The Hailstorm That Wasn’t

It was to be the largest hailstorm in recent memory. Much worse and more widespread than the one a few weeks earlier that had destroyed so much property. Baseball sized, no grapefruit sized! As so often happens, though, it didn’t materialize. It nevertheless destroyed my car more thoroughly than if it had.

The day before, I overheard a coworker telling people they needed to come to work early so they could leave early and get home before the hail started. He can be a little bit excitable so I discounted his comments. The morning of the great storm-to-be, it was all over the TV’s at the gym. They ran videos of the hail damage from the earlier storm. I began to take note.

At home, we discussed the weather. According to my husband, the hail was likely coming around 6:00, not the 3:00 my coworker had been putting forward the day before. Still, I had a voice lesson at the church at 6:00; I wouldn’t be home until closer to 7:00. I was worried about my pretty little green Prius.

I knew it was only mine temporarily. In theory, Jane was to buy it from us once she got out of debt and saved up the money. But her debt meant it would likely be months before that happened, and I really liked driving that car. I kept it clean and uncluttered. I didn’t have to get a key out to unlock it or drive it. My phone connected to bluetooth, allowing me to answer the phone safely while driving. I smiled every time I saw it and I really didn’t want it covered in dents or the windshield smashed. After all, we had paid cash for it and chosen to carry only liability insurance.

So I began to analyze the situation. I had initially thought I’d park it under our carport and drive the truck. But then my husband stated his intentions to drive the truck to choir that evening. Since he’d leave home for the church before I got back from the church, whichever of us drove the truck, the other would be in a Prius at the church during hail prime time.

I cast my mind about for a vehicle that could accept hail damage more acceptably and landed on Jane’s van. It was old and beat up. It had weathered several minor accidents already, sporting a shattered mirror, missing antenna, a missing chunk of back bumper, and a few other dents and scratches. Hail damage would not diminish the appearance of the vehicle. Plus, its windows were more vertical than those of a Prius, making them less susceptible to shattering under falling grapefruits.

I proposed an exchange with Jane. I didn’t figure it’d be a problem since she loved driving my car. She was remarkably resistant, mostly because she didn’t understand why. So I explained that I wanted my car under the carport when the storm hit. She eventually agreed and then I told her, “Oh, yeah, and it’s almost out of gas so you’ll have to fill up first thing when you leave the house.” Which she did, to our amusement later.

At work that day, there were printouts all over the place about the pending bad weather. People left early. I got texts from the school district about whether they were or were not adapting various plans due to the weather. I learned from my husband that choir had been canceled – after it had been moved on top of my voice lesson, which was also canceled.

All of that meant that I was leaving work earlier than planned – around 5:00, tasked with picking up my husband’s prescription and our middle child from a school event. On my way to my daughter’s van, I got a text from her laughing about how she had wandered the parking lot for 10 minutes looking for her car. “I see it!” I responded, “I’ll bring it to you.”

I was in a good mood. Our evening had unexpectedly freed up. We’d all be home and tucked away safely in the house before 6:00. We could look through the photos from our family and Jane’s senior photo shoots and make our final selections. And we might even have time to get yet another Marvel movie watched – maybe Civil War or Guardians of the Galaxy – in preparation for watching End Game that weekend. Life was good. I even imagined my cute little green Prius parked safely under the carport.

Then my phone rang. I answered it only to hear Jane’s voice moaning, “Mommy, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry, Mommy. I’m so sorry. Oh, Mommy, I’m so sorry.” Eventually she stammered it out. She had gotten in a wreck in my car.

The details were unclear. I didn’t understand why my car wasn’t under the carport. I didn’t understand why she was where she was. I was caught between believing/hoping it wasn’t that bad to knowing it must be. I told her to call her dad. I, after all, was on a tight schedule to get the boy picked up in time.

A minute or two later, my husband called and suggested I go to the wreck since I was already in town. He’d take care of the errands I was on. So I headed up the access road where she said she was. I started scanning for the vehicle. Was it still in the road? Or had she been able to pull into a parking lot? Oh, please let the damage be minimal. Oh, shoot, we don’t have comprehensive and collision. Images of me approaching a car with visible damage every day at work flashed into my head. Oh, please let it not be her fault. If it’s not her fault, we can get it repaired. Oh, please let it not be her fault.

