September 28, 2009

My Little Superstar

I will refrain from telling you every single detail of Jack's first track meet last Friday. You probably don't need to know what kind of energy
bar he ate beforehand or how I forgot to get his
gel inserts and worried about it the entire meet. But I do hope you'll indulge me this small moment of Mom Pride...this moment where my kid got out there on the track and did something completely unexpected. (That's him, on the far left.)

Oh, sure, we knew he could run. He's a sporty kid, his standard mode of motion is running. But I didn't know he could run like this.

100m dash: 1st place
200m dash: 1st place
400m dash: 2nd place
Who'd a thunk it? Go, Pre!

September 25, 2009

My [new] Show

For all the sitting around I do, I'm not a big television watcher. Yes, I love me a good crime drama, but I'm not a "show" girl. You know, people who "have" shows. People who say "I can't tonight, My Show is on." I used to, back in the day; I had Melrose Place and thirtysomething. Later in life, but before it became the singlemost stupid broadcast on TV, I had 24. Nowadays, though, I can't remember to have a show. I don't know when anything is on, and even if I do, I usually forget to watch it or am doing something else at the time. I want to, though. I want to be able to have that proverbial water cooler chat in the morning (another reason I should get a job). So, this season, I'm giving it a shot. Don't let my high personal goals intimidate you. Reach for the stars, I say.

I sort of accidentally subscribed to Entertainment Weekly last year and they review all the fall shows. I've been making a point of watching some that truly interest me and that come on after Jack goes to bed. I just want to say, first off, to get the negativity thing out of the way, there's a whole lot of crap out there. (I won't name names. I won't mention fangs. Or blood.) However, this week, I think I've already found My Show.

Cougartown. I laughed out loud for a (too short) half hour of the wittiest, most realistic sit-com I've seen in a long time. And Courtney Cox, as Jules, is classic. She's the hottest, coolest and most utterly embarrassing mother ever. I thought I was pretty good at mortifying my kids (all kids, really) but clearly, I have much to learn. Even the time I flashed Kim's 12 year old son doesn't muster up to Jules. She takes it to whole new heights.

Check it out, Wednesdays @ 9:30. (I think....don't quote me. I'm still new at this.)

September 24, 2009

One Day in September

Yep, it's That Time of Year again. Right up there with Major Holidays and the Start of School and the Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale, we count the State Fair as an Annual Mega Event around here. In fact, up until just a few years ago, the school districts actually gave a day off so kids wouldn't miss it. Which is exactly why, since I moved here twelve years ago, I haven't missed a single year. I was brainwashed from the start to believe that no matter what else is going on in the month of September, you go to the fair. At least once. Whether you want to or not.

Oh, of course I want to. I just complain about it because that's what I do best. I love the part where Jack is old enough now to bring a friend and a phone and ditch me the second we're in the front gate. This means that I get to visit all the hobby halls and exhibit booths and demonstrations without any distractions. I don't have to go on any rides or wait in any lines. I don't even have to share my onion rings.

And here's what I love about The Fair:

There is no self-esteem therapy in the world, no Stacy and Clinton good enough, to make you feel any prettier or more fashionable that you ever will at The Fair. The Fair Wear Fashion Show is probably my favorite thing. It's like Walmart, only way better.

You can buy food at The Fair that you can't buy anywhere else on earth. You can have chocolate covered bacon and/or deep fried [your choice of anything]. I say "and/or" because the other great thing is that you can have both if you want to! There are no limits on the quality or quantity of food you can consume. Kids get to count carmel apples double-dipped in M&Ms as dinner. It's the one time of the year when adults can eat cotton candy and admit it out loud.

There are products to buy at The Fair that are quite possibly the best inventions of humankind. Products that, when demonstrated, will put you into a trance and make you believe that your entire life has been pathetically deprived of luxury, comfort and ease.

Products that you will willingly carry around for the entire length of your Tour de Fair, even though they might weigh 50lbs. Like chainsaw art...

...or products that, in your right mind, you know are a total scam, but at The Fair, they just ROCK...

...and products that you secretly covet, even in real life, and you wish you could buy, if everyone at home wouldn't make fun of you.
Five hours and $100 later, there are two boys in the back seat of my car so jacked up on sugar that they're hanging out the windows yelling at passersby "Wazzup!" and I don't even care. I'm exhausted, but I'm so glad that once more, we got to add The Fair to our list of autumn memories.
Even if I didn't get my ShamWow. Again.

