School Days

With school either in full swing or on the horizon for families everywhere, here is my list of things I just decided not to deal with this year. You might do the same.

  1. The exact brands and quantities of each school supply list item. Addie J actually opened the door for this, when I was sharpening her pencils and noted that I had about 75 pencils to sharpen for all three kids. Addie casually said, “Mom, just sharpen the top row in the box. I’ll keep the rest in my desk.” And the skies opened: for WHY was I dutifully counting glue sticks and eraser caps and Dry-Erase? These supplies are for the entire year, my friends. So you can only find one pack of ruled index cards? Send them with the one pack. I promise, the kids will let you know when they need more.
  2. Some kind of gorgeous outfit for the first day. I don’t tend to buy a crapload of school clothes in August or September; I save that for late fall, when they can’t wear their shorts and t-shirts anymore. But I used to splash out on some amazing First Day outfit, and do everyone’s hair, and expend lots of time and energy on those moments. And…… eh. Turns out the kids don’t care even a quarter as much as I did. This year, Addie was obsessed with the idea of wearing overall shorts on the first day, so we went out and bought some. Otherwise? Let’s just say the morning of the first day has been much more relaxed since I allowed the kids to present themselves however they like.
  3. Interesting, visually stunning, unerringly nutritious lunches. Listen, I think Bento boxes are beautiful. I also refuse to buy a series of nitrate-stuffed Lunchables to send to school. At the same time, it’s not going to kill anyone to occasionally bring a piece of pizza instead of a turkey sandwich. I am a working mother and there has to be a middle ground.
  4. Temperature-appropriate clothing. This was the hardest thing for me to let go: my former insistence on the kids’ bringing a jacket to school. Or wearing pants and not shorts on chilly days. Or even my kids’ propensity to pull on a zip-up fleece when I know it’ll be in the eighties that day. I just got to a point where I thought, “Fine. If you freeze (or boil) all day, then you might make a different choice next time.” This does not apply, obviously, to freezing temps– I don’t want them to lose any fingers or toes. I just don’t want to argue over windbreakers over morning.
  5. Where Addie J parts her hair. I know this seems minor, but the J has the most adorable bob, which– on special occasions– I will lovingly style in a cute-as-shit side part. Every other day, however, she insists on parting it right down the middle. I can’t decide whether she reminds me of Shemp, but I HAVE decided that I don’t care enough to fight her on it. Some day, she’ll point to photos from this age and be like, “I can’t believe you let me wear my hair like this!!” –and I’ll be like, “Yeah, there were too many other things to worry about.”

There are other things on which I do insist– getting to bed at a reasonable time, eating a healthy breakfast, homework time each afternoon. However, there are only so many hills I can defend, here. Oh, and by the way: I am also That Mom whose kid wears a dumbass outfit of his or her own choosing on Picture Day. Just letting you know.


    I guess it was bound to happen.

    CAM: Mom, two things. One urgent, and one not-so-urgent.

    JULIE: Okay….

    CAM: Well, the not-so-urgent thing is that Zulu* needs crickets.

    JULIE: Okay….

    CAM: And the slightly more urgent thing is that Zulu is not in his tank.

    JULIE:

    CAM: Like, he seems to have escaped.

    JULIE:

    CAM: And I don’t know when that happened.

    JULIE: Well, then let’s hold off on the crickets, you think?

     

    *Zulu is (or, I guess, was) Cameron’s leopard gecko.

     


      I’m wondering…

      I just want to know if anyone else thinks it’s really weird that Tom Brady apparently tools around with his Super Bowl rings all the time. Really? He takes his most prized and valuable professional trophies to four-day Vegas trips? I want to know the logistics of this. First of all, physically where is he keeping them: like, does he throw them in his luggage with his deodorant and underwear– or are they in his pockets? Which of those options is stranger?

      Then here’s my other question: he also passed them around and had people try them on. How does this even come up? Why would anyone think to ask Brady– ever, at any time– if he happened to currently have all four of his Super Bowl rings? I can really only see this scenario unfolding if Tom Brady brings it up himself. And I can’t picture that happening in any non-douchey way.

      That’s my question of the day.


        Confidence is in the work.

