First Day Jitters and BullySharks

 I drive away from the school.  Glancing back in the rearview at the sweet, simple buildings that make up the boys new elementary school.  I gave Sam a last hug and watched him follow his line like a duckling.  His new Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Wanslow, is in the lead.  He looks so small.  This morning I put on waterproof mascara for this very reason.  I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes.  This is my baby duck.  The last one to enter Kindergarten.  I am awash with how deep this feels.

I have been telling everyone who will listen that this is the first and last year that all three of my boys will attend the same school.  This first day was a bit crazy.  I haven’t even met Zach and Alex’s teachers because the morning bell is 8:10 for everyone.  I wish I could triplicate myself, so that I can stand by each of them.  Since I needed to see Sam off on his great voyage, I had to trust that the “big” boys (who are anything but that, in my mind) could fend for themselves.  The classes line up on the blacktop behind their classroom numbers.  The teachers come out at the bell to escort them to their respective classes.  So I had to leave Zach at his line with a hug and a whispered “l love you”.  Then I had to do the same with Alex.

It feels as though Zach has grown so confident over the summer and so sure of himself.  I was not nearly as worried about him as I was about Alex.  He looked so shy and uncertain standing between the kids in his line.   I suddenly felt as though I had just flung them into the cold foamy waves of the Pacific, and as I looked around at all the other kids milling about, shouting, laughing, talking with each other….they all looked like sharks circling my babies.  The rare, North American Bully Sharks that the media has focused upon in such great detail of late.  Those sharks with their high tops and bling; their swagger and show.  They made me want to rush back over before that bell rang and pluck my boys from the lineup and race with them back out to the car.  Maybe I will homeschool…I will organize their social interactions, I could do that…I will save them from the inevitable sharkbites which loom in the near future in this torrential sea of public education.

But then the bell rings, and I give Sam his last hug.  I watch him turn and wave as he follows his teacher into class.  I walk quietly to the MP room where the principal and various parent clubbers are giving a meet and greet for Kinder parents.  It is informative and distracting.  I don’t need the waterproof mascara afterall, I think proudly.  I find out all the dirt on drop-offs, pick-ups, uniforms, bell schedules.  Finally, it ends and I walk out with an armload of paperwork to fill out.  The van is horribly, achingly quiet.  That telltale lump begins to form in my throat.   But I am excited that I will be able to work in each of the kids classrooms this year.  I haven’t really been able to do that since Zach was in preschool.  I have signed up with the LAPC.   No, not the Los Angeles Peace Corps, but rather the Luigi Aprea Parent Club.  So I think I will be busier than ever.  But still, as I drive away, and the Flagpole grows smaller and smaller in the rearview; and the van is still so painfully quiet; and I have driven a full block without having to say, “That’s enough!”…..the tears begin to well again.  I think I chose wisely with the waterproof mascara.

Much love to all,

tiff

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Share and Share Alike

So, it was the very last Friday before school let out for summer.  We were less than a week from officially being free of the elementary school protocol: the endless tedium of homework, the daily fight to swat away bullies and bad teachers from my boys.  You spend every moment you can building them up so that when someone (a peer or a teacher) tries to tear them down, they will be strong enough to stand their ground or when that fails, to lick their wounds and mend their own hearts.

So, that last Friday felt like the home stretch.  I reviewed the paperwork in Alex’s Friday folder with a sense of relief that it would be the last collection of papers begging for donations, advertising overpriced daycare disguised as “educational after school camps”, and reminding me to foster reading rather than video gaming (ya think?).  Amongst the other papers was a standard notice warning that my child had been exposed to a particularly nasty strain of viral menace that had been happily commuting around the school grounds via the seven year old snot express.  I read over the symptoms….fever, sore throat, malaise, red bumps on the hands and feet….and subsequently put it out of my head.  Until the following Tuesday, when wee Alex came home from school with a fever, sore throat, and the dreaded “malaise”.

I responded the way any sentient parent would:  I googled the illness to find out what the worst case scenario is, and what I discovered horrified me just a bit.  According to various experts, (who prefer to be referred to by one name on that oh-so-dynamic highway of internetness, as in, “Dr. Pete” or “Miranda M.D.), most children with this disease will experience some level of discomfort due mainly to the sore throat and fever.   However, the red bumps that follow often become oozing blisters that, while unsightly, are not too bothersome.  So most medical websites seem to categorize this as one of the more innocuous and tolerable childhood maladies.  I think that the medical professionals have determined that in the absence of vomiting and diarrhea, this is a fairly manageable illness.  To be fair to these experts, lowing in their fields, I agree that if I have to choose between painless, oozing sores or vomiting and explosive diarrhea….the sores would probably win out, but not by a huge margin.