And then I saw it. It was in the middle lane, cars moving slowly around it on either side. Its back was pristine but I could see debris in front of it. Her fault, then. My heart sank. But where was the other car? Was she still in the car? I pulled into the nearest parking lot and called her. Confusion reigned. She was in “the red truck.” Which red truck? There were two. Whose red truck? Why was she there? Where’s the other car? Did they leave?

Eventually it all sorted out. It was raining. She had misjudged the line of cars in front of her and how slowly they were moving. The other car had driven into a nearby gas station after the wreck. The truck belonged to a volunteer firefighter who had unlocked it for her to sit in and then gone to the gas station to check on the people in the other vehicle. He talked to me briefly before donning his jacket with reflective tape to go direct traffic until the police arrived.

Jane was stunned and kept repeating how sorry she was. “Why was I even in your car?” she asked. “I should have been in my van.”

So here we are now. The car is a total loss. The money spent to purchase it essentially a very expensive 4 month lease. Our insurance will go up. We’ll need to pay the tow company that towed my pretty little green Prius away. Our plans for our upcoming next driver to have a vehicle will have to change. I’m back in the truck. Jane’s prospects for getting out of her van into a more fuel efficient vehicle are bleak. All because we thought it was going to hail.

The evening didn’t go as I had envisioned. We were all still safely home and I was very grateful for that – it could have been much worse. We still looked at the pictures although we were all more subdued than joyful. Instead of watching a movie, my husband and I sat and talked at length about what to do next. Then we talked with Jane about our decisions.

I thought I was handling it well. I wasn’t dwelling on what-ifs. I was just accepting it. It had happened, there was nothing I could do about it. My car was gone, but my daughter was ok. I was ok.

But I didn’t sleep well that night. I woke up in a funk. Maybe my imagined acceptance was actually avoidance. I finally cried just a little bit as my husband held me. My pretty little green Prius. But my pretty little child is more important. Her mental and emotional state after, so much more important. The fact that she wasn’t hurt – more important. I’m still going to miss my car though.

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Happy Friday!

I was sitting on my bed reading a book before bedtime when Jane approached, purse on arm and keys in hand.

“Amy left her earbuds in my car. She’s getting ready to go to the gym so I’m going to run them in to her.”

“Why doesn’t she come out here to get them?” I asked.

“It’s not a big deal, mom.”

“Yes it is. It doesn’t make sense. She forgot them in your car, she should come out here and get them.

“Really, mom,  I don’t mind. It’s really not a big deal.”

“You are spending your gas money! You are going to spend 20-30 minutes on the road. Just so Amy can have her earbuds. It doesn’t make sense.”

“Mom, it’s fine! Amy drives me around town all the time. I just leave my car at school. It’s fine. I don’t mind.”

“Ok, whatever,” I said, realizing that this wasn’t a hill I needed to die on even if it made no sense to me.

I heard her come back in the house some time later, thought I heard her messing around at the other end of the house for a bit, and then finally she went to her room. I got up some time later to tell Daryl something in the living room. As I headed down the hall, I encountered a chair that I had asked her to return to the dining room earlier in the evening. I cracked open her door and wryly thanked her for putting it away.

“I’ll take care of it, mom.”

“No, that’s ok. I’ve got it,” I said, closing the door and then picking up the chair as I went down the hall.

“Mom! I said I’ve got it!”

“It’s really not a big deal,” I called back, trying to remove the irritation that must have been in my voice the first time. She obviously thought I was mad at her, which I wasn’t.

“MOM!! Please! I said I’d take care of it!!”

Confused, I tried to soothe her. “Honey, I’m not mad at you. I’m going that way anyway. It’s really not a problem.”

MOM!!” She sounded like she was about to cry. “PLEASE don’t go to the dining room! I said I’d take care of the chair.”

“Ok,” I said, frustrated. “I’ve just set it down in the living room. Make sure you come take care of it.”

“Thank you. I will!” Relief. And fatigue.

After talking to Daryl, I passed back by her door and decided to open it again.

“Why can’t I go in the dining room?” I asked.

“You just can’t mom. Don’t worry about it.”

“What is it?”

“Just. Mom, it’s not a big deal. I just didn’t want you to go in there.” Her head was in her hands. She looked defeated.

