Tuesday, June 10, 2014

beach glass

It’s been a while. There have been so many stories. But, they are not all mine to tell. There has been my story- a mother watching, a wife waiting. But even that story, right now, is a mountain that seems insurmountable.

The winds of change are opening the windows to whisper new truth- which as softly as it seeps in, strangles my heart. And, at the same time, it propels me forward to keep fighting, as mothers do, to problem solve- to find answers- to kiss the wounds.

My son has struggled. For a long time. He is older now. But he is so fragile. Fixing his problems no longer means providing a distraction, a present, a carrot to lure him away from places of self-doubt. It no longer means that my words are the gospel- just because I’ve been on the earth longer. Honestly- though I struggled in my youth in my own way- I have not had to scrutinize my intrinsic identity as he now must do in order to arrive at a place of self-acceptance. How can I really know what he is feeling? My empathy does not inspire his trust that I know what the hell I’m talking about when I try to assure him, It gets better. His acceptance of and peace with himself, with his identity, with his awareness has to come from within. But, oh how I wish there was a magic wand.

One night he sent me a message via text: Why do you love me? Because I’m your son? Maybe you love who I used to be and you don’t want to let go.

I gave him a list of adjectives describing the qualities I admire and enjoy about him. But he threw them back- doubtful that they could be true because he felt like he was being sucked into a fathomless darkness. I told him:  You are going through a rough time- it’s unsettling for you right now. But just like the jagged pieces of a broken bottle on the beach- after you get drawn into the water, tossed around a bit- smoothed out by experience, time, understanding- you are going to be an amazing piece of beach glass.

He used to comb the shoreline as a child- in that hunched over shuffle- looking for the best pieces of beach glass. Holding each piece up to the sun- admiring the way the color was further illuminated. 
An illustration from when he was much younger.
We are on a path now-toward healing, toward helping him live an authentic life. I will continue to walk along beside him. I love him for everything he is, of course I do. I knew when I brought my children into the world that I could not place them in a mold and expect them to stay put. I knew I had to be open to their perspective, their interests, their sense of self. I have hope enough for both of us. He will be the most glorious piece of beach glass.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Choose to Refuse: One Year Later

Over the past year, through a grassroots movement, parents, educators, administrators, scholars, community leaders and politicians from New York State have banded together to bring awareness to the dire need for change in our public school education system and to demand a more thoughtful, evidence based approach to getting standardized testing done right. Refusing the tests is the most media attractive and sensationalized component of the movement- but truly it is just a small piece of the larger body of work that is being carried out in the quest for fair education and testing for all of New York State's public school students. Many people have asked me why our family Chooses to Refuse. This is my best attempt- in the midst of a new cycle of testing- to explain some of the reasons behind our stance . If you would like more information about test refusal, please click here. If you would like to read more about how current education reform imposed by the State Education Department is affecting our children, please click here.

Standing up for what we believe is not always easy.  Or in my 6th grade daughter, Annalee’s case, sitting and staring* for her beliefs has been an uncomfortable yet valuable exercise in civil disobedience.

Annalee will sit at her desk for 1.5 hours, three days in a row this week with her hands folded quietly on her desk- contemplating her classroom surroundings, drawing upon her imagination to occupy her mind, and devising goals for the remainder of the school year. She will sit there, the lone dissident in her classroom, while her classmates complete a grueling 5 hours of testing for NYS English Language Arts Assessments this week. She will sit again at the end of the month for an additional five hours as her classmates complete the Math portion of the NYS Assessments. Annalee, like her older brother last year, has chosen- with our support- to refuse the tests this year. While she feels lonely in her stance, she is not alone. The latest tally reports that 26,006  3rd-8th grade students in New York State and Long Island have joined in a movement to protest high stakes testing.

Critics of the Choose to Refuse (otherwise known as Opt-Out) movement accuse parents who refuse of coddling our children. They claim that we do not care about our children’s education- that we don’t want our children to be challenged. They ask, Don’t you want to know if your kid is making the grade? They assert that we are ignorant. Some of Annalee’s classmates heckled her after yesterday’s test- calling her stupid for her decision. But after hearing the facts and seeing the bigger picture, she feels strongly (albeit painfully) that this is something she needs to stand up for- for ALL New York State students.

