Sunday, September 20, 2009

But I'm Not On My Horse!

There's a new Sarah Jessica Parker movie coming out. I don't know when exactly, and I can't look it up because I don't remember what it's called. I also can't recall the name of the lead actor to save my life. In truth, I'm just proud of myself for going to a movie last night, and for making it in time to even see the previews - though sadly not to enjoy the tub of popcorn or giant box of Goobers. But despite my mommy-induced short-term memory loss, I think I want to see this movie... if for nothing else than the scene I saw last night. It's one of those comic distance shots that shows a horse galloping across the screen. Seconds later the camera catches SJP running behind it screaming, "But I'm not on my horse!"

Oh Sarah Jessica, I feel your pain. I don't know why you aren't on your horse; I'll have to pay $10.00 sometime this fall? (winter?) to find out why. But pre-school started a couple of weeks ago in our house, and these days I feel like shouting to anyone who will listen - especially the teachers at carpool - "Just give me a minute! Please! I'm not on my horse!"

Specifically, I'm not on the Young 5's horse. See, Ella - being a July baby and therefore a "young 5" - had the option of going to Kindergarten this year. Which seemed like a bad idea at the time and seems like a worse one now. Thankfully, the church pre-school she's attends offers a special program for kids like her, who are of age but aren't quite ready for the realities of public Kindergarten. (i.e. - listening to and obeying the teacher all day) It's kind of like boot camp for these kids, who are about to enter 18 years of military academic service. At least, that's what I thought the program was all about.

Until Curriculum Night...

"OK parents, we're getting these kids ready for Kindergarten next year, so school begins promptly at 8:30 every morning. We'll be marking tardies, so make sure your little ones aren't late. Also, please don't let them bring their breakfast to class. If they're eating their breakfast, everybody will want a breakfast. And as far as homework is concerned, we will be sending home an assignment every night. It shouldn't take long to complete, but please make sure that your child is the one completing the work."

Oh sweet Lord. This isn't Young 5's Boot Camp. This is Mommy Boot Camp!!! I mean, we're never on time to school. That's why I count on late drop-off! And how else am I going to feed my child breakfast if she's not allowed to bring her baggie of Honey Nut Cheerios to class? And HOMEWORK? What does she mean 'homework'???

Needless to say, I saw my horse galloping off without me. And for two weeks I've been chasing it across the movie screen of my life screaming, "Wait! I'm not on my horse!"

Ella was late to her first 3 days of school.

She hasn't taken her breakfast to class, but I suspect she was hungry more than one morning.

As for homework? Well, all I can tell you is that being a former high school teacher doesn't help when your student is a HARD-HEADED FIVE YEAR OLD. I may need an extra happy pill just to carry me through handwriting practice.

But God bless her, it turns out my daughter loves school. Who knew, after last year's tumult? My little girl actually loves school.

Last weekend, Ella brought home a book report assignment. Her job was to listen to a book, choose her favorite part, and draw a picture of it in her journal. True to the nature of my life, I remembered her book report at 8:00 on Sunday night.

"Oh my goodness Ella, we have to do your book report!"

"No Mommy, I already did it."

"You did? Really? Um, how about you show me."

Ella returned a moment later with her journal, and I flipped it open to the first page. Sure enough, there was a picture there.

"Ella, what book did you do?"

"Cinderella. I read it all by myself and then I drew this picture. See? There's Cinderella and there's the Fairy Godmother."

It was a pretty remarkable resemblance for my artistically-challenged tomboy.

"But what's this red squiggly line around them?" I asked.

"Oh Mommy," Ella replied. "That's the magic."

Oh. The magic. I LOVE the magic. It makes me tear up just thinking about it.

Except that it's Sunday night again, and Ella has another book report due. I don't think the magic is going to help me this time. Page 2 of her journal is blank.

Heaven help me, I've got to catch that horse...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

There Once Was a Girl

There once was a girl who had a curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good, she was very, very good.
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

I don't know who wrote this four-line description of my eldest, but I certainly can't take credit for the author's brilliant insight. I suspect it's taken from a children's book though, since both my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law - who are teachers - quote it all the time. Usually while watching Ella doing something naughty.

Not that she's naughty all the time. She's not. Sometimes she's good; indeed "very, very good." And sometimes she just takes after her daddy, who's doesn't score real high on the compassion scale. No, compassion isn't really wired into Ella's personality.

I saw this particular side of her nature revealed last week when my parents came over to give me a hand in the yard. I don't usually mind yard work; it's the landscaping that gives me fits. Mom and Dad graciously offered several hours of manual labor and landscaping insight, and I was pleasantly surprised when they arrived and Darcy bounded out of the truck ahead of them.

