6 Must-Have School Supplies if You Want to Stay out of Jail and Not Commit Felonies

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I’m with you–it’s a bit of a bummer to take an innocent trip to the grocery store in search of my favorite Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream only to have my eyes assaulted by school supplies in July. Assaulted: like a super violent Quentin Tarantino movie assaulted. Like a green polyester pantsuit assaulted. Like seeing your elderly neighbor’s thong when she’s gardening BY NO FAULT OF YOUR OWN assaulted. A part of me loves the smell of new pencils and choosing pastel-colored markers, but it has to be on my own time, and that’s not in EARLY MAY, MR. WALMART.

I know the C.E.O. of Walmart is not really named Mr. Walmart. I just put that in to be funny. Sorry if you are personally affiliated with the Waltons in any way. Please tell them I said hello.

Of course, most schools put out lists of what your kid needs, but as a teacher and a mom of three, I’m going to add a few things to your list to make your life a bit easier.

  1. A good set of quality, comfortable ear buds–for you and your kid. One of my kids has a touch of ADD, and it helps immensely to have ear buds plugged into the computer to silence the everyday sounds of the dog barking, the dryer spinning, computer games in the background, you get it. If you can afford sound-canceling ear buds, take my recommendation and BUY THEM FOR YOU. You won’t be sorry. Also, there are many “concentration” apps available, proven to heighten your attention span. Sleep Sounds can slide between concentration to relaxation depending on the binaural beats you choose. It helps me as a doctoral student to  block out conversations around me so I can finish my thrilling statistics assignment. It works, people
  2. Extra freezer packs for lunches. You can’t get too many of these. Nate was at marching practice and a kid became a bit overheated, so Nate took an extra from his lunch and put it on the kid’s forehead and back of his neck. I’m not sure if it smelled like ham or not, but it did the trick.
  3. Extra poster board and craft stuff. Maybe this has never happened to you. Maybe you live in a perfect, Everybody Loves Raymond kind of world where your kid never tells you at 8:00 that he has a project depicting the history of the German people due the next day that’s worth 2/3 of his grade. Lucky you. I perform the sign of the cross and bid you a good day. If it does happen, though, you are ready. You have two or three different poster boards, markers, scissors, glue, pictures of the German people (ok, you’re on your own for that one) and lots of coffee. If nothing else, buy lots of coffee.
  4. A stack of cheap magazines. Maybe this has never happened to you. Maybe in your perfect, Modern Family life, you’ve never had a kid announce that she needs to create a collage that represents “Joy” for her art class and all you have sitting around are Walking Dead graphic novels. Just in case, have a stack of women’s magazines (you can collect these for almost nothing at the Salvation Army or MeeMaw Jan’s coffee table. Come on, if Burt Reynolds is on the cover, she’s probably not gonna miss it.
  5. An extra printer cartridge and paper. If you don’t have a printer, get one. It’s a lifesaver. Unless you just love going out in the rain to your office to print off your kid’s Of Mice and Men essay at 1:00 in the morning, then that’s up to you. For the rest of us, I’d rather just print it off in the kitchen like a regular person. Sorry if you’re a weirdo.
  6. Try to buy all your kid’s English novels at the beginning of the semester. I’m sure this would never happen to you, in your perfect Breaking Bad life (wait, bad example). I’m sure your kid would always remember two weeks in advance that his teacher was assigning All Quiet on the Western Front, and the two of you could happily make a trip to Barnes and Noble, where there are three versions of the book to choose from, and you could buy your copy, all the time laughing and joking and drinking coffee and hot cocoa at the Starbucks inside the store and feeling proud of your kid’s planning and even admire his adorable grin.

If this has really happened to anyone reading this blog I want you to come down to Tyler so I can punch you in your veneered teeth.

Just in case it happens the other way: It’s 10:00 at night, you’re in your pj’s watching Gilmore Girls reruns, finishing a tiny glass of wine while coloring in your “De-Stress and Color Fuzzy Animals” coloring book and your kid casually strolls into the living room, coming up behind you on the couch when you didn’t notice and says “MOM” in your hair and you almost pee your pants and then he tells you he needs a copy of the Gutenberg Bible for class tomorrow or else he’s going to fail, well then you’re both screwed. Because Barnes and Noble does NOT have a copy, and apparently the only copy is in a traveling exhibit in Turkey guarded by six 300 pound men with no sense of humor and so you’re going to end up printing all 3,000 pages off on your printer (you bought that, right? No?)  violating international copyright laws and hoping and praying you’re not arrested because you’re not built for prison life.You don’t even stomach Quinton Tarantino movies very well.