We protest because our children are more than just a single digit score. My child is challenged appropriately and thoughtfully every day by a very competent and compassionate teacher who has implemented an engaging and rigorous curriculum across all subject areas. We value the knowledge and expertise of our teachers- as professionals- to guide our children along a pathway of success and opportunity. We receive quarterly report cards which indicate that she is doing quite well. We have a solid line of communication to her teacher- who spends 5 days/ week with her, recognizing and accommodating her strengths, weaknesses, her emotional triggers, as well as the things that inspire her to succeed. My faith is in her teacher to let me know whether or not she is ‘making the grade.’ Annalee’s performance on one set of very flawed, unreliable and unproven tests does not truly inform of the depth, breadth and mastery of material she has learned or the areas which need additional support.

 We protest because the State has placed an undue burden on our children by designating their performance on high stakes tests as a hefty determining factor of the quality and ability of our talented and dedicated teachers (or for that matter, those teachers who still have much room to grow). Governor Cuomo has maintained that these tests do not count-that they will have no bearing on student matriculation- that parents who are worried about the tests can sigh in relief. Yet, our students’ performances on these high stakes tests are tied into their teachers’ Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR). I would say that these tests do indeed count for something- a big something. 

We protest because valuable learning time has been stolen from our children in order to prepare for the Assessments. Ten years ago children were subjected to 625 minutes of testing. Today 3,200 minutes is devoted to testing- longer than the bar exam or tests administered to prospective city police officers. One third of classroom hours are spent preparing for tests. Teachers are spending less time teaching and more time collecting data which impacts teachable moments in the classroom. Through this drill and kill style of test prep and assessment, we have witnessed the stamping out of our children’s innate love and curiosity of learning.
We protest because the tests are flawed and developmentally inappropriate. Last year’s tests did not even reflect the new Common Core model from which the assessments are based. In ELA, for instance, students will take multiple days to read, interpret, dissect, discuss and then write about a selection of text in class. Yet on last year’s ELA Assessments, students were expected to process the same length of text in the severely abbreviated time frame allotted.
We protest because one- size- fits-all tests are inherently inequitable. This type of testing does not take into account the learning disadvantages of special education students or non-native English speakers- many of whom have recently immigrated to our country. There is certainly no provision which allows for a comprehensive view of the ‘whole’ child. One of our Buffalo Public Schools was deemed a Priority school (a failing school)  because of poor performance on state tests. But the State had no regard or sympathy for the fact that 75% of the school’s population was comprised of non- native English speakers with very unique learning needs.
We protest because there is no evidence to support the use of high stakes test in determining whether or not a child is college and career ready at the age of 9, 10, 11, 12, 13  years old. There is an overall lack of reliability, transparency, validity. In the past, standardized tests were used to determine strengths and weaknesses of student performances. Now the tests are sealed and sent back without providing to parents, teachers, and administrators diagnostic or prescriptive information to address strengths and weaknesses about student performance. Last year, teachers were required to sign an affidavit before the tests were sent back to Albany which stated that they would not speak of the content of these tests or they would risk losing their jobs.

We protest the $2.2 billion being spent on testing in NYS, which has become a financial burden for school districts across the state, especially impoverished districts like the Buffalo Public School district. We are facing cuts to the arts, athletics, after school and enrichment programs in favor of funding a very narrow curriculum of Math and ELA.
Just because we do not support the idea that there is any value in excessive testing does not mean that we do not believe in the best education for our children. We simply believe in MORE education for our children- more specifically, we demand a more equitable education for ALL students.

I worry that if we continue to accept the status quo of State mandated assessments (and all that surrounds them), our children will be forced to abandon the necessary critical thinking and problem solving skills that are essential to live, work and cope in the real world- to truly become college and career ready.  We need a better, more comprehensive way to evaluate our students’ progress, achievements and challenges. I want my children to be afforded every opportunity for academic success and growth- allowing them to reach and exceed their potential- to keep striving for answers to the questions that surround them- to keep seeking new ways to improve upon ideas, to innovate, to gain a better understanding of themselves and the world around them through the process of learning rather than process of finding ONE right answer to a question. And we will continue to Choose to Refuse until a fairer and more effective evaluation system for ALL children is developed and adopted.