Luckily, I think we managed to become infected with an incredibly lazy version of the virus.  If our virus had been a student, it would have been the one who sat in the back row of English Lit. 101, never cracked the shrink-wrap on the text book, and skated by with a C- with a little help from library Cliff’s Notes and relatively good penmanship.

The good news is that Alex had four and a half days of sore throat, one day with five or six flat red spots on one hand, and then it was over.  No oozing, no blisters, no problem…..except that despite my constant laundry to wash anything not nailed down, and my meticulous attempt to take a Clorox anti-bacterial wipe to every surface in my house, Zach and Sam both spiked fevers last night.   I am praying that we are still dealing with the lazy third cousin of this illness, but as always I will hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Facebook stock is obviously overrated.  When I win the lottery…I shall be purchasing a nice portfolio filled with Clorox and Purell.  Happy Healthy Summer to all.

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Super Grover was spotted in Morgan Hill today!!

I feel like I spend my life rushing through the various elements of my day.  Pushing through breakfast, teethbrushing, laundry, dressing three boys + myself, snacks, lunches, laundry, school drop-off, doctor visits, paperwork, bills, laundry, school pick-up, homework, laundry, snacks, more homework, more laundry, dinner, dishes, baths, teethbrushing, laundry, bedtime, lay down, close eyes, sleep for what seems like ten minutes…..then begin it all again at 6:30 the following day.

Today, it dawned on me that while all those mundane things are the repetitive footprints that form my day….there are far more moments that I wish I could slow way down, or even hold still by capturing them in a little snow globe.  I have noticed over the past year or so that Sam has all but outgrown his open-armed appreciation of a good costume in lieu of ordinary Clark Kent streetwear.  Even last year, when we would drop the big boys at school, Sam would think nothing of throwing on a spidey costume, or donning a cape and mask.  Then slowly, he seemed to become self-conscious.  Not embarrassed so much, as acutely aware of other people’s awareness of him.  Alas, I don’t mind him owning some personal responsibility, but I had hoped that he would hold tight to that spark of originality that allowed him to feel confident in his penguin hat or Flash suit.

So, this morning my heart skipped a beat when we couldn’t find his regular jacket and all I could find was a Super Grover sweatshirt that we made two Halloweens ago.  I asked him if that would do, and he said, “Sure!”  He grabbed the hat, too, and  out the door we raced.  I know he won’t be doing this much longer.  I wanted to stop time for a moment.  It felt good just holding on to that scene in the snowglobe for a moment.

Image

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Meet Oswald, the High-Strung, Christmas Reindeer

So, a couple of weeks ago I asked Chris what he wanted for Christmas, and he flippantly said, “You could get me a really ugly holiday sweater that I could wear to work.”.   Mind you, this is his first Christmas at a new job.  So that was as good as a triple dog dare for me.  Several weeks later and a couple of trips to Goodwill and Michael’s, I feel I have met and exceeded the challenge.  So, without further ado I give you, “Oswald….the highly caffeinated, obsessively driven reindeer.”

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I gave it to Chris last night, and he assures me that wearing Oswald to the office holiday party at work this Friday, will cause no end of mocking.  This possibility, coupled with photographic documentation, is really all any spouse could ask for.  I am getting a warm, festive, holiday-ish glow just thinking about.

Peace to all.
tiff

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The Magic Ship of Morgan Hill.

Our first Christmas parade in Morgan hill was memorable, to say the least.   We arrived early and sat down to a very cheap, but nice dinner at an Italian deli.  Then walked to the center divide that cuts the main drag in half through the downtown section of Morgan Hill.  From there, we got an all-too-clear view of the gloriously fantastic seventeen and a half minute extravaganza that is the Holiday Parade.

The first third was predominantly civil service vehicles, fire trucks and an ambulance with lights and sirens blaring.  Next came a small dance group with tastefully high-necked, fur-trimmed, Santa dresses, doing a series of drill team type moves to “Let It Snow”.  Then came a series of brownie and cub scout troops, off-key middle and high school bands.  These were followed by another dance troupe that appeared to be from the opposite end of town and spectrum from the first one, as their costumes were shorter, tighter, and of a black and gold lame variety.

