Happy Birthday

The first person to remind me that he will be able to drive in one year is in big trouble!

Happy 15th to my firstborn. His path in this world may not be the straight one or the easy one, but for now he seems to be enjoying the view, and that makes his mother’s heart happy.

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My Name Is Not Google

My name is not Siri, I’m not Alexa, nor am I your whole frontal cortex.

I quit.

I’m done.

YOU figure it out.

It’s partially my own (un)doing, this learned helplessness I’ve created.  My husband says I should take this as a compliment, but that’s only because he’s not responsible for 90% of the family’s executive functioning. His cognitive load of family management pull typically hovers around 10%.  He’s got lots of grey matter free to roam, 90% more than I feel like I do anyway.  My husband says I should think of it like, “Wow, we all think you’re so smart that naturally you’ll know all the answers to every single one of the questions we ask throughout the day.”

Mmm-hmm. But that’s a load and he knew it, grinning sardonically at me even as he spoke the words.

Part of my work as an SLP is to help children develop reasoning skills, to develop strategies to ask and answer questions, to manipulate information meaningfully and apply it to communicate in a functional, effective manner.  Somehow I’ve managed both to under- and over-therapize my family by nature of my academic training, and now it’s, as the saying goes, biting me in the booty.  They have one strategy, and it’s a good one, effective and successful almost all the time: mom.

This blog post was inspired, or maybe the opposite of inspired, what’s that?–last night shortly before the start of Survivor, the mother of all reality television shows, and one that we have watched as a family for several years now.  Boy Child asks, “Mom, what channel is Survivor on?”

Actually, back the train up for a second. Shortly before this, my son asked me one his 482 questions per day–its matter not critical enough that I can even recall what it was twelve hours later–but I Googled the answer, and reported back about my findings.

*crickets chirping from the peanut gallery*

Blown off, I erupted, disproportionately pissed off, and decided rashly (as all sound parenting decisions are made, naturally) that I was done being the family’s answer generator.

Hmmmm. . .  if only there were a device that, at your fingertips, could access all the information the world has to offer.  OH WAIT!  THERE IS AND YOU HAVE ONE.  And its name is not Wendy or Mom, it’s your iPhone, and it can–wait for it. . .  ACCESS THE INTERNET.

I’m moderately proficient with technology, I do have a natural curiosity, and my brain is crazy-full-up with random bits of trivia. You totally want me on your trivia team, you do! But I can’t be, no, I won’t be everyone’s answer gal. Throne abdicated.

“But Mom, I asked nicely,” came the reply from Boy Child. Yeah, you did, but I feel like navigating the TV remote is a job you can problem-solve on your own from this day forward.

I have this look (glare?) that simultaneously captures frustration, exasperation, and OMG! I’m not saying it’s an expression I’d ever want to take on the receiving end, but it’s now my I’m not answering this question for you face.

I can’t help but think I do deserve that face back for letting things get here. My husband had to close an email account because he forgot the password AND his password recovery options AND his own answers to his secret questions, as if somehow the computer was supposed to know what his favorite song in 1992 was. Oh, and guess who created his replacement gmail account? Yep.

Neither child knows how to connect his PlayStation or Nintendo Switch. Netflix? DirecTV? Print something?? That’s OK, I’ll just stare st a blank wall, thanks. You don’t expect ME to set it up, do you?

You know what? Yeah, I do. The only way I came in possession of my “tech sense” was by Googling question after question and working through solutions until I figured out a fix to whatever problem I’d faced. I know next to nothing, but my pile of next to nothing is Technology Mount Everest in our home.

This popped up in my Facebook feed today, and I lost it. This topic warrants a whole new post unto itself, so stay tuned! So worth the share today though.

Boys, you are intelligent, imaginative creatures! You’re clever. Your achievement is above average, decently above. You make me laugh. You make me proud. And you make me nuts when you give it less than your all. Always give it your all. Don’t let someone else steer when you’re driving. Even when it seems as inconsequential as asking your mom a thousand questions I am sure you don’t even know you ask. Keep asking! But start and keep seeking. That’s the big takeaway here, OK?

Rash may have been the decision mid-eye roll, but in the long run, wise, really. For them.

My Kind of Town: A Tale of Two Marathons

She did it!