 *Our school district has enforced the punitive position of 'sit and stare' to deal with students who have chosen to refuse to take the NYS ELA and Math assessments. Other districts are more lenient and accommodating, taking refusers to a separate location to read or study during the examination period. You may read our superintendent's letter and the thoughtful  response by Buffalo Teacher Federation President, Phil Rumore by clicking here.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Rule of Markers

The Kid wanted juice. She started to follow me to the kitchen but she was distracted by a sparkly pack of markers on the table. "Oooh, can I draw with these?" Blerg, who left those there? I quickly assessed the package: Washable. Non-Toxic. Her last creative venture with non-washable markers  resulted in head to toe body art. I could handle washable.

Our new baby, Bridget, a three year old pitbull mix whom the kids affectionately refer to as Pigbat (due to her insanely large and batty ears and her piggy snorting) is usually at my heels in the kitchen. I didn't realize that she hadn't followed me.

In reality, I came back from the kitchen to find The Kid spit cleaning Pigbat's head to erase the evidence. And, really she only had enough time to sneak in two purple lines on her forehead which blended with her muted brindle coat. I don't doubt for a minute that if given a little more time to herself, she would have 'tatooed' Pigbat's entire body. The Rule of Markers is Never Walk Away from a Kid with Markers.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A-hole in One: The Juggler Who Dropped His Balls

This installment of A-hole in One was sent to me by Karen Song, a blog reader from Northern Virginia (DC Metro). This story, involving her teenage daughter, Kate*, is about a shift in perspective and perception after a brief stumble from the deceptive ways of a class A A-hole, a juggler who really dropped his balls. I chose to post this piece because we often preach to our girls the importance of girlfriends- we study it, we have research behind the benefits of nurturing our female friendships. And yet, we still fall short in supporting the idea of a community of girls/ women continuing to support each other and look out for one another outside of our intimate friendships. There often seems to be a quiet acceptance of the idea that in order to pull ahead in a our competitive world, girls, as they mature, must be especially competitive with each other, undermining each other, accepting  an uneasiness or mistrust of one another instead of celebrating each other’s accomplishments or developing a legacy of sisterhood. Here is Karen's story:

My daughter Kate, a junior in high school, is a really sweet kid.  She is 16 and is still a bit shy and insecure but really seems to be coming into her own.  And she is really blossoming in terms of her appearance and the boys are starting to take notice.  She is on the cheerleading squad and a few months ago a boy named Aaron who is a star football player approached her after cheerleading practice. After chatting for a bit, he asked her out on a date.  She was thrilled beyond belief!  This would be her first date and she couldn’t believe he even knew who she was.  But then after a phone conversation or two, she didn’t hear from him. The days went by and he never followed up on the date that he had set.  She was crushed, though not totally shocked, since her friends had warned her that he was a bit of a jerk.  Then, to add insult to injury, she discovered he just started dating another girl named Valerie who is very pretty, popular and, well, rather buxom too. Fair or not, she was quite resentful toward Valerie and bitter over the whole situation. She also declared to me that she now hated all girls with big boobs.

Well anyway, one day during lunch at the cafeteria, Valerie stopped by Kate's table to talk to her.  She asked if it was true if Aaron stood her up, which of course Kate confirmed.  Then Valerie told Kate that she wanted her to watch something.  Valerie walked over to Aaron's table where he was with all of his football buddies.  There was a brief exchange between the two and Kate overheard Natalie say "you don't get to juggle women!"....and then SMACK!....Valerie slapped his face and walked off.  

Aaron sat there in disbelief, rubbing his cheek. Kate took this all in and of course enjoyed every second of it. Valerie then came back to talk to Kate and told her that the slap was for disrespecting Kate. She told Kate that she also told Aaron that she no longer wanted to date him because he was not a gentleman.   Kate was blown away by all of this. 

This has been the gift that keeps on giving as the girls are now good friends. I’ve met Valerie and she is a lovely girl. She is quite intelligent and has been accepted to Dartmouth. She has been a good role model for Kate. Needless to say, Kate is no longer resentful of buxom girls.

