Self-Portrait

My kids have only been in school a few days but my last and youngest is already having problems. There are three items in his incomplete folder, while everyone else’s is empty. The reason for this is that he’s taking his time with his artwork, hoping to impress his teacher and get off on the right foot with her. But he keeps messing up, erasing, and starting over again, which eats up all of his time. Like me, he has grandiose visions of perfection that he just can’t seem to translate to reality. He then gets frustrated and shuts down, comparing himself to his neighbor who doesn’t get bogged down with the burden of perfectionism and is actually enjoying — and finishing — the assignment.

To help him, I gave him a pep talk about how it is good to take our time but not to worry about being perfect.

“You know, art is one of those things that doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. In fact, some of the world’s best artists were messy on purpose.”

“Good, because you should see my self-portrait.”

“What self-portrait?”

The self-portrait was one of the first things my son had to do in his new classroom. Without thinking it through, he plowed ahead, drawing a big round head high up on the paper. Then, he went to town coloring the white background green, completely forgetting to leave room for hair. Panic set in, and he tried to erase the green crayon on top of his head. After that didn’t work, he located the blonde crayon which is very hard to find (kids with brown hair: you don’t know how easy you have it) and colored over the green, but you couldn’t even tell.

“Did you try a yellow crayon?”

“Mom, my hair isn’t yellow. It’s blonde.”

Having now exhausted all of his hair options, he gave up and used an easily accessible but inaccurate brown crayon and moved on to the nose, eyes and mouth. He tried his best but since he was running out of time they came out awful (especially the mouth) and that’s when he realized he drew his head too high and as a result would now have a big, long neck.

“So when you go to my classroom and want to know which self-portrait is mine, just look for the one that is bald with a long neck.”

We were crying with laughter and I could not wait to see his teacher at pick-up the next day. I told her his self-portrait sounded like a hot mess and she was kind enough to snap a picture of it with her phone so that I didn’t have to wait until back-to-school night.

Here is a side-by-side photo of my beautiful boy and his equally as beautiful (just in a different way) self-portrait:

Flinging Boogers

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The summer of 1980 was a good one except for the looming reality that I would have Mrs. McLaughlin for fourth grade come September. Mrs. McLaughlin was a veteran and had been teaching the same lessons in math, English, and social studies for more years than my mother had been alive. I was lucky to be assigned to her class, but if I was to believe the rumors being repeated by my classmates, my school year would suck because Mrs. McLaughlin routinely and unapologetically picked her nose and flung her boogers across the classroom.

In my nine-year-old heart, I knew it was probably not true and illegal for a teacher to do such a thing, but I had to wonder how the rumor got started in the first place. I rationalized that maybe she only did it once or twice when she was a rookie and the story simply grew legs, like how ingesting Pop Rocks and drinking a coke immediately afterwards was suicide. Still, for me, even one booger fling was one too many and when the school year started, I watched Mrs. McLaughlin like it was my job. And I swear to you, not once did that woman pick her nose and fling it. She always used a tissue, just like she was supposed to do.

Now that I am a mom, I am keenly aware of the same kind of rumors surrounding my kids’ teachers, but this time they aren’t being repeated by other children but by grown women. Years ago, my daughter was assigned to a teacher that had a very bad reputation. According to local legend, she was really mean, and her students were miserable. As a result, my daughter didn’t have any friends in her class because the moms who were “in the know” had long before met with the appropriate authorities to make sure their kids wouldn’t be assigned to her class. Actually, that’s not true. There was one friend, and I was relieved, but on the first day of school, we learned that even that girl was moved to another class.

I was beside myself, and called the principal to complain. I didn’t ask for my daughter to be moved, but I wanted him to know how wrong it was for him to take requests from parents based on rumors. In my rage, I may have even shared with him the booger flinging story from my childhood.

As you can guess, my daughter’s teacher that year wasn’t mean. She was fine; great, in fact, and was quite dedicated to her students. Her only transgression, I remember, was not knowing what an Angry Bird was.

Today, I am waiting for an email from my kids’ school that will let me know what teacher they will have. If the rumors this year are true, one of my kids could get a teacher who has ridiculously high standards and unrealistic expectations and as a result will completely erode his confidence. In addition, I am worried that my other child will get a teacher who for whatever reason just doesn’t care anymore.