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She inspires me too! Sign by her friend Heidi, who biked and Ubered the route to cheer Lauren to the finish.

My niece Lauren conquered the Chicago Marathon yesterday.  Not that there would have been one shred of disappointment otherwise, but she ran every, single, agonizing step in her 26.2 yesterday.  Every.  Single.  Step.  Agonizing is my word, not hers.  That girl smiled every step of the way, and I swear on all that is good and true in this world, her makeup didn’t even run.  Not even after pounding out the first eleven or so miles in the pouring rain.

Until several months ago, Lauren wasn’t a runner.  She was an incredibly fit, young twenty-something graduate student (speech-language pathologist in the making–so, so proud!), but not a runner.  Like not even hahahaha, I’m a runner.  But Lauren committed to running the Chicago Marathon as a member of Team Momentum, the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s support and fund-raising team, and suddenly last winter she sprung it on us that she’d committed to a full-on 26.2.

She sent me this photo early yesterday morning, and I couldn’t even talk.  My son and I were ready to hop the Hiawatha Line to Chicago’s Union Station to be part of marathon madness, and when I saw the photo, I was grateful for waterproof mascara.  I couldn’t talk.  My husband was all, “What’s wrong, what’s wrong???” until I showed him the photo.  And then I shared it with the world on social media, because goodness should be shared.

Ninety minutes later, still seated on the train, my boy and I spied runners crossing over the Chicago River from Union Station, and because I am a freak about time, I felt like if we didn’t get out there RIGHT NOW, we would miss Lauren.  It took about forty minutes, in a not-light kind of rain, to find my sister- and brother-in-law in the throng.  And let me tell you what an inspiring, encouraging throng it was: positive energy flowed from every cowbell-shaking, sign-carrying, hollering-for-anyone-whose-name-or-team-name-could-be-read-from-their-jerseys sideliner as the marathoners passed by.  The runners smiled, waved, cheered, thumbs-upped back to their adoring fans.  If you weren’t moved by the buzz, even in the deluge, your heart must be made of stone.

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My kind of humor

We first spotted Lauren at the 13-mile marker, the halfway point.  She ran over to us, hugged us all–enormous grin the whole while–and kept hammering.  I cried.  We spotted her at mile 17.  I cried.  We spotted her at mile 20, still radiant, and I cried.

When she began to pick up speed at mile 25, I cried.  Afterward, Lauren said that when she saw the one mile to go marker, she just picked it up and, I believe her word was sprinted to the finish.  I can’t disagree.  Look at her!  Smiling still, waving, taking it all in, even faster than the 25 miles before it.

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After her thermal blanket and medal were around her shoulders and neck, we hiked another mile north to the MDA’s race team headquarters, a snazzy, downtown workout facility.  My sis- and bro-in-law joked that we couldn’t possibly complain about our own aching backs, knees, ankles after, you know, Lauren had COMPLETED A MARATHON, but I was beat.  They were beat.  My son was barely hanging on.  BEAT.  As we trekked that last mile, (well, technically my boy and I still had another mile-plus walk back to the train station), my kid admitted finally that he needed a break.  And snacks.

See, the whole reason we’ve embraced and been embraced by the MDA is because my son has muscular dystrophy, and while Lauren killed 26.2, my boy crushed his own 10.4 miles yesterday.  And yeah, I cried. It was the theme of the day, after all.  The boy complained not once, not ever, but did agree that maybe hailing an Uber from mile marker 20 to mile marker 25 would “be nice.”  My son gets this posture when he’s fatigued, and he held that position for much of his day yesterday.  But you’d never have known how exhausted he was by speaking with him.  My son isn’t one with the social gifts, and he’s fourteen, so not what you’d call “chatty,” ahem, but he smiled for the camera as his weepy mother demanded.  Well, sorta.

So the moral of the story is this:  As Lauren demonstrated, you can do just about anything you set your mind to.  You can change the world for a kid with a horrible muscle disease, and lead by an example of determination and goodness.  You can reduce your aunt to a blubbering mess repeatedly, and she’ll only love you more for it.

We usually spend our days in Chicago looking up at its marvelous architecture, but yesterday was spent looking ahead, and the view was magnificent.

Chicago, you really are my kind of town.

So You’re Aware

September 30 is Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy Awareness Day.  Now you’re aware.

