A Little Humor


The last day of school pic
Today is my son’s last full day of elementary school. We are done. Moving on. A door is closing. A season is over. The next stage of life is ahead of us. Do I feel sad? HELL NO!

Sorry for being so harsh, but I am tired of elementary school. My oldest started Kindergarten in 2003. I wasn’t sad on that day either. She was ready to go. Excited. She had plans. She had friends from the neighborhood who would be in her class. She walked in with a smile and a quick wave to me. No tears from either of us. It was the beginning of a journey for our family.

But after 10 years, the novelty of “big girl/boy school” has worn off. They are ready to move on and so am I. While I sit here this morning, I thought about the things I won’t miss about elementary school.

The Lack of Competition – The most frustrating thing about elementary school is that everyone is equal – all the time. If one class got something, they all got something (see classroom parties, below). Field Day at their school is more an organized play time. No one wins anything. The sad thing about the absence of competition at the elementary school is that by the time these kids get to high school, the competition is so high that these kids don’t know how to cope.

The Projects – All projects that are done at home are to be done “by the student only and with materials that you have in your home.” That has rarely been the case. First of all, who has felt, clay and Styrofoam balls lying around the house? Secondly, you would be surprised how many parents actually do their child’s project for them.

The Pick-up/Drop off Line –Ten years. Twice a day. Crazy hurried drivers. Creative parkers. People crossing the street in between cars – assuming you will stop for them. Moms on cellphones. Kids everywhere. The dads or grandmas who are sent to pick up the kids and are clueless to how it works. It is a miracle that no one has been injured during the process.

The Reading Log – Starting in first grade, my kids got a reading log from their teacher every month. The kids had to log their reading time and get it signed. Every night. Every kid. Then the librarian decided to do an additional reading log. When all three of my kids were there, that was 6 reading logs per night. Eventually, we just stopped doing reading logs. And you know what? My kids never got in trouble for not handing them in. They were OPTIONAL!

The Removal of the Holiday – At our elementary school, the holidays are “seasons”. For Halloween, it is called Fall Happenings. Those holidays in December? They don’t exist. Better to ignore than to hurt feelings. Honestly, I would love if my kids learned about a holiday that we did not celebrate at home. But, you can’t celebrate December holidays because that wouldn’t be fair to the ones that don’t celebrate at all. The Winter holiday that they do celebrate is Valentine’s Day, but they call it a Winter party. The Spring party is celebrated right before spring break. No holiday is tied to it – especially not that one with the bunny and the eggs!

The Classroom Parties – If you have seen one party, you have seen them all. A few years ago, they decided that the parties (games, crafts, etc.) had to be the same as the other classes in their grade. Sadly, the role of the Room Mom went from creative party planner to babysitter. The parties should probably only go on until 2nd grade. After that, the ring toss, bean bags, Bozo buckets, and bingo gets a little boring. The crafts might appeal to the girls through 5th grade, but my son doesn’t enjoy crafts. And the snack? It’s double healthy snack day! The perfect theme for a kid party! (If there was a sarcasm font, I would use it here.)

The Hours – This is something I will miss the least! School for elementary students in our district starts at 9:05. On Wednesdays, it starts at 9:15. That is so convenient for working parents! (Again, sarcasm font) For ten years, I have lived my life between 8:45 and 3:15. Next year, I won’t have to go into panic mode if I am on the other side of town at 3:15 or if I am running behind at work. All my kids will be taking the bus.

In all fairness, I should share some things that I will miss about elementary school.

After being there for 10 years, everyone knows who I am. Much like Norm walking into Cheers, I get a wave or a smile and a “Hi, Mrs. Molnar” when I walk into the school. In the middle school and high school, I am just another parent.

I will miss the excitement of the kids waiting at the mailbox for the post cards that reveal their classroom teacher’s name. Although they changed that last year, I remember the anticipation of neighborhood kids waiting for the mailman at the curb. The phone would start ringing as the first postcards were dropped off, with their friends asking which teacher they got. In middle school, you find out your schedule when you get to school. Such a downer.

I loved the special events like the Mother’s Day Tea in 2nd grade. My daughters enjoyed going to the Daddy Daughter dances and we all enjoyed having lunch together on field day. The Halloween parade (I can’t remember the politically correct name) was always fun to watch and the ABC countdown included fun days like Pajama Day, Hat Day and Crazy Hair Day.