I try to rise above all of the chatter, but admittedly, it’s hard. I really do not know what I am going to do if my son gets the “tough” teacher. I have only seen her from a distance yet I am petrified of her. I am going to want to be strong for him, but I am afraid he is going to see me sweating and I certainly don’t want to lie to his face that everything is going to be OK. For him, Armageddon may be coming and I want him to be prepared.

With my other son, if his teacher really just doesn’t care anymore, that would mean it’s up to me to teach him new math and we all know how well that is going to go.

We will see what happens, but for now, I remain blissfully unaware of what teachers they will get and by default how the school year will be. It almost makes me want summer to never end. Almost.

Status of the Blog

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I haven’t posted in a long time, because summer. And by summer, I mean baseball. Also, children. A lot of them. And husbands. And swimming lessons, noisy trumpets, Taylor Swift, another knee surgery, doggie diarrhea, soccer practices, filthy bathrooms, filthier clothes, and a half-hearted job search. Still, though, my blog is calling, and a lot of you (not really) have been asking if I am going to change the url to something else now that my lastborn child isn’t in first grade anymore. The answer is no, mostly because I have gained some traction with Last in First thanks to Scary Mommy and it wouldn’t be smart of me to change it every year based on what grade my last child is in. Also, Last in First was one of the most important milestones I have reached thus far and deserves to be recognized as such. It was very much a finish line for me, although now I realize it was just an illusion. Studies show that there are, in fact, no finish lines in parenthood. As soon as you cross one, another one forms in the distance. For instance, the next significant milestone for me is Convince Husband to Trim Backyard Hedges.

So anyway, I am going to keep Last in First in homage to that glorious September day in 2014 when I gained a small sliver of my life back and also because I feel like a lot of parents can relate. I did briefly consider other urls that would capture where I am along this acid trip journey that is parenthood. For your enjoyment, here is a list. NOTE: Some of these are real websites, click at your own risk:

http://www.candyandchaos.com

http://www.stopfighting.com

http://www.shhhhhbequiet.com

http://www.onetoomanykids.com

http://www.smallhousebigheadache.com

http://www.overwhelmedismymiddlename.com

http://www.wheresyourfather.com

http://www.sleepbrasarebrastoo.com

http://www.igiveup.com

http://www.letsbuymoreshoes.com

http://www.letsplaymorebaseball.com

http://www.iloathethegrocerystore.com

http://www.notorganized.com

http://www.hairylegsmessyhouse.com

http://www.pilesoflaundry.com

http://www.help.com

http://www.letseatmorehotdogs.com

http://www.thedoghasdiarrheaagain.com

http://www.letshaveanotherkneesurgery.com

http://www.howdoworkingmomsdoit.com

http://www.insecuremom.com

http://www.cantdeal.com

http://www.sodone.com

http://www.iknowwhythecagedmomsings.com

http://www.sigh.com

Just for kicks, let me know which one you like the best. Happy Summer, everyone!

Mom, Where is My Uniform?

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“A place for everything and everything in its place” is a mantra that is supposed to work for me and other parents who are desperate to be organized, but I am here to tell you that it doesn’t. Take, for example, Little League uniforms. Ideally, uniforms should be located in one spot, easily accessible by the child who is going to wear it. However, because there are so many games, my son’s uniform is almost always “in the wash,” which means at any given point in time, it could be in one of five places:

  1. The washing machine
  2. The dryer
  3. A basket in the basement
  4. A basket on the main floor
  5. The hamper, still dirty from the last game

As a result, I have given up on the idea that a baseball uniform can ever have a permanent home, which means that on the rare occasion it isn’t in the wash, I have no idea where to put it. Most of the time, I’ll put it in his dresser drawer. Other times, for reasons I can’t fully explain, I’ll hang it in his closet, and still others (mostly when the drawers are too crowded and the closet is too full), I’ll put it in a plastic bin under his bed, along with a ton of other sports-related clothes.

