Monthly Archives: June 2007

Things Heard at (and before and after) a Preschool Graduation

My son, I’ll call him Surly, since that’s what he’s been the past week or so, graduated from preschool last night. Yes, that’s right. Preschool. Graduation. Replete with a ceremony, caps, and gowns. And tassels. Let’s not forget the tassels, because they cost $9 if you wanted to keep them. And of course every kid wants to keep their tassel, right?

They didn’t do this when I was kid. Back then, you got one graduation, when you finished high school. And then another, if you finished college. And if you went on to graduate school, well, by then you were so sick and tired of sitting through graduation ceremonies that you didn’t even bother to attend yours. That’s what I did, anyway, I had them send me my diploma in the mail.

But now, apparently, the graduation ceremonies stack up something like this: Preschool, Kindergarten, 5th grade, 8th grade, 12th grade, college. Even college graduations have changed over the years. It used to be one huge ceremony, everyone together, and it took 4 hours or more. But now it seems that colleges and universities trend toward multiple graduations based upon majors. Smaller ceremonies are held for the History department, those majoring in English, sociology, nursing, etc… My friend’s daughter just graduated from college a few weeks ago with a double major. She had to hone her running skills, especially her speed and endurance, to get across the sprawling university campus once one ceremony ended, in order to attend the other. I’m happy to report that she made it in the nick of time.

But let’s get back to that preschool graduation, shall we? The ceremony was… cute. Each child marched out in their graduation garb, climbed a small stage and took hold of a microphone to recite why they love their mommy and daddy. Most of the responses were similar, and evoked lots of “Aws!” from the audience: “I love my mommy and daddy because they take care of me”. “I love my mommy and daddy because they are nice to me”. “I love my mommy and daddy because they love me”. Those were the unsurly children (yes, I know “unsurly” is not a real word).

Then came a few, for lack of a better term, “material” kids: “I love my mommy and daddy because they buy me things.” Their speeches got more specific: “I love my mommy and daddy because they buy me TOYS”. And then, the child who might have been urged to behave with a bit of bribery: “I love my mommy and daddy because they agreed to buy me The Shrek Game!”

One little girl appeared to be a natural at public speaking. She took the stage with the presence of an international leader, gripped the microphone in both hands, looked the audience in the eyes, confidently announced why she loved her parents, then paused to get the audience’s reaction before stepping down. “Follow me,” she seemed to say to her classmates. “THAT’S how it’s done, now. Got it?” she seemed to imply.

Another little boy reminded me a bit of Cindy Brady, that time she appeared on a television quiz show but became camera shy and mute when the red recording light turned on. (Remember her ego? Remember how big her head got in that episode? Good, picture that! You’ll need the image later.) Anyway, the little boy climbed the stage with giant strides of confidence and smile so bright it rivaled the sun. He tapped the microphone a few times. He opened his mouth in what was sure to be the start of a big pronouncement. I mean, he’d checked to be sure the microphone was working, after all! But no words came out. He closed his mouth. Opened it. Again, nothing. And once more, while the audience, full of parents and grandparents, siblings and cousins, waited in anticipation; patient; now eager. Some even holding their breath, not wanting to miss a single word he was about to say. But he couldn’t muster a single syllable, not a solitary utterance. He stepped down, smiling still, and took his seat among his classmates. The audience, naturally, applauded. And a congratulatory cake was still served in the end, just like it was in The Brady Bunch.

Then came my son’s turn to speak. His cap was askew, falling from his head, slipping too far forward and too far back. At one point he even cried out in the middle of the ceremony, “Miss JESSICA!  My hat!” It simply didn’t fit very well; it was too small for him. Had his head grown suddenly? He climbed the stage. He took the microphone in hand and enunciated “I love my mommy and daddy because they play with me SOMETIMES!” Sometimes?!? What does that mean? I wondered?“Sometimes?!!” My husband asked, aloud, indignant. “Sometimes???” My mother-in-law leaned over, and questioned in my ear. “Sometimes?!?” I could hear the other parents and grandparents thinking, eyebrows arched, dark and curious looks shooting my way.

