Tuesday, April 30, 2013

952. Z Is for Zoo with Zero Zebras

When my younger son, Short, was about three years old, he became obsessed with zebras.  He adored stuffed animal zebras, books about zebras, sticker of zebras … basically anything that had a picture of a zebra on it, he wanted.  How thrilled were we when we received an invitation in the mail to the local zoo for a free trial membership. 

It was summer, so I did not even have to pull my older son, Tall, out of school for the outing.  Both children were excited to see lions, tigers, and zebras—oh my! 
The day started out uneventfully:  a cheetah, a gorilla, a few snakes.  We progressed on to the elephants and then the giraffes.  I was saving the big highlight for right after lunch—the threat of no zebras would guarantee our mealtime would remain calm and orderly. 

Sure enough, something upset Short at lunch (the fact that his apple juice was lukewarm, if you must know) and he began to have a meltdown verging dangerously close to full-blown tantrum.  I took his favorite stuffed animal Zebra (nickname: “Zeebie”) out of his stroller and gave Short a stern lecture: 
“See this?  Zebra?  You love zebras, right?  We came to see zebras.  If you have gooooooood behavior, we can see the zebras.  If you don’t, then … no.  We will go home.” 

His dour expression changed instantly, and the crying and whining stopped.  He morphed into the Stepford child I had always dreamed of having:  quiet, obedient, and profoundly sorry for causing a problem. 
“I sorry, Mommy.”  (Sniff) “I want to see zebras.  I be good now.” 

He nodded his little head apologetically, forced a smile, and with that, I knew I had won. 
“Good, Short.  You made the right decision.  Because you are having good behavior, we will go see the zebras now.” 

I was going to keep this trick up my sleeve for future use as well.  We could come to the zoo every single week for the rest of eternity if it meant good behavior at mealtimes.  Heck, we could move in with the zebras.  I was ready to go to the zoo membership office right then and there, credit card in hand, to buy a lifetime membership for our entire family.  Why had other parents not thought of the Zebra Method of good parenting?  I was secretly considering patenting it. 
We threw away our lunch trash and excitedly headed over to the zebra pens.  There was some sort of wall or barricade with signs directing us through a detour.  As we approached, Tall started to read the sign out loud, clearly enunciating every syllable: 

“We apologize for the inconvenience, but the Zebra Habitat is temporarily closed for repairs and remodeling.  We will reopen in—” 
I could not react fast enough.  I was internally debating putting my hands over Tall’s mouth (and really, what kind of school teaches a 5 ½ year-old to read big words with that kind of accuracy?!) or putting my hands over Short’s ears.  My slow response caused me to do neither. 

“Milkshakes!” I screamed.  “Who wants milkshakes from the Milkshake Hut we just passed?  Ooh, I bet they have chocolate!”  Distract, distract, distract.    
“Zebras!” squawked Short, refusing to be distracted.  “I want to see zebras NOW!” 

I felt horrible.  Through my own stupidity, I had talked up the zebras.  I had used the zebras as a threat, and then, conversely, as a reward.  Now the damn zebras were beating me at my own game, a crazy game that I never really wanted to play in the first place.  How was I supposed to tell Short he could not see the zebras even after he had good behavior at lunch?  He would never trust me again.    
I did the only thing I could think of:  took Short to see the Mongolian wild horses that I knew from the zoo map were a mere two minute walk down the path.  The wild horses were not black and white striped, nor even black and white spotted; they were … brown.  Plain, boring, medium brown.  The color of dirt.    

“Look, Sweetie, look!  Zebras!  Brown zebras!”  I pointed at the Mongolian wild horses and began to jump up and down, like I was on crack.    
Just because Short was a three-years-old toddler did not mean he was dumb.  He shook his head emphatically no and said, “Mommy, those are horses.” 

Tall looked at me like I was insane.  He took a deep breath and began,
“Mom, the sign says—”

I grabbed Tall, pulled him close to me, and whispered in his ear:  “I will buy you a new Lego set if you go along with whatever I say next.” 
Tall’s eyes got wide; his mom had clearly lost any traces of sanity here at the zoo. 

I cleared my throat.  “Boys, the sign says, Przewalski’s horses, or Dzungarian horses, are a rare and endangered subspecies of wild horse native to central Asia, specifically Mongolia.  Sometimes referred to as ‘International Plain Brown Zebras.’  International Plain Brown Zebras!  You are so lucky you get to see these!  They are so unbelievably rare!  WOW!”
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Tall reading the sign quietly to himself again.  It took every shred of self-restraint that he possessed to not contradict me, but he has always been the son who can focus on the bigger gain (new Lego set) and give up the instant gratification (calling mommy out).  He stayed silent. 

