Diapers and Dragons

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

i dreamed you last night

i dreamed you last night
fingers tracing shivers over slick skin
lips nibbling nuzzling til sighs pent up were loosed
and i moaned

we tangled limbs and wrapped selves
about each other
familiar secrets whispered with bodies
breathe locked in fevered throats

the flame rose and spread
licking fire along nerves and sinew
muscles retracting in ecstatic agony
i tensed poised lifted

turned to emptiness
cold sheets strangling dentless pillows

and shuddered with loss

Where Even The Shopping Carts Aren't Free

Yesterday I drove down to the Save-A-Lot for the first time since I've moved into Detroit. Usually I make large grocery trips to a Meijer fifteen minutes away, but that seemed a bit much for peanut butter, graham crackers, and cookies. The front of the store was barred by a bizarre arrangement of metal poles behind which the grocery carts were lined, and as I slipped through a two-foot space I glanced down the corridor, wondering where the carts could exit. I was relieved I only needed a basket.

The customers wandering the aisles, shelves stocked haphazardly to my shopper's eye, seemed broken down. They shuffled, bent by invisible weights heaped upon crooked shoulders. They clung to the bars of their carts like walkers. Even the mother with her two small children looked aged, withered somehow from the full bloom of youth.

I exited with my purchases clutched in my arms, no bags offered or available that I could see. A man ahead of me had his cart full of groceries, painstakingly boxed by his own hands in the various produce cartons laid by the exit for customers' use. I watched as he wheeled the cart into the barred corridor, down to the lanes of the other imprisoned carts, and then began pulling the boxes out one by one to slide through the bars and into the back of his waiting car.

It struck me then: there was no exit for the carts. They were locked in so that no one would steal them.

My parents have lived in the inner city of Detroit for years now. I have visited them frequently; I have lived here myself for five months. As many times as I have had the typical Detroit experiences--the bums asking for change as I fill my car with gas, gas stations and fast food joints sheltered behind bullet-proof fiberglass, the elderly man coming around asking for $10 to mow the lawn, the young men racketing down the street with bass booming in their low slung riders--it was not until yesterday that I felt that I fully grasped the inner city reality.

Shopping carts cannot be allowed free because the many homeless will take them.

I live on a street filled with people who, for the most part, take pride in their homes. You can tell the difference between the homeowners and the renters by the degree of care, but the lawns are mowed and the bushes trimmed and the garbage dragged to the curb on Fridays rather than left to pile about the yards and porches. Children play on the street all day and into the evening. They leave their toys and bikes scattered about the sidewalk, only removing them into shelter when dark finally falls.

The ice cream truck meanders slowly up and down the neighborhoods, the incessant tinkling of its music ("Fur Elise", "Sweet Clementine", "La Cucaracha") interrupted occasionally by a recorded female voice calling out Hello! On its side is a painting of Obama's head, quite skillfully done but nevertheless managing to make him somehow unattractive, which is quite a feat really. Men, women, and children alike materialize from the cooler shade of porches to buy the sweet creamy treats, then return to sit on steps and chairs and gaze out at the slow life of the street.

They are not wealthy, these people. They are not even middle-class. But neither are they poor in the broken-down, caring-about-nothing, do-nothing way that some people are. These are people who work hard and take care of their houses and their cars and their babies, who sit on the porch and wave to people walking by, who have built a neighborhood where yes, we all have alarms and lock our doors, but there aren't gunshots and police and gangs and crack dealers spreading their fear and darkness to shadow their lives.

I am not one of them. Not yet. I'm still learning to sit out on the porch. I'm still learning to wave and nod hello without being self-conscious. I still get slightly puzzled glances from the neighbors who don't really know me--look, there's another of those weird white people who decided to live here--but they are not unfriendly.

There is a little boy who lives across the street, Javon, who is fascinated by my two children and watches closely when I drive up. If the boys are with me, he wheels his bicycle over to greet them and me and ask if they can play. I haven't said yes yet. He is a bit older; he rides a bike; he goes freely up and down the sidewalk and both sides of the street. I'm not quite ready for that freedom for my children. I'm not quite ready for them to be part of this neighborhood too.

One of these days I will say Yes, but you need to stay in the yard here because they are much smaller than you. One day I will take my children for a walk down the street, nodding and calling out greetings to the people we pass. One day I will let my children know that we are, for this time at least, part of this neighborhood, part of these people who are living strong and resilient despite broken dreams, broken lives, in a broken city, in a broken world.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Because I Am Not Crazy Like That

Confession time. MckMama put up one of her Not Me Mondays, and confession being good for the soul blah blah blah, might as well join in. Right? Sure, why not.

This last week I most certainly Did Not pack a lovely picnic lunch for myself and the kidlets, with tuna sandwiches and dried fruit and cookies, to nosh while hanging out with friends, only to buy McDonalds chicken nuggets for the boys instead because the friends were getting MickeyD's and the boys would be jealous. Because I don't worry about peer pressure or whether my children will have temper tantrums over silly things, nor do I cheerfully feed them with fast food on a regular basis. Definitely Not Me. Never.

Then the next day, when the boys refused to eat very much of their cheese and turkey sandwiches their uncle had made for lunch, I Did Not pack them up for their afternoon snack (If that's all you're going to eat, then no other snacks until you finish them!) only to leave the sandwiches in a very hot car all afternoon until even thrifty me decided to consign them to the garbage bag. Because I don't have such a sad memory, not to mention insufficient mothering willpower to stand by my original word. Definitely Not Me. Never.

On the personal front, I Did Not stay up past midnight on multiple occasions this week, twice in order to get on World of Warcraft and complete some daily quests so that I could make sure I got the A Simple Re-Quest achievement (complete dailies for 5 days in a row) because I wasn't sure I'd be able to get on during the day. Because I don't stay up so late that I'm grouchy in the morning, nor do I worry over meaningless achievements in a game I may or may not be playing much longer. Definitely Not Me. Never.

I Did Not sleep in way too late to work out or make my promised Millet Delight breakfast two days in a row, not to mention have to hightail it out the door to make it to church on time because of the earlier summer hours. Because, as I mentioned, I of course never stay up so late that I oversleep my alarm when the kidlets aren't around to wake me up. Definitely Not Me. Never.

