January 24, 2011

I Remember...

The other day, I was on Facebook "talking football" - ok, I use that term loosely - with a small group of women with whom I went to high school.  I mentioned that I was pulling for the Packers, and Emily warned me not to tell Liz that I wasn't in favor of her Chicago Bears. In the meantime, I was trying to make sure I was rooting for the Jets, Kim's team, but worried that if I didn't put some faith in Pittsburgh, I might hurt someone else's feelings. In the end, I giggled and thought it was pretty cool that all four of us, Emily, Kim, Liz and I - were wearing four different jerseys last Sunday, yet we all grew up in the same town.

How's that? you ask. And, how is it that we will all be attending our high school reunion in Chicago this fall, when none of us is from Chicago? (Ok, Liz, maybe you are.)

When I explain it, I'm always afraid of sounding arrogant or pretentious.  Sometimes I try to downplay my upbringing, or act like it was no big deal, but the older I get, the more I realize it was a big deal, and it's something of which I am very proud. My parents weren't rich - far from it - but I was privileged in a way that I will never be able to bestow upon my own kids, no matter how much money I make.

When I was twelve years old, about halfway through the worst year of my entire life in Portland, Oregon, my Dad announced that he had been transferred and we were moving.  (I was being horribly bullied at school and was miserable every waking moment of the day, so he couldn't possibly have delivered more welcome news.)  Thing was, we weren't moving to California, or even Washington - places with which I was somewhat familiar and that I could picture in my head.  In fact, we weren't even moving to some remote, cool place, like New York, which I could have romanticized, having never been there.

My Dad had taken a job in England.

Great Britain.

Hmmmm.  Where was that again? My seventh grade geography skills were a little rough.

Soon after my thirteenth birthday/going away party that summer,  my family packed up and hopped a plane to London.  By that time, I knew exactly where it was, and I was pretty clear on the fact that it was a gazillion miles away from everything and everyone I knew and loved.  And, it was a gazillion miles away from Steve Greer and John Coleman, 7th Grade Terrorists.  I was ready.

My parents bought a house in north London, away from the military bases and the centralized "American districts" in the city. My brother, John, and I tested to get into a public school (that's private, for us Americans) but neither of us passed the entrance exams. (Come to think of it, John might have. I know I didn't.) They wanted us to assimilate.  We, conversely, missed Doritos and Oreos. Finally, they put us in a comprehensive (read: public) British school and wished us well each morning as we headed into what later became a loving family legacy joke. Ravenscroft was the name of the school, but I think even my Dad called it Ravenscrap in the end.

We spent Christmas of my eighth grade year in a gorgeous Zermatt, Switzerland, hotel room, overlooking the peaks of the Matterhorn.  The real one. During that holiday, which was no more or less spectacular than any of the countless others we took as a family over the course of the next five years, my parents discussed the option of pulling us out of the British school system and enrolling us in The American School in London.  I remember walking to school that following week, in our hideous school uniforms, making a pact with my brother that if our parents would let us move, we wouldn't even ask for new clothes to wear in the fancy, new, non-uniformed school.  American kids??? American teachers?? Just like "home" ???  We would happily continue to tie our orange and navy and gold striped ties every morning if that's what it took.

We entered ASL that January, and I was fortunate to spend the following four and half years there, graduating in the 101-member Class of 1982, with some of the greatest, truest friends I will ever have in my life.  Friends who came from all over the world - not just the United States - friends who had been uprooted from ordinary suburban American lives like I had, and friends who were merely stopping briefly in London between adventures in Saudi and Teheran and Melbourne.

Twenty nine years later, I am still in touch with many of my fellow ex-pats and we have shared many memory-filled weekend reunions in cities all over the U.S. Most of us can't get to London so easily these days, so the school holds our reunions over here, choosing a different city every five years.  We have become teachers and nurses and investors and stay home parents; we have built families - some of us have married our old high school sweethearts, and others, like me, have raised children with steadfast Americans who can't begin to understand what it meant to grow up in a foreign city.

Except it wasn't foreign to us.  The day I caught a plane "home" after graduation, I couldn't stop the tears.  I had no idea what I was going back to, nor did I have any desire to go there.  Everything I had come to know and love was intrinsically woven into the fabric of that city - and that school - and I was unsure of how to return to a place I no longer belonged to.

