Moms Graduation Speech

As I ponder the idea of no longer being a participant in the public school system, the thought that I am rid of fund raisers, done with dirty basketball jerseys, shed of tracking a textbook assigned ten months ago and never used, and altogether destitute of paperwork to be filled out in triplicate with a blue ink pen…a single tear of pure joy glistens in my eye. My left eye. The one that twitches.

Let freedom ring.

I’d like to thank everyone who made this moment possible.

I could not have worn such a deep trench in the elementary school doorway, had not Hubby insisted that homeschooling was “not an option”. Thank you, Hubby, for challenging me to find a way to homeschool our kids anyway by bringing home sixteen years of creative projects for all 800 of the students I adopted there.

Thank you, Middle School Principal, for welcoming five siblings in a row, children who brought their bicycles with them instead of their mother, children who learned the value of a dollar by hustling duct tape wallets, the value of deodorant after gym class, and the value of functional stall doors in a bathroom. We learned there’s no place like home after all.

Shout out to my firstborn for teaching me that we all learn in our own ways during high school. Some of us learn while sitting in the back row, staring out a window, and doodling on the homework. We learn that teachers are furious when they call you out in front of the class and you actually know the answers.

Second born, thank you for becoming fluent in Spanish so that I don’t need to be. It’s as entertaining as the German, Russian, and whale your siblings pretend to speak. You taught me that there’s no such thing as too many boxes full of awards.

Middle child, my never-in-a-hurry-why-do-you-want-to-rush-stuff one, thank you for waiting until two weeks to graduating to decide that you actually did want to attend college. I think your degree in “Communication” is as authentic as the panic attack I had.

I appreciate the effort it took, oh fourth one, to move to a new high school, forsaking the legacy of our family reputation to create a name for yourself. You played varsity sports as a freshman, losing every single game for a year, and ended your senior year with mono. You taught me gumption. One of us deserves a gold sticker.

And now, the last man standing, he who had to grow a sense of humor at birth, the one who had no idea his vision was bad until twelve tender years of age, the man who can perform quantum physics yet struggles with a pencil and long division, is poised on the platform, prepared to join his siblings in the world of adults, so long as there’s no laundry involved.

Thank you for doing your homework, love. Even if I think it’s cheating to do “research” from your couch instead of fighting classmates over the last three reference books in an actual library a day before the term paper is due. Sorry about that dopamine addiction. We all thought educating through an iPad was a good idea four years ago.

I’m so happy. I’m so blessed. I’m so tired.

I hope I can make it through the ceremony.

In conclusion, an Honorary Mention goes out to my fellow moms. Yes, that award given to our kids at school assemblies, recognizing that they have been showing up and breathing in and out all day. The one that reminds us that we are all winners.

To the girlfriends who stood by me during Common Core Math and the common cold; those who heard my battle cries and administered hot tea and hugs. Thank you for reminding me that the school system with its trappings and traps, is temporary after all. Our educations are priceless. And our possibilities are endless.

Let’s do this.

Party Like It’s 1986

I haven’t had a hangover this bad since the August I had a newborn, a toddler, and a kindergartner start school.

There comes a time when you know you’ve gone around the bend and maybe you should admit it.

It’s the first step.

My 30th high school reunion was Saturday night and it was fabulous.

It was, I am compelled to publish, a better turn-out than Hubby’s was, three weeks ago.

Yes, we graduated the same year on the same day at the same time from rival high schools and I am also compelled to explain that his was the one on the wrong side of the tracks, I don’t care what was yelled by a certain young lady wearing face paint and a pompon on her head and throwing all dignity to the wind, screamed herself silly over a football game that she never bothered learning the rules to.

My brain only has so much space in it.

Football games were for showing up with your girlfriends and letting the other side know how badly they were about to lose. Even if we lost, we had to insist we won. All about that attitude, baby.

The reunion was on point.

I showed up, jumped into a pile of girlfriends and turned up the volume.

The face paint is slightly more mature, but as you can see from the photos, I still have a pompon on my head.

Something I noticed that all future reunion organizers might want to write down:

  1. By the 30th reunion, people are flying in from all over the world to attend.
  2. They are fighting jet lag just to see their bestie from second grade.
  3. Skip the dance floor.

Both reunions tried, and I was one of six girls up there attempting to lure the party into the multi-colored strobe-lit, Van Halen pumping, fog machine mood-enhancing, MTV 80s love fest.

Perhaps everyone already has this at home. I should’ve asked.

The poor DJ was killing herself trying to earn her paycheck and the crowds would have none of it. She pumped up the volume, she pulled out classics and party tunes, she drove them up against the back wall of the building and out the door as they desperately tried to hear each other talk about little Timmy.