And finally, when I hung out with my dear friend Annie by the pool yesterday, I Did Not slather sunscreen all over my tattoo and then neglect to put it anywhere else on my body so that I ended up looking like this:

Because I never risk myself by exposing my skin to the sun's rays without protection. Or lie out by a pool for an hour or so without considering the consequences. Especially since I spent so much of my early life in the tropical sun and therefore have had way too much exposure to the sun already. Definitely Not Me. Never.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cuz He's Definitely Mini-er Than Me In Pretty Much Every Way

I just got out of the shower, and as I was getting dressed, DramaBoy came up behind me and said

Mama? You sure have a BIG BUTT!

Yeah. Working on that.

Adventures With DramaBoy

Conversation from four days ago as we were headed to Grandma's house:

TeacherMommy: We're going to go to the playground later, but first Grandma is going to take us to go get food.

Widget: Food! Food!

DramaBoy: No! I don't want any food! I never want any food ever again!

TeacherMommy: Yes, you do! Without any food, you would get very hungry.

DramaBoy (with much sighing): Fine. I will have some food. But I DON'T WANT ANY CHOCOLATE!

He changed his mind later.

Said to me two days ago, as I informed him I needed to put the waffles in the toaster (cuz I'm a gourmet cook, yo):

No, it doesn't go in the toaster! It goes in the wafflededer!

Said to me ten minutes ago, accompanied with many persuasive hand gestures and animated facial expressions:

Mama, I would like to watch the really cool Veggietales that is downstairs that I watched when you weren't there. I wanted to watch the one with the bumblebee, but we couldn't find it and there was only a ladybug. So I want to watch the one with the robot, the robot Veggietales. It won't take long to get it, it will only be a short while to go down and to turn it on with the remote! Come on, I will show you!

DramaBoy has no butt to speak of. He tends to walk around with one hand on his waistband, hoisting his pants and shorts back into position (Why don't they make shorts with adjustable waists, by the way? It's not like that little body magically changes shape when the material is shortened!)

Yesterday as I was packing things up to leave the burger joint where we had lunch, DramaBoy and The Widget were rumbling around the door, impatient to get going. Suddenly I heard DramaBoy cry out Mama! and heard the three teen girls sitting at the next table break into giggles.

I turned to find DramaBoy, grinning self-consciously, waddling toward me with his shorts around his ankles and his Spiderman underwear on display for all to see.

It's a good thing he's only three-and-a-half. In another couple decades they'd haul him away for public indecency.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Just Don't Know What To Do

I hope you don't think I'm bipolar, what with all the mood shifts on my blog. Last one was light-hearted.

This one isn't.

I really hope I'm wrong, but I think it's just a matter of (very) short time before my husband says he wants to file for divorce. He more or less said tonight that any attempts to avoid it are pointless. And that he didn't believe me when I said that I still want to try to save our marriage, and that he didn't believe me when I told him that I had made the choice to forgive him for his part in the long, slow disintegration in our relationship, for all the things intentional and not that he had done that hurt me over the last thirteen years. He doesn't believe that's possible, for anyone (but probably especially me) to just decide to do that and for it to be real. He doesn't think he'll ever be able to forgive me.

It's 2:20 AM here, and I can't sleep. There are no tears, just a deep ache accompanied by a weird numbness--my psyche and brain no doubt trying to put a shield of emotional protection around me.

God, I don't believe this is what you want. You say again and again in Your Word that you are not for divorce, that you intend marriage to be permanent, a covenant that is a living symbol of the covenant You have with us. I know we have free will in this as well, the ability to make our own choices even if they aren't the right ones.

And yet I'm asking, begging, that You perform a miracle here. I don't know what that miracle needs to be, though I know what I'd like it to be. Please, please, please, don't let this happen. Please show me what to do, what to say, that is the right choice.

The tears are threatening now.

I need to get some sleep, somehow. I have to function when the boys wake up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Marinara Totally Counts As A Vegetable, Right?

I think, but I may be wrong, that I introduced Beth and Heidi via my global Mommyblog review posts. Could be wrong. Am I wrong, you beautiful ladies? You see, they have Burkina Faso in common. I have West Africa in common with them as well, but slightly south--I grew up in Cote d'Ivoire, the country just below.

Anywho, they now comment on each other's posts and chat back and forth and now they're both doing Taciturn Tuesdays, which of course makes me just blitheringly jealous because I'm petty like that. They should, of course, both be commenting nonstop on my blog and loving me best.

Sometimes I can be very small minded.

Moving on, and hoping that perhaps by joining them in Taciturn Tuesday this time around I can feel like part of the club, here's my little contribution to the day (Though yeah, I'm not so good at the Taciturn part. Sue me. I'm wordy.):

Today I picked the boys up from daycare and we went to their Grandma's (my m-i-l) to spend some time together. We were going to go to a playground, but first, because we were hungry, we went to Big Boy's. We're crazy adventurous like that.

It should be noted that normally The Widget operates much like a vacuum cleaner with any foodstuffs placed before, behind, beside, and above him, including the clogging and resultant need for icky clearing-out-of-hose/mouth that comes from stuffing too much into a small space. DramaBoy, on the other hand, will happily munch on snacks all day but tends to turn up his nose at most "real" food. Dinner is a time for him to live up to his nickname.

Turns out that the last time he went to BB with Grandma, he had the spaghetti. And the Hot Fudge Ice Cream Brownie dessert. And thus it was with much emphasis that he informed the waitress (a former student of mine, by the way) that he was going to have the basketti! The kid's meal basketti! And The Widget will have the kid's meal chicken! At the top of his lungs.

Hey, she got the order right.

Little did I know that I should have been feeding this boy spaghetti all along. He scarfed it down, getting only a mild amount of marinara sauce all over his mouth/hands/shirt/jeans. And then he shared the HFICB dessert with his Grandma. Well, I was required to eat the four (4!) maraschino cherries off the top because, as he reminded us, Mama, you have to eat the cherries because they're red and they have lots of red food dye and I can't eat the red food dye because it will make me itchy!
The sacrifices I make for my children.

(The Widget and I ate plain brownies because he's lactose intolerant and I'm picky about ice cream. When I say he ate a brownie, I mean he got huge amounts of sticky chocolate crumbs all over himself/his seat/the table/the floor and required an emergency visit to the restroom. If I'd had any cash on me I would have left about $10 as an apology to the poor busboy who had to clean up after us.)

