If It Weren’t For Nuns, My Child Would Starve

IF YOU CAN’T TOLERATE THE F-BOMB, JUST FUCKING MOVE ALONG ON THIS ONE.

As if we didn’t have enough drama in this house…

It doesn’t matter what I do. I send Evan in with lunch money to be put on his account. Or I can pack his lunch. Whatever. We still get cafeteria bills. In general, it costs about $100 per month to feed Evan school lunches. Remember when we were kids and it took like 75 cents per day? And an extra quarter got you an extra helping on pizza day? Those days are gone. They went bye-bye along with the little rubber squeezy change holders that held your lunch money daily. Now my kid has a name badge thay he swipes like a debit card, and we have to add money to it.

Sometimes, in the craziness that is my household, I forget. And sometimes I don’t. Regardless, we get the bill.

Two days ago, we got hate mail from the cafeteria lady. Evan has a bill. Again. And it needs to be paid. So I went to get money out and discovered that instead of deducting my normal monthly car insurance premium, Geico took enough to cover the entire policy. Oops. When I renewed, I forget to opt for the monthly payments. My fault. But oh, shit, we have no money! So I tried to call the cafeteria lady and got no answer. Since I had no cash, and Evan has to have lunch, I sent him in with enough to cover one day’s worth. There! Evan gets lunch until my payroll hit this morning.

Yesterday, when Evan returned from school, he had more hatemail. Another copy of his bill, and in black marker and block letters at the bottom, the cafeteria lady basically stated that I am the scumofthefuckingearth and sending Evan in with enough to cover one lunch was NOT ACCEPTABLE–her emphasis, not mine–and that we owed a bill. Again, we tried to call and got no answer.

This morning, I sent Evan to school as normal. I told him to let them know that we would go to an ATM and bring money in for his cafeteria bill and to tell whoever this information. John overslept and didn’t have time to stop at an ATM on the way, so he would have to bring the money back to the school. So what happened?

My kid calls me, crying, from the office. “Mommy, they said you have to bring me a sandwich or s-s-s-s-something for lunch, that I cannot go h-h-h-h-hungry. I told them what you told me to tell them, but they still made me call you!”

To which my response was to make Evan put an adult on the damned phone. Basically, the nun that answered told me that they are concerned for Evan, that he has to eat and how did I plan on feeding him. Blah blah blah. How their only concern was Evan.

Are you serious? MY  only concern is Evan. I will ensure that he eats. We are bringing in money, for God’s sake. We are not trying to starve our kid. His bill is thirteen fucking dollars and we are acting like it is a federal crisis and poor Evan is going to go hungry and never eat again. And for the record, I would have packed Evan a lunch today and just sent the money in with Evan tomorrow, but I was out of fucking bread for a God-forsaken PB&J and Evan refused an Uncrustable in place of his fucking PB&J-with-the-fucking-crusts-cut-off. So ta-daaaaa. You have to wait for me to get one of us to an ATM. And while we on the topic of my failure to feed my kid, John would have had time to stop at an ATM before school had Evan not nibbled on his breakfast, insisting on eating one fucking Cheerio at a time, citing that too big a bite is a fucking choking hazard. What 10-year-old speaks of choking hazards, anyway? Mine, that’s who!

Maybe I should just revert to my passive aggressive bitchiness and really prove my point. I wonder if that five-star place around the corner caters school lunches!?!? Better yet, how would the nuns react to the waiter showing up with a silver platter and tucking the linen napkin neatly onto Evan’s lap for him?

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Moo, Dog, Eat, Bath, Bye, Go,

No, this is no an SAT or ACT question, as in what do these words have in common? This is a list of the words Zachary has said for the first time—in the past 48 hours.

What did I tell ya? That as soon as I start to worry about his failure to reach a milestone on time, he comes up with things on his own. And his little voice! That cute, sweet, baby voice is so adorable. It reminds me of the time when Evan really started talking. Only Evan was much older than Zach is now, and when Evan first really spoke, he spoke in paragraphs with enunciation tha belonged to a middle-aged college professor instead of a toddler. We would get stares anywhere we went, this mother and her child, speaking to one another like they were peers. It just goes with having a smart kid.

Zach is not Evan and Evan is not Zach. As Zachary’s personality unfolds, we can start to see that he is more like John than he is like me. Rambunctious, a lover of the outdoors, all boy. Evan is my intellectual child who would rather stay indoors with a computer or a good book. He’s temperamental where Zach is laid-back, much like John is easy-going and I am high-strung. Yin and yang. My boys. Zach wantts to play ball, and Evan would rather ponder the kinetic energy required to make the ball move.

