A Game- February 10, 2016

Monday I was sad my team lost so I told myself it was just a game. A football game. Our nation’s largest millionaires slam into each other causing possible irreparable brain damage. It’s America showing some of our most indulgent and barbaric behavior.

It is, but it’s not. It means more.

I was surprised at how genuinely sad I was that our Carolina Panthers lost Super Bowl 50 to the Denver Broncos Sunday night. I didn’t cry, that’s stupid, but there was some sulking and eating my feelings.

The story of this year’s Super Bowl goes deeper for us. See, we have a group of friends that make up our Fantasy Football league. We are six married couples. We became close friends after four couples (including us) were neighbors for several years. We all share a mutual love of crass humor and loud laughs. We have hosted the Super Bowl for several years. Last year was a fiasco as we inadvertently poisoned our friends with my brilliant “Build Your Own Nachos” bar idea. The source of everyone barfing the next day was either baby diaper fecal contamination or the more likely source, a virus. Our friends were able to joke about this through the year, thankfully. Two Fantasy team names were “Super Bowl Upchuck” and my team “Tainted Queso.”

IMG_3815

This year we had to have everyone back, even with the poisoning. You see, this was our Super Bowl. I’ve been a Carolina Panthers fan since the team came to our state when I was a teen. My husband grew up outside of Denver, following the Broncos’ every heartbreaking Super Bowl loss with a framed and signed John Elway jersey on his wall. That was before he got to do highlights of his team winning the big game his first year as a sportscaster. Years later, he would marry me and live in North Carolina. He happily adopted the Panthers as his NFC team, and I embraced the Broncos as my AFC team. Oh, I can’t forget a key part of this. My husband graduated from Auburn University. We all know Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is a Heisman winning Auburn alumni.

Truly our Super Bowl.

We promised our friends we would just buy food and not cook anything. We pleaded with them to give us another chance after the poisoning. They shared our excitement for “our Super Bowl” and packed our living room with smiling faces wearing Panthers blue. My husband wore his Broncos jersey under his Panthers jersey. He was in enemy territory, after all.

12552580_10153376876218786_3921757309044088249_n

The kids cheered and begged for Panthers noses and whiskers. I gave my son’s old infant Newton jersey to our friend’s new baby to wear for the game. We took turns snuggling him between wrangling children. Like all Americans we shared beer and wings while scratching our heads over Mountain Dew’s “Puppy, Baby, Monkey” commercial. We awarded this year’s Fantasy champ our league’s trophy. It’s a bra with tassel pasties on a box spray painted gold. True story. Our friends left and my husband comforted me, promising our young team would be back in a few years. I know he’s right.

kids super bowl

IMG_3860

Wednesday we got a box at the door. My father-in-law sent my husband a championship hat and t-shirt. He kindly didn’t send youth sizes to my children. I appreciate that. The sting is still there. I really thought the Panthers would win.

Grey Super Bowl

As silly as I feel being upset about this game, I feel I’m justified. This wasn’t just a game. It was our teams in the Super Bowl. I guess I’m also saying it’s never just football.

It’s seeing my husband feel like he can’t lose.

It’s dressing up my kids who can’t wait to see their friends in the same colors.

It’s forgiving friends willing to laugh with us.

It’s a father surprising his son with a thoughtful gift.

I don’t care if football is America’s guilty pleasure. It’s more than just a game.

 

Share

Pajama Jams- January 21, 2016

Before we had kids winter meant watching basketball on TV and having multiple leather coats without worry that they would get ruined. Now winter means we brace ourselves for the inevitable string of snotty, barf days. My children are sticky, sneaky germ incubators. They are seemingly fine, begging for food and cartoons with their usual gusto. Then I run upstairs. I’m likely grabbing hand sanitizer because, you know, winter. When I come back down they are suddenly glassy-eyed and puny. I swear sometimes it happens that fast.

Last week was that week. It actually started with me this time. Cold and sinus pressure. I put on a movie for my son and laid on the couch before falling into a dark hole of watching 90’s alt-rock videos on You Tube. Don’t judge me! I was in a mucas daze. You know Alice In Chains and Stone Temple Pilots were awesome in their day. I looked up from a Sublime video to see my two year-old looking flushed and pitiful. After that it was four days of a fever higher than 100. He had Herpangina. That’s basically Hand Foot and Mouth without the hands and feet. It’s terrible. Avoid it at all costs. You can borrow my hand sanitizer.

Since my son and I were both feeling so lousy, on school days I would quickly take my daughter through carpool before heading straight home. This meant I threw my hair in a top knot, smashed my glasses on my face and stayed in my comfy pajama pants, never planning to get out of the car. This particular day I looked extra ridiculous. You can see the photo below. That sweatshirt is one my parents bought me before college as they moved me on campus in ’99. I was probably listening to alt-rock at the time. This is how I looked, please note that you can’t see the ski cap with the beer logo I was also wearing:

IMG_3533

Yeah, technically those flats are Crocs. Remember when I confessed my flashback MTV binge earlier in this post? Yeah, thanks for continuing to not judge me. Anyway, since I had the best laid plans to NOT get out of the car, I bet you can guess where this story is going.

