Welcome to our filth.

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I am not the world’s best housekeeper.

Even when I’ve got the time to keep the house clean, it’s not necessarily on my top 100 list of things to do. I’d rather read, or see a mystery on Acorn, or watch paint dry.

Proof of my slovenly housekeeping habits: hairs in the bathroom sink. Disgusting.

This is my solution to wrinkled shirts. Because why should I drag out the monstrosity called an “ironing board,” go to all the trouble of pouring water in the iron, and bore myself to tears meticulously smashing the hell out of a wrinkly shirt when I’ve got a perfectly good hair flattener sitting in the bathroom?

When our oldest was about four, some weirdo in our circle of friends and family gave her – get this – a TOY IRON AND IRONING BOARD for her birthday. (Remember in “Toy Story” when one of Andy’s friends brought a set of bed sheets to the party for a birthday gift? “Who invited that kid?”)

Problem number one: My daughter had probably NEVER seen me iron. To her this “toy” was an utter mystery.

Problem number two: Toys are for playing. Playing is meant to be fun. How is a hot, monotonous, thankless task like ironing “fun?”

Problem number three: Would a little boy have received a crap gift like that? I’m trying to think of a comparable unpleasant “toy” that would fit male gender stereotypes. You’d probably have to invent it yourself. Let’s see…what’s the nastiest job that gets delegated to the men of the household? Does Fisher Price make a set that includes a tiny shop vac and a refrigerator with filthy compressor coils that need an inch of dust sucked off of them in order to keep the fridge from dying an untimely death? I think not.

The housekeeping thing is taking on a different and fascinating dimension as my eyes and I become ever more mature. See, I rarely wear my glasses when I’m just hanging around in the house. When a freak of nature occurs and I do start cleaning, there are pros and cons to my failing vision. Cleaning is a lot easier when you can’t see a lot of the dust bunnines piling up in corners. Dusting gets done in record time! On the other hand, when I do put on the glasses, I can’t miss the fact that we’re living in filth.

If only on my fourth birthday someone had had the forethought to give me a pile of rags and a can of Endust.

Too much weird.

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Weird #1: Spotted on the way home yesterday: A taxi pulled to the side of the road, with an Elvis impersonator standing at the back, rooting through the trunk. White jumpsuit, huge black wig, the whole nine yards. What the? Who? Why?

Weird #2: Today started with being jolted awake by a 3:30 AM phone call from Middle.

When her class got out at 10:00 last night, she stayed over at her boyfriend’s place – he lives three minutes from campus, much better than the 30 minute drive home. She had woken up extremely ill (the ongoing stomach issues struck again). She wanted to come home but was too sick to drive. Boyfriend was driving her home, and I needed to wake up The Husband to drive back with boyfriend to pick up her car (thank goodness Husband is the go-to guy for that kind of crap). Even though I was mostly out of the loop after the phone call, I got just about zero minutes more of sleep last night.

Weird #3: On the way to work this morning I passed, in our very quiet, attractive suburban neighborhood, three police cars with flashing lights and a guy very calmly being handcuffed. Again: What the? Who? Why?

Weird #4: Not only did the home router go to the big wireless graveyard in the sky last night, but the wireless and internet at work is now taking a dive. Even though my office laptop is plugged with an ethernet cable, all is not well. No matter what website I go to, the first attempt results in “Page Not Found.” On the second attempt the page I’m looking for loads, slowly.

Weird #5: I broke my recent “coffee vacation” this morning knowing I’d need a heavy caffeine dose to get through the day, but even so I have a killer headache. I’m so
“off” today I’d be a lot more productive curled up in a darkened room.

It’s now 12:35 PM. Signing off, folks.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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I don’t think anyone’s ever died of perimenopause.

Having said that, here’s a warning for you, dear reader: If you have a link to an article about someone who actually did  die of perimenopause, keep it to yourself. Or else.

