That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

I mean to do some random things… wash my car, clean out the storage room in the basement, send a wedding present to the couple who Sheepdog knows but I don’t, and who has now been married for well over a year – maybe even two or three.  I think they just had a baby.  I guess I should add “send a baby gift” to the list now too.  For whatever reason, I am just not inspired to do these things.  Ugh.  Thinking about it makes me feel like a slacker and a little icky, so I just put it off until later.  Much later.

But when it comes to my blog, I am motivated to write about things as they are happening in my life.  It goes nicely with my intention for “This Is How I Do It” to be a sort of memory keeper for me and my family.  If it is out of order or if too much time passes between the actual event and the time I press “Publish,” then it just seems wrong to me.  I don’t mean “untrue or fake,” because I don’t make up the stuff I write about here.   Maybe I mean it makes me feel like a slacker and a little icky, like the things on the never-ending, random to-do list.  But lets instead call it “less genuine and organic.”  Yes, that is exactly what it feels like.  Nevertheless, I’m finding out that sometimes it is necessary to break my own rules…

There is a milestone that I meant to address at the end of the school year, but it got pushed aside when Braden died.

(Quick side note:  Man, I really miss that kid.  I continue to struggle with understanding his sickness and his untimely passing.  I waffle back and forth between believing that life is precious and meaningful and I should soak everything in like a desperate sponge, or thinking that it is all a random crapshoot, so why bother?  Fortunately, I loiter most often on the former side of that fence.  There are several songs that remind me of him and they move me to sobbing tears when I let myself listen.  I really want to argue with him about the NFL trades (like Welker to the Broncos and Tebow to the Patriots) and the IRS scandal, and Edward Snowden, and Egypt, and Turkey, and Trayvon Martin, and the list goes on and on and on.  I wish I could talk to him or text him.  But that is no longer possible.  Sigh.)

Anyway…

In May, Kid E finished his last year of pre-school.  They did a ceremony back in April with songs and dances and a picnic in the park to mark the special occasion.  They did it early because his school had two GA pre-K classes and both lead teachers were pregnant and due sometime during the month of May.  Both of them delivered their beautiful babies before classes were out for summer, so substitutes came in to finish out the year.  They were very nice teachers and the kids still learned and had fun, but the end result was that the last day of school was kind of  “meh.”  With everything else that was happening in the last two weeks of May this year, I let the last day of pre-school pass without much fanfare.  Stuff happens, right?

But it is too bright of a highlight to let it slip by unacknowledged.

Starting with Carol and ending with Miss Bethany, my kids had some of the most awesome pre-school teachers on the planet.  They loved them like they were their own children.  Even on the days when I could not have been happier to get them out of my sight drop them off at school.  Especially on those days, and that is something I am very thankful for.  These teachers taught my kids so many things, but they also taught me as well.  And I’m talking about the important stuff here…

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I don’t care how cute those heathens look… this drop off deserves the Dance of Joy!

Carol taught Kid A how to be an outside kid.  She loaded up four or five kids a day and strollered them down to All-Wars Memorial Park, where they ran and jumped and played, until they collapsed in heaps and napped for hours.  Carol taught me the importance of regulating my kid’s day naps so that she would actually go to bed at night.  She also potty trained Kid A for me.  The first lesson was necessary for me to learn, but the second was just plain awesomeness.  Carol also taught me the importance of a margarita after the kids are in bed (her husband rented out the big machines for parties as a side business), which I found to be invaluable advice over the years.  Cheers to Carol!

Rosemary taught Kid B how to soothe herself to sleep when she was almost a year old.  Up until then, Sheepdog and I traded nights of sleep… he would get one, then I would get one.  It was a special time in our lives (and by that I mean e-special-ly SUCKY).  Kid B did not go to sleep unless someone was bouncing her, even during the day.  I don’t know if she had colic or we spoiled her, or what, but it was just plain awful.  And then like an angel from heaven, Rosemary came into our lives, and Kid B started sleeping through the night.  And it turned out she wasn’t a horrible devil-kid.  Rosemary also potty trained Kid B.  I did nothing but drop her off at pre-school and then I would pick up a non-diaper-wearing kid at the end of the day.  So I guess Rosemary taught me that, even after having two kids, you still may not know how to do the basic stuff, like get them to sleep or potty train them.  She also talked me off of the ledge when I was completely desperate and sleep-deprived and wanted to sell Kid B on e-Bay.  I really owe her a debt of gratitude for that one.