Yep. We were running late as I put my sick kid in his pajamas and my preschooler with her backpack in the car. We hit every light. I stared at the red stoplight before looking down at my magenta pants. “No. No. NO! WHY didn’t I leave earlier?!” I whipped into the carpool lane to find all the teachers gone. Carpool was over. I figured I’d call the preschool principal from the car. I’d politely explain how pitifully sick we were and if she could come snag the healthy child that would be tremendous. I was doing the school a favor by not spreading my germs, right? Well, I didn’t have to do that. I looked up and saw the green security light at the school entrance. It wasn’t quite 9:30 am! The red light came on and the doors locked at 9:30. I had maybe 60 seconds to get my child with her sparkly backpack through those double doors. I ran, coughing in the cold air. I took my keys and wedged them in the door on the ground to prop it open before running back to the car. Please, God don’t let anyone see me out of my vehicle! The entrance was only about 30 feet long, but there were still good odds someone would see me looking like a hungover bag lady.

I pulled my daughter out of her seat, draped her coat over her shoulders as she looked confused. “We’re in a big hurry! You’re going to have to walk in by yourself, okay?” I mumbled something about not wanting to leave her brother alone in the car, which she knew was total garbage. Preschool protocol states that you are to walk your child to their class if you arrive after 9:30. Well, it wasn’t after 9:30 and there was no way I was walking inside the building in my pajamas and Crocs. I heard, “But, Mommy!” I shoved her bag in her arms and we started walking toward my makeshift door stop. “But, Mommy! Wait! My snack for the class!” Ugh! We have the snack today! I looked in the passenger seat to see the huge basket we had filled with pretzels, grapes and a jug of juice for the hungry 4 year-old class. I thought, “She could carry it, right?” I snatched the basket and ran with her to the door. She looked up at me bewildered.

In one of my poorest parenting moments I looked down at her and said, “Okay, you can carry it in, can’t you!? It’s not that heavy!” I knew good and well that her backpack, coat and the basket weighed down by a full jug of juice was way too much for my 37 lb. child to carry. Sorry. There was NO WAY I was walking in. Her classroom was ten steps from the door. She could make it. My daughter then gave me a look with all the disgust one can muster. “FINE! Whatever, Mom!” I couldn’t even be mad at the sass. She was right. I was pathetic.

I have never felt like a worse human than when I kept my body outside the door and peered down the hall as my tiny preschooler dragged all her paraphernalia, straining as she pulled. The worst part? I laughed. I LAUGHED! I laughed at her frustration, at my absurdity and my parental failings. I laughed at all of it as I rushed back to the car. I did hear a teacher say “Oh, sweetie! Let me help you!” I can’t be sure in my haste, but I’m almost positive her voice was dripping with judgement.

I got in the warm car and turned on some alt rock. I tapped along to the beat in my Crocs.

Share

The Start Of An Education- January 10, 2016

It came up so fast. For months we’ve been saying “We register our daughter for Kindergarten in January!” I’ve had many deep conversations with other parents of 4 and 5 year-old’s about school assignments, calendar options, rankings, test scores, magnet schools, Montessori, language immersion, private school tuition…the list goes on. A mother of a first grader laughed at me and some other moms the other day. She laughed at us with all her wisdom and quipped, “Oh! You guys are the first to EVER send your kids to kindergarten!”

A tweet from Thursday:

kindergarten tweet

Our large public school system is both heralded and criticized. It’s heralded for excellence in public education. It’s criticized for reassignments and lots of snow days in the often wet, icy winters here in the south. Parents have lots of options for school choice, with limited numbers in each school as our area grows. This is overwhelming for first time parents. I find it overwhelming and I’m a product of this school system and my mother has been a teacher in the district for nearly 30  years. When I was a local TV news reporter I covered the turmoil of a school board election and aftermath that changed the politics and makeup of the system. Even with that insider look at the history of our public schools, it was still overwhelming. Would our assignment change even though we bought a house practically on top of the elementary school I wanted her to attend? Was I unnecessarily mean to our realtor two years ago when I said, “No! Try again, THIS is the school we want!!!”? I feel very fortunate that we did get the school I had so hoped for. Many of my other friends are not as lucky as they tour schools while their child’s name remains on a waiting list. Others protest assignment changes at school board meetings. It’s crazy, ya’ll.

Last week I compiled the long list of documents needed to officially enroll a 5 year-old into the educational system. Birth certificate, proof of residency, immunization records etc. Good God! How many times to I have to write our address?! I asked my mom what she had to do to register me for kindergarten. She laughed at me, promising I wouldn’t remember this in 30 years. It was indeed 30 years ago. The 1986-’87 school year was when I went into kindergarten. I reminded her I was documenting this on the Internet in 2016, so I WOULD remember. Different times. I dutifully paperclipped the stack of forms together and was third in line to register at our school.

