I Have No Mercy for Kids With Mono and Other Tales

I found out last Saturday that my five-year-old daughter has mononucleosis. Of course like any good parent, I felt sympathy for my poor little girl who didn’t feel well. Then I felt relief. And guilt.

For the month prior, my daughter’s behavior was beyond horrible. Even asking her to put on her clothes was a battle. She would throw uncharacteristic temper tantrums, screaming that she was so tired and couldn’t do it. Her room remained a condemned area, as she refused for two weeks to clean it. She was grounded from a birthday party, the playground, dinner with the family–anything else I could think of–and yet she still refused to put even one dirty shirt in the hamper.

Hannah Grace has always been stubborn; refusing to do chores or taking forever to get ready in the morning was not beyond her capabilities, but she had reached such an impressive level of defiance that my visions of her future all involved jail time.

I spent nights crying in bed. All of my prayers started with her. In fact, I spent many nights after the kids had gone to bed walking up and down the hallway, prayer walking, casting out the demons that surrounded her room in Jesus’ name.

In fact, one night the urge to pray was so intense that I went to her room and laid hands on her sleeping body, assuming God wanted me to perform a mini exorcism. That night, Hannah Grace climbed into bed between Matt and me, and we could feel the heat emanating off her limbs as she snuggled next to us. She clearly had a fever. I figured God was giving me a sign that He was burning up the demons.

A few hours later, the fever was gone, and Hannah Grace was back to her defiant self. She said she didn’t want to go to school with venom in her voice, and I knew it was just another of her evil ploys. After all, I had already picked her up from school previously when she said she didn’t feel well, and she bounced around the house all day. We had gone to the doctor another time when she said her throat and stomach hurt, but her strep test came back negative. Clearly, I lived with a manipulative little faker.

So when the nurse called on Saturday and said, “Hannah Grace has mono,” I felt immediate relief that my daughter was not possessed by Satan. And then I felt guilt that I had thought my daughter was possessed by Satan. And guilt that I didn’t renew her gymnastics classes due to her defiant behavior and refusal to do chores.

Yep, that’s motherhood–doing my best to raise my kids well, seeking the Lord, only to realize that I wasn’t reading the signs He was giving me correctly; having to kneel before my child humbly, asking her forgiveness for not understanding.

And, yet, motherhood, is experiencing the biggest smile in my soul, the kind that runs from my stretched cheeks to my toes, as I watch my son round home plate and jog towards his dad who scoops him up in celebration. An in-the-park home run caused this little boy to run to his dad, his coach with tears streaming down his face because, as he explained, “I was just so happy.” These days are what make motherhood, life, amazing; the constant swinging of the pendulum through guilt and relief and compassion to joy and feelings that I don’t even know how to describe.

But I want to try.

I’ve know for some time what I’ve wanted to do, but, honestly, I’ve been afraid. A few weeks ago, God stirred in me that desire again. I attended Hutchmoot with my best friend Wendy, and I fell in love with the story, God’s story. His amazing Creation. His love story told through the pages of the Bible, a story that doesn’t end with Revelation but is just beginning.

I want to tell part of His story; I don’t know what part or where I’m starting, but I want to tap into the creative spirit that He’s given me, that’s He’s shown all of us by every beat of our heart, each breath that we take.

In order to write, though, to capture these moments of life that point toward God’s bigger story of hope and redemption, I have to give myself permission to let go of my blog. I already haven’t written as much as I would like, and that fact hovers over me and actually causes me guilt and disappointment.

The fact is that I want to write without the need to hit publish. I want to write and continue to write and see where my story takes me, but I can’t unless I release this need to write in this space.

These words are hard for me to type because this place has been such a significant part of my life for the last three years. I have shared my joys, my struggles–most of my heart–right here. And while I don’t have a large following, I am very aware that I have a great following of some of the most loyal and faithful readers out in this strange and wonderful world of the blogosphere. I call many of you my friends even though I’ve never seen you face to face!

Thank you for sharing this journey with me, and, perhaps, one day I’ll have a more substantial work to share with you again. In the meantime, I’m sure I’ll visit this space from time to time as my kids always provide the best material–after all, if I don’t write about it, I”ll forget it. And since I don’t scrapbook, my writing really is the best record of my kids’ childhood that I can provide. And now that I’m freeing myself from this space, perhaps I’ll be better at visiting each of yours.

