Friday, September 29, 2006

Terrible get the idea

Have you ever had one of those days when everyone (and in this house there are a lot of everyones)woke up on the wrong side of bed. Early.

Yeah, today is one of those days. The Feller's bedroom is a revolving door of Time Outs. I have heard their mantras, "Mine! MINE!!!" and, " I a bub boy!" screamed incessantly at 120dB all morning so far. My head hurts so bad right now that if they open their mouths just one more time it will explode and rain brain juice all over them. Heh. That might be worth it~parental justice.

Do you think I can get away with feeding them lunch at 9:45AM so they can all take early naps? Just asking...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Accident on Interstate 3

What we don't do for excitement around here!!!

Rather, the crazy things I actually find exciting around here...

We experienced a three car pile-up in the short hallway that links the living room to the kitchen area this morning.

It happened like this:

I decided to treat the kids with muffins for breakfast this morning. I woke up early, whipped up a batch and got them in the oven before the Fellers (the two-year old twins) woke up. They conveniently awakened and required assistance with their morning routine just after I shoved the muffins in the oven. It was like we orchestrated it or something, so smooth was the timing!

After taking the little guys to the bathroom, changing them and filling their sippy-cups, I had a few spare minutes before the muffins were done to check my email. As I was reading/sorting through all the junk, spam, and forwarded jokes the buzzer gleefully announced the muffin's completion. Knowing my oven is kind of on the cool side and, therefore, a little slow, I knew that I did not have to rush to yank the muffins out--the chances of them charring before I finished reading the last sentence was slim to none. However, the Fellers and EEF did not know that, or, more accurately, did not care, so great was their desire for fresh, hot muffins. So, when the buzzer sounded, all three boys ran into the kitchen like a miniature freight train to gather around the oven at the buzzer's insistence. When I did not immediately drag my butt to the kitchen to unload the oven in what they considered a timely fashion, the Fellers rushed as fast as their stubby toddler legs could carry them back through the door to the hallway to come and fetch me. Unfortunately, that was when I finally rounded the corner from the living room into the hallway myself to unload the muffins. Since the hallway is very short, maybe a little over ten feet, you can imagine the physics lesson that is two speeding toddlers colliding with a mom headed in the opposite direction. First Stink slammed full speed into my legs and bounced backwards, slamming into Boompas, who also bounced backwards--unfortunately, he bounced backwards so hard that he lost his balance, landed on his butt on the kitchen floor and slid into the cat food which sent cat kernels scattering here and there and everywhere. Bump, bump, crash!

Of course, Boompas was not nearly as amused as I was--in fact he was quite loudly upset, embarrassed and indignant. I had to swallow my laughter and try to soothe him with my words as I demuffined the oven. Finally, a bargain was struck: his silence in exchange for an Indiana Jones movie and a fresh muffin.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

F is for Fail


I have been a mom for almost fourteen years now, so when do you think I will finally get my act together and figure this whole job out? Thirteen more years? Twenty? Will I have gray hair and sagging boobs (oops, already have those!) and no teeth and fifty great-grand children and figure it out just in time for senility to set in?

I knew this morning when I woke up there was something I was supposed to remember. That's right--I got it! I have to call my mom tonight--it's her birthday! Problem solved. Commence sticking head up ass.

Yep, I patted myself on the back and then abruptly stuck my head up my ass because I did not remember until two minutes before the bus comes to pick up Eighty-Eight Fingers that today is picture day! Duh! My son's first picture day and he is going to be in his ratty old faded red spider web shirt. I did manage to throw a nice long sleeved button-up in his bag and spit-paste his cowlick down as the bus waited and waited in front of our house and told him to tell ask his teacher to help him put it on and that I am very, very sorry I forgot--like he is going to remember that!

Let's face it--I need remedial parenting school. I earned an F for the day.