I was also contacted by Valerie who was happy that I was sharing their story.
She wrote, “Also, I feel a need to explain myself a bit, since my reaction that day probably seemed overly dramatic, harsh, etc.  It's hard to describe the swell of emotions I felt at that moment.  The very idea that I was dating a guy who treated women like toys was so disturbing and made me feel "dirty" if you will.  I felt I needed to send a strong message that his behavior was unacceptable.”

* All names have been changes

Monday, February 24, 2014

game over, old man winter

I don't remember having a winter without a break in the disorienting gray-hued, snowy landscape. I was greedy for some green- until we had a mini warm up this weekend and the patches of 'green' in our yard were more like the memory of green. Like wilted spinach left in the pan too long-soggy green brown-with a dump of dog poop. When the kids are done with winter, you know the game is over. Do you hear that, Winter? The game is OVER! We are waiting on some Spring like we wait on Santa. I hope we made it on the Nice list and we get lots of shiny, rainbow-y spring baubles and sunshine soon.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Love Your Pet Day

In case you didn't know, today is Love Your Pet Day. 

Recently my kids have started to notice that I spend an awful lot of time with the dogs. And they have begun to question whether I love my dogs more than I love my human children. That's just nonsense. It's just refreshing to have someone look up to you every day. Seriously, look at them- always looking up.

While I have solid relationships with my children- better than most by traditional standards, the kids fail to acknowledge that they are growing up and inevitably growing away from me. They don't all want to be snuggled under blankets with me watching Sherlock Holmes BBC on the iPad. The dogs relish the eternal maternal warmth that exudes from my body- the kids pull away. The dogs live to please, they are loyal and forgiving even when I am not at my best. The kids- not so much lately. And that's all okay. That's just the nature of their ages.

The Mr. sensing a bit of internal conflict as I pondered the children's accusation, assured me that he knew where my true love lay. "I know that if the kids and the dogs were stuck on train tracks with a train barreling toward them, you would save the children first."

This is true. How else would I have extra sets of hands to save the dogs?

Love your pets a little more today. And throw your kids an extra bone, too.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Princess Commando is home sick today with a migraine. An unfortunate inheritance from her mother. In her groggy post migraine fog, she stumbled over to my desk and handed me a valentine. Be still my beating heart.

A picture of my new dog, Bridget 

In case you can't make out the writing, it says:
Dear Mother,
Happy Valentine's Day! My love for you is stronger than the Earth's gravitational pull. It is so strong that I feel any of your own pain and sorrow. You are my universe. Thank you for years of kindness. Love, Anna

Whether or not you buy into this day or shun it for it's shameless commercialism, here's my Valentine to you:

At the end of the day, after the routine, the scuffles, the worries, the laughter, the monotony, the excitement, the narrowly avoiding disaster, I wish you all a soft place to fall.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A**Hole in One: Mommy's Milli Monster

The following A**Hole in One story was sent from my friend, Rebekah following a heated bedtime battle with her three year old daughter, Milli.

The other night as we were trying our very hardest to get our daughter, Milli, who has the extraordinary ability to grin and ignore every single direction, request, or plea from her parents, ready for bed, we had this very special episode:

Me: Milli, come in the bathroom it is time to go potty and brush your teeth.
Milli: ( Sings and dances in the hallway)
Me: Milli, it is time to get ready for bed.
Milli: (Sings, dances, grins in the hallway).
Me: Milli, if you do not come here and get ready for bed, we will not read Puff the Magic Dragon tonight.
Milli: (Sings, dances, grins and begins to roll on the floor clearly showing  me there will be a battle should I try to physically bring her in the bathroom).
Me: Okay, you lost Puff.

Daddy: (Comes upstairs from the hockey game) Milli, what is the matter? Did you cooperate? 
Milli: Yes, Daddy. But, Mommy whined at me.
Daddy: Do you want to read Puff?
Milli: (The following said in the most sugary sweet voice) Yes, you can read it to me! I looooove Puff!! He is the bestest dragon ever! I love my comfy pajamas! They are my favorite! I love to snuggle! Do you want to snuggle, daddy?

I watch, sitting on the toilet, tooth brush in hand, in exhaustion and amazement as the little darling skips out the door with daddy.

