Friday, June 19, 2009

The Silence Is Deafening

I got this letter in the mail a few weeks ago informing me that I shouldn't use my oven anymore. Apparently, there have been seventy-two incidents of ovens just like mine catching on fire from overheating wires. I generally get around to opening my mail once dinner is cooking. this letter made for a rather tense waiting game while the steak tips finished broiling. Of course, I could have taken the steak tips out and thrown them on the grill, but I didn't. I let the potentially combustible oven finish its job and then we ate our dinner uneventfully, like always. No fire.

It took me another several days to get around to calling the 800 number on the letter to schedule my "free repair service", but I did eventually call. And today is the day they are coming. Sometime today. Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. So I'm sitting here. Waiting.

"Free" is a relative term, you know. They may not charge me actual money to come out here into the middle of nowhere and fix my defective oven, but they are holding me captive. Can't go to work. Don't have access to work from home yet. No point in getting dressed for work yet, because I could be the last call of the day. Can't lay around in my pj's all day, either, because they might miraculously show up on the early side of that time window, and then I would be released back to my regularly scheduled life.

The girls are at school, so there's nobody here to scold or feed or drive places. Everyone else I know is at work already. House is pretty clean already, thanks to the genius of the "extra allowance" chore list I created for the Tornadoes last weekend. I know, it's highly controversial to pay your children to help around the house. They should do their share, blah blah know what? I don't want to do all the laundry myself, and they want to make a little money. It's a win win.

So there's not much to do while I wait but sit here and drink coffee, look at celebrity mug shots online, and get in touch with my inner hypochondriac. I have developed this little swollen gland under my chin. It doesn't exactly hurt, but I'm super aware of it. Probably because I have touched it about once every ninety seconds since Wednesday night when I first noticed it. I have already checked my symptoms on the Internet - I have only one symptom, this freaky little swollen gland - and it appears I may either have an infection of some sort, or the mumps, or something totally disastrous and unmentionable. Of course, my inner hypochondriac has focused exclusively on that last possibility. I am only an occasional hypochondriac, thank heavens. And while I know the sensible thing to do here is to just give my doctor a call and run it by him, I already know he's going to want me to come in. And I CAN'T come in. I'm waiting for my free service call.

Now, to distract myself from the vision of starring in my own medical emergency, I'm going to go read up on a little Hollywood gossip. And maybe call my doctor.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Softball and Big Girl Bikes

Since I last appeared in the blogosphere, that's pretty much the sum total of what has captured my attention. Whether I liked it or not.

We'll start with softball. I might be in love with softball. Well, love's a bit strong a term...but compared to listening to the same floor routine music seventy-two consecutive times, when it is applicable to your own child's efforts exactly once, softball is pretty much orgasmic. Don't get me wrong: a competition is a competition, and watching gymnastics meets definitely has its moments of intensity. But those moments typically consist of hoping you are not about to watch your daughter fall on her head and become paralyzed and then have to live with the guilt of allowing her to perform completely unnatural maneuvers off of a six inch wide beam set off the ground at the height of her tiny shoulders. In gymnastics, you cheer while you fear. And you pretty much don't really give a crap about watching anybody else's kid as this would merely take up energy you might need to help lift your daughter's stretcher into the ambulance. (Oh, I'm just kidding. I watch those other kids. AND I care.) (That is, unless your kid is up before mine, in which case I'm too busy internally hyperventilating to pay attention.)

Softball, on the other hand, is just a blast all the way around. Every batter, every pitcher, every play, every call by the umpire, it's all cause for rowdiness. (Although we, the parents, have been warned about rowdiness toward the umpire. Apparently, we're supposed to set an example.) It helps that Third Grader is on a successful team this year, with a coach who lives and breathes the game and a bunch of girls who really want to win AND have fun. And it's outdoors. And there's french fries. That's not really a good thing, but I'm enjoying them all the same. And I never, never fear that Third Grader is about to become paralyzed.

Which brings me to the next major attention sucker of the past week: the girls got new bikes. It was so, so overdue. It's embarrassing how overdue it was. Somehow I have allowed my daughters to continue riding their same Toys R Us-issue bicycles - Third Grader on the one that they both learned to ride on, Fifth Grader's barely a notch bigger than that - with the seats hoisted as high as they would go and the pedals practically falling off. I am truly ashamed. The worst part of it is that neither of them has ever said a word to me about it. It didn't really register with me as to how absurd the bike situation had become until I saw them coasting down the driveway earlier this spring and thought to myself, "Where did they get those little clown bikes?" It REALLY registered with me as I watched them tool around the parking lot at the bike shop, trying out appropriately-sized bicycles with multiple speeds and gears. "Holy crap, I suck" was about all I could think. So, many hundreds of dollars later, we brought home their beautiful new bicycles. And every night since we've gotten them, they both get giddy when we pull into the garage. They immediately have to take their bikes outside, even if it's for five minutes in drizzling rain, and then they are at peace.

