The Dog (Walking) Days of Summer

captain_tired_2

As summer commenced, hope my 17-year-old son would land a job faded as quickly as my aspirations for an instant forty pound weight loss.

By the second week of June, his summer rhythm was set: Eating randomly at least six times a day, playing video games endlessly (after he pounded out 15 minutes of chores), staying up late binge watching Netflix and sleeping until noon.

My husband and I began brainstorming additional projects and chores to address his idle capacity.  One night over dinner, we decided that he should take the dogs for a walk the next day. Perhaps this thought was prompted because we had to buy him bigger shorts due to the six-times-a-day-face-in-the-refrigerator habit. Incorporating some physical exertion seemed like a prudent parenting move.

We knew we needed to set some parameters. This child needs expectations clearly set, since he has the genetic blessing of being able to argue the semantics about anything. He could walk them to and from the mailbox, “check the box” on the list and call it complete with a clear conscious. So we asked him to use his (“his” = the one we bought and pay for) iPhone, and turn on an activity tracker during his stroll. We asked him to walk at least three miles with the dogs, which we reasoned would be less than an hour out of his busy day. He agreed without complaining. That fact alone should have put us on high alert.

The following  evening, my husband asks to see the tracker, and our son opens the app and hands the phone to him. It shows exactly three miles. Passing the phone to me, I, out of habit and being obsessed with statistics, hit the “workout details”  button.

His fastest mile? “1:33” – One minute and thirty-three seconds. WTH?

My face twists in confusion. I look up and witness my spawn spontaneously bursts into a spin doctor. “What mom? Give me that. What did you do to it? It must be broken.There is no way. You are looking at it wrong.” Too bad he apply as a summer intern with a local politician – his gift of verbal deflection might have been put to better use.

His slowest mile? 22:45 – twenty-two minutes and forty-five seconds.

I silently gaze at him for a few more minutes, as his spew of verbal diarrhea loses steam. Finally, he succumbs to Catholic guilt and fesses up. He had started the tracker, and then got in his  (“his” = the one we bought and pay for) car, went cruising through our ‘hood, and then left the tracker turned on sitting on the kitchen counter – while he ate a snack after his exhausting five-minute drive – to let the total time catch up with the distance.

He didn’t even have the decency to take the dogs for a joy ride. I am pretty sure he bought their silence with cheese.

The consequence needed to be as creative as his little scheme. Channelling Dr. Phil, I asked myself – what is his currency? What is valuable to him? Instantly my thoughts turned to is his love of sleep. Waking him up in the morning (which I wrote about here: I Swear I Skipped the Poison Apple) is an adventure all on its own. Over and over as school winds down, all he says is “I can sleep as late as I want!”

So for the next 30 days, our dear Pinocchio,  must walk the dogs every day. Since he cannot be trusted, he must be awake, on his own, by 6:45 am so he can walk them before I leave for work. And if he fails to arise, two additional days are tacked on to the punishment period.

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So far, the dogs have walked over 40 miles and, as a bonus, those new shorts are a little looser. My neighbors have even commented that they see him walk the dogs everyday, and add sweet commentary like, “Isn’t that wonderful?”

Yep, Mr. Wonderful is counting down the days until he can pile up the Z’s before he is back in school. Hopefully we will also think twice before he tries to blow sunshine up my arse. Happy Summer y’all.

Driving Miss Crazy


As a mom of two boys, I believed potty training was going to be my undoing, until I faced teaching them to drive. Completely outsourcing either of these parenting joys crossed my mind, but there is no service to coach your kids to poo in the potty, and the Great State of Texas requires twenty hours of driving outside of driving school.

So my younger son could log some of these requisite hours, I planned for him to drive us to McDonald’s on a Sunday morning. We would make a mom and son date of it, and treat ourselves to some sausage biscuits.

connor_car
My youngest son posing with the Shag-uar. 

My son, who normally cannot be roused before noon on a weekend, is up at 8am on the designated Sunday morning, keys in hand and ready to go. After I fortify myself with coffee, we venture to the Golden Arches in our 11 year old, 150,000 mile white Lexus SUV. I like my sons to drive this car because it is not exactly a babe-magnet.

