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Monday, September 6, 2021

4,745 days

 My sweet son,

As I sit and write this, I'm thinking about this last year in the world and what a crazy ride it has been. I could have never predicted when the pandemic began that we would still be dealing with it 18 months later nor could I have guessed that the reason we're still in it is the inherent selfishness of a lot of people. Like, a surprising amount of people. A year and a half into a virus that has already mutated more than once, we're still arguing about vaccines and masks and the efficacy of physical distancing. It's a hot mess, m'boy. 



The one thing I haven't worried about, though, is whether or not the craziness of the world would change you. In my heart, I knew it wouldn't, and it hasn't. Well, maybe that isn't entirely true. I think it has changed you for the better. You seem more aware of other people and that your life isn't lived entirely independently of them. You have never once complained about wearing a mask, and you were first in line to get the vaccine as soon as it was available to you. Being selfless is a big part of who you are, and it makes me so incredibly proud. 




Pandemic aside, it has been a good year for you. You made it through your first year of middle school the last school year with little to no issues, and now you're on to seventh grade. I know you wish that you could have made it through the whole year in-person at school during sixth grade, but you made the best of remote learning Wednesdays and everything that went with it. Truth be told, I enjoyed having you and Lottie home once a week so we could get some time to chill and reconnect. Plus, sleeping in makes everyone happy. I know it's difficult to be one of two teens in the house, and sometimes, things can get dicey between you and your sibling. In the end, I know that you two will always have each other's backs when it matters the most. 




You have a knack of coming up with the best random facts to share with me. Most of our conversations start with you saying to me, "Did you know...?" and I usually didn't know. We end up having some wonderful and insightful discussions, and you always stun me with your intelligence and ability to see beyond the surface of a thing. Then again, sometimes you tell me statistics about butts, and then it's easy to remember that you're a teenaged boy. Overall, your sense of humor is pretty sophisticated, and I love when we catch something very subtle that makes us laugh and you give me the side eye to let me know you think it's funny, too. 



One thing that I love about you is your willingness to show your appreciation and gratitude. If it has been a bad day or even a bad week, you find something positive to be thankful for. It's a nice reminder of how truly lucky we are and that it's important to take a step back to recognize it. 




You were fortunate enough to take three vacations this year, and you had a ball on all of them. You got to drive down to Destin with a friend and his dad to stay in their condo. The weather wasn't super cooperative, but you braved the ocean and spent time at the pool. That was also the first big road trip that you have taken that you would remember, the first one being when you were six months old. It was bittersweet for me to watch you drive away on a vacation without us, but I was thrilled that you had a chance to go. Walt Disney World is one of our favorite places to visit,as a family, and you and Lottie got to explore some on your own in April. Riding Expedition Everest eight times in a row might have been your favorite part of that vacation. We also went to Tybee Island in Georgia and had a relaxing beach visit. During that trip, we spent some time in Savannah, and I love that you're as into the history of a place as Dad and I are. 




Thank you for staying true to yourself as you grow up. I know it won't always be an easy road, but I think you're up to the challenge. I love your tender heart, your love for all animals, and your ability to see the best in everything.  Don't ever let anyone tell you to toughen up: just be yourself. Be sure to always see the best in yourself, too, because you're a pretty incredible human being. I'm so proud to be your mom. Happy 13th birthday, Dallas Simon. 

Love you the mostest,

Ma 










Monday, August 30, 2021

Mowers and sweat and masks, oh my!

 So, it has been a hot minute since I have written anything on this blog. My hopes of 2021 being much easier than 2020 are long gone. My excuse is the same as everyone else's, I suppose: the never-ending pandemic has somewhat sucked the joi de vivre from the marrow of my bones. Sitting down to write hasn't been on the forefront of my mind, but it should be.

