I was found out

My almost 10 year old lost a tooth the other night. Before bed he was complaining that his very wiggly tooth was bleeding and bothering him. “So yank that sucker out,” I offered my gentle advice. So he did.

He found a yellow plastic tooth from the dentist to keep his baby tooth safe and hid it under his pillow in hopes the Tooth Fairy will find it and leave a monetary gift. He has been saving for a gaming console so needless to say he was pumped.

After tucking him in I asked my husband if he had any cash. Nope. I only had a 2 dollar bill. A $2 bill that had been sent in a birthday card to my 5 year old by his great aunt, and that I had taken from him when he wanted to buy a toy at Target. It’ll have to do. I’m not sure how well other parents have been doing with this Tooth Fairy thing in this day and age of cash apps, but I rarely have cash on me. I usually end up in a mini panic attack about how I’m going to pull off being the Tooth Fairy to keep our children’s innocent love of a make-believe world alive and well for as long as possible.

But this time I failed. I was tired and did not feel like walking out to the garage a whole 20 feet away to get my wallet out of my car before I went to bed. No big deal because I usually wake up early enough to sneak that money under his pillow. This particular morning he woke up before 6am, however, and instantly became upset that there wasn’t any money under his pillow.

“Oh man. Did that darn Tooth Fairy forget again?” I tried to play it cool. And yep, I said again. This has happened before. That resulted in the Tooth Fairy (aka my husband) writing an apology letter explaining that she was just too busy to get to his tooth and leaving him a larger than normal amount of cash. “Well, it is still early, maybe she’s just running late. Go back to sleep.” He rolled over and closed his eyes.

I waited awhile to ensure he was sleeping soundly, slipped out into the garage, grabbed my $2, and crept back into his room. He didn’t move when his floor creaked under my weight. Perfect, I thought. I got this.

Let me quickly paint a picture of what his bed looks like for you first. He sleeps in a loft, the upper half of a bunk bed my uncle made for my cousins in the early 80’s. His guinea pigs are in a cage underneath. He also has about 15 stuffed animals strewn over his bed and 5 pillows in all shapes and sizes, and he uses all of them. Searching for his teeth is not always the easiest feat.

Just as my arm was deep under his pillows and my fingers had found his tooth, his guinea pigs began squeaking. High pitched and loud. He rolled over and looked right at me. “Shhhh go back to sleep. You didn’t see anything.”

He smiled and rolled back over. Because he is also a mild sleepwalker, I was hoping he wasn’t really awake and wouldn’t remember what he saw. A couple hours later he fully woke up for the day and was excited to find that the Tooth Fairy had in fact come with no mention of finding me in his room. Phew! I was in the clear. Or so I thought.

Later that evening, after I had been gone most of the day getting my classroom ready, I picked up the kids, and we went to get some groceries. We were walking through the aisles when he said, “Hey Mom, remember when I found you with your arm under my pillow this morning?” I burst out laughing, “Yes, yes I do.”

I had been found out. He knew it was me. He now knows I am the Tooth Fairy. And probably Santa and the Easter Bunny too. I know he’s at the age when this realization usually happens. But still. We all want our babies to stay young and innocent for as long as possible, don’t we?

After a few moments of us laughing at him reenacting how I looked when he woke up and found me, he said, “So what did you do with my tooth?”

“I gave it to the Tooth Fairy.”

“You know the Tooth Fairy?”

“Yeah, we’re best friends.”

He just looked at me and smiled wryly.

And that is how we left it. I know he knows. I know he knows I know that he knows. But we’re going to keep the magic alive anyway.

Summer Sara vs School Year Sara

Her teaching career began August of 2001.

Each summer since that first year teaching the distance between School Year Sara and Summer Sara gets further and further apart.

Summer Sara is unbelievably relaxed. Laundry not completed by Sunday evening? No biggie. She’ll get to it on Monday. School Year Sara would have an off week if things weren’t planned out and mostly finished by the time she goes to bed on Sunday. Her husband and children feel the wrath of her Sunday stress.

Summer Sara does not know how do anything to her hair except throw it up in a messy bun or sometimes a high pony tail. School Year Sara gets a fresh new haircut at the beginning of the school year and then lets her hair grow out all school year so Summer Sara is able to execute said messy bun daily once June rolls around. This summer she bought a canister of hairspray. Her oldest commented that he’s never seen her actually use it. “Oh don’t worry honey, it will be used when school starts back up, but Summer Sara barely even brushes her hair.”