As we approach the fast food restaurant’s corner, I feel like he is going a little fast, but say nothing. As he passes the entrance I snap, “Aren’t you going to turn?”

And so he does. Immediately he jerks the steering wheel right, without the benefit of the brakes. The SUV veers into the grass and ramps through the small ditch, tearing through the pristine landscaping.  The car plows through bushes, hits a curb as it passes the last plant, and then the Lexus catches air before it lands with a crunch on all four tires, at a dead stop. I have a flashback to the General Lee during the Dukes of Hazzard opening credits.

I confirm there are no physical injuries, and I undo my seat belt. I see tears well up in my son’s eyes, as I exit to examine the car.

Pink petunias cling to the windshield wipers that sway back and forth in front of my son’s distressed face. Grass and random vegetation spikes out from the grill, and radiates from the undercarriage. One lonely boxwood, branch trapped in the crease of the hood, dangles, roots exposed, in mild shock.

My son steps out, wipes his eyes and asks, “What are we going to do?”

“Eat sausage biscuits, and then, you will drive us home,” I reply.

“I can’t!” he claims as he drops his face into his hands.

“Yes, you can. Now let’s eat,” I answer.

We ate.  And he did slowly drive us home.  A six-year-old on a bicycle passed us.

In the end everything is fine. However, in retrospect, the cashier did look rather confused when I tried to order a McBloodyMary.

It’s a Book Thug Life


As parents, many of us are downright obsessed with encouraging our children to love reading. Over and over again, we are told of its importance, and the teachers send home endless reading logs and stand ready with the roll of stickers to reward the effort. The effort being all parents everywhere, remembering to make the kids fill it out, and then we sign it with a handy crayon in the carpool lane.

As an avid reader, I recently exploded with book thug happiness as part of a social media launch team (#the4500launches) for The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner (shameless plug –> www.ruthwariner.com) which included not only my first Advance Reader Copy, but the book ranked as a New York Times Bestseller upon its release. So the drive to instill such passion in my kids came naturally in my maternal role.

book

As a parent, I certainly had my shares of failures (potty training, teaching them to drive, self-initiated hygiene); however, having them slightly obsessed with books I chalk up to a win.  However, as I bask in the glow of this child rearing triumph, I recall there were some interesting conversations with the elementary school.

Few things strike fear in a parent more than seeing the number of the elementary school pop up on your cell phone in the middle of the day. I am uber organized enough that I have saved all the “incoming” phone number variations (um, yeah, there was considerable opportunity to do so). Even to the point I have them identified by caller ( for example, the vice principal’s office versus the nurse).
My youngest son has been on a first name basis with both throughout his school career. Let’s just say I wish I had a quarter for every time another parent recommended the book The Strong-Willed Child to me. He is definitely one to always push the envelope and test boundaries.  I’ve often joked that there should be a Little Golden Book entitled You’re the Reason Mommy Drinks.

But I digress, one day while I’m at work, the caller ID shows the vice principal from the elementary school, where my son is in first grade, is calling my phone. With a very short prayer (ok, prayer may be a loose term, I think I said “Oh my God”) I answered the call.

My dear boy had requested a hall pass to go to the bathroom. Please understand that our school are all “open concept” (which is latin for “total distraction opportunity and zero noise control”). This means the toilet-tarium is centrally located for each pod of eight classrooms. Please note that I think one can delineate a direct correlation with “open concept” schools and the trend in ADHD diagnoses, but I will save that rant for another day.

So after acquiring his pass, he beelines for the library. Now being interrogated by the Vice Principal for his bad choice, he explains that today was supposed to be library day.   However, they didn’t get to go because of a meeting being held in said library, so the teacher made all the children turn in their library books. My son was panicked, he had not finished his book. What if someone else checked it out before he got to it? So he faked the urgent need to urinate, believing he could casually pop into the library and re-check the unfinished work of literature.

I am pretty sure the teacher thought twice about letting him have a hall pass the rest of the year. On the bright side, the he became the librarian’s pet student for the rest of his time at the school.