        I’ve been reading a lot about Mindy Kaling’s new book and what she has to say about hard work and confidence. Please note that I love her, so I’m obviously biased in favor of whatever she has to say already. But in particular I like this passage:

        People talk about confidence without ever bringing up hard work. That’s a mistake.

        This resonates so strongly for me, in particular right now because of my twelve-year-old daughter. She’s a good Irish dancer. She has natural talent. And, because natural talent takes you a long way, she has had a pretty good track record in competitions. And then, some time in the last year, she started to have some trouble: you see, she has reached a point in her competition where everyone has natural talent. She’s at a point where the difference between competing and winning is, quite simply, working hard.

        I talk to my kids about hard work all the time. For example, I’m not a great runner. I’m a solid runner, with an average pace, for which I have worked hard over a period of years. Running doesn’t come easily to me. I fight and sweat for every mile, for every second shaved off my pace. I have to work harder than everyone else. But I like working hard. I like that challenge, and I like the confidence it brings me: accomplishing something that’s difficult.

        Meanwhile: moving up to this competition level, where winning didn’t come as easily, came as a surprise to Gabby. I was proud of her when she made the decision to work harder. She focused on her challenges, she listened to difficult feedback, she wasn’t deterred by competition results that were less than what she hoped. She kept moving forward, an inch at a time, fighting and sweating and working, and believing that the work would bring results. And I am so proud to say that, as of this weekend, she qualified for regional championships this year. And Gabby’s proud, too– not just of the accomplishment, but of the work she put in to get herself there.

        Which brings me back to Mindy Kaling. She’s right: hard work begets confidence. Now, if I was working on this lesson with Cam, I’d probably have to use Dwayne Johnson rather than Mindy Kaling…. but honestly: I’m just glad there are people out there who are proud of how hard they work. My dad was always proud of how hard he worked, too. And our kids, they’re watching.

         

         


          Happy birthday, Janey!!!!

          She even has great taste in clothes. Look at this cherry-print dress.

          She even has great taste in clothes. Look at this cherry-print dress.

          I realized a long time ago that, in order to make myself a better person, I should surround myself with those who ARE better people. Who, in turn, inspire me to be better. (PSA: take a look around. If you are surrounded by people who make you feel bad about yourself, or who want you to be less than you can be, or– worst of all– if you have gathered a posse of yes-men: you could do better for yourself. Just saying.)

          I have known my friend Jane for about twenty years. Jane is a kinder, more considerate, more caring person than I am. With Jane’s example in my life, I know how important it is to work on my own, harsher tendencies, and strive to be kind. She has excelled in her professional life; her success reminds me to continue to work on my own. When faced with adversity, Jane somehow makes it the least important part of her life, and so keeps everything in proper perspective. I have learned how to handle tough times by watching Jane gracefully navigating those moments herself.

          Plus, she has a handsome husband with a cool job, three beautiful children with heart-melting curly hair, and she’s gorgeous herself. (I would tell you it didn’t seem fair– only, actually, she deserves it all and then some.) Jane celebrates a milestone today, and I am so fortunate to be one of those lucky people who gets to wish my wonderful friend a happy birthday. Love you, Janey.

           


            Lishie turns twelve.

            "Mom, use this picture. People respect people who win trophies." -Gabby's life philosophy

            “Mom, use this picture. People respect people who win trophies.” -Gabby’s life philosophy

            Twelve years ago today, I was pregnant with my second child, gender unknown. All I knew about this child was that it was very active, and could not stand for me to eat anything except fresh produce and smoothies. And then, in the eighth hour of the eighth day of the eighth month, Gabby the Game Changer came barreling into the world– a few days earlier than we expected, and so suddenly that both the anethesiologist and my own obstetrician missed the birth (looking back, if I had to choose one to make it– I would have gone for the pain meds guy). She has continued to blaze her own trail and defy expectations ever since.

            Gabby is an overwhelming force of nature. Her personality fills every room she enters, and I am ever amazed by her intelligence and her wit, by her motivation and her steadfast belief in herself. I can take no credit for any of this, by the way– it’s all Gabby. She starts junior high in a few weeks, and my goodness, does she have goals: she’s already accumulating service hours toward the National Junior Honor Society. Her life revolves around Irish dance, and she has been working steadily toward her lofty goals there as well– willingly giving up free time, and friend time, to dedicate herself to her goals. I’ll be honest: I wouldn’t bet against her.