Oh, the taciturn part? Here you go. Grandma ate about six bites of the MONSTROUS dessert the waitress brought (I think she was charmed by DramaBoy and went a little overboard), and DramaBoy ate...

and ate....

and posed for a silly picture on my request...

and ate some more...

and posed for another silly picture on his demand...
and left this as the (relatively) tiny remainder of what he had begun. Note the sneaking finger to grab a last bit of whipped cream.

Spaghetti, ice cream, and brownies. That totally counts as a balanced meal, right?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Stray Thoughts On Kidlets And Words

Today I read a post about the words children use, those adorable attempts that come out just a little off but that nevertheless we, as parents, grow to love. And how all too soon our wee wordcrafters learn the "right" way to say those words and they are gone, even eventually out of our memories.

I wrote two similar posts here and here a long while ago about DramaBoy, a similar celebration of his delightful attempts and a mourning of the passing away of loved words. He's seven months older than when I wrote those posts, and it's amazing on a daily basis to hear his linguistic leaps. He's my talker.

And boy is he. A few days ago we were at VBS and DramaBoy was chattering away, a mile a minute, as usual. A nearby adult looked on in amused amazement, then checked with me on his age.

Three and a half, I said, but he's always been an advanced talker.

I can tell, he said. And your other one? He's so quiet!

He's definitely not as much of a talker. He tends to stick to the short version.

I'm not surprised--he can't really get a word in edgewise, can he? And he's probably content to let Big Brother do the talking, said this adult, obviously wise in the way of siblings.

And that's the way it is. We're working with The Widget, encouraging him to put words together to make sentences. Sunday morning he came to me with socks in his hands and said Hep you? Hep you? He's a little confused about the pronoun thing. And he loves his socks.

Can you say "Help me, please?" I said in response. We know he's not offering to put tiny socks on our toes.

Hep...me...peese? he said, very carefully.

Triumph! Usually he just looks at me like I'm a crazy woman. Come on, he says with his big blue eyes, I know you know what I'm saying! Why work harder and say something longer when my point gets across just fine?

He has a point. The shorthand generally works. But there's this whole communicating with the world at large thing, the preparation for future academic success thing, the we'd-rather-you-verbalized-your-frustration-instead-of-biting-people thing.

DramaBoy, on the other hand, has no problem verbalizing his ideas. Sometimes he breaks my heart with how much he grasps of the world around him. Last week he told me, when I picked them up to be with me for a few days, I want to always be with you, Mommy!

But then Daddy would miss you and you would miss Daddy, I said.

Yes, I would. I would miss Daddy a lot. He fell silent for a moment. I miss you and I miss Daddy. Mommy, I want you and Daddy to be together.

What could I say to that? I know you do, honey. Sometimes it doesn't work out that way, though. Sometimes Mommy and Daddy can't be together. I hope it was enough, for the time being.

Yesterday I gave them Father's Day cards for Daddy and Grandpa to personalize with crayons. The Widget went to town on Daddy's card, creating a lovely scribble hither and yon. DramaBoy began a very careful pattern on Grandpa's, coloring thickly and right up to the edge of each color, but not mixing. (He was, I saw later, actually coloring within the "lines" of the depressions left by the raised images on the reverse of the card. Clever boy.) After each color was laid down, he'd lift it for me to praise. He also kept an eye on What The Widget was doing.

He's doing a good job! he announced. Daddy will really love his picture! And I'm doing a really good job on Grandpa's card. I'm using my imanination! I'm coloring my imanination right now.

I hope this time of sorrow will pass without scarring my boys too much. I hope DramaBoy will keep talking with me about what's going on in his head, and that The Widget will learn to do so as well. And I hope my boys will keep using their imaninations, coloring them bold and bright and beautiful on the pages of their lives.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

For My Father, Who Is Far Away

I get warm fuzzies when I think about my daddy. That's who he is to me: My Daddy. As much as I love my mother, as much as we connect in way that is both friendship and mother/daughter, I will always be a Daddy's Girl.

I know he wishes he'd been more patient when we were children. I understand that: I struggle with that same impatience with my own children. I have his temper, you see, quick to flame and quick to fade into guilt and regret. I know we knew there were times to avoid Daddy, such as the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. If we woke up with a problem, we went to Mom's side of the bed--she was less likely to growl. And if we really messed up? The fear of our Father's hand when he got home from work was a potent one. Even stubborn brat me couldn't laugh when he gave me a swat or two on the bottom (which I did when Mom did it, foolish me). And I know he was the yeller while my mother was the ridiculously patient one.

I don't really remember all that, though. Not in that deep down way that sticks with you through the ages. What I remember is that I always knew I could trust my daddy. He would never let me down. He would love me to pieces even when I messed up the most (which I did, a lot) and give me hugs and cuddles when I needed them the most (which I did, plenty). He would make us laugh and groan with his silly jokes and awful puns. He would make delicious meals for us when he was in the mood or Mom was busy studying. He would race the car just right on the down slope of a hill to give us butterflies in our tummies and make us giggle. He would let us rub his belly and the top of his head and tease him about his expanding waistline and diminishing hairline (he said it was all Our Fault anyway). He would let us wrap him around our fingers and reveal him for who he really was: a big rumbly teddy bear with a heart of gold.

Children trust him instinctively. It's a rare child who doesn't take one look at him and know that this is a person he or she can love. It generally is only a matter of minutes before they're playing with him or sitting on his lap. I've seen children who have never met him before walk straight to him and open their arms to be picked up. My mother says he's always been like that.

My children adore him. Smiles beam like sunshine from their faces just at their first glimpse of him. My Widget will actually take medicine from him without having to be held down like a cat. DramaBoy will demand a game of Polar Bear (tag, with Grandpa as the PB chasing or being chased by the Small Children), something he doesn't ask anyone else to play--because Grandpa is the only one who will play it properly and cheerfully. They both love to cuddle him. They'll go to sleep almost like angels if Grandpa is the one who puts them to bed.

As you can imagine, I'm missing that particular talent a great deal these days.

I am, in general, missing my Daddy a great deal these days. I know he's where he's supposed to be, and I believe in what he's doing, but I feel the sacrifice more keenly than ever for it being a more willing one this time.