I thought about it today because it was one of those days where things sort of slowly fell apart. It was mowing day, and although I normally love mowing the grass, I knew today would be more difficult. You see, we had some sod installed in the backyard around our new pool (Trust me, the pool construction is a rollercoaster of a story in and of itself. Let's not focus on that now. You want a tiny tidbit? I will only communicate with the pool contractor in writing now because I don't trust anything he says, and I want written proof of his shenanigans.) If you know about sod, you know that a riding mower can't be used on it for a while because the roots still need to take hold and it can't handle the weight of a machine that big. No problem. I fired up our trusty electric push mower that we bought in Lexington 9+ years ago, and I hopped to it.

If you haven't been to our fair state during the summer, let me explain humidity to you. Walking out of the door in the morning is like walking smack into a huge, soaking wet washcloth that wraps itself around your body for the day. Being "fluffy" and the age I am doesn't help anything. I spend most of the summer, even when it's a balmy 70 degrees, sweating so much that strangers have actually stopped me to ask if I'm okay. Keep that in mind when I tell you that I started pushing the mower on the very long sod, and I realized that the mower wasn't self-propelled. Sweet JAYSUS. It took a stupidly long time for me to mow just the backyard with that thing, and I was thrilled when I wearily walked it back into the garage. The rest of the lawn could be done with my riding mower, so I put on some tunes and got ready to rock. Things were going along well, and as usual, I had forgotten that my yard is on a well-travelled corner of the neighborhood and I was singing some classic rock at the top of my lungs. As I made a turn, I noticed that the engine kind of hitched a little. I didn't think too much of it until it did it again and then simply stopped. I had gassed it up before I started, so I knew it wasn't that. I opened the hood and stared down at the mower innards. Other than the fact that it was filthy, I registered nothing. I sat, I waited a minute, and then I tried again. This time, it wouldn't even turn over. Donezo. I did the first thing that came to my mind, and I called my parents. My mom commiserated, and my dad came right over. He was pushing *their* electric mower that was, HALLELUJAH, self-propelled. He, too, stared at the mower innards and shrugged. He left me with the new mower, and all was right with the world. 

Until the battery died after about two swaths of the lawn. At that point, I had been doing this whole lawn nonsense for literal hours. Resigned, I pushed the mower into the garage, and I went inside to enjoy the AC and a big cup of water. I had been texting my brother and my BFF, and they both sort of thought maybe the Universe was telling me not to mow. I could get down with that. However, my dad is nothing if not persistent, and he brought over the OTHER battery and the charger. Neat. 

I finally finished mowing the lawn after four hours. Three mowers plus four hours equals me being even sweatier than normal and far dirtier. Most of my to-do list is being shunted to tomorrow because I don't wanna. 

The point of this story? I guess it's just to share the sort of things I have been up to in the last few months of not blogging. Some if it has been frustrating; some has been weird; some has been great fun. It's trending toward the unbelievable now as I watch the cases of Covid rise again, especially in our schools. The same people who complained about remote learning last year are the ones crying now about how masks hurt their children and impair their learning. I guarantee they don't see the irony of how wearing a mask would help kids remain in school without remote learning. My kids are both vaccinated, and they wear masks during the school day. They understand the importance of not only protecting themselves but of protecting others who are vulnerable in society. I wish the adults in the school system understood that or even acknowledged it, but I guess expecting the administration or the school board to listen to scientific reason is asking a bit too much. Pity. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

5,110 days

 My love,

I can hardly believe that you arrived in my life fourteen years ago. It feels like not too long ago that you were holding my hand in parking lots, sitting on my lap to hear a book, and falling asleep in the car with your thumb firmly tucked in your mouth. So many things have happened in the blink of an eye. 



This last year has been something for you and for everyone.  From the very beginning of the pandemic, you missed out on a lot. The day you all were sent home from school, you were supposed to do a performance of the variety show that you never got to do. You missed dances, sports, time with friends, and extra-curricular activities. There were no summer camps, no sleepovers, no vacations, no watching fireworks with pals. I know that you missed all of the socializing, and maybe school a teeny bit, but you were mature throughout all of the uncertainty. You very rarely complained, and when you did, it was only to blow off steam. You have always understood that Dad and I have been trying to keep our family as safe as possible, and you haven't held it against us. You have accepted what needs to be done better than many adults I know. 