This pet-status came in handy a few years later during the annual Scholastic Book Fair. I forgot to leave cash for him, as I promised (#parentingfail) before I left town the day before. He didn’t want to ask his dad because he thought he would say no. So my child shows up at school with my checkbook, and started writing checks for this purchases. He had “signed” the checks beforehand, so that it would appear I had endorsed (literally) this approach.

The librarian, bless her heart, was barely holding in her laughter when I answered that call. Luckily since he was eight, no forgery charges were to be filed. Good thing, can you imagine what they might do to a book thug in the clink?

 

 

 

Yes, I Kiss My Children With This Mouth


I am known among my circle of friends for a lot of things. My off-kilter sense of humor. My dramatic storytelling. My ridiculous addiction of saving lost animals. But, perhaps my most infamous trait is my potty mouth. There are merchant marines who have asked me to “clean it up a little”. I thought I had tempered my language for naughty words as I became a mom; however, a couple of situations with my children proved otherwise.

When my oldest son was four years old, he was in a great Montessori school. The headmistress at this preschool did not mess around. To say she lacked any evidence of a sense of humor is putting it politely. She was not unkind to the children, but she had zero tolerance for any monkey business.

So, as I sit at my very open desk at UBS Warburg Energy, my co-workers hear me say “Oh Sh!t” as I see the school number appear on my caller ID. They then perk their ears for my side of the phone call from the Take-No-Crap-Montessori- Headmistress:

“Yes, this is Evelyn.” “He said what?” “Oh my God.” “Um, yes, I will come to the school now.”

My co-workers do not have to solicit an explanation.

“My son had a friend grab a toy away from him. So my child, and in loud voice with perfect enunciation, looked at the playmate, and said ‘F%^& You.’ I do not know if I am horrified or slightly impressed that he used it in proper context.”

Not to be left out, my youngest had his moment in the cussing spotlight. Several years later, we took the boys to a Texas A&M football game. My youngest was four years old (I sense a trend).  This child has understood football since he was two. As an infant, if you turned the TV channel off of a football game, he would cry until you returned the channel to the game.

My kids had their handheld game devices to help keep them occupied. The Aggies were playing Colorado, and the game had been very close – trading the lead over and over.

At the end of the fourth quarter, A&M was ahead, but in the last seconds Colorado tied the game –  so we were headed for overtime. We are surrounded by old Ags, and there was audible disgust that we did not hold the lead. As the stadium sounds quieted around us, my youngest, in coke bottle glasses, adding to his appearance as an innocent child, glances up from his Gameboy, and at full volume declares:

Colorado scored! Son of a b*tch.”

Everyone in our immediate area busted out in laugher. My husband shot me the “I wonder where he heard that” look, just to cover his butt.

So, me and my mouth have managed to leave quite a trail of stories. And as “offended” as some people will pretend to be, they often request I tell these stories over and over. What can I say? Love me, love my mouth.

Parking Lot Personality Test


I have a very unique gift. I can tell a lot about a personality by the way a person parks. Three shining examples of my unique gift come to mind, that I will share here to illustrate my point.

One busy Saturday, I was in the grocery store parking lot when a sedan rushed into one of the parking spots marked by a sign with a big, pink Stork sign that says “Reserved for Expectant Mothers”.

Out of the car jumped a man, who from his appearance, seems to be, in fact, 8 months pregnant. Perhaps with twins.

Personality assessment: Selfish Prick*.

(*Note: this personality type will never been seen on a Myers-Briggs assessment. I believe this is a gap in current personality assessment science, hence I will follow my instinct, and challenge the status quo.)

Perfect timing was on my side, as he left the store right in front of me as I completed my shopping and schlepped past him to my parking spot for the non-knocked up. He popped open his trunk and loaded 3 cases of (cheap, nasty) beer from his cart. My inner (sarcastic) spiritual guide prompted my comment, “Oh my goodness! Boy or girl?” as I demurely tucked my chin to one side, with a sweet southern smile, and looked at his expanding, yet assumingly uterus-free, mid-section. He looked at me, wide-eyed, and slightly confused. Bless his little, selfish heart. Obviously, he was going to give birth to a keg, given the contents of his shopping cart. I could only hope, for his sake, it was just a pony keg, or his “parts” would never be the same. But then again, it also may be sweet justice from the hand of the universe, and who am I to interfere?