I've always been able to crawl in my Daddy's lap, even though I'm technically far too old for it now. He would always hold me. He never was a man to fear letting his tenderness show.

I miss him. I miss his lap.

I love you, Daddy. Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

There Was Some Excitement This Week After All

So here's my first full week off work in review (yeah, I know it's only Thursday, but that's ok).

Monday: Snuffle in misery on the couch. Watch bad daytime tv (no soap operas, but not much that was any better, trust me on that!) Drink much orange juice.

Tuesday: Snuffle in marginally less misery on the couch, but actually take a shower first. Hoist myself up in time to drag myself to my therapist for my first visit in over a month. My fault, not hers--I went into one of those I'm-gonna-just-huddle-in-misery stages where I avoided much of what would have been healthy for me, include seeing her. Snuffle my way through the session due to both the cold and tears. Go home and actually cook a real meal. Spend the rest of the evening on World of Warcraft soloing quests I never got around to doing before.

Wednesday: Actually get up with my alarm and drive off to help some friends lead 4th grade VBS (Vacation Bible School) at their church, which I was supposed to be doing Monday and Tuesday as well. Discover that I actually rather like 4th grade girls but that 4th grade boys pretty much just make me want to squash them. Also realize that many of my high school boys have apparently never developed beyond the 4th grade mentality. After a quick lunch at Arby's with friends and FoFs (Friends of Friends), race down the highway to get to the tattoo parlor in time to wait for twenty minutes for the artist to finally show up and give me a tattoo. Then drive up to daycare, pick up the kidlets, and return home in time for a very yummy tuna noodle casserole cooked by my bro. Again, play World of Warquest (raiding with other guild members this time) most of the night. Drink huge amounts of orange juice.

Thursday: Again, wake up to my alarm and take kids off to VBS, where....

What? Oh, you had a question? What was that I said a few sentences back? Wednesday afternoon?

Oh! The tattoo! You didn't know? Didn't I mention something about that before?

Yes, I am now officially inked. I have joined the ranks of the raging rebels. Grrr.

Truth be told, I've been thinking about getting a tattoo for a looooooooooooong time, but never had the courage to do it. I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to pain and, especially, needles. Plus I never had something in mind worth making permanent.

But all that has changed. Well, not ALL. I'm still a wimp. Just less of one than I thought. There's a poem by Emily Dickinson that has come to mean a great deal to me over the years and even more so in the last six months.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
So I decided to get the first two lines tattooed along with an emerald green songbird, as a permanent reminder of several things: (1) hope is always there even in the darkest and direst of times, (2) grace is always there too, (3) the emerald is valuable because it is flawed--which means it's a natural rather than lab-created gem--and in imperfection we find strength and growth, and (4) everything worth having requires some pain and suffering.

I went to a brilliant tattoo artist (I'm not using that word lightly) who inked my hair stylist. He's so well-known and respected that he basically makes his own hours and rates--and there's a two or three month wait to get in. Not only is he amazing, he's very, very nice. Makes it a lot easier to spend a few hours in close proximity to someone, not to mention trust him with something so indelible. For the most part, I told him the elements I wanted (songbird, emerald green, the lines from the poem), and he came up with a unique concept. We spent the first 45 minutes or so fine-tuning the basic image (outline) until it was what I wanted, and then he began.

So what does it feel like? It's kind of like having a bad sunburn--not blistering bad, just really red--and having someone scratch it with their nail or a pin. Uncomfortable, but not unbearable. And after a while the skin gets sort of numb and you can't feel the pain so much anyhow. Now I have to keep it clean and put on A-D diaper cream (yeah, you read that right) for several days, then keep it well moisturized after that. It feels a bit like having a large but mild burn on my leg.

And the result...the result was well worth the wait, the cost, and the discomfort. Better by far than anything I imagined or hoped:

Please forgive the quality of the photo--this was taken on my cell phone. (I can't find the cord to upload pictures from the digital camera. Sigh.) The redness you see around the edges is just my irritated skin--that will fade.

So--what do you think?

Monday, June 15, 2009

I'm Not Sure They Make Courtrooms Big Enough, But I'd Like To File Charges Anyway

I'm fairly certain that sometime last night, around 4 a.m., a Mack truck sneaked up the stairs and rolled right over me. I'm not sure how it fit, or how it managed to not leave tire tracks, but I'm pretty sure the way I've felt since then is sufficient evidence to stand up in court.

I was supposed to teach VBS this week with some friends, and you can imagine how well it would have gone if I had driven in a snotty stupor all the way over there and stumbled into the room, hacking germs all over the precious 4th graders waiting to learn more about Jesus. I think I'll be passing for the time being. Maybe by Wednesday.

So I spent the day on the couch, alternatively huddling beneath blankets and sprawling about all but panting, wishing I could just strip down to my skivvies. Not sure how much my brother would have enjoyed that, so it was a no go. I rotted a few brain cells today with all that fabulous TV that plays on weekdays, including Funniest Wedding Outtakes and Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams. How, I wonder, does one of the cheesiest, most poorly written kids' movies I've ever had the dubious pleasure of watching land the services of A-list actors? I'm assuming the producer knows about some skellingtons in their closets, because I'm at a loss for explanations otherwise. Did you know that George Clooney himself is in Spy Kids 3?!? (And how do I know this? Because I actually sat through the commercials on that kid channel, people. My fingers hurt too much to press buttons on the remote. At least, that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.)

I did discover one of the tin linings (because I really don't think I can find the silver) in being separated: since the kidlets are with their father until Wednesday, I didn't have to deal with them while feeling halfway to Death's door. And my sweet brother (I have mentioned how saintly he is before, right?) went on a shopping expedition to buy me ibuprofen and orange juice and tomato soup and rainbow sherbet. About fifteen minutes ago he also brought me hot tea and a bowl of said sherbet--granted, I asked him for the services, but he did them with a smile.

I am now debating whether or not it's worth it to crawl in the shower to rinse off all the ick that accumulates in a day on the couch, or if I should just wait until morning. Hmmm...choices, choices. Nyquil is definitely in my future, I can tell you that much.

Let's hope the 3/4 gallon of OJ I chugged today brings healing my way. Oh, and I suppose a few well-wishes and prayers might help too.