Speaking of Dad and me, I know we drive you absolutely bananas sometimes most of the time. (I also know that it's mostly Dad, but I'll throw myself under the bus, too, so he doesn't feel so bad.) Despite how annoying we must be, you're pretty good about listening and letting us do our thing. Yes, there are eye rolls and stomping and door slamming from time to time, but even your teenaged behavior isn't terrible. You still make us laugh so much that it's difficult to stay mad at you. I don't know how Dad and I were so lucky to get such funny kids, but we're grateful for it every day. 

I have watched you grow an incredible amount in the last year. Physically, you're taller than I am now, and you get a disturbing sense of joy in reminding me how "low" I am. You'll be getting your braces off very soon, and what could have been a painful process has been smooth with you. On the rare occasions that you were in pain, you bore it with strength and the knowledge that it wouldn't last too long. You're working hard at school, and it shows. You're also always trying to get better organized. I know it isn't really your thing, but I appreciate the effort. The growth that has astonished me, though, is your emotional growth. I love how many new things you have tried: cross country, basketball, and even running for and winning president of Builders Club! Once you decide you're gong to do something, it's done. You have learned to stand up for what you feel is right even when it's a difficult or unpopular thing to do. I have seen you do this for your friends and for people you don't even particularly like: you always root for the underdog and for what is morally right. You have realized that having toxic people in your life isn't worth the pain they cause, and good friends are worth their weight in gold. I love that you still tell me every detail of your day; well, maybe not every detail but most of them. Every time you tell us a story about something that happened at school or on a Zoom with your friends, I feel like I know you a little better. For someone your age, you're not judgmental at all. You accept everyone for who and what they are, no matter what. You're kind, compassionate, forgiving, caring, and fierce: I can't think of a better combination. 

Everyone says how hard it is to watch your kids grow up. It's certainly bittersweet, but I'm having the best time watching who you are becoming. Keep fighting the good fight, even when you're tired or scared, and know we will always be right behind you. Continue to laugh as much as you can and stay close to your broham. I know you all like each other more than you're willing to admit. He'll forever be in your corner, too, just as I know you'll be in his. 




You are everything I never knew I longed for and exactly what I always wanted.  I am so damn proud of you, and I hope you never forget it. 





Love you the mostest,

Mom

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Deuces, 2020

 What a year, huh? Fabulous vacations, lots of get togethers with friends, peace on earth and goodwill towards men..


Source: Giphy 


So, yeah, it hasn't been what everyone wanted. I have learned a lot, though, and I wanted to share my end-of-the-year-that-feels-like-it-may-never-actually-end thoughts. 


1. The 24-hour news cycle is a mixed bag. It's amazing that we can know what is happening in another country in real time, but it's also overwhelming AF. It doesn't make decompression easy, and the amount of disinformation that is spread both deliberately and unintentionally is enough to pop my head right off my neck. I took a break from Facebook for those reasons, plus that site always ends up being a frustrating time suck/fantasy land for me. People are either very Vaguebooky and looking for sympathy or extolling the virtues of their perfect lives that we all know aren't perfect. (If you think I'm talking about you, don't @ me. What I think shouldn't bother you, and if it does, take that up with your own self.) I recently went back, but I'm thinking about becoming more of a FB expat at this point. 

2. I'm too old to compromise when it comes to friendship. I think friends are all in or all out: no deception, no shady stuff, no middle school games. Life brings enough drama as is, and I don't need anyone else's nonsense, especially when it's self-created. Shout out to all of my faithful friends who kept in touch this year with phone calls, emails, texts, GIFs, and general messages of love. You know who you are. 💖💖

3. I'm not an outdoors kind of gal. I can totally appreciate nature, but it doesn't bring me the peace it seems to bring others. I used to feel bad about that, but I don't anymore. I'm an indoors gal, and that's okay. 

4. Yes, the news about the coronavirus vaccine is AMAZING, but we're not all going to be immune tomorrow. Just wear the mask and don't get caught up in "BUT MUH FREEDUMS!!!" (This is less of what I have learned and more of a PSA. I would like to go on vacation as soon as humanly possible, so let's make the virus go away, please.) 

