1980s Elementary School

Today I was back to volunteer for the Book Fair. Being at elementary school twice this week has made me quite nostalgic. In some ways, not much has changed … kids still play dodge ball in gym, play on the playgrounds at recess, and have those special friends they eat and share lunch with each day. I was thinking back to my elementary school days … Here are some highlights.

Elementary School in the 80s

  • Playing on the monkey bars, hanging upside down, singing the Cheers theme song, and clapping games like “Miss Mary Mack.”
  • Legwarmers. Legwarmers. The single greatest legwear accessory ever. 
  • Charm necklaces. The greatest fashion jewelry every created.

  • Boys declaring their love by marching up to your mother, and saying, “I’m in love with your daughter.” (True story. His name was Jonathan Custer, and he was in my first grade glass with me. That was the year I had Ms. Volpe and she wore a beehive every single day of the year).
  • Reading the Westing Game and Bridge to Terabithia.

  These are just a few of my highlights from elementary school. What are some of yours?

Perhaps, if I’m feeling up to it this weekend, I’ll compare school in the 80s to school today.

xo!

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Back In School

*Author’s note: While I am in no way attempting to hide my identity (in fact, I’d love it if some great website wants to pick up my writing), I do prefer to protect the details of my life (e.g. my son’s name, where we live, etc.). Most often my son will be referred to as “the Kid” or “Kid.” My husband will be referred to in similar identifiable ways.

While I don’t specifically remember Scholastic Book Fair memories, I do know that — as a lover of books — I could not wait to volunteer at the book fair at my son’s schools. It is thrilling to watch little faces and little eyes look longingly at book covers and excitedly shoving those books into their parents’ faces, asking “Can I get this? Can I get this?”

Since we live a simple life as Jehovah’s Witnesses, we don’t have a variety of holidays that we anticipate and become giddy over. Rather, one of my absolute favorite times of year (and my son’s) is the Scholastic Book Fair. Each time it rolls around I volunteer excessively, eagerly anticipating those eager and curious looks on the childrens’ faces.

This year is no different — I am volunteering on both my days off. Today, as circumstances had it — the family rode in one car. I decided that, because I’d worn my contacts all yeterday, and I was running behind, that wearing my glasses would be perfect for the Book Fair. It would make me look more Bookish. See?

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Plus, the Hubs would get to drop us both off at the door … dropping his kids off at the school 😉 I practically skipped in!

The book fair went really well. With an extra volunteer, we had almost all correct change (I only had to donate a nickel), and many of the children were creating their wish lists. While we had some children who insisted on only purchasing the silly erasers, pens, bookmarks, and posters, the majority of students used their money to buy books (it’s a BOOK fair. We’ve taught the kid from day one that we will spend money on books and nothing else).

Time went quickly, and before I knew it, we were ready to close. Before leaving to walk to the shop, I stopped in the restroom (while adults and children must share, the toilets are typical height, so I didn’t feel like Alice in Wonderland when she drank the potion (or was it eat the cake?) and turned into a giant.

As it turned out, the book fair closed as lunch was about to begin, so I was suddenly in the girls’ room with a small crowd of second and third graders who immediately wanted to know who I was. I exited the stall to be met with a little girl who was in the kid’s class last year. She looked at me, looked at my visitor badge, and said, “Ms. Craig?” I replied yes. Suddenly this adorable blonde whips her head around:

Are you KID Craig’s Mom?!?!?

Yes.

(in a deeply passionate voice). I used to like him, but now I hate him!

Why?

He made me cry!

After which she threw her head in her hands and headed to the wall near the doorway, with several friends staring at me and then rushing after her to comfort her.

I just stood there … mostly confused and a little upset that my kid made a little girl cry (someone said it was in as they sat in a tree on the playground). I think I was just looking around with this dumb look on my face.

Another little girll — much less dramatic — walked next to me as she was washing her hands — and said, “Their relationship. It’s complicated.” (for some reason I felt that I needed clarification, as there was mention of a best female friend. The less-dramatic girl clarified that she was referring to my kid’s relationship withe the cute blonde).

As the girls filed out, I walked slowly behind them thinking, “When did elementary bathrooms become like middle-school bathrooms?” Partially stunned, I mentioned this to the office manager, explaining how I’d practically been ambushed. She nodded, and said, “The kid seems to do that with lots of girls.” I shrugged and said, “He’s just not ready to settle down yet.”