Those of you without kids in baseball (or any other sport) will be shocked to learn just how many components there are to a Little League uniform. As far as I can tell, there are ten:

  1. Jersey
  2. Under Armour (if it’s cold)
  3. Pants
  4. Official uniform belt
  5. Heart guard, purchased at Dick’s on sale for $78
  6. Special baseball underwear, purchased at Dick’s with a coupon for $42
  7. Cup
  8. Official uniform socks
  9. Cleats
  10. Official uniform hat

On those days when my son’s baseball game starts at 9am, I have to set my alarm for 4am to make sure there’s enough time to get him dressed. If both of my boys have a game that day at 9am, I have no other choice than to pull an all-nighter.

An hour before every baseball game, my son and I will have a screaming match throughout the house which always goes something like this:

Son, from the bedroom: “Mom, where is my uniform?”

Me, from the kitchen: “In your drawer!”

Son: “I checked, it’s not there.”

Me: “Ok, check under the bed.”

Son: “It’s not here!”

Me, sighing hard: “It’s probably in the basement.”

Son: “Come with me!”

Me: “I can’t!”

Son: “But it’s dark down there!”

We’ll find the pants and the jersey in the basement, but the other eight items won’t be there. We’ll go back upstairs to find the special underwear in his brother’s drawer, and the protective cup that slides into the front of the underwear in the dog’s mouth. We’ll chase the dog around the house until we are forced to yell, “Do you want some cheese?” so that the dog drops the cup and tears into the kitchen for a tiny piece from a Kraft single, cementing in his brain the reward he gets for stealing the cup from now until forever, Amen.

Against all odds, I will finally get the boy dressed, only then to move on to Phase 2 of Baseball Game Preparation, which is gathering the equipment. As far as I can tell, there are eight of these items we need to gather:

  1. Mitt
  2. Batting gloves
  3. Bat, purchased at the local sports shop on sale for $345
  4. Helmet, not for sharing lest you get lice
  5. Water bottle, leaking from somewhere
  6. Snack
  7. Sports glasses
  8. A bag to keep all of the above stuff together

As is the case with Phase 1, it’s anyone’s guess where these items are, although they are supposed to be in their designated places. The bat is supposed to be in a bin in the garage, but we’ll find it hidden in the grass in the backyard. The water bottle is supposed to be in a kitchen cabinet but it’s in the back of my husband’s car, and the sports glasses will be in his desk at school.

Phase 3 is when we pour into the car and I’ll back out of the driveway without having any real idea as to where the game is being played. I’ll take an educated guess, and if I’m wrong, I’ll check an app on my phone from the parking lot, but only if a) I remembered to bring my phone, and b) it’s not dead.

Thankfully, baseball is almost over, except that it’s not because both of my boys have signed up for summer leagues. I think I’m going to need a new mantra.

40 Ways I Embarrass My Children

Recently, my daughter, who is 12, was invited to a special event at the mayor’s office. It was very exciting, and when we arrived, I ran into another Mom whose daughter was being recognized for the same thing. I greeted them in what I thought was a regular and normal way, until my daughter glared at me and said, “Mom…stop.”

“What?”

“Stop.”

“Stop what? What am I doing?”

“You are embarrassing me.”

“What did I do?”

“Shhhhhhhhhhhhh…”

I dutifully shushed and sat quiet, silently running over the greeting again in my mind and could not come up with anything I did that was even remotely embarrassing. The problem, I concluded, was with her and not me, and so, I brushed it off.

A week later, I crossed the street with my son, three years younger than my daughter, and exchanged pleasantries with the crossing guard. I got the same familiar glare from him after we walked away.

“What’s the matter?”

“You are so embarrassing!”

“What do you mean? What did I do?”

“You laughed!”

“So what?”

“She didn’t even say anything funny!”

It’s true that I’m socially awkward and often laugh at things that aren’t really funny, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is embarrassing. Then again, he is just a kid, and he does, in fact, tend toward the self-conscious. Also, I have never seen a video of myself socializing with a crossing guard. Maybe he has every right to be mortified.

