So, once we made the rare sighting of the Pedal Tavern during our photo safari of downtown Nashville, we hopped in the car and drove for two hours to a place in the country where our family reunion was taking place.
I like to think of myself as an adventurous person, but I am much more comfortable with taking my life into my hands by jay-running between speeding cars in the city than I am with hiking through poison-ivy infested woods.
My daughter’s first priority for vacation was to go horseback riding. I’ve done this several times, so I know the basics: wear close-toed shoes, put your left foot in the stirrup first so you don’t end up facing the horse’s rear end, and don’t let yourself fall off. Despite the fact that my horse, Maverick, emulated his Top Gun namesake by showing no regard for anyone but himself and nearly decapitating me on low-hanging branches several times, I did pretty well.
It wasn’t until that evening that I realized my wardrobe mistake. Major chafage pain in the posterior region informed me that I should be less concerned about panty lines the next time I go trotting through the forest. I know this is TMI, but I feel it is my duty to warn my fashion-minded readers about the consequences of improper undergarments when riding a horse. No one thinks to tell you these things. Sure, they will give you a helmet to keep you from cracking your head open, but no one mentions the importance of protecting your crack.
I did get advice later on that day about the ramifications of picking up toads. The kids seemed so enamored with one that was hanging out by the sidewalk that I swept it up in my hands to give them a better look.
“Ewww. It’s going to pee on you!” approximately 10 people shouted to me at the same time.
Now, I’ve had held lots of strange animals – hedgehogs, snakes, tarantulas, hissing cockroaches, etc… And, a few of them have peed on me. It’s no big deal. You set the animal down, go wash off the tiny drop of urine and all is good. So, I wasn’t too intimidated by this warning.
Toad pee, though, is a bit different than hedgehog pee. Apparently, a toad’s bladder holds an unprecedented volume of pee. Picture yourself holding a water balloon that is the size of the palm of your hand, and a dime-sized hole suddenly opens in the bottom of the balloon. Oh, and to this picture, add a bunch of kids of various ages watching you closely to see if you are going to screech and pitch the poor toad 10 feet into the air as soon as it dumps urine all over you.
Ironically, my efforts to encourage the kids to observe nature more closely ended up with them observing me intently for signs of a freak out.
I will tell you , quite proudly, that I did not toss the toad. Nor did I freak out. In fact, I calmly held the toad for another couple of minutes – until it released another gallon of pee all over my fingers. Then I prudently set it down and said, “Well, that’s enough for now. Why don’t you go chase fireflies?” (to the kids, not the toad. Although I guess the toad might be interested in eating fireflies, too, but I was a bit too ticked off at him to be giving him meal or entertainment suggestions) and walked quickly to the bathroom to wash my hands.
Well, as quickly as one can walk when your butt cheeks are on fire.
So, the summer is almost over and I have gotten absolutely nothing accomplished.
Christmas gifts – none made.
Re-aquaintance with friends I haven’t seen during the entire school year – nope.
Closets – still a mess.
Novel – unwritten.
Weight – not lost.
New recipes – unlearned and uncooked.
On the upside, though…
Christmas gifts – none needed if I don’t ever get in touch with any friends again.
Closets – great excuse to continue to un-write my novel.
Weight – none gained while not eating the new recipes that I didn’t cook.
I blame my lack of productivity on Wonderbutt who, frankly, is not a very motivational presence with his habit of following me into every room, collapsing onto the floor, and snoring and farting contentedly while I try to focus and remember why I walked into the room in the first place before I succumb to the fumes that are partly my fault because I didn’t read the text from my husband that he had already fed Wonderbutt this morning – until it was too late.
Plus, he (Wonderbutt, not my husband) completely ruined my plans for today by yanking my blanket off the bed so he could nap on it, resulting in an unscheduled extra load of laundry and a complicated calculation of what time the blanket could go in the washing machine still leaving me time to run the dishwasher (which, of course, cannot be run concurrently), and what time the blanket would be able to go in the dryer so that I would still have it in time for bed. And when, precisely, was I going to take a shower? Because having a clean blanket would be kind of a waste if I just pulled it on top of my unclean, Wonderbutt-licked-with-affection legs and arms when I went to bed.
You can see what I’m up against. Lucky for you, you can’t smell it…
My school year began and ended with a wooden spoon.