School Year Sara has NEVER gone to work without foundation, powder, and eye lashes curled with at least 2 coats of mascara. That is her work face, and to be without, would throw off her entire day. Summer Sara can’t remember exactly what foundation is used for.

Summer Sara allows the dirty dishes in the sink linger much longer than School Year Sara does. Once that school bell starts to ring again, the kitchen must be cleaned and lunches made before bed time. There is no time in the morning to complete such tasks; School Year Sara has learned this well over the years.

Summer Sara attempts to accomplish some tasks that School Year Sara has put off for months. Closets will get cleaned out, walls are often washed, and doctor appointments are attended. And while ‘bigger’ household tasks have been completed by Summer Sara in the past, such as painting rooms, from experience School Year Sara has realized that Summer Sara desperately needs time to recover from the school year. Time to read and rest and just see where the day might take her. Summer Sara must use this time to remember and renew her love of teaching in order for School Year Sara to be ready come fall. So those long lists of summer must-dos have dwindled over the years.

Summer Sara generally does not know what day or time it is. Mornings quickly become afternoons and days turn into weeks. Fridays are uneventful because every day feels like a Friday. But School Year Sara knows exactly what day and time it is as she counts down to Friday.

Summer Sara doesn’t concern herself with what time she goes to bed. Sometimes she’ll stay up late writing or binge watching something on Netflix. Sadly, School Year Sara can barely stay up past 9pm. She puts her kids to bed and then herself.

Summer Sara has a difficult time getting herself up, ready, and out the door before 8am if her schedule deems it necessary. This is strange because School Year Sara has no problem getting out the door by 6:30am each and every weekday. In fact, 8am is like sleeping in for School Year Sara.

Now that it is August, Summer Sara is slowly saying goodbye. She’s trying to get up and go to bed earlier, she’s making plans to get her hair cut, putting on more make up when she leaves the house, and getting the laundry back on schedule. She even cleaned the entire kitchen before going to bed last night. It is a sad, difficult transition, but we must say goodbye to Summer Sara, and usher in School Year Sara.

Farewell Summer Sara, we’ll welcome you back in 8 months. Until then.

European Vacation

My husband and I just got back from our trip to London and Paris. We had an incredible time and are making plans to return. I could go on and on about what we did and what we saw, but instead, here are some of my noticings and musings.

