Sprinkling More than Magic

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costumesBackpacks check, homework check, costumes check, umbrellas check. It was a busy morning getting everyone ready for Halloween. There were a few extra nerves this morning since the forecast called for rain.

The principal made a robo call saying that in the event of rain the parade would be held inside. The problem with this backup plan is we live in California where the classrooms are in different buildings scattered around campus. It’s an outdoor setup. There aren’t many halls to parade through. If the parade had to be indoors there would be two parades simultaneously. The kindergarteners would join the first and second graders in one building. The rest of the kids would parade in another building. Parents were asked to watch in their child’s classroom.

I told Parker that I would watch in Gwen’s classroom so I could take off her box after the parade. Otherwise I wouldn’t have watched either one of them. I would have just gone home and avoided the crowds. He took the news well. Gwen, on the other hand, has been losing her mind for a week now. Remember the girl who worships the rain? She was so upset that Wally Weatherman forecasted rain for her Halloween parade. I kept telling her that we could make adjustments and it would still be a fun day.

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She knew it would rain. We planned on rain. She wore her black Mary Janes instead of her pink ballet shoes that provide no more protection than a pair of socks. I wanted her to wear her white Sunday shoes because they matched better but Heath wisely talked me out of it. He said black doesn’t show dirt as easily and it would be a dirty day with all the rain. Looking at Gwen’s face you would think Mother Nature was sprinkling spiders rather than the rain we so desperately need! She’s a funny girl.

The bell rang and the teachers escorted their classes inside the buildings. Parents lined the hall to allow Mrs. M a chance to get her excited first graders situated. As we stood there we all asked each other where the parade was taking place. It was starting to barely sprinkle just before the teachers came for the classes. I assumed we would watch the parade inside. The principal had made two announcements between the time we arrived and the time the first bell rang, but nobody had heard either one over the festive energy.

A first grade door opened and the teacher started walking her class outside. Mrs. M opened her door and told the parents the parade would be outside and the best place to watch would be along the back field. I grabbed Gwen’s umbrella just in case and walked outside with everyone else. The sprinkles came off and on throughout the parade. It wasn’t a big deal. I was grateful for the principal’s decision because I got to see both my kids in the parade.

In all the years I have been going to these school parades I have not perfected my viewing techniques. Whether I can see over other parents heads or not I tend to point the camera and shoot. I look at the parade when I get home and see my pictures! I should just enjoy the moment but I don’t want to miss the tiny photo op window to capture my children digitally. There is never any predictable order to the classes either. So I stand there clicking my camera every so often. I don’t look through the screen. I do see the kids live but somehow I feel like I really see the parade later at home.

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This is my favorite picture. I think this was a first grade class. Look at all the Frozen characters I managed to get when I only had my eye on Olaf! The little boy in the wheelchair is Sven. Very creative. Frozen characters were a dime a dozen this year. This Olaf was adorable waving at everyone and saying hi. Sven sitting in a sled is very creative.

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I missed Parker’s teacher, Mrs. O. She was a roller derby girl with missing teeth. All the fourth grade teachers were dressed that way. I was happy to see Parker and his friend who dressed as Chuckie but held his mask the whole time!

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Gwen and her friend Lauren. Apparently those girls are joined at the hip. I got a couple pictures of the two of them. Can you see the two bumblebees? I watched the parade with Maddie’s parents. Emily said that she bought the costume at the local Twin Sale because it’s cheaper to buy used costumes. Maddie and the other girl came to school both dressed as bumblebees. They laughed and laughed because they didn’t know the other would be a bee! I love the scarecrow too. Her head pokes through her shirt.

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Maddie is reaching out for her little brother’s hand. Emily said that Maddie insisted on having striped legs. So Emily wrapped tape around her legs. She wasn’t sure if Maddie could actually use the restroom in the costume. She assumed everything would come down but maybe not go back up! Luckily it was a short day.

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Cindy Lou Who, Mrs. V as Merida, and Mrs. H as a mad scientist.
Mrs. V is a redhead. I asked if she grew her hair out for the costume. She played along quite well tossing her wig and telling everyone that it was all her hair! The kindergarten teachers were all Disney princesses. Mrs. H is the science teacher. A mad scientist was a great choice of costume for her.

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The first two girls were so cute. They waved at everyone. I love the vending machine costume. I should have mentioned it to his mom. We walked up the path together to pick up our kids in the pouring rain. She went on and on about how creative and well done Gwen’s costume was. She asked, “Is it your daughter that was dressed as the ballerina in a jewelry box?” Mrs. M was impressed with Gwen’s costume too. It reminded her of the good old days when everyone wore homemade costumes.

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Love the clown in the clown car. The giant candy corn made of foam is impressive. I didn’t even see the hot dog until I got home. Super cute.