And I love them both so much it hurts.

What’s the Deal with the Kindle, Already?

*Sigh* I don’t own a Kindle.

I have wanted a Kindle for as long as they have been out. Since their shiny newness was cutting-edge technocrap. I have blogged before that, damnit, I was going to buy myself a Kindle.

I still haven’t bought a damned Kindle. Even though their prices continue to drop and you can now get a decent one, a highly purposeful one, for like somewhere less than $100.

What is my problem? I have no problem thunking down money for a oy for one of the boys. For a meal out. For nice perfume or gym shoes for work. Why don’t I have a Kindle?

And now, after some heavy self-psychologizing, I know.

I’m old. That’s my theory. I am old and set in my ways. I resist technology. Exhibit A? The length of time it took me to buy a cell phone. But when I did, I bought an Android smartphone and now I would rather cut off my arm than live without it, and want an even better, more advanced smartphone that can do even more. Exhibit B? The fact that my courses this session didn’t come with books, but E-Books! Which I’m fairly certain are less books and more data files, no less. I just about had a meltdown. I was seriously pissed, and promptly wasted trees and killed the environment by printing out all of the chapters listed in the syllabi, spent the time with the 3-hole punch and arranging the chapters into binders. Essentially, I made my own damned books and didn’t look back.

Here’s the thing: (And you will probably attempt to have me committed after reading this) I love books. Books. I love the glossy cover and crisp pages of a new book. I love spending time pouring over shelves at a massive bookstore trying to find the next great read by that new auhor who may even become my favorite. I love that little sound the spine of a new book makes when you really get into the pages for the first time. (Though, just a bit of Bitchypants trivia for you, my biggest pet peeve is a broken spine on a book. They just never look the same on the shelf again.) I love the smell of new books.

Yeah, yeah, the Kindle is handy and I still want one. I realize I could potentially carry my entire library in my purse if I just bought the damned thing. But has anyone ever truly been out in public and thought to themselves, “Self, I really wish you had your entirefuckinglibrary in your purse right now because this line at the bank is horrifically long and you could spend this time reading your entirefuckinglibrary?” I doubt this has ever happened. To anyone.I am perfectly content with one book in my bag. If things get really crazy, I may even have a couple of books in my backpack.

I’ll buy the Kindle eventually because I know it will travel well and I am the girl who always has a book of some kind on her person. But now I know why I have resisted for so long: I am a closeted book purist.

Sauced Memories

Nothing brings back memories of my mother like this picture. Mom was…well, just Mom. Like me, only a little softer around the edges. And scented with Anaiis like I rock out Versace Bright Crystal.

Every single year for Thanksgiving, all of my grown siblings and their gaggles of children would flood our house. Mom could cook. Her specialty, which she swore was no big deal, was her homemade lasagna. Somehow, over the years wihout her here, I have learned to make her lasagna. But anyway, Thanksgiving dinner…

Mom would have been slaving away in the kitchen, even in the years she was really sick, for days. It started with her having to take breaks. Then there was the grren-blue line of oxygen tubing stretching across the kitchen floor from her oygen concentrator, which was too large and heavy to be moved. Then we got to the point where she had to sit at the table and have me bring her stuff to peel, dice, slice, season. But still she insisted on the elaborate holiday meal, made completely from scratch. But there was one thing she would not make. Ever.

Cranberry sauce.

Nobody in my family liked it or even ate it just to be polite. But apparently it is required of Thanksgiving dinner. It simply had to be there on the table. So every year I can remember, Mom would buy the canned cranberry sauce that comes out in a gelatinous mold with the rings of the cans still tattooed on it. I know now that most people who cheat and use the canned stuff will at least slice or chop it so it is no longer in can-formation. But this is my mother we’re talking about. And by the time she had finished making yeast rolls from scratch, roasting the turkey, cooking the sweet potatoes/ mashed potatoes/ veggies/ homemade stuffing/ gravy/ from-scratch pumpkin pies (not even canned pumpkin in her recipes–she used the real thing), she really didn’t give a damn about something nobody ate. But yet it had to be there.

So she would get a standard cereal bowl–most likely Tupperware–and just thunk the can, upside down, into the bowl as the “sauce” slithered out. And rings and all, she would put it on the table amidst all of the dishes she would prepare from scratch, all artfully displayed. It was like the bastard child of the Thanksgiving meal, that ugly plastic bowl with the can-shaped mold. But it was there, per tradition.