Because we haven’t opened our son up for a muscle biopsy, a diagnosis of LGMD is merely a hypothesis.  It’s consistent with his grandfather’s diagnosis, but its most frequently occurring subtypes–there are more than thirty–did not show up in a DNA screen when our son was first diagnosed.  Limb-Girdle MD is the front-runner for official diagnosis.  When we became a member of the MD “family,” (yes, quotes around family, because you know I wish my son had other relatives, like maybe MENSA or the MLB or any of the thousands of organizations NOT borne of medical necessity) I was very much in favor of medical testing in any or all of its forms.

I wanted to know the name of the bastard attacking my son.  I wanted to look it in the eye, stare that monster down.  I wanted to know everything so I could arm myself with data, facts, and the predictive information every mama bear needs to clutch to.

Instead, my husband dug in his heels.  Dug in passively, anyway, he’s not so much the stand taker than I am.  He did not want or need specific data points to be my kid’s dad.  He plodded along, blissfully unaware (my phrase, not his), just being the same ol’ dad guy he’d always been.  He did not support a surgical biopsy.  The diagnosis would not change anything for our son, he believed, all it would do is provide a place to hang our hats.  It’s not the only point on which we disagree(d), but elective surgery is kind of a big deal, and not a 50% kind of deal, you know?

Over time, together WE decided that if and when our son wanted a diagnosis, we’d support him in that, and by “support,” of course I mean pay for the procedure if that time falls when he’s still under our insurance.  It’s a day surgery.  We came to agreement that if our son got a point where his curiosity about his own health status or medical or treatment necessity came into play, the biopsy would serve its purpose then.  For him.

My boy was eleven when diagnosed; it’s hard to believe he’ll be fifteen in a few weeks.  So much has changed, but not his diagnosis.

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This photo does not belong to me, nor does it likely belong to whomever swiped it from NBC, but you see where I’m going with it, right?

Today is LGMD Awareness Day.  Click here to learn about LGMD, to heighten your awareness, as it were.  It seemed absurd to me that an awareness day was a thing back in what I now think of as my “early days” of the MD ride.  But as I find myself staring down high school physical education class with abject terror for my son, I would love for his gym teacher to be aware, you bet your booty.

My niece is running the Chicago Marathon next Sunday, a member of Team Momentum, the Muscular Dystrophy Association‘s fund raising and awareness squad.  Y’all, the girl is running a marathon for my boy, for her camper, for her grandfather.   She’s a remarkable young woman, whose bravery and commitment brings me to tears every time I think about it.  Go, Lauren!  We love you.  Aaaaand, yeah, I’ve got the tears. . .

You Better Up Your Game

My car is my office. On any given workday, I may begin my day at any one of 150 or so district sites and traverse to one, two, three others. It’s cool. It’s what I signed up for. I am never bored, and I appreciate every opportunity to blast my music on my terms.

Shortly after 10 AM Thursday, en route to my third district site of the day, I was stopped at a red light.  Ahead and to my right, I watched a woman banging on the windows and trying to pull open the doors of a white SUV.  It did not appear to be her car, and the driver, once the eastbound light turned, gunned it through the intersection.  I am so happy I saw her do what she did.

Because she then ran across the street to my car.  She began pounding on my windows, hollering at me, “They’re trying to get into my car.” and repeatedly pulled at my door handles, front and back.  It was quite a spectacle.  She kept hitting my windows, yanking the door handles while I asked her, “Where?  Where?  Where?  Where is your car? You’re trying to get into MY car!”  When the light finally turned green for me, I drove off with her still pounding on my car.

Crossing the intersection, I saw a car idling, its occupant watching her.  The car wasn’t parked, but positioned I think is the better word, perpendicular to the north/south street I headed south on, just on the edge of a gas station’s property.  The car was “parked” across the sidewalk, covering the concrete apron approach.

