Cameron the Warrior

We have friends who live far in terms of distance, but near to our hearts. Uncle Shea and Aunt Maya are much beloved by the kids. Fun Shea story: he was playing swords with a very young Cammy, and at some point yelled, “Touche!” From then on, whenever the situation called for it, Cam would yell that phrase as his 4-year-old self interpreted it: “To Uncle Shea!!”

So. We got a package today, containing a wonderful photo book of the times our families have spent together. Because Shea and Maya are a fabulous aunt and uncle, they also included gifts for each of the kids– including this: Last fall, their family came to visit for a weekend, and Shea accompanied Dave and Cam to an early-morning scrimmage. Shea took this photo with his phone (yes: HIS PHONE), and it made a gorgeous, high quality poster print. I can’t wait to frame it.

 

Shea included with the poster a quote from the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. When we called to thank Shea and Maya, Uncle Shea told Cammy all about that amazing speech, which galvanized a group of cold, tired, outmanned soldiers into a force to be reckoned with. And then he reminded Cam that, on the day this photo was taken, Cam had a fever, and that when he got home he went straight to bed and slept for 11 hours– yet he was the first one on the field on that frosty late-fall morning, and he played his heart out.

Cam put the poster, and his quote, on the wall above his bed. And in a shocking (and short-lived) twist, he asked me if I thought  he might enjoy reading Henry V. He’s upstairs, asleep now, right below this gift from his aunt and uncle. A photo of himself, looking like a warrior on the field.

Thanks, guys. He will love this forever.


    Chinese New Year: Thank the Chinese Gods That’s Over.

    gwyneth-paltrow-nude-jumpsuitSo I’m a Rat, okay? And do not make fun of me for that because Rats are super-great in Chinese astrology. Last year, it was predicted, would be TERRIBLE for Rats. I scoffed. And then…. it kinda was. In terms of surprising disappointments, I mean. Probably the biggest surprising disappointment was the news that my sister and her family were relocating across the country, and actually I can think of two other big ones off the top of my head– none of which I never saw coming. Now obviously we’re all still happy and healthy, and everything is Big Picture fine. But here’s a series of little unpleasant surprises we had last year, just to illustrate:

    • For the first time ever in almost ten years of teaching it, one of my classes was scheduled for a day and time that massively disrupted everything. I cannot overestimate how badly this screwed things up.
    • We had an ear infection situation while on vacation last year, in a kid who had never had one ever, and burned up two full days of vacation with medical visits.
    • A case of the flu led to hundreds of dollars in unanticipated medical costs and forced us all to postpone Christmas.
    • My colleagues and I worked very hard to update our curriculum to reflect a new textbook for the fall. We spent much of the summer on it. And then, when fall semester began: the students had a different edition of the text than the one we integrated.
    •  My dog was bitten by another dog while out for a walk. The other dog’s owners could not have been more Court TV-style “it’s not our fault, your dog probably started it, you can’t prove anything.” And also, the other dog wasn’t up on its shots. Of course.

    And as I said, in addition to these smaller issues and to Jilly moving away, I had two other major disappointments. However, to put that into perspective: look at my best friend, the vagina-steaming Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s a Rat, too, and her marriage broke up last year. (Or consciously uncoupled, if you’re looking to make your divorce extra classy-sounding.) That’s, like, a thousand times worse than any of the things that happened to me last year. And then also, remember that the Chinese Year just ended, so she capped off her terrible year by wearing the jumpsuit pictured above. I’m sorry but that just doesn’t happen in a good year.

    So this Chinese New Year will hopefully be better. Apparently, Rats are still in the trenches this year– but we won’t get hit with the shit quite so frequently. And while we will be very busy (so far, that’s shaping up to be totally true), we will actually see benefits come from our labors this year. Or so they say.

    Meanwhile, Gwynnie and I will just keep plugging along.