I don’t know what cosmic allignment of planets decided that women of a certain age – the very people who keep the world spinning on its axis – should have so much @%#&! piled on them all at once. Grieving over the emptiness of the nest AND still getting to pay more each month for the kids’ medical bills than for a car payment. Cramps, monthly migraines, and Kotex AND sweat-soaked hot flashes, sleepless nights, and wild mood swings.


“Not fair” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Rant #254 about the evils of perimenopause: In any given two-minute period I might go from crying over a Fabreeze commercial to rabid pit bull snarls because someone’s left sticky spots on the countertop. In another context, I might go from zipping around the church office spreading joy and light one minute, and the next minute have to be restrained from slapping a congregation member who has a “tone” in her voice. Every day. All day long. Get used to it, folks. This is what female and 50 looks like. And yet, The Husband, in his infinite naivity, continues to ask and ask AND ASK “Is there something bothering you? Have I done something? You seem so upset.”


I do not care to explain twenty times a day that crazy-ass fluctuations in my body’s hormones have me in a death grip. How about, instead, if everyone else in the world just shuts the @%#&! up and locks themselves up in a warm, cozy spot until it’s safe to come out? That would be really nice.

I read a lovely, hopeful article not to long ago that explained how perimenopause works. Turns out, if your symptoms start when you still have several more years to enjoy the cramps, monthly migraines, and Kotex, it doesn’t mean your body is cleverly getting both types of torture out of the way more quickly and efficiently. Heavens, no! It simply means the sweat-soaked hot flashes, sleepless nights, and wild mood swings are going to last that much longer. Maybe up to ten years! Isn’t that fun? (And, sadly, this exciting news was confirmed by my trusted G.P.).

I’m about four years in.

A little word to my family, friends, and coworkers:

You have been warned.

I tried. Really.

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Pretty much every day it’s a struggle for me to force myself to exercise. Even though I know it’s good for me, even though I know I’ll feel better if I do. It’s just a chore.

This morning I experienced the ultimate insult yet again. Got up, put on my workout clothes, headed out the front door for a power walk in the lovely, cool morning. And just as I got around the corner, giant raindrops started coming down. I’ve been known to tumblr_mjffy7YKuq1rdpe7bo1_500walk in the rain, but there was thunder and lightning as well. I figured becoming a human lightning rod would probably nullify the positive effects of aerobic excercise, so I turned around and went straight back home. Elapsed time: 1.5 minutes. And now I’ve got to force myself into activity all over again later in the day.

But darn it, I think I should get credit for trying. I mean, if there was any justice in the world, the effort would count for something, right?

Same thing happened when I was at a conference in July. I specifically got up early and made my way to the workout room, full of self-righteousness. And was promptly deflated when every one of the treadmills was taken by obnoxiously buff businessmen. I was on a tight schedule, so my only recourse was to give up, grab a cup of coffee, and get ready for the day’s conference schedule. My sloth that day was totally not my fault

I hope somebody, somewhere is keeping score.

Crisis averted, thanks to a mom’s intuition.

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Yesterday my mom intuition pretty much saved the day.

You know that voice you have as a mom, the one that tells you when something’s up with one of your kids that needs your attention? I learned to listen to it long ago, even when it doesn’t seem to make any sense at first.

Arms_SkullSo right after I finished my lunch yesterday, I had this strong feeling I needed to go home. Everything I needed to do in the afternoon was on my laptop, so I packed up and headed back to the house to work, knowing that our Middle was home all day.  It was an off-day for her – a day to do homework and handle her online coursework.

I walked in the door to impending disaster. Her laptop had been overtaken by the scam that’s been going around. Screen locked. Continuous audio loop of a dire warning that her computer was about to die a painful death if she didn’t do such and such. She was on the phone with a scammer masquerading as a Microsoft help desk guy, who was hard at work trying to convince her she needed to spend ridiculous amounts of money RIGHT THAT MINUTE to install the world’s best virus protection, blah blah blah.

She had the guy on speaker phone, so I could hear every word. It was crazy – I was telling her this was totally a scam, and the fake customer service rep was trying to argue with me and kept up the hard sell.

