Top Reasons Why August and I Are Not Friends

It’s the final week of August and the end of a long summer in our house. I enjoy summer for many reasons, also because the days are a nice change of pace from the hectic schedule of the school year.  But this summer was different, and I find myself looking forward to a new season, even if it means another busy school year.  However, before  I can get started on the new school year, I have to get through August, and August is the month I hate most in summer.  August is the month when I scramble to find camps for the kids to fill in my big gap in day care; August is the month when summer temperatures heat up and relegate my already restless kids indoors; and August is the month when my temper and my kids’ tempers are as short as the days are long. Here’s a few other reasons why August is not my favorite month:

1) School Supply Shopping.

Beginning in August the kids start bugging to go shopping for school supplies. I try to put off this chore as long as possible, but not so long that the stores run out of supplies.  Usually in August, the kids’ schools send a list of school supplies they will need. It is usually very specific with things like, “College Ruled Spiral Notebook with Three Subjects and Pocket Dividers,” or 3 packages of 150 quantity 4×6 White Notecards, Unlined. Can you tell why I hate shopping for these supplies? Sometimes I feel like I am on a scavenger hunt, and when I am done running between at least 2 stores, hunting for everything on their list in triplicate, I have the pleasure of spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $250.00!

2) Summer Homework Torture

Nico, Erica and Olivia all go to schools which assign summer reading and math packets.  The reading assignment also includes an essay which must be turned in the first few days of school. For Olivia, she gets tested on her summer reading.  I know the kids should read throughout the summer anyway, but something about this assigned reading makes what I consider a pleasure, a pure hardship for them, and me.  In August I become a complete nag about their unfinished reading, essay writing, and math homework.  Sometime after the dismissal bell in June and the beginning of August, my kids’ brains turn to mush and they cannot write a complete paragraph without constantly  interrupting their work with bathroom breaks, trips to the refrigerator, or watching “5 minutes” of television. It is pure torture, watching them “write” the essays. It’s usually not until the final day before school that I can light a fire under their *&!$ and they can get their summer homework done.

3) The Birthday Season

In August I begin preparing for the birthday season. Beginning on August 1, we celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. This is the kick-off event for the month of birthday celebrations which culminates in my father-in-law’s September birthday.  In the coming weeks I will have to plan no less than three of my kids’ birthday parties. I like to get the party planning  done before school starts so I don’t have that to contend with sending out invitations as I cover text books, shop for last-minute school supplies and fill out a seemingly unending stream of enrollment forms, medical clearances and notices of emergency contact information.

4) Summer Let Down

After I am done buying school supplies, nagging my kids about summer homework, and planning birthday parties, I can stop and reflect on the past couple of months. This is when I realize that summer has whizzed by and I feel like I haven’t really enjoyed it. Truth be told, even if I could spend my days enjoying all that summer offers, I would probably still be let down when August ends, because as an adult, summer just isn’t summer like I remember it. Summers used to be carefree, and fun, with nothing to do spend my days waking late, swimming in my parents’ pool, reading books that I chose, watching All My Children, and  hanging out with my friends. Sigh. How can I help but feel let down when August comes and, if I am lucky, I made it to the beach a few times, and maybe had a few barbecues.  The other day Diego reminded me of all that I am missing from the fun of summer.  Juan and I were headed out the door for work, and I suggested to our nanny that she take the kids to the local city pool or maybe a matinée to beat the heat. Diego asked, “Do you have to work everyday? Can’t you have summer vacation too?” August reminds me that I haven’t stopped enough in the business of the season to enjoy the fun of  summer.

So, now that I am wrapping up my summer, and the kids will all be back in school this week, I have planned one last hurrah. This Labor Day Weekend I’ll be hosting a barbecue, and I’ll be combining it with another birthday party.

Toy Story

This morning I was on my way out the door when I heard shrieking and explosions, and rapid gunfire. I do not live in a war zone, but I do live with a 6 year-old boy.  That is  when I noticed this…

Lego Guy was being held prisoner. The minions were torturing him as he sat over a burning a fire

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Just in case Lego Guy thinks of escaping, the minions have a back-up Lego Skeleton armed with a laser gun, aimed directly at Lego Guy.

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Army guys maintain their positions, just in case Lego Guy makes a run for it.

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A Lego built launch pad houses a jet fighter ready to deploy. In the background is Luke Skywalker armed with the Force.