5. Lying is gross. I mean, I have always known that, but it has really become obvious in the last year, politically and personally. I sort of thought that was a lesson learned in Kindergarten, but apparently I was mistaken. (And I didn't even GO to Kindergarten.) If you need a refresher, here it is: tell the truth. 

6. Shelter-in-place has made me appreciate my family even more than I already do. It has also made me appreciate time alone.

7. Everyone should work on their souls at least as much as they work on their looks. Lots of people should think about this before getting more Botox or trying a new fad diet.

8. I thought I would have my house in tip-top shape post-shelter-in-place. I do not. If you do, my hat goes off to you. Well done! 

9. Instead of doing so much talking, take a minute to listen. Really listen and don't say a thing. I guarantee that you'll learn a lot. 

10. If someone needs help, you should help them if you can. It's simple, really, and it's the right thing to do. 


As we roll into 2021, I hope that I can remember and embrace these lessons. I'm figuring out how to be there for people but continue to live for myself. It's not always easy, but it's worth it, especially being able to show my children every day what it is to be a decent human being. Happy New Year, y'all. 


Monday, September 14, 2020

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

 Sigh. 

Our school system started classes on Wednesday, August 12. We had two options: in-person learning or remote learning. In theory, it's great. Families who wanted in-person learning got what they wanted, and families who wanted their kids at home got what they wanted. Except, it didn't really work that way for the remote learners. 

The remote learners were promised live-streamed classrooms and Zoom calls and lots of personal attention. Although I wanted to believe it would happen, I was skeptical. As it turns out, trying to deal with in-person students and remote students all at the same time has made our teachers stressed, tired, beaten down, and broken. 

VCS told the general public on July 31 that both in-person and remote learning would be offered. That gave the teachers twelve days before school started to get prepped to teach in a way they have never had to teach before. Just in case you missed it, read it again: TWELVE DAYS. That's not a lot of days, by the way. The teachers asked for more time to become familiar with how to use technology to better teach their students, and they were denied. They asked for teachers who could be remote-specific instructors, and they were denied. What we ended up with is giving all students in the district an elearning day on Wednesdays in order to give the teachers some time to catch up and breathe from dual-platform teaching. Now a petition written by an anonymous parent is going around saying that's a bad idea, too, so I guess we're just not allowed to have nice things. 

There was a school board meeting to discuss the change, and I was embarrassed and appalled at the attitudes of some of the parents. A lot of them are wondering why it's such a big deal because "live-streaming is easy"and why can't the teachers handle it. Um, not so much. Live-streaming may be easy when everyone has fantastic, up to date technology and WIFI for days. Live-streaming isn't so easy when teachers are using their laptops to live-stream and therefore cannot use their laptops for anything else, like teaching. Live-streaming isn't so easy when the Internet cuts out at least thrice during a class period. Live-streaming isn't easy when there are some students whose parents don't want their image being live-streamed into strangers' houses. Live-streaming isn't easy when a teacher has to sit in front of a laptop to teach in order to stay connected to the remote learners which means she can't walk around or connect with the in-person learners. And Zoom? It's okay, but if you have ever tried to get a group of kids on Zoom then you know how it's similar to herding a group of goslings mixed in with kittens. It's impossible to hear everyone, kids are using the chat area to write "poop" over and over, and most students end up holding up their household pets for the class to see. And before you get all anecdotal with me about how wonderful your children's experiences have been, just slow your roll. I taught university students remotely, and it wasn't all sunshine and roses. 

Other parents basically said that everyone is stressed, and teachers need to suck it up and get with the program. Oddly enough, many of those people are health-care workers, and I seem to remember the entire nation rallying around them when all this started in the spring. We threw money at the health care industry to help with the problem, and I don't see anyone offering to do that for education. As a matter of fact, I see people writing that they'll do anything to support teachers, but...If you really want to support teachers, there is no "but:" you just do it. Of course everyone is stressed. The pandemic is bizarro world, and it has flipped the universe upside down. But you know who I definitely don't want to be short-tempered, worn out, and frazzled? The dedicated people who choose to be with my children every day. I would prefer that the people who are teaching and influencing my kids on a daily basis are happy and calm and respected. I would also think that those of you who are squawking about wanting what is best for your kids would like to show them through your words and actions that you are behind their teachers one hundred percent. If we truly all want our kids to be in their best mindsets, we need to show them positivity from all sides, teachers and parents alike. 