In this moment, I was praising Short’s preschool teachers for rejecting all my previous helpful suggestions of flashcards and daily quizzing to get him reading early.  In fact, I was almost wishing we had watched more TV all those mornings when we were drawing or reading instead. 
Short looked at me.  He looked at Tall.  He looked at the horses.  And then he burst into applause. 

“Inner-naznal Plain Brown Zebras!  Yay!  They almost look like horses!” 
“Yes, Sweetie, they are from the same family, you are so smart!  Yes, but they are not!  They are actually a special type of zebra!” 

By this time, I was attracting a small crowd of interested zoo-goers who were not familiar with the myriad variations in the zebra species.  Specifically, a few zoo employees. 

I was not about to stick around and wait to be corrected by these khaki-uniformed zealots, so I ushered my children quickly to the car.  I was worried that Tall might say something deleterious when we got there, but he didn’t. 

And that explains why, whenever we pass a farm and happen to see a certain type of exotic creature, Short inevitably squeals,
“Oh, look, Mommy!  Inner-naznal Plain Brown Zebras!” 


Monday, April 29, 2013

951. Y Is for Youth and How to Keep It

Our society is obsessed with youth.  I remember being young (say, 20 or so), and feeling like no one would take me seriously.  Any HR person at any job I applied for eyed me suspiciously—Do you have any experience?—and I recall looking forward with eager anticipation to the day when my face and seriousness-taking factor would match. 

Oh, they match all right.  Everyone takes me seriously now. 
I go to the mall and those teeny-bopper kiosk girls shove eye cream samples at me as I walk by.  I go to the doctor and he suggests I switch to a high-fiber cereal and start working out immediately.  I go to Short’s soccer game and I overhear his coach ask him if that gray-haired lady (me) is his grandmother. 

But there is one place where I always look good, always look young, no matter what:  standing next to my brother. 
You see, he is 6’5” and built like a football player.  A very large football player with a nickname like “Tank.”  That means when I stand next to him in pictures I look like Petite Ballerina Barbie in comparison.  And since he is so tall, if we happen to take photos outside, I of course end up in the shade of him (like he is a giant tree or something) which tends to diminish those troublesome little lines that have found their way around my eyes and forehead.  I appear shadowy, and as we all know, shadowy = young. 

Most recently I went to England to visit my brother.  He is stationed there in the military.  We took a day trip to Stonehenge and of course took a few photos.  In the car I stared at my iPhone photos in awe:  I look 25!  Maybe even 20!  I don’t need to eat more fiber or use eye cream or fix my highlights—I just need to stand next to my brother all the time! 
Don't tell The Husband and my kids, but effective immediately, we are all moving to England.  And I won’t be packing any eye cream. 


Friday, April 26, 2013

949. W Is for Washing Machine Funeral

It was premature to even plan the funeral until my dear friend had actually died, but I knew she was getting close.  She had already lived a solid decade longer than anyone could have predicted, even with her present “condition,” which had symptoms of loud banging and clanking, along with excessive speeds at awkward intervals.  I had looked it up online and found out she had “Spinning Disorder” which was not curable.  Her life span would be less than one month at this point, and that was a generous estimate.    

The Husband was clearly on her side, and would have none of it when I brought up the subject of her imminent demise and (more happily) her replacement. 
“How can you even talk about Washing Machine like that?  I thought you loved Washing Machine,” he started, making me question my intimacy level with not only Washing Machine, but also with The Husband.  “I think we can get another few years out of her, and besides, I think she can hear us talking about her.” 

Now this was quite the reversal.  I was usually the one who ascribed personality traits and sometimes even names to inanimate objects, not The Husband.  Normally, he was pragmatic. 
“Sweetie,” I countered, “let’s be realistic.  Washing Machine was here when we bought the house almost four years ago, and she had already served her 20-year tour of duty for the previous owner.  Twenty-four in ‘appliance years’ is like 110 in people years.  She is beyond elderly, she’s ... ancient.”