I wasn’t freaked out, weirded out and rattled maybe, but not truly fearful.  She didn’t threaten me, nor did she give any indication she had a weapon or anything, but the pieces didn’t fit.  Her story made no sense.  These, and a hundred more questions occurred to me in an instant:

  1. Where was her car?
  2. Who was trying to get into her car?
  3. Where was her car?
  4. She was already out of her car, so “they” were successful in “trying to get into her car,” right?
  5. When I noticed her, she was already in the middle of the street, having come from the direction of a gas station.  Why would she not go into the gas station?
  6. She had to cross two very busy streets to get to my car.   Why would she not stay on the south side of the street?
  7. WHERE IS HER CAR?
  8. Is that car positioned by the gas station going to reverse back out and box me in?
  9. What are the statistics on women-as-lures in modern day carjacking?
  10. What if she really needs help?

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I texted my coworkers upon arrival at my school, asking for a little debriefing session.  Talking through my scenario. they agreed that the story seemed sketchy, and that I’d made the right decision.  One of the girls drove by that very spot about 15 minutes after I’d passed; she reported seeing nothing.  No cops, no lingering lookie-loos, nothing.  I too returned by the scene within the hour on my way back to my office.  Nothing.  I checked the police calls, and saw nothing reported at or around that time, but did catch a few “suspicious person/auto” entries not long after the 60th & Burleigh occurrence.

Only a handful of times in 28 years in the central city have I been a direct witness, victim, or potential victim of crime, but I have colleagues who’ve been robbed or carjacked at gunpoint, had their cars stolen, or been inside homes when drug deals and/or shootings have occurred.  Once, a woman forgot her three-year-old was at my school for speech therapy.  A few hours later, I walked him home where his mother answered the door bare-ass naked.  She’d been, ahem, busy with a client, if ya know what I mean.  A friend asked me if I was near downtown when this happened, but I don’t usually work downtown.  Most often I work in the inner city.  All those scary places you see depicted on film or television are the places my students live–thousands of children reside in abject poverty which breeds violence which breeds more violence and apathy and, and, and. . .

So that’s where I go.  I don’t say this to paint myself the martyr, no, I say it because that’s what I do every day.  I wasn’t even completely freaked out that the carjacking attempt occurred, just a little off.  Off enough to announce it on social media of course, because, well, I don’t know exactly why.  I didn’t want victim-attention, but I did appreciate the many, many expressions of support.  Maybe I was seeking attention.  Honestly, it makes a better story than the reality played out.  I joked with my friend Nikki that the woman needed to up her game, to concoct a more credible ruse of a backstory.  I had enough time to reason it out, and so did at least one other motorist before me.

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Under the circumstances, that’s a good final score.

Still, all the way home at the end of the day I couldn’t help but wonder if question ten above was really afoot–what if she truly needed help?  Could I be so callous as to ignore a person who may have been desperate because I felt threatened?  Apparently yes. And that makes my head and heart a little.  Someone said it’s a good thing I’m cynical, and that hurt me.  I think “experienced” fits better.  Someone else said I should have pulled my Smith & Wesson or Glock.  Um, no, do you know me at all??

My gut tells me that I avoided a carjacking.  I stand by both my instincts and my post-incident assessment.  There’s a narrative that happens daily around here. The story is similar: a woman approaches and asks for money, help, or requests a ride for her, for her kids (who never seem to be with her. . .)  People, because they’re decent, naive, or don’t want to be rude (yes, I swear) roll down their windows, and say good-bye to their cars.  Poof!, they’re jacked.  I guess my bullet point main idea is to trust yourself, be aware of your surroundings, and always have the Barenaked Ladies playing while cruising through the city.  Lookin’ Up was streaming while my scenario played out.  Good job, irony, well played!

You’re A Turd

Not YOU, you’re not a turd.  That your web browser has stopped on my little sanity-extending creative writing space says everything I need to know about you.  Except you weirdo spammers.  Actually spammers, your random, poorly-translated blog “feedback” and insults tell me everything I need to know about you too.  Still, I wouldn’t hurl insults back at you, and certainly I would not stoop to name-calling.  And of course were I to stoop, hypothetically speaking naturally, I wouldn’t scream “You’re a turd” at you.

But that didn’t stop the opposing coach Sunday morning.

I wrote previously that my younger son has begun his (not-fall) fall ball baseball season.  Fall ball isn’t about championships, or even wins necessarily, but yeah, of course, the kids and coaches want to win.  Winning is more fun than losing any day, even if you’re learning something valuable in the loss, but it’s not the point.  The point is to get some playing time in, try kids out at various positions, find where the new players gel best, and mess around with the batting order.