Relating this to the kid, he said, “Yeah, but she talked to me again at recess.” Evidently he’s been trying to apologize for hurting her feelings to no avail until today. He went on to agree that their relationship is, indeed, complicated.

Tonight, I feel a mix of emotions … amusement at how early all of this starts; bewilderment as to what — if anything — I should do to intervene; and slight concern that I immediately felt like I was in a middle school bathroom being confronted by the “popular” girls.

Verdict for the day is: I’m glad I am not in school anymore; it thrills me to see children who are hungry to read; my worst nightmare of my son being a heartbreaker has come true; and the best distraction for me is to interact with a bunch of loud, hyper, crazy, and dramatic elementary schools students.

XO

Marriage, Parenthood, and Illness

Bear with me this evening as I attempt to gather my thoughts …

Fifteen years ago — on October 22 — I married my best friend. I’ve only ever been in three relationships. The first was as a teenager, and it was full of poetry, drama, hidden issues, and eventually heartbreak.

The second was one of those “storybook” romances … I moved into the same area as a young man who, when we were children, my grandmother insisted I would marry. Sadly, the romance included “conditions” that I eventually decided I would never be happy conforming to.

As a young adult, I was convinced I’d marry someone I’d known my whole life. As it turns out, I married a man I met one evening at an innocent get-together. We dated six months before he asked me to marry him, and honestly I was already planning our wedding. He was so refreshingly different from my previous suitors … protective, hilarious, and sweet (not romantic, but there was no doubt in my mind about his feelings towards me). My mother has said that her primary memory of our courtship (I lived at home) was laughter. We had many differences in background, maturity, and interests. But with him, I was safe.

Ours was a whirlwind romance … we married one year to the day after we met. We did so much getting to know each other in those first years of marriage. Did we have struggles? Of course! But even when doubts crowded my mind, I held onto three things: 1) This man loves me like crazy; 2) I feel completely safe — safer than I’d felt in years — with him; and 3) He makes me laugh. We make each other laugh.

You’ll notice that the above is written in present tense. That’s because they have been a constant in our marriage. And I am not exaggerating when I write that we have been through a lot! Over the last 15 years we have been diagnosed with chronic illnesses, we have lost family members to death, we got through the shock of a surprise pregnancy and are so far raising an awesome kid. Together, we have gone through five surgeries (one for him and four for me), numerous diagnoses, and several scary issues.

I love him. I love him. I love him. He is the definition of a good man. And he continues to be as we face more scary possibilities.

This evening I was researching something related to my health when my son ran over to me. He thought I was still playing a game I’d played earlier. I quickly pulled my iPad away from view — I didn’t want him to see what I was researching — and he decided it was an investigation. He commenced sneaking around trying to see the screen. Eventually my husband explained that Mommy didn’t want him to see because I didn’t want him to worry. After that explanation, he continued to engage in whatever game he was playing, but changed his role to be protector over me.

I wonder if he has learned this from his father. Does he see how my husband takes care of me and feel that he should protect me, too? Is it a typical mother-son relationship? I don’t know, but I am all at once filled with gratefulness and regret. Gratefulness that our son is growing up to be a sensitive boy in some ways. And regretful that at age nine, he would feel a need to protect his mother.

Our kid was a surprise. I cannot pretend that I planned how I would mother. The reality is that I had already been diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis (aka PsA; an autoimmune disease), and my husband and I decided it would probably be better if we did not have children. But we welcomed our pregnancy fiercely, protectively, and with our whole hearts enmeshed in it.

We have had parenting fails and parenting successes. Days come where this Mama just can’t and we have to improvise. Days have come where I’ve felt well and been able to focus on the kid like I focus on a good book.

Recently my days have been filled with unusual symptoms and diagnoses and an overwhelming fatigue. Not to mention the ongoing question of, “Is it allergies or an infection.” (I never know, especially not having PsA). I certainly did not want to raise a child while combatting illness, but it is our reality.

I hold onto — our whole family does — the hope and the knowledge that things will get better. And so, as I cope with uncertain times, I pray (a lot), I enjoy my kid as much as I possibly can, and I rely on my husband to continue to make me laugh.