  1. Guided tours are the way to go OK, I know others may say you should just immerse yourself in the culture and avoid those one size fits all tours that only highlight the most well known sites. However, when it is your first, and maybe your only, trip to these ionic places, go see the sites. You are in fact a tourist, so go ahead and act like one. Going to Versailles and the Louvre with a tour guide meant we got to skip long lines of people baking in the sun and be directed exactly where to go. We heard so much historical information that we may have missed if we were walking around on our own trying to translate the signs. In London, we got to see several touristy spots in a guided day trip. If we went to visit Buckingham Palace without our guide, we would have skipped it. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of people vying for a glimpse of the changing of the guards and knowing where to find a good spot to see the action would have been extremely overwhelming without someone with us who is in the know. I definitely recommend utilizing the experience and knowledge of the tour guides if you go to the touristy places.
  2. The underground transportation is an experience you can’t miss If it weren’t for my navigationally adept husband, I probably would have avoided the London Underground and the Metro in Paris. And that would have been a shame. Both were our primary modes of transportation, aside from walking, and what an amazing experience they both were. They provided fantastic people watching. One guy had his sunglasses on despite being several feet underground and a cigarette hanging from his mouth waiting to be lit. He was oozing French coolness that I’ve only ever seen on television. I felt like an authentic Londoner and Parisian while on riding on these subways, particularly when we were crammed in like sardines. I was in awe at those who could stand without gripping a pole and not even flinch at the lurching of the many starts and stops. But most of all, the level of consideration in those tube cars was refreshing. People offered their seats to others, no one complained when you lost your footing and fell into them, and when the exit doors were difficult to push open, a gentle reassurance in French was given instead of anger or annoyance. Again, I highly recommend taking these modes of transportation for the experience. But don’t forget to mind the gaps.
  3. The love of bread in Paris made my heart happy How do Parisians stay so thin and fit and still eat so much bread? It must be all of the walking. I saw an endless amount of people walking around with a baguette. No other bags of groceries, just the long loaf of bread in their hand as they walked down the beautiful streets of Paris. Parents with kids in strollers would walk into a small bakery, purchase a baguette and continue on their way ripping off pieces of the bread to share with their child. One evening we ate at a small sandwich shop, and several people came in to get a demi-baguette. They would put it in their purse and continue on their way. Incredible. One word of caution, however, do not put a croissant in your purse. Even if it is wrapped up in a small bag, not even if you are holding a scolding cup of cafe creme and digging around in your purse for your metro card, even then, do not put that croissant in your purse. It will flake all over everything. These golden flakes will, in turn, stick to everything. So messy. Nonetheless, it will taste delicious an hour or so later despite deflating a bit.
  4. Fancy cars and walking Expensive, flashy cars galore in London. Not just driving around, no they were just parked on the side of the street everywhere we went. My husband was a kid in a candy store pointing out all the shiny fast cars every 5 minutes or so. We even took a trek out to a McLaren dealership. It was fun to be around so much fanciness. So much walking. I thought I was prepared. I brought only comfortable sneakers to wear, I had been walking and jogging at least 2 miles a day for about a month before our trip, but I was not ready for the level of tired my feet and legs felt on this trip. My treadmill miles were no match for the stairs, gravel, and cobblestones in London and Paris. But all of this walking made the guilt of eating a croissant or two or three or five nonexistent. It allowed us to see and experience so much of both cities. We could go at our own pace, stop in any store or restaurant that looked interesting, and do even more people watching. I wouldn’t have done it any other way, achy feet and all.
  5. Everyone will try to hold up the moon We went to the Natural History Museum in London. It was free and right next to our hotel, so on a day we didn’t have much planned we figured, why not? It was interesting, but probably would have been more enjoyable having our kids with us. One of the exhibits was in honor of the 50 year anniversary of the moon landing. It was a big, mostly empty room with a huge model of the moon hanging from the ceiling. It was at this exhibit we realized this: No matter where you are from or what language you speak, if there is a huge moon hanging from the ceiling, people will stop to take a photo in front of it so it seems as if they are holding it up. Despite our differences or our language barriers or how far we traveled from home, we really are all the same at heart. The excitement when we come across a sweet photo op cannot be denied. We all just want to look as if we are holding up the moon.

Bizarre Monday Morning Questions

I had been up for a couple of hours when I heard stirring in my youngest’s bedroom. As I walked closer I could see flickers of sunlight dance into the hallway. He was checking to see if it was morning time, as he calls it.

Lately, when he wakes up, he comes barreling into the living room looking for me. But today as I peeked into his bedroom, he was just sitting on his bed talking to himself. He wasn’t in a hurry to get up.

“Good morning,” I sang to him.

“Are we going to stay people?”

Ummmm, what? Not the response I was expecting. Confused, I tried to ask a clarifying question suitable for a five year old.

“What do you mean stay as people? Like, not change into animals or something?”

“Yeah, are we going to stay as people?” he asked again, a little more firmly yet as simply as if he was asking for some fruit snacks.

“Yes,” I answered confidently, “yes, we stay as people.”

I was waiting for him to elaborate or tell me a story that would help give this seemingly urgent question some context, however, he just continued to sit there contently thinking and mumbling to himself.

But I had to know more.

“Did you have a strange dream, babes?”

“Yeah, I had dreams. Pac-Man’s eyes got scary and he tried to eat me.”

Yikes. “Well, that’s not a good dream. Maybe less video games for awhile,” feeling a flash of guilt for allowing possibly too much screen time this summer.

He must not have heard the last part of my comment because he did not protest. Instead he happily got up and started his day.

The answer he gave about mean Pac-Man didn’t fully answer why he asked if we stay as people, but I had a feeling I wasn’t going to get a detailed answer, so I Iet it go.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how bizarre his first remark of the morning was. When I mentioned it to my husband he connected it to his learning about caterpillars and reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle repeatedly.