September 16, 2009

Looking on the Bright Side

Ok. The other night, I sat here at my computer and I wrote a post with my Nellie Negator hat on. I went on and on about this little pet peeve of mine, felt purged, and hit Publish. Then, about an hour or so later, I was lying in bed thinking about it. Thinking about how negative I am. How critical and judgemental I can be. So, I hopped out of bed, ran down here, and hit Delete. I felt a little better then. I felt like I had erased a smidgen of negative energy from my life. Of course, I still want you to know how much I hate....ooops, sorry.

Then yesterday, when I awoke to the heartbreaking news that Patrick Swayze had died, I was all set to write a little tribute post. All positive and such. With quotes from Dirty Dancing and everything. But yesterday turned out to be a quintessential SHM day - driving around picking up things and kids and delivering things and kids, and doing favors for friends who work outside their homes and don't have all the time in the world to write on their blogs. By the end of the afternoon, I didn't feel much like memorializing Patrick, or anything else for that matter. I just wanted a glass of wine and a little CSI. It turned out to be a half a bottle of wine, and it was Criminal Minds, not CSI, but I was quite happy with the altered combo.

Today, I wanted my negativity to get a makeover. I had a plan: to take all the little s**t that bothers me and put a positive spin on it. Like this:

I [heart] when...

~ people put their grocery carts away
~ teenagers are polite
~ school secretaries are pleasant and patient when they help me fill out a medical release form
~ drivers drive in the appropriate lane for the speed at which they are going

But nothing lasts forever.

There are just some things that I can't leave alone, and here is one of them: I was looking up something about my son's school, on the computer, and I happened upon a site where one can leave comments about the district. As a teacher and a member of this community, I want to make this positive, believe me.
I can't.
Here is what I it's original form, with names changed to protect the innocent:

im a student for XYZ Middle School for 2008-2009. im going off to XYZ high school and XYZ middle school is a excellent school to be in. and there is really fun teachers and not that many mean teachers at all. Go [mascots] !!! =)

Yes way.

My deleted rant about the nation's obsession with vampires was far nicer than what I would ever say about this. If I were a negative kind of person. Which I'm not.

September 11, 2009


a fireman's prayer

When I am called to duty, God, wherever flames may rage, give me strength to save a life, whatever be its age . Help me to embrace a little child, before it is too late, or save an older person from the horror of that fate. Enable me to be alert, to hear the weakest shout, and quickly and efficiently to put the fire out . I want to fill my calling and to give the best in me, to guard my every neighbor and protect his property. And if, according to your will, I have to lose my life, please bless with your protecting hand my children and my wife. - Author unknown

I kissed my husband as he left the house this morning, like any other Friday morning, and told him to have a good day. Except today, he was dressed in his Class A uniform and he wasn't headed to the office. His work today will be to attend the various memorials in honor of those who fought and died in the tragedy of 911.
He'll stand among hundreds of other firefighters and paramedics and police officers and he will remember what happened that day. But he'll also remember the day his mentor, Dan, died last summer, fighting a fire on a remote mountain in California. The countless calls he's responded to in the past couple of decades, calls that have shaken his faith and made him come home to hug his children tighter. He'll honor the victims and their families and the men and women who came to save them. All of them.

My husband is a firefighter. Every day, I am grateful that he comes home to our family, safe and sound. And I never forget how fortunate I am for that alone.

When I went to bed last night, I was thinking about what I was going to write this morning. Not because I suddenly got motivated, but because we had spent the evening at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, watching the Rainiers win Playoff Game #2 for the Pacific Coast League title. I wanted to write about the great American pastime.

We love AAA baseball, my boys and I. Where can you get a night out for the whole family, seats so close you can smell the players' sweat, Dollar Dogs and $2 MGD, a free t-shirt and $5 parking, all for under $50? Nowhere can you shake hands with the players, some of whom have already donned a major league uniform once or twice, some who are destined to be great, and you can say you met them when. One player, at the last game, handed his bat to my kid, as he walked off the field. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.