My expression, in split seconds transformed to resting bitch mode, and I slowly turned my head and gaze to the giant pink stork sign, and then rotated my death stare back to him. One eyebrow cocked, smile replaced by a straight, tensed lip line.  Now he was really scared. And I threw down the classic, inner valley girl equivalent of calling someone a thoughtless moron.

“Really?” And with that quip, I flipped my blond ponytail and continued to my car.

The second parking episode was more insightful and less dramatic. I arrived at daycare right before 5pm one day to pick up my darlings. As I carefully turned into the parking lot, a Lexus screeched into the lot, through the drive clearly marked “exit only,” and parked diagonally in the Handicapped reserved spaces – taking up both designated as such. A tall, uppity woman, jumps out of the car, curtly speaks into her cell phone saying “I will have to call you back,” and struts into the school. I hurry, disappointed I lack any snacks to enjoy while I watch this drama that is certain to unfold.

Personality assessment: Uppity, self-absorbed, slight narcissistic, being-her-husband-would-be hell, she devil*.

(*Note: Same gap in current personality science. Raise your hand if you do NOT know someone who falls into this category. Anyone? Bueller?)

She has been summoned by the center’s Director, who is waiting for her. This woman’s son is being sent home because of his behavior. What happened, you ask? HE REFUSED TO FOLLOW THE RULES. Shocking! Where on earth could he have developed this sense that rules do not apply to him? Truly a mystery? Not so much. We have a saying here in the South, “The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  And his tree was a self-absorbed, rule breaking when she felt like it, hot mess. Good luck, Momma – he is five now. Might as well start hoarding away some money for a probation fund instead of a college savings account.

My last example is profound. Here is how a teenage boy I know parked in his driveway:

Talented 16 year old parker.
Talented 16 year old parker.

 

Notice, he backed in, inches away from both the tree and the back fence. I happen to know that car has no back up camera, nor sensors to help guide you. What does this tell me? Simple.

Personality Assessment: Self-preserving and thoughtful*.

(*Note: It is a maternal characteristic in this case.)

He was trying to avoid having his mother back straight into his large vehicle with her tiny car with sensors. You see, over the years, she had run over so many soccer balls, tree branches, and the like, that a little crunching sound as she backed up never fazed her. She just kept going.

And recently, that resulted in her scratching the crap out of her BMW, and dully scratching the front of his car. She is not selfish, just distracted.

And she was born blonde.

And she writes this blog.

Poor kid, he barely had a chance.

Colossal Emergency “Need to Pee” Parenting Fail


All the recent talk about cars due to the accident drama (https://wornoutwomen.com/2015/06/26/fender-bender-etiquette-tips/  and https://wornoutwomen.com/2015/07/09/have-toenail-will-travel/  ) has reminded our family of another infamous car moment.

We live outside of Houston, Texas and as dedicated Former Students, we had season tickets to Texas A&M Football for about nine years. We made this quality family time – or at least always attempted to make it such. One night will forever go down in our family lore.

One night we were making the 77 mile trek home (yes, exactly 77 miles – when you are exhausted and trying to get home you know exactly how far it is). It was probably 8  or 9 pm. Our boys were about 13 and 11 at the time. Both dozed off in the car on the way home.

About 18 miles from home, in the middle of NOWHERE, Texas, the 13 year old wakes up in a panic.

Tween: “Mom, I gotta PEE”

Me: “We are nearly home – just hold it”

Tween: “I can’t! I gotta go really bad!!”

In my husband’s family, there are a plethora of stories concerning long distance car trips, in a Dodge van, that involved urination in soda cans, McDonald’s cups and even a dog dish. So my husband hands back an empty Ozarka water bottle and tells him to just use this.

A water bottle makes a lousy substitute for a bathroom.
A water bottle makes a lousy substitute for a bathroom.