I made it ok. I went to college here and I live quite contentedly in the Pacific Northwest now.  But there isn't a day goes by that I don't miss

... the London rain. The smell of the platform of the Totteridge tube station at 7:41 on a Monday morning, the taste of a sweet, room-temperature cider when an Op Period backs up to lunch time...I miss the cobblestone streets and the leaded glass windows of my bedroom looking over my mother's rose garden. 

The first car I ever drove was an Austin Mini - half the size of the ones you can buy today and twice the fun...but I miss taking the tube everywhere we went instead, and keeping an eye on my brother, who always fell asleep to the rhythm of the clickety-clack of the tracks, and who counted on me to wake him in time to get home. (I often failed...hence the late night calls to Dad...)

I miss standing out on the library steps after school catching up on the gossip, meeting up at The Chiltern in Baker Street station on a Friday night for a pint...I miss the theater and the cheesy tourist stuff too, like Madame Tussauds and the Changing of the Guards. I miss Mr. Jesse and his crazy self teaching us how to love Shakespeare, and Mr. Noble being the best PE teacher a non-athletic girl could ever love. I miss the hours-long ride out to Molly's in the country, and the excitement of a sleepover smack downtown at Suzan's dad's pub. 

I spent the night before Princess Diana's wedding with these friends, curled up in a sleeping bag on the concrete of Trafalgar Square, just to catch a glimpse of her satin gown the next morning - and it was one of the best nights of my life. 

I took a trip down memory lane tonight, unintentionally; Matthew asked me to sit down and watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail with him and Jack.

I agreed, a little reluctantly - I mean, it's been 25 some-odd years since I last saw it and I'm pretty sure I was under the influence of something much stronger than red wine at that time.  I knew Jack wouldn't understand most of it, although with as much Spongebob as he watches, he should have clicked into the random humor.  But I love that Matt loves British humor,  and I remembered it was really effin' funny at the time, so I gave it a shot.

And suddenly, I was travelling a long way back to a time I keep thinking is going to fade from my memory, but it never does.

I'm so glad I found you again, Kim and Emily, Liz and John P, Molly, Beth, Andi, Julie, Suzanne, Neil, LeeAnn...and for those of you I never lost...Jochann, Amir...you can only imagine how hard I laughed tonight and how many good times came flooding back to me as I sat there, in my suburban American life, sharing my past with my kids.

Thanks for the memories :)

 Trafalgar Square, July 29, 1981 (that's me in the middle)

January 19, 2011


I'm struggling a little here. Ok, a lot.  I can't keep my mouth shut.

On The Today Show this morning, there was a segment about a high school in Tennessee that reportedly has some 90 teen mothers, or currently pregnant students enrolled.  I listened to the story and then I read a few articles about the school district and the superintendent.

What I inferred from my reading is disturbing: somehow, some way, this "epidemic in teen pregnancy" is going to end up being A) the fault of the educational system in Tennessee and B) the responsibility of that system to fix it.


The school's fault.  Why haven't the teachers and the principals and the superintendent been paying more attention? Why are they offering support and resources to these teen parents? Why are they condoning this behavior?


When I was a kid, these are the things we learned in school:

Language Arts
Social Studies
and maybe like one week of sex ed in 6th grade that taught us the mating habits of turtles or some animal completely unrelated to humans.

SCHOOL.  It was a place for learning ACADEMICS.

The rest? We learned AT HOME. From our PARENTS. And our friends' parents. THE VILLAGE.

Three years ago, right before I left the profession, I was teaching 10th grade English.  For the most part, that includes a lot of reading and writing, some public speaking, some organization skills, some research skills and, as in all classrooms, some learning about how to sit still and pay attention.

In addition,  I (the school system) was held responsible for each student's success in the following areas:

manners and general courtesy
money management (Ms. M, I don't have any lunch money; Ms. M, I don't have any money to buy school supplies)
homework completion
makeup work
special tutoring
getting along with others
drug and alcohol abstinence/education/counseling/enabling
getting along with parents
[teachers, add your own here]

When did all of those things stop being the responsibility of PARENTS and COMMUNITY?

When did it become okay for Mom and Dad to disengage from a child's life to the point that a school superintendent is now in the hot seat because he has pregnant students? Is he organizing orgies in PE? Is that why it's his fault?


Freakin' Walmart might as well be just as responsible.  There are far more pregnant girls in there than I've ever seen in a school and no one's calling their CEO up to the front of the room to explain what the hell they're doing wrong.

