Notes to Self — Open November 1, 2013

My brain is a sieve,
With, alas, widening holes…
…………..What was I saying?

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Every year at the holidays, I have to re-learn, remember or re-argue something that I’m so sure I told myself not to forget the year prior, but clearly did. So this year, I’m writing it all down with plans to read it ahead of the year-end craziness.  Here it is…

Notes to self

The Honey Baked Ham store does not require you to reserve a ham. Frank is always right about this. Stop humiliating yourself by insisting each year he is wrong, storming to the internet, only to find out he is right.

The Honey Baked Home store is open on Sundays during the Holidays. Again, Frank has the memory of an elephant here – let him have it.

You will debate with yourself as to whether you’ve bought too much or not enough for the kids at least 5 times.  Don’t think that this year is worse than last. They are all the same. And yes, you bought too much, but you always figure it out before Christmas Day.

Frank will be of very little help in the “did I buy too much or not enough” saga. He will simply witness the several debates you have with yourself that you insist having him present for. Don’t expect him to do more than nod. Again, this one works itself out in the end.

At their most limbic level, kids like empty boxes, no matter what the age. Simple is better.  Remember this when ordering presents on-line.

Don’t waste all the best Buddy the Elf on the Shelf hang out spaces early in the season.  It’s a looooong December.

You put the C7 lights on the evergreens and the mini bulbs on the roses. You wrapped only the red bud tree, not the birch. It requires every flipping extension cord you own.

Volunteering to holiday-sit the class gerbils always sounds cooler than it really is. They are just more things you have to keep alive. Think twice.

No matter what the witch-y voice in your head says, you haven’t been the only one doing things for the family for Christmas.  Give him some credit.

The Costco sized, 18-sleeve box of Ritz crackers will seem like a good idea December 1. Shortly thereafter, it will seem like a colossal waste of space. And then in the blink of an eye you’ll look in the box and find only 3 sleeves left. It’s a good call. Buy it and stop debating it with yourself.

Consider this year having a fancy Christmas Eve evening meal, instead of Christmas Day evening meal.  Or be ready to ditch that put upon feeling that comes around 4pm Christmas Day when everyone else is lounging around recovering from all the ruckus and you have to (wait, want to, remember?) cook.  Christmas Eve might just do the trick, and left over standing rib roast is still amazing…

Try to wait a little deeper into December before cutting a Christmas tree.  The week before Christmas 2012 ours had the moisture of a cocktail toothpick… not good.

Please add to this list each year, as I have a nagging suspicion I’ve forgotten something…

Reflections on Insanity

I understand why
Some animals eat their young.
But it’s too late now…
———————————————–
I took part in something extraordinary yesterday. A room full of masochists. I was one of them. Viewed from the outside we surely looked insane. From the inside, well, the view was about the same.

Where was I? A Cincinnati Pops Concert for Children – Barnyard Serenade.

What in the ***k was I thinking? What were the other parents thinking? What made us think that our kids even remotely wanted to attend the concert… I’ll tell you what: delusion. I can personally attest to thinking the following: Wow, my kids like music. They like kid-themed events. They know I like classical music… And Music Hall is a cool, old building. Plus, and this is important, they will “get something out of it” and likely someday become symphony loving patrons who disdain popular music, have 20 more IQ points than their friends, and will be able to describe why a tambourine is both a membranophone and an idiophone.  So, all those things add together to equal complete and total insanity on my part.

It started well enough. They did indeed think the building was cool. But it pretty much went to shit from there. I mistakenly thought the kids activities were in the wrong place, so we only got to look at a few instruments; no crafts or kids’ stuff like I promised. This caused my son to fall to the floor crying.  We made our way to our seats, which I thought were really good. My daughter, however, thought they were the worst in the house and began what had to be the longest sustained pout in her nearly 10 years. I tried to engage them — look there, the harp! The piano! Aren’t the kettle drums cool? Nuthin’.  Once the music started, my son asked me every 5 minutes or so “Is that the last thing?”  At one point, my daughter managed to start a good cry, silently weeping while Haydn’s Chicken Symphony was playing. She totally ignored me when I tried to point out how the violins sounded like chickens and the flutes like little chicks.

It was at this point, at a point of total desperation and shame at what a horrible parent I really was, I started to listen to what was happening around me. And I noticed that although in the audience participation parts there seemed to be interest from a lot of kids, between shouting out farm animals pretty much every kid there hated their parents for making them come.  I’m fairly sure that by the end, the young boy behind me was duck taped to his dad. The two kids in front of me engaged in a silent but wicked tickle fight before their mom nearly came of our her skin to get them to stop.  When the Old McMaestro bit happened toward the end, it really was only adults doing the sing along… the kids had all but departed the building.

