Summertime

And the Family is Crazy

This has been an EXUBERANT summer. That’s my positive way of saying it’s been loud at Casa Campillo. My girl is home on break, my son and I are off, my husband is now retired, and we’ve redefined together time. Did I mention it was loud? I do love having a full nest, but you know what they say about too much of a good thing. No one holds their tongue in this house, and when we’re together 24/7, it can be . . . energetic. But I’ve learned a few tricks I thought I’d share:

  • When the world’s about to blow, get in some water. Even the most 18cantankerous person turns into a fun kid when they’re playing in the pool/lake/ocean. (BTW, the crazy/scary waves of the Pacific Ocean are especially effective). I’m seriously considering moving to a house boat.
  • Same holds true for Game of Thrones. This epic fantasy has enough drama, violence, romance and majesty to enthrall/quiet the masses. (Mature folks only. It is HBO). There’s even the after-show, when we debate whether it’s sexual chemistry or respect flashing between John Snow and Daenerys.jon-daenerys
  • Accept your kid’s inherent skills when assigning chores. I know, I know, I’m the mom and they should do what I say, but eventually you gotta face the facts – my daughter did not catch my yard work gene. A twenty-minute, weed-whacking job turns into a two-hour ordeal with multiple breaks for dramatic moaning and curses. Now give that gal toilet duty, and she puts Mr. Clean to shame.
  • When renting a car for a road trip, get a car two times larger than you think you need. At 5 foot 8 inches, I’m the shortest in the family. When I got us a full-size car, thinking I’d splurge, I soon found out my mistake. After two hours of driving through the beautiful, Scream Cartoon Paintingserene mountains east of Seattle, we had argued so volatilely that that I think Lucifer would’ve begged to get out. Trust me, get a bus.

Sorry I’m sharing these tips so late in the summer. It took me this long to figure some of them out. Please share any tips you have. It takes a village, you know. (Just not all in the same house.)

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All I Want For Christmas

file0001571619565Do you remember when you were a kid and this was the most exciting time of the year? We didn’t have Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Hell, we didn’t even have the internet. My sister and I lived for the day the toy catalogue would arrive in the mail (think it was Sears or Penny’s). We’d sit side by side and study each page of every toy available to man (at least those living in our mailing district) and pick our favorite. Such an exciting time. A wonderful memory.

Jump forward forty-five years. Even my kids are past the toy age. Their lists consist of fun things like money and iPhones (dream on, girlfriend). I’m not much better. I don’t have an easy-to-shop-for wish list. I don’t NEED anything, thankfully. My wants, however, would require a Christmas miracle.

  1. A family photo. Sounds simple, but this one would involve all parties willingly participating without complaint. All parties would dress appropriately. I’m not even asking for matching clothes. Just take a shower. Don’t dress like you’re clubbing.enchanted-april1
  2. Family movie night. One in which I get to pick the movie and everyone stays in the room. They wouldn’t make fun of every line or twist in the plot. They’d pay attention and end up loving it. We’d all talk afterwards, sharing our favorite parts. We’d have a family hug just because our hearts are so filled with joy.
  3. A personal trainer who is also a physical therapist. They could lead me through a fabulous workout, then treat me afterwards, when I’m barely able to walk.
  4. A spot on the New York Times Best Sellers List.
  5. World peace. Hell, I’d just settle for peace among my friends on Facebook.

A tough list, I’ll give my family that. But one can always dream. ‘Tis the season, right? Leave a comment with your dream gift. I’ll draw from those of you who post before midnight December 1, 2016, and send the winner a $25 Amazon Gift Card. It’s not world peace, but it could buy you some fabulous fruit cake.

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Toy photo by cohdra

School Days, School Forms

I pulled this one out from last year. You can’t praise the first day packet enough.

Chris Campillo

The beginning of the school year is full of traditions. Buying new pens and folders. Waking up the kids at 5 am instead of noon. Establishing after-school routines that will end all homework stresses. Throwing those out after day one, when you learn your son had a book project he was supposed to complete over the summer but hasn’t started.

But my favorite tradition is the “First Day Packet.” Maybe it’s called something else in your town, but I guarantee, if you’re child attends a public school, you will receive the large envelope of forms that are so vital, they must be completed before your child will be assigned a locker or even allowed in the cafeteria.

There are the basics – immunization records, emergency contacts, the fifty-page district policy book that you’re required to read and sign, acknowledging you’ve done so. Right.