Please pray for me that I would have the discipline to keep writing. And please continue to pray for my family–especially now that I have two kids with mono (Caleb was diagnosed yesterday…I’m hoping my tiredness and headache are just allergies)!

Three years ago when my husband bought me this laptop, I was angry that he spent this money. However, now I can only thank him. He gave me a gift that I never would have expected by renewing my passion (But please, please, Matt, do not buy me another one…even if parts of  this laptop are cracking).

May God bless each of you as you continue on in His story….


Our First Day of School

The night before the first day of school, I hopped into bed with a little nervous energy. We had packed our lunches and laid out uniforms, including socks and underwear, and there was nothing left for me to do except wait for sleep to come. Seven hours later and ten minutes before my alarm, my little girl asked, “Is it morning time, yet?”

I can’t remember if I awoke early on my first day of kindergarten, but I know, like my daughter, I was prepared. My mother taught me my teacher’s name ahead of time–Mrs. Checkers–so when the middle-aged lady with straight, golden locks asked the class if anyone knew her name, I shot my hand up into the air:

“Mrs. Checkers!” I yelled out.

“No,” she replied and then shared a name that I can’t since remember.

I was embarrassed and confused. My mother had told me that name; she wouldn’t have been wrong. I sat for the next few minutes in my desk dejected until the teacher began to take attendance.

I don’t know how the parapro outside the school walked me into the wrong room, and I’m not quite sure why there even was a desk for me in Mrs. Straight Hair’s class. The first day of school 28 years ago sure was different than it is now, but on that day I was walked across the hall to Mrs. Checkers’s class and joined the students already engaged with that sweet old woman with soft white hair.

Yesterday, my daughter walked into her room with her mom and dad and found the desk labeled with her name. We took a few pictures before kissing her goodbye, and I touched her hair one last time before I walked away….

I wonder what Hannah Grace will remember about her day, that she was the line-leader and wore her white uniform shirt with a khaki skort or what objects she shared out of the paper bag that was to tell the class all about her. Perhaps, I will remember more than she, that she was excited all morning until right before we left when I saw a flash of uncertainty come across her eyes. That her little sister asked me to pick up Hannah Grace and their brother from school because she was lonely. That looking at her smile as she bounded into the van after school, telling me about her owl and the snack the class would get tomorrow for being good, made my heart explode at the cuteness.

I don’t know what she will remember; perhaps, she’ll simply remember the pictures we took to document the day.

But I know what I will remember. I will remember a brave little girl who walked into her classroom, as her brother did the year before, ready to start this new journey…and the brave mommy and daddy who walked out the door, in disbelief that it was already time to let her go.

What memories do you have from your first day of school? From your child’s?

 

School for the Escape Artists

The first social media outlet to go was Twitter. I never even tried Pinterest. Now, Facebook‘s days may be coming to an end.

It’s not them; it’s me, really. I still have my Twitter account, and I think I even have a Pinterest account (though, I’ve never logged on), but I can’t allow myself to use them. I know myself, and I know I’ll start the comparison game. I’ll find all the reasons I’m not doing life right or depriving my children of the perfect childhood, so I’ve decided to spare myself the torture.

I had never thought I’d treat Facebook the same way, but last night I started to reconsider my previous position. Post after post after post were from moms commenting on their children’s first day of school, and the moms were all crying. Those moms whose children won’t start until next week were squeezing their babies tighter, not wanting that dreadful day to come.

My first thought was, What the heck is wrong with them?! However, after reading how many moms were crying, I then thought, What the heck is wrong with me?!

My son starts first grade tomorrow, and the only emotion I feel is excitement. Yesterday, we visited his classroom, cute little desks filled with brand new workbooks and the hermit crab class pet to complete the perfection, and I wanted to start school with him. My daughter starts kindergarten in a week, and the very mention of school brings a smile to her face. When I visualize her wearing her plaid uniform and hair bow, I smile with her.

I know I’m not a bad mom for looking at school as an exciting time, but I can’t help wondering why I’m not more sentimental….

Last night, I lay in bed for a good while before I fell asleep. My mind was full of random thoughts, ranging from the sermon I heard two weeks ago to the bedtime routine of my kiddos when they were three. My mind stayed on the latter.