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This minion is operating the computer, ensuring that Lego Guy does not get away.

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...and of course there's always the Chief Minion standing by, just to make absolutely sure that things go according to his plan. Mwah, hah hah!!!

No silly string

Another Reason Why I Love/Hate October

Have I mentioned that October is one of my favorite months?  October means that fall is definitely in full swing, even if we don’t get much of true fall color in Southern California. (Fall color being one of the other reasons I like October). Not only are October days shorter and cooler, they are busier. I am back in the rhythm of school days with homework, projects, after school events, and of course Nico and Erica’s school Fall Festival.

 At Nico and Erica’s catholic school the Fall Festival is a huge deal. It’s a great fundraiser for the school and there’s something for everyone.   There are all kinds of game booths, a cake walk, haunted and bounce houses, and of course, what would a Catholic festival be without Bingo?  This year, my friend Rosemary won a new IPad during one round of Bingo. When she told us that she won the IPad, Diego chimed in, “Well, I won two whoopee cushions!” See? I told you there was something for everyone. Ahh, the Fall Fest! The kids absolutely love it! Me? I have a love/hate relationship with the Fall Fest. 

 Love:

The look of delight and joy as I see my kids and their classmates having the time of their lives as they tear with through their former school-yard-turned-carnival, playing games of chance and the opportunity to win an endless supply of stuffed animals, whoopee cushions, inflatable hammers, and SILLY STRING.

 Hate:

The fact that my kids and their classmates run wild through their former school-yard-turned-carnival, playing games of chance, and winning endless supplies of stuffed animals, whoopee cushions, inflatable hammers, and SILLY STRING.

 Silly String is fun. It is also sticky, messy, and requires WD-40 or paint thinner to remove it when it gets on clothing. After 8 years of consecutive Fall Festivals, I have had a lot of experience with Silly String.  I now know that my kids should wear caps to the Fall Fest, lest their hair become sprayed with the sticky stuff. Silly String also burns when it gets in the eye. SillyString can result in physical injury. Three Fall Festivals ago, Erica was being chased by a boy with an inflatable hammer. The school yard was filled with land mines of empty Silly String cans, tossed haphazardly by kids whose cans had run out of the sticky stream of fluorescent string.  As Erica ran from the boy with the hammer, she tripped over an abandoned empty Silly String can and sprained her wrist.  The evening’s festivities were cut short with a late night trip to the emergency room. This incident also resulted in me sending an email to the school festival committee proposing we abandon the Silly String altogether. Hah! Like that was going to happen! Nevertheless, the next year the festival committee came up with the cleaver idea that the kids bring three empty Silly String cans in exchange for one new can. The result was a school yard free of empty Silly String land mines, and a lesson in recycling. 

 With this year’s Fall Fest in the can, (pun intended) I am both sad and happy. I am saddened by the fact that now that Nico and Erica are in the 7th grade, there will be only one more year with them at this school and at the Fall Fest. I am also happy that we only have one more year with Nico and Erica at this school and at the Fall Fest. Although, something tells me that I won’t be missing the Fall Fest for too long.  Diego is in 1st grade at a different school. This coming weekend Diego’s school is holding its own First Annual Fall Festival.

Signs of a Busy Life

Like many parents’ weekday mornings, mine is usually filled with the  last- minute panic and rushing out the door.  On those mornings when Juan has to be at an early meeting, and we cannot drive into work together, I am the lone parent trying to wake the dead as I go through the hallway flipping on lights and rushing to the kitchen to scramble a  breakfast, pack lunches, and finally, wrangle kids into the car.  It’s always a race against the clock.  Nico and Erica’s school charges the parents $5 a tardy, after the first 5 tardies. Diego’s school, the second stop on my route to work, begins at 7:45!  I ususally end up leaving the house with my coffee to go, and without make-up. (Yes, I am that woman. The one who puts on mascara during the morning stop and and go traffic).   I rush to drop off Nico or Erica at their school and then race across town to make it to Diego’s school before I have to stop in at the office and get “my ticket,”  otherwise known as a tardy slip.

So you can understand, why I am a little preoccupied during my morning dash  drive through my lovely hometown.  I hardly notice the beautiful Pasadena bridge and the sun rising over the Arroyo on the way to Diego’s school. Diego notices my distraction too. I dodge through traffic,  only half-listening to his 6 year-old ramblings and his unending loop of Guess What? It’s a little pre-occupation of his own. It goes like this:

“Guess What?”