Famous last words. So I hear my son struggling down his shorts behind my head, hear the sound of liquid hitting plastic briefly and then..

Tween: “OH NO!”

I turn my head to the left as I see a high pressure stream of pee hit my husband in the back of the head, witness it flying into the windshield, hitting the navigation system, radio, a/c controls, and feel it sweep across the back of my leather seat.

Me: “Omg, STOP!”

Tween: ” I CAN’T!”

She shower of urine continues flying all over the inside of the Lexus SUV, while his younger brother, who is strategically out of the line of fire, is laughing hysterically. You know you are an optimist, when you initial thought after it ceases is that you are so glad he didn’t have to poop.

Once we get home it is clear – we may have to burn the car. There is pee EVERYWHERE – all over the seats, carpet, ceiling, into air vents, etc.

And which parent drives this car to work everyday? That would be me. My husband’s words of advice? “Good Luck with this cluster” as he goes into the house to take a very long shower.

So I did what any other rational mom would do. I cleaned up the driver’s seat and immediate area. Monday morning, I drove straight to a very elite car wash in an area of town far from where I live. I arranged for the super detail cleaning with seats and carpet cleaning – the works! I explained, “My precious children spilled and sprayed lemonade all over the car! So it is going to be very sticky! I am so glad I found your service – I will be sure to tell all my friends about you.”

Best $180 I ever spent. Of course, the real kismet is that I kept this car for many years, and that tween drove it to high school for two years. He never did take a date in it. I wonder why?

Have Toenail, Will Travel


So thanks to my recent fender bender ( https://wornoutwomen.com/2015/06/26/fender-bender-etiquette-tips/  ) I have been driving my precious children’s vehicle for the last several week. Have you ever had the joy of riding in a car that is basically a driving recreation room for two teenage boys?

My youngest drives it to and from school and activities, and with my eldest spawn home for the summer, they are sharing a vehicle (I know, rough life). So the first day I get in the car, put all my “stuff” in it – purse, briefcase, yoga bag, lunch – I generally need more accessories than Barbie everywhere I go. I get settled into the driver’s seat, and 5′ 3″ me has to adjust everything since I managed to produce giant children.

Everything is dusty, empty soda bottles, wrappers (gum, not condoms) and then I spot something odd:

Really?
Really?

A ripped off piece of toenail. Dear God. Really? Can you tell from the picture that it is nestled gently in the scope of the dashboard near a vent? It is directly across from the passenger’s seat.

I have handled a lot of really disgusting situations as a mom: baby bed full of smeared poop, dead guinea pigs, blood spurting everywhere from a head wound, pneumonia phlegm – the list could go on for pages. But – I. AM. NOT. CLEANING. THIS. UP.

Kids learn by example? Not always. Have you ever known ANYONE who pulled off toe nail edges in the car and left then on the dashboard?

So I drive the car for the next week (my precious BMW is still in the shop as I write this), and as happens with city driving, periodically my yoga bag slides all over the back seat, or my open purse takes a dive to the floorboard and spills crap everywhere, or the cell phone slides off the passenger seat into the completely unreachable farthest crevice of the auto. But, the toenail? STILL there a week later. Did they superglue the damn thing to dash? Why is it still in place?

I do notice after one particular hot day, parked in an open lot under the Texas sun, it did appear to “arch” a little more into a curled position.

Ten days into driving the testosterone-fueled Toyota – still there. Fourteen days – my toe nail co-pilot is still reporting for duty.

Then, I make a critical error. I should know better. I ask a friend to lunch, and out of habit of southern politeness, I say I will pick her up. Minutes later, I realize what I have done. I have just asked a friend to get in the car, with the toe nail RIGHT in front of her seat. Sh*t.

So with a momma’s sigh, I get a rag, I go to the car, and whisk the mighty toenail to its demise on the driveway. With my luck, it will puncture a tire.