      Wednesday Bullet Blog

       

      • I didn’t passionately hate the Super Bowl halftime show like so many others did (too safe, you say? Blame Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson). But it needed about 65% more Lenny Kravitz, and like 100% more Missy Elliott.
      • Due to a four-car pileup on the Interstate, my commute home took TWO HOURS last night. I need to work on being glad I wasn’t in the pileup, rather than irritated that someone else’s misfortune inconvenienced me.
      • My replacement Fitbit arrived yesterday, thank God. How can I be expected to stop eating the neighborhood grocery’s homemade tortilla chips when I have nowhere to record it??
      • Last weekend at Dave’s office party, we had a scavenger hunt, which our team lost due to a technicality (we had a police officer’s business card; we need a police detective’s card. Boooo). However, we did inexplicably take home one raw beet; one jar of pickled beets; and a Duck Dynasty calendar which is now on Addie J’s bedroom door.

       

      One final note: yesterday, my husband’s family said goodbye to their wonderful, kind-hearted, good-natured patriarch, Dave’s grandfather Clarence. Much love to you, Clarence. And special hugs and love to my mother-in-law, Kathy.


        I Don’t Want to Know.

        In my class about marketing the arts, we talk a lot about brand image in entertainment. We always get around to discussing individual artists as entertainment products, and my students always, always know personal details about their lives. And this information always, always colors their perception of the artist’s brand.

        It’s the way of today’s Everything-is-on-the-Interwebs, constantly embedded, continually streaming information flow.

        Fine.

        However, I prefer to actually know little to nothing about the artists themselves. It always ruins their work for me. I’ll give you an example: Kanye West is a brilliant musician. I love, love, love his music. I’m less enthusiastic on his fashion sense, but God bless him, he’s very ambitious and he wants to effect worldwide cultural change. His brand image tells me, consistently, that he wants to use his art to make the world a better place. I wish that was all I knew about him!! It’s so positive and uplifting! I wish I had no idea that he was married to a famewhore. I wish I didn’t know that the reason he looks so freaking glum in every photo is because he saw some eighteenth-century paintings once, and “they weren’t smiling” (That makes you look so uneducated, I don’t even have the time to explain it to you Kanye). I wish I had no idea about his arrogance and his ego, getting in the way of his talent. I would enjoy him so much more.

        Case in point: Rihanna’s new song, FourFiveSeconds. It’s SO good. Paul McCartney and Rihanna and Kanye West? Come on. You could listen to Paul McCartney’s guitar as the only component of this song and be transfixed. You could listen to just Rihanna. I am reminded that Kanye West, when reined in, is a powerful musical force. I just… I wish I didn’t have to listen to Kanye and think, “But he’s such a douuuuuuuche.” Ruins it for me.

        Which brings me to my main point: if you know anything illusion-busting– anything at all– about Chris Pratt or Jurassic World, please keep it to yourself. Do NOT ruin it for me. I’m too excited about the trained velociraptors.


          I’ll Do It For a Burrito Bowl from Chipotle.

          I am so excited, you guys. Some random Swedish crazy geniuses have launched a website which will choose a name for your baby! Erfolgswelle (I guess that’s an example of their finest work?), which is in the business of developing company and product names, has branched out into the world of baby names. For the low, low price of $31,000 American, they will approach your beloved little one’s name with that proven Big Business product-naming philosophy: lots of meetings, market research, a committee of people who are all probably at odds with one another.

          I checked out their site, and I have to tell you honestly that I still can’t tell if they’re kidding. If this is a practical joke, they put an awful lot of detail into their proposed naming process (including research into “sound and rhythm,” “derivation of word components,” and– my favorite– “appearance and design of the font.” That’s right: for $31,000, your kid even gets his own font). At the same time, I can’t help but be skeptical when they tell you with pride that they’ve also named a swimming pool and an office complex. So, you know: they’ll be absolute tops at naming your precious. And in case you still have doubts, a reassuring man is reaching out to shake your hand on the home page.

