“Dear Family and Friends . . . “

Without blushing at all, I will be the first to admit that I write a pretty great Christmas newsletter. Only at this moment in time, poised to write said newsletter, I doubt my ability to write anything but drivel. And time’s a’wasting. Only eleven days until Christmas. Ack!

I have a folder with a copy of each letter dating back to 1991 and if you add that to my stack of old identification cards from high school and college and summer jobs and my pale younger faces on expired driver’s licenses, you get a fairly accurate and somewhat sobering picture of my life in incremental snapshots.

So tonight, I read through the newsletters. I am reassured. I can do this. I’ve done it before.

All I need is one brilliant shining hook, a place to hang the summary of the whole year.

I’m scared.

“Dear Family and Friends . . . “

Anonymous Commenter Strikes Again

When you comment on this blog, the comments land right into my email box. That makes it easy for me to reply to your comment via email. Alas, some of you don’t leave an email address, so I can’t reply to you easily. Others of you choose complete anonymity, which I can understand, especially if you intend to insult me in such an incoherent manner.

You have to wonder: do some people just have too much time on their hands?

Seriously. This is what “Anonymous” said:

mel you sound like an uptight bitch,sounds to me by you writing this your looking and needing everyone to tell you that your right.i think your jealous that your sister cares less for trying to please everyone and shes ok with it.sounds to me like she leads a very interesting and fascinating life and your stuck in suburbia,with a pastor for a husband,little kids and your bored and upset with your choices in life.growup and stop acting like a child except people for who they are and stop being jealous and the moment you admit you are jealous the quicker you can heal and do something about it.ps and as for her not answering your emails back on such subjects….mel she probably just does not have time to cater to your obvious disection of every incident,i would love to hear her side of the story,and why did you remove olives post?

I have to know: is there a shortage of periods and no one told me? Because if so, I’ll just have to use exclamation points from now on!! and are we all out of capital letters? because i will eliminate them, too, if i need to!! conserve periods and capitals!! unite!! we all stand together against the sensless waste of punctuation and upper case letters!!

Anonymous Commenter Strikes Again

Oh, The Excitement Around Here!

So, this afternoon, I was putting the baby down for his nap and checking on the preschoolers (all snuggled in their beds) and I heard my twins hollering my name. Now, this is not unusual at all for it seems that whenever I leave the room they get into a tussle. Why is this? Is it testosterone? A twin-thing? Sibling rivalry? Boredom?

As I came down the stairs, I hissed, “DON’T YELL AT ME!” because, really, it’s irritating to be yelled at when you aren’t even involved in the disagreement in the first place. And then I realized someone was hurt.

See this?

Do you know what this is? That’s right. It’s a goose egg. When I saw the goose egg on my son’s forehead, I responded with a shocked, “OH MY GOSH!” and actually pirouetted in the kitchen before peering again at his horribly swollen forehead and exclaiming again, “OH MY GOSH!” and frantically grabbing for ice.

Goose-Egg-Boy had been hassling his brother, teasing him about finishing his schoolwork for the day. (Taking notes from a book for a research paper, aka Torture.) Harassed son responded by brandishing a pencil as a sword and chasing. At some point, Harasser picked up a small chair from the preschool table in the kitchen and Harassee grabbed the nearest thing, which happened to be a Princess trick-or-treat bucket, which my daughter carries around like a purse.

He tossed said bucket at his brother, aiming, he said later, for his stomach, but hitting him in the forehead, between his left eyebrow and his hairline.

The resulting goose egg was the most dramatic I have ever seen, a couple of inches in diameter and an inch high. Goose-Egg-Son was on his back, crying while the Bucket Thrower stood over us weeping and demanding, “Is my brother going to die? Is my brother going to die?!” I finally had to send him from the room because he was hysterical.

While a washcloth full of ice settled on the swelling, I hurried to google “goose egg” and “head injury” and decided that unless unconsciousness and vomiting and dizziness occurred, he’d probably be fine. But, oh, that goose egg was dramatic and impressive and terrifying for a moment.

Now it’s a giant purplish-blue lump. My son avoided my husband tonight–not the Bucket Thrower, but the Goose-Egg-Boy–because he didn’t want his brother to be in trouble. I told Bucket Thrower that his father would speak to him tomorrow and he said, “Can’t I just know my punishment now?” and I said, “No,” because we firmly believe in making children squirm and stew in their own juices.

The Bucket Thrower cried much longer than the Goose-Egg-Boy and said to me, “Mom, I feel so bad. I think I’m going to throw up.” And I said nonchalantly, “Well, you are supposed to feel bad when you purposely hurt someone.”

And to think we could have just had another boring day around here.

Oh, The Excitement Around Here!

Ho-Ho-Bah-Humbug-Ho!

The annoying illnesses continue to linger, which explains why I had no intention of going to church Sunday morning. However, my daughter had other ideas and so, in my germ-induced haze, I decided not only to go to church, but also to dress the children in complementary colors, leave church early and take the annual Christmas photo.

We arrived in our usual front row seat only a minute or two late, even though I didn’t crawl from bed until 9:00 a.m. Almost as soon as we sat down, my daughter, the Instigator, began to lobby for our exit. I kept whispering in her ear, “As soon as the music is over.” Unbeknownst to me (I’m a sorry excuse for a pastor’s wife and I blame it all on the fact that I was too busy taking “Homiletics” to bother taking “The Pastor’s Wife,” in Bible college) the choir was presenting a Christmas cantata. I knew I’d miss it since I was accompanied by Miss I-Can’t-Sit-Still-in-Church, but still. We stayed as long as we could, then slipped out the door.