Un-happy Birthday

A few days ago it was my thirty-first birthday. It was a terrible day, maybe my worst birthday ever, not just because I am getting older--I can deal with that. I love the new laugh lines and small papery crows feet and an aching lower back every morning when I wake up and the fact that one more year has passed and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up and now there is one less year to figure it out. Those things don't bother me overly much. No, this birthday was bad because in addition to all the little boys whining and fighting, my daughter, so as not to ruin her perfect record, snapped at me about fifty times before she left on the bus for school in the morning (she has been rotten to me every year on my birthday-- I distinctly remember the birthday I was pregnant with the twins I yelled at her after a particularly gruesome tantrum she had, “I'll remember this and I will make sure to be an asshole on your birthday!"), The Netflix wasn't delivered as promised so no movie to watch, there was a mountain of laundry to attend to, the weather-- which was eighty and warm the day before --turned cold and overcast, and I had to renew my license at the DMV where I was last in a long line that went out the door (and mysteriously decreased to nothing after I was through it--go figure) only to wait until my number was called, only to wait at the window when the computer wouldn't let the greasy clerk drop one of the endorsements on my CDL, only to get hit on by said greasy clerk as he waited on the phone for the state to fix the problem, only to have my hair windblown and mussed for my photo so that it is sticking up in the back, only to have me just grab the damn license and run like my ass was on fire out the door without getting a different picture because greasy clerk had managed to relocate himself to the photo section just as I went there--as if all those things weren't bad enough, the whole household was just in a funk, a dark cloud brought on I think because there is yet another chapter in the whole custody battle for my fifteen year old step-son who, last year, out of the blue, asked Hubz if he could live here with us. While it is wonderful he is here--he is a really nice kid--his mother has been fighting with guerilla tactics to get him back. I can say no more about it, although I desire to vent like Mt. Vesuvious. The one bright spot in a gloomy, dismal, and for the most part un-happy birthday was my birthday cake (no, not because it had thirty-one candles on it!). The Girl made it for me and Eighty-Eight Fingers and the Fellers (the twin two-year-old boys) helped me blow the candles out.

Now that I am older, I don't have high expectations for my birthdays like I did when I was a kid: the roller-skating parties, the presents, cake and ice cream and slumber parties with friends all around giggling the night away. It does not bother me that my birthday is just another day to most people. All I am asking for--my birthday wish--is for a little kindness. That is all. So kids, next year please don't fight, don't push your brother or take his toys. Don't block his view of his favorite cartoons to make him squawk. Don't steal his blankie and run through the house waving it over your head. And The Girl, if you don't have anything pleasant to say, please just remain silent. That is it; that's all I want next year. So I am hoping by getting my wish in early, it might-- just maybe-- come true.

***P.S. The Girl was much more pleasant after school. She has never been much of a morning person.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Conversations with EEF #1

I think I will start a new feature: Conversations With Eighty-Eight Fingers because, I'm not going to lie, the kid says some weird sh*t. Take, for example, the following about his day at school...

Mommy to Eighty-Eight Fingers:So how was school?

EEF: I had fun! We had recess.

Mommy: What did you do during recess?

EEF: I drove the car (making believe his hands are on the steering wheel). Brr Brr Brr.

Mommy: Oh, that sounds like lots of fun! Did you play with any other kids?

EEF: No. I only ignore children. I already have two children and I don't want any more.

Mommy: You have two children? Who are your children?

EEF: *sigh* (in an exhasperated tone like he is dealing with a complete dolt) The Fellers are my children and I dont want any more!

Mommy: EEF, you can make friends with the other children. The Fellers won't mind.

EEF: No! I don't want to make any more friends at my class. The good news is I already have two kids at home!

***No, I am totally NOT making this conversation up. He actually told me he ignores other children in his class.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

4K, Day Two

Monday, 9/11/2006, my four year old whirlwind of a son Eighty-Eight Fingers dressed in a brand new, crisp and bright, orange and bright blue warm-up suit, donned a backpack that was half his size and covered him like a black and red turtle shell, and, of course, stuffed his feet into his now slightly broken-in Spider Man Light-up shoes. He was handsome and excited, poised to begin his adventure, this new era of the school-aged child.

The bus was scheduled to pick him up in front of our house at 12:30 PM; EEF was ready by 11:40 and waited eagerly on the couch in front of the window, staring out into the gray, rainy world for the big yellow bus that would carry him away into this new phase of childhood. With tears in my eye and not a little indigestion brought on by my overwhelming anxiety for his taking this step, I snapped pictures as he stood in the doorway in his new clothes and backpack and grinned from ear to ear, waving.

The first day went well. At least I heard no bad news, and as the saying goes No News Is Good News--especially where EEF is concerned. He came home bursting with stories of Science Class and Apple Projects and how the teacher read him Clifford the Big Red Dog. I was proud; delighted that his day passed without a hitch, and dared to think just maybe things might be all right...