But the real corker for me, the thing that cinched this parade for a place in the top five of all time cheesy small town parades, were the last four entrants.     First came the requisite nativity scene, with the slight variant that Mary, Joe, and baby Jesus rode on the back deck of a convertible Chevy Chevelle, circa 1973.  Sandwiched between the free-wheeling Saviour and another convertible carrying a mousy brown-haired girl in a red sweater with a sash that said “Miss Mushroom”, was a band of Merry lesbians in a roller derby group.  They skated in circles and twirled to holiday music in their helmets and knee pads and faux zebra skin, daisy dukes over fishnet stockings.  Nothing screams Merry Christmas quite so loudly as that.  It was at this point that Sam asked, quite loudly, “Where’s the fake Santa?”.  We had come to the epiphany last holiday season that every Tom, Dick, and Santa that appeared in December could not possibly be the real one.  After all, some of them had graying, dirty beards and smelled faintly of Cutty Sark.  So I had explained as diplomatically as possible that Santa entrusts these roles to contract workers, but only if they truly believe and have the spirit of Christmas in their hearts do they qualify for the job.  I told Sam to be patient and keep his voice low ( as some younger kids did not know this “independent contractor” clause, so to speak.  Then finally, when my senses felt they could bear no more, the finale arrived.    Santa sat, like Papa Hemingway, high up on the center of a float that was shaped like a large crabbing boat.  It glowed with blue and green lights that twinkled mischievously in the balmy, seventy degree night air.

I was speechless.  I could not understand the connection of a glowing red and blue boat with anything related to the North Pole or Morgan Hill (which has about as much right to call it self a sea-side town as, oh, let’s say Torrance might.  My children, having not had 45 years of Santa Clause stereo-typing (as in, Sleigh-yes, Fire Engine-sure, why not….but a red and blue neon tuna boat–no, no way…now you’ve just gone too far.), were completely unfazed by this aberration to the standard Christmas parade finale.  It took me awhile to register that it had come to an end?   I have to say, the fat man in the red suit was a little anticlimactic after the schmaltz of Miss Mushroom and the pure wanton electricity of the derby girls.

The best part was when I asked a local mom at school the next day about the origins of the mysterious, blue, Santa cruiser.  Her reply describes most of what this country, particularly its traditions and politics, has been founded upon.  She said, “I don’t know where that came from…it is just the way they have always done it.  Hmmm.  Well Merry Christmas and a happy fishing season to you all.

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For the Four Year Old Who Has Everything….

 

Big Brother Tuxedo with his "person", Sam

Sam’s Christmas List

1. A live baby penguin.

2. A live baby turkey.

3. A robot that really works and can get me things.

4. A robot dog to keep the robot company.

5. The Lego Death Star.

I have tried to explain to Sam that Santa still needs to abide by all the State and Local health and safety code ordinances, so he may be unable to come through with the livestock… On a bright note, my boys always seem thrilled with whatever Santa brings.  I think Sam will be just fine, even if a robot doesn’t walk out from beneath the tree carrying a hatchling or two in one hand and a $400 Death Star in the other.

Much love to all,

tiff

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Moments of Clarity

Moments of Clarity

Through the lattice in your backyard, I can see

two pairs of feet…one in white tennies and the

other in tiny black cowboy boots.  You are

picking tangerines with my Spitfire.  He is my

heart, and my lesson from God in humility.

You show him how to pick just the right ones;

how to breathe them in, and feel that magic of

energy and life that comes in the shape of a

tangerine tree in his Nonie’s backyard.  And like

a wave swelling up to shore, I can feel the past

pushing up to meet me here.  I am five, and we

are on the dock at your house in Huntington

Beach.  Your legs are long, lean, and tanned

next to my short, pale ones.  We are counting

the boats that putter by.  Naming the colors

on their sails, and waving to the men and women

working the lines.  I try to teach these boys

the way that you taught mom, and the way

that you both taught me.   I am at the tiller

and working the sails, and trying to help them

see all the colors and the friendly faces and the

ripe tangerines, and the beauty of the sun as it

plays on the wind-rippled waters of the harbor.

Thank you, Norm

I miss you so.

All my love, Rosie

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