“If it’s not a big deal, then why can’t I go in there?” Strangely, while I was getting a little frustrated, I wasn’t particularly suspicious nor angry.

“I just really didn’t want you to.”

We went a few more rounds of “why” followed by variations of “just because.”

“Is whatever I’m not supposed to see going to upset me?” I finally asked. Uncharacteristically, I was easily setting aside my curiosity and letting it go.

“No,” she said – dejected.

“Ok, then. I won’t go down there.”

“Thank you.”

“Good night sweetheart.”

“Good night mommy.”

I had forgotten the entire exchange by morning. As Hal and I prepared to head to school, I entered the dining room. And saw a vase with three red roses – one for each kid. And a note that said “Happy Friday!”

My husband wanted to treat me for Friday – a recently resurrected habit of his from our high school days – but was out of town. He had enlisted our eldest to help and it had nearly killed her.

“I’m a terrible liar,” she said. “I made up that story about Amy so I could go buy the flowers. And I didn’t want you to go in there because I had already set them up and Daddy had said it was really important that I didn’t let you see them before Friday.”

I’m not the kind of person that thinks God spends much time meddling in tiny, insignificant day-to-day matters. But looking back, my willingness to let it go – ME! Let it go! – seems a bit like a God thing.

I’m on my way… maybe…

My phone rang as I walked the long walk to my car after work.

“Mom? Are you coming to pick me up?”

“Nah. I was going to but I changed my mind…”

<silence>

“…I’ve decided to go to Florida instead.”

“What? How are you going to go to Florida in your truck?”

“How am I going to go to Florida?”

“Yes! You can’t go to Florida in your truck.”

“Do you really not know how people travel from one place to another? It’s simple. I get in my truck and I drive. Then I stop for gas. And then I drive. And then I stop for gas. And I stop to pee. And then I drive. And I keep doing that until I get to Florida.”

“You are not going to Florida.”

“Why not? How do you know I’m not going to Florida?”

“Mom!!” I could hear his friends in the background. “I want to go home!”

“Oh, well that’s a problem if I’m on my way to Florida.”

“Come pick me up!”

“If I pick you up, what, you want me to come home with you then?”

“Yes! You can watch me play Black Ops.”

“That doesn’t sound like fun. Florida sounds like fun.”

“You can eat crackers.”

“What?”

“Crackers.”

“What about crackers?”

“You can eat them while you watch me play Black Ops. Or whatever it is you eat. Black Ops is awesome.”

“I don’t like watching you play Black Ops – that’s your dad. Mickey Mouse is in Florida. That sounds more fun to me. I mean, come on! Mickey!” At this point, I climbed into my truck and began to drive to the high school.

“I’m trying to celebrate. Come get me.”

“Celebrate? Celebrate what?”

{something garbled that sounded like “Football is over! Forever!”}

“Football isn’t over. You have a game on Thursday.”

{more garble that sounded like “This was the last practice! Ever!”}

“Last practice ever? Wait, I thought you loved football. You don’t plan on playing next year? Really?”

“No, mom! Last freshman football practice. It’s done.”

“It’s not done. You still have a game on Thursday.”

“Mom, come on. You need to pick me up.”

“Ok, fine. I’m on my way.”

“Good.”

“It’s going to take me a while to get there though. I had already made it to Alabama before you called.”

“Alabama’s not even that far away mom.”

I laughed. “You need to pay more attention to geography if you think Alabama is close.”

“You can fly.” Again, I could hear his friends talking and laughing.

“I can’t believe you are talking about my super powers in front of your friends. You know I don’t like people to know that I can fly.”

“Mom!”

“Besides, I’m not strong enough to carry the truck with me all the way back from Alabama.”

“Please just come pick me up!”

“I am! I’m on my way right now.”

“Wait, so you mean you are talking to me on the phone while you are driving? That’s not safe, mom!”

“Ok, fine. You are right. Bye!”

I set my phone down with a chuckle. I’m so glad he’s a good sport.

 

Daryl and the AIDS-laden Turtle

I turned down a long narrow road after picking Daryl up from football practice. As I approached the end of the road, I noticed something in the way. At first I thought it was just a bit of tire from a semi-truck, but as I got closer, I saw it for what it was.