At our first faculty meeting, we each received a wooden spoon. We were directed to think of someone we admired, and a trait that person exhibited that we treasure. On the front of the spoon, we wrote the trait. On the back we dedicated it to the person. Then, we were told to secretly put the spoon in the box of a faculty member who also appeared to exemplify that special quality. The spoons were supposed to be passed on throughout the year.
You can read about the hilariously ironic spoons I received here. I’m new to the faculty this year, so it’s quite obvious that no one really knows me very well.
Yesterday, the end of our school year, we got back our original spoons. To be honest, I had completely forgotten what I had written on mine.
Aside from receiving a spoon, yesterday was also notable because my daughter finished elementary school. To celebrate this distinguished occasion, I gave her a book, signed by all of her teachers, called, Heroes for my Daughter.
Last night, I told her that each night that I read to her, I also wanted to read one of the chapters from the book.
“Choose which one you want for tonight,” I said.
She skimmed through the notable names: Eleanor Roosevelt, Marie Curie, Gandhi, Lincoln, etc…. She suddenly erupted into what I affectionately call her “Beavis and Butthead” laugh.
“Guess who I picked?” she said.
“Dolly Parton?” I asked, knowing that she was well aware that I’m not a huge fan of Dolly Parton and it would be perfectly in character for my daughter to choose my least favorite person on this list.
“Nope.” She displayed the chapter for me.
“The Three Stooges,” it was titled.
I laughed. Then I remembered my wooden spoon.
“Hold on,” I said. I came back with the spoon, and explained its origin.
“Guess who it’s dedicated to?” I asked.
“The Three Stooges?”
I showed her. “Dedicated to my daughter,” I had written.
“And guess what trait I admire?” I turned it over.
And so we read about the Three Stooges, and their use of humor to bring attention to the atrocities of Hitler in their film, “You Nazty Spy!” two years before the United States decided to get involved in World War II.
That’s how I ended my first and only year teaching at the school my daughter attended – a year fraught with my struggles with depression, but frequently illuminated by outbursts of laughter, particularly during the times I got to spend with Dimples, my 10 year old hacker with the “Purple Mustache” who thinks it’s perfectly logical to name a female chihuahua “Steve”.
I work at my daughter’s school. At least, I did until today. (Don’t worry. I still work there. It’s just not her school anymore, as she just finished 5th grade.)
One morning, a couple of days ago, we were walking into the school. To the delight of many other students who were on their way in, a chihuahua who had obviously not read the “No pets on campus” signs clearly posted everywhere, was dashing around the entrance of the school.
“I recognize that dog,” my daughter said. “It’s the one that lives across the street from Gabby’s house. That’s Rex!”
“Hmm,” I said, noting the huge pink color adorning the neck of the chihuahua. “Uh, are you sure its name is Rex?” And, yes, I am well aware that is sexist. And somewhat unimaginative. I mean, it could be, “R.E.X.” for “Resist Extraterrestrial X-Rays.” Or, maybe, it was spelled, “Wrecks” as in “She Wrecks Every Piece of Furniture We Own.” Perhaps that’s what we should have named our dog…
“Oh, yeah, that’s Rex,” my daughter confidently responded, nodding her head with assurance.
“Because uh, it’s got a pink collar,” I pointed out.
“It’s Rex!” she said, mildly perturbed that I would doubt her canine identification skills.
“O-kay!” I said, not willing to begin the day with a war over the moniker of an animal.
“Or Steve,” she conceded, as I opened the school door. “It could be Steve.”
You know how you try to save yourself money on a gift, but you tell yourself that it would be more meaningful to make something than buy something and then you proceed to spend more money than you ever would have spent on a store-bought gift as you attempt to make something that turns out crappy and you try to fix it and it turns out crappier and then you think, “Who needs friends who are going to criticize your gifts anway? I’m just going to sit at home and watch The Big Bang Theory by myself for the rest of my life,” and you can’t even find a garbage bag big enough to fit the Giant Pinterest-Inspired Disaster that cost you $200?
So, it’s the end of the school year. Teacher gift time. Only this year is my daughter’s last year in elementary school, so she has decided to bestow 9 gifts upon the various people who have enriched her life. And, reeling from a Pinterest induced stupor, I suggested a project.
I spent my entire Sunday trying to find the supplies for this project, which included chalkboard contact paper.
There was no chalkboard contact paper to be found. I went to 5 stores.
I would like to take this opportunity to give Home Depot, Walmart, Michael’s, and Target the following advice – if you stocked your stores based on Pinterest boards you would make so much more money. And your employees would not look at me like I’m on crack when I ask for chalkboard contact paper.