Darcy is my sister's sweet-natured, fuzzy black mutt. Practically a daughter, granddaughter, niece, and cousin to our family. She also does phenomenal clean-up work in my car and on my kitchen floor - which were particularly gross that day - so I was very happy to see her.

Darcy was an angel all day long, despite spending much of her time "training" in the front yard. She was tested several times throughout the day by the various dogs who strolled by - and one particularly big dog who lives across the street. But she did great, and by the end of the day none of us were paying much attention to her as she laid resting in the grass.

Then a neighbor came over to say a quick hello, and when she left Darcy was gone. I mean gone. She was absolutely nowhere to be found. The yard work was suspended as three adults and four children embarked on a mission to find my sister's AWOL dog. Nearly an hour in, with Ella sitting in the front seat on her Mimi's lap, my daughter sighed sadly and said, "I sure hope we find Darcy soon."

"Oh honey," I replied, "we'll find her. She's going to be okay."

"That's good," said Ella. "Because I'm getting hungry!"

Oh. "Well, I know we'll find her soon."

But we didn't find her, and soon my mother was in tears. As I threw a quick batch of pancakes together - with Ella looking on - Mom cried on my shoulder: "I just love that dog so much! What if we don't find her? This is all my fault; I shouldn't have brought her over here."

"Mom, it's not your fault," I tried to comfort her. "I mean, really it's all our faults. We were all responsible for watching her."

"It's not my fault," Ella piped up. "I didn't bring her over here!"

Well, so much for comfort.

But as it turns out, we didn't need the comfort. While fixing "dinner," Mom and I started piecing a few clues together and realized that Darcy had probably followed my neighbor home and been accidentally shut into her garage. Sure enough, I went up to the garage door and put my ear near the crack at the bottom. The muffled bark I heard was perfect confirmation, since I know for certain my neighbor does not own a dog. An hour later - once my neighbor returned home - Darcy was safe and sound back at our house.

I don't think Ella noticed. She'd gotten tired of waiting and went to bed.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

School Days???

I've been counting down the days until the first day of school since the last day of school last year. No kidding. If you're friends with me on Facebook, you've seen my desperation-tinged status updates: "Only 136 days until the first day of pre-school. Yipee!"

So how, pray tell, did I manage to blow the first day of school?

Well, obviously it didn't sneak up on me. I mean, two weeks ago I was the totally sane and organized mother of three soon-to-be-pre-school students. For two nights in a row I showed up to attend Curriculum Night for all three girls. I met the teachers. I took copious notes. I signed up to help with the Christmas and Easter parties, and volunteered away my entire month of January to help out at the school. I labeled and filed the class lists so I would know just where to find little Susie's mother's phone number when my girls requested a playdate. I took the girls to meet their teachers two days later, and when I did, I arrived laden with every school supply on the list, plus a few extras "just in case."

So what happened? Where did that sane and organized mother go? Apparently, she was replaced by the crazy lady who - at 10 o'clock the night before school started - realized her twins were supposed to turn in their "All About Me" projects in just a few short hours.

What is the "All About Me" project, you ask? Well back when Ella was in this class, I wrongfully assumed that it was a piece of paper she could color, decorate, and paste pictures on to help tell the class all about herself. But it turns out that the "All About Me" project is actually a piece of brightly-colored cardstock that scrapbooking-crazed pre-school mothers use to show off their mad artistic skills, and photographs of their expensive family vacations to Disney World and Hawaii. Needless to say, my husband walked into the bedroom at 11 o'clock, looked at the pile of discarded family photos, gluesticks, markers, and stickers, and asked, "Um, should I sleep on the couch?"

Being the loving wife that I am, I of course responded, "I'M TRYING TO FINISH MY HOMEWORK! JEEZ, I'LL BE DONE IN A MINUTE!"

"Shouldn't the girls be doing their own homework?"

"You would think so, wouldn't you? But I'll let them put some stickers on in the morning."

I really planned to let them do so, but they kept sticking them on crooked. Plus, it turns out that in my rush to finish the "All About Me" projects, I failed to note the lack of clean clothing in our drawers. The first morning of school, I pulled off the girls' wet Pull-Ups, threw on some pants, and hoped the T-shirts they'd slept in didn't look too wrinkled. They didn't.

I'd show you proof, but I forgot to take the obligatory first day of school picture. Since I slept through my alarm clock that morning, I didn't have time to snap that enduring photo. I was too busy with four kids - getting their clothes on, their shoes on, their hair fixed, their teeth brushed, their tummies fed and their seat belts buckled. And yes, we were tardy.

Over a hundred days of counting down... and I still managed to be late.