Middle was so distraught and confused she tried to argue with me as well, so I had to get tough. Raised voice and everything. “THIS IS ABSOLUTELY A SCAM AND WE ARE NOT PAYING THIS JERK $300 FOR THREE MONTHS OF A SUPPOSED ANTIVIRUS. HANG UP THE PHONE NOW!”

Holy cow.

She did finally hang up. We spent several minutes trying to get all the crap screens on her laptop closed so we could even shut the damned thing down. We’re cautiously optimistic that no permanent damage was done. It started up just fine and operated normally. Her father will spend this evening doing a thorough reaming on the device, a task that was overdue, anyway.

The moral of the story?

For Pete’s sake, listen to that little mom voice. You’ll be glad you did.

Things I wish I’d learned in school.

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Let’s get one thing perfectly clear: No classroom has ever looked like this.

When I posted yesterday about back to school and included this image…


…it reminded me of a strange interlude in my teacher education all those years ago.

In general, teacher education is a joke. Sure, there are some helpful basics like child development and psychology. But when you get into the actual education classes? Complete rubbish. That was the case then and I can tell you that our middle daughter is finding it still to be the case today.

Even though I attended a university that was renowned for its teacher education, my coursework was largely inane. For example, I had to take “Methods of teaching English” class for elementary educators – seems reasonable, right? – but the class included no  information about how to teach kids about grammar, spelling, or writing. Rather we spent several weeks – WEEKS – learning how to reproduce perfect cursive and manuscript handwriting on a chalkboard. I still rail over the complete waste of my time, tuition money, and brain capacity. (Though I grudgingly admit that secretly I loved it. Writing on a chalkboard is just plain fun, and I can actually reproduce the Zaner-Blosser example above. Thank you very much.)

So, once I got my first job and started my own classroom, I started compiling a mental list of what teacher education should include:

  • A course on parent relations. (Dealing with: parents of gifted kids, neglectful parents, the parents who start a fight in the hallway on conference day, the parent who marches into your class and starts abusing you verbally in front of the children)
  • Navigating the minefield of parent/teacher conferences. (Dealing with: time management, breaking bad news without creating a scene, how to get rid of a parent who wants a counseling session rather than a conference, how to get home to your own family before 10:00 pm without falling down dead the moment you walk into your house.)
  • Classroom management. (Dealing with: the kid who can’t walk across the room without whacking five classmates over the head, the kid who can’t stay in her seat to save her life, the kid who will only participate if the subject covers his own special interest area, keeping 23 kids engaged in learning while kid #24 is hiding under his desk)
  • Individualization for the masses. (Dealing with making sure 25 unique kindergarteners are making educational progress, even though three have severe emotional trauma, two have severe speech delays, four have obviously come into school with undiagnosed special needs, and one is so bright you can’t keep up with him.)

This is the stuff they should be teaching kids who want to teach.

Slightly more practical than writing on a chalkboard.

Missing back-to-school.

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It’s been almost two full weeks since my Facebook feed exploded with “first day of school” pictures A month since our youngest went back to his school. Middle has been observing/assisting for three weeks in her assigned high school classroom as part of her teacher education.

But I feel like I’ve missed the back-to-school train.

Back-to-school was a fixture, a touchstone for me for almost all of my 50 years. It started, of course, with my own anticipation of a new teacher, a new room, new routines, new supplies, new clothes – every autumn without fail. As sure and certain, and almost as exciting, as Christmas.

The delicious lure of the “hallways of learning” continued for me even after I finished my own schooling and began my teaching career. The joy of planning bulletin boards, centers, lessons. The eternal mystery of new students – which of the names on this class list would test me daily? Which would be my new soulmate in a deep love of books? How would I manage to challenge the exceptionally bright and still bring along those with low ability? Fascinating stuff.

And then my late (though creeping up earlier every year) Augusts changed their focus – back to school for my own little ones. Helping to build their anticipation and excitement for their new classroom each year. Carefully checking off every item on their supply lists. Choosing exactly the right folders, binders, pencils, gym shoes. Helping them make the transition between the endless, hedonistic days of summer and the regulated, intense days in school.