This shit has to stop. It's been making my blood boil all day.

Stand up and raise your kids, people.

January 17, 2011

Still Faking It

Jack just got a little irked with me over my last blog post.

Evidently, even though I'm on the upswing of the Football Learning Curve, and I know why and how my Hawks actually lost that game to Da Bears, I am NOT allowed to trash talk them with comments like "got their asses handed to them".

God, Mom, they didn't play that bad. 

Seriously? They didn't show up to the game until the end of the 3rd quarter, dude.

Whatever.  Way to support your team, Mom.



January 16, 2011

Icing our Wounds

After the Seahawks got their asses handed to them on a platter today, Karma and I took the kids ice skating as a consolation prize. Only two of them had ever been before; Karma and I weren't first timers, but we couldn't count back that far trying to remember how many years it had been.  We ended up having a blast, even if everyone's ankles are burning tonight, and Jack has a blister the size of a silver dollar on his foot.  There was a fair amount of laughter mixed with pain and humiliation, although Brian kind of showed everyone up with mad skillz. 

Sydney, Shane, Jack, Brian, Matt and Elijah

and a LOT of this.

There was some of this...

Karma almost let go of the wall for a bit.

Jack kept trying to pull me down with him,
but I was way too smart for him.

and so did Syd...

except for when she was laughing at Shane.

Who would have thought a day on the ice could cure all ills?

January 9, 2011

Fake It Til You Make It

By all standards, I'm not a huge football fan.  I usually can't tell you who plays for which team, I don't fully understand the game, and I often confuse college teams with NFL teams, as in "So the Ducks are playing the Colts today, right?"

But I like it.  I like the sound of a game filling up my house on a Saturday morning; I like that my kid loves to play it and that I get to stand out in the cold and cheer him on.  I watch a lot on tv these days, and I've been to plenty of games in my time. Of course, most of these were in college at the U of O, and, if I remember correctly, that was more about who had the best tailgater in the parking lot, and less about what was happening inside the stadium. Still. I was there. Sporting logo gear and all.

I do know that the Seahawks are "my team" and that, being an Oregon Duck, I should be setting aside a few hours tomorrow night for wings and beer.  I'm not entirely sure why - I mean, I know they're playing a championship game, but I couldn't tell you if it was the championship between college teams in Oregon or between all the football teams in the country.  Or some contest in between.  I just know that it's supposed to be a great game, and I'm going to watch it.

Yesterday, as the Hawks gave the Saints a little southern ass-whoopin' of their own, (and yes, I can say "Hawks" because they're my team, remember?)  my son Matt came in and said to me,

"You seem so....involved... in this game."  I felt a little silly then.  Honestly, I had no idea what was going on, in terms of plays and stats and penalties and timeouts.  I just knew that we were playing a game we shouldn't have even made it to, (although I can't explain that either) and we were winning! Of course I was involved!

Who can deny that kind of energy, even if you can't tell the difference between a quarterback and a tight end, unless you've got a clear shot of the number on the back of the jersey to tell you it's Hasselbeck?

Not me.

I get all caught up in the glory of the game and I'm hootin' and hollerin' and posting scores on Facebook with the best of them.  Sometimes I wish I knew more, so I could hoot and holler intelligent things, like John does.  He shouts advice at the players, and I have no doubt that it's good advice.  Someday, after I get through Football for Dummies, I'll be able to do the same.

For now, I'm just making noise and having fun.

My parents house in Arizona - they're Ducks by Tuition

January 4, 2011

Back in the Day, I Could Handle This

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I lived in a pretty low-rent college apartment in Santa Barbara with a couple of friends.  Back then, we didn't actually consider it low-rent, seeing as how we were newly post-college and trying to make it on our own.  We split a one-bedroom three ways and made it work somehow. The thing was, we thought we lived on Melrose Place, since it was only four blocks from the beach and a few miles into downtown and the party center of State Street.  We had furniture from RentWorld and dishes we'd stolen lovingly kept as souvenirs from the dorms.  And life was great, even if we did share our little place with several thousand huge cockroaches.

Yep.  Lots of 'em.  One night, I remember sitting out in the hallway, reading (I think this was because one roommate was sleeping in the living room and the other might have been entertaining in our bedroom).  Every few minutes, I had to brush the bugs off my legs. But I sat there anyway, instead of running back to my parents' house in tears, which would have been a much nicer arrangement. The little guys had become such a norm around our place that they were more annoying than disgusting.  When the exterminators came and we had to evacuate for the weekend, we thought our problems were over.  But after they bombed the entire complex, they neglected to clean up the casualties.  So we had to go around the apartment, sweeping up piles and piles of shiny little black corpses, which we then had to scoop up and dispose of on our own.