The music started then, at first a low hum. Were the other parents HUMMING? It got gradually louder; it was all I could hear. I almost started singing along:

My son turned ten just the other day.
He said, “Thanks for the ball, dad, come on let’s play.
Can you teach me to throw?”  I said, “Not today, 
I got a lot to do.” He said, “That’s ok…” 

until I realized that Harry Chapin’s famous song was playing only in my head, and another child had taken the stage.

This morning I couldn’t help it. I needed clarification. I needed to understand. I looked “sometimes” up in the dictionary. It means “on some occasions; being so only at times or to some extent”; and the most damning “that cannot be depended on regarding affections or loyalties.” The last one bothered me. A lot. And that song was playing again. So I decided to go right to the horse’s mouth. I asked my son, “Last night at graduation you said “I love my mommy and daddy because we play with you sometimes. What did you mean, sometimes?” and he said “I mean they play with me a lot, if they can, if I want them to.” “Ah ha!” I thought, hints of Surly resurfacing, that “If I want them to…” Because I think that’s key here. Surly has been plain, well, SURLY the past week. Asking us to play with him, then 10 seconds later telling us “never mind, go away, get out, leave him alone, he doesn’t WANT to play.” He was happy when he saw the graduation cake I’d made him and even happier when I let him eat a piece before dinner, before graduation itself. But just as quickly he was ill-tempered, frowning, complaining that I “hadn’t given him a graduation card, or a present!”. I reminded him of the slip-n-slide “Splash Bomb” pool I’d gotten him two weeks prior, an “early” graduation gift. But Surly said “You can’t just get ONE present for your graduation!” I explained how I’d lovingly prepared his favorite meal for him, made him a special cake (which by the way he dubbed “THE BEST CAKE EVER”), and those were part of his present too. Still, he remained surly on the drive to the ceremony. I told him that maybe he should be quiet for a little while, and learn to appreciate what he has, not complain about what he doesn’t have. Surly crossed his arms over his chest and rode the rest of the way, scowling, shooting dirty looks at the back of my head. Later, of course, when he was standing on stage and looking so adorable and grown up and happy, I felt bad that I’d let him push my buttons, that I’d been cross with him.

This morning, Surly (after he’d explained what he meant by “sometimes”) was looking at the photos I’d taken during the graduation. Upon seeing a photo of himself with his best friend (and love of his life), Sydney, he said, “Sydney! Why is Sydney so popular? Actually, I’m popular too! Me and Sydney are like the most popular kids at school!” And that’s where Cindy Brady’s ego comes back into play. Remember how big her ego was? How big her head got? I think that’s why my son’s graduation cap had gotten too small for him. This surly ego, like that cap, doesn’t fit him either. Still, he graduated!

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Rocks and Cheese

I got a new computer at work.  It’s a laptop. Which is very convenient because a) I needed a new computer, and b) I can take it with me when I go places.

Apparently that’s not true of laptops, at least not mine.

The carrying case alone, even when completely empty, is heavy enough to suggest that it might be filled with rocks. Seriously, I had to double check when I picked it up to slip my laptop into it the first time.

It reminds me of a spring evening not too long ago when I put on one of my jackets to take a walk outside. The jacket felt like it weighed a ton. I mean, talk about carrying a load on your shoulders! It was so bothersome that I remarked to my husband that I didn’t remember the jacket feeling so heavy when I’d last worn it. It felt like there had to be something weighing it down. Maybe dumbbells, or cannonballs. And so I checked the pockets only to discover that they were filled with rocks! My son, as it turned out, had been collecting rocks back in the fall and had been saving them in the pockets of my jacket! The rocks had spent a nice warm couple of seasons my pockets, completely forgotten about.