And then there are the guilt forms. The ones that…

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A Mother’s Confession #583

When my daughter was little, I joined a moms group. At the first meeting, I met a woman who’d covered her home with note cards – on everything from toasters to toilets – Madeline Baby Pic001identifying the object in both English and Spanish so her toddler would learn to read in both languages. Up until then, I’d felt pretty good that my daughter watched “Dora the Explorer” while I napped on the couch. She’s still not bilingual, but my girl knew what a backpack was by age three.

Acknowledging my less-than-stellar mothering skills has given me the freedom to accept some of my questionable choices. Case in point – Confession #583.

My daughter has an extreme fear of needles. To the point that she’ll stress for three weeks prior to a physical on the off-chance an immunization is required. The good news: heroin will never be her drug of choice.

At her last physical, the doctor ordered a routine blood panel which required fasting. After three months of her traumatic refusals, I decided it was time to take matters into my own, devious hands.

It was the long-awaited day she was getting her braces removed. A milestone event that would surely outweigh the horror of a needle prick. The ortho appointment was at 9 am. I explained we needed to leave early and take the access road to avoid traffic (truth). That we’d get Starbucks on the way (truth). I didn’t mention we were stopping at the lab beforehand (lie of omission).

It wasn’t until we pulled into the lab parking lot that realization hit. At first she laughed, Eyes by Lynn Kelley Authorthinking I was joking. Then the tears came. Then she screamed how horrible I was. How she would never trust me again and refused to get out of the car. I told her she had to. We had an appointment (lie), that if we didn’t show, we’d be charged (lie), and it would only be a minute (could’ve been a lie, but prayed it wouldn’t be).

Praise God, in twenty minutes, we were in, out and pulling into Starbucks. A few minutes of trauma versus three weeks of worry. I still think I made the right call. Halfway through our lattes, she admitted it was actually a good plan, even said I should do it the next time. Wow! Maybe I wasn’t so bad after all.

IMGA0954Later, as we headed into the orthodontist’s office, she looked over and smiled. “You do realize, thirty years from now, when you think we’re taking you to brunch, you may end up at The Home.”

Wasn’t it Crosby, Stills and Nash that sang, “Teach your children well?”

Special thanks to Lynn Kelley Author for her photo entitled “Eyes.”

School Days, School Forms

The beginning of the school year is full of traditions. Buying new pens and folders. Waking up the kids at 5 am instead of noon. Establishing after-school routines that will end all homework stresses. Throwing those out after day one, when you learn your son had a book project he was supposed to complete over the summer but hasn’t started.

But my favorite tradition is the “First Day Packet.” Maybe it’s called something else in your town, but I guarantee, if you’re child attends a public school, you will receive the large envelope of forms that are so vital, they must be completed before your child will be assigned a locker or even allowed in the cafeteria.

There are the basics – immunization records, emergency contacts, the fifty-page district policy book that you’re required to read and sign, acknowledging you’ve done so. Right.

And then there are the guilt forms. The ones that claim you can improve students’ educational experience by heading up cookie sales or chairing the horticulture committee (which means you’ll be pulling weeds in front of the school). Of course, you’ll want to support the science department by buying a science-class-spirit shirt. They’re not required, but strongly encouraged to support the science department – which happens to be chaired by the teacher who will be determining your child’s grade, thus GPA, thus future college.

But the ones that really blow my mind are the ever-growing “liability” forms:

“I acknowledge that if I do not sign and return this form by ___ date, my child’s photo will be published in the yearbook even if her bangs did look ‘OMG, horrible’ that day.”

“I give permission for my child to use the internet while at school and will not hold the district liable if he/she should use the medium to hook up with a sixty-year-old pervert from Ohio.”

“I understand that the use of any sports-enhancing biophysical substance will result in the automatic disqualification from all UIL events.” That’s cool. I support that. But my daughter’s in choir. Is blood doping a big problem in the show choir circuit?

And the forms go on and on. It’s enough to make you consider homeschooling.

Whooooa! Hold-up. Nothing could be that bad.

Are You Kidding Me?

This week, I crossed one more milestone on my path of parenting. The last-minute project. The project that’s worth 60% of the grade. The project that was assigned three weeks prior and is due in two days. The project that hasn’t been touched.