The only shimmer of hope I kept alive at this point was that the concert was mercilessly short – less than an hour. And surely my children’s joy at the end’s arrival would bring them out of their uber-negative state. How very wrong I was. Once my son realized that we weren’t now going to try to find the kids area, he began to wail. And pump his fists and shake his little body.   I was actually proud of him — I am perfectly ok if he gets mad, he just has to behave appropriately (i.e. don’t hit anyone). His outburst was completely reflective of his state and involved only himself. Well, himself and 1500 other departing parents whose own children had morphed into grateful, well-behaved angels now chattering excitedly about what they had just witnessed.  I could see their IQ points ticking up as we walked to the parking lot. I could feel the other parents’ eyes on me, judging…

During the walk to the car I resolved to be more mature than my kids in my reaction. I really wanted to grab them by the shoulders, tell them how disappointed I was at the immaturity of their behavior and that their lack of gratitude was going to cost them dearly.  The problem was that in each version I dreamed up, I looked more and more like a deranged lunatic. There was no way to claw them back to happy, no way they would ever change their mind about the last hour of their lives.

So I put them in the car and stood outside of it for a good 10 minutes. Frank joined me. We talked about how to deal with this and decided we would pursue the “We are the grown ups here and should probably act like it” route. (I did agree to use this, at the right time, as a teaching moment with our nearly 10-year-old daughter… she is old enough to know how to behave or at least fake it…) Several meditative minutes later, we got into the car, informed them we were going to Costco (“this is not open to input,” Frank smartly added) and proceeded to try to drive faster than our moods could follow us.

I am happy to announce that my decent, well-behaved and generally fun children returned shortly after we plied them with hot dogs and pizza at Costco. Shopping was a joy. They were funny. They helped find things and load the cart. They acted like hyenas the exact right amount given then ages. Our family was reborn.

So what to do now… there are two more concerts in the series, and the tickets are already purchased. I have 80% decided we will go again… I will NOT be defeated by two who cannot yet master the can opener. But I sure as hell will figure out where the kids activities are taking place and get there in time to enjoy them. The rest is a total crap shoot…

The Teachers’ Lounge

Intimidation
Stops me cold, keeps me standing,
Twenty five years on…
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Every year, during parent-teacher conferences, my school’s PTA does a teacher dinner. Warm, home-made sustenance to help them get through repeating 20 minutes of report card hell.

This is one volunteer activity I jump at.  I usually sign up to bring in plastic wrap and forks, or extension cords – easy stuff that either Frank or I can do, usually sourced from current stock – simple. Finally, last year, I ventured into bringing consumables — Chicken Noodle Soup. It was a huge hit and I felt not the slightest amount of guilt showing off the Costco soup container when pressed for the recipe. (Their soup made from roasted chicken is amaaaazing.)

There is only one thing that bothers me: Going into the teachers’ lounge.

You remember it from school, right? The room off the side hall where you couldn’t really see into… where teachers would disappear into, whispering to each other and glancing around furtively. The few times you were told to go there to find another teacher felt like entry into an Egyptian tomb… I was convinced I would be cursed and never spoke of it. It was sacred space. Teachers only.  There was free soda and chips in there. They talked about you in there.

So when I volunteered to do the dinner set up the first year, I had to take a few deep breaths before stepping into the teachers’ lounge. I kept my eyes down. I asked permission before opening drawers. I acted as if the furniture was museum quality and tried desperately not to make a mess of any type.

Net, I was totally taken aback at how the mythological status of the teachers’ lounge remained so many years after my education ended. I know many of the teachers at my kids’ lower school. They are way cooler than any teacher I ever had, not to mention about 3 decades younger. I can honestly say they are — to a person — women I would enjoy hanging out with. But their space? Noooo, can’t do it…

So tomorrow is the dinner. The soup is ready to go, the crock pot is clean and I’ve dug out 40 plastic forks, knives and spoons. But I’ve given up on the set up. I just can’t do it. I am thoroughly convinced Mr. Etheridge or Mrs. Vogt or Mr. Lawson is going to burst around the corner, catch me in there, and ruin my chances of getting into a good college, not to mention whisper about me to another teacher.  I’ll just stay on this side of the door…

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