The Husband adopted a peculiar look, a look of horror, mixed with disgust, with a dash of determination thrown in.  I had seen this same look before, right after my car engine died three years ago and had to be replaced.  The Husband was exhibiting classic signs of denial. 
“MOV, Washing Machine is not dead yet, and I refuse to acknowledge the possibility.” 

“Look, Sweetie, we just got our tax refund—$700!  And that is exactly what a decent quality washer costs.  Let’s go to Sears, scope out a few, and make a decision.”
The Husband shook his head forlornly.    

“No.  No.  I refuse.” 
He disappeared to the basement, and came back a few minutes later as if nothing had happened. 

“We’re going to Sears,” he said, getting his jacket. 
I tried to suppress my smug attitude and a devious smile, but I knew I had won. 

“MOV, Washing Machine is fine,” he clarified.  “Now Dryer won’t start.” 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

946. V Is for (Punchline)

Having two little boys means that they must accompany you on errands from time to time or you will remain on permanent house arrest for several years.  When I had my first baby, I tentatively dragged him to the grocery store or Target every few weeks; when I had my second son, I felt comfortable enough to take both kids to the vet or the bank or dry cleaner daily if need be.  It was all a matter of choosing a time of day when everyone was rested and well-fed. 

So I thought nothing of taking my adorable son Tall (age 3 and a half at the time) and his one-year-old baby brother to Trader Joe’s to pick up a few things. 
We had made our serpentine way around the aisles, picking up such essentials as bread, milk, juice, and frozen chicken nuggets.  I casually threw some chocolate cookies into the cart when the children were momentarily distracted by the guy giving out fajita samples. 

And then it happened. 
We turned a corner, heading to the check-out area, and Tall tugged excitedly on my sleeve, indicating something momentous. 

“Mommy, look!” he proclaimed, pointing.  “Over there, look! 
I was expecting to see Big Bird or Godzilla or at the very least, a cantaloupe display that had tipped over and blocked the ice-cream aisle.  Instead, he was pointing to a section of the store that I was already intimately familiar with. 

“Vino, Mommy!  Vino!  Your favorite!”  Now he was yelling, in his sweet little preschooler “outside” voice, a voice that was suddenly attracting a lot of unwanted attention from Trader Joe employees and other customers.  Anyone within a one-mile radius was craning their neck to look over at the mommy who clearly was a lush.    
I kept walking, feeling my face turn 100 shades of Valentine red, trying to ignore my son and silently pretending that he had just followed me in here and I had never met him before.  Tall was oblivious to my reaction, so he continued with his “helpfulness.”  He was quite exasperated with me at this point. 

“Mommy!  Mommy!  Don’t forget your vino!”  

At this point I realized that the only way to get him to stop screaming out was to put a bottle or five of vino into the cart.  He smiled, proud of himself for assisting his mommy in remembering something so crucial to her everyday existence.   
So, yes, the letter V is for … vino. 

("Mistress Of Vino")

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

944. T Is for Track

My older son, Tall, came home from school one day recently and announced that he was “trying out” for track.  First of all, he is in third grade and there are not that many kids who want to run track, so pretty much whoever shows up gets to be on the team.  Second, he is an extremely fast runner, so I knew that even if there were “try outs,” he would be accepted.  Third, I was thrilled that Tall would be involved in a sport that was focused on speed, as opposed to a sport like baseball that is apparently focused on watching disabled snails compete with turtles in wheelchairs.  I am not saying that baseball is a slow sport, but … okay, yes I am.      

Boy, was I wrong about everything.  Not the part about Tall being fast enough for track, he is very fast.  I was wrong about no one else wanting to run track, because when I showed up to the first meet, there were 300 students there. 
Three hundred kids.  Not all of them can race each other at the same time, obviously, so they are broken into little groups of six.  And most of the kids want to run in two or three different “events,” not just one.  Do the math.  Three hundred divided by six, times two or three.  That equals eleventy billion combinations of runners competing against each other in races of varying lengths with zero regard to parents' schedules or desires to relax on the weekend. 

I was not prepared for this. 
I am a soccer and basketball mom.  Those games have clocks and whistles and timers and 15 minute quarters.  Everyone knows what they are getting into when they go to a game or a practice.  Go to a soccer game at 10 am and you can still make it to brunch at 11:15.  Watch a basketball game at 1 pm, and you are guaranteed to be done in time for that 2 pm birthday party.    