None of my children transitioned to the toddler bed well, and nap times were extremely difficult. At one point, we resorted to turning the doorknobs around so that we could lock the door from the outside and trap our kids on the inside in hopes of forcing them to sleep.

Caleb was the first child to defy nap time. I remember feeling like the victor after changing the knobs, knowing that I would finally have the ‘mommy time’ to clean or pay bills or just sit for a minute while he rested quietly in his room. That is until I saw him make his way down the stairs. How in the world did he get out? I wondered. After putting Caleb back in his room, re-locking his door, and finding this little boy down the stairs again, I repeated the routine but stayed camped out in front of his room. I would crack the code.

As I sat, I watched the lock magically turn to the horizontal position, and there stood my three-year-old, having pushed open his door with his Lightning McQueen suitcase in hand. I was baffled–until I saw that he was holding the zipper. Yes, my little boy learned how to pick a lock with the zipper on a suitcase.

I promptly removed the suitcase and locked his door again, but Caleb knew that his jeans also had zippers. I couldn’t even lock my son in his room.

I knew Caleb was clever, but I was hoping for different results with his sister. Hannah Grace, however, proved that she, too, had the criminal gene and picked her lock with the prongs of her nightlight. Chloe’s room had a dutch door so that we could see in her room while she was locked out. She didn’t mess with picking locks. Instead, she dumped out the baskets that held her shoes and simply stood on them, reached over, and unlocked her door. Pillows, dolls, and laundry baskets could also give her the extra height if she needed it. When all such items were removed, Chloe flung her body, catching her forearms on the top of her door. She would use every bit of her strength to wiggle up and over the top.

I was no match for them.

locked in

I’m not sure what started the train of thought that led me to thinking about those dreadful days. However, I did figure out why I wasn’t crying about school starting–I was all cried out.

What emotions did you experience when your children started school? Were any of you out there a successful escape artist as a child, or do you have an escape artist of your own?

*photo courtesty of Trevin Shirey via Flickr ‘Creative Commons.’

Rest

Sunday night, Matt and I drove back up our driveway to reality. For the past four days, we had lived as newlyweds, except on this ‘honeymoon’ we were content to sit next to each other with a book in hand.

I read two books this week. I have to admit, I was relieved to know that I could still read considering I had taken six months to read my last book. I guess all I needed was a beach chair and umbrella and a couple of hours to myself.

And for four days, that was our existence. We woke up late and went to bed late after spending hours at the beach doing nothing. It was glorious. I’ve never been one for doing nothing, but now I see what I’ve been missing.

We started our vacation by getting our rings polished. Those first few years of marriage, we kept our rings sparkly and clean, but neglect from the last few years had taken its mark. They had become dull, merely a symbol that encircled our fingers but didn’t catch our eye. However, when the attendant walked out with our rings, I actually giggled. I found myself staring at my ring the way I had when it newly graced my finger.

Matt and I took long walks on the beach talking, not ‘how was work?’ talking, but really talking. We talked about our future and remembered our past. We didn’t talk about our kids much, either. I felt a little guilty that I didn’t really miss them.

Sure, I enjoyed talking to them every day, but I didn’t want to go home. I entertained the thought of hiring a nurse like the one in Romeo and Juliet. I would play with my kids and then hand them over to her when they started fighting or peed their pants. I decided that that plan wouldn’t work, though, because I actually do want to raise my children–just not during those days on the beach.

On the second full day, I surprised myself. I didn’t feel tired, anymore; sure, I felt lazy, and some of my plans for the day included a nap under the umbrella, but I didn’t feel like I couldn’t go on. And that feeling was one of the best of the trip.

We drove up our driveway last Sunday, and as the garage door rolled up, three little munchkins in pajamas ran out. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time we received applause from our children. I wanted to scoop them all up–there is just something about newly bathed children in clean pajamas.

And then the reality of what we’d been missing hit us quickly. Matt went right back to work, and I spent a morning at the chiropractor’s yelling at children who were fighting over toys. But I noticed, even while having pain in my back that wouldn’t let me turn to see what was actually happening in the rear of the van, I had patience. I disciplined better. And I loved greater.

I spent more time playing with my kids’ hair, and Matt and my kisses ‘goodbye’ lasted a little longer. I longed for him, and I desperately wanted, want, to keep up our walks at the beach where we talked about everything and nothing, together without distraction. I don’t want to fall into the rut of TV and Twitter; I want to keep our rings polished.