Do us all a favor. Buy the books.

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My First Gender Reveal Party

The happy couple! Can you stand it?

Yesterday, I attended my very first gender reveal party.

It was a HOOT.

First, let me explain a couple of things. I hate baby showers. I don’t mind giving gifts or eating cake, obviously, but it’s never just that, is it? Usually, there are embarrassing (or disgusting!) games in which my socially awkward/phobic self is asked to identify melted candy in a diaper (THIS IS REAL!) or to estimate the width of my pregnant friend’s belly using yarn (this never ends well!). Baby showers are the WORST.

So a gender reveal party? Puleese.

I only went because my sweet friend Regan asked me to. I would have probably begged off if she hadn’t actually HUNTED ME DOWN and made me promise to come.

I’m so glad I did.

The first thing that happened: there was a mistake on the Facebook invite. The wrong address was listed. Diligently using my GPS, I ended up on the bottom of a quiet street. A bit too quiet–there were NO CARS AROUND. It looked like the set of the Walking Dead. I swear I saw a tumbleweed roll by.

For a second or two I suspiciously thought I was being set up for some kind of horror/punk’d show where the old lady gets out of the car and is killed immediately OR is scared out of her loosely-fitting Depends while stoner 30-year-old guys in need of haircuts film the whole thing from their skateboards. But really, nobody was there! There weren’t any cars in the driveway at all!

Still, because I am an AWESOME friend, I rang the doorbell. What if she was by herself? What if nobody came to the party and I was the only one! I would immediately be elevated to BEST FRIEND FOREVER status! I didn’t for a moment think that a hottie, hilarious girl like Regan would be friendless, but you never know.

It was like on the horror flicks where you find yourself muttering out loud, “DON’T DO IT. ARE YOU STUPID OR SOMETHING? THERE’S A GUY IN A HOCKEY MASK WAITING FOR YOU.”  I realize this is a bit dramatic and would never really happen since I’m not a hot college sorority girl. It’s not as “in” to kill chubby, middle-aged English teachers.

When nobody answers, I wait for a bit, then realize I might be looking suspicious to the neighborhood watch people so I go back to my car and call my friend. Turns out the party is about 6 houses down. I think she was trying to do the “Well I invited you but you never showed” thing that happened to me in the 5th grade.

Scars run deep, my friend.

Anyway, I finally made it to the party, unstabbed.

In case you never heard of this, a gender reveal party is where a pregnant couple reveals the gender of their unborn baby. In this case, Regan had given the “top secret info” in an envelope to her BFF Cornell who managed to keep his lips sealed for over 2 weeks.

There’s a reason I wasn’t chosen for this job.

Anyway, when I first came in the house, I was handed 5 clothespins. I immediately (but not visibly) rolled my eyes at the thought of a “game.” Please God please God please God…

But turns out, all I have to do is NOT say the words “baby”,” boy” or “girl” to keep my clips, and if I heard someone else say those words I was supposed to confiscate any pins of those who repeated the offensive words. The one who had the most pins at the end of the party won a prize.

There was this adorable little boy running around taking this mission seriously. VERY seriously. I totally accused him of trading on his cuteness to trick unsuspecting adults into giving up their pins. He just shrugged his little Abercrombie shoulders and walked off. He’s already a “cool kid” at the age of 8.

After some delicious food, I had a mimosa and surveyed the mixed pink and blue decor. It was adorable. And quiche? They got quiches, my friend! If you like quiche then you are in heaven!

And then — the grand moment! The unveiling of the gender!

There was a big box, tastefully wrapped in pink and blue tissue paper, topped with about 56 pink, blue and silver bows. The silver I can only assume was a tip your hat gesture to the elderly guests (here’s one for the oldsters!). Regan opened the box and pulled out a baby doll…dressed in yellow.

This was so confusing. Yellow? What’s the deal? Did her friend forget and lose the info? It seemed in poor taste to have a gender reveal party if the ultrasound tech just couldn’t tell…or what if the baby was one of those that DIDN’T HAVE ANY PRIVATE PARTS? I haven’t actually heard of this, but you never know. Everyone looked at one another a bit uneasily. Let it be known: we all made a silent pledge to be supportive should Little Baby M turn out to be sexless.