If only the DJ had taken the hint and dropped the beat, literally, so we could hear ourselves think.

I lost my voice and my hearing, which is always a good day-after football game sign, it means you took it seriously. But the headache is from drinking the wine poured under the table by my lawyer girlfriend who smuggled it in in a big fancy purse because open bars are for sissies.

The part where I’m staggering around is from doing the Electric Slide in high heels that should never, under any circumstances, slide.

I’m squinting because the daylight in SoCal in August does not take pity on a morning-after face that’s not be used to photo-boothing until all hours. I need a nap.

I’m pretty sure I made some new wrinkles, and I hope I made some new friends.

It’s hard to tell. Like my face, it’s a bit of a blur.

Hubby knew more people there than I did and seems to have no side effects from partying with his rival high school gang.

I’ll have to fix that.

Dear Class of 1986

The reunion check is in the mail.

I just can’t believe it’s been thirty years since we graduated high school.

I filled out your questionnaire and sent it too, but I admit that it took me, a writer, longer than expected to fill in the answers.

For example,

“Is there anything you know now, that you wish you would have known in high school?”

“Yes – to stop doubting myself and jump off more cliffs, because I really was meant to fly and breathe fire.”

Well I was.

Also wish I had invested every penny in a company called “Target”.

“Where will you be in ten years?”

This is the part where I just can’t help myself because I know we’re going to have to read this at the next reunion in ten years, and if I put something specific, I’m basically challenging myself to pull it off on a time line and that is WAY TOO MUCH STRESS.

“Changing the world, making a difference, and passionately parenting.”

That feels safe.

Vague, yet impressive.

I can pull that off in numerous ways and in ten years I’ll nod and say, “My writing/speaking/teaching/baking cupcakes has sure done that all right.”

And I just can’t think that I’ll be running out of parenting issues in ten, twenty, or infinity years.

Set myself up for success in that arena, anyway.

*eye roll*

*shakes pompons* because of next question.

“Favorite Quote:”

Attitude is Everything.

*weak smile*

“Favorite Book and/or Movie:”

My bible, trite as that sounds.

If you read the same book over and over your whole life, surely it qualifies.

Spoiler Alert: the book was better than the movie.

But seriously, what are we supposed to put there and why? Legions of books under the bridge, I really wanted to say, “The book I wrote, of course” but that’s a fib because I haven’t actually published one yet.

Rats.

“Anything else you’d like to share?”

“Yes! But I put it into my blog because there are way too many words involved.”

Right?

“Is there a favorite high school memory you’d like to share?”

Okay, this is where I got all kinds of conflicted. I put the pat answers instead of what I really wanted to say. It’s a reunion, after all, and people are trying to be all nostalgic and starry-eyed about a blip on their life timeline.

“Writing for yearbook, being the Pep Club at football games, graduation day.”

That last one is a hint.

Because for me, life started after high school ended, and when you live your life on “fast forward”, looking back makes me cross-eyed, not starry-eyed.

If you’re sitting there on the fence that now circles our high school and stopped off-campus lunches forever, let me suggest that our reunion is no longer a popularity contest.

You have permission to not look 18 anymore. You have permission to not act 18 anymore. You are encouraged to show your well-earned battle scars because we all have them. I will not notice if you have genuine Jimmy Choo on your feet; I will notice if you have genuine caring on your face.

I am more interested in who you are now than who you were then.

Some of our classmates didn’t need a reason to party and plunked their money down, no questions asked.

They remember all the dance moves.

Sure, I made some friendships that have lasted – oh, wow – over thirty years, and I got my diploma and have a handful of memories involving Homecoming and Prom and the way my girlfriend and I used to drive across town during lunch and see our boyfriends at the rival high school (we’re such rebels) and come back late to Mr Sodeman’s Civics class and bring him a donut so he wouldn’t mark us tardy.

And the way projecting MTV music videos onto the gym wall during dances made us feel so turquoise eye-shadow cool.

And trying to decide whether cloisonné or giant plastic jewelry was a better bet.

Legwarmers. Hair scrunchies. Knight Rider.

Remember going to the movies (Remember when Romancing the Stone came out?) and getting Fenton’s ice cream? Remember cruising down Valley, trolling for other cars full of teens? Remember wearing poison-green tights under a denim mini-skirt and hair bigger than a Buick?

Okay, maybe we’ll have some selective memory lapses. Good plan.

Whatever happened to the guy I was a library aide with? Was his name Steve? I’ll have to dig out the yearbook and check. Where did all my wallflower friends end up?