So one would think that now, having survived that, and being a mother who has cleaned up the horrors of children's injuries and sickness, one who has had spiders and snakes and other icky animals thrust upon her by small boys, one who currently lives with teen aged boys and who is subjected to not just the incessant talk of, but the toxic odor of, their bodily functions every day, one would think that I wouldn't be freaking out about the newest guests in our house.  But I am.

We have mice. 

Or one, very industrious, very smart, very busy mouse.  I'm certain there's a whole herd of them, or flock, or whatever you call a gang of mice, because they did so much damage to the food stores in my pantry that we had to empty the entire thing out and toss at least half of the contents.

They got into almost everything.  And the funny thing is that they were reorganizing my food.  John opened a bag of rice, and inside it were a dozen Milk Duds.  Huh???  There was popcorn in the box of cornmeal.   Like the critters didn't think I had things in the right place.

I Clorox bleached every inch of my pantry and kitchen, as well as every can that survived the attack.  And I still don't really want to put my feet on the floor.  Or wonder where they're all hiding since I just cleared out their Armageddon stockpile.


My skin is kind of itchy now.

January 2, 2011

Oh help.

I hate this part, where you have to actually parent teenagers.

Since Matt came back in April, I've been pretty lenient with him in terms of house rules.  I don't bug him too much about keeping his room clean, or staying out late.  I don't read his texts and I'm not his friend on Facebook.  I have chosen my battles very carefully, hoping that the glaring unfairness between his rules and Jack's won't come back to bite me....too hard. I've just tried to keep the boat steady, while still upholding my morals and beliefs.

And then he got a girlfriend.

Now I have to draw some lines.  Like, for one, you can't spend the night in the same room.  And...and...ok, that's really the only one I'm all that twitchy about.  Kiss all you want in front of me (eew!) and hold hands and talk in that stupid lovey-dovey voice on the phone all night.  I don't care. Write love notes.  Stay out all night, even.  Sleep together somewhere else - honest, I'm good with that.

Just not here.

Call me old fashioned. It's just not ok for teenagers to sleep together in my house.

And the "But I'm 18!" argument doesn't hold any water with me.  Yeah, you're 18. That does not mean that suddenly, you are the King of the World and can do whatever you want, whenever you want, with whomever you please.  No, you are still My Kid, you still live in My House and you still abide by My Rules.

Tell me I'm not totally uptight.  Any parents out there letting your teenaged love birds share a bed under your roof?

If I remember correctly, Brooke Shields and her boyfriend were allowed to do that in the movie, Endless Love, and look what happened there.  He burned her freakin' house down.

See? It's a bad idea.

January 1, 2011

To the New Year

Happy New Year, everyone!  I missed the opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas, so let's throw that in there too.

How quickly the days go by once school starts in September.  I always think I'm going to get so much done once the kids are gone all day, but it never happens.  It seems the more time I have, the less I get done.  Which should mean, theoretically, that since I'm working now, I'm uber-productive at home.


I didn't even completely decorate the house for the holidays this year.  Normally, we kind of go all out, with indoor and outdoor decorations that set the mood for the entire season.  John managed to get the yard done (beautifully, I might add) even with the trip to Hawaii right in the middle of the Parade of Boys with Ladders, our neighborhood weekend of Christmas light adornment.

But when we returned from heaven, I mean, Hawaii, I couldn't get into it.  Compared to previous years, I was kind of a humbug.

The good thing is that I don't have too much to take down and pack up.  Still, it's gotta be done and today's the day.  Once it's all back in the garage and shelves are dusted, knick-knacks are rearranged and replaced, carpets are vacuumed in places that normally don't get vacuumed, I'm planning to begin work on one of my NY resolutions, which is to be more organized as a mom who works outside the home.  It's been way too chaotic since I went back to work.  My time management sucks.

My other resolutions are just like yours: lose weight, spend more time with the kids, organize my photos, clean out the linen closets, call my mom more often, that sort of thing. Nothing interesting or new, but nonetheless full of hope.

Wishing you a quiet and restful weekend before the new year kicks into full gear.  Let's make it a great one!