Rest was exactly what we needed to see each other with fresh eyes, and I don’t want to wait another ten years to rest again. I love Matt and my kids too much to run on empty. So the next time Mommy says” I need a vacation!” everyone better start packing their bags.

Have you taken the time to get the rest you need? Realistically, we can’t take vacation all the time–and in this economy, sometimes we can’t take a vacation at all. What are your suggestions for getting the rest we all need?

I’m linking up with Michelle for her ‘Graceful Summer.’

The Crazy Old Bat and Football: Repost

As Matt and I are away celebrating our ten year anniversary with a much-needed vacation, I thought this week would be a perfect time to pull some of my favorite Matt stories from the archives. This post is one from my “Crazy Old Bat” short-story series, and it makes me giggle every time.

picture by chadfox on photobucket.com

Many people assume the children were to blame for making the old lady crazy, and while they did their part, there were other factors.  Genetics surely came into play, as there were some nuts on both sides of the old woman’s family. However, there was one more culprit that people were quick to overlook–the old lady’s husband.

Mr. Davis was a good man, and one would be hard-pressed to find another who disagreed.  The old lady loved her husband very much, and he loved her, and they shared a marriage full of joyous memories.

When Mrs. Davis thought of her husband, by no means did she picture a stoic man.  He was always affectionate to his children and could laugh at a good joke.  However, the crazy old bat would never say that Mr. Davis was emotional.  In fact, due to her own penchant for drama, she would sometimes wish that he were a little less self-controlled.

For example, on her wedding day, the crazy old lady secretly hoped that the beauty she radiated as a new bride would produce such a wellspring of emotion in her new husband that he would not be able to contain the little tears that would pool in his eyes.  Yet on that day, the old woman (then young, of course) did not get her wish.  As she walked down the aisle, her soon-to-be-husband smiled, clearly delighted that his betrothed kept her promise to be his bride, but he was not moved to tears.

The crazy old lady wasn’t disappointed; after all, everyone reacts differently to different situations, but she was certain the birth of their first child would overwhelm her husband.  She had a difficult labor, and when that little boy finally emerged, the only tears came from him and his mother.  His father looked emotionally spent, probably from worrying the last few hours but, again, did not cry.

Perhaps Mr. Davis would cry at the birth of his first daughter.  This labor was uneventful, no worrying necessary, so he could enjoy her birth and allow the happiness of his little girl’s arrival to wash over him producing that single tear.  When the little girl entered the world, Mrs. Davis glanced at her husband and again noticed a smile but no tears.

The crazy old lady was not crazy yet, so she knew better than to look for tears at the birth of their third child.  Mr. Davis and she rejoiced at the speedy surprise that was their second little girl but kept the dramatics to a minimum.  In fact, the only thing dramatic about this birth was how quickly the entire labor and delivery happened.

So given her history with Mr. Davis, the crazy old woman was a little bewildered on January 1st of 2010.  As she was cleaning up in the kitchen, she happened to look over at her husband who was red in the face and whose eyes appeared to be watering.  She followed his gaze to the T.V. and noticed the montage of football clips that he was watching.  She must have missed something.

“What’s got you so emotional?” she asked, not knowing if there were a good story behind one of the players that just flashed on the screen.

“I don’t know,” Mr. Davis replied.

Mrs. Davis’s gaze let her husband know that she needed a better explanation.

“Year-in-review college football reels always get me emotional.”

At that moment, one of the synapses in the crazy old bat’s brain sparked and fizzled out forever.

Click on the blue tag below to read more ‘Crazy Old Bat’ stories! What is something your spouse has done that has contributed to your own craziness?


A Bag of Peaches

When the kids are out of control, and the house is a mess, I like to look ahead 30 years. I imagine my 60-something-year-old self with my children and their spouses gathered around the kitchen table, laughing while we reminisce.

Hannah Grace, do you remember the time Chloe and you made a ‘cake’ with dirt and eggs all over the kitchen floor?” Caleb would ask.

Yes, Mom made us scrub that whole floor on our hands and knees. We never made that mistake again!

Except they did make that mistake again two days later. Clearly, my punishment didn’t carry the desired effect.