But by far, the thing I will miss the most is seeing the friends I have made along the way. I know that once the kids get to the middle school, we will see less and less of each other. There is very little need for volunteers and very few times that our kids want to see us at their school. After all, as of tomorrow, those days are over.

I have seen all the posts on Facebook. Everyone is talking about spring break and posting pictures of themselves in warm, relaxing atmospheres. But they are not alone.

I am also in a warm environment. It is in the low 70’s here and dry with no breeze. We are getting plenty of exercise. My family is spending quality time together and I know that at the end of the week, I will feel refreshed. The best part about this spring break – it has not cost us any more than our regular expenses.

What are we doing for spring break? We are home. Cleaning out closets.

For many of you lying on beaches, this may seem like the worst vacation ever. Like you, I looked forward to a week off from work and school. This was my rare opportunity to purge the house.

The whole family is pitching in. We are cleaning fingerprints off walls. I am vacuuming up dog hairs that try to hide in the darkest corners of the house. We are emptying closets of clothes that no longer fit, games with missing pieces, and things we no longer use. There are piles for charity, piles for our garage sale (blog for another day, I’m sure!) and tons of garbage. I didn’t realize we had so much STUFF! If you ever feel like your closet space is small, start pulling everything out. It’s amazing how much crap you can fit in such a small space.

Now I wasn’t kidding about the quality family time. I have been warning my kids about having to do this for weeks. They were mentally prepared. The kids are going through their rooms with a surprising amount of enthusiasm. They are happily stuffing clothes into bags and filling garbage bags with widowed socks and stained shirts.

My kids helped me clean out the closet under the stairs, too. This is a closet of “out of sight, out of mind.” We have toys in there that my kids have outgrown years ago. We have two large Barbie houses and a box of Barbies. There are boxes of plastic food, dress up clothes that no longer fit, Lincoln logs and large sized Legos. We have books that haven’t been opened in years and enough “play school” items to start our own school district.

They had a great time going down memory lane. We laughed at the journal entries my 12 year old made four years ago. They listened intently as my 15 year old read her favorite childhood book and showed them the pictures as if she was reading to a classroom of kindergarteners. They happily parted with toys that another child might enjoy. The girls tucked their dolls nicely in the cribs. (Thanks to Toy Story, we were unable to get rid of a doll missing her arm, lest she wind up looking like the ones at Sid’s house.) I honestly think they bonded more in that hour than they have in weeks.

I even got my husband in on the fun. Earlier in the week while we were both trying to pick out clothes in our walk in closet, I complained about the wasted space in the closet. The builder only put in one shelf and rod lining the inside of the closet and there is easily room for two. I complained about the closet 16 years ago and probably every year since, but something else always got in the way of improving it. I guess my husband had heard enough.

So, on Friday afternoon, the two of us and my handy Suburban headed to Lowes. We picked up everything we needed for a weekend of closet expanding fun. My husband even offered to paint the inside of the closet and put in a brighter ceiling light. This is going to be the best souvenir from any spring break we have ever been on!

On Saturday, I emptied the closet onto a couple of folding tables and filled every empty spot on the floor. To say our room is a disaster is an understatement. We look like we can rival the best hoarders on TLC. There are shoes and blankets and boxes and general junk all over the floor. The clothes are heaped precariously with hangers shooting out in several directions. It is quite a sight. I hope I can stand up to the temptation of putting it all back in after the extra shelves go in.

I have to say, at the end of my first day of vacation, I already feel refreshed. I ate a delicious steak dinner (prepared by my painter/electrician/carpenter husband) and shared a nice bottle of wine. Unlike my beach going friends, we slept soundly in our own beds without having to shower off the sunscreen or the sand.

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” – Jerry Seinfeld.

Although I am not that bad, public speaking is not my favorite thing. As a kid, I was uncomfortable speaking to adults. Whenever we went to 7-11, I asked my friends to order my Slurpee from the man behind the counter so I wouldn’t have to talk to him. I tried to go unnoticed whenever possible. It got better as I got older but in high school, I dreaded my speech class. The last thing I wanted to do was stand out or God forbid, make a mistake. How silly I was to think I could blend into the background when standing in front of the class with big 80’s hair and loud bangle bracelets.

