Do You Know Who You Look Like? Yes, Yes I Do.

Private schools have a fascination with camping. Taking large groups of young humans, fluent in the art of whining into the wilderness to sleep for a day or two is a task I’ve faced at all but one of my six private school employers. The one school that didn’t camp was in Turkey and they were trying to get parents to sign on to the madness just about the time I went on maternity leave. Schools claim it instills independence, survival skills and most of all, teacher/student bonding (which it does) but in all honesty, I’m pretty sure it’s about the money. If I could pay someone to take my kids camping so I didn’t have to, I’d write that tuition check so fast I’d leave skid marks with my Bic.

My new school is no different and our camping trip was this week, just a few days into the new year. Thanks to my advanced age, years of teaching experience and the fact that I had  Nugget and Number One Son at home, I was off the hook on the sleep-over end. (To quote a coworker when I asked if he’d be camping he simply replied, “There comes an age when one no longer has to do that kind of crap.” Amen my brother. Thankfully, I’ve finally reached that age.) Instead, I led a carpool line to the campsite (and then a ½ mile right past it) the next morning, bright eyed and coffee-filled.

If you’ve never headed into the wilderness alone with a pack of 20 middle schoolers, I’d recommend it. While it often feels like something akin to herding cats, it is entertainment like no other. If you’ve never headed into the wilderness with a pack of kids who bring with them a variety of issues ranging from anxiety to Autism Spectrum Disorder, I’d  recommend it even more highly. Watching them tip-toe out of their comfort zones and try things they were adamantly opposed to at the mere mention –like kickball- but somehow decided to try eventually, evokes a self-confidence like no other and is a sight to behold.

About thirty minutes into our teacher/student bonding adventure involving a steep hill, lots of rocks in shoes and ending in a creek, one of my homeroom kids put her arm around me and said, “Mrs. O, you know who you look like?”

I hate when people say that. I have one of those faces that have caused people to say that my entire life. While it might be flattering to some to be told they resemble a famous figure, for me, it’s always the same – I’m always a dead-ringer for the C-List chubby, brunette du jour. I’ve been Ricki Lake and Thora Birch. I was even once the fat one from Wilson Phillips when I mistakenly dyed my hair red. (Thankfully that was after her first gastric bypass.) I’ve been Delta Burke during her rotund days at the end of Designing Women and most often, Ann Wilson. Who? You know, the brunette sister from Heart that got fat in the 90’s. (“What about love? Don’t you want someone to care about you? What about loooo-ve, don’t let it slip away.” Thank you Jesus, for the 80’s.)

That question – do you know who you look like- never ends well for me. (No offense Ann Wilson. You were always my favorite sister and I totally thought it was BS in the 90’s when they hid you behind curtains in every video after you chubbed out.) But looking into the eyes of this thirteen year old who had no clue there was even a band named Heart and likely was not hip to Designing Women, I was a bit curious. Who, in the name of God, do I look like now?

“I don’t know, who do I look like?”

“You look exactly like the lady from Ghostbusters. The new one. My mom and I have been talking about this since we met you.”

Of course I knew who she was talking about. There is only one chubby brunette in the new Ghostbusters but I can never resist the urge to mess with someone. “Oh, you mean Leslie Jones, right? The tall, hot black lady.”

This poor kid, who actually does look a lot like a thirteen-year-old Leslie Jones with coke-bottle glasses, looked at me like I’d lost my damn mind. Deadpan, she said, “No Mrs. O, you are way too short to look like Leslie Jones.” Riiiight…

Since I’m growing accustomed to the fact that I often need to tell my students when it’s a joke, I let her off the hook. “I’m just messin’ with ya. I know I look like the chubby one.”

Still confused, she said, “No. The one with big glasses and hair like yours.” In her eyes, the chub was secondary.

That evening at home, I Googled the cast of Ghostbusters and with little surprise, I do look a lot like Melissa McCarthy in the new Ghostbusters, same nerdy glasses, same messy up do and pretty close to the same thunder thighs.

Years ago when someone pointed out my resemblance to a famous member of the celebrity chub club, I’d immediately sink into a rabbit hole of self-loathing, followed by a crash diet. The fact that no matter how much weight I lost the world still saw me as a chub was devastating. But now? Hells no.

Now I’m too old and too damn busy for that crap. I’ve had these thunder thighs for 44 years and I’m learning to accept them. (Sorry Nugget, they’re genetic but I think they’ll work out better for a boy.) This body, in all it’s extra glory, has been good to me and I now try to do the same in return. I’m proud to look like Melissa McCarthy. She’s awesome. (Though Nugget is madly in love with Leslie Jones.) 