Also NOT a turd—it’s my baby pitching on the full-size diamond. Photo swiped from another team’s fall ball photo collection. This man is a much finer photographer than I.

“Play ball!” was the cry at 8:00 AM Sunday morning.  By, oh I don’t know, 8:07 maybe, the good guys were working up a 2-out rally, quite successfully.  #7 got the sign to steal third, ran like the wind, and narrowly avoided the tag.  I can see him still, legs splayed up in the air, hand reaching and holding onto third base like it was his job.  Because it WAS his job.  He slid under the tag, the ump declared him safe, and an uncomfortable, quiet type of chaos commenced: the opposing coach flipped his lid.

To be clear, the coach wasn’t quiet; everyone else was.  Hollering at the field umpire from the dugout was not a close enough distance apparently to express his, ahem, dismay.  He took to the field.  The ump warned him to get back to the dugout, a directive to which Coach Chaos felt disinclined.  He continued to hurl insults loudly and repeatedly, and after what felt like hours (because watching a horror show unfold feels eternal) but what likely lasted a mere thirty seconds, his butt got tossed.  I can’t recall if the first “You’re a turd” came before his ejection or after, but a second helping of that same incantation was served from the dugout as he made his leave.

The field fell silent.  Say it with me real sing-song like, friends: awk-waaaard.

It was beyond awkward on our side of the ball, but theirs?  Not so much.  My baseball mom friends and I were speaking in hushed tones, barely moving our lips, hoping that our faces carried the tone of what is happening here?? voice we dared not speak.  Once Captain Inappropriate finally simmered down, it was business as usual.  Not that I was staring at their bleachers, but it appeared to me that no one paid the outburst much mind.  Not one parent told him to clam up and act like an adult; not one chided him or really even seemed to pay much mind.  Business as usual.

Um, no.

I want no part of this brand of business as usual.  Coaching is hard!  My son’s coaches do what they do, investing inordinate amounts of their time and energy to help my son and others become a better ballplayer, a good sport, and a decent young man.  Coaches do what they do without pay, and too often probably, without so much as a “thanks.”  They get on the kids when a bonehead play calls for it, they yell sometimes, sure, and they probably use some colorful language here and there.  It’s frustrating when kids err, and it’s frustrating when the opponent gets stinkin’ lucky.  It’s frustrating when the ump blows a call, which they DO–because umpires are people, fallible, imperfect people–but EVEN when you’re frustrated, you don’t make a spectacle of yourself, behaving like an impudent toddler.

Pro athletes balk at the “you’re a role model by default” expectation placed upon them by the nature of their being a public figure.  But a U13 youth baseball coach?  You’re a role model.  Your kids deserve better, and their parents should demand it.  You’re not Billy Martin or Earl Weaver, and your kids aren’t Reggie Jackson or Bryce Harper.  They’re goofnut 12-year-olds busting their butts to have some fun playing the game.  Kids who giggle hard when they hear an adult call the ump a turd though, for sure!  But kids, when asked if they’d want to play for that type of coach respond emphatically: ABSOLUTELY not.

This guy though?  I bet he is a riot in real life!  And despite these made-for-TV conferences on the mound, he’s probably a pretty good sport.  

For the record, the good guys took it, 6-5.

Dyssynchronous

Dyssynchronous is a word–incorrect-looking and cumbersome sequence of letters though it may be, it’s as close a word as I’ve found to describe the out-of-timeness I’m experiencing.

As I overshared previously, I began my forty-seventh school year August 6.  After an entire lifetime of Labor Day-ish starts, it was decided that I’d begin #47 on what our district terms its “Early Start” calendar.  Notice the passive verb “it was decided. . .”  It was one of those I’m-a-total-jerk-if-I-don’t-agree kinds of scenarios; I could have refused probably, but someone else would have been significantly affected then, and given my kids’ ages, it wasn’t an apocalypse-caliber event for Team Weir.

I’ve been back at work three weeks already.  It should be mid-September.  Leaves should be descending from elms and maples, brilliant in their yellows and reds as they float toward earth.  Temperatures should start to dip, so that I am forced to grab a hoodie when I walk the dog.  It should be my birthday next week!  My office and my school are glacially cold–the thermostat in my therapy room read 62.4 degrees Tuesday, and I wear a blanket when I work in my office.  And yes, “wear” is the correct verb.  I need to bring back the work Snuggie.  OK, probably Snuggie didn’t create a version specifically for the workplace, but they should.  My point anyway is that it’s bitingly cold wherever I am these days, but when I step out of doors between schools or after work, I feel cuffed upside the head by the heat.  It’s very confusing.