It's now possible that there's a bicycle in my own future. I haven't been on one since junior high. People say picking anything back up is "like riding a bike"...does that apply to actually riding a bike, you think?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The School Year: An Assessment

So it's June now - the time of year when school winds down, wraps up, and then goes away for a few short months - and I am officially shoulder deep in the process of organizing the summer for the Tornadoes. Organizing the summer pretty much consists of signing them up for camp. Camp after camp after camp after camp.

At this point, I have things pretty well lined up for them. I've left a few weeks open in case they actually want to loll about with me, at least a little bit. Now that I have that beastly project under control, with just four weeks of school remaining (three really, since the last week is basically a wash), I can turn my attention to other matters. Other matters like considering just how well this waning school year has served us all. Was it successful? Did we learn what we needed to learn?

My overall evaluation of the year can be summed up in one word: Unimpressive. Not a stellar experience at all. The Tornadoes, personally and individually, can consider their careers as Third and Fifth Graders a rousing success. Really, best efforts made and noted by all...given what they had to work with, which was a real disappointment. It's like someone let all the air out of the whole faculty this year. The whole "no homework in the fifth grade" thing that I thought was such a sweet deal at first? What a freaking crappy idea that turned out to be. Do you know what happens when you tell a fifth grade girl that she is essentially not ever going to have homework, and then, on a rare occasion, you send her home with a math paper to complete? Fits of tears, people. Throwing of own bodies onto the floor. Not pretty, especially when actually doing the math paper ends up taking about six minutes. I'm not sure what the logic was behind this - if it was supposed to allow the kids to free their minds after school, or perhaps the teachers just didn't feel like grading homework this year - but it's a really, really bad idea.

And really, everything else that has bummed me out about the year can be traced back to one change, which was the replacement of the school librarian. Yep. The librarian. Forget the fact that we had a new principal this year. Please. This is the third principal in five years. It's the school where principals go right before they retire and open their own handyman businesses. The glue, the force behind the whole operation, was the librarian, people. She did EVERYTHING. And she left this year because, why? Because, I believe, they pushed her just a little too far. Because on top of running the sixth grade culture fair, on top of running Invention Convention, on top of directing the chorus, on top of leading reading enrichment, on top of keeping all of the parents actually informed on a weekly basis about what the *&(!@! was going on down at that school, and, oh yeah, also being the librarian, they wanted her to take on even more, and I'm just guessing here, probably without any appropriate and highly deserved pay increase.

And so what were we left with when she left us? An Invention Convention where my own Third Grader made the most fantastic invention ever (really, it was the marketing) and it didn't matter, because the whole thing was "unofficial" and "just for the experience"; a chorus that does a bang-up job of standing in a line and holding black folders, but failed to memorize their songs and, oh, to SING SO YOU COULD HEAR THEM. I'm pretty sure the whole Culture Fair thing didn't even happen - but I don't actually know, because without the librarian, there's no weekly newsletter, and without a weekly newsletter I have no *^%#$! clue what's going on. Which is why Fifth Grader missed out on the babysitting course. And also why Third Grader ended up spending five winter afternoons learning how to knit when she could have been learning how to snowboard, because nobody bothered to tell the parents that all the other sporting alternatives to snowboarding had been taken away this year in favor of things like compass reading and knitting. The good news: she now knits like a pro. The bad news: not planning on taking any family knitting vacations anytime soon.

I can see that I've gotten a little worked up. Sorry. It's just, you know, I am basically living in this itsy bitsy, commerce free, hole-in-the-woods town for one reason and one reason only, that being the historically exceptional quality of the hole-in-the-woods elementary school. You take that away from me and I'm just living unreasonably far away from a decent cup of coffee for no reason at all. Things need to improve. Pronto.

You know, all of this thinking about the quality of the school system got me thinking about something else. Once upon a time, I was twenty something, and kid less, and - I remember this part distinctly - exactly the kind of girl who rolled her eyes and left the room when she found herself listening to young mothers fervently discussing the quality of school systems. So, yeah. Sorry about the eye rolling.

And rock on, librarians!