When Your Kid Isn’t Ready for College

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Have you ever heard the phrase “If you can spot it, you’ve got it”? Basically, it means that many of the thing that annoy us in other people are things that annoy us in ourselves. Things we’d rather not face.

Don’t believe me? Next time someone pisses you off, do a little soul-searching and see what you find.

I had a whole year of spotting things before I could write this post. The judgment I heard from other people, I had it in myself. The maddening, paralyzing fear in my kid- I had that, too. So I saw stuff, and I owned it and worked through it and blah blah blah… and now I have something to say.

Please go read my post on Family Circle’s Momster blog: When Your Kid Isn’t Ready for College.

If You Weren’t Sick Before…

Earlier this spring, both #4 and #5 went home sick from school on the same day. This type of thing happens only when CC is out of town, and then most often on a Wednesday, my longest work day (for the record, snow days work like this too).

I called my sub in to cover me and made it to the middle school in record time. We got home with no hurling, and when they felt up for it, I heated up some chicken soup, pulled out the saltines and ginger ale and joined them at the table.

The nurse had told me more than 25% of the kids were out sick with the bug that was going around.

Me: I like your nurse at the middle school.

#4: Same.

#5: Same.

Me: Whatever happened to “me too”?

[They stare at me blankly.]

#5: The middle school nurse is way nicer than the one at the elementary school.

Me: Yeah, that one scared me. She yelled at me.

#4: Wasn’t that because of me?

Me: Pretty much. You showed me this teeny-tiny spot on the top of your knee where you had poison ivy and I gave you Caladryl, but you neglected to mention that the back of your legs were completely covered with it and festering. Then you went to the nurse.

#4: Oh yeah, I remember that. I though they were bug bites.

Me: Yeah, well they weren’t. She screamed at me when she called. I kept expecting DYFS to show up on our doorstep for like a month.

#5: What’s festering?

Me: Festering is gross, that’s what.

#4: I remember I got poison ivy on my eye one time.

Me: When I was a kid, I got it on my whole face and my eyes swelled shut. It was awful. Though I wasn’t as bad off as my friends. They went to the bathroom in the woods and used poison ivy leaves to wipe.

[They look, horrified, in my direction.]

Me: Yes, I actually knew people that happened to.

[They look, horrified, at each other.]

Me: They got poison ivy really bad. In their … ah… nether regions.

[They both put their spoons down and scoot away from the table]

#5: Julie? Don’t ever say that again, okay?

Me: Which part?

#4: ANY OF IT!!!

*****

With my innate nurturing skills (feed a cold; starve a fever; gross out a bug) both #4 and #5 made full recoveries. #5 and I played an epic game of Monopoly in which we bent the rules and he beat me by ending up with every single piece of property. It was an entirely different win than the one the week before where we bent the rules and he beat me by ending up with every single dollar, and I had to then explain that we couldn’t just “make” new money because that’s how economies collapse.

Meanwhile, I have a couple posts up on Family Circle’s Momster blog.

When you’re a stepmom of teenagers, you have to expand your definition of parenting wins: Treasured Moments

Attempts to teach a reluctant worker the value of a job well done: Hey Kids, Guess What? Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees!

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So, ah… where’s the worst place you ever got poison ivy?

 

In Defense of Walking on the Dead

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Palm Sunday I was walking my dogs in the cemetery. Sundays are busier there than any other day of the week, and holiday Sundays even more so. Team Puggle and I do our best to steer clear of people tending or visiting graves, as well as other dogs, so upon seeing five cars parked along the front drive, we took to the back paths.

The dogs were sniffing away in a clearing, enjoying the perfect weather and all the new spring smells. A car pulled slowly down the road about a hundred feet from us and someone in the car did my all-time least favorite thing: made a passive-aggressive judgmental comment just loud enough for me to hear as they drove by, not stopping to actually confront. The woman said, “How dare anyone walk a dog in a cemetery? That’s disgusting!” Her Jersey accent dripped with contempt.

The Puggles perked their ears and tilted their heads at her. She said some other things but I didn’t quite catch them, though her tone of voice made it sound as if I were personally digging up graves and toppling headstones.

I assured the Puggles that they were not, in fact, disgusting and we went on our way to sniff somewhere else. I asked Jack if he wanted to go track her down and inform her that we likely visit the grave of her dead relative far more than she does, because for this woman to be surprised and offended that people walk their dogs in this cemetery, she can’t come here very often.

Jack scented the air and opted out. He is a better man than I, and his insistence that we merely carry on with the walk shut off the imaginary conversation I was having with her in my head- you know, the one where I judge her back and put her in her place and make her feel at least as bad as she made me feel. Jack pulled in another direction and brought me back to where we were.

For a moment there, I second-guessed myself. About walking my dogs in the cemetery being a good thing.

I started walking them here on the advice of my therapist when I could barely get out of bed from depression a few years ago. For a couple of months it was the only thing I could accomplish in a day besides show up to work.

Walking in the cemetery is their very favorite thing in the world. Because we don’t have a yard, they consider the cemetery to be theirs. It’s part of their territory, and I’m willing to bet every other dog that walks there feels the same. It’s the kind of place that inspires ownership.

 

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For me, it’s a chance to serve. I let them choose which way we go. I let them sniff. I pick up their poop; I don’t let them pee on the flags.

 

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They explore as far as they can on the end of a leash. They notice the new trees the groundskeepers plant to replace the ones destroyed in the storms, the flowers and shrubs added by relatives around headstones. They find the evidence of deer, of raccoons, of owls; of the struggle for life and death that goes on in the animal side of things there. We’ve found dead moles, mice, birds and an inside-out rat, picked clean by crows.

 

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I cannot keep a straight face while walking behind two Puggle butts. Jack walks on an extreme diagonal, as if he is in desperate need of an alignment. If he ever requires a wheel, I fear he’ll only move in circles.

The dogs lead me to the change of seasons through all the small signs. I find the first of spring in the new shoots of grass that Casey likes to eat, the crocuses bursting through the ground that Jack has to investigate; I notice the buds on the tree branches as they both stare at the trunk, mystified at a squirrel that magically disappeared by going up.

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We visit the graves of the ones who touched our family: The boy who died on the high school baseball field. The kid who committed suicide, though some say it was an accident. The mother who very intentionally jumped off a bridge. The 20-year old girl who lost out to a brain tumor.

I’ll stop at a grave I don’t know and wonder about the person there. I wonder how they died, and how they lived. I wish peace for their families; I know it is harder to come by for some than others.

One thing I’ve learned from walking on the dead is that nobody gets enough time.  The cemetery is full of people who probably would have given anything for one more day or a chance to make a different decision had they known what was on the other side, and what they were leaving behind.

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More so than in yoga, or while meditating, the only time I truly appreciate the present moment as it happens is on these walks. Because we are present, Team Puggle and I. We are warming in the sun, we are having our floppy ears blown straight out by the wind, we are smelling all kinds of unbelievable smells.

The definition of reverence is a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe. Walking my dogs in the cemetery is the most reverent thing I do all day.

I guess this whole business of living and dying can be plenty disgusting if you think of it that way, but I don’t. It’s just life. All the gross things that come out of a body have to be tended to, canine and human alike. Is a dog taking a whiz in graveyard dirt any more disgusting than what happens to a body when it expires?

No one here gets out alive.

That’s how I dare walk a dog in a cemetery.

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 Every day above ground is a good day.