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The first grade teachers were jellyfish with streamers coming off their white umbrellas. I like the aquarium costume too.

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I don’t know what the girl in the middle with the hamburger is. I just thought it was cute. Do you see the frozen Elsa? Emily and I were laughing that all the little girls dressed as Frozen characters seemed to be shivering in the cold. Elsa was the one who sang that the cold never bothered her anyway. At least until she lived in Northern California when it made her soft!

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After the parade I talked to Emily for a little longer. Then I headed for Gwen’s classroom to relieve her of her box. The classroom was empty. I found a lot of classes still out on the blacktop just dancing around to music. When they lined up I snapped a couple shots of Gwen and Lauren just being a whole lot of Gwen and Lauren. Cute girls.

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I didn’t get the best angle for the class pictures. I didn’t even know they posed for these pictures. First graders are so fun.

Now it’s all over. The parade wasn’t rained out after all. I did keep my umbrella open the whole time. Umbrella in left hand, camera in right. It was just easier that way. Gavin will bring himself home soon. Heath’s training ended early so he will be home soon. The kids already got candy at the Trunk or Treat. We will show off their costumes to our neighbors. Other than that I say let it rain!

Rain, rain, rain. We need more than a sprinkling of Halloween Magic around here.

The Great Escape

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My mind is constantly going. I sleep to dream. I wake to the nightmare of reality.

Three themes fight for attention. My thoughts obsess over death, school, church responsibilities, school, church, death, death, church, school, death, school, church …

Like a black and white film on a constant loop.

Each thought is equally intense. It eats up my emotional energy. And I sleep to dream. There is no relief from the prison that my mind has become. I am trapped inside sentenced to repeat the cycle of thoughts until the end of time.

It’s a known fact that if you keep doing what you’ve always done you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got. Routine brings on the barrage of thoughts in order. The only part of my routine that brings any respite is evening. This is when the TV is turned on.

Sometimes I’ll watch during the day but that comes with inevitable guilt. I try to do enough chores around the house to convince myself I deserve a break. It doesn’t always work. Either the guilt is still there or I can’t stop cleaning.

Cleaning comes with its own set of angry thoughts that always bring along guilt for company. It’s a mindless enough task that the other three competitors surface regularly.

When others tell me about their day I admit I don’t always hear. My thoughts are ruthless when it comes to demanding attention. As more and more family members come home they fill the house with their presence. My thoughts start to weaken slightly. School is usually triumphant until evening.

The black frame of distraction lights up. Story after story flashes across the screen beckoning me in. Cheap, shiny distraction. The drama in my head allows the drama on screen to take center stage. Total focus is required. Otherwise my three demons come back out to play.

Tides are turning in my favor. For a week or so I have had victory after victory over my own mind. My demons are tired and resting more often now. Though my mind is still a carnival of thoughts revolving around an old merry-go-round. I owe my temporary reprieve to books and the first season of Reign found on Netflix. (The second season is currently in progress on CW.)

Books are forbidden fruit to me. As much as I love reading I can’t afford to. It’s become a family joke. “Kids, say goodbye to your mom. She’s reading again. She’ll be back in a couple days.” I read for a couple hours last night while the World Series was playing a few feet away from where I was sitting. I can tune anything out for a book. I only saw the SF Giants win because I happened to be out of my seat momentarily.

I like to solve the temptation to immerse myself in a book by choosing quick and easy reads. Something short that grips my attention right away. It becomes a blockbuster movie of words and I read until it ends.

The last book I read took a lot more mental effort than that. The Blind Side was not a fluffy chick flick that called for popcorn and tissues. It was an intense view of social problems wrapped up in the joy of football.

Now I’m reading The Book Thief. It’s also an intense view of social problems wrapped up in gloom and despair. Yet I cannot put it down. In the middle of all the dreary oppression of Nazi Germany is the remarkable human spirit and its will to live.

I’ve noticed that I have been picking depressing stories to read lately. If it doesn’t have death in it, it at least has poverty and unfairness. I crave something real and these stories offer that.

Anne of Green Gables wasn’t depressing but I sobbed like a baby when Matthew died! Bridge to Terabithia was extremely difficult to read out loud. I skipped one line. It succinctly summed up what it feels like to lose someone to death and I couldn’t read it out loud. The Blind Side lit a fire inside me. The Book Thief is repairing my broken soul.

Every night I have to watch Reign. When we first started watching we watched several episodes at a time. On school nights there isn’t always enough time for more than one. Last night’s episode was called Dirty Laundry and it was really funny. I needed the comic relief.

I have heard authors talk about the horrible circumstances they keep throwing at their characters. Reign is a visual novel that does just that. The characters never get to come up for air before another impossible situation is thrown at them.