That seemed like a logical explanation. But of course my imagination gets carried away sometimes, and throughout the day I found myself wondering what he meant by that question. Should I be concerned? Or impressed? Is he having some deep enlightenment about the human soul? Is this him trying to understand loss and death? Or is he simply wondering/worried about morphing into something else like a mean Pac-Man?

I will likely never know exactly what caused him to ask that question. I will only be able to continue to ponder the crazy dreams his little brain is creating. And I have a feeling I will forever remember the question, “Are we going to stay people?’

Should be fun to bring up again when he’s a teenager.

A little love post on my youngest’s birthday

My youngest is 5 today.

He was a bit of a surprise. We wanted him of course, but after a couple years we figured another it wasn’t meant to be. We began talking about fostering and adopting.

But then, a baby was on its way. There was a moment of fear at one of my first doctor appointments. A heartbeat couldn’t be found, and I was ushered to the ultrasound room. I asked the technician if she would tell me what she found. She told me she wasn’t supposed to, but she would. I was fortunate, it was just my extra belly rolls preventing a heartbeat to be easily found in the examination room.

The ultrasound easily picked up a strong rhythm.

I remember feeling a bit more anxious with this one. I was older. Geriatric. His due date was originally July 4, which I was fun, but I was worried that having 8, if that, short weeks with him before school started up again wasn’t enough. That worry only increased when his due date was pushed to a week later.

I didn’t have daycare lined up yet. My previous daycare had said no when I ran into her one afternoon early into the pregnancy and asked if she had any room for an infant. I had been researching and visiting other childcare providers and couldn’t find any I would have felt comfortable or could afford leaving my newborn with.

I felt a strong urge to want to stay home with this one. My last one. And soak up every minute of it.

But financially that wasn’t an option, and deep down I know I am not meant to be a stay at home mom.

I remember visiting my grandma while pregnant with him. That amazing lady must have sensed my anxiety. After our visit, as we were saying our goodbyes and giving our hugs, she looked at me and said, “Everything will turn out OK.”

And it did.

He was born around 11 o’clock at night on 7/11. (No, I don’t remember the exact time nor his weight or length, judge away judgy people, but seriously who cares about those trivial details?!).

Because it was so late we couldn’t have visitors. He just stayed naked and snuggling on my chest for a good long while without anyone else vying for his attention. Just me and my littlest man.

We didn’t even have a name picked out for him at the time of his birth. It had been narrowed down to 2 options, but it was a few hours after he was born before we made it official.

All my worry about daycare and leaving him to go back to work did turn out OK just like my grandma said it would. I ran into my previous childcare provider again a few weeks after he was born, and she said, “Well of course I have room for you! I thought you were asking for someone else.”

And then I found a new job. Normally it would seem that starting a new job with a a newborn would just add even more stress, but this job was meant for me. While it was more of a commute (thank goodness for a husband with more flexible mornings), it was my dream job. It was fun and different and I had much less planning and grading to do. My time at home was time I could fully be with my babies.

Everything turned out OK. More than OK.

My now 5 year old is a perfect mixture of both of his older brothers’ personalities. He drives me crazy and makes me laugh at the exact same time. He likes to snuggle and is also independent. He makes hilarious faces when he finds something exciting. When his brothers start wrestling he jumps right in without any fear and often wins the match. He feels his feelings strongly and shares those feelings with anyone around him.

He is loud and loving and everything I could have hoped for.

Look at that pure joy on his little face! He was so excited to get that giant egg.

Happy Birthday, Baby Cakes.

A Nerdy Slice of Life

Yesterday I drove over to Parma, Michigan, only 2 hours away, to attend my 4th Nerd Camp. Never heard of it? Well, to answer my husband’s question, “In one word what is Nerd Camp about again?” Books.

OK that is not a good representation of what it is at all.

It is about the love of everything literacy. Authors come from far and wide. Educators in every form travel from all over the country. And they all meet up at Western High School in Parma, MI.

It is one of the most interesting forms for professional development I’ve been to. An incredible energy is created when readers, writers, and educators are in one space together. There is so much positivity in the air it is almost palpable.

I am not exaggerating.

Educators are the most passionate, intense people in the world. Imagine all of them in one place with well known authors and advocates like Jason Reynolds, Laurie Halse Anderson, Pernille Ripp, Donalyn Miller, Alicia D. Williams, Minh Le, Jillian Heise, Patricia Valdez, and Laura Shovan getting them even more hyped up and ready to conquer the world.