Fender Bender Etiquette Tips


I once heard that you learn from everybody; sometimes you learn what to do and sometimes you learn what not to do.  In the light of this advice, I would like to share what not to do in the case of a fender bender. I estimate in 30 years of driving, I have logged over 400,000 miles, the majority commuting from the suburbs into Houston. When your butt is in the car that much, eventually you’re going to run into somebody, or they are going to run into you. Therefore, I consider myself a semi-expert on how to act after a fender bender since I have a handful of relevant experiences. I will use my recent situation to share my top tips.

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Earlier this month, in evening rush-hour, I had another joyous occasion to exercise my expertise. I won’t bore you with the details. Simply put: a person’s front bumper made a rude introduction to my rear bumper in the middle of a busy intersection. Because were in the middle of this intersection, we pulled over onto a side street as to avoid creating a complete standstill on a busy road.

Tip 1: Don’t jack up everyone else because you have an “oopsy”.  If you can steer it, clear it.

We exit our cars, and examine the minor damage to the vehicles. The woman driver and her male passenger ask me for my insurance information. They say, “You need to show us proof of insurance NOW!” Picture the scene: Me, dressed from my professional job, and they have smacked their car into my pristine BMW convertible. DId I really give off the vibe of an uninsured motorist?

Tip 2: Don’t be a butthole. Really. No one needs this kind of crap, no pun intended.

I say calmly, “Of course, please get your information and we will exchange.” They start yelling at me, “We don’t have to give you anything! We had the right of way! This is your fault little girl!” (In my forever 17-year-old brain: Little girl? Dang, that Nerium night cream must be working. Should I ask her how old she thinks I am? No that would be narcissistic. Wait – just had car wreck, focus Evelyn..)

Tip 3: Unless you are a cop and your passenger a judge, we are not going doing a trial here.

So, the guy (note: did not use the word gentleman, since it does not apply) tells me he’s going to call the police “on me”. Realizing I will be the only rational one in this situation, I look at him and say “It’s 6 PM in Houston, Texas during weeknight rush hour. We’ve already moved the cars from the site of the accident, no one is hurt, and all we DO have is two dinged up bumpers. Exactly how many hours do you want to spend with me this evening?”

Tip 4: Don’t bother cops with this type of bullcrap. Please. They have real criminals to deal with and if being a jerk was a crime, we would need to quadruple the size of the judicial system.

He continues to act belligerent with me. He wants me to immediately admit this is all my fault. I explain that in these situations, you exchange information and the insurance companies figure it out. That is, in fact, what insurance companies do.

I remain calm while the guy is now whipping his cell phone around, taking a pictures: their bumper, the empty intersection aka “the scene of the crime”, etc. As he is frantically taking pictures, I reason if he points his phone at me, I am going to inquire if it has “wide-view” or “panoramic” settings, turn around and moon him and all of creation with my ample, pristine, white southern butt.

Finally the driver tells me her name, but still doesn’t want to show me her ID. Really? Even people in witness protection have a fake ID they can flash.  So, I hand her my ID and insurance card, and I offer to get her my business card, because it will be easier since it has my name and number.  My business cards clearly have my title under my name: Partner.  99% of people who see my business card with no context assume I am an attorney, not an over-glorified accounting business consultant. Amazing how quickly her asshat passenger shut-up when he saw my title. (Note: They never asked nor mentioned anything about me being an attorney. I never implied it. I just gave them my card and let their I.Q.’s do the rest.)

Tip 5: Always leverage your assets to your advantage. In this case, the advantage was the passenger finally SHUT UP.

So once she has copied everything down, I think she even momentarily considered swabbing for my DNA, but reconsidered.  Ready to get in my jacked-up car and go anywhere far away from them, I say “I’m sorry this has happened. It is an inconvenience but thank God no one is hurt.”

Tip 6 Someone has to decide to be the adult in the situation. Note there is very little traffic on the high road.

The driver then leans over and HUGS ME. Um, you were screaming at me five minutes ago, WTF? I am sure the look on my face was one of confusion. I am waiting for the cameras and the announcement that I am being punked.

Tip 7: Don’t hug the stranger you just yelled at. It could be easily confused with assault if they want to get you back for your crazy behavior.

