Day 3

Life has become increasingly more difficult right now.   The governor decided on Sunday night to close schools in our state until March 31st. Our teachers had to scramble over a course of two days to gather together 10 days worth of work for our children.   As parents, we’re now tasked with handling the schooling of our children and for some of us, this is a whole new age.   Gone are the days of assignments sent home in folders and trapper keepers (some of y’all remember those!).   Everything is now digital and when the school district isn’t prepared for every child getting on these websites at the same time then it becomes anarchy in the households.

Wednesday of this week started the first official day of homeschooling.   I’ve had a taste of this in the past when I was a stay at home mom.   I had lesson plans, daily activities, and school work all prepared. My little nuggets were learning to read by age 4.   I’m a go-getter, at times a perfectionist, and an all around over-achiever, so I took this opportunity of school closure as a chance to be hands on with my children, to have more input on what their learning. I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t know it would be maddening.

The first day of home school, my husband was up to bat.   I had already been off work the first part of the week, now it was his turn to tag in and hit a homerun with our kids’ schooling.   Unfortunately for him, he continued to strike out, and through no fault of his own.   Our children barely finished 4 hours of schoolwork in 12 hours. Yes, you read that correctly.   Websites were not working, some of the instructions were confusing, and our children couldn’t get used to the new environment of school at home.   Before I was even 5 minutes down the road on my way to work, my husband called me exasperated that nothing was working.   By 10:30, I had already received 4 phone calls from him and when I answered that call he was yelling, “don’t lick your chromebook!”   Yikes!

It’s going to be a marathon and not a sprint. I’ve had to throw everything out the window.   Any preconceived notions that I would be able to handle my children’s schooling effortlessly was clearly a mind fart on my part.   I mean, how hard could it be?   I have 3 degrees, one of which is a Masters, surely K5 and 2nd grade homework will be easy peasy. So, like much of the other working parents of America, I am being humbled by everything our school teachers do for our children and angered at our governments for how LITTLE they do for our teachers.

I’ve decided we’re going to step back and punt after today.   Davey has struggled with math. Our nanny has kept an eye on the boys and is working with them on their schoolwork, but I think my children may have helped her make the decision to NEVER have children.   It’s been a lot to ask of her and the difficulties are massive where schoolwork is concerned.   After today, the boys have Friday and Monday off.   Those days were originally scheduled as teacher in service days and I’m going to keep them that way. I’m taking that opportunity to let them breathe, to just enjoy life.   I don’t want them looking back on these days with anymore fear and trepidation than they already are.   This new normal for them is much harder. Their emotions run strong and their still working out how to communicate.   The last thing I want is for them to have anxiety brought on by schoolwork.

And I suppose I have to work on my anxiety as well.   My need to control and perfect things, can bleed over into my children.   This whole situation is going to be a long haul and I don’t want to wake up one day and think I missed my opportunity to turn it into something ok.

 

Friend to Felines

My senior year of college my roommate had two cats.   She was a huge cat fan. She loved all things cat related including Hello Kitty.   One of the cats was old and diabetic. He was a huge cat and on every visit to the vet, she was encouraged to stop letting the cat suffer, but instead she powered through with two shots of insulin a day and picking the fat cat up to take it up and downstairs (it was so fat, there was a fear thing poor thing wouldn’t make it up the stairs and if he tried to make it down, then he’d tumble into a ball.) The cat NEVER used the litterbox. Instead we would come home from class, the apartment having been locked up while we were gone, to the knock you out smell of cat poop all over the apartment, but mostly in the kitchen. GROSS!

Her other cat was much younger and spry. He was black and a bit devilish. He liked to curl up with you, but demanded that all doors in the apartment be open. It’s possible that he may have had a case of claustrophobia.   Personally, I feel that Satan himself lived inside of that cat.   Many a night I would awake to my bedroom door rattling, with the occasional black paw reaching under the door clawing, coupled with a skin crawling meow.   When I would open my door, I would find the demon backed up against the wall across the way from my door. It would sit there on its haunches, black tail hypnotically moving back and forth, back and forth, with its yellow eyes glaring at me.   As I would turn to go back into my room, I caught the cat a couple of times running as fast as possible to the door of my roommate and head butting it before reaching under with its claws.   Yes, the cat was head butting my door.