It is a pretty awesome experience. And if you have the chance to go next year, do it.

Here are just a few takeaways from yesterday:

  1. We need to talk more and often about what consent looks like, feels like, sounds like with our boys.
  2. We need to talk about what consent is with all genders when they’re young.
  3. We need to stop being nice and start making the good kind of trouble.
  4. We need to channel our anger in ways that focus on making change and help our students to do the same.
  5. We need to get uncomfortable.
  6. Our students need to be recognized in our classrooms.

I was so excited to hear Jason Reynolds speak. If a student tells me they don’t like to read, I can usually booktalk one of his books and their mind has been changed forever. He is highly talented, so gracious and personable, and gorgeous to boot. #authorcrush

Plans I have made after attending this year’s Nerd Camp:

  1. Book a Day challenge
  2. Getting my hands on Jason Reynolds’s new book Look Both Ways as soon as it comes out
  3. Purchasing and reading: Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga, How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons, and Small in the City by Sidney Smith

I know you are probably thinking, what only 3 things on your to-do-for-next-school-year-list? Pfft, slacker. Maybe I am a slacker. Oh well.

But here’s the thing. I want to actually do those things, and if my list is too long I get overwhelmed. So for now, I am trying to get my hands on and read as many relevant books as possible and thinking of exactly how I can display my Book a Day challenge board.

And here’s the other thing. There are bigger items on my to-do list that aren’t necessarily tangible or something to display or heaven forbid, sell on teacherspayteachers. I need to start by talking to my own sons about consent. I sent my 14 year old a picture of one of Laurie Halse Anderson’s slides about what consent means. His response? ‘I don’t get it.’ So today we had a little discussion. One that we will continue to have.

I need to work on welcoming uncomfortable conversations. Get comfortable with discomfort. I can do this by recognizing my own biases and continuing to learn and grow. I can also stop avoiding necessary discussions. You know when families and friends say we can talk about anything except politics and religion?

Yeah, that needs to come to an end. Let’s have those conversations.

**Sidenote: Nerd Camp MI is actually 2 days long, but sadly, I could only go for one. **

Why I write

I’ve been following some writers over the last year or so on Medium. I find it fascinating that people can make a living writing for Medium. So, I’ve been stalking them, reading their posts, seeing what it takes. I don’t think I have the chops for such writing. 3+ articles a day and vying for claps and followers. Makes my head spin.

But one of the writers put out there that writers need to identify our what and our why. There are many people out there, including experts on creating good habits, who claim you need to start seeing yourself as the thing you want to be not as someone who is trying to be that thing.

Thus, I have been trying to call myself a writer lately. I feel like a complete imposter just trying to fake ’til I make it. But since I am a writer, I should probably have a clear what and why.

Why do I write and what do I hope to accomplish?

I have enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. I kept diaries. I wrote letters to grandparents. I have a book of poems I wrote sometime around 3rd grade that wasn’t a school assignment. I even remember writing my mom a note after getting in trouble once trying to explain my point of view to her.

I feel as if I can articulate my thoughts better in writing.

I was at a meeting toward the end of the school year. It was just admin and the ELA team discussing ideas for next year. At the end of a good, but pretty data-heavy meeting, a reflection question was asked by our instructional specialist. We went around our circle to share our thoughts, we were able to pass, so I did because I honestly wasn’t sure what to say at that particular moment. But a few of my colleagues gave lengthy and thoughtful responses. I actually said out loud, “How do you guys know always know what to say?” I was mostly joking, but also not. I needed to write out my thoughts before I would have been comfortable sharing them.

So what exactly are my writing goals?

I want writing to be a part of my every day life. A habit each day like brushing my teeth. Since the new year, while it hasn’t been daily, it has definitely been regularly.

I want to publish a book someday. I have so many stories that I have started, but never finished or finished quickly and didn’t spend any time revising it. I want to finish one, revise it, and even if I just self publish 20 books to give to family and friends, that’ll be something.

Why do I write?

I love it. I feel as if I can articulate myself better in writing. I can be awkward and more of a listener when discussing big, important ideas in my life. I need time to think and process when given difficult, even difficult-ish questions. Oh sure I can come up with snarky or silly comments on the fly, but the big stuff? I need to write about that, get my thinking clear, and understand how I feel by writing it out.