A smiling employee helped sign me in and give me a visitors badge. It had been a long time since I entered the colorful, florescent lit halls of an elementary school. She directed me to the “Media Center.” Huh? Oh! That’s right, that’s what they call the library in elementary school. As a kid I always assumed the tape players with blue headphones made it a media center and not just a library. They don’t have those headphones anymore. It was fancier than my media center with the few old IBM’s I remember. I got a ticket, sat with my younger child and fed him the cookies the PTA offered. I recognized some parent volunteers from the neighborhood pool, getting a glimpse of the volunteering that would likely be in my future.

When my ticket number was called I took my forms to two other employees who quickly photocopied everything like they had done this a million times. I sat there, answering their questions like it was clearly my first time. They were kind but hasty. I could tell they had dealt with many new kindergarten parents over the years. We are a year-round school so the schedule or “track” you are assigned is a big deal. Everyone has a preference and you are not guaranteed your preference. I asked about this briefly before she said, “Okay, you’re all set!”

Wait. That was it? Some photocopies?!

This was my brain as I stared before standing and walking back across the media center:

“Wait! No hug? But, I just registered my first born for kindergarten! My baby! My super special snowflake will be in your charge for the next six years. Wait, thirteen years, and ya’ll don’t want to make a HUGE DEAL out of this?!”

Nope. They kinda just wanted to get to the next parent. They had to get to more first time kindergarten parents who believe their babies are the most special snowflakes in the pile of snow. I looked at the other parents who all also had become parents in late 2010 or 2011. They too had looks of wonder at how this had happened so fast.

Okay school system, my snowflake is all yours. May she happily pile on the school’s roof, making it scenic and not be a flake that helps ice over the roads.

Share

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow- January 5, 2015

My hair now has some golden streaks mixed in the dark brown. It’s pretty. It catches the light. It gives more dimension. I starting highlighting my hair in my early to mid-twenties. (Oh God, that’s more than 10 years, now. Yeesh.) Before then I had my mother’s voice in my head telling me “Don’t color your hair!” “You don’t need to!” “It’s dark brunette. Don’t mess with it until you have to cover gray.”

highlighted hair

Sorry Mom, but I’m so mad I listened to you all those years. I feel like I missed out on fun hair experimentation when I was young. I kept it plain and boring, never daring to jump on the chunky highlights trend of the late 90’s-early 2000’s. Makeup? That’s a different story. I always loved makeup and experimenting there, but hair? I kept it plain until I was on TV as a news reporter and changed it up.

My mom has always cared about my hair and my sister’s hair. Always. When we were dating my husband said, “Why does your mom ALWAYS comment on your hair?” I replied, “I dunno. She’s my mom.” Over the years she was all for braids, curling and perms. But color? No color according to Mom. When my daughter was a toddler I wrote about our budding mother/daughter hair relationship. Suddenly I find myself obsessing over my daughter’s hair.

You see, for awhile I was quite sure Charlotte was part mermaid. Take a look at these pictures:

curls collage

Here I was, worried Disney would give her unrealistic hair expectations, but oh my goodness! How is it possible for a human to have such magic, princess hair?! It’s glorious with all it’s natural ombre ringlets!

But, people kept telling me I needed to cut it. One friend laughed, “If she starts sitting on it I’m going to make fun of you, Amy.” I joked about her starting to look like a Duggar it was so long. It was getting to be a huge pain to brush and detangle. The ends, while curled, were dead and less bouncy than they were in these photos. When the warm humidity of summer gave way to fall, it didn’t look as lovely. She needed a haircut.

I told myself the curls would be there, just fresher. I lazily took her to Sports Clips with her brother. She’s five! I’m not spending a fortune on a 5-year-old’s haircut. I regret that now. We had been to some kids haircut places before. I figured I could still get away with not going to a real salon for awhile longer. The woman kindly put nearly 6 inches of ringlets in an envelope for me to save, but my heart HURT when she made a straight line with her shears and cut those curls off.

They are not back. Soft waves settle into the cheap, blunt haircut line. I scrunch and twist after her baths, trying to make those ringlets magically reappear, but they are gone. Maybe they’ll return with humid, warm weather? Maybe with a better haircut? I don’t know.

haircut charlotte

She is still the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Her hair is a trivial part to the amazing person she is. Plus, I’m just grateful she is healthy and happy. Maybe my mom didn’t want me to color my hair because it would have been saying goodbye to the dark silky strands her baby was born with, just like I mourn the curls my baby had.

Charlotte, your hair is yours to experiment with…one day. For now, I’m going to be the one to obsess over it. When chunky highlights come back in style it’s yours for the obsessing.

Share

Sleeping With Santa- December 6, 2015

This will be the year I remember that Henry’s Santa suit was too small and cut him off at the ankles. My shaggy haired two-year-old wouldn’t go near the big man without Mommy and Daddy. I promise the kids weren’t asleep, it’s just the best picture we could get.

2015 santa collage

In three of these pictures, Charlotte is without Henry. She’s with him in three others. Half of all her Christmases have been with a little brother. This makes me smile.

My funny five-year-old was only apprehensive for a quick second when talking to Santa Claus. She remembered her sweet, simple list of two gifts and went on to ask Santa for gifts for Henry. I was so proud of the kind little lady she showed she’s becoming today.

Memories locked down: polka dot dress, red bow, too-small Santa suit, closed eyes. Christmas 2015.

Share