I even had some names picked out that would work either way. Pat. Taylor. Jordan. Alex.

Finally, it was determined that to find out the FINAL info, Regan had to UNDRESS THE BABY DOLL.

This was hilarious. I can tell she has changed 0 diapers in her glamorous life. Anyway, after a few minutes of struggling with the tiny clothes, she held it up.

An anatomically correct BOY doll. We laughed so hard. I imagined that Cornell was going to have some VERY interesting “suggestions” from Amazon from now on–“If you liked your anatomically correct baby doll, you might also like…” LOL!

Anyway, I’m so glad I came. It was fun, the food was awesome, and I loved the party.

That little mini-Alex Keaton ended up with about 32 clothespins. YOU CANNOT TELL ME HE TRICKED THAT MANY PEOPLE. I feel the game was rigged, but I’m a big enough person I didn’t say anything. Yet. I’m planning to get a reporter from the New York Times to look into it. Hopefully there will be enough evidence to write a hard-hitting expose highlighting corruption in Tyler. In 15 years, I fully expect the kid to be a successful mobster OR Congressman.

I’ve got my eye on you, son.

Here’s My English Sonnet Homework

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Write an English Sonnet

For creative writing class?

I better get right on it

Cause I really want to pass.

Why an English Sonnet?

‘Cause Miss Borum said we had to.

I’m having a little trouble on it.

If Miss Borum only knew.

I tried to channel Shakespeare

Some advice from the Bard?

It didn’t work, just like I feared.

Why is this so damn hard?

Miss Borum, this is not my best work, and for that I’m really sorry.

Your sonnet homework kicked my butt, how ‘bout a quick short story?

A Letter to My Daughter on Her Graduation Day

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My Dearest Daughter,

It’s hard to believe it’s already your graduation. It seems like just yesterday I was walking you into your first day of class.

I still remember your first day of kindergarten. Your blonde hair was pulled up in two ponytails, and you smelled of new clothes and bubble bath. You were so scared, you were shaking. Oh, wait, that was me.

Do you remember the advice I gave you? It’s funny how it still applies. It was something like this:

Be friendly to the other kids. They are nervous, too.

Play jump rope at recess. It’s good to get your heart pumping, and you will have at least two other girls to talk to.

Don’t throw away your sandwich and just eat the Twinkie. I will know.

Pay attention in class, mind your manners, and most importantly, don’t wait too long to go to the bathroom.

Don’t have secret friends or secret clubs. In general, don’t have secrets. If something feels wrong, it’s because it is.

Don’t volunteer to be the kid that takes names.

It’s nice to have a lot of friends, but don’t be close friends with people who have questionable character.

It’s true what they say: you can tell what kind of person you are by the friends you keep.

Don’t worry about stepping on cracks. I’ll be fine.

Don’t be too curious about the boy’s bathroom. Trust me, it’s not that great.

Sit in the middle of the bus. Sit too far in the front, and you are a nerd. Sit too far in the back, and you will learn another language. And it’s not Spanish.

If you have a substitute teacher, treat her with respect. Just because the other kids are swimming on the floor doesn’t mean you have to. It’s okay to be alone when you are right.

Don’t make fun of the weird kid. He has feelings, too.

Here are a few addendums:

Try to save some money. When rainy days come, they’re usually in the form of hurricanes.

Study hard. Don’t procrastinate. In case anyone tries to tell you otherwise, copying and pasting IS cheating.

Ramen noodles are not food. Ever.

Be as generous as you can with your time, your friendships, and your love. But at the same time, don’t be anyone’s doormat.

Don’t change yourself for anyone else. Who you are is fine. And don’t hang around with people who want you to change.

Don’t spend too much time trying to make someone love you. It should be easy. If they can’t appreciate the beauty of you, move on. You can’t make the blind see.

About love and marriage: don’t marry the one you can live with. Marry the one you can’t live without.

Decide what you love and do it. Don’t settle. This is success.

If you need help, ask. This goes for homework, bills, and personal struggles. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of wisdom.

Love with your whole heart, holding nothing back. Sometimes you will get hurt this way, but it’s the only way. Anything less is cowardly.

Your family loves you. No matter how far you go, you know the way home. Always.

Love, Mom

Read more like this in Tina’s new book Cold Coffee and Speed Limits available on Amazon!