Not so with track.  Our entire family showed up at the meet at 12 noon, and we were walking out of there at … brace yourself here … 5 pm.  That’s right, 5 pm.  How is that even possible?  Five full hours of running?  For my son to only run a total of three races (sprints!) of less than two minutes each?
And I noticed a strange phenomenon after the first few hours:  some parents left early.  Their child was done competing, and so they just ... left.  At first, I was indignant.  How dare they leave when others are not done yet?  And then I decided that they were actually really really smart, and that we, too, would leave as soon as Tall was done.  Turns out, Tall was in the second to last race, so we would not be leaving early.  I went back to feeling indignant.   
As we walked to the car after five brutal hours watching children run while their younger siblings waited valiantly, my younger son, Short, turned to me and observed wryly,  

“Mommy, I don’t think track is a very fast sport after all.”

Monday, April 22, 2013

943. S Is for Show, Don't Tell

Show, don’t tell.  My 9th grade English teacher used to run around the classroom, tapping an imaginary ruler in her hand while crying out in sudden angry bursts, “Show, don’t tell!” 

I had no idea what she was talking about. 

I didn’t want to look stupid though, by asking the question that the other 99% of the students seemed to already knew the answer to, so I would just nod-nod-nod.  Of course, of course, I get it!  My nods were very convincing.  If you nod enough, anyone will believe you.  

Sure, I get it!  I do!  I get it!    

(I didn’t really get it.)  
About 20 years later, I had my Oprah Winfrey lightbulb moment when I was explaining my definition of good writing to a friend. 

“Don't write a phrase like ‘I am cold.’  That is punching the reader in the face with the obvious.  Try something more subtle like, ‘I forgot my coat and it began to snow,’ that way the reader has to connect the dots.  Instead of saying something predictable like, ‘I’m tired,’ try to write something creative that shows you are tired such as ‘The neighbors had a party and blared heavy metal through the paper-thin walls until 3 AM, and then I had to be up at 6 for work.  No pot of coffee is large enough for me today.’  The reader figures out you are tired, and your words actually have more impact that way.  You write the situation without spelling it out for the reader, you let them do the translations for themselves.” 
(And as an aside to my 9th grade teacher:  Better late than never, right?)   


Saturday, April 20, 2013

942. R Is for Rejection From James Spader in My Sleep

I grew up in the era of Pretty in Pink and Less Than Zero, so it is a given that I have continually held a not-so-secret crush on James Spader.  The floppy hair, the sardonic laugh, the aura about him that he knows everything and is merely tolerating people.  Ah, yes, I loved him. 

So it should come as no surprise that he made a guest appearance in one of my dreams the other night.

He was his usual hot James self, and I was me, and he had no idea who I was.  He was also very much married (!) so that seemed to put a slight dent in my plan to seduce him (at this point, I feel compelled to apologize to my real-life husband who was conspicuously absent in said dream—sorry, Hon, I don’t control this stuff). 

Okay, so where was I?  Oh, yeah, James.  So we happened to be in some sort of fancy-schmancy hotel (note to subconscious:  please reserve this set for future dreams as well), and I somehow ran into James in the lobby and starting swooning and telling him how I was a huge fan of his and had seen all his movies, like, five times (to be perfectly honest, not Supernova or Alien Hunter, those looked kinda dumb in the previews).  He was vaguely polite, the way you might be to one of those people at the little kiosks in the mall trying to trick you into buying hand lotion by asking you what time it is.  He smiled condescendingly (his trademark!) and then left. 

What he didn’t know is that I followed him, and that is when I saw him go into a suite with his tiny perfect Asian wife.  (Not even sure if he is married in real life, but in the dream his wife was very gorgeous and movie-star-ish.) 

While James disappeared into his room with Mrs. James, I was temporarily distracted by a vehicle I just noticed was parked nearby.  It was one of those ubiquitous food trucks, but instead of selling gyro sandwiches and lukewarm sodas, it was selling high-end designer shoes.  This might have been the best part of my dream, because all the shoes were my size (8, if you must know). 

James and I did not end up together, but I ended up with the type of shoes that Charlize Theron most definitely would have worn in Two Days in the Valley. 

So that means I win.  Because James might notice me tomorrow night. 


Friday, April 19, 2013

941. Q Is for Quote

My sons constantly say things that amuse me.  Here is the latest example (courtesy of my 6-year-old): 

SHORT:  Mommy... I need to ask you something.  Do I have a birth mother?
MOV:  (trying hard not to laugh) Yes, of course you do.  

SHORT:  Who is it? 