I tell you this brief history so that you can understand my feelings in regards to cats. I don’t like them. I can’t stand them. I find them gross and a bit disturbing.   My second spawn; however, thinks they are the greatest things on earth and if he could have a house full of cats, he would gladly take that over anything else a 6 year old boy could ever possibly want.

He loves to draw and to construct.   Every picture he draws, from the moment he was old enough to hold a pencil, has a cat somewhere in it.   At least once a week, he asks for a cat. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending upon which side you stand on, my husband and oldest Spawn are both allergic to cats, so we will NEVER have one of these in our house.   The second Spawn finds that devastating and at times would gladly trade in his brother and dad for a cat.   Sorry, my dear, you’ll have to wait until you get your own house for a cat and then you’ll likely never see your family ever again. Of course, that may be the way he prefers it.

His love of cats encouraged my cousin and her husband to buy him a white fluffy fake cat.   When the Spawn opened his present that year and saw that cat, I swear he almost started crying because he was so happy. The cat can purr and meow. He can move his head and close his eyes, and when you put his bowl in front of him to “eat” you can hear him eating happily.   Of course, we named this cat Fluffy.   Not very original, but I don’t really care.

Super Bowl Sunday of this year, my youngest one was adamant about watching the Kitten Bowl. I had never heard of such I had heard of the Puppy Bowl, but I didn’t know we had moved forward as a society so quickly to a Kitten Bowl.   That afternoon, as my oldest and I sat downstairs to watch the Super Bowl, the youngest was cuddled up in my bed, Fluffy the cat by his side, and the Kitten Bowl on the television. I came upstairs a couple of times completely amazed at the fact that this is something people actually watch. My child? Not surprised so much, but grown adults? I felt bad for the people who were chosen as the “sportcasters” for this farce.   I silently wondered how badly they had pissed off their agent or studio to be demoted to the role of Kitten Bowl play by play analyst. I still shake my head.

The Spawn’s love of cats has even gone far enough for the fact that Friday was Book Character day at school.   As an avid reader and lover of all things books, my children have a sizeable library in both of their rooms, full of personal books they’ve inherited through the years or ones I’ve hand selected based upon their personalities.   There is one that I consider a classic, one that I read as a child, and it’s called The Fire Cat.   We’ve read it a few times at home, but I never knew to what extent the youngest one loves this book, to the point where when I asked him over a week ago what character he wanted to be, he quickly replied with, “Pickles, the Fire Cat!”

Being a working mom now, I don’t exactly have the time to get creative when my kids have days like this at school. Wait! Who am I kidding? I’ve never been creative enough to help my kids through the days even when I was a stay at home mom.   Regardless, I was proud of myself for coming up with the free hat from Firehouse Subs (huge shout out to those guys – hands down best steak and cheese I’ve ever had.) and the Halloween makeup left over from this past year.   We gave him a cat face to go along with the fire hat.   He proudly climbed onto that school bus, book in hand, and headed off to school.   As I wrote this post, I received a picture from his teacher.   The face paint has worn off, but he looks so stinking cute, not like the devilish little fiend he can be most days.

I still like to remind him almost daily of how hard it would be on all of us if we had a cat. I see the disappointment in his face and honestly at times I’m tempted to trade in my husband for a cat just so I can see that little face sparkle again.   Then I think back to 20 years ago and my skin begins to crawl and twitch at the memories of the cats that have forever scarred me.   Sorry, my sweet little Spawn #2, cats are definitely off of this list.

Fire Cat

It’s Just Too Much

“It’s just too much, mom!”

That’s what I heard that Wednesday morning as I prepped the boys and myself for another long day of work and school.   I thought to myself, “it IS just too much as well, my son,” but that’s life.   Of course, I was completely unaware as to what my darling Spawn #1 was possibly referring to.

For months, especially since the start of this school year, I’ve gone into work utterly exhausted, mentally not physically, due to the constant bickering between my two children as we sit in carline.   I work a fairly unflexible job, but one that allows me to work the hours of 7:30 – 4:30.   To be at work by 7:30, I have to drop my children off at school as soon as the bell rings and even then I’m still frantically trying to make it through morning rush hour traffic to be at work on time. In most cases, I was coming in HOT and I mean literally and figuratively.   Side note, I blame the “literally” portion of this on my apparent pre-menopause.   Getting old stinks!   Back to my story….