The second day it was raining, a steady relentless rain that pours and pours and washes out all the light in the world. EEF was just as excited, just as eager for school. At 12:28 we moved to the door and I glanced down at him for one brief moment and told him to put on his backpack the bus will be here soo--- WTF? The bus, demon possessed, zoomed past our house. Good thing it was raining or it would have scorched the lawn! I ran out of the house trying to flag down the bus to no avail. I would have to rustle up the Fellers and drive EEF to school. Unfortunately for me, I was not listening during that part of the orientation, so I did not learn the procedure for dropping off one's beloved 4K-er at school (and I wonder where he gets it from?). Oh well, I figured, I would follow the other parents' lead--surely they would know what to do. Hah! It turns out no one else knew wtf they were doing either, as I will illustrate.

So I speed packed Fellers and EEF into the Wagon. I figured from the way the bus was flying though his route that I had very little time. My beloved EEF would be late for his second day. So I sped (a little!) to the school--a dangerous prospect considering the school is right across the street from police station, but oh well--we don't want to be late do we? I pealed into the circular drive around lot, and to my extreme surprise I was only the third car in the circular line. And the bus that so frantically flamed past my house was nowhere in sight, and in fact did not pull up until two or three minutes later, practically tipping over on its side as it rounded the corner and sped into the circular drive. Even after the bus pulled up, it did not release the children. And no parents gave any indication of what we should be doing except sitting in our cars and waiting. And since I wasn't listening at orientation, I had no idea when to expect the waiting to end. So we waited, and waited, and waited some more--we sat cooped up in the stuffy car, two toddlers and the oh-so-eager whirlwind boy who touched absolutely every dashboard piece, and waited. Finally after fifteen minutes (or was it 19 hours?) a teacher (or aide?) began letting some of the few children who were gathered by the door with their parents in. So I took EEF out of the car and walked him up to the door to be let in. The aide who was in charge of dismissing children from the bus singled me of all the parents who were doing this out and scolded me that next time I could drive up in the line of cars and she would let him out of the car. Maybe if I had been paying the least bit of attention at Orientation I would have known that. Anyway, he was finally at school. That fiasco was over with. I drove myself and the Fellers, sad because they weren't going to school too-ooo with EEF, home, put them down for naps and passed my afternoon with trivial chores meal preparations.

At 4:07, the scheduled school bus drop off time, I began waiting anxiously at the door. The Girl begged to be the one to get EEF off the bus, and I foolishly acquiesced. When the bus pulled up at about 4:20 she trotted out to meet him. The driver honked at her to come over at about the halfway point. Not a good sign. Too late for me to go out. I stood horrified in the doorway as I watched the scene unfold. EEF's little blond head bobbing as he walked to the school bus exit and descended the steps. The driver moving her head and hands animatedly as she explained...what? The Girl walked giggling as she half dragged EEF back to the house, holding hands, their arms a long chain between them. EEF was trying to keep up with The Girls longer strides, the tortoise-like backpack jostling around on his back--he looked so innocent, so small. Maybe my heart melted--a little.

Immediately as they were within earshot, I began the interrogation: Did he get in trouble on the bus?

The Girl, laughing hysterically: Yes. The driver said we needed to talk to him because he was swearing and spitting and if he does it again she will just write him up.

Me: Stop laughing, Girl! That is NOT FUNNY!

Me: EEF, what did you do?!?!?

EEF: (the mute headshake of his) I didn't do anything.

Me: (pouring all of my guilt and anxiety, irritation and frustration into this one word) EEF! You tell me what you did on that bus!

At this point I had the strange feeling I was watching myself as if I was a stranger. I think because of this strange out-of-body sensation I somehow managed to get a grip on myself and realized that it was not a good time for either of us to discuss the situation. I sent EEF to his room. He stomped off, plopped himself face first down on his bed, cradling his chin in his hands, wearing a scowl that would curdle milk.

I went into the kitchen and did some more work on what was to become our meatloaf dinner. Before the messy mixing part, I decided to question EEF. Still the denial, the mute headshake.

After more mixing and cutting potatoes for boiling, I went back to the room--still no cooperation.

Finally after placing the meatloaf in the oven and washing my hands and some kitchen surfaces, I went to EEF with a quiet voice and gently coaxed him into spilling the beans.