          If you are considering tossing them $31K to name your child, I would first like to have a long talk with your mother regarding where she went wrong, so please send me her cell number. After that, please keep us all posted on what they end up choosing for your child. After all, any company that can dream up something as lyrical and magical as “ArcoWest” is bound to deliver perfection for a human baby.

           

           


            Dad’s Birthday Pennies

            DadDad’s 71st birthday is today. I’ve been sort of low-level sad about it all week, but I haven’t mentioned anything to anyone. Last night, I pulled up my Dad folder and started looking through all the photos and scanned mementos, just wishing none of this had happened and I would be able to call Dad in the shop in the morning and wish him a happy birthday, hear his voice. Then my friend Georgann texted me. She and I had been just missing each other’s texts for several days, so she had no way of knowing how I had been feeling. The reason for her text, she told me sort of abashedly (“I’m being genuine, not silly”), was that she had been seeing pennies all week– and she wanted to make sure I knew she was thinking about Dad and Dad’s birthday.

            How amazing is that?

            I can be sad that he’s gone. I can be heartbroken over my loss, and Mom’s loss, and the loss of all of his talent and knowledge and skill, and his physical presence. But I will never ever doubt that he has left a legacy of his humor and his kindness, his generosity and his love. I have said before that, with the loss of my dad, I realized how many people loved him– and how many people love all of us. The world is, quite literally, a better place because he lived in it.

            Thank you, Georgee. And thanks, Dad. Happy birthday.

             


              Addie J, aka Black Widow

              This pic is from when Addie J made a video of herself, lip syncing to Macklemore's Thrift Shop. It's one of the most amazing videos of the 21st century.

              This pic is from when Addie J made a video of herself, lip syncing to Macklemore’s Thrift Shop. It’s one of the most amazing videos of the 21st century.

              The following is a transcript of the conversation I had with the J on our way to school this morning. To complete the picture, please imagine her as she was, in her grey sweater boots, hat with ears, and a sweater with a puppy on the front:

              ADDIE J: I can’t wait until I’m a famous rapper.

              JULIE: Oh. Oh, yeah. Me neither.

              ADDIE J: Know what my name will be? … Black Widow. And my first song is called “Spider Eye.” Do you think people will steal my song?

              JULIE: They’ll have to pay you for it, J. It’s called royalties. I like the name, though.

              ADDIE J: Here’s how it goes:

                 When I’m in the city, city

                 Everyone’s looking at me, me

                 Then I say to them, them

                 I got that Spider Eye

              JULIE: That’s actually super cool, J.

              ADDIE J: I need someone to sing too.

              JULIE: I’ll sing.

              ADDIE J:

              JULIE: ……Or you can have someone else too.

              ADDIE J [relieved]: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.

              JULIE: Okay, give me a smooch. Have a great day at school!

              ADDIE J [leans back into the car]: Mom, do you think the French will be offended if I use a French mustache in my video?

              JULIE: ….. Let me think about that. Ask me again after school.

              ADDIE J: Bye! I love you!

              …This is why it is virtually impossible to have a bad day, when that kid is around.

               


                Gratitude Tuesday

                camSort of like Taco Tuesday, only with fewer tacos.

                Gabby is still reading the seemingly-endless Warrior Cats books, and she frequently stops reading to tell me something about the plotline. I can never follow which cats are which– they all seem to have the same damn name, Shadowpelt or Fireclaw or whatever– and I don’t really care about the cats. But I always listen, and engage, and respond, because I never want her to think that I’m not interested in what she has to say. Same with the J– sometimes, I have to tell the J to stop talking and let someone else talk to me. My girls are chatterboxes, and they tell me lots of stuff, and I make a point of listening. Because today it’s cats and Jump Rope for Heart donations (shout out, everyone who donated to Addie’s campaign! She’s so happy). Tomorrow it might be something way more long-term important. In any event: the girls? The girls are still young. They’re still thoroughly mine.