I really appreciate the writers for the entertaining way they handle most of the deaths on the show. Every episode calls for several deaths or murders. A good writer makes the viewer feel the magnitude of death, that these are actually people being knocked off for one political reason or another. Yet the writers outdid themselves with the accidental death of the Bohemian Royal. The cleanup was really funny. Subtle, sarcastic, and very funny.

I find myself thinking more of these fictitious worlds than any of my obsessive thoughts. It’s a coping mechanism I realize. A very welcome coping mechanism.

Now instead of feeling like I’m drowning in my own head I feel like it takes a long time to surface from my stories into reality. Since my mind never turns off, I would rather entertain these thoughts. Instead of wishing I could slip away for a while until my life calms down, I wish I could slip away for my stories. It’s kind of the same sentiment. Just prettier packaging.

Dishes, laundry, holidays … do I have to? They remind me of my own life. I would rather be distracted.

Garlic Pumpkin

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“Around Halloween there are many scary and creepy things. I know because I’ve seen one. It was like an oval covered in wrapping paper. In the darkness it glowed like the white part of the eye looking at me. When I went over to touch it, it looked ripped and gross, and the worst part was…THE SMELL! It smelled like pizza or spaghetti! Ugh! When I did touch it felt like crumbled up paper. After that I didn’t take any more chances, so I ran for the hills. If you are a vampire like me you should do the same.”

Parker’s class was asked to decorate a pumpkin without carving it. Then they had to write a descriptive paragraph about their pumpkin. The pumpkins will be smuggled into class in paper bags and the paragraphs will be turned in. While the kids are at recess the teacher will display the pumpkins around the room and then read the paragraphs for the kids to identify the pumpkins. I think it is the cutest Halloween assignment ever.

We had a lot of fun brainstorming ideas. Parker wanted to make his pumpkin look like a rat. It seemed more tricky than any of us were willing to put in the effort for. I think it was Gavin that suggested an onion which is when the lightbulb lit up above our heads. Garlic would be much more interesting than an onion because of its role in Halloween lore. All it took was one sheet of tissue paper folded in half and wrapped around the pumpkin to make a head of garlic. I love the results!

True Ghost Stories

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Tis the season for chills and thrills. Try on these shivering stories for size.

I was lounged back in my reclining wing back chair. Outside there was buzzing of yard maintenance tools. Occasionally the house would snap and pop as it settled in the warming sun. Some noise but generally silence enveloped me.

I had just turned the page and read a line or two when a voice started chattering away. It sounded like a radio commercial. The sound had to be coming from the boys room. They have the only other alarm clock in our house. Why it was set to come on shortly after noon is beyond me. While the voice surprised me I calmly put my bookmark back in place and leaned forward to stand up.

The radio turned off.

That’s when the goosebumps threatened to emerge. I refused to get scared. I also refused to get up and investigate. I continued reading for a while and then got up for lunch. The experience reminded me of a similar moment from my childhood.

I didn’t have a fancy alarm clock then. Just a turquoise blue with black trim mini boom box. It plugged into the wall next to my bed and was pushed under my bed when not in use.

There was nothing digital about this radio. It had small gray square buttons. Other than the volume buttons, the buttons had to be clicked into position. The volume buttons (I don’t remember why there were two but there were) slid up and down next to white dashes painted onto the plastic. I always kept the volume low. Even when my parents weren’t home and a song I liked came on in the middle of the day I never slid those buttons higher than the third dash.

One morning at that eerie time between the gray of night and the beginning of day, my radio turned on. Loudly.

“Tristan! What are you doing? Turn it off!” my sister was not amused.
“I didn’t turn it on.”

Terrified out of my mind I had to slide my hands out from under the safety of my blankets and turn my radio off. I yanked the plug out of the wall. Later when I got up for the day I saw the button had never clicked out of the off position. Cue Twilight theme song.

I have the vaguest of memories of a metal spoon being stirred violently against a metal bowl in the wee hours of morning. That house was haunted. I swear it was. We were always seeing things or hearing things that just didn’t make sense.

A few years later we were living with my grandparents. Candi and I were in the laundry room for some reason. The room was the only unfinished part of the basement. Wooden storage shelves were just inside the doorway. Then you would walk through this narrow hallway past the standing freezer and into a more open room of laundry. An ironing board and clothes were on the opposite side of the washer and dryer. Just past the washer and dryer was a roughed in doorway that led to a small storage room where my grandma stored canned food.

It seems like we were roller blading in there or something. As we got past the freezer I saw a man’s back disappear into the storage pantry. It scared the snot out of us. My mom told me I was not allowed to talk about it or any other strange happenings again. My sister was young and it had really bothered her.

After lunch today I did finally go into the boys room to check out their alarm clock. Both alarms were switched to the off position. Which makes me glad I go in there every morning to wake them up. Though it does not explain the strange radio commercial snippet I heard. Cue Twilight theme song.