For more information about how you can contribute to A**Hole in One, please click here. What's  the good in enduring our own crappy experiences if we can't share them later with others in their similar times of affliction? 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

you know, dog

Dog, each morning you wake me
with  Ready- or- not- here- I- come inexhaustible exuberance
mattress quaking, bed sheets lifting and twisting under your dancing paws
Get up! Get up! Get up! Aren’t you happy to be alive?

I look at you and where others might see
a nuisance
a waste of space
a lost cause
a drained bank account
an inevitable heart break
I see beauty

From the familiarity of your not so fresh breath
the worn leather of your nose
the scar from a wound incurred in a former life
the spindly legs
the musculature of your haunches
the great white shark jaw
the glassy marbles in place of eyes
the batty ears that smell of earth
the wag, wag, wag of your tail
the fur of feathers and wisps pungent like wet carpet

You have become one of the most beautiful things of my day
Because you know,
you know when to stop your spinning antics
with that rope toy in your mouth
You know without me uttering a command
to drop everything and settle your body next to mine
Your countenance changes
You know
before a tear even begins to well
that my love meter is down
You know
what my humans overlooked
that I just need a little warmth pressed against me
a reassurance
Someone to have faith in me
When I don’t have faith in myself
You know, dog
you know what symbiosis is all about
this give and take
this loving one another wherever, whenever, no matter what

Friday, January 31, 2014

A**Hole in One: Afternoon A**Hole

The next installment in the A**Hole in One series was submitted by my friend, S (she asked that I refer to her and her daughter by their initials), after a particularly trying afternoon pick up at daycare with her three year old daughter, N. Anyone who has ever tried carrying a sack of screaming, squirming piglets over their shoulder while wearing dress shoes in the middle of an ice slicked, snow burdened winter will appreciate the following anecdote.

N hates to leave daycare. Emphasis on the HATES. Yesterday was especially horrific. Here is how it went.

Me: (Arriving at her classroom door) Hi sweetie! It's time to go.
N: (Seriously pissed off face alternating with near tears face) Go get my brother first.
Me: No.
N: Please Mommy.
Me:  No.
N: Can I have a few more minutes? (Now with  teenage-level snottiness).
Me: OK. I'll be back in a few minutes, so finish up what you are playing with.
Ten minutes later I return with baby bundled in tow. N sees me at the door. She GLARES at me as if I've just stolen the last French fry off her plate.
What followed was 7 minutes of foot stomping and hair tossing, alternating with crying on the floor in the fetal position.
I finally get her out of the classroom by leaving. She walks out, taking the world’s smallest steps, and meets me at her cubby.
What happened next was 20 minutes of shouting, crying, flailing, refusal to get coat, boots and other winter apparel on. All the while throwing her body around in such a way that other happy, accommodating children cannot access their belongings. I should mention that her shouting usually includes "Ouch mommy! Stop Mommy! Don't hurt me!" (I don't need to mention that I'm not even touching her, right?)
I am now sweating and fuming. A sympathetic parent tries holding the door open to no avail as we are barely moving.

In the end, we left with her over my shoulder (no boots, hat or mittens, coat unzipped) while I also balanced the baby in the infant carrier through the snow to the car.

For more information about how you can contribute to A**Hole in One, please click here. What's  the good in enduring our own crappy experiences if we can't share them later with others in their similar times of affliction? 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Words Not to Live By

First Born Son has a pair of lounge/ athletic type pants that he bought with his own money. They were costly. They are an off shade of maroon with an impressively sturdy construction- melding an easeful cotton woven blanket quality and the ruggedness of kernmantle rope. They are his favorite pants. He has had them for a while. They have never been washed.  I call them his 'stand up pants' because they have so much of his DNA on them they have nearly grown legs to stand up on their own.

I try to spend as little time as possible in his tenement of a bedroom. I drop off his clean and folded laundry in the few places unoccupied by garbage and soiled garments. And I scurry out with dust mice (and possibly real mice) chasing at my heals. But the other day, after not finding a suitable surface on which  to place his clean laundry- I decided to tidy up. This entailed sniffing every single sock and pair of boxers in a game of Clean VS Stank sorting. I picked up the favorite pants and before I lifted them to my nose- chucked them in the Stank pile. When I finished, all the dirty clothes were placed in the hamper for First Born Son to bring to the basement for a deep clean. And the fresh clothes were tucked safely in their drawers.