My dad’s dad, however, taught my father a lesson with one simple action, and my dad has never forgotten it.

When my father was a child, fruit didn’t sit out on the counter or in a forgotten refrigerator bin waiting to spoil. Fruit was a luxury, and my father remembers fighting over who would get the last banana.

His mother didn’t walk to the local grocery store but instead to the street corner where the vendor set up his cart. One side displayed fresh vegetables, the other the fruit that was in season.

My dad remembers one summer afternoon when he was spending his time with a neighbor boy who Dad since describes as ‘no good.’ I guess, much like nowadays, adolescents get bored easily and find ways to get into trouble. This boy found trouble in the fruit stand. He told my father that when the vendor walked to the other side to help the customer pick out her vegetables, they would each grab a peach.

Dad wasn’t excited about the plan, but he didn’t protest. As the vendor walked around the other side, each boy snagged a piece of forbidden fruit–unbeknownst to them, right under the watchful eye of my grandfather.

Get inside.

I’ve never met my grandfather, but I’m told he was calm and even-tempered. I can almost feel the dread my father must have felt enter his stomach when he heard his own father utter those stern words.

Dad ran inside, peach in hand, and waited in his room.

A few minutes later, my grandfather entered with a bag of peaches and set them down by my father.

The next time you need something so badly that you have to steal, you tell me, and I’ll get it for you.

There was no screaming, no beating that followed, just those words. Sixty years later, those words cause my dad’s eyes to water as he remembers his father and this story.

That story always stuck with my father and shaped him in ways that a beating probably couldn’t. My dad describes how he could never steal after that moment, how that moment even affected the way he carried out business as an adult.

And that moment affected me, as well. I wish I had gotten the chance to meet my grandfather–all I know of him are the stories that my father shares–but they have helped me form a picture. In my mind’s eye, I see a wise man. I see a man who didn’t have the money to spend on a whole bag of peaches, but he knew that honesty and integrity are worth far more than all the riches in the world.

My grandfather didn’t know at the time the effect of his actions. He didn’t know that that one action would reach out to later generations as I try to raise my own children in a way pleasing to God.

I wish I could’ve met him, and I pray for his wisdom. While no parent wants their children to do wrong, we know they will. And on that day, I hope for my own bag of peaches to pass on to my children, to teach them and remind them as they carry the weight in their hands.

What is a punishment that you will never forget?

 

A Memorial Day Story

Yesterday morning, the family got up and dressed in preparation for what has become a tradition–our town’s Memorial Day parade. As I was going between kids’ rooms, Hannah Grace stopped me:

“We’re going to get candy today at the parade.”

Caleb immediately responded from his room, yelling, “It’s not about the candy, Hannah!”

“But I’m going to get candy,” she replied.

“It’s about our soldiers, Hannah Grace! I’m not even thinking about candy!!”

I chuckled and affirmed Caleb that Memorial Day is about our fallen soldiers, but, yes, Hannah Grace was right, too; people do throw candy from the floats.

Caleb then walked over to me and shared one small caveat: “I don’t care, but if they throw the candy in front of me, I”ll pick it up.”

And pick it up he did. For someone who didn’t care about candy, he did pretty well. In fact, when Caleb was given the task of picking out 15 pieces of candy from his bag, he agonized over the decision as if I told him his sisters were hanging off a cliff, and he could only save one.

Caleb’s intentions were pure–he wanted to reflect on the true reason for Memorial Day–but he got lured in by the candy and the fanfare and an excuse to go swimming. I, too, have trouble keeping my focus.

There are many veterans in my family, but I have never personally known someone who died fighting for our country. And while my family and I pause every Memorial Day to thank those who laid down their lives, to thank the families who have one less person sitting around their table for dinner, we cannot truly appreciate their sacrifice.

We are thankful, but we are thankful for something we do not fully understand. So to those who understand all too well, all year round, I hope you can accept our gratitude, even if we are naive. For one thing that I do understand is that if it were not for the brave men and women that you love, I wouldn’t enjoy our freedoms with the ones I love.

 

I started this post yesterday, but I think it’s going to take me a few more days to figure out this summer routine. I keep convincing myself that the kids will sleep later so that I can, too. Of course, we all know how that theory turns out. Anyway, here it is, a day late.

Does your family have any Memorial Day traditions that honor our fallen men and women?