The last Thanksgiving she was here, she forgot the sauce. And though I have never seen anyone so much as take a spoonful from the monstrosity, she fretted over its absence. Finally, one of my brothers-in-law went to the store and bought it so she could rest easy.

Most Thanksgivings, we go to John’s mom’s. She can cook, too. Her food is delicious, made from recipes passed down from her mother. But it has never been the same. And each year, I miss my mom. I keep waiting for the time that the memories fade and missing her isn’t so palpable. Somehow, that time never comes. I wish John could have met her. His mom makes homemade cranberry salad. He laughed when I told him the story of the canned sauce. Each year, as the cans take their prominent place on grocery store shelves for the holidays, he asks me to repeat the story for him, and he laughs like it is the first time hearing it. He would have loved her.

I could take or leave Thanksgiving dinner. It has never, ever had the same appeal for me since Mom’s death.

There’s more missing from the holiday than a Tupperware bowl with a can-shaped mold in it.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles–Wait, No Planes

Well, mainly because I hate to fly. I’m not once of these crazy-scared ones. I’ll get on a plane. I just don’t like it and fear for a fiery death in the back of my mind the entire time. Maybe it’s the whole laws-of-gravity thing, as in I’m fat and we shouldn’t tempt fate by keeping me up in the air like that. But anyway…

A couple  of new developments. Katie, the photographer from Heaven, had an opening for a session with the boys and I couldn’t pass it up. This time was a lot simpler and exhausting at the same time. The boys were dressed very casually as we met at a local train museum. Well, really it’s like a train graveyard, full of old cars–cabooses, engines, passenger cars. There were even some switches and lights for he boys to play with, and I literally put Zach down and told both boys to just go, all while Katie did her snap-snap-snap  thing. Today, she posted a few on her Facebook page as a sneak peak, and I love them. Once again, she captured them so well that it is as if my babies live in these photos.

This last one is proof, at least to me, that even when he’s hurting, Evan eats the camera. Maybe it is just me, but I can see the pain underneath in this photo, despite the fact that he had sent over an hour running and playing, and just being a kid.

Remember when John said he wasn; going to call his family until they called him, all after their reaction to our telling them of Evan’s issues? Well, John is John. And Friday was his mother’s birthday, so he couldn’t not call her to wish her a happy birthday. It’s just who he is. But the end resul is that after his mom sounded “sad” on the phone, according to him, we are making a trip down there for Thanksgiving, albeit a short one because I have to work Thanksgiving night. This ccould be very interesting. I’ll keep you posted.

The Saint and the Homework Woes

Evan brings home schoolwork on all nights except for Friday, and as you know, we fight him everytime. It sends him into a downward spiral that leads to a meltdown. There is always an excuse: he’s hungry/ tired/ has a headache. There is always an excuse, and when we don’t allow him to get away with this, he throws the mother of all fits. Sometimes, the screaming can go on for hours. On the really bad nights, we have no choice but to send a note to his teacher, letting her know that he refused, that we fought with him for hours before finally giving up. What makes it so frustrating is that Evan can do all of it with ease. So a few nights ago, he made the excuse that he was hungry, even though I provided him with an after-school snack already. The protests went on long enough that I had to come up with something for dinner. Neither of us wanted to cook, so we opted to go to a local restaurant around the corner from our house. Well, actually we let Evan choose, and that was the result. Afterward, there was a movie John wanted to see, so we went to the video store. When all was said and done, we were home by 6:30. Plenty of time for Evan to do the homework, when in fact, I had allowed him to choose the restaurant as a bribe to get the homework finished when we got home. Despite the effort, he still refused. Somewhere around 9PM, we gave up and sent him to bed.

The next day, he brought home a note from his teacher:

“Evan said he could not do his homework last night because you made him go out to eat, and then to a video store. He said that by the time he got home, it was time for his bath and bedtime. Please sign this and return it.”

Seriously? So my response:

“Actually, I let Evan choose dinner as a bribe to try to get him to do his homework, after having argued with him about it for quite some time,  and he still refused. We were home by 6:30PM, with plenty of time for him to complete his assignments. In truth, we fought with him for hours on this, before we finally made him get ready for bed. He was not permitted to watch television or anything else afterwards because he refused to do his homework, thus bath and bed promptly followed our giving up. Evan lied to you.”

Yesterday, I was doing something completely random when the phone rang. John answered, and after a few, “Yes” and “MmmmHmmmm” respnses, he handed the phone to Evan. Evan said a few words and promptly got his backpack and sat down at the table. He got out his books and began working on his math, all while talking on the phone. I heard him say, “Okay, Bye”, and hang up. The whole time, the kid is doing his math homework. 15 minutes later, the phone rang again. I heard him tell the caller that he was finished with math, and had moved on to his reading assignment. Again he hangs up. 15 minutes after that, another call, and now he is on to his art project. And so it went, every 15 minutes until he was finished with his homework–all of it.