It should be autumn. It’s not that I am wishing away summer, but my long-established internal clock tells me it’s September 14th or so.  And while I’m at it: Fall Ball.  My little one made the 2019 baseball team, and they began a 5-week Fall Ball season last Sunday.  ONE of their games of the five-week “fall ball” series occurs in autumn and only two days post-equinox, so “fall ball” is a lie.  Sure, it rhymes so therefore is catchy, but it’s really closer to “New kids on new teams, good luck on the MLB-sized diamonds, kids, you CAN be thrown out at first even if you hit the ball to left field” ball.  No wonder I’m so off!

In actual news. . .

Each of my son’s high school teachers’ course syllabi contained some type of contract wherein my child’s signature attested that he understands and promises to abide by the classroom policies and grading expectations set forth in said syllabus.  Parents too are made to enter into these same contracts, so you sign, hopeful your kid isn’t a total dick when you’re not around (he’s probably not a total tool, I feel sure of that).  Each syllabus contained too a comment section, captioned with text like “It would help if you knew this about my child.

Weighing the should I/shouldn’t I? angel and devil positioned on my left and right shoulders, I wondered how much to disclose this early.  You don’t want to lead with what he can’t do, but you want less that he be judged or graded unfairly because of the disease.  Yes, his school knows he has a Section 504 accommodations plan–there’s a little flag in the district’s data management system, and in theory all school staff are to be made aware of this.  But I work in this district myself, and if I had to hazard a guess, the only staff aware of what 504 truly means are the school psychologist, those teachers whose own children have/need a 504 plan, or those who have had a student with a 504 plan on their class list last year.  I did not just roll from the turnip truck, y’all.

For the English teacher who requires that kids mostly sit still, I explained that muscular dystrophy causes fatigue and discomfort, and that my kid cannot remain still for extended periods of time.  To the Biology teacher, I noted that muscular dystrophy stole my kid’s grip strength meaning he drops a lot of things (dig if you will the picture, beakers, test tubes, chemicals, microscopes in a lab–what will THOSE replacement fees look like, do you think?).  To the band director, I wrote that marching band with a bass drum along a parade route is probs a no-go.  He replied within a few hours, telling me that he would move him to a different, lighter drum, and one where the mallets are secured with wrist straps.  How I love musicians.

So far, so good is a fair statement covering his first few weeks.  His first official high school assignment grade earned an AD (which is an “A”, an “advanced” for those of you unfamiliar with standards-based grading), so yay.  I dropped his freshman butt off at 6:40 AM today so he could spin vinyl on the school old-school radio station before school starts.  There’s a football game tonight, and he joined the pep band, so look for him in the drum corps pounding out the backbeat to the Husky Fight Song tonight.  He will always be my baby, but now my baby is making his own lunches, he’s taking public transportation to school most days, and he’s doing homework without being told.  So far, so good indeed.

But not as good as this guy, a teacher at my kid’s school, locally famous for his Husky Lunch Songs.  It’s worth the minute it’ll take you to watch it.  Making hot lunch better, one chicken patty at a time.

It’s Been

One week since my child began high school.  I’ve adopted something of an air accomplishment, my freshman having gotten to school five days and home four to date.  I realized this is not an accomplishment, and even less so my accomplishment, but hey!  He made it, and so have I–our butts are draggin’ to be sure, but it’s Friday.  One week of high school under his belt, one more week of Fiscal Year 2019 under mine; one week of morning routines upended topsy-turvy; one week spent ratcheting back my alarm earlier each day to get him (us) to the city transit bus stop by 6:53 in the AM.