I began to pay better attention to whenever my kids cringed, rolled their eyes or otherwise glared at me after I said or did something I thought was innocuous and, as many bloggers are known to do, kept a running list. Here are 40 things I should never do again to spare my children any embarrassment:

  1. Speak
  2. Cough
  3. Yawn
  4. Wear a shirt with flowers on it
  5. Wear a shirt with a graphic design
  6. Wear a sleeveless shirt that exposes my armpits
  7. Wear a shirt that is a little snug
  8. Wear capris
  9. Wear chinos
  10. Refer to pants as “chinos”
  11. Wear shorts
  12. Eat a sandwich
  13. Eat soup
  14. Listen to music
  15. Sing
  16. Dance
  17. Show happiness of any kind
  18. Respond “OMG” or “LOL” to a text
  19. Ask how their day was
  20. Tell them they look good
  21. Pay them any sort of a compliment
  22. Engage one of their friends in a conversation
  23. Appear anywhere in the house when they have friends over
  24. Use the word “playdate”
  25. Show concern and/or suggest a band-aid after an injury
  26. Ride a bike
  27. Rollerblade
  28. Walk swiftly
  29. Try to play a sport of any kind
  30. Tell a joke
  31. Take a photo of them
  32. Ask them to smile when taking their photo
  33. Remind them about the importance of proper hygiene
  34. Remind them to say “please” and “thank you”
  35. Show affection for their father
  36. Remind them of the important role fiber plays in digestion
  37. Be friendly to the waitress
  38. Chat with the cashier
  39. Strike up a conversation with someone on a train
  40. Say the word “bra”

Home Sick

Dear Child,

I am so psyched that you are home sick today. When the nurse called yesterday to give me the exciting news that you weren’t feeling well, I almost jumped for joy. I mean, it’s been–what?–three whole weeks since you were sick? I love tending to you when you are sick. I love how you moan, how you writhe in pain, how you beg me for food that I can’t give you because I know you are going to throw it right up.

I love how when you vomit, you never make it to the toilet but to an expensive rug instead. I love how I gave you red Gatorade instead of white so that now I have to throw out all the rugs. I love how once you are feeling better and in school again I won’t be able to get a pedicure or meet a friend for lunch because I’ll be too busy driving up and down the state of New Jersey looking for a good sale on rugs.

I love how I don’t sleep when you are sick because it worries me so much. I love the anxiety I get and the buzzed feeling it gives me. I love how your father is still working from home today even though you are sick and will still ask me to make him a tuna sandwich for lunch as if it’s a regular, normal day and I’m not hallucinating.

I love how you cling to me while we watch another episode of the Amazing World of Gumball, which isn’t amazing at all but bizarre and, frankly, painful. I love how you will not release me to wash the dishes or do laundry so that when your brother and sister come barreling in later this afternoon, I won’t be able to provide either of them with a clean drinking glass or soccer uniform.

I love that I won’t be able to walk the dog as long or as frequently today, so that his pent-up energy will cause him to steal and chew one of my brand new erasable Pilot Frixion pens that I had to special order from Amazon. He will also poop in the basement today, but he’ll do it in a spot that is hidden from view and so I won’t discover it until someone steps in it and tracks it all over the damn place.

I love that it is finally gorgeous outside but I am inside, as if it is still winter. I love wiping your butt raw from another rotten bout of diarrhea while I listen to the birds happily chirping outside the bathroom window. I love that the world keeps humming along when you are sick, leaving me feeling forgotten and alone in my misery.

I love that your sister has an orthodontist appointment today–the same one I have had to cancel six times before–but because your father is going to a golf tournament this afternoon, I either have to cancel the appointment for the seventh time or bring you with us and hope you don’t vomit in the waiting room.

I love that after a successful trip to the orthodontist, you will think you have recovered completely and insist on playing basketball in our driveway, even though I know it is too soon for basketball.

I love how you will try your best to rest but will instead follow me around the house while I catch up on everything I have neglected, sharing with me every thought that goes through your six-year-old head, no matter how rambling, irrelevant or insignificant.

I love how great it will feel to drop you off at school tomorrow (depending on how tonight goes), and just as I begin to get my bearings again, the nurse will call me with the joyous news that your brother isn’t feeling well and the whole cycle will begin anew.

Love,

Mom