As we hiked back up the big hill to the campground, my student said, “And the other reason you remind me of the Ghostbusters lady is because she’s tough and you are too Mrs. O.”

Damn right kid. Mrs. O ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

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Back To School Blows

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – transitions suck. I’m a routine gal and since the acorn rarely falls far from the tree, my kids are too. For the past year we’ve been in a groove that eventually worked well for us. But now, the times, they are a changin’. While sucking it up and accepting it would be the mature thing to do, maturity has never really been my jam.

This week we moved from our stable, mom’s-got-everything-covered-even-if-it-drives-her-batcrap-crazy life, back into mom’s-going-to-work-every-man-for-himself life. It’s been a year so it may take some time to transition properly. On top of that, the kids are back in school too and anyone who has traversed that trail knows the impending suckage there. (Is it a cry for help if I order cheap wine by the case at this point? What would Betty Ford do?)

Number 1 is in third grade and while we’ve been at this school thing for some time now, third grade is that year when they go from cuddly little sweethearts into smelly big boys. Thanks to his Turk genes, Number 1 has had back hair since birth so he’s already pretty manly, but having finally hit a growth spurt (one that now leaves him only a foot shorter than his friends rather than 2 feet shorter) he just seems big suddenly.

Nugget, now a mature, yet still surly, three year old, started his tour of duty on the Island of Misfit Toys…aka…Developmental Preschool. He’ll spend his mornings singing and signing, playing and partying all while bonding with other kids that struggle like him. To combat his anxiety, we had three visits to his classroom prior to the first day so I assumed we were all prepared for this. Nugget was but Mom was not.

Sitting in my own teacher training the day before Nugget’s start, I had a weird feeling of loss. Due to all his health issues last year, I could probably count on one hand the times Nugget and I have been apart. He’s been kind of like an extra appendage, sometimes helpful and often not, but something I’d grown accustomed to having. As the speaker – who was speaking on the difficult journey of special needs parents (oh the irony)- continued on, the connections were too much and the flood-gates opened. Those flood-gates remained open for the next 24 hours.

Looking at my Nugget and how big he suddenly seemed brought me to tears. Carrying his supplies in to Meet The Teacher Night brought me to tears. Laying out his clothes, wiping his butt, pretty much anything, brought me to tears. I wasn’t expecting this at all.

It all boiled down to this. My baby is now a kid and there is no going back. When kids start school time fast-forwards at an obscene pace. The years move faster, the kids change faster and their maturity grows (Sometimes, I mean, I’ve taught middle school for years so I’ve got a special understanding of the hard-fought battle with maturity.). As a family, you become part of a larger school community that links you to your community in a very different way. After all, you are now the recipient of tax payer dollars and you have a voice in the stupidity of school district decisions. (Even if they ignore your calls and delete your emails …not that I’d know how that feels…I mean, that happened to a friend…)

Once kids start school, every day goes into overdrive as you try to squeeze every second out of it between work, school, practices, homework and everything else. Everyone is running around like headless chickens and life is based around waiting for the next break.

“We can go to pool again over Labor Day weekend.”

“We’ll do something fun on Fall Break.”

“You can sleep in over Christmas Break.”

And before you know, you’ve “waited away” an entire year. It sucks.

This is the part where I’m supposed to impart wisdom and share my resolution to be in the moment or my resolve to live a purposeful life as I put work to the side when I’m with my kids and just enjoy the ride. Ah hells no. I mean come on, who really does that? Who? I’ll tell you. No one. Ain’t nobody got time for that. That’s just the crap you read on parenting blogs.

No, this year I will stock up on wine, try to remember to look at my daily calendar on occasion (before I miss appointments and those bastards charge me anyway). I will strive to make sure everyone has a lunch packed (because even when I was home last year I might or might not have forgotten a couple) and clean underwear. (Though I cannot promise Number One will be wearing them. He’s embraced the natural life and seems unwilling to go back.) Ultimately, I will put my head down and run into this everybody-is-in-school-now life, like a runty running back pushing through a defensive line (it is football season after all), while hoping like hell to come out alive on the other side.

To quote the greats, “Cover me Bree, I’m goin’ in.”

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I Said, Stop Growing Up! Now!

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Parenthood has an uncanny way of making one painfully aware of the speed at which life travels while simultaneously pointing out the snail’s pace required by some developmental processes. In other words, one minute you’re like, “How in the hell did you outgrow the pants I bought two weeks ago?” while in the next breath you’re uttering, “Sweet Jesus child, are you ever going to wipe your own butt?” It’s a balance.