I hope they are somewhere flying and breathing fire.

I hope they come to the reunion and sit at my table.

Don’t let the oldies station on the radio fool you.

The 80s are far more than classic.

They were epic.

 

And How Was Your Week?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I spent Sunday night cowering in the corner of my new sofa, under two blankets and whimpering.

I read a book to distract myself from the fact that the sky was falling.

In the pitch black howling madness, our little overnight storm whipped rain horizontally, uprooted trees, flooded and eroded everything, and made me pray for the dawn.

I’m sorry to report that the rest of this week has been about the same.

If you replace rain with the boys’ school projects, spats of hail with Hubby’s work load, and wind with the level of general stress in the house, there’s no wonder I could hear occasional slammed doors, moaning around the corners and whimpers over impending doom.

As a seasoned mom, I’ve weathered worse, but when Wednesday night rolled around and I had had to personally talk down my menfolk from abandoning ship, my radar told me to look a little closer into things.

Somewhere, the sky was about to fall.

“Mom,” said a son, “I’m not going to school on Friday.”

“Is it written on the calendar?” I asked, not skipping a beat, “Because unless it is, oh yes you are.”

So he went over and wrote it on the calendar.

His spiel was something about a class project that his group needed to pull together or his grades were ruined. Forever. He didn’t know where or when or how…but could I find a pop-up canopy, a table and four folding chairs, a collection box, and oh yeah, can I drive him around on Friday morning?

Because grades trump all other life activities, including, as it turned out, bathroom breaks.

“Here,” I said, looking deeply into his eyes, which was not easy, because his eyes did not want me to look into them, “Let me just stop the planet from spinning while I tend to your business.”

Upon further investigation I discovered that this was a “student-led” activity.

One where – you guessed it – students were in charge of everything.

Well there you go.

Does it mean my fourteen-year-old gets to write his own off-campus pass, his own attendance note, make up a day off and drive himself to Starbucks for a good grade?

My other son stepped forward.

His list included signing up for the SAT (“like, yesterday, Mom”) and the tutoring that came with it, a class he needed to prepare for his church group, a major essay due Friday, a major project due next week, and both boys had two basketball games and a team dinner to squeeze in.

I reached out a hand, and stopped my spinning planets. I started rolling up my sleeves.

“Well boys, brace yourself. Incoming life lessons starting now.”

I spent yesterday gathering supplies, filling out online registrations, proofreading essays, collecting permission forms, washing uniforms, going over notes, blocking out my Friday morning, and putting gas in the car.

It’s very rare for me to be involved in the kids’ schooling anymore, and as much as I’m in favor of independence and learning the hard way if you need to, once in a while, I rise from the couch and remind them who’s in their corner.

I talked them through each step of the process, they took the next thing off the “to do” list then I did, and so forth until things began to fall into place.

I spent this morning at a dog-friendly park, watching my son (from a polite mom-distance) pull off his school project all by himself.

Because the other kids in his group, perhaps, had failed to mention this project until *sigh* today.

Who knows.

He spoke to everyone passing by about the plight of pit bulls, raising money and awareness for their non-profit organization, Villalobos Rescue Center. You may be more familiar with the show, “Pit Bulls and Parolees”.

He had a very good response and has some donations to turn in, and I imagine will get a decent grade on his project.

The Friday weather is beautiful today, clear skies, sunshine, gentle breeze.

We’ll enjoy the calm while it lasts.

There’s No Place Like Home(coming)

The boys’ Homecoming Dance was on Saturday.

The theme was “The Wizard of Oz”.

Knowing I was no longer in Kansas, I made a pre-emptive strike a month ahead.

I put on my best wish-granting wizard face and asked my 16 and 14 year old sons if they wanted to take a date.

An actual girl.

To a dance.

With them.

I would drive of course, and pay for incidentals (having zero experience in this parenting arena did not slow me down; I merely assumed that “incidentals” would go no further than pizza money).

Years of lecturing on The AntiDate have taken their toll.

They sensed a trap.

“Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?” said their concerned faces.

When I insisted that I was really, truly going to allow this frivolity, they held a Summit Meeting and decided that if they went without a date, they would be free to dance with any girl in the room instead of only the girl they brought.

Wise guys. (I walked away humming,“If they only had a Heart”.)

And the rest of the planning was their own business.

Son A decided to go casual and wear a brilliant green button-down with his slacks.

He went to shine his shoes and decided a little strategically placed crazy glue was a good precaution against his soles joining any flying monkeys in the gym.