Home

I still think about one month ago. For the first time, my youngest got to meet my family for a weekend, only to turn around and come back to Georgia once again. A wedding was the excuse for Matt to drive an insane amount of miles in such a short time, but I would ask him to do it again; for during that brief stay, my heart never felt more at home.

When we crossed over the state line into New Jersey, I shared the same excitement as my kids in the back of the van, and not merely because the 15 hour ride was coming to an end. I was coming home. And from the first hugs and kisses, I felt like we had never left.

 

We celebrated the union of my cousin to his new wife, and Caleb found a hero in T.J. It’s not uncommon now for the kids to put on their dress-up clothes and pretend they’re T.J. and Sara, marrying once again.

 

And we laughed. I don’t laugh with anyone like I laugh with my family, and it’s refreshing to sit in the company of those who can let go and truly enjoy each other. I tend to sit more quietly than the rest–I’ve never been as extroverted as the bunch (although, even I have opened up more in recent years)–but hearing the jokes and the loud laughs while the smell of sauce and my uncle’s pizza travel from the kitchen to the table filled spaces in me that I didn’t realize were empty. After a night around his table, I was full.

Someone once said, “Home is where the heart is.” I hesitate to write something so cliche, but sometimes the cliches are too true to dismiss. I’ve always had a horrible memory, but as we drove through my old neighborhood, I immediately recognized the pond that froze over in the winter and the time my baby sister got pegged with snowballs from big kids on the other side. I knew exactly how to get to the playground, the playground where I watched planes wondering if my dad was in one of them (he told me he saw me from the sky. I was wearing a red jacket). I saw the old diner where I learned how to sound out ‘ham-bur-ger,’ and I remembered the coin shop where my dad worked, and the upstairs window from where we all watched the parade below.

And our old house. My first memories were formed here. Running around in the back yard. The cookout where I waited next to the volleyball net patiently for a turn to throw the ball. Making birthday cakes for my dad every week with my ‘Easy Bake’ oven. Learning how to color in the lines. Sharing a room with my sister. Jumping off the radiator while singing “Wake me up, before you go-go!” with my mom. All these memories from when I was four and five resurfaced as we stopped in front of our little dollhouse.

 

I have many homes now. Home is with the people who hold my heart. Home is with the town that holds my memories. Home is the place that I can leave only to come back and find myself once again.

I don’t want to move back to New Jersey. My life is with my husband and children in Georgia. We have our church, our friends–we have planted roots at our own home. Yet the wife and mother that they love, part of her is because of all of them.

 

 

 

Where is home for you?

I Make People Cry

I guess it goes with the territory of motherhood that we mothers can and will get the blame for anything that goes wrong. I’ve seen my 30-year-old sister blame my mom for her own lateness, and I’ve linked my kids’s disobedience to a prior stay at Grammy’s house. I don’t know why we do it, but I’ve heard my mom say more than once, “I get the blame for everything.”

We’ve had an emotional last couple of weeks at my house. Nothing in particular happened–my son just recalled every way that I have failed him as his mother.

Oh, the tears flowed because Caleb decided that I was never going to give him a little brother. He is so lonely. The girls don’t play with him. Why can’t I just give him a little brother?! Well, buddy, perhaps talk to your sisters about that one. After they flooded the bathroom is not the time to mention to me that you need another sibling.

And while I know that I cannot control the gender of any child that I have or will have (if I go completely crazy), I at least see the logic in Caleb’s plea. However, he really threw me for a loop when he blamed his misery on my giving a dog away that he doesn’t even remember because he was maybe two when the incident happened.

I should’ve known that stupid dog would haunt me for the rest of my life. I see his rebellious spirit residing in my kids when they poop outside, remembering how he would only pee inside. When I sleep at night, I dream about his pathetic face; although, that fact may be due to my mother who loves to taunt me by giving me Boston Terrier pajamas for Christmas.

Yes, Baxter continued to haunt me as my son cried in the middle of the neighborhood. An innocent bike ride turned to sudden tears when the appearance of an old, 75 pound, long-haired retriever brought back memories that Caleb didn’t have of our young and lean Boston Terrier.

“Why did you have to give away Baxter? I miss him so much.”

Because he was crazy, and no you don’t.