There was a medium/smallish turtle standing still in the center of my lane, head stretched up toward the sky. The road was a divided two-lane road with curbs on the side and on the median. There was literally no way for me to go around the turtle. Maybe my truck could pass over the top of him, if he ducked his head into his shell, but I didn’t want to chance it.

“Hey,” I said to my oblivious son. “Go move the turtle.”

“Huh?”

“Go move the turtle. Take him all the way over to the other side. Not just the median and not back that way,” I said, as I motioned around us. Since my last turtle-in-the-road debacle, I had learned that you move turtles in the direction they are going. Doing anything else will just cause them to enter the road again.

“What?”

“GET OUT OF THE TRUCK. GO MOVE THE TURTLE.”

“Huh?” He looked up from his phone. “Oh, hey! Look! There’s a turtle!”

“YES! That’s what I said. Now go move him,” I said, repeating all the details of where.

“But why?”

“He’s blocking my path. Just go move him!” I said, checking that there was no one behind us.

“But what if it’s a snapping turtle?”

“It’s not.”

“But what if it is?”

“Then be careful. Just get out there and pick him up.”

Daryl exited the truck and approached the turtle with a level of caution I would typically reserve for mountain lions or rattle snakes – assuming I was being forced to approach them for some reason.

He started to pick up the turtle and it moved suddenly. Daryl jumped back. He started trying to “shoo” the turtle by pushing it with his foot. The turtle responded by running in the wrong direction and then turning to face him.

The dance continued as I rolled down my window and called out, “Just pick him up and move him!”

“But he’s trying to bite me!”

“No he’s not!”

“Yes he is!”

“Just move the turtle, boy! What’s wrong with you?” I asked, exasperated but reaching for my cell phone to catch his hesitation on film.

His fourth or fifth attempt at lifting the turtle, he didn’t jerk and let go when it moved its legs and he quickly moved it… to the median. Not to the other side of the other lane as I had instructed.

“No!” I cried out, knowing that the turtle would now have to cross the other lane as well. “Move him all the way to the other side!”

“No!” he responded in kind as he returned to the car. “He’s out of the way and there’s a car coming up behind us now.”

“Only because you took so long! Now he’s going to have to cross the other street.”

“That’ll take him a million years to get to it.” (The median was very narrow).

“No it won’t. I saw how fast he moved on you! Why were you afraid of the turtle?”

“I wasn’t afraid of the turtle.”

“You were totally afraid of the turtle.”

“No. It was an alligator snapping turtle.”

“It was not.”

“It was trying to bite me!”

“No it wasn’t!”

“It kept touching me.”

“So?”

“I’d go to pick it up and then it would start walking and its leg would touch my hand. Yuck!”

“So what?”

“It might give me AIDS.”

“You can’t get AIDS from a turtle!”

“You don’t know that.”

“Actually, I do.”

“I could have gotten AIDS.”

“Turtles don’t get AIDS. You can’t get AIDS from touching a turtle.”

“Uh-huh. He could have been rolling around in it. He could have had it all over him.”

“AIDS is a condition that you can develop if you contract the HIV virus. It’s not something that turtles can ‘pick up’ from ‘rolling around’ in the grass. HIV can’t survive out in the open long enough for that to be a thing.”

“Yes it can. I know these things. I’m in Biology.”

We traveled in silence for a while before I brought it back up. “If you had just finished picking it up, then its legs would have just sagged and not been touching you anymore.”

“No! It’d keep running. Vrrr-vrrr-vrrr,” he said, making rapid ‘running’ motions with his arms and sound effects with his mouth.

“It doesn’t matter anyway. It’s just a turtle. You are a wuss.”

“No I’m not. Man, I’m tough. That was an alligator snapping turtle!”

“No it wasn’t!”

He answered his phone about then. His dad was calling. Daryl gave him our approximate location and then sat silently as he listened to his dad talk.

I leaned over slightly and called out, “Your son was afraid of a turtle!”

“It was an alligator turtle,” he protested, “and it could have given me AIDS!”

His dad must have mentioned that the turtle couldn’t give him AIDS because turtles are cold blooded, because Daryl then said, “It’s called cold blooded AIDS. C-B-A-I-D-S. It’s real man.”

Daryl then passed on a question from his dad – what were my plans for the night.

“I need to write a blog post,” I responded.