MOV:  Me.   

MOV:  I said, it's me. 

SHORT:  No, Mommy, seriously.

Turns out, someone is his class has a birth mother and shared that detail during morning announcements.  Now Short is obsessed with finding out who his real birth mother is, and was truly disappointed to find out that I am both the mother raising him AND his birth mother. 
Poor thing. 


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

939. O Is for Other People’s Kids

I noticed a strange phenomenon when I had a baby:  everyone assumed that because I loved my newborn, I loved every child.  It was as if they thought because I produced this 7-pound tiny human being, I must adore anyone born in a year with a two-zero prefix.    

Not so.     
I love the idea of children, their cherubic faces happy and laughing on a Gap Kids commercial on TV (on mute).  Children are darling when they are doing fun, but quiet and important activities, like sleeping. 

Heck, I can’t even stand my own children sometimes, let alone other people’s.  But here’s the difference:  I am allowed to discipline my own kids. 
Tall gets mouthy?  Whoops, he won’t get that playdate with Justin tomorrow after all.  Short hits his brother?  Guess we will have to cancel that trip to the aquarium.  My children know there are consequences for their behavior. 

Sometimes I feel alone.  I witness other moms do the dreaded count to three … but then nothing happens when they get there.  There are no repercussions.  Life is one long threat. 
In my mind, I correct naughty children at the grocery store.  Taylor, climb down from that shelf immediately or you will not get to go to Isabel’s birthday party.  Michael, stop racing the cart down the aisles and running into people or you will lose video games for a month.  Sophie, stop kicking the cantaloupe display or you will not get to go to ballet lessons this afternoon. 

The trick is:  follow thru. 
Hey, I don’t want to be the bad guy in my household either, the one my kids hate.  But it is more important to me that my kids respect me than like me. 

I am their parent, not their friend. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

933. I Is for Ikea

Ikea is a store that has lots of really cool streamlined Swedish furniture that makes you want to throw away everything you own and start over. You think if you owned this stuff you would have really cool streamlined dinner parties with really cool streamlined friends who speak Swedish.    

I go there sometimes to get ideas.  I usually get a new end table instead. 
The only down side to Ikea is that for them to keep their prices low, the furniture comes unassembled.  That’s right:  you have to put it together. 

Sometimes the fact that I only paid $100 for a stylish couch makes the 12 hours of actually building the couch totally worth it, but that is not what I am thinking when I reach hour number nine and sweat is dripping off my nose and slat G will not click properly into slat H and it seems I am missing plastic piece J and no one is answering the 800 number for the “Help Line” and I have misplaced the Allen wrench again. 
In that moment, I am thinking I should have just bought a Pottery Barn couch that comes already built and cost $5000.  That is what Visa cards are for. 
At least then I would not have random “extra” metal pieces strewn about my living room floor and young children mocking me with their cruel taunts of “Mommy, you’re still not done yet?”        
My dad and step-mom Nichole have a continuing love affair with all things Ikea.  We fly to visit them and they merrily announce that their local Ikea has free breakfast at 9:30 on Mondays!  Who wants to go? 

Please do not think that I don’t like Ikea, because I do.  It’s just that … well, imagine what breakfast would be like there: 

Monday, April 8, 2013

931. G Is for Going to the Post Office with a Toddler

My children have always been good at embarrassing me.  Projectile vomiting on the pediatrician?  Check!  Tantrum in the middle of Target’s toy section?  Check!  Pooping on Grandma?  Check mate! 

So it should come as no surprise that when Tall was a toddler, I was reluctant to take him a lot of places. 
Movies and plays were no longer options.  No one wants to pay good money to sit behind a small child who asks questions (loudly) every two minutes.  Shopping was out.  I was not about to try on dresses at Nordstrom with a toddler whining.  Fancy restaurants?  Just a blip in the rearview mirror of my life. 

But the post office?  That seemed relatively benign. 
When Tall was not quite 2 ½ and I was pregnant with Short, I had some sort of errand at the post office.  I am sure that I begged The Husband to go to the post office on his lunch break to save me from having to pack up the stroller, toys, books, diapers, wipes, five outfit changes (one for me), a sippy cup, a back-up sippy cup, pacifier, and snacks.  This suggestion was most likely received with great enthusiasm: 

“MOV, you are a stay-at-home mom!  You can go to the post office, for Pete’s sake.  What do you do all day, anyway?  It’s not like the house is ever clean or dinner is made when I come home.” 
Right after he said that, I vowed to buy only ultra-feminine flower stamps, absolutely no manly airplane or car stamps, no matter what. 

