Unorthodox Halloween

There’s a football game tonight.  And it’s the game at which the middle school bands come and perform with the high school one.  And there’s an orchestra practice after school.  All of this makes it very difficult to go trick or treating.  Or go to any of the non-door-to-door options the city makes available.

Now, other than the downside of having to attend a football game, this doesn’t particularly upset me.  But Hal has been asking daily about how close we are to Halloween.  And Daryl typically enjoys it too.  So what’s a resourceful mom to do?

Bribe ’em.

After explaining the situation, I made the offer.  “What if, instead of trick or treating, I give each of you $5.  You can spend it on candy if you want to or you can spend it or save it for something else.”

Daryl was convinced and eager.  Hal looked uncertain.  I continued.  “And you can still wear your costume to the football game.  Sissy will be wearing hers.”

Now Hal was convinced.  Score!  And then I got an unexpected bonus victory.  Daryl said he didn’t want to wear a costume, which meant I didn’t have to help out with a last minute costume decision.  This might just be the best Halloween ever.  Except for having to go to that football game, that is…

TBT: Memories of Great-Grandma

This week’s “Throwback Thursday” post was inspired by a conversation I had with Marissa Bergen, Rock and Roll Super Mom, who writes some fun and clever poetry on her blog, Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth. The conversation was on her spooky poem, The Picture. I encourage you to go check it out.  This recollection of mine seems appropriate to run the day before Halloween.

Marissa’s poem was about a (I assume) young child fearful of a painting on her grandmother’s wall and what happened when she decided to take matters in her own hands.  I don’t recall ever spending the night at my grandmother’s house.  Hers was walking distance from ours so I suppose a sleepover never made sense.  I do, however, remember spending the night at my great grandmother’s house.

The memory that I related to Marissa was of spending the night with my younger brother.  It was a very small farm house with one bathroom, a tiny kitchen, three bedrooms, two connected living rooms, and a basement.  Despite the house’s diminutive stature, the hallway going to the last bedroom was at least a mile long.  And not lit.  And I think there were cobwebs in the corners.  And rats watching us with beady little red, evil eyes.  And a witch cackling somewhere just out of sight.

Ok, so maybe the last few points are exaggerations.  Exaggerations on reality, not on how we felt.  I can remember the intense fear of being led down that (actually very short) hallway.  I hated it when my brother stayed with me because if it was just me, I got to sleep in grandma’s bed with her.  Until I got older and she claimed that I kicked her too much in my sleep.  Even then, I got to sleep in the second bedroom.  I never got banished to the end bedroom on my own.

There’s a reason for that.  I think Great Grandma knew that a child alone had no hope of survival in that bedroom.  We never wanted her to close the door.  We never wanted her to leave.  But she always did.

My brother and I would lie flat on our backs, huddled as close to each other in the dead center of the bed as possible.  We’d hold the blanket up tight under our chins.  Our fingers would begin to ache from clinching the sheets so tightly.  And we’d stare intently at the picture on the wall.

I don’t remember what the picture was.  I just remember truly thinking the person in the picture was watching us.  We’d whisper furtively to each other, wanting the reassurance of each other’s voice but fearful that the sound would draw out the demons watching us from that picture.

We were never as united as we were fighting for our lives in that dark room at the end of that long hallway.  “I want to roll over,” one of us would say.

“Ok,” the other would respond.  “I’ll keep watch.  You go ahead and turn over.”

We’d keep watch until we eventually dropped from fatigue.  The paralyzing fear I felt then is still palpable now.  I don’t know why.  It’s not like great grandma was a scary woman.  Well, barring the fact that she only had two fingers on her right hand and she was quite adept at pinching that fleshy underside of your arm with them if you were doing something wrong.  And she had false teeth that she liked to pop out of her mouth at us in a ghoulish expression that would cause us to shriek in mostly-fun fear.

Oh, and then there was the fact that she actually had those three fingers missing from her right hand in a jar in her basement.  I’m not making that up.  The fingers, and a chunk of the hand, were severed when she was two years old and was pretending to play the organ on a piece of sharp farm equipment.  She slipped and sliced her hand.

A very talented German doctor stitched up her hand.  And stored her fingers in a jar of formaldehyde that he kept on a shelf in his office.  And when she got a job working for him as a teenager, he handed the fingers back to their rightful owner.  Nothing spooky about that, right?

No, the truly terrifying thing about Great Grandma’s house was the time I realized just how old she really was.  When it dawned on me that none of my friends went to visit their great grandmas… because they didn’t have living great grandmas.  Or if they did, they were waiting out the end in nursing homes.