Daryl dutifully told his dad, “She’s going to write a blog post.” Then there was the briefest pause as realization of the topic struck him, “{Smack} Hey!”

I just laughed. The phone conversation ended and we drove along in silence some more. As we approached the intersection at which I had totaled a previous car due to rubber-necking while people were dealing with a very large honest-to-goodness alligator snapping turtle, I brought it up again.

“You know, I watched an eleven year old girl in a dance leotard – BARE FOOTED – pick up an actual alligator snapping turtle, much bigger than the one you were afraid of, and carry it all the way across the highway.”

“I wasn’t afraid of it!”

“Yes you were. You are a wuss. Weaker than an eleven year old girl.”

“No! Eleven year old girls are just too young! They don’t know any better. They are too stupid to avoid them.”

“Whatever. You are a wuss.”

“Uh-huh. And is that eleven year old girl going to play football? Huh? I don’t think so.” He sat back with a smug, self-satisfied smile.

“Don’t try to change the subject. You might play football but you were afraid of a little turtle. Wuss.”

You know, don’t tell Daryl, but it might really have been a snapping turtle. It wasn’t big and I don’t think it could have gotten its head around to bite Daryl, but it was responding rather aggressively. Just don’t tell him I said that though. OK?

And in case you are wondering, Daryl knows he can’t get AIDS from a turtle. It’s just fun when he pretends to be a confidently wrong idiot and we banter back and forth. He also knows he was being timid and I know (and he knows that I know) he’s not really a wuss. Except when it comes to turtles, of course.

 

 

As Little As Possible

While I love my children dearly, sometimes I wish they had an interest in doing more than the bare minimum to get by. Many parents will probably laugh and say that this is perfectly normal, that my children are not unusual. That’s probably true but this minimalist approach to tasks has manifested itself in some crazy ways in the Bright Spots household.

First, there’s Daryl and the yard work. He’s responsible for mowing and weed-eating. The mowing he accomplishes reasonably well – it’s a riding mower. The weed-eating, on the other hand, is another story. After he claims to have finished, we will stand in the yard, looking at the tall grass along the edge of the sidewalk, driveway, house and other buildings, along the fence, around the mailbox and telephone pole and swing set and wonder what, exactly, he cut with that whirling string.

Around the trees, he’ll explain. The trees, at this point, still have visibly taller wisps of grass around them too.

There is a grass covered ramp leading up to one of our buildings and a ledge along the front. The grass along the ledge had topped six feet and the grass on the ramp was knee high. So one weekend we told him he absolutely had to weed-eat and he especially needed to make sure he got the ramp.

We came home to a ramp basically knocked down but the tall grass on either side still present. When asked, he claimed that was an area he gets with the mower. Of course, when he mows, he claims it’s grass he gets with the weed-eater. And if it was mowed grass, it wouldn’t be so much taller than all the other mowed grass.

“Daryl,” I said. “Every single piece of grass on this property has to get cut. Every time. By either the mower or the weed-eater. By you. Every blade of grass. Every. Single. Time.”

He looked at me like I was crazy.

Then there’s laundry. I had a load of “whites” dumped out on our bed. That load has towels, my husband’s undershirts, and Hal’s white socks. I asked the boys to please go fold the towels.

When I returned home, the towels had indeed been folded. But not the 2 dish towels, 1 washcloth, and 2 hand towels. And the towels still sat on our bed even though every single time I ask them to fold the towels, I then ask them to put them away in their bathroom. And Hal’s socks were strewn all across my bed. Even though he knows he’s responsible for matching up his socks and putting them away.

I mean, I guess I should have said, “Please fold the towels – and that includes towels of all sizes and all destinations so don’t forget the washcloths and dish towels. Make sure you put them all away when you are done too. And, oh, Hal, go ahead and take care of your socks.”

But quite frankly, that’s exhausting. And I’ve tried that before and I think they zone out and I get no more work out of them then when I just say “fold the towels.”

Curious about just how far this apathy goes, I set their stack of towels just outside their bathroom door. Would any of the three children pick up the stack, walk the three feet to the bathroom cabinet and put them away? It’s been a few days. You tell me.

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Staring Contest

Hal entered the dining room with a blue towel wrapped tightly around his hips, hair wet from his shower. He stared at me intently and asked, with a small enigmatic smile on his clean face, “Do my eyes look red?”