(On a completely unrelated note, other than a commenter just asked a question on a previous post and didn't leave an email to which I could respond: I don't publicize my WoW server for the simple reason that I have a squad of students who are bound and determined to find me there, and I am equally bound and determined not to let them. The only info I hand out is that I am a night elf hunter--I know, right? But I started in beta!--and am on one of the oldest servers because, hey, I started in beta.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hack, Cough, Snork

In one of those fundamentally Unfair twists of fate, I am coming down with a Summer Cold. Such a nasty paradox, that name.

It has been lurking on the edges of my awareness for a few days, as I fervently prayed it would turn out to be naught but a nasty allergic reaction to the many, many floaties the cottonwood trees have been sailing about, but alas...

So I've been sitting in my pjs since the unearthly hour of eight pee-em, sniffling into a stray Kleenex or two from the two dozen or so that the kidlets strewed (have strewn? strew? I should know this) about the Skyhouse this morning during their now daily Let's Drive Mama Insane morning antics. Little did I realize that they were simply preparing my immediate area for Snot Emergencies. Next thing you know I'll discover that those cereal crumbs and juice-soaked sheets come in handy for a midnight snack.

I have a (hopefully brilliant and giggle-inducing) post brewing about the antics of toddlers, but the general achiness and misery of my current condition precludes much in the way of wordcraft.

Or World of Warcraft, for that matter. Or laundry, although I probably should drag myself down to the basement and at least load the dryer, since mildew is not my friend. Why oh why do I have to live on the top floor of a three-story house and do laundry in the BASEMENT? That's FOUR FLOORS WORTH OF STAIRS, people. I can do that much math, at least. I think...Now I'm second-guessing myself.

I might as well make myself some tea while I'm down in the nether regions of the house.

You may now continue your merry, healthy lives. Perhaps you could send a pity-full thought my way now and again.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Chocolate Memories

Haiku Friday

I made you brownies
Warm chocolate fudge delight
Welcoming you home

I hope you eat them
With ice cold milk in crystal
Remembering me

You introduced me
To chocolate chip cookies
Baking them yourself

Fresh from the oven
You placed them, still gooey warm,
On a plate to share

Then you handed me
A crystal goblet of milk
To wash them all down

I sat there in doubt
Cookies and milk were not my thing
Yet you had made them

So I tasted one
Gush of chocolate on tongue
Rough sweetness of dough

Milk was good that night
Teeth chiming on crystal lip
Cold and crisp and sweet

You rarely brought gifts
Of flowers and other things
I thought romantic

But you baked cookies
And poured out some milk for me
And made me love them

For those things alone
I will always treasure you
My sweet Cookie Man

Thursday, June 11, 2009

It May Be Raining Outside But There's Sunshine In My Heart (Yeah, I Know It's Cheesy, But Y'all Will Just Have To Grin And Bear It)

So how is the start of your summer?, you ask, because of course you have all been on tenterhooks wondering if I managed to survive those last 58 minutes without Going Educational TM. The answer is yes, yes I did. And I even managed to say a pleasant Have a great summer! to the last kid out the door before breaking into a wild Irish jig.

Well, mentally at least, because I've never actually learned how to do a jig.

A former student of mine who adores me still and keeps coming back wanting to do favors for me because I apparently made an impact in his life just in one semester of Creative Writing (I'm telling you, you never know--some of the kids you think you helped transform never appear again and then others for whom you just did what you normally do stick around for years)--um, lost my train of thought. Student, favors--ah yes! Anyway, the wonderful Jason (who reads this blog so Hey! You're awesome!) was waiting in the wings to swoop in and help me finish up getting Out Of There, which he did by carting pounds and pounds of paper to the recycling bin and tossing out the broken chair that students mutilated this year and stuffing the rest of my desk things in a cabinet and carting my take-home things down to my car. Not to mention keeping me company as I finished up the last bits of grading and whatnot.

Sweet boy. He is also threatening me with Dire Consequences if I don't call him this summer and let him take care of my kids so I can get Time To Myself.

I should mention this is also the saintly boy who, two years ago, cared for The Widget from age six weeks to eight weeks so I could go back to work for the last two weeks of the year without having to put him (The Widget) in daycare. For a very piddly amount of money that I practically had to force on him (Jason). I know, right?

And to think that lately I've been feeling all sulky and resentful that God hasn't just cleaned up my mess and made my life all perfect. He's been filling my life with people like Jason for years. I kinda had to apologize to Him yesterday...

Anyhow, I've been busy in a good way since then. Yesterday morning another amazing young man, my 22-year-old brother, insisted on being up with the kidlets in the morning while they ate their cereal and watched cartoons and made messes so that I could sleep in. (What is with these young men these days? All unselfish and generous and caring and stuff!) And then after I dropped the kids at daycare, I leisurely checked out at work, chatted with folks, and then went to lunch with a few coworkers. After doing some banking business, I went to my chiropractor and had an adjustment and an hour-long massage with my marvelous massage therapist Sherri.

Hard times, I'm telling you.

Then I went to a park and had some quiet time with God, which is when I apologized for being a sulky brat and finally said out loud that I forgive two individuals who have hurt me, and walked away with a lightened heart.

And then I went to Target and got a few (hopefully last) pieces of summer clothing to round out my wardrobe.

Finally it was time for the main event of the day, which was my Menting Meeting with the two young teachers who are my official mentees. Chip and Shanell are both awesome and Chip in particular practically saved me time and again this year, not to mention bought me A DESK CHAIR OF MY VERY OWN. I loves them. So it was off to Shanell's condo for some pre-beverages (she got me some Smirnoff pomegranate martini, which is so yummy) and then to Andiamo/Second City in Novi where they were having a special Educators' End Of Year event. An hour or so later, after delicious appetizers and another drink or two, we went into the comedy theater and saw the absolutely hilarious presentation of Kwame a River. Very raunchy (come on, it's Kwame Kilpatrick--how could it be anything else?) but so very ROFL.