He said there were two girls, one from his class, the other he did not know, who were calling him some gibberish names. He kept telling them to stop, kept telling them he was EEF, but they would not stop. They teased and teased and teased. So finally, he yelled at them to Shut Up (and maybe some swears that he still will not admit to) and spit at them. As the scenario unfolded, it was like someone plunged a fist into my guts and twisted it. In my mind, I saw him there, getting teased, his temper rising as the names were slung. I watched in horror as he became angrier and angrier, yelling at them to stop, becoming so frustrated and flustered, and finally striking out with spitting. I know my son--how he is so incapable and inadept at handling situations like that. As bad as I felt for him, though, I had my duty as a parent, as his mother, and to society. I told him it was not nice for the girls to tease him, but he handled it poorly. Next time he is teased and the people won't stop, he must tell the bus driver or a teacher. Never, never yell at people and never, never, never spit on them.

Maybe I have been reading too many fairy tales. Maybe it was too much to expect that everything would be rosy and good without any effort on my part. It seems I will have to climb the mountain and slay the dragon after all. This morning, heart in my throat, a quaver in my voice, I called the principal of his school/director of special education and left a message to discuss my concerns about EEF in light of this bus incident perpetrated on his second day of JK.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Battle of Shoe Hill

Maybe I am hardheaded or a slow learner or merely perpetually in a mental fog because I somehow managed to forget one of the Cardinal Rules of Parenting (Multiple Children Edition--written specifically for small children of similar age in one household). "Oh, which rule is that," you may ask? It is the rule written to stomp out fighting and sibling rivalry before it ever has a chance to rear its ugly head. It is the rule written to ensure peace and serenity, at least of this one desired, coveted, fabulous (at least in the children's wee minds) object. It is the rule: Buy One of Same Item for Everyone. Somehow, during the prolonged stress and battle fatigue school shopping induced, I forgot this lifesaving rule. I foolishly purchased Spiderman light-up shoes only for the child entering school--Eighty-Eight Fingers. The battle that ensued over this very tragic strategic blunder on my part included wailing, shrieking, gnashing of teeth. Thunderous battles cries of "Mine, Mine, MIIIIIINNNNEEEE!!!" echoed throughout the house. Children flung themselves in the path of the very proud villain and owner of said shoes (EEF--he was so loving having a Desired Object!). The Feller Factor beat at him with tiny fists of rage. He beat back, maniacly laughing with glee:after all, He--the Supreme EEF possessed the Desired Object. Victory was sure to be his! Nothing could thwart his evil plans!

Guess who had to haul her ass back to the evil retailer Wal-Mart and obtain two additional pairs of Desired Object Spiderman Light-Up Shoes--Stat!

Now our home is all peace and tranquility. The children's laughter is like the tinkling of wind chimes in a light summer breeze. Everyone loves and adores the Ultimate Ruler Mom for her prompt rectifying of this most grievous situation.

And if you believe all that I have a bridge to sell you...

The truth is, they just find something else to fight over--about twenty times a minute. But at least it is not Spider Man Light-Up Shoes.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Forgiven

Remember this post about The Girl, her father and his big mistake--the post about how he breaks her heart? It seems like in this case, at least, time has healed (well, at least soothed) all wounds. The Girl finally buried the hatchet and let her father back in to her life.

And I encouraged her to do it. Yes, I think this does qualify me as *Certifiable*, but I have my reasons...

Since the incident her father tried many times to apologize, although his methods were coarse and fumbling, almost stereotypically blue-collar (I am sorry to resort to stereotypes here, but the guy really, really is Blue Collar). At first The Girl put him off, ignored his phone calls, and e-mailed him to leave her alone. She told anyone who asked she had no use for him, no reason to ever talk to him again.

But my daughter is strong, wise beyond her years. She insists on everyone dealing with her as an adult. So, after much inner deliberation and almost a phone call to a shrink to get my own head examined for deciding to do it, I laid it on the line for her--I told her she should consider forgiving her dad even though I know what her dad did was wrong, that she does not have to ever forget what he did or the pain it caused. That being said, I continued, I reminded her that what he did was out of ignorance, not malice. I reminded her that her dad, in his fumbling way, did try to apologize, did try to make it right. I felt he has learned from his mistake, and that he truly felt remorse for his gross mistreatment of her. Furthermore, I reminded her that her dad is new to being her dad, and he has the added burden of having his wife barking in his other ear, dragging out her whole bag of tricks, applying all kinds of pressure to make his relationship with The Girl miserable or, better yet, to destroy it altogether. Finally, I urged her to take the high road, be the adult that she wants everyone to accept her as, step up to the plate and give the guy a chance.