The only reason I didn’t go to 6 stores is because Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays. So, I improvised. It turns out that my craft improvisations are just as successful as my recipe ad-libs.
I directed my daughter to use her chalk on the black shelf paper I had purchased. It looked great. Only problem? It smeared like crazy.
“Oh, I know what to do about this,” I said, and went to the bathroom.
To get hairspray.
I sprayed the hairspray on a swathe of chalk designs. They faded into black.
I tried 3 different hairsprays. My daughter was getting a bit panicked as I systematically set about destroying her nine masterpieces.
“Okay, that’s not working.”
The next day, I borrowed some super fancy spray for chalk drawings from the art teacher.
“You’re not going to spray that in the house?” Cap’n Firepants asked.
“I’m just checking to see if it works,” I said as I asphyxiated the two of us.
I told the art teacher, who then recommended chalk markers, which will apparently not smear, but can be removed easily with water. ( I didn’t really pay attention to the water removal option, as I figured, why would anyone want to remove my daughter’s beautiful artwork?)
“Where can I find this miraculous product?”
“Oh, Hobby Lobby should have it.”
So, Dimples and I trekked to Hobby Lobby. Which was open. Because it was not Sunday. We found the chalk markers. Right next to the chalkboard contact paper.
Dimples did not want to re-cover every notebook with chalkboard contact paper, so we opted for the markers. But I bought the paper anyway. For the inevitable next time I will need it. I also threw in some chalkboard paint. You can never have too many chalkboarding options.
She redecorated every notebook using the markers.
She put them on the floor to dry.
I think you can see from the pictures what happened next.
Poor Wonderbutt had no idea why I blew a gasket when all he was doing was chewing on his ball.
But I don’t blame Wonderbutt. I blame Hobby Lobby. FOR NOT BEING OPEN ON A SUNDAY WHICH IS THE ONLY DAY THAT I HAVE TIME TO DO PROJECTS THAT I FOUND AT THE LAST MINUTE ON PINTEREST.
I’m going to buy gift cards tomorrow.
And they won’t be for Hobby Lobby.
I swear on my bulldog, Wonderbutt, that this conversation occurred in our teachers’ lounge during lunch a couple of weeks ago:
Amy: So, how do you like that burrito from Habanero’s?
Penny: It’s okay. I’m not too excited about the rice, though.
Amy: Oh? Why?
Penny: Well, I’m just not a big fan of white rice. I like brown. You know, like, uh, Mexican.
Me: Isn’t that some kind of reverse discrimination?
Leonard (as he lifts a fork to his mouth): Yep. Otherwise known as “rice-ism.”
I’m going to be perfectly honest here and tell you that plants scare me. Between watching some sci-fi show where rutabagas screamed if you pulled them out of the ground and wincing through 15 minutes of The Little Shop of Horrors, I am absolutely convinced that plants are just biding their time until they take over the earth. This was difficult when I became a vegetarian for about 5 years, and the only reason I didn’t give up eating plants as well as animals was because the only other option available in my limited imagination was to become a vampire. And Twilight hadn’t come out yet, so that wasn’t really the fashion at the time.
So when my daughter came home from a trip to the nursery (plants not infants) with my husband, I was fine with not knowing what purchases had been made. Dimples, though, loves to share.
“Guess what I got!”
“Ladybugs?” I asked, hopefully. To me, those are the only benign living things available at the nursery.
“Nope. A Venus flytrap!”
Yay. Please don’t put it anywhere near the vicinity of my bedroom.
Since I wasn’t very encouraging when Dimples made the initial announcement, mostly because I was convinced that the Dusty Miller I killed in my classroom last week had ordered a hit on me and that her plant was a “plant”, I decided to try again at dinner time.
“So, what are you going to name your plant?” Thinking that giving it a name might de-creepify it somehow. Although that didn’t really help with Dusty Miller.
Dimples is not big on putting a lot of effort into names. Her blue fish is named, “Sky,” for example. And her stuffed dog has never even had a name. She’s had it for 7 years.
“Afro,” she declared immediately.
Great. So now plants and African-Americans will hate me.
“Uh, why?” That seemed a better response than, “Are you the only person in the world who sees naming a plant as an opportunity to be politically incorrect?”
“You know. Venus. Aphrodite. Aphro.”
“Oh,” my husband and I both breathed audible sighs of relief.
So, it seems I’m safe. Even safer now that she moved Afro outside after trying to feed it hamburger meat and attracting a bunch of ants to its strangely disinterested (because it only wants human blood) trappy little mouths.