My great grandma lived by herself on a large farm out in the middle of nowhere.  When all of this came crashing down on me one day, I called my mom in a panic.  Had to stand at the rotary phone at the end of the kitchen.  And whisper – just in case Great Grandma was listening.

“But mom!” I pleaded.  “What if she… dies?!”

“Well,” she replied calmly and practically, “you’ll call me and I’ll come pick you up.”

“But what if I can’t reach you?!”

“Then you’ll call grandma.  One of us will come get you.”

“But what am I supposed to do until you get here?!”

“What do you mean?  Just wait for us.”

“But what about her?!”

“What do you mean, ‘what about her’?”

“I’d be in a house with a… dead body…”

“Well, it’s not like she’s going to jump up and grab you.  She’d be dead.”

Obviously, my mother had never taken the long walk to that end bedroom or she wouldn’t be so sanguine.  I resolved to sit out on the porch and wait for them there if, indeed, my great grandmother were to expire during one of my visits.  She didn’t, of course.  Like most childhood fears, that one was unfounded.

I had many wonderful experiences at Great Grandma’s house.  And I count the spooky, terrifying ones among them.  Happy Halloween, everyone.

When Pop Stars Tell You What To Do

It was a rough day.  I’m guessing most of my problem was just my own reaction to the frustrations of life, but still.  I can’t get out of my skin… or my head… so, it was a rough day.

It started out with a fight with Jane.  One of those fights that I don’t understand what happened.  I just know it’s ridiculous and I don’t know how we got there.  I just know I’m being yelled at because I said something to my husband that she thought was directed at her and she interpreted as about her when it wasn’t at all.  And since we weren’t on the same page, we continued to frustrate each other until we were yelling.

Then my husband yelled over the yelling for me to get in the shower.  Which ticked me off further.  I fumed through my shower.  I fumed through my morning routine.  I was still fuming when he came home from taking the kids to school.  I had turned on some music in an attempt to calm my nerves, but maybe my running playlist isn’t the best for settling a person.

Or maybe I’m just stubborn.

Because as he tried to help me see her side of things, as he confirmed that I hadn’t been wrong but couldn’t I see where she was?  As he tried to remind me that I was the adult and had to find a way to respond differently to her (the same talk I had given him the night before), I noticed that P!nk was trying to help too.  In complete context with my husband telling me to not give up and withdraw, she was belting out, “Try!  Try!  Try!  You gotta try!  Try!  Try!”

I sighed and tried to ignore her.  I expressed my frustration that I could be kind and supportive and loving and perfectly calm for days and then after one fight, I’m someone my daughter “just can’t talk to.”  All that good?  Poof!  Right out the window.  Counts for nothing.

“She isn’t carrying around a scorecard,” he said.  “She’s a two year old.  She’s living in the now.  She doesn’t remember what happened the day before.  She’s here now and that’s where you have to be.”

{Side note: not completely true… anything bad I might have done in the preceding days, weeks, months are brought up regularly.}

Anyway, as he tried to sooth my frazzled nerves, Steven Tyler provided his two cents as he crooned that we should “Come Together… Right now…”.  I began to think that P!nk and Aerosmith were conspiring.  I tried to absorb what they said – and what my husband said – but I was simply too heartbroken and defeated.  I went to work with my head hung low.

Which probably explains why my work day was no better.  I became frustrated with asinine emails coming my way.  I remembered why I never wear the shirt I had chosen and resigned myself to a day of tucking my bra straps back under the edges of the too-wide neckline.  I became frustrated with the new-to-me structure I was trying to work in and my feelings that the veterans grew tired of my questions and lack of understanding.  I felt trapped.

I took a break and as I was in the bathroom washing my hands, Demi Lovato came over the speakers and encouraged me to “Let it go!  Let it go!”  Now, I know that if I were to truly follow the full advice of the song, I suppose I’d be “not holding back anymore” and really letting everyone hear what I’m thinking.  But that wasn’t the message I heard.

And I tried to listen.  Really, I did.  I mean, those are some pretty famous people trying to help me out.  Now if I could only find a way to apply messages from pop stars to my state of mind, I might be able to get somewhere.  But like I said, I’m stubborn.  I don’t know how to let it go.

And then I got so busy working that I lost track of time and missed my yoga class, which was really my one big chance at letting it go.  You know, some days it’s all one can do to keep from running home and curling up in a little ball somewhere quiet and waiting for the world to move on without you.