Soda, Candy, and Other Gluttonous Activities

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We have partied all weekend long. I have known for quite some time now that this last weekend would be a crazy one. It made me laugh at the time while rolling my eyes at the absurdity of the planning. Having lived through it, well let’s just say I took a kid break yesterday.

Yesterday was our Primary Program. Leading up to this special day was a final practice and pizza party on Friday afternoon, the Stake Trunk or Treat on Saturday, and then the Primary Presentation in Sacrament Meeting followed by another party. I’m not kidding. Somehow all these parties were planned in the same weekend.

The Primary kids survived the torture of going through the script on Friday. On my right was a kid who had missed the first “dress rehearsal” practice in the chapel. His family moved and we weren’t sure if the kids would still be in the Program. For a notoriously hyperactive kid, he did an awesome job. He was calm and I let him follow the script with me that I held in my lap. I think that helped.

On my left was a girl who told me over and over that it was her little sister’s birthday that day. They were going to a party after the practice. She was a little excited and had trouble sitting still. If she wasn’t telling me it was her sister’s third birthday she was asking if we were done yet.

“How many more songs?” And she’d yank the script out of my hands. I playfully bopped her in the face with it. A young woman sitting in the back of the chapel saw and started cracking up. 

“You can’t take this from me on Sunday so let’s practice having you not take it from me now!” My suggestion didn’t last long. She was so antsy! Mercifully the last song was sung. Everyone was hovering on the edge of their seats ready to bolt out of the chapel in search of pizza and rootbeer.

The kids were so funny. Regardless of age they all had pizza sauce smeared on their faces. They would swig their soda as if they were inventing new drinking games. At least one kid at every table was knocking back cupful after cupful of rootbeer. The other kids at the table would cheer him on. I felt like I was in an underage Mormon bar! Kids would take their empty cups up to the serving tables asking for refills. When their glass was full they would walk away announcing, “This is my sixth glass of soda!” The open bar proved too much a temptation for them.

I was actually told not to refill a child’s glass. Which I thought was weird. It’s rootbeer! “Sorry kid, we have to cut you off. Where are your keys? You’re not driving home like this! There’s a rocking chair in the Nursery. Go sleep it off!” Then I found out that the reason why he couldn’t have anymore was because he had built up a collection of cups at his table. The President felt like he didn’t need to have five separate cups of soda refilled at all times. That I could agree with.

Saturday was the costume debut party.

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Lifesize ballerina in a jewelry box and a mad scientist. Parker’s lab jacket says A.B. Normal.

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I love the little dance number.

We bought black hairspray for Parker and glitter hairspray for Gwen. You can hardly see the glitter in Gwen’s hair. The way I sprayed Parker’s hair just looks like he has dark hair. Heath sprayed his face a little to get the explosion on the face look. It looks more like facial hair since his goggles cover so much of his face. I will have to try again on Halloween.

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Parker didn’t believe me when I said he had hairspray in his ears too. I snapped this picture to prove it. It’s a great picture deserving of a great caption. I just can’t think of a good one right now. I love the look on his face though. He was so embarrassed to go inside Arby’s for dinner all dressed up. “I don’t want to be dressed up in public. People will think it’s weird.” We kept telling him it was October. People would think we were going to a Halloween party after dinner.

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Gwen had no problem prancing around in her ballerina costume in public.

It was fun for Heath to tell his coworkers about the kids costumes. He said that Gwen wanted to be a ballerina. Fake smiles followed as it was obvious people thought that was such a generic thing for a girl to want to dress up as. Then Heath would finish his sentence by saying she was a ballerina in a jewelry box. Eyes lit up and people thought that was a very creative idea. Thank you weird costume catalogue that was sent to my house without me asking! It is a creative idea and Grandma executed beautifully as usual.

You can see that Gavin was not dressed up. He didn’t want to and I told him he didn’t have to. The other day I asked if his friends were dressing up. He said all of them were but he didn’t seem bothered by that. Then he told me he wanted to enter the costume competition at school – wearing regular clothes. He thinks it’s funny. Sounds like classic middle school humor. Goofy kid.

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Heath was scheduled to run Clown Alley for the first hour of the Trunk or Treat. Originally he told me he would take Parker and Gwen just for the Trunk or Treat part of the Stake activity and I could stay home with Gavin. After he was put in as Executive Secretary he came home and said, “You’re going to be mad at me but you have to go the activity after all. I’m in charge of one of the carnival games.” The signup sheet had been around many times and the slots weren’t filling up. Heath felt guilty.

