than my share because I was an easy target. Smart kid, glasses, dressed funny, liked to read, etc. But again, you learn how to handle it. My parents used those times as teachable moments. I’m trying to do the same with my kiddoes.
  • Schools can’t teach right and wrong. As a former educator, I know this. We try the best we can to teach social skills but fully recognize that it is the function of the family unit to instill values and ethics.

Bored yet? If not, keep reading. What truly puzzles me are a couple of examples that I’ve encountered. And let me say for the record that I fullly recognize these as exceptions rather than the majority of homeschool moms.

A mom who started homeschooling because it was just ‘too much of a headache to get the kindergartener up, dressed and off to school without her throwing a fit.’ What does that teach the child about routine, life and responsibility?

The mom who rushes through the math textbook in a month because she ‘hates math and doesn’t get the topic’ in order to get it over with for the year and then spends the majority of time on reading and writing.

The kids I’ve talked to who say things like, ‘Yeah, we did biology back in December, but we haven’t done it in a couple of months.’ How will they be prepared for college or a job when disagreeable subjects or tasks must be done every day or consequences will result?

And finally, the following conversation I had with two adorable homeschooled children, ages four and seven:

7 – Yeah, we love school cause Mom’s such a good teacher.
4 – And it’s fun cause Mom forgets about school a lot and we don’t have to do it.
7 – NO! Remember, Mom told us to say that we do school every day.

WHAT??! Seriously I didn’t make that up. I could go on, but basically just wanted to say this: I’d love to get your thoughts on homeschooling, pro and con, in order to better understand these few exceptions. Help me get it, please! Because in these few cases, I don’t. And I want to understand.

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Filed under Education, family, Homeschooling, life lessons, Moms