The next day, I give my taped statement to the adjuster. Let’s just say, if it wasn’t bound by confidentiality, it would be on YouTube, because even he cited it as one of the most “articulately colorful” ones he has heard in a while.

To give you a taste, I asked during the taping, “I know I cannot cuss, but Dickweed is just a proper noun, right?”

This Mom’s Opinion: Group Projects are Hell on Earth


As another school years winds to a close, I reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly of the school year. Hands down, the ugliest moments throughout elementary, junior high and even high school, time and time again, was group projects. At times, I was sure group projects were going to be either the death of me or the catalyst for my incarceration.IMG_1178

Every single one was a cluster. Kids who don’t have each other’s phone numbers or even a last name. Confusion over who was doing which part. Everything (barely) coming together the last-minute before it was due. All my kids ever learned from it was crisis management.
The landmark of all our experiences was in an AP level history class my oldest child’s 10th grade year.
She assigned a class project that involved groups of two working on a comprehensive multimedia presentation. It had to be brought together in PowerPoint, including a movie. All fully referenced with footnotes and a bibliography. Did my son get paired with a responsible, cute, A-type, honor roll girl? No. My son was paired with another fifteen year old boy, who we were unaware had a promising future in fiction. They had about three weeks before the due date.
This stupid project was due on a Monday. The week before the due date, my son’s part was complete. The Friday before, my son’s partner informs him that he is going to Egypt for the weekend. Yes that Egypt. Please remember we live in Texas. So, therefore, he was going to be unreachable all weekend. But don’t worry, he would meet my son early Monday to give him his part in the library, where they would use a school computer to merge it all.
My son tells me this on Sunday afternoon. I spit my wine, and switched to hard liquor.  And, of course, he doesn’t have the kids cell phone or home number. My son swears this kid is “his good friend” and “won’t let him down.”  So I decide to let this play out. I tried to add his picture to Wikipedia under “gullible”, but decided that might be considered “social media child abuse” by pansy Child Protective Service workers, and I chickened out.
So come Monday morning, my son goes to the library and waits for his dear friend to show up. No show. Not early, not at school AT ALL. The teacher says they can turn in Tuesday, but now it’s already 20 points off for being late.
My son comes home that afternoon, he knows where the kid lives because he went to his house once for a birthday party 6 years before, so I use google maps to find the house address, cross-reference the property tax records to find the last name, then use the internet to find the home number. The FBI has nothing on a pissed off mom.
I call the house and I get the kid’s mother. The kid is not home. She tells me my son obviously misunderstood; her son was camping with her husband over the weekend. I asked her if his part of the project was done, and she says “Well I don’t know what project that is, but I’m sure it is. He’s a good student.”  Counting to ten s-l-o-w-l-y in my head, I ask her to have her son give my son a ringy-dingy when he gets home. Oh, he stayed home with a headache that day – and was now out riding his skateboard. Um, yeah. Maybe I will be Parent Of The Year with her as my competition.
So at about 8:30 pm, this kid calls my son and says his part is all done, and, before he goes to bed, he will email it to my son so he can put it into the presentation.
My son waits up, the email does not come by midnight. My son gets up at 4 AM, to an email that’s only been sent 20 minutes before.What is attached, is the most slapped together, half-assed, unreferenced piece of crap project slides possible. Black typed words on a white slides; no color, no pictures. My son cranks up two computers, and start both merging and fixing the second half of the project. My son smeared as much lipstick on that pig as he could, and gets it ready to submit.
At this point, I am livid. You could see me from outer space I am so lit up with this whole situation. Yes, kids need to learn to fight their own battles, but when your child’s trusting nature has been so violated – Mama Bear comes out for a visit.
I show up at the school that morning and I go into the counselors office. The secretary asks if she can help me.
ME: “Do you recognize me?”
SECRETARY: “Honestly, no.”
ME: “That’s because I don’t show up here until sh*t hits the fan. I need to speak to someone about a serious issue my son has had with another student on a project.”
SECRETARY: “I am afraid you need an appointment to meet with someone.”
ME: “No I don’t. And you should be slightly afraid because I am furious. I’m not leaving until somebody speaks with me or you call the police to have me forcibly removed.”
So, this was the end of the grading period, and the grade they receive results in my son getting kicked out of the AP class over 2/10 (0.2) of a point in his grade point average. I called the director of instruction for the school to file a protest. She calls me back, and leaves me a voicemail. She says that after carefully reviewing all of the records and circumstances, she and the instructor decided that  the best thing for my daughter is to move her down to the on-level class. You should have seen the mushroom cloud over Cypress, Texas when I got that voicemail.
I called her back. I thanked her for her obviously detailed review everything that it happened; but, by the way, my daughter has a penis –  and I hung up on her. I continued to argue with school administration, until it was ridiculous, but ultimately, I lost the fight.
His project partner flunked out miserably. And, ironically, they both got moved down to the same on level history class.
My son ultimately did well in the rest of high school, knocked his ACT score off the chart and got into the school of his dreams. He prefers to do individual projects at this point. But, he will never believe any one who says they are going to Egypt.