We tried to figure out how he could fulfill his responsibility and take the kids around for candy later without me having to participate. The timing wasn’t going to work out and I figured it would be easier if we all just went together. I don’t know if it was the rain, the Giant’s game (which was projected at the church party), or the fact that this activity has grown out of control over the years and more people are frustrated by it, but it didn’t seem as crowded this year. This was the best year we have ever had!

IMGWe got there early so Heath could be at his station. The assignment times were a little off because we ended up getting there about 30 minutes early. It worked out perfectly because there wasn’t much of a line for pictures. I swore I wouldn’t bother with pictures this year after waiting in line an hour or more last year. I decided to take the kids out to see if the photographer was set up and willing to take our picture. A couple families beat me to it! We were third in line. Not too shabby!

 

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After pictures we went to carnival games that were open for business that the kids were interested in. They got a decent little haul of candy just in the gym. Everyone knew right away that Gwen was a ballerina in a jewelry box and Parker was a mad scientist. We got tons of compliments!

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Gwen wanted her face painted. Every picture I took came out so blurry. I think my camera settings are off or something. It didn’t help that there was so much action behind her while I tried to get the picture.

She also wanted to do the Cake Walk. Parker wasn’t interested so he stayed behind to help his dad and brother with Clown Alley. Gwen walked around a few times before she finally won a cupcake. I convinced her to get one with pink frosting that was covered in plastic wrap. That way she could make a mess eating it at home! Gavin went to the Cake Walk later because he was hungry. He was in there for a really long time. Every time I poked my head in I could see him walking around. He was earning that cupcake!

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He came out with three cupcakes. What? I thought they took pity on him or something or they decided it was getting close enough to the end that they wanted to get rid of their inventory. No, he said he just kept winning! He proceeded to eat all three cupcakes.

The gym was getting a little more crowded at that point and there wasn’t too much time left before the trunk or treat part in the parking lot. So we walked outside in the misty sheets of rain to our van to wait. Gwen’s feet were soaked. Gavin stayed in the van with me while Heath took the other two out for candy. The rain fell heavier as soon as they got out but they still had fun.

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Gavin climbed into the driver’s seat and practiced his driving skills in the wet and crowded parking lot. No one was seriously injured. I think next time we should move the seat up for him. He’s getting tall but he has some room to grow yet. I’m totally kidding! He just sat in front talking to me while we listened to the radio.

The kids have been binging on candy ever since we got home. They act like they haven’t been fed for days and have never enjoyed the sinful pleasures of refined sugar.

On Sunday morning we performed our Primary Program for the ward. I’m so glad it’s finished! The kids did a great job. I just have some piquant opinions about how the rest of the day went for the kids. The facts are that we made them sit reverently through Sacrament Meeting. Then we sent them to class to attempt to sit through a lesson. The class I was asked to sit with were literally falling off their chairs. At least one girl was.

Then they went to the Primary room where they were promised a party. I was as surprised as the kids to find out they had to sit through Singing Time and Sharing Time before they were asked to line up for their “lunch” 10 minutes before church ends. We finally cleared out kids and started cleaning up 20 minutes before the other ward started church. Too much was crammed into not enough time. That’s all I will say about that.

By the time I got home I had had my fill of people. I hugged my kids and told them I loved them. I thanked them for behaving well at church. Then I told them I needed a kid break. They watched a movie while I went into a catatonic trance in my room.

Saved by the Mail

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I was starting to get pretty irritated that I hadn’t seen Gavin’s school pictures yet. I found my emailed receipt that showed that I placed the online order on August 27th. That was kind of a long time ago! Since Gwen and Parker’s pictures showed up with an apology from the photographer for the delivery delay, I was peeved that Gavin’s pictures were MIA.

Time to start demanding some answers. I filled out a form online explaining the situation. An email immediately came saying that someone would get back to me within two days. Yesterday was two days.

The response showed up just before I had to pick up kids from school. The response really made me mad because the guy was asking for information I had filled out on the form. Read it! Unimpressed I typed my displeasure to Heath when I forwarded the message to him.

As soon as I hit send my heart dropped. Did I hit forward or reply? I was frantically hitting buttons on my phone trying to figure out what just happened. My phone was uncooperative. As far as I could tell there is no way of checking sent messages on my phone. All I could see was the arrow pointing backwards indicating I had sent the message to someone. But who?

The kids chattered away about their day. I was completely distracted and barely acknowledged anything they said. It felt like we couldn’t get home fast enough for me to check the sent messages on the computer. Finally I pulled up the sent folder. Just as I suspected I had hit reply and not forward. Oh no.

My heart was racing. I could not feel worse about my mistake. So I quickly called the 800 number listed in the email to try to figure things out over the phone. After being on hold for an extraordinary amount of time when I knew I needed to leave for the church soon, I was finally able to talk to someone.