The next day, First Born Son came bounding down the stairs wearing The Pants. I felt myself panic a little in their presence.

'I put those in the dirty hamper! They need to be washed!'

'No they don't. They're fine.' He scoffed, flopping on the couch, embedding  slag and feculence into the cushions.

'Have you smelled them? I can smell them from here!' And then he spoke the words which rattled me more than the fetor of The Pants.

'Just because something smells bad, doesn't mean it's dirty.'

I realized that these were not just mere words.  Of all the words, these are THE words he has been living by.

Clearly my work with him is not yet done.

On Friday, I'll have another installment of A**Hole in One.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


It is fitting that on her 4th birthday we are insulated in our house as the ground is blanketed in snow and the air's bitter sting is unforgiving today. She came into the world in the middle of a snow storm. Her urgency to be present rivaled the blast of the gales which pressed down on us en route to the hospital.  She was born under a full moon. And she has grown to be both the tempest - a flurry of drumbeats and song- and also the warmth and safety of the hearth- a tiny healer laying her empathetic hands on the sick and doleful. It seems like only yesterday that we unexpectedly found ourselves expecting her- worrying over how another child would impact the family dynamic. And now as we celebrate the 4th year of the 4th child it doesn't seem like it is possible that there was ever life before her.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A**Hole in One: Great Balls of Fire

This is the first installment in our A**Hole in One series. This one comes via text message-courtesy of my younger sister, Bug who has been battling with the perpetual orneriness and mischievousness of my dear nephews ages 5 and 3. Currently, 3 year old Lu is the reigning champion of the A**hole Games in their home. My sister is pregnant with her third baby. Lord, help her!

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, ' A child is a curly, dimpled lunatic.' Oh, Mr. Emerson, I think you were being too polite.

Can you top this ass-oholic moment?  I'm sure you can. For more information about how you can contribute to A**Hole in One, please click here. Where's the good in enduring our own crappy experiences if we can't share them later with others in their similar times of affliction? 

Friday, January 17, 2014

a new series on the blog

When others use words like industrious, creative, independent, resourceful, determined to describe your child in moments of “challenging” behavior, do other less flowery characterizations run through your brain? There’s no question that you love your kid. But are there moments, days even (okay weeks) when you find yourself asking, Why is my kid such an a**hole? Does your child’s behavior leave you feeling alone- stranded on an island under siege by someone who isn’t tall enough to ride the big rides at the amusement park?  Do you find yourself  Googling Why are three year olds (or whatever age afflicts you) such a**holes and then subsequently, shamefully enjoying momentary validation when your search returns articles which are actually titled, Why 3 (or whatever age) Year Olds are A**holes?
This is Princess Commando at 3 years old.  She was being an A**hole that day.  I don't remember what she was so pissed about but she was saying something like, "You'll be sorry!"  

On Monday, I am launching a new series on the blog titled, A-hole in One. But I need your help.  I want you to share your anecdotes and your epic tales of the moments- the weeks- when you questioned whether or not your child* was an a**hole. And I will illustrate your stories. Please share the ugliest, most frustrating, most challenging, most OMFG, why isn’t there a PPS (Parent Protective Services)?! stories (it helps to make us all feel better about our own little a**holes).

If you have pictures- especially of the highlighted moment- please feel free to send those along too. If not, I will use one of my kids to stand in for your child (chances are one out of the four will be fulfilling the role that day). I will change names, when requested.

Please, send your stories to threeoclockcrazy@gmail.com  And please feel free to repost and share.

Remember- those things that make them challenging will make them great people one day. Until then, rest assured you are not alone.

*By child, I mean under 18 years old. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bread! Milk! Toilet Paper!

We had a blizzard last week. The city shut down. But before the blizzard, there was an extreme weather warning which streamed in red banners for days across our TV screens and blew up social media. The balmy 30 degree air was filled with anticipation. Temperatures were going to drop into the negative numbers mixing with violent wind gusts and unrelenting snow. We haven’t had a blizzard in Buffalo since before the dawn of Facebook.  Before the first finespun flakes descended, social media outlets stoked flames of mass hysteria about bread, milk and toilet paper shortages as a real time galleries of barren store shelves were curated by community members. Even the lactose intolerant suddenly scrambled to the corner store. Milk! We must have milk! We can’t drink it; but, we  can’t survive the storm without it!