Of course, I will be monitoring his interactions with her closely--well, as closely as I can without too obviously prying or squelching her privacy.

My dilemma with this situation is that I do not want The Girl to be a doormat (Obviously!). However, I believe that holding on to anger and pain like that, not confronting it, keeping it bottled up inside you slowly eats you up, robs you of positive energy, spoils the sweetness of even unrelated moments.

Within the last fifteen years, much research has been done in the area of forgiveness. Surprisingly, the ability to forgive has a profound positive impact on a person's health and well-being. This website, , provides a wealth of information on forgiveness including the health implications of holding on to anger:

Lack of forgiveness can create an avalanche of stress hormones.

* It increases production of cortisol and epinephrine, which leads
to changes in heart rate and blood pressure.
* It raises levels of catecholamine and CD8, which suppresses
the immune system thus increasing the risk of viral infection.
* Leads to the release of histamines, which can trigger severe
bronchoconstriction in people with asthma.

Chronic stress also...

* Alters insulin levels.
* Alters the acid concentration in the stomach.
* Causes plaque buildup in the arteries.
* Causes or intensifies aches and pains.
* Raises anxiety levels.
* Causes depression.
* Interferes with intimate and social relationships.
* Affects sleep and appetite.
* Affects job performance.

Many other researchers, doctors and therapists (like this guy , for example) on the web claim that holding on to anger is the source of much of the stress in our lives.

Stress, disease, and depression--those are seriously disturbing side effects to holding a grudge!

This website also highlights some interesting research about forgiveness (forgive my large block quote here, but this is very interesting stuff):

Recent brain research has demonstrated that excess cortisol levels impair your cognitive ability and damage cells in the memory centers of your brain.

Researchers have also looked at the actual physiological effects associated with granting forgiveness or harboring grudges.

A study of 13,000 men and women showed that anger-prone people were three times as likely to have heart attacks or bypass surgery as less-angry people.
The New Zealand Medical Journal published a letter from a clinician who did an analysis of 200 case histories that showed that 60% of chronic pain patients showed a strong element of a failure to forgive.

A seven-year study of 2,100 men showed that those who were better at diffusing anger had half as many strokes as those who were angrier. The results showed that "unforgiving thoughts prompted more aversive emotion and significantly higher [forehead muscle tension], skin conductance, heart rate, and blood pressure changes over baseline." These physiological changes persisted even after the participants stopped remembering the hurtful events.

On the other hand, forgiving thoughts were associated with a lower physiological stress response.

These findings might explain why unforgiveness may contribute to disease -- and why forgiveness may enhance health.

At The University of Tennessee, psychology professor Kathleen Lawler studied the effects of anger and hostility on the heart. After 25 years of study, she found the health dangers of anger and resentment so striking that she wondered what people could do to short-circuit the damage. So Dr. Lawler turned her attention to forgiveness.

After measuring adults (ages 28-70) for their baseline blood pressure, heart rate and forehead muscle tension, she asked each person to tell a story of betrayal. She also asked each one to fill out a questionnaire about physical and mental health. Everyone showed increased blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension as they recounted their story. But for those who had not forgiven their offenders, the increases were 25% higher than for those who had.

Nonforgivers were also more likely to report illnesses and symptoms -- such as colds, infections, fatigue, and headaches -- that had sent them to the doctor in the previous month. The non-forgivers also took 25% more medications than those who had forgiven.

Because of all of the research findings in favor of forgiveness, learning to forgive can:

* lower your blood pressure,
* improve immune system response,
* reduce anxiety and depression,
* improve your sleep,
* improve self-esteem and sense of empowerment,
* help you to have more rewarding relationships, both professionally and personally,
* reduce stress by releasing toxic emotions,
* reduce dysfu nctional patterns of behavior,
* increase energy for living and healing,
* improve relationships and social integration,
* increase peace of mind,
* aid peaceful death.

According to the research, forgiveness seems like the right thing to do--for purely selfish reasons!

Out of all the digging I have done, I found only one therapist who argues against forgiveness. She brings up some good points such as lamenting that our culture *demonizes* unforgivers while *idolizing* forgivers and treats forgiveness as a panacea to cure all ills. Also, she mentions there are several types of unforgivers who *share the capacity to forgive, but do not exercise it indiscriminately*. Fine, I buy that--everyone has the right to choose what is best, and if you don't want to forgive, who am I to judge? Of course, the crimes the perpetrators committed in some of the case studies include a woman who's brother's list of offences against her included shoving a screwdriver up her rectum and setting her on fire, so, yeah, I can see how people who have been through such trauma would choose not to forgive.

