On Deck

What a crazy/ busy/ exhausting first few weeks of school!  I was so worn out by 4PM on Friday of the first week that I sat down on the couch after the last kid wandered in off her school bus, and I promptly fell asleep for close to two hours.  Right in the middle of all of the kids and all of the chaos.  Granted that I had donated three full bags of platelets at Atlanta Blood Services that morning, but that just pushed me over the edge.  And even after my glorious nap, I went to bed by 9PM.  I think I need to get a little tougher if I’m going to make it through this school year intact.  There’s way too much stuff coming up and happening for us right now!

Kid E started kindergarten a few weeks ago.  He is settling in nicely, making new friends and learning all of the mundane rules that he will have to follow every school year from here on out.  He has already determined that recess and P.E. are “the only good parts of school,” so we have very high hopes for his educational prospects.  He also started playing baseball and, after a rough first day (it turns out he had croup, thus the meltdown at practice), he seems to have settled in nicely.

Kid C has been dancing en pointe for a few months now and is doing really well.  She has learned how to pad-up and tape all of her vast and varied foot and toe injuries, and she has grown accustomed to blood and blisters as a part of her everyday life.  She is looking forward to auditioning for a role in The Snow Queen in just a few weeks.

Kid B is adjusting to high school after a rough academic start.  Her class load is really tough one, so she has to work really hard to keep up.  It wasn’t like that for her in middle school, so she has had to figure some stuff out.  But she just sucked it up and did it, which is awesome.  She also just started soccer season and is tearing it up.  This weekend her team is playing in the Atlanta Cup Tournament and they had three shut-outs before losing a penalty kick-only semi-final 4 – 2.  They have gotten really aggressive on offense and Kid B continues to train hard, make great saves, and be an all-around badass.

On Friday, Kid D got to have the experience of a lifetime.  My brother-in-law is Somebody Important and he knows how much that boy loves baseball.  He set it up so Kid D went down onto Turner Field just before the Marlins v. Braves game and make the announcement over the P.A. and on the Jumbotron… “It’s time for Braves baseball… Let’s PLAY BALL!”  He did a fantastic job and he is still beaming about it.  He looks forward to Quick Pitch and Sports Center playing this clip over and over once he gets drafted by the Braves to actually play ball sometime around 2030 or so.

Kid A is enjoying her final year of high school very much… especially all of the perks that come with being a senior.  She is in the process of completing the common application for colleges, and soon she will fine tune other submissions for a few early admissions, and then even more for regular deadlines.  She is also still dancing ballet and is looking forward to The Snow Queen auditions.

Sheepdog just jumped out a plane for the first (but definitely not the last) time.  He went up with a group of friends on a beautiful Georgia summer day, and experienced the amazing rush of flying in free fall.  Be prepared to watch the video of his leap from 14,000 feet anytime you step foot into our living room, at least for the next few weeks or so.

Today, I am leaving, along with both of my parents, two of my sisters (the third is too pregnant to travel), Kid A (who took Sister D’s spot when she got herself knocked up), three aunts, two uncles, and a handful of family friends, for Barcelona, Spain.  From there, we get on board the Royal Princess for 12 days of travel around the Mediterranean Sea.  We have stops planned in France (Toulon/ Provence), Italy (Florence/ Pisa, Rome, and Naples), Greece (Mykonos), and Turkey (Istanbul and Kusadasi).  Then we travel back, pulling into port in Greece (Athens) and finally, Italy (Venice).

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If you look closely, you can see me on the Lido Deck, sunbathing with a drink in hand.

I have been pretty busy getting the family adjusted to the new school and sports schedules and we are just settling in to the routines.  Now, I’m going to go and screw everything up by leaving Sheepdog to run the show, single-parent style, all while taking the oldest kid (and third driver) away with me for a total of 15 days.  Oh yeah, and he still has that thing called a full-time J-O-B, too.  It’s a very good thing that Sheepdog’s parents are coming to Atlanta to help him out.

I have only been on one other cruise in my lifetime, when I was four or five months pregnant with Kid D.  I went with my mom and all three of my sisters.  It is always fun to be with them, but I didn’t love the cruising part of it as much.  Yet, when my mom and dad proposed this “Trip of a Lifetime,” with all of the amazing destinations on the itinerary, I couldn’t pack my suitcase fast enough.  I have never been to Europe, so I am buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm for the experiences that lie ahead.

Here’s to some amazing things that just happened and even more things on deck.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Magic Markers

Every year I take the kids back to school shopping for new supplies.   I usually despise shopping, but I love this particular trip, as I am hot for office supply stores and the wares they peddle.  I can’t really explain it, but I can tell you that I get a little tingly every time I go down the padded envelope aisle.  And I have a thing for 5″ X 8″ notepads too.  I like to touch the paper.  My favorite thing is the sound it makes when I fan the pages.  It’s like a magical purring noise. “Puuuuurrrrrrrrr.”  So sexy.  But I digress.

Anyway, each August the kids come with me to Staples and Target to pick out new folders and notebooks and binders.  The younger ones also get rulers and scissors and crayons and index cards.  And everyone gets a new box of markers.  Now, some are classic colors and some are dry erase, some are highlighters and some are washable.  None of them are actually called “magic” anymore, but to me they will always be magical and special, because they mark another important milestone in each kid’s life… the start of a brand new school year.