It has a touch of "A Christmas Carol" to it, since the basic premise is that the Spirit of Detroit (who is apparently female, appearances to the contrary) appears to Kwame on the night he leaves office and takes him through the past as well as giving him visions of the future, all in an effort to get him to Face the Truth of his Many Malfeasances and Confess. There were all sorts of insider jokes, things that only Detroiters would get, and my stomach hurt from all the giggles. One part that brought the entire audience to tears (the actors had to wait a while to continue) was a depiction of the Sam Bernstein family. It was So Wrong, but So Funny. Why is that so often true?

(For those of you not aware, this is a family of lawyers in the Metro Detroit area that specializes in injury lawsuits, and their ads are Everywhere. The patriarch, Sam, is normal enough if somewhat dumpy, but somehow every one of his children has some physical abnormality, such as crossed eyes, that just cannot be ignored. As you can imagine, the depiction was a little wicked.)

If laughter is the best medicine, a lot of hurt was healed last night.

Today I slept in, since the kidlets are with their father, and I will meet my own mentor for lunch, and I will take my beloved bro to see Up, and then we'll pick up the kidlets from school and bring them home.

Life is good. Sometimes it just takes a little time, a little breathing space, a little perspective to realize that.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I Can See Clearly Now, The Kids Are Gone (Almost)

September is a lovely month, filled with the sweet hopefulness of school beginning once again. I feel my creative juices stirring; I look forward to the faces of new as well as familiar faces in class again; I enjoy the thrill of those "ah ha" moments that come along when students get an important point. By the time the end of the summer comes along, I'm itching to get back into the classroom where all things are New for another year.

But it's not September.

Oh no, it's June. And right now I Hate My Students.

I cannot wait to kick them out of class today. My last class of brats is sitting filling in scantrons, struggling to find answers in the mishmash of what used to be their brains. It's one hour and twenty minutes (as I write these sentence) before I am free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last! Except for the student who has to come in and finish her exam because she had an allergy attack last night and took Benedryl and overslept and was only in class for twenty minutes for an essay exam that took most students at least an hour to complete. She's lucky I'm semi-fond of her, even now, because it would be awfully tempting to say Tough luck, girly, you shoulda gotten here on time! The quality of mercy is most definitely strained by the end of the school year, gotta say.

It doesn't help that my honors tenth grade students turned in a batch of final research/analysis papers that were, overall, so sloppy and poorly formatted and poorly written that I was taking a savage joy in (for once) using a harsh red pen rather than my usual purple to scrawl nasty comments all over the pages. Cite! Cite! I wrote again and again in fury. You'd think they'd never written a paper before. You'd think I hadn't spent days going over the details, that there was no such thing as the Student Writing Handbook, that they didn't have resource after resource at their fingertips.

A college professor friend of mine commiserated with me this weekend (we were chatting privately in World of Warcraft--doesn't matter we've never met in person, she totally counts as a friend) about the increasing sloppiness of student work and the increasing tendency of parents to want to bail them out. I can't grade effort, she wrote. I can only grade the final product. I asked her what she would do if given a paper with sloppy formatting--sloppy, mind you, I'm not even talking about missing citations, which I already know means a big fat ZERO, thank you very much (that's plagiarism, folks, doesn't matter if it's intentional or not). I'd give it an F, she responded. Sloppy formatting means sloppy note taking, sloppy writing, sloppy thinking in general.

And there you have it. I'm done with the sloppiness this year. I'm done with the snarkiness of students who think they're entitled to getting As because I turned it in! I did it! regardless of the quality of work. I'm done with kids disregarding rules about wearing hats and texting and listening to I-pods during class and cheating and wandering about the school when they were just supposed to go to the bathroom. I'm done with kids not bothering to show up with basic supplies, much less their books or, dear sweet sanity preserve me, their homework completed. I'm done with kids being mysteriously ill for Every Single Quiz and then expecting to be able to make them all up the day before grades are due.

I'm done with Brandon C.: if I hear that name even once during the summer, you'll find me in the corner banging my head into the wall. One hour and six minutes before he exits my life for a few months--at least until Mythology next year. I might be able to put up with him by then, at least enough to avoid reaching for the stapler every two minutes. Though I think his parents might thank me if I sealed his mouth for at least a little while. I know my other students would.

It's a Good Thing that we have summer. It takes that long for teachers to recover from the trauma of dealing with Real Live Students the rest of the year. I think if we ever switch to year-long school, there might be an increase in crime. That whole "Going Postal" saying might have to switch to "Going Educational."

Just sayin'.

I have exactly twelve weeks from today to purge myself of this end-of-year hatred, twelve weeks to find some sort of positive emotion towards teaching teens again.

It happens every year. But every June, it seems like an impossibility.

Only 58 minutes left. Not that I'm counting.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Struggling To Speak

Once again I find myself struggling with words. My beloved parents called twice this weekend (all the way from West Africa--the glory that is Skype!) and even though I had all this STUFF stored up inside that I really wanted to spill, I found myself silent for long stretches, unable to express anything in speech.

This was a very lonely weekend. It was my first weekend completely alone. The children were with my husband. He didn't want me there, not really. And my brother was out of town at a young men's conference. So I was in an empty house, and as lovely and comforting as it is, with all the little touches of Mother around the place (those that haven't been tucked away in storage to avoid the depredations of Small Children), I could almost hear the echoes.

Thank God, sincerely, for my friends. I spent Friday evening with my dear sweet friend M. watching the wonderfully, stupidly funny Land of the Lost and laughing until my head hurt. I spent Saturday afternoon and night (all the way to morning--I overslept and missed church, even) over at my dear sweet friends C. and J.'s place, being comforted with a ham sandwich and then steak and potatoes, and then watching the (not-so-funny but okay) movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and then trying to stay awake to watch Ghostland but falling asleep instead on their very cushy, pillowy bed. Then Sunday evening I went out for dinner and dessert with my dear sweet friend K., and spent some time wandering around Walmart with her, delaying the return to my lonely attic suite. At least my brother was back, but it was late, so we didn't exactly socialize.

And I spent hours and hours on World of Warcraft working on the Exploring Achievement (if you don't play, don't worry about it--suffice it to say it's a great time-waster with no real purpose other than bragging rights). Oh, and I did do laundry. Which was so behind that I had no clean underwear, not even raggedy ones. Not that I have any of those.