UPDATE:  {Yes, yes, I get the irony of ‘updating’ a post that hadn’t yet been published.}  My craptastic day continued with my husband ranting to me about a failing program at the school that we are heavily invested in, which got me even more depressed.  More frustrations with my assigned task.  And then I noticed a coworker had mis-dated a log entry.  I went to tell him about it and he asked if I had changed it for him.  When I said I hadn’t, he was like, “Oh, so you just wanted to come rub my nose in it huh?”  When I clarified that no, I was just having a crappy day and wasn’t motivated to make momentous decisions like whether to fix his date in the log book, he asked, “You are having a crappy day?!”  And that’s when I remembered that his (brand new) pants had ripped right down the back, it was our boss’s boss who had brought it to his attention, folks had been giving him grief for a solid hour about it, and he was now walking around with strips of duct tape holding the seat of his pants together.  Suddenly, I felt worlds better.  More crappy stuff followed, but all I had to do after that was think about his pants and the world felt just a bit brighter.  For me, at least.

Dear White People

My husband and I went to see Dear White People Sunday evening.  First, I want to say that we both thought it was a wonderful movie in every respect and we fully recommend it to everyone.  The second thing I want to say is this.  It was not about race.

Don’t get me wrong.  Race was a very heavy and present backdrop.  The plot centers around a growing discontent between the black and white students on a fictional ivy league campus.  It deals fully with the kinds of issues unique to African Americans and it takes a critical look at white privilege as well as those senseless acts and comments white people do and say without thinking.

But it’s not about race.  What struck me as I left the theater, still savoring all the complex characters and their relationships with each other, was that it’s about people trying to find their place.  It’s about people not fitting in and then not being true to themselves in an effort to fit in.  It’s about internal and external conflict of character.

Yes, race was an important part of that discovery.  What does it mean to be black?  What does it mean to be biracial?  How must a person act to fit in with his or her black classmates?  What if a black student wants to fit in with the white classmates instead?  What if a person is black and gay?  And a nerd?  What if they can’t fit in with the black students and also can’t fit in with the gay crowd?  What about the rich legacy black kid whose dad has strong expectations of him?  What if he’s hiding part of who he is?  What if a woman finds herself in an angry/defiant black revolutionary role but is in love with a white man and is afraid her friends will find out?  If a white woman is dating a black man just to make her family squirm is she using him?  Is it any different than him sleeping with a black woman that he’s not really interested in?

These characters were so rich and engaging.  Each was striving for something he or she didn’t have.  And in some cases, couldn’t have.  Their struggles were real and oh-so believable.

Now… I’m not black.  I am ignorant of most of what black people in this country have to deal with.  I have spent a small amount of time over the years talking to black friends and acquaintances so I have a secondhand sense of some of it.  A secondhand sense is wholly inadequate but it’s about the best I can ever get.  I understand from an academic sense what institutional racism, white privilege, and micro-aggression is about.  I say this so that my next statements will not be taken to mean that I think my experiences are of the same magnitude.

What often makes a book or movie engaging to a reader or watcher is the ability to relate to one or more of the characters.  One reason Hollywood appears to use in not making many movies with all black or nearly all black casts is the fear that white people will think the movie will not relate to them.  Boom, just like that, they lose a large chunk of the potential audience.  Black people?  Well, they are used to only having a handful of black characters and most of them stereotypes at that.  So no need to worry about them.

Here’s the deal with Dear White People.  I related to these characters.  And, no, I’m not talking about the clueless white people, although I admit to seeing me in some of their actions too.  I mean that I was able to relate to the black characters.  Not their struggles with being black, but with their struggles with being alive in this world.

A dilemma  of sorts was presented in the movie.  It went something like this:

You walk into a restaurant and to the waitress, you look like a black customer that didn’t tip her well in the past.  She only takes your order after taking everyone else’s in the room.  You wait 45 minutes before your food comes out.  Now it’s time to tip.  What do you do?

1) Leave the standard 15%.  It’s what’s expected.

2) Don’t leave a tip!  The service was terrible!  A tip is to reward good service and she didn’t provide that.

3) Recognize that she expects you, a black person, to not tip well.  Leave a generous tip to try to change her perspective.

Obviously, I’ve never faced racism in a restaurant.  I still got excited at the familiarity as the dilemma was presented though.  Why?  Because I’ve experienced the same dilemma.  Families with young children are often assumed to not tip well.  So some waitstaff are not as attentive as they should be.  Should I confirm their invalid assumptions by giving them the lower tip that they so richly deserve?  Or should I tip them handsomely in the hopes that they will drop their stereotype and treat the next family better?  Been there.

Then there’s trying to fit in with the group that I’m not actually part of.  A black woman in the movie tried so hard to fit in with a particular group of whites.  If she played her cards just right, she could get some pseudo-acceptance, but she was never fully part of the group.  And in her attempts to be part of the group, she left behind her black friends.