I glanced at his eyes, not sure whether I was to look at his eyeballs or the surrounding skin. I thought that maybe – maybe – the rims of his eyes, especially along the bottom might have been red. “Yeah, little bit, looks like,” I said.

He smiled and turned to his dad, who nodded. He turned back slightly to take in both of us and said, with humor in his voice, “I was having a staring contest.” He paused for dramatic effect, just long enough for me to wonder with whom. He answered that question when he resumed, “With myself in the mirror and my eyes were starting to sting.” Again he paused, looking back and forth between his patient audience members. I had time to imagine him leaning into the mirror, straining to keep his eyes open, tears forming, and then he dropped the punchline with a wide smile, “until we both blinked. At the same time.”

We both barked out a laugh, which made his smile engulf his face. The last part of the evening had been like that – Hal telling a good joke. Hal laughing freely when we gently poked fun at him. The usual strident arguing, defensive posturing, and quick, overblown outrage we have become accustomed to were all missing. Hopefully this means he is growing up. The witty personality underneath is quite a delight.

When Pants Plans Go Awry

Daryl wasn’t the only Bright Spots household member with big sartorial plans for the first day of school. And while his outfit planning made for a great comedy display, the other was more tragedy.

Hal eagerly exited bed on the first day of school and threw on one of his favorite T-shirts (chosen, incidentally, to brag about his big brother going to DI Global Finals this year – Daryl has no idea how much his little brother looks up to him) plus the running pants with the bright orange stripes down the sides and his new “sock style” sneakers. As he hurried past me, I stopped him. “Whoa, come here – step into the light.”

I then proceeded to point out to him that in addition to the sizable hole in one knee, the pants were noticeably too short for him. This is a common problem for my fourth grade beanpole who has easily topped five foot but isn’t any bigger around than his small classmates. Pants are almost always too short – either that, or way too wide around the waist.

“Why don’t you put on some jeans instead?” I asked.

He returned a few minutes later wearing jeans and a very sour expression. “It looks awful!” he declared as he flopped onto my bed. I glanced at his sister and shrugged. He looked like a little boy wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and sneakers – the classic American kid.

“It looks fine,” I said. “What’s wrong with it?”

He gestured to his legs and feet with exaggerated disgust and with the general air that I must be stupid if I can’t see it. “They don’t look right with these shoes!” he cried before throwing himself back on the bed.

“What’s wrong with the jeans?” asked Jane. “They look fine.”

More rapid, frustrated gesturing before he sputtered, “They are too THICK!”

“Too think?” I asked, confused. “They are jeans. They are the thickness of jeans. It doesn’t look bad.”

“No! No! They are too THICK!!”

He was rapidly losing control so I headed to his room to look for alternatives while his sister tried to discern what he meant. Eventually she got out of him that “thick” really meant “wide.” He didn’t like the straight-leg jeans, preferring the tapered style of sweats he usually wears.

“So you want some skinny jeans?” she asked. I cringed as she said that, already knowing the answer.

“No!! I don’t like skinny jeans! They hurt behind my knees when I sit down!”

I called him in to his room to try on some other running pants I found. “I’m concerned they are too short like the others,” I said. “But if you want to try them, here.”

He tried them on and sure enough, they were too short. He insisted they were fine.

“Honey,” I tried. “I don’t want the other kids to make fun of you for wearing pants that are too short. That’s like one of the big things that gets pointed out. They really are too short. Let’s try to find something else.”

“Too short? Too short? Why would Mimi buy me pants if they are too short??!!”

“Well, they probably weren’t too short when she bought them.”

“No, I mean Mimi bought me two pairs of these. Two. Why would she buy two different sizes?”

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

“The others aren’t too short. Why would these be too short? Huh?!”

“I don’t know. Maybe those are too short too…”

“NO!! They aren’t!”

“Ok,” I soothed, as I looked in the hamper. Extracting the pair he had worn the day before, I continued, “Are these the ones that fit?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, well, these are 14-16’s. The ones you are wearing are 10-12’s – no wonder they are too short.”

After a discussion on whether the pair from the hamper were too dirty – me explaining that he wore them to church and then just around the house, he’d be fine – he changed into his fourth pair of pants for the morning and the crisis was resolved. Such drama on the first day of school!