Tuesday, May 29, 2007

It felt like getting an "A"

Each year at the kids' school we have a volunteer-appreciation tea.  It used to be a breakfast until someone came to their senses and realized that getting kids to school is enough of a challenge without having to get up even earlier to make it all happen on time while dressing yourself in clothing that matches.  PJ bottoms and a sequined tank are a little too much before 8 am--really, a little too 'morning after walk of shame' for elementary school.

The tea was last Tuesday, and as usual, I went.  (Dressed appropriately.)

I've always volunteered in the kids' classes.  My mad Xeroxing and laminating skills are world-class, baby.   The main thing I do now, though, is our school Art Masterpiece program.  (It's really rewarding, the kids love it; but also lot of work.  I sweat and complain and stress about it from November thru April.  I prep the supplies for every class at the school and I teach a class or two; but each class has it's own volunteer to teach the lessons.)

I'm friendly with my kids' teachers, so I was standing around talking with them, when I hear my favorite Kindergarten teacher start talking about the Volunteer of the Year award, and how "a few teachers are gonna come up and talk about her."   The group I'd been chatting with walked to the front of the room.

And I got a knot in my stomach, because what were the chances???....nah....

And right then I heard my name announced.  I stood there, a little shocked, until they called me to come up too.

They said really nice things about me and it was totally cool.  This year, I taught an extra fifth grade class because the teacher couldn't get a volunteer; I was teaching Ben's anyway, so I was already prepped up--I figured why not?  I dubbed this class 'the delinquents' in private as they were kinda rough and not always on their best behavior. 

I felt <>this big for naming them that when their teacher said how much they enjoyed my visits, and that as they were making me a card that day, they were all contributing ideas for it, of artwork I'd shown them and artists by name. She said they really took in a lot of what I taught them, even if it didn't always seem like it.  I was moved.  The inside-of-my-cheek biting began, as well as the pinching of my hand I do to keep from crying in public.  (I am the world's biggest baby, I swear.)

Ryan's teacher, a man of few words, said a few, the one that made me smile was "when she comes to our classroom, she's like a breath of fresh air."  :D

Then Ben's teacher was talking.  She's had both Nolan and Ben in her classes, and when she started...well, no amount of any cheek biting-hand pinching worked.  I teared right up.  She said that the kids liked when I came to class, and that she felt it was a good quality of mine that I stressed to the kids that their finished piece didn't have to look like the example (fifth graders are very into making it look exactly like the example)--that it was their art and whatever they came up with was fine, to express themselves.  She then said, "and as an aside, I have to say I've had the pleasure of having both her older boys in my class and they are just fantastic kids, they are such wonderful examples...and of citizenship...."  I lost some of this part but then she said "..and I know it's because they have a good example at home, she is a really good Mom." (and then she got teary too)

The last teacher said she echoed those sentiments and how Audrey was like her class mascot.  How the lecture I gave the kids on genetics (I'd done it for her last year when Nolan was in her class and did it again this year when they did cell biology) still had the kids talking and asking questions.  :D


Afterwards, another Mom came up to me and said she had no idea Art M was a volunteer program; and she went on to tell me how when her children have their lesson, they come home and that is all they talk about.

Yes!!!  I heard myself cheer in my head. 

I was moved by it all, but the thing that sticks with me is the "really good Mom." 

Because as we all know, parenting is the one job in the world where there are no annual reviews.  No raises.  Aside from the sticky hugs, not many perks.  You do it, and hope to heaven you're doing it right, or as best you can, and that you are not raising bad people.

When my friend, my boys teacher, stood in front of a roomful of people and called me a good Mom, it felt like I got an A.

An "A" in Advanced Mommy.

It felt pretty good.  It made me feel less guilty about all those times I roll my eyes and count the minutes until bedtime when I hear "Mooo-ooom!" or the number of times I actually say "can you get OFF OF ME?" when Audrey grabs onto an arm or leg or lap again.

And I feel just cocky enough to say this...

Today, I rock

Friday, May 11, 2007

If only we weren't in public....

I have this situation at work.

Sparing you all the details, it involves a jilted boyfriend and one of my friends; the fact that he is a little unstable, has been harassing her for months...the situation is complicated and management is trying to work it out.

Although they are sure taking their time about it.  I mean, we are going on about six weeks now.

And other coworkers are changing their schedules to avoid being around Mr. Jilted, as they are worried he might go postal, and not care who is in the way.

My friend-in-question, sits right behind me, so close that we both can't back up our chairs without being careful to not hit the other.  Yeah.  I'm right there.

I have my moments of worry, and my moments of it-should-be-fine.  The should-be-fine outweighs my worry, as I work when neither one of them are there (usually--she does come in on weekends sometimes.)

And like I was telling Mr W yesterday, "I'm married to you, so I'm okay."  "What do you mean?" he asked.

"I know that if he were to say or do anything to me, you would unleash a rain of fire on him...."

Mr W cut me off.  "I'd be in jail.  I swear to God.  The kids would have to be raised by your parents or my brother, because I'd be in jail."

On the one hand, kinda disturbing to hear, considering my husband's laidback nature.

