What I Do

So I'm driving around in the car with my 13 year old and we're talking about all the random nonsense you talk about with your kids in the car; somehow we got on the subject of college, and he quite nonchalantly informs me that he isn't going to college, like ugh mom. I reach over to take his temperature, just to be sure he isn't delirious with The Fever, and then ask him oh, re-heally? This child looks at me and, with his mouth I spent nine months making for him, actually says, "Yeah, I'm just going to do what you did. You turned out fine."

He then had the honor and great privilege of being strapped into a moving vehicle he could not escape from while listening to his mother talk in very loud tones about exactly what is was that she did, and:

•   how hard it was;
•   how much cheap macaroni and cheese we ate for like ever while i was *doing it*;
•   how many nights I was up until 4am working at a bar and back up at 8am with him and his brother;
•   what it felt like to know I could do something really amazing with my life I just had no idea what it was or how to start;
•   how long I had to wait and how hard I had to look for the opportunity to get out from behind a bar and into the workforce;
•   how lucky I was that the opportunity ever came my way or that I had managed to piece together enough skills to take it when it did;
•   and how much easier my life - his life - would have been if I had ever had the opportunity to further my education.

(...and yes, I said all of that without breathing, uphill, in the snow both ways, because that's what mothers do.)

Getting from where I started to where I am was exhausting. Where I am now is exhausting in a way that waiting tables never was; the mental walls I hit every day hurt so much more than my feet ever did, but the pain is so good. I love working in Silicon Valley. I love being an integral part of the virtual revolution. I love science and I love tech and even still, I would not wish the path I took to get here on my worst enemy, or even a teenager.

No one told me to pursue more (or any) education. I never had a parent, or a priest, or a mentor who said I had to go learn more stuff. I had teachers who said it, but I didn't listen because they're teachers...they HAVE to say that. My boyfriend jokes about and/or purposely hides his "useless" liberal arts Ivy League degree but being on the other side of it, I can see in ways he'll never understand how not-useless a degree is. Knowledge, training, education - they are more than tools, they are gifts we give to ourselves. That degree is a gateway to more than just a better job or a career path - it's the gateway to the self-confidence you'll need to go out and find your place in the big wide workplace.

I'm always going to be one step behind my colleagues -- always working that much harder to keep up, to grasp the concepts, to speak the language, to figure out what they know. Even if they don't know it, I will always know it. I want my children to know better. I want them to know every single little thing about that which inspires them. I want them to drive forward, not keep up. I want them to grasp concepts as much as they grasp tasks. I want them to think differently, bigger, broader, and deeper than I did. I want them to have the gift of instruction, of education, of knowing what is out there for them, beyond what they see everyday, more than what I can teach them.

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This Week In Gratitude

Only a minute ago she was walking into her first day of first grade, and now this.

last day 1st grade.jpg

She came home from her last day of school today and I squeeled OOOOH! A SECOND GRADER IN MY HOUSE! and she rolled her eyes at me in that way children do when they are faking annoyance at your utter uncoolness because they can't let you know how much it means to them that you're still so into them that you can't help but squee all over them.

Pro tip: I dont actually think that particular eyeroll ever goes away, so long as you keep unreasonably and insufferably loving the goddamn shit out of them.

Anyway, once she was done NOT SMILING AT YOU MOM and rolling her eyes, she came up to me, climbed in my lap, and once she was all snuggled in tight she asked, "Mom, what did you learn in 2nd grade?"

I thought. I really thought. I can still remember what that room looked like, the way the hazy east coast sunlight shone through the aluminum blinds and on to the wood grain desktops. I can still smell every smell in that room; dust, humidity, sweat, cocoa butter, rubber cement and chalk. I *cannot* remember any one thing that I learned inside of that classroom, however, save one thing: Adults can be very, very cruel to children.

It's weird that it took my grade two teacher to open my eyes to this. I lived with two of the cruelest, most sadistic adult human beings I will ever encounter in my life, but that is what is amazing about children - their infinite ability to love unconditionally and forgive repeatedly, and also to buy into your shit about "religion" and "discipline".

But my grade two teacher was not my mother. She was not anyone's mother, so far as I knew. She was the teacher-stereotype they make movies about, Ms Agatha Trunchbull in the flesh. She was a small woman, and grey all over - from her hair to her heart.

She particularly hated children in my cult sect of Judean-Christianity, as if we had some choice in the matter. I can't remember her name, and I don't remember the sound of her voice, but I remember the way her dingy blouse hung away from her flabby arms as she, every morning, would pull my friend's uncombed, unwashed red air up into tight ponytail with rubbber bands, and the way it hung stained with sweat every afternoon when she would rip those rubber bands out of her hair, not caring how much gorgeous read strands of hair she took with them.

I think that she hated poor people, that she was digusted by dirty children, that she dreamed of teaching at the school down the road from us full of middle-class white children whos parents packed them sack lunches and made sure their hair was combed and clothes were cleaned every day, not just on the first day.

shannon_grade2.jpg

We were not middle-class white children. We were children that they all wrote off, the ones they tucked away inside a high-security Section 8 neighborhood and left to play in dumpsters or the woods or the basketball court until we all got good and hooked on our parents drugs or vodka or hopelessness and rendered ourselves obsolete.