Last night, sitting there amongst all the other die-hard local fans, my cheap beer in hand, I thought how good we have it. How good our life is, that this exists for us. And I don't mean just us, my family, but all of us, as Americans. We have it really good here.

Which is why, this morning when I woke up, I realized I wasn't really going to write about baseball at all. I just wanted to share a little piece of what being an American means to me.

September 10, 2009

Utterly. Un. Motivated.

The first time I was a Stay Home Mom (or the second, I don't really remember), when school started, my own mom would ask me, "So! What are you going to do with all your free time?"

Hmmm. Good question. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a handle on what I should do with it, and sitting around watching Ellen in my pajamas is not it. I am completely sloth-like and it’s only Day Three of School, er, I mean, Free Time.

I'm not organized, that’s the problem. Not even a little bit. Oh, sure, I can straighten up a sock drawer like nobody's business, and if there's a party on the horizon, I'm your gal. But in regular life, I suck. I write lists that have titles. I write lists of lists I've already written. I wander aimlessly through the house, "prioritizing" tasks. That can take all day, if I work at it. By the time the afternoon bus gets here, I can know exactly what I'm going to do first.

But by that time, you guessed it. My free time is over. Better write a new list.

God, I really need [to look for] a job.

September 7, 2009

Still Letting Go

It felt like it was never going to happen. I thought the entire concept of time had been reworked, as some kind of cruel joke. Minutes began to feel like hours, days like weeks; in the end, I was certain that time was going to stop altogether. I feared I might have to go on this way forever, I worried about how much therapy I was going to need and how much all those pills were going to cost me. I lay awake at night, praying for the end. And then, suddenly, it was here. Finally. Officially. The first day of school.

not really me, but it felt a little like this

In Middle School, the bus comes at the crack of dawn, so we have a whole new routine to learn. Day One, getting ready at 5:50am went off without a hitch, blowdrying and flat-ironing included. (Don't start; you should see Jack's hair if he doesn't attempt some styling. Really.) He was cheery and bright and excited, right up until I asked him to get his picture taken before all the kids got to the bus stop (which is right in our cul-de-sac). He was mortified - "God, Mom, you're not going to take the picture at the bus stop, are you?"

Well, no, of course I wasn't! I wanted the hydrangeas in the background, just like every other year of his school life, since kindergarten. Duh! But then he was worried that I might, after the photo op, actually walk over to the bus stop with him. In my sweats. And crazy bed head. (As if all the kids there aren't used to seeing me this way by now, jeez.)

But I held back. I didn't want to embarrass him. I wanted him to go off, 20 feet away, all by himself, and be a big, all-grown-up Middle Schooler. I would wait on the porch. Camoflauged behind the hydrangeas.

That's when I started to get all choked up. No shit, after six years of this "letting go" every September, after the longest summer ever, I had a mom moment. Like the one in kindergarten. I didn't know what to do, since I couldn't risk going back in the house. What if I missed actually seeing him, physically, board the big kids' bus? But what if I lost it and someone saw me? Particularly him?

And that's where I have to thank Todd and Shawn, the parents who would never consider hiding in the bushes. There they were, bed head and all, coffee cups in hand, just like last year. Last year, when the kids still ran back for a hug if they forgot on the way up the steps of the bus. When they needed you to wave as they drove away. Todd and Shawnie were still there, and I thought, What the hell. I'm going.

So I marched right down my driveway and up to the hub of shiny-shoed pre-teens. I chatted with them and told them all to have a great day, like last year. I gave a little stay-out-of-trouble-on-the-bus advice, and let Jack know he had toothpaste on his chin, and I picked food out of Caden's teeth, like last year. And when the bus came, I hugged them all, Jack especially long, and waved as they drove away. Just like last year.

We parents stood around in our circle and jaw-jacked about stuff and drank our coffee and silently recognized that it would be our last Bus Club chat. Until next year, when that first day just really doesn't count in the grand scheme of Embarrassing Your Kids.

No matter how old they are.

September 2, 2009

Gentle Reminders

I'm all about little signs and reminders from God when we get off track as mortal humans. I'd rather believe in that, than in mere coincidence, because unexplainable magical moments are way more fun than scientifically explicable ones. I mean, I get how you can apply some physics -related properties to lightning (or chemistry, or whatever lightning is), but I much prefer to attribute random light in the sky to some angry divine being trying to get his point across to all of us screwing around down here.