Thanks to his special needs and health issues, I’ve spent the past year oooing and ahhhing over Nugget’s developmental strides like him finally saying “Om!” (Mom) while we prepare for Developmental Preschool. Nugget’s strides don’t make me feel old; they make me feel elated. But Number One Son, on the other hand, his made recent developments that make me feel like screaming “NO! Stop! SOMEBODY SLOW THIS CRAP DOWN!”

A week from now Number One is starting 3rd grade and while it’s not as traumatic as that almighty kindergarten start that haunts a mother for months prior, it’s still a reminder of how freakin’ fast this whole childhood thing goes. (And, if you’re old like me, how much closer you are to the end. Ew.)

To further confirm my suspicion that Number One Son was growing up way faster than I am prepared for, we had a week of events to prove it. It started with a sleepover invite.

“We’d like Richard’s best buds to come for a sleep over to celebrate his birthday!”

Richard? When did they become best buds? Why don’t I know they are best buds? What is this secrecy?

I did my best Nancy Drewing and was met with, “Duh Mom, he was at my birthday party and we played basketball every day at lunch.” Clearly in the world of mini-men, that is all it takes to catapult one into BFF status. (Just another way life is easier for the male species.) But the real issue is, why did he withhold this information from his beloved Smother?

I’m not a sleepover fan. They make me nervous and kick my doom and gloom anxiety into overdrive. Because of this, to date; we’ve had one…just one, sleepover…and we knew those people pretty well and I was still nervous. We did meet Richard’s father and Richard’s dog when they dropped him off at Number One’s B-day, and while he seemed like a nice enough guy with a seemingly well-behaved K-9, I had some reservations. In hindsight, I probably should not have shared those reservations with the kid though.

“I don’t know Number One, I don’t think you can stay over. We don’t know these people.”

“Mom, it will be fine. They’re nice.”

“You don’t know that. What if they have a gun in the house? Or worse, what if they have an entire semi-automatic arsenal and shooting range in their basement. This is Indiana, you know.”

“You always say that Mom. I’m sure they don’t.”

“You say that now but you won’t be saying that when you come home with a hand shot off.”

*massive 8 year old eyeroll* “MOM!”

“Ok, then what if they are Trump supporters? You know, you are a half-breed and those Trumpagogs don’t take kindly to one-half of your people. This is Indiana, you know.”

“There was only one kid in our class who liked Trump and it wasn’t Richard. I choose smart friends Mom.” (Right on Number One.)

“Well, it’s a rough time for Turks right now and maybe these people are undercover operatives working for Erdogan planning to take you hostage under the suspicion of being a Gulenist, and they will then extradite you back to your birth place where you will be subjected to life in prison with no chance of a fair trail. Did you ever think of that?”

“Was that even English Mom? You watch too much Turkish news.”

Eventually, I put the discussion on hold with the whole, “Let’s see what Baba says.” Knowing the Turk’s overprotective tendencies, I figured I was safe. But no. Instead he told Number One – “Maybe. We think about it.”

Nooooo! Why ya gotta do me like that Turk?

After putting the kid off as long as we could, my crazy won the Turk over and we said “no” as a united force. (I’m pretty sure it was the Turkish operative thing.) We did compromise and let him stay at the party until 9:00 and Number One, who is a rabid homebody, was secretly ok with it in the end.

But then there was the girl. There is an awesome little broad who was in Number One’s class last year and happens to live across the neighborhood. Every so often she pops over on her scooter and wants to play. But she doesn’t want to play dumb stuff, she wants to have water gun battles, or shoot hoops or play Star Wars. She’s the kind of girl who gets hurt and lets the blood run without a tear shed, because she damn sure isn’t going to get left behind. She’s badass and this week she popped by.

Normally, Number One plays for 5 minutes and gives the brush off, but not this time. This time he was enthralled and when she started breaking out obscure Star Wars facts, I saw him blush. BLUSH! Aw hells no kid. I mean, big picture –- yes, this is the exact kind of girl I will be choosing for him as a life partner in 20 years so I guess it’s good to see he’s on the right path…but now? Really? No. Just no. There will be no love interests at age 8.

I do love that badass little chick but I’m not above starting a smear campaign to keep my little boys hanging on to the apron strings. My Beverly Goldberg hand is strong and I intend to keep my little pookies all mine for as long as possible…at least until they’re old enough to hold lucrative employment. Then I’ll charge rent but my boys can stay as long as they like! (Apologies to my future daughters-in-law but these boys are mama’s boys for the long haul.)