Boycotting the Wednesday elearning days is detrimental to our students and to our teachers. Listen, we all want our kids in school full-time, able to socialize and laugh with their friends, participate in extra-curricular activities, and really enjoy themselves. I don't know anyone who doesn't want that. The fact is that we're not going to get what we want right now, and we need to deal with it. It's time to put up or shut up. 



Sunday, September 6, 2020

4.380 days


 My love,

As we continue the craziness that has been 2020, you are twelve years old. Having a middle school boy is a whole new thing for me. I remember middle school boys as smelly, confusing, and strange creatures, but so far, you have exceeded my memories and my expectations.



I know it has been a bummer of a calendar year. We cancelled vacations, you missed summer camps, and you missed the last hurrah of elementary school. I'm sure you have been disappointed, but throughout it all, you have kept a positive attitude. The funny thing is that I'm not sure if you really felt fine about everything or if you were just worried that I would be worried. You're not a fan of other people being disappointed. 



You continue to grow and change in ways that constantly amaze me. You still like to observe things from the sidelines sometimes, but you're starting to jump into new experiences with both feet. You have really enjoyed things like camping and fishing, although I have no earthly idea where you get that because Dad and I are more indoorsy kind of people. I'm so proud of the way you have embraced Boy Scouts. Even though you're one of the youngest in your troop, that doesn't seem to bother you in the least. You can hold your own with the older kids, and you're willing to try different tasks to earn merit badges. One of your newest interests is cooking, and I love our grocery store "dates" to pick out different things for you to try.




 

One thing that hasn't changed is how ridiculously smart you are. Your favorite books are non-fiction about science, history, or trivia, and once you pick up a book, you rarely put it down until you're done. I honestly don't know where you learn half the stuff you know, but you know an awful lot. I feel like I spend a lot of time saying, "Really? How do you know that?" You usually just smile and shrug your shoulders, so I guess it will remain a mystery to me. I mean, obviously it's the books, but you still know a lot for a kid. 



You're also still quite the perfectionist about certain things. You always like to do well in academics, video games, or anything new you're trying. I can tell that you're maturing, though, because you don't get so mad anymore if you don't do something well on the first try. This is going to be a mindset that becomes more and more important as you get older, so I hope that you hold on to that feeling of knowing that practice will make things easier. I also hope you know that you don't have to be perfect or even good at everything you do: you're going to be great at so many things as it is, and you don't have to excel all the time. Keep growing your patience, and it will serve you well in all phases of your life. 



As you get older, your sense of humor gets even drier, and I wasn't sure that was possible. You're so quick-witted, and I guarantee that you don't know exactly how funny you are. Your humor really showcases who you are. You're not funny for attention or laughs: you're just usually observing life with your arid pleasantries. You have still maintained your compassion for other people, and I know you don't like to see anyone down or upset. You may not know exactly what to say or do to make someone feel better, but you always try to do something. 



I know that spending time as a family is getting less and less cool for both you and Lottie, but those are some of the best times in the world for me. I love our family movie nights and introducing you guys to some classics...and maybe there have been some clunkers in the bunch. You do your best to see the positive in what we do together, and I appreciate it more than you know. I hope that you never stop coming in to kiss me on the nose when it's time to say goodnight. 

You are a true gift to me in every sense of the word. I don't know how I go so lucky, and I don't take that for granted. Stay sweet, my lovely boy, my one and only young man. Twelve is going to be your best year yet.


All my love,

Mom






Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Return to Learn

The last time I blogged here, the pandemic was in its infancy heading toward toddlerhood. I think by now, everyone hoped we would be past the teen years and into the years of middle-aged complacency, but there seems to have been a bit of a regression. I don't blame the virus, honestly. We acted like we were going to give it some space, and then we got all up in its business.