Regardless of whether forgiving or not forgiving is the healthier choice, regardless of researchers' opinions and evidence, what it boils down to is what is the right thing to do for yourself. I have been trying to teach my daughter that you can forgive, but you do not have to forget. And if someone is hurting you out of malice, or because that person is abusing drugs or alcohol or has some other type of illness, or if you think person will continue to hurt you--won't mend his or her ways after they have been forgiven, then it is perfectly acceptable to put that person in the past.

I have always believed that people are human, flawed, and will f*ck up at some point. We all do it. I guess what we have to determine is whether holding on to the anger is the best course of action? Or by letting the anger go do we learn how to love those frail, flawed humans in our lives better, more deeply. Can we then love ourselves more deeply without that huge, ugly mass of hate wrapped around our hearts?

For me, letting go of the hate, releasing the anger, moving on has been most therapeutic. I am in my thirties now, and I have endured some very grievous hurts. I have dealt some out in my time as well. Yet, I have forgiven those who have wronged me--purely for selfish reasons--because I can't stand to be carrying around all that rotten baggage. I don't like to have my persona clogged and weighted down with excessive negativity. To me, it is too cumbersom, too consuming, too painful, and therefore no way to live. So I forgive. I hold no grudges.

Here is where the Doormat issue comes in: I tell my daughter just because I have forgiven someone does not mean I necessarily reconcile with him or her. For me during the forgiveness process, I let the wrongdoer know how they have hurt me. I try to give the wrongdoer the benefit of the doubt. If that person is unable or unwilling to stop hurting me in that way, or if that person has really done the *Unforgivable*--a terrible, unmoral, completely unconscionable act, I will put that person out of my life. Maybe I am a sucker, but if a person is sincere in his or her apology, determined to no longer practice the unacceptable behavior, has learned from his or her mistake, then it seems wrong for so many reasons to hold a grudge.

I am glad, relieved, and a little nervous that The Girl forgave her father. I don't think it is practical to expect that he will never hurt her again. As I mentioned earlier, we are all human and prone to mistakes. But I do hope that he has sincerely learned from this experience and he will handle her heart with the care and respect it desreves. I really, really hope that he will not make me regret encouraging her to forgive (because that forgiveness well of mine does have a bottom). That took a lot from me. But I feel it is my responsibility to step up to the plate, be the adult, even when the costs are high.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

School Daze

Just a brief note as I come up from air from this pre- back to school frenzy I am living in...

Remember when I said I would be the crazy Mom at the store at 10:00 PM the night before school starts to do the back to school shopping? Well, I was close to dead on with that prediction. I went yesterday--for some reason I went in the afternoon just in time for the pre-four-day-weekend rush (and I think it must have been Double Coupon Day or National Grandparent Shopping Day or something because everyone seemed 135 years old with walkers, motorized scooters with max speeds of 2 MPH, canes, limps, etc.). I managed to purchase about 75% of the school supplies on the lists and only mangled three old ladies, tripped up Grandpa Joe, and toppled two displays when I body checked a Grandpa with a walker (humor, people, humor--No elderly shoppers were injured in the production of this blog entry).

For some reason, I was not able to find a single highlighter in the whole store. Who can guess as to the reason behind the extraordinary demand for highlighters? Maybe it is so students can decorate the mandatory $5 apiece (which I absolutely refuse to purchase for that price after paying $100 in fees—I will cut up old t-shirts and sew them together first—can you just see The Girl rolling her eyes at me right now?) nylon book covers with eye-catching fluorescent designs? Could be...since art budgets have been slashed hither and yon, students must have an outlet upon which to express their creativity. A fluorescent green F*ck You! or blaze orange James Schmo is gay! sufficiently fulfills those artsy desires, I suppose.

Anyway, the big kids start Monday. Hopefully, 75% supplied is enough for the first day. Eighty-Eight Fingers goes in for testing while I sit in the Junior Kindergarten Orientation Thursday morning (gods help us all, especially the pore wretch of a teacher who is responsible for him in the testing room). He officially starts (oddly enough) on 9/11. Bad omen? I think it very well could be.