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.

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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.

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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.

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Keep Lying- December 3, 2015

I just wanted to have The Ellen Show on TV Wednesday afternoon while I cleaned and got things done. Ellen is awesome. She’s doing that Christmas giveaway thing and audience members lose their minds. It’s funny.

No Ellen. “Breaking news.” “Mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.” “Multiple fatalities.” That familiar wave of horror went through me and settled in my chest. I watched for a moment before going upstairs for something. The kids were upstairs in their rooms. My 2-year-old son was waking from a nap and my 5-year-old daughter was playing. When I came back downstairs she was there, standing in front of the TV. She eyed it. I watched the question I expected come to her lips. “Mommy, what happened?”

“Some people got hurt,” I explained.

I turned it off. We hurried out the door for dinner at church where she happily sang with the preschool choir. Adults said prayers for southern California as our phones buzzed here on the east coast with updates. “Searches for suspects.” “Standoff with police.” It all continued to unfold on the other side of the country as our evening went on.

In the car on the way home a news update came on the radio at the half hour with the latest from San Bernardino. I hear from the back seat, “Mama. Am I going to get shooted by a gun?”

Her question pushed on my chest. The weight of it stalled my breath. The worst image any parent can have came to mind. I said, “No baby. You won’t be shot by a gun. Why do you ask that?” I knew why she had asked. She said, “It was on the news on TV.” I assured her it was okay and that it happened far away. She said, “Well, are you and Daddy going to be shot by a gun?” I promised we wouldn’t.

I changed the subject and mulled over my answers to her as we brushed teeth and got in bed. As I tucked her in I gave her the whole Mr. Rodgers speech. The “look for the helpers” quote.

o-MISTER-ROGERS-HELPERS-QUOTE-570

I lied to my 5-year-old. I lied to her. We are lying to our children when we say “No, baby. You’re safe. You won’t be shot by a gun.” It’s a lie because they could be. As we’ve learned in the past decade any of us can be shot at a mall, movie theater, university, elementary school, church, medical clinic, holiday office party… I can’t even remember all of them now. Who can? This Washington Post article explains that on the 336th day of 2015, San Bernardino marked the 355th US shooting. Oh, and it was the second one on Wednesday. There was another in one of my favorite US cities, Savannah, Georgia.

In my mind I’ve played out scenarios of what I would do if I was at Target, the park or the grocery store with the kids. Hide or flee? It depends on where we were. Would the kids know to be quiet if we had to hide? How fast can I run with both of them? Let me be clear, I’m not a paranoid person. I don’t live in fear day-to-day. I just keep it in the back of my mind. My child does not show signs of any anxiety or excessive worry at this point. She’s only five, though.

We cannot honestly tell our children they are safe. Even quoting Mr. Rogers isn’t that comforting. My daughter asked who the helpers were. I explained that police officers and EMT rush to help people when they’re hurt. But, wait. What about children in communities with strained relations with law enforcement? Would a black child in Ferguson, Missouri see a police officer as a “helper?” What do their parents tell them?

Maybe all we can do as parents is lie. We can keep telling kids it will all be okay when we really don’t know if it will be. We can just keep lying.

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Well Done- November 26, 2015

My husband woke up Thanksgiving morning with a sparkle in his eye and some extra swagger. It was swagger fueled by peanut oil and propane. We did no basting, we did no roasting. Greyson was gonna fry the hell out a turkey this year.

I giggled at his enthusiasm and swooned at him in his flannel and denim. I thought he looked particularly fetching out on our driveway, beer in hand, eyes never moving from the blue flame he had so carefully created. He warned me about oil splatters as I took his picture.

Greyson frying turkey

He had researched. He had seasoned. He had massaged and pampered this bird the night before. 40 minutes was the goal. 40 minutes in the fryer to achieve the golden sparkle that would ensure moist poultry. I was in the kitchen when he stuck his head in the door from the garage. “Oh, my God!” I wasn’t prepared for what he plopped on the counter.

burnt turkey 2015

We think the coup de gras for this bird may have been the 42 or 43 minutes in the fryer. We may never know. It actually wasn’t that bad. We salvaged it. After we peeled off the charred skin the meat was okay. A little dry for a fried turkey, but not inedible.

via GIPHY

He laughed, but his eyes told the story of a sad defeat. Defeat on a day in late November we’ll remember as a really fun Thanksgiving with our friends. Greyson said the bird looked “like Satan’s butthole.” See, he did cook the hell out of a turkey.

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