Tina Book Cover

On Plato, Hungry Teens and a Super Easy Roasted Chicken

 

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My son Nathan is momentarily experiencing bliss–all from a chicken. “Mom…this is soooo good,” he says with his mouth full. I giggle. It’s the week of Thanksgiving, and I’m home from class, so I thought I should cook something. It’s kind of my thing. So many times I am not here to do the “mom” things for him (I work 30 hours a week and am a graduate English student, a writing tutor and a writer) so when I’m able, I try to make something he likes.

I sometimes wish I had something else to share with this man-child who has grown six inches in as many months, but I tried playing “Call of Duty” and (it’s just sad) ended up blowing myself up. So, I go with my strengths: cooking. That’s how I get him to turn off the video games and chat with me for a while–or as long as the food lasts. It sometimes bothers me that I have such a connection with cooking. It’s so cliché, right? I guess 50 years of feminist rhetoric have done little to change that part of me that equates feeding with love. Did the works of Gloria Anzaldúa and Julia Kristeva (whom I adore) fall on deaf ears? When I read these women, I learn from them, but I find little of me, my soul, changes. They have done little to alter that part of me, inherited from my grandmother, that takes pride in creating something from nothing. It seems confusing, but it’s not.

I am a liberated, educated, American woman who does not need to lean on archaic ideas of womanhood. Except, maybe it’s the misconception of those ideas that distracts us. Maybe the feminists of past and present wrote and spoke not to take away from my freedom to roast the perfect chicken, but rather to keep that freedom to do what keeps us happy. And writing does make me happy–just like cooking. I don’t have to choose. Good writing is cooking, when you think about it. Taking letters, forming them into words, and stringing those words together in a meaningful way, it’s not for everyone. Plato wrote, “[Rhetoric] seems to me then . . . to be a pursuit that is not a matter of art, but showing a shrewd, gallant spirit which has a natural bent for clever dealing with mankind, and I sum up its substance in the name flattery…Well now, you have heard what I state rhetoric to be–the counterpart of cookery in the soul, acting here as that does on the body.” I guess I see the connection: To take an ugly chicken carcass and to baste it in olive oil and garlic and roast it to perfection (that makes my teenage son ecstatic) or writing a short blog, are not so different. Either way, it sure feels good to see my son, who I don’t always understand, get a second plate.

Mama’s Roasted Chicken

Ingredients

1 whole chicken

1 12-oz bottle of Italian dressing

4 cloves of garlic, minced

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Remove chicken from wrap, as well as inside package. Rinse thoroughly and place in a roasting pan. Pour dressing over the chicken, coating thoroughly (I use about half a bottle). Top with salt and pepper, as well as garlic. Cover with foil and bake for two hours,then take the foil off. Bake another half hour then check with a meat thermometer to ensure it’s done. It needs to be at least 160 degrees.

This story was originally published in Story Circle Network One Woman’s Day Blog:http://onewomansday.wordpress.com/about/

5 Reasons Why Raising Kids is Like a Trip to the Amusement Park

5 Reasons Why Raising Kids is Like a Trip to the Amusement Park.

5 Reasons Why Raising Kids is Like a Trip to the Amusement Park

 

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Last summer I took the family to an amusement park for what I mistakenly thought was going to be a carefree day of pleasure and family closeness. By the end of the day, we were sunburned, dehydrated, and broke. It occurred to me: this experience is a LOT like raising kids. Here are 5 reasons why this is true.

1. You pay a lot of bucks to take risky chances with no guarantee of return on your investment. Everything costs about 68 times what you estimated and there’s no (not even remotely implied reassurance) that the Princess Caterpillar Ride is even up and running today! It might be currently out of commission. I can relate to the worn-out Princess Caterpillar. Truly I can. In fact, the only guarantee Fun Town can deliver is the exposure to millions of bacteria from ALL OVER THE WORLD. That’s right. You’re welcome!

Raising kids is also expensive.  Some experts speculate that the average cost of raising a child is $240,080 (http://money.cnn.com/2013/08/14/pf/cost-children/).  Let’s face it: if someone had taken you aside previous to the conception of your first child and demanded money in advance like the hospital does before a surgery, most of us would be (as my mama says) “Up **** creek without a paddle.”  It’s a good thing paying first is not a requirement!