Likewise, when I was fourteen and trying to show the older boys on the hiking trip that I could keep up with them – indeed, be one of them, I abandoned my girlfriend who wasn’t as strong or as fast.  I didn’t dare walk with her at the back, where I could have enjoyed her company, because I was afraid the boys might think I couldn’t keep up.  I threw away what I had to chase after something I couldn’t.

There’s plenty more examples that I won’t elaborate on.  Let’s just say that this movie did a terrific job in making these characters accessible to everyone.  I believe it proved that a movie can have all the main characters be black and still be something non-blacks can relate to.  It wasn’t poking fun like a Tyler Perry movie.  It wasn’t a gut-wrenching portrayal of slavery or pre-Civil Rights era.

No, it was just a story of ordinary people trying to find their way in the world.  And those people just happened to be black.  It added to my understanding of the rich diversity of black perspective.  It proved (although it sadly shouldn’t have needed to) that there are as many different perspectives among black people as there are black people.  Same as whites.

I don’t want to minimize the important analysis of the complexity of race in America that the movie engaged in.  There are a lot of lessons for both blacks and whites, plenty for us to ponder on how we relate with the each other, both within our race and without.  But I truly believe the bigger lesson was that we all face the same most basic struggles.  How to find our place in the world.  And how to be content when we find it.

Just When You Think You’ve Got It Figured Out

Hal has always preferred to eat his pizza cold.  Anytime we have leftover pizza and I pull it out to put in the oven – the rest of us preferring the crispy result of the oven better than the microwave, he insists he wants his cold.  So I shake my head in resignation and plop the cold, hard pizza on his plate.  And he nibbles away contentedly.

Well, between Daryl’s birthday party and a church pizza party, we ended up with a lot of pizza at one point.  Hal decided to pack some in his lunch.  Daryl helped him select two huge slices of cheese pizza.  He already had a Caprisun, bag of barbeque chips, and some Oreos in his lunch box, also all leftovers from recent festivities.

I suggested that he only needed one of those slices of pizza since he already had all that other food lined up.  But just like all kids, Hal did not feel that he was a big kid unless he got two slices of pizza.  No matter the size.  I started looking for smaller choices, when I suddenly realized that we also had some pizza left over that he had made for himself at a make-your-own pizza place.

He responded positively and we started shoving everything into the little metal box.

“But I want it heated up,” he said.


“Honey, there’s not a microwave at school.  You’ll need to eat it cold.”

“But I want it heated up!”

So what’s up with that?  For three years – at least! – he’s wanted to eat his pizza cold.  No amount of encouragement has made him budge on that point.  And now… now that the pizza is going someplace where it cannot be heated up, he wants it… warm.


Teenagers Are Like Two Year Olds

This is what my husband says when I complain.  Teenagers are like two year olds.  When my children were two, I didn’t complain about their irrational, illogical, self-centered, pouty ways.  I just accepted it as part of the stage.  Well, ok.  I complained, but not because I expected them to behave differently.  Maybe if I view my teenager as a two year old, I can do the same now.

The thing is, they look so much like grown-ups.  They are capable of so many things like complex speech, reading, self grooming (most of the time), lawn care.  It really seems like they should be capable of logical deduction and basic analysis of situations.  But they aren’t.  Some examples are in order.

This morning, Jane was angry.  She was angry because her dad wouldn’t buy her Blow Pops for her campaign for National Junior Honor Society Secretary.  He wouldn’t buy them for her because she didn’t have a plan.  She just wanted to hand them out.  He said she should have “Vote for Jane” signs on them or something.

After discussing with me, he decided to offer to buy the Blow Pops if she’d pay for half.  She was still angry.  Because he had told her (her words) that “giving the Blow Pops without a sign advertising was stupid.”  I stopped her and pointed out that she now had the opportunity to get what she wanted.  She was too busy moping.

When I pressed, she pointed out that she’d been asking for the Blow Pops for several days and she could have put tags on them if she had gotten them then.  I asked why she had never mentioned putting signs on them.  “Last night,” I said, “Why didn’t you say, ‘Hey, I need those Blow Pops for tomorrow. Look, I’ve made these signs and I want to attach them.  Can mom pick up the suckers on the way home from her meeting?’  But you didn’t do that.  You waited to ask for them again this morning.”

“Because I didn’t think about it then.”

And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the crux of the problem with the teenage brain.  Well, one of them.  They expect so much more out of you than they ever hold themselves accountable for.  It’s her suckers.  We really don’t give a flip if she has them or not.  So whose responsibility should it be to make sure they get purchased?  See, I would think it’s hers.  But she thinks it’s ours.  Because she told us about it and that makes it ours.  She gets to offload it from her brain to ours, as if we don’t already have plenty of things that are important to us taking up space there.