I’m not very nice on the phone. This is why I prefer to email messages. Or make Heath call people. He’s much nicer than me. I did not hide any displeasure I was feeling with the woman I talked to. Although I tried to remain somewhat calm! We went around in circles it felt like and the clock kept ticking. I needed to get to the church for the Primary Program Practice.

The lady put me on hold to talk to her supervisor since she could not find the middle school in their system. She came back and said that her supervisor finally found the school but they had not done business with that school since 2007. She suggested I call the school to figure out what happened. Oh what fresh hell is this! In a very caustic tone I told her that was awesome. I was so glad that I gave her company $60 online for a bogus offer. That’s just awesome. And I hung up.

Today I printed the receipt to make it easier for myself to call the school on Monday. That’s when Heath pointed out that there was a different company name on the receipt than the company I had yelled at. Oh no. Still, where were my pictures I purchased months ago?

Guess what came in the mail today?

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School Stories

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School pictures arrived yesterday. Look at my cute kids! You would never know Gwen was sick the day before and I was sick with worry over whether or not to send her to school. They both look good. Where is Gavin’s picture? Good question.

I paid for his pictures online at least a week before I paid for the other two kids. The pictures should have been mailed to our house. I have yet to see them. I have asked Gavin if pictures were passed out at school. He says no. I’m still waiting to hear back from the company about it. I made sure to note that my elementary school kids pictures arrived with an apology from the company for being delayed. So where are my middle schooler’s pictures? I guess we’ll see. I still have my receipt to prove I paid.

Gavin has been wearing his gym clothes to school. He has PE first period and when it’s over he puts on normal clothes for the rest of the day. Today he came home wearing cargo shorts and his gym shirt. The shirt I labeled on the tag with his last name, but he took it upon himself to write his first and last name in Sharpie on the front! In his defense there is a white space across the front of the shirt for his name.

I asked why he had his gym shirt on thinking maybe he forgot to pack a regular shirt. He just said he forgot to change it. He didn’t seem bothered at all by it. Which means I should just get over it. It’s hard when it is so obvious to anyone there that he was wearing a school issued gym shirt with his first and last name proudly scrawled on the front. “Hi I’m in 6th grade, can you tell!” Dude! You can’t wear a sweaty gym shirt all day and act like nothing is wrong.

Actually I’m a little jealous of anyone who is so laid back. I wonder what it’s like to just not care?

A couple days ago we had a drizzly afternoon. This attracted Canadian geese to the back field after school. The birds wander around the field in the winter mornings, pecking for bugs and worms. Green and white broken crayon sized bird doots litter the pathway. The birds were out hunting for a snack this particular afternoon.

As I turned the corner I saw a young girl standing at the edge of the geese. Her arms were outstretched as she stood there in her lavender raincoat. It was a touching scene and I wished I could stop the car in the middle of the street to get a picture. I parked my car and looked back at the girl.

She had come out of her quiet trance and suddenly began chasing the birds. A maniacal look was on her face. Kids chasing birds can be cute. This was not.

Students poured onto the playground with the final bell. They started trickling through the back gates. Normally kids scatter outside those gates. Handfuls of kids will cross the grass to meet their carpool. Many stay on the paths. This day all the kids seemed drawn to the grass as if by some invisible force.

They headed straight for the birds with mischief in their eyes. Kids ran straight for the middle of the flock laughing as the birds scattered. Unsatisfied, the kids divided to conquer the offending geese by chasing them one by one until the birds jumped or waddled quickly away.

From the left a boy rode his bike across the grass. No one ever rides their bikes on the grass. This boy was also possessed by some evil desire to scare the goose poop out of the birds. He rode right at two birds slightly separated from their friends. Luckily he stopped short of hitting them but he did laugh when the birds hopped up and extended their wings.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw something black fly out of a boy’s hands and nearly hit a goose. Where were the parents? My hand jumped to the door handle but a thought restrained me. In a fraction of a second, without so many words, I knew if I got out to say anything to those barbaric children, the parents would materialize out of thin air and they would be mad at me for talking to their kids. I sat and stared in horror at the melee.

A girl and boy walked in front of me to get into the car directly in front of me. The car with the dog wagging its tail inside and the woman sitting at the wheel also watching every second of bird terrorism. I was relieved I hadn’t gotten out of my car. Just as I started to wonder if maybe I was making too much out of nothing the boy threw the black object at another bird. Since he was much closer to me I could see it was a compact umbrella folded up. Shocked I looked to the woman in the car. She was smiling and laughing with the kids. The kids checked their soles for goose poop. Satisfied they were clean, they got in the car and drove off.

What just happened? Did I really witness that?

When I got home I told Heath. When he was as bothered as me I knew I needed to report it to the principal. Supposedly district policy says teachers have two days to respond to parents. It’s been two days. I have heard nothing from the principal. I doubt I ever will. She hasn’t ever responded to my messages to her. I’m less than impressed. I hope to never see it again but Heath suggested I get video next time. Stay away from the field on wet afternoons Canadian geese!