So off to the post office Tall and I went. 
And really, how bad could it be?  I decided that we didn’t even need to take the stroller out of the car, Tall could just walk or I could carry him.  I planned ahead and chose a time when I thought the post office would not be too crowded, and I made sure the time coincided with right after Tall’s snack so that he would be fed and happy. 

We got there with the package I had to mail or whatever my reason for going there was (I forget now) and we stood in line. 
And then I saw her walk in.   

And Tall saw her, too. 
The most morbidly obese woman you have ever seen in your life.  She must’ve weighed 500 pounds and she looked like a "Before" ad for gastric-bypass surgery.  She stood right behind us in line, and Tall stared at her. 

I tried to distract him with some random plastic truck I had in my purse, but it was too late.  Tall was absolutely mesmerized by this very large individual. 
I knew what was coming next.  I had heard horror stories from friends that when they were in the grocery store with their preschool offspring, said offspring decided to ask why girls have “baginas” and boys have penises.  Or ask if the cashier was a man or a woman because “I can’t really tell, Mommy—she looks like a girl, but then there is a lot of hair on her chin!” 

Of course I could predict that Tall was going to make some comment like “Why is that lady so fat?” or “Mommy, does that lady have a baby in her tummy?  Or maybe five babies?” 
I told myself that I would just apologize to the woman as soon as it happened.  I would say that he is only 2 ½ and he really doesn’t know any better … and that he is adopted and not even really my child. 

Yeah, I had the whole speech mentally rehearsed.  Because I knew it was just a matter of time. 
Then, unfortunately, the woman noticed that Tall was staring at her so she began to engage him.  “Hello, Sweetheart!  What is your name?” 

Tall got a strange scowl on his face.  He looked at the poor woman with a mix of contempt and disgust.  I braced myself for the inevitable. 
Tall pulled on the edge of my sleeve, implying that he wanted me to pick him up.  Then he turned to the obese woman and (while clutching tightly to my neck) said,

This is my Mommy!”  He patted my shoulder for extra emphasis.   
I was utterly bewildered.  He did not care that the woman was fat, he merely did not want to talk to a stranger.  And when she spoke to him, he simply wanted to clarify that the chick he came to this post office party with was the same one he would be going home with later. 

She smiled at him and said to me, “What a cute little boy!” 
Tall met her gaze, and merely repeated, “THIS IS MY MOMMY!!!!” 

And then when we got to the car, he asked me why she was so fat. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

927. C Is for Cheerleader

I was invited to Tall’s school yesterday to read my new children’s book Herman the Cat Goes to Outerspace.  A few weeks ago, I had showed the book to Vice-Principal Amazing* (not her real name, but it should be), and she was very supportive and gung-ho about it.  Then she arranged for me to read it in the library to a second grade class and also to my older son’s third grade class.   

When I arrived, VP Amazing was there to greet me.  She walked me into the library and introduced me to the librarian.  We all chatted merrily for a few minutes about the book, and I might have rambled something about how I liked that the library was decorated with books and shelves. 
Next thing you know, the students filed in and I began to feel slightly nervous.  I had read the book to my younger son’s class at his school, but he is only in first grade, so it is an easier crowd to please.  These were much older students:  second graders.  I immediately felt at ease when I saw Vice-Principal Amazing walk back into the library and sit in the back row, listening and observing.    

I read the book, the kids clapped, and I answered some questions.  Then I gave one of my books as a present to a child who had the soonest upcoming birthday.  Turns out, there were two kids with that birthday, but being the hyper-Virgo that I am, I had actually brought a few extra copies just in case that might happen, so it all worked out.  The two children who “won” the books were thrilled.    
The kids left, and I sat there basking in the glow of being a real author. 

Vice-Principal Amazing, who I now noticed had her camera with her (!), took me aside and told me what a great job I did.  Then she did the most amazing thing:  she gave me a few pointers for the next group. 
“Focus on the cover art of your book, MOV, before you even start.  Get them thinking about predictions for the story based on the cover.  And you might want to tie in the ‘Learner Profile’ traits as well.”  (The Learner Profile traits are 10 qualities that the school instills in the kids, things like being a risk-taker or being open-minded.)