Most of those mornings we were leaving our house at 6:45 am in order to be one of the first 4 in carline.   Let’s take another aside here…If I was not one of the first 4, then I would be stuck behind the other parents and most of those in carline are some of the most inconsiderate and disrespectful individuals! No wonder our society is dissipating so quickly! So, again, back to my story…

I would sit in carline from 6:50 until 7:10 every morning.   That’s a mere 20 minutes, but in the world of a mother with two boys aged 6 & 8, 20 minutes is more like a torturous eternity.   I found myself yelling at my children, attempting to separate them, trying to reason with them, everything and anything you could possible do with 2 terrorists who have no desire to be maintained.   Needless to say, I needed to come up with another alternative to morning carline…enter the school bus.

I rode the school bus when I was in school, mostly middle and high school up until 10th grade when I gratefully attained my drivers license.   I hated the school bus. I hated getting up every morning and getting on a bus at 6:20. Yes, I said 6:20.   Back when I was growing up, the town I lived in had only one high school, a 20 minute drive in the OPPOSITE direction of where my parents worked.   So, my parents put me on the school bus. I swore to myself that I would never put my children through this misery, but alas I broke my promise to myself.

After the start of the new year and much discussion with my husband, we decided it would be best to put the boys on the bus in the morning.   I found out that our stop was the last stop before getting the boys to school.   Much unlike my nearly hour and a half that I spent riding the bus, my children would have a mere 5-10 minutes on the bus.   The added benefit was that we could save an extra 15 minutes in the morning as well since I no longer had to leave the house at 6:45.   All in all, it seemed like a great idea.

The week we decided to put the boys on the bus was the week of January 13th, the same week of the National Championship game between my beloved Clemson Tigers and LSU. Spawn #1, being at an age where he can appreciate and enjoy football more, was allowed to stay up until half time.   Of course, my husband and I had to wake him and tell him the painful news of the loss by Clemson.   We were met with incessant sobs and an attack of, “it’s all your fault Clemson lost. You made me go to bed at half time and if I had stayed awake we would have won!”   Highly unlikely, my child, we were outplayed by a much better team, but how do you console an inconsolable child?   My husband and I took our fault and went about our day.

Move forward to the following day, Wednesday, January 15th…the first day on the bus, and we had not exactly communicated that to our children.   On top of that piece of information, we had one more thing to tell the first Spawn, something that we knew might break his football loving heart. Luke Kuechly, of the Carolina Panthers, had announced his retirement from football the night before.   Did I know that all of this would be a bit much for my 8 year old?   Of course not!   Why would anyone ever think this was going to be too much, especially in a world with far worse things occurring on a daily basis? Oh to be able to see the world through a child’s eyes.

As my husband and I awoke the Spawn and helped him get ready for school, we told him about Luke Kuechly.   The breakdown the day before from Clemson’s loss should have been some sort of warning to me.   I should have known what my child could take and what he couldn’t.   I guess I don’t know my child after all, because he took Luke Kuechly’s retirement almost as hard if not harder than the outcome of the National Championship game.   There was a lot of flailing about, a lot of “what am I supposed to do now?’   I mean one would think that he was the owner or general manager of the Panthers franchise and the retirement was going to be a direct impact to his well being.   Again, to see the world through a child’s eyes.

As my children sat at the kitchen counter eating breakfast, I told them that today would be the day they ride the bus to school.   My oldest one looked at me and I watched the tears well up in his eyes, “it’s just too much, mom!”

“What’s just too much?   What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Can we do this bus thing next week?” he asked.

“No, we can’t,” I replied. “What’s going on?”

“This! What you’re doing to me it’s just too much,” he sobbed.   “It’s too much in one week!   First Clemson loses, then you tell me Luke Kuechly is retiring, and NOW you’re putting me on a school bus!   It’s just too much, mom!”

Wow!   I’ll admit part of me had to stifle a laugh, cover my face and turn around so he wouldn’t see my amusement at his obvious pain.   After composing myself, I turned back around and apologized but I told him I had faith in him. I knew he could handle it.   He didn’t quite see it the same way and after a few minutes of moping around and sobbing, my second Spawn walked up to him and said, “Suck it up and get on the bus!”   Yes, that would be the 6 year old.

In the end, we found that riding the bus isn’t so bad.   They both seem to enjoy it and while we experience our days, mostly of my personal mom guilt for putting my children through something I swore they would never have to do, in the end it seems to be the right decision.   Of course, I’m sure we’ll soon be experiencing something new to cause life to be “just too much”.