Which reminds me that perhaps I ought to warn you about something else. If you pack your lunch and have a reusable lunch sack, take notice of what you pack and compare it to what you actually eat. Use a checklist perhaps:

Sandwich…check
Apple… check
Yogurt… check

If I’d thought to do that I might not have forgotten the chunk of cheese, the chunk of Applewood Smoked Gouda Cheese, specifically, that I’d packed for lunch one day last week, yet failed to eat. Forgotten about, in fact, until I opened my lunch sack to pack another lunch yesterday, more than a week later. I suppose that’s better than forgetting about it for an entire season. What, with summer approaching and all. But please, for your own sake, take my advice, and DON’T DO THAT! I’m not trying to make your life more difficult, or burden you with this suggestion. I’m not. I’m just trying to help. Really.

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Blinded by the Light

So here’s a tip… If you wear daily disposable contact lenses (the kind you wear only once, then throw away), and are close to running out of them, ORDER MORE NOW!!! Don’t wait, like I did, until you have only 5 sets of lenses left. Because, for those of you unfamiliar with daily disposable contact lenses, having only 5 pairs left means that I have only 5 days of vision left. And then I’m blind. At least to anything farther away than the tip of my nose.

What’s that saying? Guys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses? Really, though, it’s not that. I’m married, so I’m not exactly looking for guys to make passes at me. It’s that I’ve always hated wearing glasses. Vanity is only part of it. The main reason is that they get so dirty, so fast. I think every pair of glasses I’ve ever owned were nothing more than dust and fingerprint magnets. I could clean them until the lenses were nearly invisible and would fool a bird, if one was bent on flying directly at my eyes. Meaning, a bird wouldn’t even notice the sparkly clear lenses until they hit them beak first, similar to the way they sometimes fly into the shiny clean glass on a sliding patio door. Like in the Windex commercials. But truly, not 2 seconds after I put on my freshly cleaned glasses, they are covered in dusty fingerprints, even though nobody has touched them! And I have to clean them again. And again. All day long. It’s enough to drive me insane, so I try to avoid wearing them at all. And I stick with my contact lenses.

When I realized I had hardly any left (and what was I doing anyway, that I hadn’t noticed this earlier?), I went and ordered more, and was informed by the smiling technician at the eye place, that it would take 7 to 10 business days for my new contact lenses to come in. “But I only have 5 days of lenses left!” I cried, to no avail.

And so I’m left to ration my remaining 5 pairs of lenses over the coming days. Each day, until my new lenses come in, I have to decide if the day is special enough to spend my contacts on, or if I should settle for my glasses.

I feel a bit like the character Elaine Bennis in the “Spongeworthy” episode of Seinfeld where she where she was rationing her supply of birth control sponges because they’d been taken off the market and she couldn’t buy any more. Each time she was with a man she’d debate whether he was Spongeworthy or not. My internal debate runs through a decisional flow chart in my mind and goes something like this: “What’s the weather like outside?; Am I running today?; Will I be out in public?” (that vanity thing again). If it’s sunny, I most assuredly want to wear my contact lenses so that I can wear my sunglasses. Because if I don’t wear sunglasses when it’s sunny out, I’m literally, blinded by the light. I believe the technical term is photophobia .  I think (and hope) the condition is caused, in my case, by nothing more than years of being a contact lens wearer and not by some horrible undiagnosed eye disease. I’ve mentioned it to my eye care professional, who has been decidedly unconcerned about it. Still, I sometimes wonder…

If it is sunny and I opt to wear my glasses, then I have to don a pair of sunglasses as well. Over my glasses. I’ve never invested in any kind of clip-on sunglasses, because I never actually wear my glasses, so when I need them, I’m stuck wearing two pairs of glasses at once, and looking like a complete “eight-eyes” dork. If I’m going running, then I need to wear my contacts to avoid that annoying problem of “sweaty glasses sliding down your nose with every step you take” (if it’s sunny out, I wear a visor to shield my eyes). If I’m going out in public, as previously stated, I’m loathe to wear them.

If I’m not running, or if it’s cloudy out, I can get away with wearing my glasses alone. That was the situation yesterday. Even though I was going out in public, (I had to go to work, after all) it was cloudy and I wasn’t running. I’d evaluated things and decided it was best to save my contacts and wear my glasses. Two out of the three points being in my glasses’ favor.