A similar thing happened with the purchase of eggs for her science project.  One Wednesday evening, she declared the need for eggs to test her protect-the-egg-from-breaking-when-dropped-from-a-great-height device.  So Daddy brought home some eggs.  Saturday night, she had a friend spend the night.  Sunday morning, with six people in the house, one of them a guest, Daddy thought it’d be a good idea to fix some breakfast.  The eggs were still there and were the only eggs in the house.  So he cooked them.

Monday morning, Jane got out a pan to fix herself some breakfast before heading out to volunteer for four hours at the elementary school (no school that day).  That’s when she discovered that *her* eggs were gone.  She was enraged.  Those eggs were hers.  They were for her science project and we had no business cooking them.  Never mind that we cooked them so her guest could have breakfast.  Never mind that she had acquired them over four days earlier yet not conducted her experiments.  Never mind that she herself was about to cook them.  Never mind that we had four hours to get more eggs before she could do anything with them.  They were hers and we were out of line.

About five hours later, we were returning home and were almost there when she asked about eggs.  She then got saucy and rude when she found out we had forgotten to purchase the eggs.

“You and Daddy drove right past the store after he picked you up.  Why didn’t you ask if he had purchased the eggs then?”

“Because I didn’t think about it then.”

Again, we were expected to remember her business more fully and completely than she was.  We were, again, in the wrong while she shared no culpability in the non-possession of eggs.  And she needn’t come up with a solution to her problem – like, stopping at the convenience store around the corner from our house, which was what I suggested.

The selfishness of teenagers truly has no bounds.  That particular weekend that her friend spent the night, her brothers had been making plans to sleep on the couches in the living room Saturday night.  They were pumped about it in a way that only makes sense if you are under 12 years old.

And then Jane, who was celebrating her birthday with friends, asked for a sleepover.  I agreed and then suggested to the boys that since they didn’t have school on Monday, they could sleep in the living room Sunday night.  They weren’t happy about it but reluctantly agreed.  Jane and her friend stayed up late into the night watching a half dozen episodes of How I Met Your Mother in the living room.

Sunday night, on the way home from visiting friends, Jane asked if she could watch an episode.  Daryl immediately piped up that she couldn’t because they had the living room.  I confirmed that he was right.

“So I don’t get to watch an episode,” she said, with so much scorn and disgust dripping from her voice that I’m surprised it didn’t stain her clothes.

“That’s right.  They didn’t get to do what they had planned last night so they get to tonight.”

“Can’t they wait in their room while I watch an episode and then they can go sleep on the couches?!”

“No, dear.  They gave up their plans last night so that you could do what you wanted.  You watched five episodes last night.  I think you’ll be ok not watching one tonight.”

“So I don’t get to watch an episode.”  Her tone made it clear that the world was unfair and stacked up particularly tall against her.

The fact that she could not comprehend how she had impacted her brothers the night before, nor that she was asking for a further inconvenience that night for something that was truly not important, astounded me.  The comparison to a two year old is an accurate one.  The only difference is that I never expected her to comprehend why it was wrong to steal someone else’s toy when she was two.  I kinda expect her to get it now.

But, no, it’s all about what she wants and when she wants it.  The morning after Daryl’s exhausting sleepover, while I prepared to make detailed minion cupcakes for Hal’s party that afternoon, she wanted me to sit at the dining room table so we could discuss her desire for an iPhone.  I told her that, especially since I had just discovered I had no icing, I simply didn’t have time and it wasn’t a priority to be taken care of that morning.

She could not believe that I wasn’t making time for her on what is arguably one of my busiest days of the year: Saturday of birthday weekend.  She started ranting about how she had been “kicked out of my house on my birthday and now you won’t talk about my phone!”  This ignored that we had pulled her from school to eat at her requested restaurant for lunch.  That I had delayed taking her back so she would miss the class she didn’t want to walk in late for.  That she had spent the evening doing what she wanted: movie and dinner with her grandmother.  That she had been given the option of returning home or staying at the hotel with grandma and had chosen the latter.

She also couldn’t understand why her Daddy wasn’t willing to just trust her that she could earn $50 a month to pay the larger phone bill.  Never mind that she struggles to pay her current $20 bill each month.  Never mind that we would be locked into a two year contract, whether she proved able to pay it or not.  Never mind that she’s never shown a willingness to work.  No, her father’s desire for a two month proving period where she earns the $50/month before we acquire the iPhone was deeply unreasonable.