Those days are gone – all of them – and I miss them. Back to college is just sad and lonely. I don’t teach in a school setting any more. So I’m seeing back-to-school only from a distance now, with warm memories as I view friends’ photos and listen to their stories. My lifelong love affair with back-to-school season is hard to let go of.

Thankfully, two of our three plan to teach. Soon they’ll be setting up their own classrooms, and I know they’ll share all their anticipation, all the joys and sorrows as they get started. I also know how much physical labor is involved in creating your own classroom, and I might even get to lend a hand with that aspect, as well. And then one day…grandchildren and a whole new cycle will begin.

And back-to-school will make a happy return to my life. Can’t wait.

Hello and goodbye.

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1. I finally tried out my new floor cleaning friend, the Swiffer Wet Jet (he who was so friendly as to tell me “hi” from the side of the box”). And discovered that he is a friend indeed. Clean (enough) floors with very little effort. That’s my kind of friend. Weirdly, though, he has to be fitted with a what can really only be described as a floor diaper before use. 

  
2. With the advent of the gleaming and efficient new dishwasher, it was time to say goodbye to an old friend, one who’s been around since the days of baby bottles and sippy cups. More recently he’s done duty with water bottle tops and small plastic containers. Farewell, good and faithful servant. 

  
And that’s life in a nutshell. Hello and goodbye. 

Wow, pretty deep thoughts for 7:19 am. 

What I did on my day off.

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Students everywhere are returning to school and writing the all-popular essay, “What I did on my summer vacation.” I’m writing about the thrills and chills I experienced yesterday, on my day off.

For the first time in several years, I made the hour drive to visit the town where I did most of my growing up, and where my mom and stepdad still live – Topeka, Kansas. Yes, the capital city that boasts the worst state government in the nation.

This photo is intended to highlight Forbes Air Field, south of town. I think it does a much better job of illustrating the fact that this is truly flyover country. Seriously, don’t stop here – you might be tainted for life.

My stepdad, a mechanical engineer, owns a metal fabrication shop on the north side of town. The Husband is now driving an hour to work every day, joining him in the business. It’s a good situation for all of us. And now I can occasionally ride along with him on a Friday (my day off) in order to spend time in Topeka with my mom.

Time with my mom: good.

Time in Topeka, Kansas: not good.

This billboard is right across the highway from my stepdad’s shop. It does a beautiful job of encapsulating just what, exactly, is the problem with my state.


This is the best shot I could get. The words underneath “The Holy Bible,” which are mercifuly unintelligible here, are something like “Timeless. Truthful. Final.” I don’t remember the exact wording because upon reading it I was overtaken by severe fundamentalist-induced nausea and vomiting.

What I didn’t manage to get a shot of (HAHA!) was the billboard right next to this one, which celebrated the awesome power of gun ownership and the God-given right of each of us to “pack.”

I loved hanging with my mom yesterday. Pure leisure. We went out for coffee, did a little shopping, then came back to her house to make lunch, chat, peruse the latest IKEA catalog, play with the dog, and knit. At the end of the day we picked up our husbands from the shop and went out for Mexican food for dinner. Just lovely.

But the Mexican place we went to was dangerously close to the capital building. That view, and imagining the ignorant, selfish, and backwards lawmakers who hang out there, kind of put a damper on my appetite.

Today I’ll have to shake off the taint with some classical music, good books, and NPR.

With luck I’ll survive that day off.

Thanks, but it probaby won’t help.

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Last weekend I picked up an item I’d been considering for awhile…

 
I’m not a huge fan of cleaning the floor, and I figured if I had a new tool maybe I’d be more likely to give it a go. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t had to clean our kitchen and dining room floors for years – the kids have done it since they were big enough to be counted on to do a good job. So, yeah – I needed incentive.

You’ll notice that I bought the Wet Jet last weekend and yet it’s still in the box. I am going to use it. Really! Defintely this weekend, probably. I think.

Especially since I discovered how friendly and personable this little guy is:


I mean, there he is greeting me, right on the side of the box! How can I resist?

Chances are I’ll find a way.

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