I had to buy film, so we left town briefly and then returned to a little park. I hurriedly arranged the children for a photograph, but someone was uncooperative and for some reason all the boys were squinty-eyed and slouching. Christmas Cheer sounded something like this: “Sit up! No, smile! Move it. Put your face forward. Sit up straight! Okay, scoot over! Smile! No, smile like you mean it. Hey, hey, hey, look at me!” Let’s just say that none of my children are destined for super stardom as a supermodel.

But you have to agree that Miss Grinch is mighty cute.

When my husband returned home from church, I raced off to Costco to have the film developed to see if anything turned out. The picture above is the one I chose. How could I not? Even the lady behind the Costco counter agreed. (And when you are choosing a picture to represent your family for the entire year, who better to consult that the lady behind the Costco counter? I ask you that.)

Ho-Ho-Bah-Humbug-Ho!

Full-Day Kindergarten? No Thanks

A few weeks ago, I came across this newspaper editorial about legislating full-day kindergarten. I am adamantly opposed to the idea of mandatory full-day kindergarten for all public school students in this state, so I read the whole article. (I’ll wait, if you want to go read it, too.)

The article quotes a school superintendent whose number one personal priority for new funding would be full-day kindergarten, because, she says, students are arriving in kindergarten “who haven’t been read to, and who don’t know their numbers or their ABCs.”

I can hardly imagine a child who reaches the age of five (or six) without knowing these things. My kids seem to learn by osmosis, which doesn’t explain why my daughter keeps counting in Spanish, because I only speak English–for that, I thank Dora the Explorer. How can parents not read to their kids, not speak to their kids, not teach their kids during their time spent together?

I am not naive. I do understand that some children are growing up in difficult circumstances . . . but adding a half-day of kindergarten is going to solve these problems? Might not funding be better spent intervening in these high-risk families?

For a long time, I’ve been annoyed by the (possibly imagined) pressure I feel to send my children to preschool. I’ve never done so and my children seem to be fine (although on bad days with my Reluctant Student, I would tell you that I am clearly a horrible failure of a mother and if I’d sent him to preschool, perhaps he’d be a genius). Not that there’s anything wrong with preschool, mind you. But I don’t think it is necessary.

Is this the first step? Will four year olds soon be required to attend preschool? Will three years olds be the next target for enrollment? Will our two-year olds be sent to mandatory daycare where underpaid young women will chant their ABCs and count until everyone is dizzy? Where does this all stop? And why do I get the feeling that the state thinks parents aren’t qualified to educate their own preschoolers?

More and more, kindergarten seems like first grade and preschool seems like kindergarten. Children are rushed faster and faster to grow up quicker and quicker. At the Veteran’s Day program, I noticed a bunch of second-grade girls with highlights in their hair and pantyhose and high-heels on their feet. Slow down! What’s the big rush? You’ll have to get a job and pay taxes soon enough, little girl!

In movie theaters, I see children watching movies intended for adults. You know as well as I do that at home, children see even more inappropriate material as parents cuddle up on the couch watching movies with their kids–and sometimes, in concession to Parent Guilt, they cover their children’s eyes at the worst parts. I know 3-year olds who watch rated PG-13 movies and I can’t stop feeling judgmental about that. It’s just not right to expose children to mature themes and images.

The school district officials will tell you that full-day kindergarten will help more kids graduate from high school. I doubt it. But legislating such a law will keep lawmakers busy and will pad the salaries of school teachers and will give the appearance of making children a top priority.

Kindergarten should be a gentle introduction to school. None of my kids could have lasted through a full day of school that first year. And that first year, it took us all morning just to get ready for kindergarten.

And while I’m talking about school, can I just request an immediate halt to homework for elementary school kids? I hate kids’ homework! But the school requires it–not the individual teachers, but the school administrators. Perhaps if the school wasn’t so busy teaching children non-essentials and preparing the kids for yet more mandatory state testing, they’d finish their seat-work while still at school.

I love my local public school. I really do. I love the shiny checkerboard hallways and the festive bulletin boards with seasonal displays and the flickering fluorescent lights. I fondly remember my own school days. I want my children to love their school days. (At least I have hopes for the younger two . . . the 12-year olds’ hate school now.)

I just want those full-time days to start in first grade. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Full-Day Kindergarten? No Thanks

If I End Up Missing, Check the Closet

Tonight, as I pedaled my exercise bike, my husband put a clear plastic garbage bag over his head and peered at me. We were having some ridiculous conversation and I wish I could relay it here, but I can’t remember it because of what happened next.

My husband crossed the room and said, “Here, put this on your head and tell me if you can see through it.” (He was obviously not paying attention to the riveting conversation we were having. Either that or he had suffered brain cell loss from the lack of oxygen.)

The bag was cloudy cellophane and when he wore it on his head, I could see the features of his face. I said, “I don’t think so! But nice try!”

He said, “No, really. Tell me if you can see through this.”

I said, “I am going to alert my blog readers! If I end up dead, they will know you did it!”

He flashed a grin and said, “No, really!”

AND I PUT A PLASTIC BAG OVER MY HEAD.

The funny thing was that I couldn’t see through the plastic and not just because the world started going black and then through a tunnel I saw a bright light . . . no. That plastic looks clear, but is somehow opaque when you are wearing it on your head.

Kids, don’t try this at home. We are trained professionals. No, really.

If I End Up Missing, Check the Closet