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I’m super time anxious, as most of you know.  I’m that nettlesome “I’m late if I’m ten minutes early” person.  My son does not share this same anxiety, afforded is he the special egocentrism through which teenagers float.  He does exhibit his own variation of time-related angst however.  His discomfort peeks out from the clouds when I frantically announce deadlines such as, YOU HAVE TO BE AT THE BUS STOP IN FOUR MINUTES AND YOU DON’T HAVE SHOES ON YET, or organization-related elements like, YOU HAVE GOT TO PACK THAT SHIT UP THE NIGHT BEFORE, SON! (and yeah, those are direct quotes).  My heart rate has hovered around 100 for much too much time this week.  It is no inverse relationship between my heart rate and my having to be or get someone somewhere on time, get someone somewhere early.

My son remarked that my morning stress levels are probably related to his new school routines.  He noticed (even he couldn’t not notice), and I felt terrible.  I wrote him this letter yesterday to explain, to try to anyway–

My Baby Who Is Not My Baby Anymore,

I am excited for you and proud of you for having stepped up and taken charge of a whole new high school world.  It’s one thing to have prepared for it–applying, touring, testing, purchasing supplies, even taking the bus for the practice run, but it’s another to be doing it in real life.

Any stress or weird behavior from me is MY responsibility; it’s all on me.  Of course I worry about you, and want things to go well for you.  I want you not to struggle, so I want things to go smoothly.  But my anxiety and my stress aren’t because of you being in high school.  I’m just wired differently than a lot of people.  Trying to work out timing of anything causes me to overthink and become unduly nervous.  When I get nervous and feel frustrated, I tend to swear or have those little fits.  I need to work on that, but it is important to me that you know it’s not because of you.

Your job is to focus on your studies, Kid.  You’re going to work more and harder than ever before.  Take it all in.  Try to see how you fit in to the world around you.  Look around and make connections between the world and your classroom learning.  Never settle.  Never.  Ever.  Always shoot for the “A.”  You will settle for a “B” from time to time, but I want you to think in terms of A, advanced.  IB (International Baccalaureate) will help you learn for life.  Great things don’t happen when your highest aim is to be proficient.  Every day of high school prepares you for what is to come in college and in life.  Be great, not just good enough.

Hard work and thoughtful attention to your studies and the people around you will make you a good student, and more importantly, a good person, a good friend.  No matter what you do, never settle for less than your best.  Even when it’s hard or it’s a subject you dislike, do your best.

Your grandparents always told me that if I gave anything my best effort, did all that I could, that’s all they’d ever ask of me.  And now I am telling you that same thing.  It’s good advice, son.

Congratulations on making it through week one of high school.  Can’t wait to see what you’re going to accomplish.

Love, Mom

Despite having places to be each night after work and school this week, I made a point to attend yoga last night.  I’m pleased to report that for the first time since re-re-starting, I didn’t wake up achy and stiff today.  Progress, that’s what we call that.  Before class, I attended the funereal visitation of a man whose son played baseball with mine three and four seasons ago.  I didn’t know him well, but his wife and I remained Facebook friends and continue to share inappropriate, sassy and snarky memes and baseball mom messages from time to time.  He lost his life at age 35, and all I can think about is how much he will miss.  Such an early passing is tragic, every passing is painful, but to be gone from your children so early is unthinkable.  My heart aches for his wife and three children.

My son read and saved my letter.  He may have even hugged me (but don’t tell anyone, OK?), and relief washed over me like a cleansing rain.  During last night’s final pose, shavasana (savasana?), lying on my back in a tightly cramped yoga studio, I shed tears.  I couldn’t help myself.  Though my body was present, my mind raced, reflecting on loss, love, connections, missed connections, growth, and how there is never enough time.  The tears refused to stop until I sat upright, but my heart knew peace.  I know that reads totally cheeseball, but my heart felt good.  I bowed and uttered namaste for the first time with not even a hint of fraud, sass, or irony.

Keep trying.  Do your best.  Admit when you’re wrong.  Apologize when a situation demands it.  Be good.  Do good.  All of this.

Grade 9

It was all I could do not to title this, “This is me in Grade 9,” a lyric any even casual Barenaked Ladies fan would sing, rather than read, aloud.  But this is serious, people, maybe even Serious with a capital S: My son starts high school tomorrow.

He’d clobber me if I divulged his super secret identity–that’s mine, the tall sloucher on the right with two buddies he’s known since K4 and K5.