Almost no one cared about us, but few dared to show it the way my 2nd grade teacher did. She actively despised us, even the few of us that showed the promise of some potential. We were lost children, lost causes, social waste - and she made damn sure we knew it.  

I read somewhere that a child's perception of themselves is defined by the time they reach ages seven or eight. That gives us a very narrow window of time to instill a healthy perception of self. I can't remember if grade two was the year that I learned cursive, or the year I started to multiple large numbers, but I do remember that grade two was the year I realized someone thought I was worthless.

And I'm glad for it. 

I'm glad for it because it reminds me every day to tell *my* second grader how much I value her, respect her, adore her, love her. It reminds me to be kind to every second grader, every third grader, every eighth grader I come in contact with, because maybe they just need one person to counter some really horrible message someone else is trying with all their might to instill in them.

In second grade I learned that adults can be very cruel, and I am grateful for that, and for her, because in so many ways she taught me exactly would grow up not to be. 

Is Too a Word

This post is sponsored by Clorox® Ick-tionary. Just FYI for the FTC.

My kids' last day of school is today and I really can't even wrap my head around the fact that this year has already ended. I mean, we JUST moved here before the school year had started and if the school year is over, that means that I like OFFICIALLY live in Arizona or something, doesn't it? Even my seven year old daughter remarked that this year went by really fast, and nothing at all ever goes by really fast for seven year old girls. One minute, I had a bright eyed and bushy tailed 1st grader, and two eager boys ready to enter jr high and high school all shiny and Axe'd to the gills. Now I have three large kids all somewhere on the pubery-spectrum, and all completely over it. 

My house is about to smell *awesome*.

My children are all of the age when cleanliness is next to impossibleness. I keep telling my sons that no one makes out with the smelly boy, but they don't care. At 15 and 13, they'd rather be hung by their putrid toes than face the shower. For a while there, they were both showering really super regularly, but then I decided to move my daughter into my room so that the boys could each have their own room, and the daily (sometimes even twice-daily) showers came to a screeching hault. I can't imagine why. 

Even my seven year old daughter is so totally over bathing, and this is the kid who just last year would take baths for days. I could plop her in the tub and go write an entire novel; she'd stay there, happily waterlogging away, for as long as I'd let her. 

Of course, every blessing usually turns into a curse, if you just wait long enough. Case in point.

(That, my friends, is called a Poop-edo, or a Tubtanic, or how to get your seven year old son out of your one year old daughter's bathtub with little to no effort on your part.)

Those days of her daudling away hours in the tub are long gone, just like this school year is, but she takes swimming lessons so she's at least getting a decent chlorine-dunk twice a week.

Her brothers both take MMA. With adult UFC fighters.

MMA.jpg

You can't even imagine the smell. 

So I'm pretty excited to spend all day, every day, for the next 70 days or so with them in our adorable, but not terribly large, house in the middle of the god-forsaken desert during summer. 

And I haven't even started thinking about the trail of tears these children leave behind them everywhere they go. My son was home for 27 minutes today and it took me an hour to clean up the mess he made in that time. And then I remembered that it would have only taken me 16 seconds to yell at him for making it, and then I could have spent the rest of that hour watching him clean up after himself and knitting scarves for the winter THAT NEVER COMES HERE. I am slow, but I get there eventually.

Anyway. I've gone off topic. The topic at hand is the fact that my children are kind of gross, a-little-more-than-un motivated, and out of school for the summer, and (I think) competing for title of Best Mess Maker in Least Amount of Time. I call this The Alice Coup'r.

Or maybe their no-showering teenage-goopy butts are stuck in a tiny little house with me all summer long, because lord knows it's too hot to check the mail before 2:37 am, and what they are about to do to my poor house can only really be described as Stick(y)holm Syndrome

Life with kids is epicly icky. It is also very, very  funny. My car has had crabs, I've stood fascinated watching a child vomit out of their nose, I've attempted to catch vomit (#7), I've smelled wet sheets that were wet for all the wrong reasonsWe all have.

(Well, maybe not the sheets bit. I think you're probably smarter than that. Please be smarter than that.)

And that's the beauty of the internet - we get to laugh at each other. With. I MEANT WITH.  Clorox®, with the help of some of us who've been there & done that, created the Clorox® Ick-tionary – a wiki-style dictionary that we hope will become a new language of how we talk about messes and icky situations parents face, conquer, and laugh about.

It's kind of hilarious, really. From Board-‘oeuvres to Petrifries, if it's happened to you, it's going to show up in the Ick-tionary eventually. There are coupons for cleaning supplies to make your children scrub their black fingerprints off the walls with, interactive games to play (Match the Mess, which is kind of the safe version of Sniff the Stain, which I've done. In underwear I've found on the floor. I have no idea why. I am an idiot.) and new words to read every week. Each week will have a featured words - this week's featured word is Hippocratic Oaf (aka Germpocracy), which is something I won't be again for a long time because there is no more school to send my kids to even though they have Green 11's

You can actually submit your own awesome words for messed up stuff to the Ick-tionary at www.icktionary.com. I think I'll have a few words up there eventually (this one is me!), but I don't think anything is ever going to top Secret Garden.