I got ready for work, I cleaned my glasses (which instantly got covered in fingerprints and dust), I put them on, and got in the car to drive to work. All was fine until I got to the tunnel that I have to drive through each day. You know how tunnels are. They are cut through mountains, or under bodies of water, neither of which let in much in the way of natural light. And this tunnel, like most, is pretty dark. Dark enough inside that when you are wearing sunglasses, you have to remove them so you aren’t blinded by the darkness (unless you’re Corey Hart, who obviously doesn’t have a problem with that). And that’s what I did. Forgetting that I was wearing my eyeglasses, because I never wear them, I ripped them off my face and tossed them to the seat, thinking they were my sunglasses, and I’d put them back on once I came out of the tunnel on the other side. Only that’s when I realized that I couldn’t see! Not a thing past the tip of my nose. Because I’d tossed my eye glasses, not my sunglasses, onto the seat! I groped the seat madly, like I’d suddenly been transformed into a teenage boy who’d found himself  in a cramped closest with the girl of his dreams and his one and only chance to cop a feel. I guess in reality it only took a few seconds (although it felt much longer) for my hands to brush the ear piece, my fingertips to spot the lenses, and I was able to put my glasses back on. I could see again, even with the annoying fingerprints. Then I emerged from the tunnel into what can only be interpreted as a cruel joke from on high: the rain had stopped, the clouds had parted, and the sun was shining brightly. And then I found myself blinded by the light

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Ah, ha, ha, ha, Staying alive!

In case anybody’s been wondering… I’m still here. I’m alive! My running partner FAILED on her mission to kill me. That’s right. We ran this morning and all the while I had that Kate Bush song going through my head…

And if I only could,
I’d make a deal with God,
And I’d get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill…”

But then as we approached that hill and she failed to turn, I figured she was waiting to kill me on the backside. I could actually hear the conversation in my head. “I don’t know officer,” she was saying, “we’d been running for about an hour when we started running up this hill, and then she just… dropped dead.”

Later, as we approached the hill on the way back she said “Keep straight.” Keep straight? think I actually stopped in my tracks, and with a quizzical look said, “What? Are you sure? You don’t want to do the hill?” And she claimed she was, get this, “tired!”

And of course, I don’t know about you, but I really wasn’t eager to die today anyway (unlike the suicidal squirrel and rabbit that darted in front of my car as I was driving to meet my running partner this morning), so I surely wasn’t going to argue with her

I looked at her again just to be certain, and kept going straight. I think I even had a little extra spring in my step, too! Relief will do that to you. In retrospect, I don’t think that my running partner was truly tired. In fact, I’m pretty certain that she and my husband knew that I was onto them. I wonder if they actually read my blog? I suspect they might, because it’s only now, that the run is over that I recalled this question that my husband asked me, right as I was drifting off to dreamland last night: He said “What makes you think I’d SPLIT the money with her?” At least, I think that’s what I heard.

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My Running Partner is Trying to Kill Me

I tell you, my running partner is trying to kill me. I don’t know why. She’s not a beneficiary on my life insurance or anything.

Maybe she just doesn’t like me. But if that was the case, then why would she keep inviting me to run with her?

Perhaps, and I just thought of this, perhaps my husband has brokered a deal with her? She takes me out on a run that kills me, he collects on my insurance, the two of them split the money to pay bills or take vacations with or something. I wonder if that’s it?

You see, I joined this, for lack of a better term, “running club” last year. Most everyone in the group was training to run some distance. Some were looking to complete their first 5K, but primarily folks were training to complete a marathon or a half-marthon. I originally signed up with the group because I wanted to run the Army 10-Miler. It’s an event that is held in D.C. each fall, and one that many of my friends participate in. One that my running partner participates in, in fact!