Nonetheless, he cried and cried and cried–in the middle of the cul-de-sac as he dismounted his bike; at the top of the stairs as he got ready for bed; and when his misery entered his sister’s body, causing her to cry for the dog that I gave away when she was six months old.

At that moment, I sighed and accepted my fate. I was the mother who deprived my children of a life with a neurotic dog. I was the mother who denied my three children of a fourth to drive me crazy. I was to blame for the thunder as we made our way to the pool, and I was at fault for the taste of broccoli. I stunk.

And one day, I would make some therapist a lot of money.

What’s the craziest thing for which you got blamed? (And does anyone else out there have a pet that continues to haunt you?)

I May Have Shortened the Substitute’s Life

The other day, I mentioned that I never received a detention in my entire school career. That fact doesn’t, of course, mean that I never deserved detention. In all honesty, there was one incident that should’ve earned me a whole week’s detention, and given my guilt complex, I still occasionally dwell on what a rotten person I was on that given day….

After my back injury, I quit gymnastics and immediately jumped into theatre. I loved performing and getting the chance to take on the character of someone I wasn’t. I explored the realm of insanity many times as I was often cast as the crazy old woman, questioned my faith as I portrayed the young girl Anne Frank, and learned how to walk sexy (my most challenging feat) for my role as a tramp.

Acting was very satisfying to me, as I could experience life as someone else without the consequences; I always returned as Jennifer. However, sometimes the line between reality and pure drama blurred. Periodically, those in my drama class would break into fantasy world, and improv would begin.

I remember finding myself in the middle of a fake domestic dispute as my friend and I choreographed a fight scene between a boyfriend and girlfriend. I had fun using some of the moves I had learned in Tae Kwan Do while he enjoyed fake slapping me to the floor.

Weird, I know, but what does one expect when a bunch of dramatic teenagers are thrown into the theatre for a performance class?

Probably not this story.

I honestly do not know how this scene began, but I clearly remember sitting on the front row of seats in the theatre having a fake fight (just verbal this time) with my ‘boyfriend.’ He yelled at me, and I began to cry. My friend came to comfort me, and so did the elderly substitute teacher who was given the task of dealing with we crazies on this particular day.

“You tell me what he did, and I’ll get him out of here! I’ll get him right out!” he exclaimed in anger. Clearly, I looked very convincing as the innocent, broken-hearted girl.

“No, no, he’s just never talked to me that way before, but I’ll be fine,” I choked out through a stifled sob.

“Well, you just let me know. I’ll have him out! I’ll have him out!”

My friend hugged me as I shook my head in understanding.

“Thank you. I’ll be fine; I’ll be fine.”

And at that moment, it was as if the floodgates to hell broke open. Like a line of dominoes falling, one after another students began to pair up, each acting out their own fantasies. In a matter of moments, the theatre auditorium had the feel of Lord of the Flies, minus the pig head on a stick.

There was a stick, however. For some reason that I will never know, other than the frenzy created by the mob scene, one of the students grabbed a 2×4 piece of wood from the backstage area and whacked the glowing ‘Exit’ sign by the side door. This poor old man–not frail, mind you, but clearly substituting for something to do during retirement–looked around bewildered, not sure which fire to put out first.

I sat in amazement at what I had started, not sure how to continue. How could I now go back to being Jennifer when this kind man tried to help me from my evil boyfriend? We didn’t start this charade to cause him stress; we were just weird theatre kids who liked to have an excuse to yell at each other. I certainly hadn’t foreseen the rest of the class starting a riot.

Nonetheless, a riot is what happened. The entire class period was spent in pure chaos. There was no going back.

The whole rest of the day I worried. Would this poor man get fired from substitute teaching? What would he tell our current theatre teacher? Would he go home that night and die of a heart attack?

Theatre was proving more dangerous than the flips I did in gymnastics.

God made sure I paid for my mistake, though. My punishment came in the form of my own third period English class my first year teaching.

I’ve often thought about that substitute teacher, but I can’t even remember his name. If I could, perhaps I’d look him up. He might not be alive, but if he is, I think I owe him an apology.

Any of my high school theatre friends out there–do you remember this incident or our substitute teacher’s name? For everyone else–did you ever take advantage of a substitute teacher?

I’m linking up with Mama Kat today for her Writer’s Workshop to tell about a time I pretended to be someone I wasn’t.

Mama’s Losin’ It