I've been putting off finishing the move upstairs from the room on the second floor where I was staying when my parents were here. There are still all sorts of things scattered about in there. A part of me feels that if I do that, if I put everything where it belongs in that attic suite, that I am saying This is it. This is where I live. This is the end. I'm struggling to hang onto the vestiges of hope that somehow my marriage is not finished, that my husband will decide he does want to work it out and that he can love me after all. The thought that I may have lost him forever is so painful that my entire body aches with it.

It's not that I'd be entirely alone. My life is filled with people who love me and support me. I am so incredibly blessed. Everywhere I turn there are amazing gifts from God.

But there's a spot in my life that gapes like an agonizing abyss, one that is shaped specifically for one man. And so I ache, and I struggle to get any words past the swelling of tears and throat.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Life Is Not So Sweet

Haiku Friday

Life is not so sweet
When hopes and dreams are shattered
Slicing heart and soul

We traveled so far
In life and years together
Entwined root and stem

The future seems bleak
Much emptier without you
My tears bitter rain

Thursday, June 4, 2009

When Friends Confront

This morning two of my coworkers, who happen to also be friends, came to talk to me out of love.

And you know what that means.

As soon as I saw them at my door with those tell-tale Oh-Honey-We-Love-You-But-We-Gotta-Talk looks on their faces, my heart started pounding and my face flushed and a million possibilities passed through my head--very much that little kid Holy crap what have I done lately that would get me in trouble think think think THINK brain: was it that? Or that? Or this? And how would anyone KNOW? sort of panic.

They are two lovely and loving women, also English teachers, who have been working with me closely for years and are among the very few people at work who actually know the truth behind the drama this year. I mean, I've caused all manner of rumblings among the staff and along the grapevine, what with the whole tons of absences and then disappearing-off-the-face-of-the-earth thing back in December and January. Not to mention, you know, the angst.

It's been a bad year. I just realized yesterday that I've been in the marital trenches, so to speak, for six months now. That's two-thirds of the school year.

No wonder I scored a ridiculous stress level of 309 on a stress test (Actually, I scored 325 but took off a couple because I figured maybe minor changes didn't count). Apparently I should be lying in a hospital bed somewhere.

Anywho, my friends came to me to express their concern, and the concern of others, about my taking over the position of department head this fall. They assured me that this wasn't because people didn't like me or want me as DH, but that they were very concerned with my stress levels and how close I am to burnout and want me to be able to focus on what is important right now.

And apparently there is now another teacher who is willing to take the position next year, with assistance from various members (I love that my department is so willing to share responsibilities), which means that I no longer need to feel like it's my duty to step up because no one else can or will.

And they're right about my needing to lower my stress and focus on my top priorities. So I will not be department head this next year. We'll see what happens after that.

I have mixed feelings, truth be told. On the one hand, I could have really used the sizable chunk of money that would have come with the position. I could have paid off most, if not all, of that nasty line of credit balance hanging out there. And there's the whole ego thing about being head of the department. On the other hand, it's not exactly a fun job.

OK, it's a horrible job. It's lots of work, lots of stress, lots of organization (and I'm SO good at that--not), lots of meetings, and not a whole lot in the way of warm fuzzies. More like icy drafts from Hell.

I think mostly I hate having to face the humbling reality that I can't handle that extra responsibility right now. That's part of My Problem, you know, that whole admitting-weakness thing. I'm used to being all WonderWoman on the outside, able to tackle anything the Big Bad World throws at me. While inside I'm trembling in a corner terrified that people will find out I'm really WhinyWimp. Or at best, mediocre.

I may not like it much, but I am grateful I have people in my life who will come talk to me out of love. I need it.

Even when it hurts.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

This Post Is Kind Of R-Rated But I Can't Help It And Would You Please Forgive Me Mom/SoccerSister/Grandma And Everyone Else Who Might Get Offended?

I've had a bleary dreary horrific few days filled with all sorts of angst and NO I'm not going to go into it here because I'd rather not be quite THAT transparent and if you're on the Need To Know List I've either already talked to you about it or will eventually...


This morning when I opened up my GMail I discovered a message from the marvelous Brit in Bosnia/Fraught Mummy and found out that SHE HAD GIVEN ME AN AWARD ON HER BLOG!!!!! And since it's been an awfully long time since I've gotten an award (oh, senior year in high school, where has your academic glory gone?), I am more than thrilled--read, chuckling with glee down in my very soul--to be given one.



It kind of involves a naughty word. And while I certainly am not blameless where uttering naughty words is concerned, I have tried, at least recently and at least on this blog, to replace this one with the less offensive euphemism "frickin'".

Yeah. You get what I'm saying.

But it's an AWARD!!! And there's even a little official award picture/widget/whatever they're called and I'm supposed to list five things I currently obsess about and then give the award to five blogs in turn. So it's not like I can just change the name or anything. Sorry, Grandma. Please forgive me.

So the lovely and very internationale (you're supposed to say that with a French pronunciation--"in-tare-nah-see-ohn-all"--to make it all elegant and stuff) Fraught Mummy has given me the (brace yourself) Your Blog Is Fucking Fabulous award.

See? I told you. But I'm still chortling with glee.

So--five current obsessions:

1. So You Think You Can Dance season five, for which I will apparently willingly give up sleep in order to not miss out on every fabulous minute of dancing heaven. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this show. I'm not a fan of American Idol or Dancing with the Stars or whatever that's called or a number of those other cheesy competition shows (sorry folks who are...) but SYTYCD just makes my heart happy. For one thing, once you get past the auditions (where there are "dancers" just as bad as those "singers" on the AI auditions), every dance is amazing, even the ones that aren't as good. And the ones that are truly amazing? They've brought me to tears. Literally. This is probably the one single show that FOX produces that I consider worth watching. (I told you--obsessed!)

2. Cherry Coke. Which is really really really bad for my waistline. A student just showed up this morning with a twelve-pack of CC for me. Sweet child. He shall not be condemned to everlasting greyness in the Ashes of Obnoxious Teenagers jar. However, in the interest of stopping the expansion of my waist/thighs/jowls/impending turkey neck, I have decided that once finals are done, I am giving up pop for the summer. Sort of a Mid Year resolution. I'm sticking to water and unsweetened iced tea this summer. (Trust me, not having sugar in my iced tea isn't a sacrifice. I prefer about three lemons. I will survive.)