I nodded, pretending I knew all 10 of the Learner Profile traits, instead of just two.  Luckily, I happened to glance up and notice there was a giant poster on the wall with all the traits listed. 
“And MOV, remember, you can stretch this out.  Don’t rush.  The kids are here to see you, they are excited, and you can slow down and really take your time.”  VP Amazing was positive and encouraging, a true cheerleader.  She made me feel like I did a good job the first time, but that I could do an even better job the second time. 

And you know what?  She was right.  I followed all her tips, and the next group was better.  They loved the story, and the birthday child who won the book acted like he won the Lottery.  It made me wish I had brought 25 books to give away.      
I am so grateful to Vice-Principal Amazing.  Grateful for her awesome advice for my reading, but even more grateful that she is an everyday presence for my older son and all the other children who attend the school. 

I never use real names in my blog, but if you have a child at this school, you already know who VP Amazing is.  She is the cheerleader who makes us all feel smart, important, valued, and heard.  She makes us live up to our potential.    
The children are lucky to have here there, and so are the parents. 

**This book is illustrated by the insanely talented Haley Wolfe at Haley's Comic. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

925. A Is for Abominable Snowman

The Abominable Snowman lives under my bed.  At least that is what my former 9-year-old self used to think.  Of course, my current 44-year-old self no longer believes in such nonsense.  That is, until The Husband and our young sons go camping without me for two nights. 

At first, I revel in the freedom.  Forty-eight hours of Me Time!  I can eat chocolate ice-cream for dinner.  And breakfast.  I can wear pajamas the whole time and not wash my hair and no one will care.  I can read trashy movie-star magazines or watch back-to-back episodes of House Hunters for three hours straight and no one will stop me.  Yay! 
This is going to be the best 48 hours of my life!    

But then the clock ticks up near 11 pm and I start to feel uncomfortable being So.  Very.  Alone.  All you can hear is me slurping melted Haagen-Dazs, and in the background an animated conversation between those first-time home buyers from Nashville who have recently relocated to Miami and are shocked at the high prices of beachfront condos.  I finally turn off the TV, and my house goes eerily silent, like it is covered in Saran Wrap.  Saran Wrap made from Abominable Snowmen fluff.    
I go from room to room, making sure every door and window are locked and there are no signs of Abominable Snowmen footprints or sheddings.  I barricade the kitchen door with a chair and a big bag of recycling, just in case.  I leave the hall light on, something I never do.  The house glows bluish-white, the exact color of Abominable Snowmen.     

For no absolutely reason at all, I have trouble falling asleep.  Huh.  Weird.    
The Abominable Snowman lurks under my half-empty queen-sized bed, waiting for me.  To keep him company, he has brought along his BFF, Big Foot.  How could I ever have agreed to let The Husband and the boys go camping without me?  What was I thinking? 

Ultimately, I drift into a fitful sleep, but find myself saucer-eyed awake at 5 am, Big Foot’s finest hour.  Of new and immediate concern are the potential UFOs landing on the roof. 
Of course there are no UFOs, what with the age of the roof and all.  No alien in his right mind is going to chance crashing through the decrepit old shingles.  Neither are there any Abominable Snowmen, as my house is much too warm now that I have cranked the thermostat to an Abominable-Snowman-wilting 74 degrees. 

But we all know that heat does not bother Big Foot.  He likes warm.  That is why he has been sighted in summer as well as winter.         
Somehow I manage to make it through the rest of my day, and around dinner time, a miraculous thing happens:  my loving family walks in the door. 

“What are you doing home so early?” I ask, trying to contain my relief and pleasure that they are home so early.  I do not want to disclose my bizarre fear of scary creatures last seen on the Discovery Channel’s Myths and Legends series.  (Really, MOV, what next?  The Loch Ness Monster?  Unicorns? Centaurs?  Gargoyles and Griffins that come to life?)  “I thought you wouldn’t be back until tomorrow.” 
“It started to snow,” says The Husband matter-of-factly with a slight shrug for emphasis, “we didn’t want to get stuck.” 

I nod.  I suppress another smile.  “You made the right choice, Sweetie.”    
“But guess who I saw at the campground!” squeals my younger son, Short, excitedly. 

I wait for him to tell me one of the usual suspects:  raccoon, deer, hawks, or some happy cartoonish woodland creature.   
“I think I saw Big Foot!” he confirms. 

I involuntarily gasp.  Turns out everyone has seen Big Foot at one time or another.        

It’s going to be a long night ….