So I joined this group, I ran, and my expectations about what I could accomplish grew. and grew. And Grew. First I was aiming for the 10-miler. Then I signed up for a 1/2 marathon. And then, before I knew it, I’d signed up to run the Marine Corps Marathon! That’s 26.2 miles folks. A distance I wouldn’t walk if my car ran out of gas. A distance I won’t cover on a bicycle. But I decided it would be a good idea to run it for no particular reason (well, you do get a medal just for finishing, and everyone could use a little bling,right?).

Unfortunately, 3/4s of the way into the season, I got hurt. Somewhere along the way on a 19 mile run my knee started to hurt, then my calf cramped up, and then my leg wouldn’t bend. At all. X-rays and MRIs revealed nothing of significance, so the suggestion from the quack orthopedist was to use crutches and stay off it for as long as I could. Which turned out to be about 10 minutes.

Two weeks later I ran that 1/2 marathon. Okay, it really doesn’t matter how I did it, but I finished it, I got that medal (and some blisters, and lost 2 toenails. But I was hooked.

I laid low for the winter, did a little rehab, and stuck to short runs on my treadmill and rides on my stationary bike. I slowly built my distances back up and at the end of April, I ran another 1/2 marathon, bettering my time by some 20 minutes over my previous one. Confident that I was “back” I signed up to run with the same folks again this summer and I plan to give the Marine Corps Marathon another shot.

But back to my running partner. We’ve agreed to run together this weekend. We agreed on the day, the time, the distance, and the place. The place is known for what runners call “rolling hills”. You go up, you go down, up is kind of hard, but down is great, and in the end you feel pretty good. The place also has a side road that juts off to the right. The side road is aptly named “Providence”. It’s a hill. Strike that. It’s a mountain. I’m not certain, but it just might be the largest mountain in the entire state. It goes straight up to the sky, to Providence himself, I believe (hence the name!). Through an entire year of running I have yet to let my running partner talk me into running Providence. For one thing, I don’t have the grappling equipment that I believe it will take. For another, I hate getting out of breath.

Alas, she’s determined that this weekend, we will run Providence for, get this, “a work out”. As if the rest of our running that day is akin to a nap. She says “we will attempt the hill and if you have to walk up it, then that is what we will do”. “If you have to walk up it” means me. If I have to walk up it, she’ll do it with me, but she won’t be happy about it because well, she won’t get as much of a “work out”.

Regrettably, I’ve agreed to try, but only on the promise that she’ll call the ambulance for me and then notify my next of kin when I die.

If you happen to spot her or my husband driving around in a fancy new vehicle, or taking posh vacations (not together), or buying cool new audio equipment, anything like that, you might want to ring the police. Suggest my demise wasn’t entirely an accicent. Unless, of course, they’ve arranged to share some of the money with you too?

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Highway Signs

Not too far away from where I live there's a highway sign that says something like “Stay Alert, Watch for D.U.I. Drivers”.

And then, another mile or two down the road, is another, that says “D.U.I. Enforcement Area”

And every time I see them it drives me crazy.

What do they mean?! Are they seriously warning those of us who are sober that there are a bunch of driver’s under the influence out there and WE have to be on the lookout for them? I thought that was a job for highway patrol!

And why the enforcement area? Is that a warning sign and to whom? To Me? I’ve just been warned to say alert and be on the lookout. Should I now patrol that stretch of road as the enforcer? Am I to pay particular attention right there only, in the enforcement zone? And where, exactly, does that zone end? There’s no sign about that. So when can I relax and go back to my normal driving where I crank the radio and don’t assume every other car out there is full of drunken party goers?

Is the “Enforcement Zone” sign a WARNING for the DUI drivers? Maybe they are supposed to contain themselves to that stretch of road now that they’ve imbibed a bit too much? Or perhaps they should step on the gas and get out of there quickly, before I spot them?

Maybe the signs are a notice to the police that THAT’S the area they should concentrate on? Perhaps they’ve been getting it wrong in the past and the signs are the only way to indicate where the problem drivers congregate.

Really, somebody, tell me.  What DO these signs mean?

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