Handy Tips for Traveling with Your Spawn


My husband and I both love to travel, and because we had our children young, most of our traveling adventures included the kids. My youngest son had visited seventeen states before he made it to Kindergarten. Along the way, literally, we noted a few key “Do’s and Don’ts”, so in the interest of public service, I wanted to share.

  • Never give your carsickness-prone child red Gatorade the first 30 minutes you are in a rental car driving him through the mountains.  You will spend the remainder of the vacation trying to air out the smell of regurgitated Gatorade. Note, very few car interiors are red, so if the puke smell does not get you,the fumes of Spot Shot fabric cleaner may finish you off. Obviously, it is worth the risk when you consider the full price of the vehicle may be charged to your credit card when rental agency gets a sniff and a look.
  •  Always keep an eye on your children when going through security. Especially in a foreign country.  One time departing Ireland, the person in front of us going through the metal detector started screaming and created a panic. As all hell is breaking loose in the post-9/11 airport security, I looked down to see my five-year-old diving under the x-ray machine security to grab a quarter that had rolled off of the x-ray belt.
  • Ninety-nine cents ($ 0.99) worth of dishwashing detergent is not worth going to a Mexico prison. On our way back from a Cabo San Lucas family vacation, I packed the remaining dishwashing liquid I had bought there, trying to be frugal. The Mexico border patrol at the airport was very alarmed upon finding it because it was “Dawn Now with Bleach”. He opened it, smelled it, asked my intentions of bringing on the plane. Bleach is a banned substance on planes. Please note.
  • Sleep juice when traveling overseas is very important if you don’t want to waste the first day of a trip due to jet lag.  As we took off for Ireland, my kids asked for their sleep juice, and I got an alarming eyebrow raise from the flight attendant.  I explained it was Benadryl, and I wanted them to sleep on the seven hour, red-eye flight so they would be bright as daisies when we landed. When the beverage cart came around, she offered me wine, and asked if it was time for my sleep juice. Smart lady.
  • Read all warning signs.  In an animal preserve on Fota Island, I encouraged my kids to get very close to a baby wallaby so I could take their picture. As I finished, I noticed a sign next to the animal that said not to approach or get close, as they can randomly attack.  Oops.
  • Try not to look like the other tourists, except when it is too funny not to. We hiked up a hill to see a stone circle which dated to the bronze age, along with our kids and my husband’s parents. As we approached, there was a group of people, dangling crystals, dancing, and one lady throwing herself over each rock trying to find God-knows-what. Immediately, my father-in-law pulled out the rental car keys, closed his eyes, and began to hum as he twirled them over a rock. My oldest child, put a hand on top of one short rock and began dancing around it. My youngest did this:

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I once asked my pediatrician if he thought it was ok that we took our kids all these places, and his answer was “well, you  know they HAVE kids there, right?” Don’t be afraid to get out of the traveling comfort zone with them in tow. One my friends describes vacation as “where I do everything I do at home, but with less convenience.” Last year she took her three kids, plus a spare to Costa Rica. The memories are worth the inconvenience. Bon Voyage.

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