Is he ready?  In the technical sense, sure.  His new backpack is loaded with all the correct supplies direct from the prescribed list; we scored the insanely pricey graphing calculator at an insanely reasonable price; he received his eighth grade completion gift today, his new laptop; Friday morning, he and I completed a dry-run of his bus route together–his school doesn’t run yellow school buses, no.  He gets a County Transit bus pass and will hop mass transit, transfering about 25 blocks from here due south to high school; my husband is assembling his new IKEA desk as I type.  In every technical sense of the word “ready,” my boy is.

But he’s nervous.  Weren’t you before your first day of freshman year?  Were your parents dying the thousand deaths I am today?  Did you sleep even a wink??

Me, ACTUALLY in grade nine.  Yeesh.

En route to my last (better be my last?!!) stop to gather the boys’ last minute school supplies, I listened to the song Grateful, my summer jam by Better Than Ezra, and cried.  Like tears ran down my cheeks cried, thank you very much Kevin Griffin, Tom Drummond, and Michael Jerome.  Non sequitir:  You know how my dedication to my concentrated hobby has landed me in my superfan group, the Ladies Ladies?  Ultra-mega-mega fans of Better Than Ezra call themselves the Ezralites, a name that tickles me a whole lot–it’s awesome.  Anyway, Grateful.  It’s a nearly perfect song, just not long enough really.  Long enough to elicit tears it seems, but I always listen to it twice in a row because I wish it was longer.  Anyway,  after snapping up two college ruled composition notebooks, I became paralyzed with terror, right there in the checkout line: Who will he sit by at lunch tomorrow?

Will kids be nice?  What if they’re assholes?  What if he unknowingly plops down at the cool kids table and he’s treated the way kids are ostracized on television?  What if there’s room for eight kids and he’s ninth in line?  What if the reality of his school cafeteria is the scene out of every 80s movie, or worse?  What if he drops his carton of milk or can’t open his water bottle?  What if it really is more like the high school depicted in Thirteen Reasons Why?  Laugh if you must, but this is the kind of shit that steals my sleep.  I experienced a similar terror the first day he took hot lunch in four-year-old kindergarten.  Anxiety is not Johnny-come-lately to me.

I am inert, so I busy myself with mundane tasks around the house, and I’m not doing those well or with attention either for that matter.  I have failed to locate a very important work binder brought home specifically this summer with the intent it stay “safe,” that it not get lost at my office over the summer.  Yeah.  Super.  It’s my first student day as a speech-language pathologist (year 28, yo!) tomorrow too, and I’m what you might call distracted.  Sorry other students, my own kid is top priority today and tomorrow.

It’s OK though, right? I didn’t get to this ripe, old age without surviving freshman year, and neither did you.  He’s nervous, did ya hear?  He’s nervous, but his mother puts on one hell of a game face.  I tell him it’s OK to be nervous, a little nerves are expected, appropriate even, that it’d be weird were he not a touch butterflies-in-tummy.  We’ve discussed his 504 plan, about which his new school’s 504 coordinators have already contacted me, so he’s on the radar.  I’ve assured him that he won’t receive detention for being late to class, that he’s got a contingency if his fingers choose not to cooperate.  He doesn’t have physical education first semester, and I’m working on some alternatives for next semester in that regard, so thank STARS for that!

He thinks he’s nervous?  Jaysus, the boy’s got nothing on his mother.  He doesn’t catch me tearing up because I’m the mom, and mom’s gotta keep that shit together.  He doesn’t see that my Fitbit reads about 102 all the time (which, for what it’s worth, is not a sustainable heart rate for daily living–it’s exercise simply being me, ofttimes).  He doesn’t see this stupid blog and read how nervous I am.

But he also doesn’t know how excited I am for him too. It’s a whole new world, high school.

He, and every other kid matriculating tomorrow, gets a clean slate.  He gets to be the same kid he’s always been, or he gets to reinvent himself.  HE gets to pick.  What a gift and adventure on which he’s about to toddle those shaky first steps.

My fingers are crossed and I also kinda want to puke, but as the song says–

I’m gonna be grateful every day

Make a little wave and we’ll ride it

I’m gonna keep shakin’ off the shade

Make a little ray and then shine it, shine it, shine it on.

Shine on, my baby.  Oh, how I love you, and how grateful I am for the opportunities awaiting you.  Got a million things to do, what’s the point in trying, trying?  Keep trying anyway.  Go get ’em, Class of 2022!