Oh, well.  My only comfort is that when I talk to my friends with similarly aged children, they tend to bounce up and down and get excited and point at me and say, “My kid too!  Oh, my goodness!  It’s like they are twins!”  I take comfort in our shared misery.  I also take comfort in my mother’s laughter when I finish a rant about my daughter with “I surely never behaved this way!”  Because if I did, as her laughter seems to indicate, then there’s hope for Jane.  After all, I think I turned out just swell.

TBT: Ride Sharing

In honor of Throwback Thursday…

My junior year of high school, I carpooled to school with a guy I had been friends with since early elementary school.  At some point, my future husband started riding with us.  In retrospect, this was a bit nonsensical since he had to drive past the high school to get to my house.  Then again, perhaps he didn’t have a parking space.  At any rate, at some point – I don’t remember when – the friend no longer rode with us.

My husband can be a bit obsessive about stuff sometimes and spending time with me was one of those things (still is).  He figured out pretty quickly that if I was ready to go when he got there, I got in the car and we went to school.  But… if I wasn’t ready yet, I’d invite him in and then he’d get to hang out with me while I finished getting ready.

He started arriving earlier.  And earlier.  And earlier.

This caused me a good deal of stress because I didn’t want him to see me before I had my makeup on.  So I started waking up earlier.  And earlier.  And earlier.

And since I was waking up earlier, that meant he could arrive earlier.  And earlier.  And earlier.

He wouldn’t come to the porch until he saw the lights were on.  So I started sneaking to the front door in the dark to see if he was there yet.  One day, he wasn’t there but there was a large dark form of a man crouched on the front porch.  How I stifled the scream before running back to my room, I have no idea.  And why I didn’t report it to my parents?  Also no idea.  I just remember it scared the living daylights out of me.

My husband later said it was the Avon man making my mom’s delivery.  Like I said, he wasn’t there yet but he saw the box.  And probably had been there early enough some other time to see the man.

Since I was in the band and we had early morning practices, I left my house long before anyone else got up.  (Side note: he was not in the band.  That’s how much he wanted to spend time with me – he got to school over an hour before he needed to.)  I never knew (or don’t recall) if my parents ever knew how much time my boyfriend was spending at the house in the morning.  Or that he was deliberately coming early to catch me before I was ready.  Or that him doing so made me at least a little bit uncomfortable.

I’m glad that it went the way it did though.  If they had known, they might have warned me that the behavior was odd.  And that I should cut him loose.  Yes, the behavior was odd.  But we’ve navigated his oddities for a long time now and I’m happy for it.

A Grammar Nerd’s Defense

I’m raising Grammar Nerds.  I refuse to call them Grammar Nazis and I truly do wish we could retire that term.

I recently commented on Facebook about the poor grammar in a letter sent out by our school.  I said something about expecting better from the school I send my children to.  What I forgot to consider was that I live in a small town.  And so I probably know the person who wrote the letter.

Well, I do.  And she’s one of the sweetest, nicest people you could ever meet.  And she was embarrassed and hurt by my remark.  I felt terrible.  On the one hand, I don’t think I was (strictly speaking) wrong to expect more from my school.  On the other hand, I had caused harm by bringing it up in a public manner.  Normally, I would do it privately, and only if I felt the person would want to fix it.

At any rate, I was telling some friends about how terrible I felt.  One of them very sternly told me, “That was bad.  Really bad.  People don’t like it when people do that.  That’s where the term Grammar Nazi comes from.  Because it’s bad.  People don’t like it.”

Let’s just rein it back in for a minute, shall we?  I publicly remarked that a letter that did contain grammar mistakes… contained grammar mistakes.  This wasn’t a random post on Facebook.  It wasn’t an email or text message or some other throwaway communication.  It was official correspondence from my child’s school.  And it was not well edited before it was released.

Was my complaint really comparable to the starvation, torture, rape, and execution of tens of thousands of people?  I mean, really?  Let’s try to keep it in perspective, please.

Needless to say, when I saw a sign on the door at the school saying “Our student’s safety is our top priority”, I kept my mouth shut.  Well, not completely.  I told Jane about the sign, without telling her the mistake, and asked her how it should be spelled.  She said, “S-T-U-D-E-N-T-S apostrophe.  What, did they put the apostrophe before the S?”

She smiled as I commented that I didn’t realize the school was only worried about one student and wondered which one it was.

It was less than a week later when the boys brought home a T-shirt order form from their school.  The logo said “To Our School We Proudly Hale”.  Jane was the first to point out that they meant Hail.