Until she goes outside to check on it, and yells for the whole neighborhood to hear, “Mom, I think my Afro caught some bugs!”
Son, I’ve Made My Life Out of Readin’ People’s Faces, and You Don’t Know What the Heck I’m Talking About
To this day, probably the scariest two words you can say to me are, “Talent Show.”
“Hey Mom, guess what? I’m going to be in the 5th Grade Talent Show,” my daughter announced the other day.
“Really? Um, have I mentioned what happened when I was in my 5th grade talent show?” I asked.
Because it’s all about me.
“Well, I was with two other girls, and we were going to sing The Gambler, and I promised I would learn all of the words but I didn’t. And I stood there like an idiot, making up words to everything but the chorus, and completely embarrassed myself. In front of the biggest crush I ever had.”
“So, what are you doing for the show?”
“A Taylor Swift song.”
“Do you know the words?”
“Just the chorus.”
“That’s exactly how much I knew of The Gambler,” I said with a raised eyebrow.
I was pretty sure where this was leading, and I thought maybe nurture (or lack of it) could bypass nature, but a feeling of doom settled in my stomach.
This was going to be The Gambler all over again. The Circle of Humiliation following its inevitable path.
But it turned out that she changed her mind. She is now doing a skit with her friends. Which could still lead to embarrassment – but it will not be a musical one at least.
That, of course, is not the end of the story.
After school yesterday I ran across one of my students sobbing uncontrollably.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“It’s Lyric Check Day for the talent show, and I forgot to bring my song,” he sobbed.
“Well that shouldn’t be a problem,” I said. “Tell me the song, and we can go print it out real quick.”
“The Gambler,” he choked.
Wow. It really is all about me, I thought in amazement.
“Are. You. Kidding?!!!” I exclaimed. Probably not the best way to calm down a hysterical kid.
“I sang that when I was your age!” He looked at me doubtfully.
I decided not to relate the whole mortification in front of my possible future husband portion of the story.
“Let’s go get that printed out,” I said.
I realized what was going on. This was my chance. To redeem myself, to console this poor boy, to make a difference, to be a hero. TO BREAK THE CYCLE. We went to to the computer lab, and I pulled up the song.
He peered at the screen through his tears.
“That’s not it,” he said, somewhat hesitantly.
“Are you sure? You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to run,” I belted out. “By Kenny Rogers?”
“Who’s that? What are you talking about?” The tears had dried up. My singing has that effect on people.
“What are you talking about? Who do you think sings The Gambler?”
So, sure. That’s who sings it. And why he looked at me so doubtfully when I announced I sang it at my talent show. Before “Fun” was even born.
And the Humiliation comes full Circle.
Jon Stewart has been flirting with me, and I’m not really sure how to handle the whole situation.
I mean, I love him, but, you know, not that way.
I mean I could love him that way under the right circumstances, like if my husband told me he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, and it turned out he was really shacking up with Jon Stewart’s wife in Argentina.
But that would never happen. Probably. I’m pretty sure. Because my husband would rather walk a golf course than hike a trail, and I would be kind of suspicious if he said he was playing golf and he didn’t come back for a few days. Mostly because he can’t last more than 3 hours on a course without deciding that he completely despises the game and should never play again.
But back to the Stewart thing, you are probably wondering how I know about his not-so-secret crush. My answer is, “Well, women just know these things.” And that is true. We are amazingly attuned to men who are attracted to us. I totally knew, for example, when my dry-cleaner had a crush on me, even though it took him 18 months to inform me of this. And with him, there were really only two clues: 1.) he always had my form filled out before I even walked in the door, and Dos.) he kept giving me random discounts when no one else was there.
It was so obvious.
My two clues with Jon Stewart are: 1.) his recent hysterical interview with David Sedaris, who just happens to be my favorite author, and whose book I had just ordered on Amazon the same exact day he appeared on the Daily Show, and Dos.) his completely random attack on my sworn enemy, Donald Trump, who would completely justify someone’s use of “toupee-dar“.
I mean, for those two events to happen on his show within the span of one week is just way too much of a coincidence.
And then he announced that John Oliver will begin guest hosting on June 10th, and that just makes everything as clear as the unflavored Knox gelatin mixed with warm water that I paint on my daughter’s hair when she has to do a synchronized swimming performance.
Because June 10th is exactly when my vacation starts. And if Jon Stewart is not going to be hosting his show, just where exactly do you think he is going to be?