I'm not religious, let's just get that out of the way. It's not about that. I just believe that we are sent messages once in awhile, messages that remind us to be better.

Like tonight, when I got home from the baseball game, I got a message. If God were human, he would have just left a message on my voicemail himself, and all he would have said was, "You suck." But he's not, so instead, I had a call from a former student. A teenager. (Rewind: Teenagers are evil.)

I don't even need to go into my history with this student, Ashley, only to say that she came into my life when she was in the 8th grade and is still here, eight years later. She babysat my boys and then later went through 11th grade English with me. That year, she did her junior career project on wanting to become a dental hygienist and did an outstanding research job. I always hoped she'd get there, but I knew it would be a long shot financially. When I heard she'd graduated and moved in with her boyfriend right away, and still worked at Taco Time, my hopes kind of faded.

That message on my voicemail tonight was Ashley, out-of-breath with an audible grin on her face.

"Ms. McDonald, this is Ashley! I just wanted to call and tell you that I got accepted at Seattle Dental Academy! And..and..I got in! And I start in three weeks! They just called me like an hour ago and I'm just so excited I wanted you to know! I just wanted to share it with you! Anyway, that's all. Ok, bye!"

Is it even possible to take back what I said about teenagers?

I am so proud, and so fortunate, and so honored to have received that call. After my little hate-spew, I certainly didn't deserve it.

And I am so grateful for the message.

September 1, 2009

P.S. Gotta Love the Internet

I was looking for a funny picture of a girl delivering pizzas to put on my last post. You would not believe what is out there when you type that into the search bar.

If I Only Had A .... Degree in Something Useful

It didn't take very long for me to hit a writer's block, did it? I have been on my computer, though, non-stop. But not to write and release creative juices. Instead, I've been job hunting. Like half the rest of the country, I'm now an official subscriber to Monster, Careers, Indeed, Craig's List and whatever other job search companies are out there promising me a bright new future.

If I were a nurse, a social worker, a truck driver or a computer guru, I'd be golden. Unfortunately, I'm none of the above. I majored in English in college. At the time, that seemed like a really super idea. I liked to read. I liked to write. I was sort of good at it. I went to an artsy-fartsy crunchy earthy college, so it was even a well-respected choice. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with the degree when I got out; in fact I'm pretty sure I didn't think about it at all. No plans, no goals. I guess I figured that out in the real world, someone, somewhere, would need a manic journal-writing, Shakespeare geek to do something. For a lot of money.

Yeah, not so much. Like every other English major I have ever met, I ended up creating lesson plans and grading essays, while babysitting 32 or 40 OPC every hour, on the hour. I wanted to love teaching, I really did. And there were moments that I loved, days that I loved, but all in all, I was mostly just miserable. I don't mind the teaching part at all. Or the paperwork or the meetings or any of the other common beefs that teachers share about the highly underpaid profession. Mostly, I hated the kids.

Oh, did I just say that out loud? It's horrible of me to feel that way, I know. I would walk into my classroom every morning, prepared for a mind-blowing lesson in literature, and spend the five minutes before the bell praying that some epidemic had [sadly] swept through our town during the night and laid rest [peacefully] to anyone between the ages of 14 and 16. That probably sounds sick. I can't help it. I think teenagers are evil.

At least I knew that meant I shouldn't be spending the day with your kids. You're welcome.

I could've gone back to any one of the careers I started and stopped in the years before I entered the classroom. There were many, believe me. And if answering phones in a call center or delivering pizzas or making the perfect cup of espresso offered any kind of paycheck comparable to the [highly underpaid] teaching profession, I would have considered a return to my past. Instead, I decided to be a stay home mom, for like the fourth time since I first became a mother. I know I'm not that good at it, but it seemed the only reasonable thing to do. Matt needed me. Everyone needed me home, taking care of my little family. Didn't they...? Thank God I married well. I've been fortunate enough to not have to work at all for the past year. But now I'm bored (and poor), and guess what? I'm really not qualified for jack. This blogging thing isn't exactly raking in the bucks and I'm about a whole college degree away from my web-design dream, so in the meantime, I'll join the masses and try to get a "real job".

*** long, exasperated sigh ***

I'll try not to be all Debbie Downer about it.