Today I was parked behind a woman who looked just like the girl playing with the soccer ball. I kept looking at the girl trying to imagine her hair out as she systematically chased geese. It looked just like her. The sister to the umbrella hurler. Soon the boy showed up. It was the same brother and sister. They were definitely the children of the woman in front of me. Whoever picked them up from school the other day was not their mother. Must be why the woman seemed so oblivious to their savage behavior!

The boy was standing next to the car kicking a rock today. He kicked the rock straight up into the air. The mom yelped out the boy’s name, “Jake!” Gravity hurtled the rock onto the front of the car where it hit and bounced off. All three got into the car at that point. Mom didn’t look upset. They drove off and that was that.

Again I have to wonder what it’s like to just not care.

Why can’t you TiVo life?

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“We were so excited about this process but now it seems that every time we go to the house there is more bad news. Bad news means more money. It’s getting very stressful. I can’t wait for it to be over.”

I caught this sentiment while watching a few minutes of Property Brothers today. These shows are all the same. A house is renovated in an hour. Financial drama fills the hour until the last five minutes when all is revealed. It’s perfect. The homeowners shed tears at the beauty of their fabulously staged home and feel all the stress was worth it.

What if life could be a TV show?

We could enter new experiences with enthusiasm. Then when the going got rough we could bear it knowing the hard part is edited down to about 30 minutes of the show including commercial breaks. In the end life is so beautiful it brings tears to the eyes. The stress all melts away in gorgeous furnishings. Clink glasses. Fade to black.

I’m sure whatever hard lessons life is handing us, we can’t wait for it to be over. I know I can’t. Lately I have been holding my breath for the look back post. “That was hard but now that I look back …” I’m not there yet. Many people I know are not there yet either.

What makes my current challenges most challenging is feeling like I can’t use writing as an outlet. Every other moment in the last seven years I have had the gift of writing. Whether it was an escape from reality or a way to reduce reality to manageable words. The words just won’t come now.

Do I really want to remember this moment?
I’m not in the right frame of mind to do the story justice.
Who wants to read this anyway?

The excuses pile up. When I think I should just write it for myself and save it for myself, my hands seize up more than ever.

What if my life could be a TV show? I would press the skip button. Just race past the predictable drama until the final reveal. Unfortunately my life is not prerecorded. There are no skipping capabilities. Even if my life were a book I wouldn’t skip to the end. I don’t do that with books. The journey of the story is too important.

I have been reading family history lately. It’s incredibly frustrating. Beyond a few names and fewer dates, the focus seems to be on the geography of where life took people. I never knew how much I cared about stories until I found such sketchy details of people’s lives. What, why, and how are not answered. It’s as if entire generations skipped to the end.

How can I judge when I want to skip ahead too? I would love to wave my hand over it all smearing the details. Wouldn’t it be so great to be able to say one thing led to another … my dilapidated life was renovated by the magic of editing and now everything is sunny and lovelier than I could have ever imagined.

Tearful sigh. Clink glasses. Fade to black.

What did you do wrong?

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The governmental mind game continues on. Jury duty.

Every single year without fail, Heath and I are summoned to jury duty. Neither one of us has ever gone in. Last spring Heath did go into the courthouse. He sat around for a couple hours and then his group was dismissed. That’s just kicking the mind game up a notch if you ask me.

Jury duty requires some finagling of schedules. Heath has to ask permission to work from home because of my summons. I would love to say I am the sole care giver for my kids and therefore can’t do it but I feel like I’m lying. We have the means for him to work from home to help me out. It’s just a lot of juggling and prior planning to find out my fate at the last minute. Yet the calm man on the court voicemail always says to carry on with my normal activities until I am required to call back the next day. It’s a good thing Heath’s boss is easygoing. He had a boss at another company who required he bring in his juror badge to prove he really had jury duty!

My summons arrived in the mail about a month or so ago while Heath was out of town on business. I was not thrilled. So I put it on the calendar and tried to pretend today would never come. I got a phone call from my endocrinologist’s office saying I need to call and schedule an appointment. They will just have to wait. I needed to go to a couple funerals and then stress about jury duty first. Guess I better make that appointment now.

Since Heath was actually called into the courthouse with his last jury summons, I was so nervous. It didn’t help that he was going to make me take BART there by myself. I was planning on having a stroke instead. Why can’t we ever get called to a courthouse in our own city?

I tried to watch the news to see what Oakland murder trial I would have to participate in. But it’s the year for the Giants to go to the World Series again. All the news has talked about is the San Francisco Giants. Last night Heath said he was glad that all the shootings could pause long enough for the news to be able to report on the Giants for half an hour.