I swore that my children would not have those same fears and taught them to speak confidently when talking to adults. As soon as my children could talk, they ordered for themselves in restaurants. My oldest daughter became so confident at a young age that she carried on long conversations with the wait staff after introducing herself and our family. She later talked with ease to teachers and authority figures and took every opportunity to speak in class.

By the time my daughter got to middle school, standing in the spotlight was her favorite thing. She had no fear of the stage or crowds or new people. (Spiders, on the other hand would send her running from the room.) My daughter enjoyed performing in the orchestra, chorus and musicals. She auditioned for dozens of solos and performed them with ease. If she did not get the part, her confidence did not waiver. It seemed to fuel her to practice more and try again – each time with a smile.

High school offers so many more opportunities for performers like my daughter. In addition to chorus and musicals, she plans to audition for plays and the speech team. The speech team is an extracurricular activity where she voluntarily gets up in front of strangers, judges and her peers and performs – sometimes off the cuff. That sounds like complete torture to me and yet, she loves it. This week she attended a speech camp where she is learning the different parts of the speech team – Dramatic Interpretation and Radio Speaking seem to be her favorite so far. They are working in small groups reading off scripts, acting in charade-like games and doing improvisation. I can’t imagine doing that without a glass (or two) of wine in my system!

As a parent, I feel like I can cross an accomplishment off my list. I have a confident teenager who can not only order her own Slurpee, but has also learned a life skill. I think she has found a new passion and I am happy for her. What more can a mother ask for?

My mom sent me this email - had to share!

Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:

Why did God make mothers?

1. She’s the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.

2. Mostly to clean the house.

3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?

1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.

2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.

3. God made my mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?

1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.

2. They had to get their start from men’s bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?

1. We’re related.

2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people’s mom like me.

What kind of a little girl was your mom?

1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.

2. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.

3. They say she used to be nice.

What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?

1. His last name.

2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?

3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your mom marry your dad?

1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my mom eats a lot .

2. She got too old to do anything else with him.

3. My grandma says that mom didn’t have her thinking cap on.

Who’s the boss at your house?

1.  Mom doesn’t want to be boss, but she has to because dad’s such a goof ball.

2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.

3. I guess mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What’s the difference between moms and dads?

1. Moms work at work and work at home and dads just go to work at work.

2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.

3. Dads are taller and stronger, but moms have all the real power ’cause that’s who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friends.

4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your mom do in her spare time?

1. Mothers don’t do spare time.

2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your mom perfect?

1. On the inside she’s already perfect Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.

2. Diet. You know, her hair. I’d diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?

1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I’d get rid of that.

2. I’d make my mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it, not me.

3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes in the back of her head.

When the alarm went off today for what seemed like the millionth day in a row, I fantasized about having a whole day with nothing to do. In the first years of our marriage, I had a lot of weekends like that. No plans. No reason to set the alarm. No one needed a ride. I didn’t have to get up to let the dogs out. I could just sleep in and do whatever I wanted to do.

I remember one Sunday morning when my husband was working retail. He had a 6am to noon shift. I slept through his entire shift and was just getting out of bed when he got home. I slept away a whole morning. I would never do that now. First, I don’t have that opportunity anymore. Plus, I like the mornings and my back will not let me lay in bed for more than 7 hours.

I still fantasize about it. It goes something like this:

I don’t have to set the alarm. I wake up after a good night’s rest, not because I have to pee or that the dogs need to go out, but because I got enough sleep. My dogs, which have been let out by someone else, greet me as I head down the stairs. My husband is already waiting in the kitchen with a latte from Starbucks (good timing, it is still hot). My kids are up and dressed with made beds and clean rooms. There are no dishes in the sink or dog hair on the carpet. Everyone has arranged their own rides for whatever activities they are in or better yet, there are no activities. They just entertain themselves!

I take my coffee out on the deck where the sun is shining. I sit and read my book for an hour while the dogs lay at my feet and my husband sits next to me. I debate whether I should shower or make it a pajama day, but the promise of hot water and a clean bathroom are too tempting. After my shower, I find exactly what I want to wear in the closet (which is also clean and organized).

I spend some time checking off a few little things from my to-do list (so I feel somewhat productive), before my husband suggests we go to Portillos for lunch. I come home to write a little in the peace of my bedroom (where someone has made the bed). My kids come in and suggest we play a board game. We eat cheese and crackers and laugh at our luck while playing the game. I suggest a family bike ride, but only my husband wants to go (which is fact, not fantasy). It is fine with me as they never want to go very far. After our ride, my husband pours me a glass of wine and I sit and talk to him while he makes our dinner. We all eat together without rushing. Everyone changes into their pajamas and we find a movie that we will all enjoy and watch it while snuggling under blankets. After the movie, we head up to bed and since this is a PG rated blog, we go to sleep.