            For her birthday, she will go out for sushi with her beloved dad– their annual tradition. And she will attend a competition which she has every intention of winning. And she will continue to be that unique mix of crazy yet controlled; smart but silly; fiercely independent and still sweetly affectionate. I’m just thrilled to be in her orbit. Happy birthday, Gabs. Love you so much.


              That one jerk.

              Okay, there are spiders in our tomato plants. Which is largely beneficial– except that I should say it like this: there are too many spiders in our tomato plants. And I don’t want to hear your, “I thought you weren’t afraid of spiders,” because I’m not. At the same time, I am a human being– so quite naturally I don’t want to stick my upper body into the dense mass of green that is our tomato garden, and come out covered in arachnids. I’ve been working around them for about a month now, but this morning my largesse came to an end: as I was reaching waaaaaaay in underneath one of the plants, I saw tiny movement right in front of my face. It was a spider, rearing back and aiming its gross little fangs at me– about an inch from my left eye.

              That, my friends, was that. I had to call in Dave to help me dispatch some of them. Then, when Gabby and I were picking tomatoes later, we selected a few more for extinction. There are funnel spiders in the zucchini, by the way, but since they can’t sneak up on us and try to puncture our eyeballs, we have a mutual understanding.

              Just, these spiders in the tomato plants: sorry, guys. As usual, one jackass has ruined it for everyone.


                August kinda blows.

                What I love about the summertime is the general feeling that everyone is, at least partially, on vacation. It’s the season of drinks on the patio on a Tuesday night, and of never ever having to pack lunches, and most of the things on the schedule being fun and not obligatory. Now that we’re in August, though, it’s like, “The party is over, losers!!!!!” Some of the few good things about August are the parade of birthdays (Jeff, Ezra, Janey, Pauly, my Gabbilicious, and more) and my parents’ anniversary, which is today.

                Mainly, though, once we’re in the month of August, I can see nine months of alarm clocks and algebra homework staring me in the face. Booooooooo.

                 


                  FYI…..

                  Gabby and I have been keeping a tally of what our garden has produced this summer. So far, among the herbs (tons) and peppers (fair) and cucumbers (so many fewer cukes this year, what’s up with that?) and the tomatoes which have just begun to present themselves– although two of the plants are currently being guarded by a pair of gigantic spiders, so Gabs and I will have to call in Dave to make it safe for us– so far our little garden has produced 38 zucchini.

                  Thirty-eight. Zucchini.

                  I have shared many of these with my friend Joelle– once I texted her to make sure she still wanted them. Because, you know, zucchini is somehow the red-headed stepchild of the summer garden to some people. Just Google “too much zucchini” and you will find many articles which commiserate with your problem. However I have this (I guess) weird love for the zucchini, and so does Joelle, fortunately. We’ve been trading zucchini chips and zucchini bread back and forth all summer. See? How awesome is that? Why would you not want every squash your garden can produce?

                  I was outside this morning, checking out the garden before Gabby gets up– there’s at least one more zucchini ready to go, and I think Dave needs to come vanquish the Tomato Guards now– and I was thinking this: WHY can’t I grow a single damn strawberry? I try every year. Every year the plant looks happy as can be and never bears a single berry.

                  Ah well. If you come over today you can have some zucchini bread.


                    I’m fighting with my right leg.

                    Yesterday during my run, I did something to my right hamstring. Fortunately my friend Michelle drove by while I was doing the Walk of Workout Shame, and she gave me a ride home. (Thanks, Michelle!!!!!!) Then I proceeded to let the screen door close on my right heel, taking out a good-sized chunk. I tried to wear regular shoes to work, but my heel was like “I don’t think so, Crazy Klutz–” so I wore sandals instead.

                    And then promptly opened a door which, unbeknownst to me, had the metal doorstop down, and scraped my toes open. Yes, on my right foot. (PS- I was texting photos of the progressing injury all night long. I’m such a baby/ attention whore when I hurt myself.)

                    I blame my mom. I get my grace direct from her.


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