On the other, it was enough to make me swoon a little bit.

I seriously would have jumped his bones, but we were in (yes, Remo, you guessed it) Wendy's, and they frown upon that kind of behavior during the lunch rush.

It's sick, I know, but man, I totally swooned.  

Who knew I was married to Clint Eastwood?

An evening in the park turns back the clock

Audrey had a picnic/ice cream social with her preschool at the park Tuesday night.

All the boys surprised me in that they all said they wanted to come along.  The park we were going to has a waterpad, the type where water sprays out of statues shaped like dolphins, etc.  I didn't think they'd want to go as it is a little babyish, but they changed into their swimsuits and were ready to go before I was done putting my shoes on.  (I don't think I need to tell you how Audrey was so excited she put her bathing suit on the second the boys got home from school, and kept coming into my room to ask "Is it time to leave yet?")  They wanted to spend time with her.  And Nolan wasted no time reminding me that "this is the last time..." 

Off we went.

When we got there, the kids started playing, they were having a fantastic time, and I was having fun watching them.

Until Nolan stood by one of the statues.  My mind saw my tall thirteen year old getting ready to spray the hell out of his younger brother.  My heart saw the little one-and-a-half year old I used to bring to this park all the time after work in hopes of tiring him out for the evening.  I actually saw, in my mind's eye, a picture I'd taken of him and Mr W sitting by the "lake" throwing bread for the ducks.

Thank God I was holding the towels--you know, the spray, it can be irritating to your eyes.

The preschool teacher, Ms Lillie, came up to me and asked if it would be okay for her to gather all my brood and have someone take a picture of them together with her.  "Of course,"  I said.  Ms Lillie has been teacher to ALL of them, and I thought it was cute of her to want a photo.  "You know, when I started teaching here, Nolan was tiny!  I've been doing this for nine years now, and look at him!"

She had no idea I'd been trying not to look at him, as "hysterical woman by the water" is not how I wanted to be remembered.

We gathered them up and they posed.  It was a nice shot, no bunny ears or crossed eyes. (I'm hoping she gives me a copy.)

Right before we left, I went to let her know we were on our way out.  I gave her a hug, and as I turned to leave, I almost ran over Nolan.  His siblings were in line right behind him.  Good God, I thought, what now?  Nolan pushed me aside, so he could get past me.

He grabbed Ms Lillie, dwarfing her (holy cow, he's grown) and hugged her.  Then all the kids took turns hugging her.  They did it entirely on their own--I didn't prompt them at all.

And I got all choked up again.  It was one of those moments when you realize that maybe you are doing something right, that maybe, maybe, they really are good kids.

That went a long way towards erasing the memory I had of Audrey jumping off the couch, walking over to where Ben lay, and punching him in the nuts for no good reason the night before.

Some things you just never forget

About a month or so ago, Mr W and I were watching tv.  There was a piece on the news about a man who had received a heart transplant that was graduating college.  No big whup these days, heart transplants are hardly news, but the man had received his heart from a young college student who had been killed by a drunk driver.   The man decided he would honor the memory of the college student by going back to college and completing the student's degree (computer science). 

I was touched by this story, then I got this bitter, angry feeling, and I was at once overcome with emotion.

You see, at the time, we were approaching the one year anniversary of the death of one of our officers, a friend of my husband's, someone who was very dear to me. 

It may seem irrational, petty even, but I wondered to myself who would honor Rob in that way?  Certainly not the idiot who was responsible for his death. 

The answer came to me later, on two separate occasions, and it's one I've known all along.

The first time, it happened when Mr W and I met for lunch one day, one of those miracles of timing where he had a break and I was without children.  We were on our way to sit down when this lady came up to him, made a point of getting his attention, touched his shoulder and said "Thank you."

Mr W kinda tilted his head and asked, "For what?"  (You never know, when you're in uniform, what to expect.)

She smiled and said, "Thank you for serving."

That's it, I thought.  Rob's memory is honored by my husband continuing to serve.

It was underscored for me last Monday, as I stood in next to my husband, once again in a sea of navy blue, as the unveiling of our Public Safety Memorial took place.  I thought of all those guys, going to work, serving, doing their jobs...day in and day out, knowing that their friend is no longer with them.  It's not a small feat for them, considering that Rob's name is still quite often on people's lips and his face is everywhere, all over the station.

They honor his memory every day, just by continuing to do their jobs. 

Which, I am sure, is exactly what he would have wanted them to do.  Keep crimefighting.

Later that week, I took my kids to see the statue.  It's bronze, of a fireman, handing a child over to a police officer.  (The police officer is modeled after Rob, and it bears quite a resemblance to him.) As we walked up, I noticed a freshly minted officer (he just had the newbie look about him) there with his family, walking around, looking, and talking about it.   I quietly took the kids around, pointing things out and answering their questions.

There was a lull in my conversation, and I heard the other officer's son ask, as he pointed up at the statue, "Is that the guy?" 

"Yes,"  I heard him reply.  "That's the guy."

He most certainly was,  I thought to myself as I gathered my kids and we headed to the car.