The only thing missing from my fantasy day is finishing some big project that has been looming over my head. The only way to make that happen is to make my day longer than 24 hours. Or – get this – have a fantasy WEEKEND. That way, I can fit it all in. With any extra time I can get my nails done and maybe even fit in a massage. Think of the possibilities!

Last month we had dinner with another couple from the neighborhood. They are fun to be with and wonderful people – the kind of people you would want as family. I guess that they must feel the same way because over dinner, she said, “I can see why people arrange marriages for their kids.” I think she was only half kidding. They have triplets – two girls and a boy who are my son’s age. She told me which daughter she thought would be best for my son, noting how nice it would be to share holidays and vacations with our children and grandchildren.

“You never know what you are going to get for in-laws. They should be people you enjoy being with,” she continued. I have to agree.

My parents and in-laws have shared less than 10 events together in our 26 years of dating and marriage. Part of the reason is the fact that my in-laws were divorced and living out of state. The other part, well, is a long story.

I spoke to a woman last week whose son is getting married. She complained that she was left out of some of the wedding planning – something that wouldn’t happen with an arranged marriage.

Think of the weight that is taken off your shoulders if your parents arranged your marriage. You can skip the whole dating thing and the stress and heartache that go with it. Mr./Miss Right is a guarantee (at least for the parents).

My parents lived across the street from each other when they were in high school. My maternal grandmother owned a hair salon that she ran out of her basement. My paternal grandmother was one of her customers. One Saturday morning while she was having her hair done, my paternal grandmother was telling her hairdresser a story about her son. It seemed that the girl her son was taking to homecoming was sick and couldn’t go to the dance. My maternal grandmother suggested that her daughter might be available to go with him since she went to a different high school. The date was made and the rest is history. They have been married for 43 years.

I am sure the argument can be made about making your own choice of who you marry. I saw Fiddler on the Roof several times and always root for the girls to be allowed to marry the man of their choosing.

Recently, I thought about matches for my daughters, too. Boy/girl drama is already stirring for them. I have a match in mind for my oldest. We love his parents – friends that moved away years ago. I would love to spend holidays and birthdays with the long-legged toothpicks the two of them would produce.

My middle child may be a little harder to match. She is a little bossy and will probably want someone who is happy to sit back and let her call the shots. If you know someone, let me know. I think we might have to put together a large dowry for her.

Dear Mother Nature,

I am writing this letter in regards to the weather in Chicago. I think you know we are a hardy lot and don’t complain about it very often. It is understood that we get the weather that no one else wants. We have freezing wind chills, bad-hair-day humidity, relentless heat and so many gray days that it makes us wonder if we will ever see the sun again.

Although we were disappointed, this wasn’t the first year we didn’t have a white Christmas. However, when we finally got our first sizable snowfall in mid-January, you only let us have it for a couple of days before you turned up the heat again. What fun is that? On the other hand, I must thank you for the five or six days we’ve had at 50 degrees in 2012. At least I got to break in the new bike I got for Christmas.

It was that fact that prompts my letter. Was it just a tease or are we not getting winter this year? I know the Groundhog said we have six more weeks of winter, but can we really trust a rodent from Pennsylvania? Did the Leap Year throw you off? Winter is the one thing we can count on in Chicago. We feel cheated, neglected and forgotten. We are waiting here, bundled up and I think you stood us up. If skipping winter this year is your plan, just let me know. I can adapt.

I think I speak for all of us by saying we are done with the idea of winter this year. Even my kids are done. When a nine-year-old doesn’t want snow, you know it’s bad. I think it is too late. You missed your window of opportunity. Every kid loves a snow day – but not in March. See, the thing is, soccer practice starts a week from tomorrow and softball season opens in April. We cancel games for a lot of weather related reasons in Chicago, but it’s not because of snow.

If you wouldn’t mind, can you just turn up the heat a little more to the springtime setting? We will just have winter another time. After all, this is the home of the Cubs. Our motto is “Wait ‘til next year!”

Sincerely,

Pam

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