It was finally past 5:00 pm and I needed to call to report for further instructions. I wondered all day about how to play that. Do I call right after 5:00 or would that make me more likely to get called into the courthouse? I waited for Heath to get home. At 6:30 I called and was told to call again between 11:00 am and 12:00 pm the next day for a possible report time of 1:00 pm.

Really that is the best case scenario. Every time I have to call back in the middle of the day like that I’m called off. My phone call completes my jury service. I figured that would happen this time. Heath got in my head though. When he went into the courthouse he saw groups arriving at 1:00 pm. Luckily my phone call this morning was good enough again. No need to report in person. I am safe for another year.

The kids knew their dad was working from home so I could go to jury duty. They just didn’t understand what that really meant. We tried to explain it but they thought I was on trial or something! When I dropped Parker off this morning for school he asked, “What did you do wrong?” So I explained again that part of my civic duty is to have the opportunity to sit on a jury to help a judge make decisions. Who knows if the lesson sunk in. It’s hard to explain to kids. For as often as I am called, I’m starting to wonder if I am being punished for something!

He Survived!

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Perhaps more importantly, I survived.

Gavin went on his first Scout campout last night. He got home this afternoon. Heath took the kids shopping last Saturday, while I was in Utah, to get Gavin some camping equipment. It sat in our family room all week. I was tasked with labeling everything and figuring out what else Gavin needed. I’m an indoor girl! I never went to Scout camp. I know nothing.

I woke up one morning all in a panic. Heath had asked me to shop for the final items Gavin needed, if he needed any, that day. When I woke up I thought it would be an impossible task. I looked at the list but didn’t really read it. A couple hours later when I was finally awake and mentally prepared to shop for guy stuff, I read the list. There wasn’t anything on there I needed to buy. If we didn’t have it Gavin really didn’t need it. I’ve been to Girl’s Camp with the Young Women and I know what is and is not really needed on a campout.

But I was all set to go shopping. I took myself out to Target and bought some things that would be nice for Gavin to have. Like a new pair of jeans and plastic toiletry covers along with a couple sweaters for me. I had to make the trip worth my while!

That night Gavin took all his gear to the church for his pack check. He passed. The closer we got to Friday the more nervous I became. Gavin and I have an unhealthy relationship. He has skated by this far in life by feigning incompetence. I can’t stand it so I do things for him. Thursday night I wanted to relax in front of the TV with a Diet Coke. It quickly turned into sanity juice as I watched Gavin try time and time again to roll up his sleeping bag. I texted Heath who was at the church with the Bishop that I was trying not to rescue Gavin. Ten minutes later I texted that I failed. I have issues.

My biggest concern was his jacket. I love my Gavin but he is the absent minded professor. We bought the boys new jackets before school started. Gavin wore it to school maybe twice on chilly mornings. The last time it didn’t come back home. I had no idea until the next chilly day. He looked in the lost and found at school with no luck. I suggested he look in his PE locker that he never uses. Not there either. My fear was he left it on the bus and it was as good as gone.

Rain was forecast for last night and into this morning. I couldn’t, in good conscience, send Gavin on an overnight camping trip ill prepared to deal with rain. He had enough clothes and sweatshirts to stay warm but none of it was water resistant. As much as I wanted to be a love and logic parent I had to buy him a jacket. It was the only fair thing to do. So yesterday I bought him a weather resistant jacket. I looked but there were no clothes that I felt I had to buy for myself!

I was in the kitchen doing dishes when Gavin came home from school. He walked by the kitchen and said hi. I looked up and saw he was wearing the lost jacket! Of course. Now he has two. I made him take the one I just bought because it was better for the rain. Since he had everything he needed, there was no rain.

He had a lot of fun on his campout. He passed off a lot of requirements and even was nominated for and elected Quartermaster. He looked nervous when I dropped him off at the church yesterday. His leader drove him to and from the campground. Robert loves Gavin. He calls him the Gavinator. Gavin loves going to his house for piano lessons because they all call him the Gavinator and say their house is protected from monsters because of the Gavinator. I think getting to ride with Robert eased Gavin’s nerves.

We went to Arby’s for dinner. Then we let Gwen and Parker watch a movie in our room. The movie ended around 10 pm. Gavin claims he stayed up until 11. Parker slept in Gavin’s top bunk bed last night. Surprisingly enough Gwen went straight to bed in her own room. When she heard Parker wanted to sleep in Gavin’s bed she wanted to sleep in Parker’s bed.

I had the opportunity to go to the temple but I declined the offer. I had to see my Gavin! Robert took him to our house but we thought he would be at the church. I needed to make some copies for Primary anyway. So Gavin walked home from Robert’s house. I met him on the path between the neighborhoods. I was so happy to see him! We survived.

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