We contacted some folks who were very appreciative that we brought it to their attention before the shirts went to print.  It’s nice, as a grammar nerd, to be granted appreciation instead of scorn.  It’s much nicer than being scowled at.  Then again, I suppose how we approach the correction makes all the difference.

But you see, it’s not easy to turn it off.  We notice.  And we actually don’t find grammar all that hard.  We get that it’s easy to type something wrong.  But if it’s something that you’ve read over, there probably shouldn’t be many mistakes.  At least, not the really big ones.  We try to consider people’s feelings, but sometimes the timing is just too perfect or the temptation too great or the frustration too much to bear in silence.

Take a conversation Jane was having with some friends.  She remarked that she was not going to be an orchestra teacher when she grew up and then pointed to one of the girls and indicated that she probably would.

The girl responded, “I’m not going to be no orchestra teacher.”

Jane immediately fired back with, “You aren’t going to be an English teacher either!”

Ok, so out of line?  Yeah.  Probably.  Funny?  Hell, yeah!  I couldn’t believe she had said it, but at the same time, I couldn’t help feeling a little proud of her either.

One final proud Grammar Mom moment?  I’ve had multiple adults tell me that they ask Daryl for any spelling help they need.  One of them had barely met him two years ago when he was in the third grade.  One of the other students had made a sign that said “Flower Shop”.  Only, she had spelled it “Flower Shope”.  All the other kids told the girl that the E shouldn’t be there.  Daryl walked by, glanced at the sign, and said, “If you want to spell it with an E, you need two P’s.”

We can’t help it, my children and I.  We live in words.  We immerse ourselves in books.  We love to write.  We love the language.  And it actually hurts to see it butchered, even accidentally.  So we try to be compassionate and consider people’s feelings, we really do.  But sometimes, our instincts get the best of us and we just have to let it out.  At least I haven’t taken to carrying around a bottle of white-out and a Sharpie to fix all the misplaced commas and apostrophes that I come across!

The Great Cherry Coke Hunt

I wanted a Cherry Coke.  Really badly.

Most of my adult life I have eschewed soft drinks of any kind.  Either that, or I’ve consumed Code Red.  Or… when concerned about calories, Diet Mountain Dew with cherry drink flavoring added.  I have vacillated between total abstinence and Diet Mountain Dew off and on over the last couple of decades.

Until my doctor expressed her dismay that I was adding chemicals to chemicals and drinking it.  She even started holding me up as an (anonymous) example to her other patients of someone “who ought to know better” doing something profoundly stupid.  And other friends started telling me just how bad the Dew was.

So I kicked Mountain Dew to the curb.

But every once in awhile, during “Happy Hour” at Sonic, I’d get a Coke Zero with cherry and vanilla flavoring added.  I grew to like it.  And then I started worrying about artificial sweeteners.

So a few weeks ago, when I was so very tired at work, I bought a regular, non-diet Cherry Coke.  And loved it.  I knew I was starting a new indulgent phase but justified it (just as I always have) by telling myself that I only drink one 20 oz. bottle a week.  I’ve had one just about every week since.  If I could find it.  A couple of times I’ve had to settle for the inferior Wild Cherry Pepsi.

Because, you see, the Coca-Cola vending machines at work are not overfond of stocking Cherry Coke.  There’s one in the building across from mine, but it’s persnickety about taking my money.  Meaning it often won’t.

And on this particular day last week, when I really didn’t want to settle for Pepsi, it wouldn’t let me feed my dollars in.  Wouldn’t even try to take them.  I knew that the nearby machines didn’t carry Cherry Coke so I widened my search radius.  I checked six additional Coke and Dasani machines, hoping to find Cherry.  I searched upstairs and downstairs.  No Cherry Coke.

I popped my head into an honor-system snack bar and exchanged my bills for quarters.  And tried them in the special golden Cherry Coke possessing machine.  And heard my quarter fall all the way down to the coin return.

Dejected, I left the building and ran into an acquaintance.  I told him my tale of woe.  He asked if I had tried training.  When I asked if they had Cherry Coke in that machine, he said, “I don’t know, but it can’t hurt to check.”

This was an absurd statement since that particular machine was at the far end of the facility.  I pointed out that I was, quite contrary to my norm, wearing heals.  I had already walked enough and couldn’t walk all the way down there on a chance that I’d find Cherry Coke.

“Take my scooter,” he said.  “Seriously, I’m going to be in this building for a little while.  Just go ahead and take it.”

He’s crazy, I thought to myself.  And I am too if I actually take him up on his offer.

And then I climbed into the scooter.  It took me awhile to figure out how to put it in reverse.  I thought I’d thoroughly embarrass myself by climbing back out without going anywhere.  But finally, I was on the go.