2. You’re always waiting in line for something. Unlike Fun Town, we don’t always have the tantalizing choice of “Do I really want to wait 3 ½ hours to ride a rickety canoe down a 2,000 foot water slide that was just repaired by a bored maintenance man who resembles Gary Busey after a few drinks?” Sometimes, as parents we just have to wait—and it really sucks. Sometimes waiting teaches us something valuable–sometimes not. For example, I learned that Fun Town only employs one guy to fix everything, and I’ll say this for him: he does it really slowly.

Parenthood is all about waiting. We wait at the doctor’s office, in traffic, school registration, the McDonald’s drive-through, in front of the school, the police department — and most of the time waiting ends with a bill of some sort. We just get used to it. Most of the time we pay for the pleasure of waiting! Time moves very slowly on Prom Night when you are waiting for your own Princess to return. But most of the time, the relief we feel when we see the headlights in the driveway is worth it.

Sometimes, however, it seems disappointing after the wait, and nobody can protect you from that. It’s just part of parenting. For example, when you wait 4 hours in the ER (surrounded by people dying of Ebola) just to be told that your kid has a virus and they can’t do anything. That’s $150. Cha ching. Meanwhile, you still have a sick baby, you’re out of money, and you just wasted three hours of your life. Live and learn. There is a tiny ray of hope here, however. Next time, you might remember this mistake and recognize the same symptoms and pour Sprite down your kid until he’s swimming, saving you both some heartache.

3. The map isn’t to scale. The Giant Death-Defying Roller Coaster SEEMS really close to the restroom, but in actuality it’s several miles of hiking on blistering asphalt past deranged costumed cartoon characters. Seeing as your kid waited until she actually FELT her pants getting wet to tell you she needed to go, there’s just no way you could have actually made it to the restroom in time. It’s small compensation that the restroom is a pink castle when you forgot to pack extra Pull-ups and have to take out a small loan to buy a single pack at the Princess Pinkie Gift Shop.

Raising kids is like uncharted territory. There are maps and parenting books aplenty, but until you are in the thick of it without a Pull-up nobody can really prepare you. The distance from toddler to teen is deceptively short, dear parent. So very short.

4. Sometimes it seems like you only stop fighting long enough to take a picture. Vacations that are designed to be fun, relaxing times to reconnect often bring out our inner serial sociopath. After four hours listening to canned music and fishing my iPhone out of the filthy Candy Mountain lake, I become a lot less caring about everyone’s feelings. I’m not proud of this. Being a part of a family is stressful in the best of circumstances, but add an unfamiliar environment (Fun Town, a new house, relatives staying with you, etc) sometimes it’s just enough to push us over the edge. We are only human, after all. Families are stressful entities! As much as we love each other, family members get on one another’s nerves, hurt  feelings, steal one another’s French fries, and call shotgun for the hundredth time. Parenthood is simultaneously messy, irritating, ulcer-inducing, tear-causing…and heart-stoppingly amazing. As much as you sometimes like to leave your kids at the local In-n-Out, you know in your heart of hearts that you’d go to hell and back for them, and God help anyone who tries to hurt them on your watch.

5. Stuff’s always breaking and there’s never enough help. Just when it was our turn to ride the dystopian themed roller coaster that was aptly named something akin to “Death Star,” we were roped off by the ten-year-old employee who held our lives in her hands and told that “tests needed to be done.”  What were we to do? We’d  already invested hours of your time waiting patiently in line, stepping in globs of gum, fighting a migraine headache from the strobe lights and circa  1985 music blaring from the speakers. What you forgot is that there’s only one maintenance man (good old Gary)  in the entire park and he’s still at the log ride. It may seem like you are alone in the parenting amusement park, but you aren’t. Sometimes we just need to hire more help, whether it’s a babysitter or a best friend–the ultimate solution is the babysitter who IS your best friend.

Here’s the thing about parenting (I mean Fun Town). No matter how difficult (and wearing, and sticky, and annoying) it becomes (NO I’M NOT BUYING YOU ANOTHER CORN DOG!), even when we swear that this is IT for Fun Town, there’s the peaceful ride home where everyone is just so exhausted they are crashed out in the backseat for a blessed few moments. And they are stinking adorable.

After a few hours and a bit of rest—it all seems completely magical and you can’t wait to do it again.  You might even buy a season pass–because more times than not, nothing can really beat it.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: What is your favorite amusement park and why?