Kid C had the least amount of pre-school teachers because I had stopped working after I had her.  Following the adage of quality over quantity, the one that stands out the most in my mind is Miss Cora.  She was from a faraway land and said Kid C’s name in the most awesome way, with about seven more syllables than it actually has.  She taught Kid C about letting her freak flag fly.  Up until then, I had been butting heads with that kid about absolutely everything, mainly because she had/ has a very different way of doing things than I was used to.  Kid C took Cora’s lessons to heart and really started being her true self without reservation, which is a little bit crazy and a lot of bit different.  And somehow, they both showed me that it was okay for me to let it happen too.  It was a very good lesson for all of us.  Oh, and Cora also taught me that when a kid swallows a button during quiet time because her friend dared her to, don’t freak out because it will be just fine and probably just come out in her poop.  Another good lesson.

Miss Carla taught Kid D how to read.  In pre-school!  She was a seasoned veteran when it came to teaching kids (and their parents) all sorts of things, but the timing was just right (he was ready; she was so very patient) for her to instill a love of books and reading that continues with him to this day.  And even after four years I was still adjusting to having a kid with a penis, so Carla’s incredible patience was a well-timed example that I definitely needed in my life right then.  That patience also came in handy when I had to eventually potty-train the last kid.  I guess I had to learn sometime, right?

Kid E started pre-school early, especially given that I was a full-time SAHM.  But he would just follow me around all day, staring at me, muttering, “Where my brudder?”  So, I loaded up his backpack and his lunchbox and sent him out the door when he was barely two.  He had the most awesome teachers… every single one was fabulous.  Miss Lori, Miss Judy and Miss Tina (You’re Not Ugly) at Little Creek, and then Miss Waldy, Miss Robin, Miss Bethany and Miss Erica at Open Arms, just to name a few.  They taught him so many things, but they all taught me that teachers do sometimes have favorites, and it is pretty damn awesome when it is your kid.

Yes, the pre-school years have finally come to an end for my kids.  They were filled with some amazing experiences, and some crappy ones as well (lice letters, anyone?), but overall I can say that pre-school has left an indelible mark on both me and my kids forever and ever.  And for that I am very grateful.

This is a mark that I left on one of the schools when I may or may not have backed my truck into a No Parking sign.

…and this is the mark that I allegedly left on one of the schools when I may or may not have backed my truck into a No Parking sign.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Over the River and Through the Woods

The holidays can mean different things to different people.

To the young child it may mean that their parents will dress them up and drag them all around town, and if they have been a good little boy or girl this year they might have a Hot Wheels wall track or a pink LeapPad Explorer waiting for them under the tree on Christmas morning, Santa willing.

Hey Santa! This is number one on my wish list... an inflatable remote control flying shark. Awesome, right?

To the young couple it means spending lots of time with each other’s relatives, usually with excess stress and excess food and excess alcohol, all the while making whispered promises to each other that their lives will never, ever resemble those with whom they share those inextricable genetic links.

To the parents of teenagers it may mean being able to enjoy the Christmas Eve church service without (as much) fear that it might be their child who drops the taper candle during the congregation’s rendition of “Silent Night,” thus setting a pew or a hymnal or an old lady’s wig on fire.

To the grandparents it may mean a renewed spirit, and seemingly new eyes through which they get to watch the next generation experience the innocence and unguarded joy of believing in flying animals and toy workshops and true, untainted Christmas magic.

I have been running around for the past month like a crazed (yes, even more than usual) lunatic, slowly but surely crossing things off my To-Do lists, which were constantly being extended and amended and created anew.  I have been planning and shopping and wrapping and baking and decorating.  Sheepdog has been traveling for work all month, right up until he flew home from California on the 22nd.  The kids have all participated in their classroom parties and team celebrations and gift exchanges.  Then yesterday the seven of us piled into the car and drove well over five hundred miles to be with Grandma and Grandpa in West Virginia.  We are all still swirling around, caught up in the glorious enchantment that reaches its pinnacle tomorrow morning.

This afternoon we will finally slow down as we come together to spend time with even more family.  Tonight we will watch a reenactment of the birth of Jesus at a family friendly church service in town.  Finally, when the kids are just about to burst with anticipation, Sheepdog will read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and everyone will eventually fall into bed.

In theory, Christmas is supposed to be about simplicity.  It is about Jesus being born in a stable.  You don’t get much more unelaborate than that.

In reality, Christmas is complicated and stressful and expensive and anxiety-ridden, especially in the weeks and days leading up to it.  But, if you are really lucky, you will also get to experience those moments of calm and peace and love and true magic that make Christmas such a wonderful time of the year.

Here’s to you and yours.  May your weekend be filled with the people and things that make you happy, even amidst the crazy.  Make sure that you take the time to stop and smell the Christmas cookies.  Joy to the World!