School starts in some way, shape, or form in about a month in my neck of the woods and even sooner for some schools that have a year-round or balanced schedule. We recently saw the Return to Learn plan sent by our school system: it was short, not to the point, and apparently couldn't anticipate the many, MANY questions teachers, staff, and parents would have about the numerous "what-if" scenarios.

Some of the highlights!
Masks are recommended but not enforced in the classroom, but they should be worn in the hallways. I hear constantly taking masks off and on is a solid idea.
Social/physical distancing is recommended and desks will be spread as far apart "as possible." Students will sanitize their desks themselves. I have picked up approximately ninety-three wrappers from Capri Sun straws today alone, and I have good kids who generally listen to me. It doesn't make me feel so great about the quality of sanitizing that will be done. Also, who is providing the sanitizing materials?
As long as students all face the same way in a classroom, no mask is needed because the virus only spreads in a linear fashion.  You know...science. The teacher should wear a mask, though, because reasons.
Students are encouraged to get rides to and from school in private cars; however, as far as I can tell, the football players will ride a school bus to games. I can only assume that sportsingball players have some sort of sweet immunity to the 'Rona.
Families will do their own health screenings at home. Whew! That's lucky because I know that parents don't pump their kids full of Tylenol in order to send them to school, and definitely no one will do it during a pandemic for fear of losing a job.
Students will minimize sharing materials and supplies. I mean, the joke writes itself with that one.

I quit Facebook a few weeks ago because it has turned into an utter trash heap. (I know, I know. I linked to this blog via FB. Don't @ me.) I hopped back on a few nights ago to find someone's name, and I saw a post about Valpo's back to school plan. On it, our mayor's wife told people that if they didn't like the Return to Learn plan, they should opt out and do e-learning instead. First of all, that's a super bad look politically. Constituents and all that political jazz. Second, being the mayor's wife doesn't give her the platform to attempt to school people, even if she tries to be PC about it.  Third, just...ew. That's an insanely Mean Girls look at the public education system, trying to pick and choose who can sit at the lunch table. Trying to convince someone that their opinion stinks about anything is difficult, but when that person has deep feelings about a subject important to him/herself, trying to have a logical conversation is akin to spitting into the wind. I typed quite a few responses to her, and then I realized that there was no point: it also reminded me of why I quit Facebook in the first place. <shudder>

I don't particularly care if her opinion, or anyone's for that matter, is different from mine. (It is for those of you keeping score at home.) My issue is in shaming the people who have honest fears about sending their children into the petri dishes of hell in thirty days. People like her are saying that public schools don't have to keep kids safe because that is the parents' job. To a certain extent, that's true. But these are the same people who are saying that kids need to get back to school so they can have meals and physical safety from possible abuse at home. You can't have it both ways and say that parents have to keep kids safe but that kids need school because they're not safe at home. Pick a lane. Getting kids back to "normalcy" is her idea, but it's deliberately obtuse to think that the fall semester will be anything like the normal we used to have. Nothing about this is normal.

Public schools do have an obligation to keep our children safe. That's part of why we do background checks for all volunteers and staff, tornado and fire drills, active shooter drills, anti-bullying programs, etc. Our schools are supposed to be equalizers, where all kids get what they need to be successful. Telling people to kick rocks if they don't like the school's return policy is like preying on someone who is already out of options: unhelpful and downright cruel. There are people in our community who don't have a real choice about what their students do come August 12, and I'm not here for the shaming that is cloaked in sickly-sweet concern.

If you want to send your kid back to in-person school because you truly feel it is the best option, go for it. If you're going to send your kid to school because you don't have a choice, I'm sorry, and I support you. If you are going to send your kid to school because you don't think we'll make it past mid-September with in-person learning, huzzah. If you want to keep your kid at home, I've got your back. If you want to withdraw your kid completely and homeschool, I have nothing to say to you. (I joke! I joke!) There are no right answers here; we have no real historical precedent for what is happening. If you feel like you know all the answers and have all the right things to say, Imma tell you that you don't, but I implore you to at least attempt to be kind and think about what other people are feeling. You might learn something, and we could all use the education.