“What?” I respond obligingly,  yet absently.

“CHICKEN BUTT!” ( I know, he shouldn’t be saying Butt.)

I always fall for it. Especially when I am driving. 

“Don’t say ‘Butt.'”  I correct him, narrowly missing a commuter bus as it pulls in front of me. 

Diego, he is a talker. His constant chatter from the backseat serves as my substitute for morning talk radio.   He tells me stories all the way to school .  His stories often illicit a “Umm” or “Uh-huh” response from me.  He tells me, “Mommy, when you say “Uh-huh” it means you are not listening.  Wow!  He’s perceptive that kid!

This probably helps explain why I didn’t understand Diego’s story about “No Hats,” which he would share with me on our way to school.  Whenever Diego and I turned onto the street near his school, he would tell me, “Mommy, No Hats! Why can’t  we wear hats to school? Maybe because it’s too windy and they will blow away?” 

“Mmm..Uh-huh,” I respond, as I negotiate a parking space near the school.  This went on for several days until it finally dawned on me to ask him what he was talking about. 

Diego sighed, as if he knew that I hadn’t been paying attention all these days. He was right.

Diego then explained, “The sign says, ‘No Hats’.  It says ‘Hats are not allowed.'”

I looked at him confused.  “What sign are you talking about?”   He said, this sign:

Maybe I should start paying closer attention. Or maybe Diego should learn to read.

Happy Birthday To Me

Yesterday was my birthday. It’s a big number. And while I don’t feel any older than I did when I was 30, or even 40, I am quickly closing in on an even bigger number. My mind and heart feel youthful, but my body insists on telling me that I am getting older.  The funny thing about birthdays at this point in my life is that it makes me think of my own mortality and what it is I want to leave behind. Not that I am at all close to leaving this world, but for me, my birthday is a good reminder to hit the pause button and and assess where I am in my life. I have a teenage step-daughter, a tween son and step-daughter and a kindergartner. All their ages are wonderful, (with the exception of maybe some of the social awkwardness that comes with the tween/middle school years, and the adolescent angst), but I would never want to go through those ages again.  Even my 20’s and 30’s while, those years certainly had high points, it’s my 40’s have been the best decade so far. I feel, dare I say, like an adult. I am still young at heart. but I am old enough to know better, and have experienced enough to look back and think, why did I not know then, what I know now? I am adult enough to have a mortgage, a good career, responsibility for someone besides myself, yet I feel young enough to enjoy life and laugh at myself. Case in point, take a look at me dancing with Julie’s 2 year-old daughter Ty. I have to laugh at how ridiculous I look, but also smile at how silly and spontaneous that moment was.

Download now or watch on posterous

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We celebrated my birthday this year with a family barbeque. It was fun, low key and just nice.  I also treated myself to a good workout, and a mani/pedi. The workout was great, at my Bar Method class. It is soooo hard. But it makes me feel strong. I love feeling like my body is changing, shaping itself into a better, stronger version of me.  The mani/pedi was long overdue. When I walked in I decided I would get a fun color for my toes. Something current, something fun.  I chose a beautiful blue. I was going to go for the predictable, understated French manicure on my hands, but in a risky, impulsive move I told the girl to give me blue on my hands! So here it is! An age inappropriate color!  E, my 12 year-old and O, my 14 year-old both had something to say about the color when I got home. E said, “Wow. That color is so surprising. It’s kind of unexpected.” I think what she really meant to say was, “Wow, what kind of color ARE you wearing?” I like that it’s unexpected, and surprising. I think keeping something unexpected and surprising in your life is good. It’s good on a birthday, and it’s good anytime you want to feel young enough to be silly, and old enough to feel confident to do something surprising and unexpected.

 


 

 This was a good birthday. My family was together. N showered me with kisses and presents. J did everything for the barbeque– from prep, to cooking and clean-up.  While the celebration was simple, it was special. It was a special day because we marked it together, and it made me stop and look at where I am in life. And when I heard D sing me this song he made up, I knew that whatever assessment I could make about my life, I would probably be too hard on myself. I was reminded that my life is meaningful, because I am valuable to the people I love. Here’s D’s song…”I love my mommy. (Repeat 3x). She is so beautiful. She is my queen. She is my commander. She is in charge of me.”

 

Happy Birthday to me!