                My son, though; he’s a teenager, strong and lean and taller than I. He’s an entirely different animal. Except.. after Gabby told me her story this morning, Cammy showed me some silly little meme on his phone. And I laughed, not because it was funny, but because I appreciated that he wanted to show me. Then, after he left for school, I got a text from him about something else. Just random, innocuous. And, looking at my phone, I was suddenly filled with gratitude. So grateful that my beautiful boy, who is a teenager now, strong and lean and taller than I, still wants to show me stupid memes that he finds. That beautiful boy who taught me how to be the mother of an infant, and later the mother of a little kid– and now, how to be the mother of a teen. I know how easy it would be for him to slip out of my death clutch grasp, as he starts to move away from Dave and me and toward his future, just a teeny bit forward every day. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I’ll be totally honest: I have no idea what I’m doing as a parent. I’ve never done this before, you see. I’m winging it, every day. And as my oldest kid, Cam is my guinea pig.

                So, when he sends me a text that says, “I can’t wait,” and I know what he’s talking about– I interpret that to mean, “So far, you’re doing okay, Mom.” And I’m filled with gratitude.

                Check back tomorrow though. Who knows.


                  Here’s My Issue With Standardized Testing:

                  The snacks.

                  I mean it. I remember when I was a kid and we had our standardized testing, we did it in the gym. You could bring two pencils and a book to keep you busy between sections. These days, testing is done in the classroom. Fine. The kids still get to bring a book. Fine again. BUT…… Gabby came home on Friday with a along and detailed list of the various snacks the students are allowed to bring, to “help them focus” during testing week. (She wrote this list gigantically on her left arm, which is another topic entirely.) If I remember correctly, when I was young, there had to be an Act of God to allow you to get so much as a drink of water while testing was in progress. In fact, I clearly recall losing a tooth once, and the teacher just handed me a Kleenex and told me to wait until break. But Kids These Days? They get to keep their water bottles handy, and they can get up and refill them at will.

                  And then there’s the snacks.

                  Do your kids bring a snack as well as a lunch to school every day? My sixth grader gets daily snack time. And my third grader even gets chocolate milk at snack time, for the love of God. We were not allowed to eat anything– ANYTHING– unless we were sitting in the lunchroom, or at a holiday party. But Kids These Days? –The list on Gabby’s arm was clear: SNACKS TO HELP THEM FOCUS. “Look, Mom. I divided my arm into three sections: Gum, Mints, and Other,” Gabby told me helpfully. “Do you think I would like butterscotch? That’s under Other.” Addie J, smelling a specialty trip to the drugstore, chimed in. “I think we would both like the butterscotch, Gabby,” she said angelically. “But I’ll take whatever Mom wants to buy us.” And then she smiled sweetly at me and hugged me.

                  I would like to note at this time that I received detention twice in high school. Once was because this little snot named Jason or Jimmy or Junior tattled on me, the day I wore shorts to school (shorts weren’t allowed, but they looked like a miniskirt which was allowed, and really? Can you see the difference here?). His mother was a teacher at the school and he told his mom on me, for real. I’m still disgusted. Anyway, the other time was because I was chewing gum. (You can see I was quite the rebel in high school.) So my kids, who casually tool around in shorts all day at school, are also encouraged to chew gum during testing week– just in case their daily snack wasn’t enough.

                  My God. Get off my lawn, or I will turn the hose on you whippersnappers.


                    Addie Has a Dark Side.

                    She looks so sweet and innocent, doesn't she?

                    She looks so sweet and innocent, doesn’t she?

                    ADDIE J: Mom, I hope it gets really, really hot in the summer.

                    JULIE: Me too.

                    ADDIE J: Like, what if it was maybe 500 degrees?

                    JULIE: I feel like that might be too hot.

                    ADDIE J: I think it would be okay.

                    JULIE: We would actually die.

                    ADDIE J: Well, we have air conditioning. We could stay inside.

                    JULIE: True. But what about all the people who don’t have air conditioning?

                    ADDIE J: They would die.

                    JULIE:

                    ADDIE J: But we would live.

                    JULIE:

                    ADDIE J: So I hope it gets really, really hot.


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