Why I Didn’t Pursue Journalism

Today, I received some business advice that led me to focus on Twitter. Incidentally, this person appears to be correct, but that is not the point of my post.

Trending for most of the day was #LamarOdom. An athlete and former Kardashian lover. I guess … I didn’t know who he was before this morning.

What I know is this: he was found unconscious at a brothel. With cocaine in his system. He is fighting for his life. Clearly, he has some demons that he hasn’t been dealing with successfully. I am sorry for him … sorry that he has evidently let his demons control him.

However, his story dominated national news this morning, but a three-year-old child found dead has been buried under the news of Lamar’s tragedy at a brothel. And this makes me sad. And angry.

Recently I reached out to several media outlets to shed a light on some dangers associated with adjusting antidepressant medication. No outlet has responded, but they have promoted a variety of celebrity news, romantic advice, and other non-news-worthy topics.

This situation is just one example of the many reasons that, although I believe I could have been a successful journalist, I chose to abandon the ambition. Sadly, celebrity — whether it be of the athletic, reality, or TV/Movie star sort — trumps real news.

A celebrity running away from his demons by self-medicating with drugs and/or alcohol and overdosing trumps a mom struggling with post-partum depression. Or parents whose child is missing. Or parents who are struggling with a troubled child. Or a child who shoots another because the victim didn’t let the shooter pet her puppy.

Sometimes my heart breaks that what I once yearned to do now fills me with shame. As a teenager and young college student, I naively thought I could influence the public with my articles and journalistic integrity. But all too quickly, I realized that what I would write would not be true to my morality, dignity, or sense of what is right. Rather, it would be forced to promote an employer’s agenda.

Tonight I am sad. That an athlete allowed his demons to control him. And that the media depends upon celebrities to generate traffic, income, and reach. Instead of the rest of us … the parents of the little boy found dead in New Jersey. The everyday moms who struggle with post-partum depression. The regular, non-celebrity women who combat anxiety and panic attacks and lack of self worth.

I am not a journalist because I cannot ignore the struggles of the rest of us. The non-celebrities, non-athletes, non-reality-stars. I want to speak for us, and unfortunately, that means that I cannot be what I once dreamed of being.

xo

About Motherhood

The kid and I stopped to see a friend acquaintance who just had a baby over the weekend. She’s younger than me and this is her second child (her first is four). There was another, much closer friend, visiting already when we arrived. I felt this friend’s judgement as soon as I walked in.

“You an only child?” She asked.

Confused, I replied, “He is.”

“Didn’t break the cycle, Mom?”

I replied, “Oh no, I have a sister, but he’s an only child.”

I’ve heard this response before. The judgement-non-judgement of those who hold disdain for parents of only children. Even when the judger has no children. For a long time, there was part of me that felt ashamed that I haven’t had another child. But then I look back at the last nine years, and I remember the following:

  • Pregnancy was full of anxiety for me. Having been born with a birth defect myself, I spent the majority of my baby-growing wondering if the baby would be healthy.
  • My birth experience was literally a nightmare. I am not exaggerating. Let’s just say the epidural wore off just in time for the c-section.
  • I have chronic depression, so feelings of inadequacy are pretty much standard. Add that I knew nothing about boys … I’ve spent much of motherhood asking my husband, “Is this normal?” Not a huge confidence-builder.
  • We miscarried. All our excitement for a second child was shattered when, at my first check-up, things didn’t look good. I had to wait another two weeks (to analyze blood work, allow for changes in the ultrasound) to learn that I was carrying a dead embryo inside me. And I didn’t miscarry naturally. I had to have a D&C.
  • When we decided to try again, I chose to go off all my meds. No more sleeping pills or antidepressants. I stopped drinking alcohol. After about two months of this, with a three-year-old testing his boundaries, I came to the realization that I would rather be a good mom to one child than a fractured, damaged, and anxiety-ridden mom of two.

When I reflect on the above, my shame melts away. I just take a deep breath, smile, and try to ignore the judgment.  But while I feel no shame, I do feel judged. And I don’t like to feel judged. So I guess I was feeling a little down this evening. Until this:

The Kid: (as I’m taking out my contacts and getting ready for bed). Mommy, are you coming in my room tonight (to read and snuggle)?

Me: Yes.