So last weekend was spent riding my son’s . . . tail. It was traumatic for both of us. You know there are seven steps of grief. Well, I found there are also seven steps to this phenomenon.

Shock: “What the hell do you mean, you haven’t started?”

Anger: “I hope you’re happy. If you flunk this class, you’ll have to go to summer school.” Of course, I don’t know if that’s the case, but it catches his attention.

Hope: “You can do this. I’ll help you.” In my son’s case, that involves me typing.

Frustration: It kills the writer in me to simply take dictation. I can’t resist the occasional prompt: “If your hero is an adventurer, how could you reveal his personality? Maybe you could provide some actions that show what he’s feeling.” My son’s response: “Nah.”

Another Round of Anger: “I can’t believe I have to hold your hand through this process. Do you realize how much of my time I’ve wasted helping you? You’re grounded for the whole summer!”

Acceptance: This is not my project. It’s a huge undertaking, so at this point, I’m just hoping he can pull off a “C.” That’s what keeps my mouth shut while I type narrative that switches between past and present tense on every other page.

Joy: My son actually gets excited about the project. I leave for a much-needed Girls Night Out, and upon my return, he proudly shares his project that he’s finished on his own. He’s even included some impressive symbolism. There’s hope he won’t end up living in my basement after all.

In the end, he received an “A” on the project. So much for learning a lesson. Is he that talented? Is our school system that mucked up? At this point, I don’t care. I won’t have to haul his . . . tail to summer school.

I know, I know. I should have let him suffer the consequences of his choices. So consider this blog a gift from me to you. As long as I’m raising kids, you’ll always feel better about your parenting skills.

 

 

Can We Be Honest?

Confessions of a Burned-Out Concert Mom

For any of you with school-aged children, you know that May is the busiest time of year – school parties, field trips and concerts for every program out there. Our kids are in band, theater, choir and dance, and we average about two shows every week. You’d think we’d love it. You’d think.

But here’s the awful truth: I don’t care for the shows…except for my children’s parts. Oh, let me tell you, when they’re on stage, I can’t keep the grin off my face or the tears from forming (the latter being from pride, not lack of talent). And yes, there are some students who are so gifted, they get my undivided attention (unless they’re sharing the stage with my child). But then there’s all the rest. And there’s a LOOOOOOOT of all the rest. These two-and-a-half hour concerts make a Jerry Lewis telethon (showing my age) look like a 30-second commercial.

Who decided that students need to sing EVERY verse in a song? Hasn’t anyone ever heard of, “Leave them wanting more.” And don’t think I’m the only hater. Case in point: Last night, as the singer was going into verse three, I heard the sighs, the shifting, the very quiet moans from the people behind me. I was in the first row, so I pasted on a smile and gave the girl encouraging nods. When the fifth verse started, I turned my gaze to the accompanist and burned her with telepathic messages begging her to stop.

To make matters worse, my kids are first-year students. This means their classes usually play/dance/ sing one or two songs at most, while the rest of the program pays tribute to all the other classes, usually focusing on the graduating students. That’s fine. They deserve it. But can’t you just let my kid go first? Do I have to sit for an hour and a half to wait for one song, and then wait another hour to hear the second one? Couldn’t they come up with some kind of fast-pass?

“Your child is scheduled to perform between 8:02 and 8:12. Please report to the auditorium doors by 7:50.”

Oh well, it is what it is. We have three more events in the next eight days. I’ll have my camera, bottle of water, and a shawl. It gets cold in those auditoriums. And I can hide my iPad while I read my book.

I know. So rude. But you know I’m not alone.

Look Out, They’re Coming

And I couldn’t be happier. I’m talking about future writers. I was working in a third-grade class today. They were reading a story, and the teacher stopped and asked the class to describe how the author was showing, not telling. No Way! We buy books and attend courses to learn this stuff. Third-graders are taking it in along with their multiplication facts and reading comprehension.

Now some of you younger ones may be thinking, “Poor old thing. They’ve been teaching that for years.” Maybe. I just know in 1974, in Decatur, Illinois, we were learning about subjects and predicates. I think Haiku was as creative as we got. Today, classroom walls are covered with laminated “bubbles” that describe point of view, tense, alliteration, symbolism, and on and on. Writing journals are as common as glue sticks and scissors.

And folks, it’s starting way before third. Kids are publishing books in first grade. The subject matter is often “What I Did This Summer,” but they storyboard, write a draft, go through revisions with an editor (their teacher) and then publish, which means they put their story in a construction paper jacket and get to color the pages. The best part—they get to read it to the class.