I love the art of writing. There are a few favorite authors of mine that I when I read their writing I feel as if I sink into their words. They consume me. When listening to a good audio book the words wrap around me. It is my happy place.

It makes me feel better. I was given a journal by my Secret Santa a few years ago. At the time I was driving 40 miles to and from the school I was teaching at. Driving that distance, especially during the winter months, made me hyper aware of how many car accidents occur each year. It didn’t help that the MDOT programmable signs kept an updated number of how many accidents have happened on Michigan highways. It freaked me out. So I started using that journal to write to my kids, you know, just in case I ended up as one of those numbers on that sign. To be honest I haven’t been the best at writing in it as regularly as I hoped, but it makes me feel better recording our memories and my love for them.

Will writing ever actually be something I could call a career?

Who knows. Right now that isn’t my priority. Like I said earlier, the concept of it makes my head spin.

I remember ordering a book on how to become a writer when I was younger through our classroom book order. I don’t recall any of the sage advice it offered, but I remember feeling as if maybe this is something I could actually do as a job.

But then life goes in a different direction, yet the love of writing never disappeared, it was just around in other forms. Reading, journaling, writing lesson plans, and lists, and notes to students. Writing became a bigger part of my life again in 2011 once joining the Lake Michigan Writing Project and has only grown.

I write to think, to learn about myself, and to make connections. The piece I am working on is a story I feel the need to tell, and it might not get any further than being printed off and bound at Staples and given to my mom to read. But that’ll be enough for me. I’ll just find something else to write about.

Next year, last year

“Mmmooooommmm!” a little voice yelled from his bedroom at the crack of dawn.

“Whaaaaattt?” I yelled back still snuggled in my own bed determined to sleep in any chance I can get this summer.

No answer, just another, “Mmmooooommmm!”

So I replied with another, “What?”

“Come sing me the sun song.”

Ohhh right. When I tucked him in bed last night, my four year old had asked me to wake him up by singing to him. It always boggles my mind what he remembers and what he doesn’t.

How could I ignore such a sweet request? I pulled myself out of bed and sang to him. He then crawled into my bed for more snuggle time.

“Hey Mom, remember last year when we saw that Baby Beluga book at Target?”

‘Last year’ was really just a couple weeks ago. Everything is either ‘last year’ or ‘next year’ with him right now. Some of his memories are truly from a year ago, but most are a few weeks at most.

He also makes plans for the future as every four year old does.

For a few months, he was talking about ‘next year’ quite a bit. What he wanted to be for Halloween next year, where he wanted to go next year, what he wanted to acquire next year. “Next year for my birthday I’m getting an iPod.” Naturally, he wants whatever his older brothers have.

It got me thinking about how much I do the same thing. Next year will be the year I finish writing the book I’ve been working on. Next year I will be 3 sizes smaller. Next year I will finally clean out that closet that is overflowing. Next year we will take that vacation.

When life gets crazy busy, I push things off for later. This is nothing surprising, most people do this. But this year my family had the heart breaking realization that next year is not always guaranteed. It put some things into perspective.

So this year we are taking that vacation to Europe we’ve been talking about since we got married almost 11 years ago. This year I am finishing the book I’ve been working on, it’ll be a sh*tty rough draft as Anne Lamott says, but it’s getting done. This year I have lost 25 pounds so far and my husband has lost 50. And while I have quite a bit of weight to go yet, we’re continuing to work on our health each day (some better than others).

I have decided to put the cleaning/organizing at the end of my stuff to accomplish this year list. It doesn’t bring me joy, and with 3 crazy boys in the house things instantly get messy again, so I figure, why fret about that? Cleaning and organizing will be saved for next year indefinitely.

The new cat

We adopted another cat from our local humane society just over a month ago. We lost our beloved family cat, Mojo, last Father’s Day. He was getting old, had diabetes, and was having episodes where he didn’t know where he was. So we knew it was coming, but it was still hard.

My oldest son took it the hardest. He loved that cat. In fact, Mojo used to sleep in his crib with him until I, as a frantic and emotional new mom, would run in and drag him out and then immediately look up crib covers. I never did get one of those covers, but they were intriguing.