The Kid: Yes!!! (then singing, intentionally with the speech impediment) I wuv my Mommy. I wuv my Mommy! (over and over again).

And I realized that I am right where I should be, doing exactly what I should be — and can be — doing.  So, in honor of last night’s post, as Taylor Swift so appropriately puts it, “Haters gonna hate hate hate … I’m gonna shake it off shake it off …”

xo

Music

I’m getting a bit older. I am *gulp* 38. I have a nine-year-old son. This nine-year-old has developed a certain taste in music.

We have Sirius/XM radio. My station of choice is channel 28, “The Spectrum.” The kid’s station of choice is Channel 2, “Hits 1.” It’s been interesting, the last few months (BTW, I blame my husband for the kid even knowing that Channel 2 exists).

Some things I’ve learned:

  • Three things about Taylor Swift: She likes to wear red lipstick, she likes bad boys, and she is incapable of having a long-term relationship. Also, apparently there’s bad blood between her and Katy Perry?!
  • Explaining who Uma Thurman is, and how she dances, is not particularly easy. Um, she’s an actress, and a long time ago she did this weird dance with an actor named John Travolta …
  • *Disclaimer: I love this song* Trying to define, “Exes and Ohs” is not as easy as one would think. An overly enthusiastic, “IT MEANS HUGS AND KISSES, RIGHT DADDY?” is what I came up with (hold the applause).
  • He will never understand how awesome Macklemore/Ryan Lewis’ “Downtown” is. (One of approximately two songs that I enjoy on this station).
  • Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean” concretely explains why he and Selena Gomez (and every other woman) are not/no longer with him.
  • Former Disney stars are kind of slutty (e.g. Demi Lovato’s “Cool for the Summer”).
  • His favorite songs are:
    • “Honey I’m Good” by Andy Grammar. Um, I am really uncomfortable with my son loving a song about a guy who is “so honorable” that he refuses to have another drink and go home with another woman.
    • “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weekend. Why can’t he feel his face? And why does he like it?
    • “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon. Catchy, but I don’t understand. I feel like it cannot be as innocent as it sounds.
    • “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. He can actually have decent taste. Like I tried to raise him (on Vampire Weekend, Mumford & Sons, and Avett Brothers. And great, empowering songs).

Goodnight!

xo

An Argument Over Popcorn

I have a nine-year-old son. He’s brilliant. Like, let’s-practice-algebra-for-fun brilliant. Like he already corrects people’s grammar and pronunciation (and not always so diplomatically; he gets it from me). He seriously is gifted.

But he’s also very much a nine-year-old boy. One minute, we are discussing Algebra or the definition of some complicated word that I’m surprised he can pronounce, and the next minute he’s asking me which Angry Bird I want to be. Our conversations can go from stimulating to mind-numbing at the turn of a dime.

This afternoon, he asked me if he could have popcorn for his afternoon snack (He just learned how to use the microwave*, so he’s very excited to use it). I said, “Sure. Can you make me some, too?”

Kid: Ugggghhhhhhh It will take too long…

Me: Nevermind. Just get your own. I’ll get mine later.

Kid: (goes into kitchen and comes back). Here! I have special popcorn for you! (hands me a bag of cheddar popcorn).

Me: I don’t want this popcorn.

Kid: But you said you wanted popcorn!

Me: I do. But I don’t want the cheddar popcorn. I want the other one.

Kid: (dramatic audible sigh). I don’t get it. You said you wanted popcorn, so why don’t you want that popcorn?

… At what age does my husband explain to him the fine details of the woman’s arbitrary choices? When do we teach him that a large part of his adult life in a relationship with a woman will consist of guessing what she wants when she wants it?

I texted my husband that the kid was arguing with me. Being the problem-solving man that he is, he gave me suggestions on how to reason with him. I texted back, “He just doesn’t understand the feminine mystique.” Enough said.**

xo

*No, I do not wish to hear about the dangerous chemicals found in microwave popcorn, nor do I wish to receive criticism for feeding my son the dreaded microwave popcorn. It isn’t the point of the post, and if you don’t get that, please stop reading my blog.

**No, I do not care to discuss feminism and the meaning behind the term “feminine mystique.” I am a strong woman who is proud of who I am. I also know that women can be a little crazy sometimes.