Now that’s not to say everyone will be a writer. It’s just like reading, some kids love it, others don’t. The lovers of the word are the ones that fill up four pages in their writing journals when they were only required to write one. They’re the ones that ask, “When I get my work done, can I write in my journal?”

Then there are those who haven’t yet discovered the magic of writing. They’re the ones that moan when I tell them to get out their journals. They come up to me repeatedly and ask if they have to fill the whole page. So on those occasions, like any good sub, I pull something out of my hat.

“Okay class, you and your family just moved into an old house. On the first night, you hear a strange sound coming from the basement. You sneak downstairs and walk to the basement door. Now what do you do?” I hear the “oohs” and “cools” and know there’s hope. My little writers sweep their pencils across the page. Even the students who were whining just minutes before lift their pencils and put them to the paper. Ah, success.

A few minutes later, a girl raises her hand and tells me she’s done. I walk over to read what she’s written. The page is empty except for one line:

“I would go back to bed.”

Oh well, the world will always need accountants.

“I Shouldn’t Do This”

The thought thundered in my head last Saturday. I was with my kids at PetSmart. Yeah, that’s a red flag right there.

We were selecting a gerbil (small rat) and a miniature hamster (cute hat pin). My internal chant wouldn’t stop, but I continued moving forward, helping the kids pick out treats and bedding and wheels and cages and food and every other thing PetSmart can get out of you to support a creature that most people kill with a fifty-cent trap.

So why did I ignore the wise voice? I was trapped. This summer, my kids put together a power point and presented all the reasons why they should get the aforementioned rodents. They spoke of their desire to take on more responsibilities, promising to pay for the “pets” and take care of all their needs. Loved their persuasive skills, especially the sucking up that occurred immediately before and after.

My husband and I talked it over. It wasn’t totally out of the question. After all, it would be good for the kids to care for a living creature. We told them we’d consider it (translated: “I-doubt-it-but-I-don’t-want-to-hear-your-whining.”) The kids continued their pitch. They even completed the financial report I requested, showing how they could afford not just the pets, but all the other necessities. Even though it looked as if it might take months of saving, they were fired up. Crap! Now what? They had to prove they could handle school and their current chores for a five-week period. Surely, they’d forget by then.

My plan was working. The idea would come up every now and then, but neither had made an effort to save the money. Then their birthdays came, and their generous grandmother sent them nice, hefty checks. No more stalling, it was time to deliver.

So as we checked out at PetSmart, I decided to bury my voice of warning. I peeked at my son’s hamster with its long, black tail, and Michael Jackson’s “Ben” started playing in my head. Didn’t the rat kill someone in that movie?

 

“Have a Good Time!”

Just dropped my fourteen-year-old at the airport. She’s off to southern California to spend a week with her aunt who will no doubt spoil her rotten. She’s been excited for three weeks. Today, I put an end to all that.

In my story, “Sail Away,” my heroine is a worrywart who stresses about everything that could possibly happen to her children. I thought I’d based the character on my mother. Seems my lead may be a little closer to home.

I told my daughter all the usuals: stay in the terminal; don’t use the stairs; if you get lost, go to a ticketing agent. But then I couldn’t stop. Kind of like Twizzlers. If I taste just one, I have to eat the whole package.

My primary focus – abduction. Now the airport is probably the safest place as far as protected boundaries, but there are exits. I told my daughter that if anyone should stick something in her side and tell her to not make a sound, she should scream “Bomb!” I figure in an airport, that would grab the most attention. (If someone accidently bumps into her, and DFW is locked down for the day, please forgive me.)

Then I went on to explain why she’d have a better chance of surviving a gun or knife wound than being taken away in a car to a distant location. As fear replaced the excitement in her eyes, I realized I might have gone too far, so I switched back to “Happy Mom.” I took a picture of her, much like the first day of school. After all, this was her first solo flight without the assistance of an airline rep. I didn’t mention it would be good to have a picture of her in what she was last wearing if we had to do an Amber Alert.

In the security line, I made a point to focus on all the fun she’d have. When we parted, I left a happy girl. She looked so grown-up with her beautiful smile, long, blonde hair and way too perfect body. I couldn’t help but call out:

“If anyone offers to show you the cockpit, slap his face and run away.”