3. Naomi Novik's Temeraire novels, all of which I have now read on my Kindle, and if she doesn't write any more to tell the story of what happens to Laurence and Temeraire in Australia, I shall weep many bitter tears!!! If you're a fan of alternative history/fantasy novels and dragons, not to mention well-written books, you so need to check these out. I kept ordering the next novel as soon as I finished each book.

4. The end of the school year. I have five days of students remaining. And three of them are half days (that I see students, at least). Summer cannot come soon enough. I'm just trying to hold it together well enough to not bite these teens' snarky little heads off. You'll have to check with all those bodies stumbling around to see how successful I've been.

5. Blogging. Surprise surprise! If I go a day without checking blogs, reading my GMail for comments, and hopefully having something worthwhile posting, a little part of me withers inside. I'm with Fraught Mummy though--there's no way I can start Twittering or I'll NEVER get anything done. I'm resisting that addiction with all my will.

And now to award five f***ing fabulous blogs in turn (keep in mind I'm leaving out the blogs whose authors may be less than thrilled to receive this particular award, sigh):

1. GingerB at Gas-Food-Lodging, because she's very real, she has adorable kidlets, and she's a redhead. I'm fond of redheads.

2. Heidi at Hortus Deliciarum, because not only is she one of my oldest (as in from a long time ago--she's my age and I am NOT OLD) friends, but she's a brilliant and very Real writer and doesn't get nearly as much traffic as her blog deserves.

3. Julia at Julia {Here Be Hippogriffs}, because she and her writing and her brilliant kidlets are just exactly f***ing fabulous. Enough said.

4. MommyTime at Mommy's Martini, because I am frequently challenged intellectually by her posts and chuckle at others, and because she is also a teacher mommy in Michigan (even if she is at the college level instead).

5. Beth Fish at so the fish said, because I just plain enjoy her blog. As do many other people. Even if she keeps saying she's not all that interesting. Obviously she's wrong.

There you go! You may now close your mouth (you know, from the shock and horror and all) and go on your way.

Monday, June 1, 2009

i am not

i am not
this person
that person
you assume will fill the void
that lies within

i am not
of all
those hopes and dreams you had
from childhood

i am not
for that pain that sunders your spirit
and sears your heart

i am not
for the sins that smeared my soul
long ago and near past

i am
for the agony i have given you
and still cause

i am
by the One who knows all and yet loves
us both

i am
how to love you with greater love
than we have known

i am
you are
we are
He Is

and that is all i know

All The Things I Did(n't?) Do Last Week: A Tragedy In Ten Parts

This last week was a symphony of perfection and grace on my part. I was an angel of kindness and a joy to have in my family's life. I was a shining example of God's love to all those around me.

Therefore, I Did Not "forget" to call my therapist about my appointment on Tuesday night and the need to reschedule, instead using the excuse of a missing cell phone and a sniffling child to let it go until it was too late. Because I Did Not simply want an excuse to avoid talking about difficult things. Of course not. Not Me.

I then Did Not get all ostrich-like about the presence of swine flu (or H1N1 for those of you who like to be all PC about it) in our area and simply shrug when I showed up to daycare on Wednesday with an under-5-year-old who has asthma and a history of respiratory illness (with resultant hospital stays), discovering that there was a confirmed case in the daycare. I then Did Not leave my child at his daycare and go to work, simply mentioning the news casually to my husband in an email an hour later. When (1) he was already home caring for The Widget, who was sick, and (2) I have first hour prep, so DramaBoy could have been taken home no problem. And then when my husband called the doctor, and she said we should all get tested (since 3 out of 4 of us had symptoms), I Did Not do a complete switch and freak out and tell people to stay away from me and ask the doctor if we should go to the ER and if I should leave work early. Of course not. Not Me.

And then when the 3 out of 4 of us (minus DramaBoy, very oddly and miraculously) were diagnosed with sinus infections instead and were given antibiotics, I Did Not get fed up with The Widget's ongoing Issues With Taking Medicine and simply hold him down on the floor like a cat and say Open your mouth. Swallow. Open your mouth. Swallow. over and over until he complied. Of course not. Not Me.

With illness in the house, including in myself, I also Did Not stay up late (way too late) at least twice in order to watch the auditions for So You Think You Can Dance? simply because they were sitting there on the DVR and taunting me with their presence. So of course I Did Not end up with too little sleep, contributing to my ongoing absolute fatigue and irritability. Of course not. Not Me.

On Thursday I Did Not get all prideful and hurt and refuse to pray and ask God for help in changing my attitude, even though I knew that's what I have to do before our marriage counseling sessions if I want them to go decently. So I Did Not instead go through a session full of anger and bitterness on both sides, sobbing almost the entire time, only to discover that the husband with whom I was so angry was capable of greater grace than I when he pulled me into his arms for a hug as we left the building. Of course not. Not Me.

I then Did Not try to satisfy that little ache inside by buying a new dress, with the excuse that I needed something decent in red for Pentecoste. And justifying it with the bargains I found. Of course not. Not Me.

And I Did Not then spend even more than I spent on the dress ($15 at H & M--I DO love that store!) for a little white crocheted "sweater" thingie ($24 at Charlotte Russe, if you're keeping track) because the dress I found was a little skimpier up top than seemed prudent for church. Of course not. Not Me.

Meanwhile, on the Home Front, I Did Not end up feeding my kidlets hot dogs three meals in a row (disregarding the intervening breakfast) because they're easy to make and it was decent grilling weather and we didn't have enough hamburgers for everyone. Of course not. Not Me.

Of course, I also Did Not lose track of how many snacks DramaBoy was begging/filching/doubling up on throughout the day during the weekend, to the point where he basically refused to eat his lunches and dinners (a.k.a. Real Food). And I then Did Not threaten to take away all snacks, even at school (which I'm pretty sure would be impossible) if he didn't finish his dinner. Of course not. Not Me.

And finally, I Did Not carefully plan Sunday afternoon and evening around my attendance to graduation, which was scheduled for 4 p.m., even carefully running directions to the place it is every year (over an hour away) so I wouldn't miss my exits, and then make a complete error in my thinking and plan to leave at 3:30 (see distance away above), and then realize as I pulled out of the driveway that the ceremony was starting in just over 15 minutes and would be halfway over by the time I even arrived. Of course not. Not Me.

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