It was his teacher! During the time that normal families eat dinner, this woman took it upon herself to call periodically and check Evan’s progress. And I was amazed for several reasons.

First of all, why can he not do that for us??? There was no fighting, no excuses, no whining. He did exactly as she told him to do. I couldn’t help but think of a snake charmer. He just did it.

And what is wrong with us? Why can’t we get the same results?

And finally, Whoa! It is amazing enough that this woman allows Evan to stay after school where he can work on school work without the drama that comes with him doing it at home. I mean, I realize she is a teacher and thus signed up for this. But as soon as that bell rings at the end of the day, she is on her own time. She no longer has any obligations to Evan at that point. She takes it upon herself to allow him to stay at times, citing that she stays late anyway to do things like grade, work on lessons, etc., and Evan is no bother wihout other children present. But then she did this for us. The end result is that he completed the homework and we had a relatively peaceful night here. After he was finished, we went and had spaghetti at a local Italian joint, then went and ran a few errands. Upon returning home, it was time for bath and bed. Evan even used shampoo on his hair without prodding from us. He went to bed without a fuss. It was the most amazing thing…..EVER!

Maybe it was tacky of me, but I wanted a way to thank her for going the extra mile. It would be so easy to call it quits at the end of the day, to forget about Evan and work and go home to her family. And I couldn’t blame her for doing so. But to take an interest and go above and beyond to help him? Especially at this time when he is having such difficulty? The woman must be a saint. So Evan and I went out together to find somehing small to give as a proper “Thank you”. Evan actually picked it out, saying she collects these as I do. And it was the only semi-teacher theme we found, but it’s name is “Thank you for making a difference.” Was this horrible? Tacky? Will it make her feel awkward? I hope not. I included a card, as well. I am just so appreciative of her efforts with Evan when it would be so easy to chalk all of this up to his illness and dismiss it. And she is exactly what he needs right now: people who see his strengths and hone in on them, when it would be easier to focus on weaknesses. He needs people who believe in him enough to invest this sort of time.

Holidays

It’s cold outside. It finally is starting to feel a little wintery. Thanksgiving is next week, which means Christmas is right around the corner. I’m not sure what is going on this year, but it seems as if everyone is rushing the holidays this year. Stores and local businesses were blaring Christmas music immediately after Halloween. My neighbors, who usually grace us with their tackiest of tacky decorations, are already in full swing. There is a countdown on the board at work–X number of days left. The trees have been up for weeks now, and stores have all of their Christmas decorations on full display.

I don’t usually buy into all of this. Last year, I didn’t even put up a tree. Our only real holiday tradition has only ever been going to visit John’s family. Even for the years I have had to work Christmas, this has been the case. For those years, we would just celebrate early or late, depending on my work schedule. This year, things are a little different.

For some reason, I am feeling a little Clark Griswold-ish. I want the family Christmas.  I want to bake cookes with Evan. I want the tree, and the surprises on Christmas morning. I want wreaths and garland. The problem is that I want those things…NOW! It really is far enough away from my norm to be bizarre. I’m not sure what is to blame. Could it be that the stores rushed me? Or that John and I will have been married eleven years as of Christmas Eve? Maybe it is Zach, and that this will be the first real Christmas he will be able to enjoy. Or the difficulties we have had with Evan that make me want to be close to these three guys in my life. Regardless, I just want to be here with them, We’ll put up a tree, bake the damned cookies. I’ll hang stockings with my babies. There’s no fireplace, but we can burn candles and make this place smell like a pine forest. Of course, John isn’t on board for any of this. Well, he is and he isn’t. I’ve tried twice now to get him to go with me to a store to buy a new artificial tree already. (Thought about a live tree this year, but the thought of Zachy eating pine needles doesn’t do it for me.) Of course both of these attempts were shot down. I plan on trying again today, but he insists that we are to wait until after Thanksgiving. (Side Note: I bought a turkey this year, for the first time in many years–for our little family.) He’s right. hat has been the tradition for both of us growing up. After the dishes are washed and leftover turkey is put away, you’re supposed to watch a Christmas special–most likey Rudolph–and trim the tree. But I want to do it now. Not next week, but now.

I just want to be with them. Only them. I don’t even want to buy gifts for anyone else. Just them. What is wrong with me?