This year the markers led me to thinking about other milestones in my life and the kids’ lives and how quickly time is passing.  This summer, in particular, seemed to whiz past us in a spectacle of raindrops and road trips and beach sand.  It marked the first summer we didn’t get to relax together as a family (until one week near the very end, which was pretty awesome).

I realized that this marks the last year that all five of my kids will be heading out the door on the first day of school together.  Kid A is starting her senior year in high school.  Next year she will be off at college, starting her own life with some pretty significant new markers of her own.

Then I realized that Kid E still has twelve more “first days of school” ahead of him.  He is not thrilled about this, especially because “school does not have very much Minecraft.”  Sorry, kid.

Kid B started high school this year – a big marker made complicated because her boyfriend also started, but at a different high school.

This is the year that Kid C started dancing en pointe in ballet.  Kid D will begin kid-pitch in baseball next week.  They are in 7th and 3rd grades, respectively, which can be full of all kinds of markers… middle school relationship drama, puberty, playground fights.

Sheepdog and I made it to the 20-year mark of marriage this summer.

And today marks exactly three months since Braden died.

So many markers.  Not all of them are magic.  And not all of them are huge.  But together they become the stories that make up our lives.  So I write them down and take pictures on film and in my mind so we won’t forget.  And we can look back on them and remember each one of the markers and what they meant to us at that time in our lives.  And they will shape us and affect us and make us who we are.  But they can also inspire us to make change, to do more and be more, if that is what we want.  So much possibility can come from those markers, big or small.

And that is truly magical.  Just like the purr of a good notepad.

I get high with a little help from my friends.  You say "toluene and xylene," I say "magic."

I get high with a little help from my friends. You say “toluene and xylene,” I say “magic.”  Source:  Google Images

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Dance Recitals are Torture

The other six of us all got dressed up this past weekend and we headed out to watch Kid A dance ballet in her studio’s recital.  It was held at a local high school that has its own performing arts center.  I just love watching Kid A dance.  Her movement is so precise and controlled and just peaceful to watch.  But the dance recital just kills me.  I don’t care how beautifully it is done.  Dance recitals are torture.

Let’s start with the preparation of the dancer.  Even the youngest of them (most studios have dance classes for kids as little as three-years-old) get full stage make up.  I understand the reason for needing it (stage lights are very bright and they drown you out), and I guess some people find it cute to play drag queen with their toddler, but it seems so very wrong to have these kids wearing six times more make-up than most strippers wear to work.  Then there’s the shellacked hair bun, which requires seventeen-thousand pins plus a net to hold it in place and a rocket scientist’s mom (because even the rocket scientist needs a mom’s help with this thing) to assemble.  And they don’t make enough chemicals to remove this stuff, so you’d better just get used to it.  Your dancer is going to look this way for most of the summer.

"You will TOTALLY were these again!" said their dance teacher.

Let’s move on to the costumes… they usually come in several parts, none of which I can ever figure out how to put on in the right order.  And they never come with assembly instructions, and I end up trying to put it together like it is a 250-piece play kitchen and I’m panicking at midnight on Christmas Eve.  It’s a good thing that Kid A is paying attention.  Oh, and you’ll need to buy new tights for the show.  The kind that you’ll never use again, and they cost half of a week’s worth of groceries.  The really great thing is that you get to keep the costumes!

Then there is the sales portion of the recital.  There are professional photo sessions (individual and group), DVD sales, poster sales, flower sales, and sometimes even keepsake sales to remind the dancers of the particular experience (As if the actual digital footage of the whole show to the tune of $40 a copy would not remind them enough.  No, they need a stuffed polar bear in a tutu made in Taiwan by a six-year-old who gets paid three cents a day to truly remind them).

Finally, we get to the day (or days! with multiple showings! like Broadway!) of the dance recital.  The performance is usually held in the middle of some unincorporated town, at least six hours away from the studio.  On top of that, your dancer has a call time that is three hours prior to when the doors open to the public.  Until then, no one is allowed to come in out of the sweltering heat and sit down in an auditorium that never has enough seats, and then only the very front row has an unobstructed view.  Most of the time the air conditioning in the theater will crap out about an hour into the first half of the performance.  By Intermission (yes, the show is long enough to justify an intermission), you are so sick of watching all of the variations of “kick ball change” and dancers cross leaping across the stage that you consider encouraging your dancer to try Chess Club instead next year.

Business Idea: Figure out how to get approved for a temporary liquor license inside of a school to provide a mobile cash bar for dance recitals.  Offer theme drinks, such as “Ballet Bombers,”  “Jazz Hands Off My Drink,” and “Beer Straight from the Tap Shoes.”  Provide special honorary seating for dads and grandfathers who got dragged there by the moms trying to relive their own unfulfilled hopes and dreams.

Nevertheless, we all went to watch and support Kid A while she performed in her annual recital.  I sat next to someone who reeked of cigarettes and Sheepdog sat near someone who needed more deodorant.  We all smiled and clapped and cheered, especially when Kid A was on stage – and she danced so beautifully – but mostly we cheered when it was over.  That is just what you do.  You support the ones you love, even when it is complete torture.  Because that is how childhood dreams and memories are made… on the proud shoulders and empty wallets of the parents who love them unconditionally.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…