I drove to the other end and parked in front of the training department.  I walked past the front desk like I knew exactly what I was doing and entered the break area.  I turned to face the Coca-Cola machine.  The first thing I noticed was the row of Cherry Cokes!  The second thing I noticed was the sign taped to the front that said “Does not work!”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I said something to the woman at the front desk.  And in her, I found a kindred spirit.  A fellow lover of Cherry Coke.  We shared our similar, yet opposite sorrowful tales.  How mine wouldn’t take my money and how hers would take the money but not give her a drink.  She affirmed my crazy scooter borrowing action by stating she would have done the same in a heartbeat.

I stopped at another building and checked some more machines.  I finally resigned myself to Wild Cherry Pepsi.  And felt more than just a tad ridiculous that I had expended the level of time and energy I had to hunt down a Cherry Coke.

Why Do They Call Them SLEEP Overs Anyway?

Daryl had his first sleepover party Friday night, with four of his closest friends.  The last sleepover party (being distinguished from just having a friend or two over) was 3 or 4 years ago for Jane.

Let me just say that boys are waaaaaaaayyyyyy different from girls.  The biggest mishap with the girls was when someone dropped their nail polish bottle and some of the polish splattered out all over the we-don’t-care-about-it-30-year-old-linoleum floor in a room marked for remodeling.  And it was easily cleaned up.

The boys…  well… the boys had a lot of energy.  And they were loud.  They opened presents while my husband and I were back in our bedroom trying to get a little quiet time while we ate our pizza.

They went outside before it got dark.  I stepped out to check on them just in time to see a boy throw something that made a clunk as it stuck into a piece of plywood on the ground.  The other two exclaimed in delight and I began to suspect that… surely not…

“What are you guys doing?”

“Oh, just throwing a sharp piece of wood to see if it’ll stick.”

“Are you sure it’s not a sharp piece of metal?”

Yep.  They were throwing a knife.  A long, former kitchen knife whose handle had seen better days that they found… somewhere…  After that, they moved to pushing a large tub of water down the slide to see what would happen.  Eventually, they returned to the house.

Where a boy promptly got himself trapped in the bathroom.  A mechanism in the doorknob had broken.  We tried to disassemble the knob from the hallway but weren’t successful.  My husband then went outside and instructed the boy to open the window.  He then fed tools in to the kid, who followed his instructions to finish disassembling the knob from the inside.  The door still wouldn’t release, until we saw what part was broken and compensated for it.

Freed from the bathroom, he rejoined the others, who were having yet another epic battle in that slated-for-remodel room that suffered a nail polish spill a few years earlier.  There was a rubber Minecraft sword, a rubber Minecraft pick ax, a couple of thin plastic swords, a wooden sword, and a “whip” that was actually the long plastic tube for some toy.  There were also projectiles: a football and my two exercise weight balls.  I quickly reminded them that there was pottery and glassware all over that room and I’d appreciate them not throwing heavy objects at each other.

The office chair that sits at our computer was used as a tank of sorts, with kids using it to glide quickly across the battlefield.  Until it broke.  When someone jumped on it.  We hated that chair but we weren’t necessarily ready to replace it.

During the night, they decided to add ice cubes to the bowl of Hershey almond nuggets.  So much for using the leftover candy for party favors for Hal’s party.  They also spilled stuff – just water, I think – on the rug and scattered candy all over the place.

And made a lot of noise.  I mean, a lot.

We told them at midnight that we were going to bed and they needed to try to keep it down.  I went in and reminded them again at 1:30.  And 2:00.  And 2:20.  And 2:55.  And 3:10.

By 3:30, I was fed up and desperate.  I stomped back into the living room and said, “Look.  I’m sorry.  But it’s time to turn off the TV, turn off the lights, and be quiet.  I mean, quiet.  No sound.  I’m done.  I have another birthday party to run today and I need my sleep!”

Of course, they were dead to the world the next morning.  I was dead to the world for the entire day.  Shoot, maybe the entire weekend.  Somehow, though, I managed to pull off Hal’s party that afternoon with only a few minor mishaps.  Like buying cups when I was serving Caprisuns.  And forgetting candles and a lighter.  And not bringing bowls for the grapes and cheese crackers.  Yet bringing forks even though they were eating cupcakes.

By the end of the day Saturday, I had also managed to confirm that none of the boys from Daryl’s party had accidentally ended up with one of the other boy’s Xbox controller.  And it was definitely not in my living room.  So it looks like the cost of the party will be increased by the cost of replacing the controller.  And the office chair.  And the bathroom doorknob.

Oh, well.  At least he had a good time.  And I truly wish him the best of luck in convincing me to ever do it again.