We had already done our grocery shopping for the week. With the 6 of us, every time we shop, it looks like we are shopping for a cataclysm. 

It wasn’t just hype. On Monday afternoon, the snow moved in steadily.  The delicate powder turned into a wall of white. My charitable contribution for the day was to pick up the boys after school so that they wouldn’t have to wait for public transportation in the storm.

The conversation on the slow crawl home went something like this: 
Henry: Do you think they will close school tomorrow?
First Born Son: They’d better. It’s not fair to make us go out in this weather.
Me (in my head): Wah, wah wah. Babies.
First Born Son (spotting the blurred figure of his classmate): Hey look, it’s Dougie waiting for the bus. You can hardly see him because of the whiteout. He looks like giant snowball.
Me: Should I give him a ride?
First Born Son: Nah, he’ll be fine.

As I prepared dinner, the kids were glued to the TV- calling out the names of each district that had closed school for the following day. Each update that did not include the Buffalo Public Schools was followed by groans: Aww, c’mon! It’s not fair! They can’t make us go out in this weather! We’d better not have school tomorrow- that’s child abuse! I’m not dying of  hypothermia just because our district does not care about us!

At 6:00 PM, the call came. The angels rejoiced Hallelujah, Buffalo Public Schools will be closed tomorrow! And, First Born Son bolted into the room.
'It is for real? Are schools really closed tomorrow?’ His eyes were sparkling like disco balls.
'Yes,’ I confirmed.
Then, I’ll be right back,’
Where are you going?’ He was pulling on his sneakers and I suspected it wasn’t to do something helpful like shovel the walkway.
To the store. I’ve got to load up on supplies.’ (Supplies=Candy)
It’s awful out there! You don’t even have a coat on. Or boots!’
 He paused in the open  doorway letting in a shock of arctic air, assessing the neighborhood which had been swallowed in the veil of white,wryly smiling, 'Aw, it’s not that bad.’

Friday, January 3, 2014

yes, before you know it...

My last goal for 2013 was to keep my eyes open until midnight. Keep...my...eyes..ooooooooo...pen. Accomplished- but barely. We were all knit together on the couch- the kids, the dogs. Us.  We counted down from ten, the ball dropped and Princess Commando gave me a celebratory squeeze. It’s not that it was a bad year, it was just good to let go of 2013. 2014 feels more than ever like a year for embracing the opportunity for opportunities.

A few days before Christmas, a large envelope arrived in the mail for First Born Son from Buffalo State College (his first choice and my Alma mater).  I don’t know what I expected it to be- but, I did not expect it to be the affirmation of 17 years of planning, guidance, accomplishment. 

I unfolded the glossy tri-fold and pulled out the letter tucked neatly inside the pocket:

Dear Max,
On behalf of our faculty, staff and students, I congratulate you on your admission to the Pre-Business Administration program at Buffalo State College…

Hot damn! It's a Major Award! Happy Christmas to us!

This is one of those moments seasoned parents caution new, googly-eyed parents about.  Before you know it, he’ll be in college. Yes, before you know it....

When we were beginners standing at the starting line of long and winding path dotted with milestone markers, we sighed at the sprawling stretch of time billowing ahead-confident that there would, in fact, be time ahead of us. Through the bliss and through the battles, we developed a recurrent verse- We just have to get him to college. We imagined what the world would look like- what type of person our son would be- who we would be in the context of it all. I imagined myself to feel much wiser when the acceptance letters landed in our mailbox. But now that we have arrived at Before you know it, he’ll be in college, I don't feel all that more enlightened.  

There are three others for whom in times of achievement and times of agony, we mumble- We've just got to get them to college. I'm still contemplating the rise and fall in the path ahead but with less confidence that time will, in fact, keep surging onward-forever-for us. The difference now is that I now have the authority to exhale sentiments which will drift carelessly about the tender heads of new mothers- ‘Relish these moments.Take it all in and don’t blink. These moments will be gone before you know it.’