When my husband, Joe, and I got married almost 11 years ago now, he brought along his cat he creatively named Kitty. Now as cute and cuddly as this cat may look, she is basically the devil. OK, OK, that is a bit much. She is just extremely temperamental. One minute she is lovingly rubbing her face against your feet and the next she is biting and hissing at those same feet. She growls and hisses and sometimes corners one of the kids who then cries for me to, “Come get Kitty!” My oldest, who was 3 when Joe and I got married, was trying so hard to become friends with Kitty when he was little, but it often ended in a yelling/hissing match. “I hate you Kitty!” he would scream down the hallway. Ahhh memories. But, seriously, see why the word devil came to my mind right away?

She used to despise Mojo, or at least that is the act she put on. I believe she secretly loved him like an annoying brother. When he was gone you could tell she missed him. She got extra clingy, especially to Joe, but even to me and the kids. For months I told my husband that Kitty needed a friend. So on Mother’s Day weekend I surprised the kids and took them to pick out a friend for Kitty.

I’ll be honest, I did not find an instant connection with any cat there. They were cute and all, but we needed a cat that would put up with a cranky older cat and 3 crazy loud boys. ‘Our home is a circus’ I think was how the pet adoption application put it. Our options were limited.

The humane society worker was helpful in showing us a few cats that might fit our ‘circus’ requirements. One cat did not have a tail, which made him extra cute, but he was a long hair cat and we already had one of those at home. Too much fur was already floating around our house. Plus, he kept running and hiding from the kids.

Another cat was super cute, but just sort of sat there and didn’t seem to care that we were trying to pet her. She looked as if she’d rather we leave. So we did, and we came to a cat named Heidi. She was all black, too skinny, and kept sneezing everywhere. I was beginning to think maybe we would not be adopting a new fur friend after all.

But the kids just kept asking to go look at the snotty cat again again. She climbed all over them and was purring away in between sneezes. The humane society workers assured me she had been treated for her kitty cold and that it should clear up soon.

“Are you sure this is the cat you want?” I asked the kids. “Yes! We love her!” the chimed in unison. It probably didn’t happen exactly like this, but that is how I remember it.

That night she curled up on my husband’s pillow and snored away. Because of her loud breathing from her congestion, we renamed her Vader.

Within the last month we have gone to the vet 3 times. She has been on 4 medications as well as eye drops. She was sedated to get a closer look into her nasal cavity to see what was going on since this ‘kitty cold’ was not clearing up. She was finally diagnosed with chronic rhinitis.

We chose a cat that is chronically congested, breathes loudly, and snores louder than me most nights. Oh, and because of her congestion her eyes are goopy too. We have a salve to put on her eyes for maybe forever. Her name fits her perfectly.

Even though we may have chosen a cat with issues, she has brought joy to the house. She snuggles and sleeps on the kids beds, which they adore. She plays like crazy with her fish taco toys and the laser pointer. She randomly starts running around the house in search of some invisible thing that must be chased, and she tries to climb onto any surface that looks somewhat clear. Kitty hisses at her when she walks by too closely, but the other day they were sleeping on the same couch cushion, so I’m pretty sure she secretly loves her new friend.

She may have a snotty nose and goopy eyes, but that just means she fits right into our circus-like family.

Summer so far

It is my 7th day of summer break.

During these 7 days of summer, I have had 2 massages, drank a bottle of wine, read half of a book, had 2 tutoring sessions, finished a TV show, slept in, walked/jogged 10 miles on the treadmill, visited family, played with my kids, and written 3 blog posts (soon to be 4, one is on Medium, if you haven’t checked out that site yet, you should, it’s enjoyable). Pretty dang productive if I do say so myself.

Last weekend we went to visit my father in law to celebrate his 70th birthday party. It felt so nice not to stress about when we needed to leave on Sunday so I would have enough time to get laundry, lunches, grading, and lesson plans all set for the upcoming week. I enjoyed a Bloody Mary at 11 am and sat around talking, laughing, and eating until almost 1 pm before I even thought about packing up to leave. It was awesome.

Over the years I’ve learned to rein in my summer to-do list. I now to try to stick with reading, writing, and being present. I just enjoy time with my kids and the weather. And once in awhile get to a few of those ever-growing home projects/cleaning. I need this time to recover, recuperate, and remember why it is I chose to teach.

Today was about the writing. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.