Son B was all about the ‘spit-shine’. Nothing less than a flashy red tie and a snazzy vest would do. He put moleskin under his socks, hoping his heels would still be there after four hours on the yellow brick road.

Son A: “Are you wearing deodorant?”

Son B: “Yeah.”

Son A: “Well, put some of this on.”

Son B: “Why?”

Son A: “Because you should layer your deodorants, just in case.”

Son B: “That’s stupid. I’ll smell like a rainbow.”

They slicked up their fresh haircuts and actually brushed their teeth.

I know.

I caught them taking selfies before they walked out the door.

Arriving in our black Lexus was pretty snazzy, so said my sons, to which I did a hard eye roll or two, until we arrived in the Merry Old Land of Oz and watched a glittering Hummer limo pull up.

That’s a horse of a different color.

Now there’s some incidentals.

This ain’t Prom, folks.

Okay, no. I can’t even.

I have never stepped foot in a limo in my life, not even at my own wedding.

No kid of mine gets to, unless I get to first.

It’s a Life Rule, look it up.

(My parenting style runs the fine line between mature common sense and childish rivalry.)

But the boys said they had a wonderful time.

They danced with actual girls, and while both had been nominated as court princes, neither won the Homecoming King contest.

Just as well.

They would be posing like the Tin Man, forever.

Shakespeare Swear Words

Shakespeare.

“I bite my thumb at you sir!”

Why did it have to be Shakespeare?

“I do desire we may be better strangers!”

The man was a genius, but, he wrote for an illiterate peasant crowd.

Like TV and movies today, he included plenty of fart jokes, crotch shots and swear words.

He cleverly disguised adult content from future generations by cloaking it in another language.

(There’s old math and new math. There’s old english and new english. Don’t get me started.)

Most students need to have Ye Olde Elizabethan Englishe interpreted to them. Not mine.

Mine were raised reading a King James Bible and when Shakespeare puts his actors into lewd situations, only my kids will blush. They will get the innuendos before the teacher explains them.

I can speak the mother tongue. When the swear words run through my head, complete with cloak and dagger, I don’t let them out of my mouth.

But you can tell they’re in there because my eyebrows go up by an inch and a half.

My kid landed a part in the school play. It’s his first, and he’s pretty jazzed about it.

Between jetting off to Canada and keeping up with cross country meets, somewhere in the shuffle I lost track of this fact.

“Methink’st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.”

Bad mom.

I remember helping him with his audition and then dashing away to the grocery store.

Two weeks into rehearsals, I was told to attend the parent meeting, and that he got the part of…Juliet.

Seriously?

I went to the parent meeting armed with a prepared tirade against the public school system as a whole, and my best stink-eye. I was pretty steamed up.

And then the sweetest lady sat down and introduced herself as the drama coordinator.

“There’s no more faith in thee than in a stewed prune.”

“Thank you all for your talented children. It’s our first, ever, drama performance at this school, and I went for the easiest play I could find to start us off with.”

Easy? Do you know how many lines Juliet, alone, has to memorize?

“Thy sin’s not accidental, but a trade.”

“This play contains bits of everything Shakespeare wrote and puts them into a spoof. The kids and I have been slowly going through the script.”

Spoof? What does she mean?

“Come, come, you froward and unable worms!”

“You may not realize this, but plays by Shakespeare are pretty rough. We’ve been going through, line by line, and just cutting content to make it teen-appropriate.”

You’re destroying Shakespeare? Is this legal?

“Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage.”

“You’re Juliet’s mom, right?” she asked, looking straight at me.

“Oh, um, yes. I guess so. He’s playing…Juliet?”

“As I said, it’s a spoof. Your extremely tall son is playing Juliet and a very short young lady is playing Romeo. They pull off the comedy effect very well.”

Slowly it was dawning on me that things weren’t as they seemed.

I put my stink-eye back into the bottom of my purse.

“Your son approached me on day one and wondered how acceptable the play would be. Most kids don’t even understand the parts that I’m deleting. By the time we’re through, we’re hopefully turning out a play that the whole family can come support.”

I put my tirade aside for another, more worthy opponent.

“This performance is light-hearted, fast-paced, and most importantly, easy on our non-existent budget. The costumes and sets aren’t what you think they are.”

I just couldn’t decide what to say next.

She put three teens on the stage (“The fourth is at volleyball right now”) and gave us a sample of Hamlet.

To a rap.

Roll over, Beethoven.

“You, minion, are too saucy.”

(In case your Google isn’t handy, my quotes are from: Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, All’s Well That Ends Well, Henry V, Measure For Measure, Taming of the Shrew, and Two Gentlemen of Verona.)