It’s my last day of summer. No, I don’t live in one of those northern, unforgiving environments where it might top off at 60 degrees before blizzard season hits. I live in one of those southern, unforgiving environments where the forecast usually calls for a high around hellish. On a good day, we are treated to mildly hellish with a chance of showers.
Summer is over because I’m a teacher. I feel a little as if this summer signifies the closing of chapter entitled “Rare and Elusive Sanity”, as I’m back to teaching full-time for the first time since May ’06. Realistically though, I’ve always been neurotic, regardless of the work hours, and I frequently teeter on the edge of the abyss. I never exaggerate. And I’m not at all sarcastic, either.
The big question is, am I ready for school to start? I’d love to give a decisive answer, but my brain is a house divided. Periodically in my on/off again teaching career, I’ve mourned the loss of stay-at-home-mom-dom. As anger is part of any grieving process, naturally I get mad at God.
“You’ve robbed me of these precious years with my children!!!!” I would cry, defiant fist held high. “Think of the children!!!”
I imagine this response from the Almighty, elbow resting on the side of the throne, chin in hand, replying tonelessly, “Really? You wanna go there?”
Hmm. Probably not.
First, I can’t say that I’m always the best steward of my time. This summer, I’m juggling time with the girls, a mountain of work to do in preparation for school, and stealing time to write. We’re coming dangerously close to having a leadership team together for our new church, and I will be assisting with a women’s bible study for the next couple of months. Without really thinking about whether I had time or not, I started training for a marathon and fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I’ve got stuff to do. And yet, this is how I spent my morning–
Before we hit the road for Texas a few weeks ago, I attempted to get the house good and clean. “No one wants to come home to a dirty house,” my mom used to say as she handed out assignments for the kids to complete. Ewww…she’s right. We want to enter a clean home after a day in the car.
So I set about accomplishing this task, after a couple (or three…maybe more) monstrous tantrums at Wal-Mart wherein I had to explain to that sweet, well-meaning stock boy that the five year old shrieking on the aisle 5 floor was not lost. She’s just…mine.
And that’s how it’s done in the summer. Spend a few hours at the pool, have your will to live ironically sucked out of you at the mega chain which claims to help you “live better,” and then try to force a chore list onto your cherubic heirs.
I endured a couple more tantrums because my older daughter, who has always been a little OCD about cleanliness, chose that particular day to decide that she no longer likes to clean and most certainly is NOT mommy’s little helper. Well, excuuuuse me. This is the child who got in big trouble–more than once, mind you–for cleaning her sister’s room without permission. Without my permission. Without her sister’s permission–i.e., throwing away things (artwork) that look like trash and any item (toy) that she can’t find a place for because “she doesn’t even use it!” Good heavens, child. I can’t even get away with that.
Then Little Sister makes a good show of her temper, and I was about to cave because, who am I kidding, I can do it better in a fraction of the time. But suddenly, a miracle. She decides that cleaning’s not so bad with frequent costume changes. She scrubbed the bathroom in her finale outfit. It was stunning–the outfit and the bathroom. I wouldn’t have to re-do it. Huzzah!
At this, I can finally turn my attention to the kitchen, which has been too long neglected. While I’m holding my nose, digging through a stack of dishes out of a filthy sink, Eden is vacuuming with a machine whose filter has likewise been neglected. It is doing a fine job of sucking dog hair from the floor evermore blowing dust out the back.
I hung my head in shame at the realization that the backseat of my car is cleaner than my house. Maybe after a day in the car we should just…stay in the car. It’s a miracle God trusted me with children, much less staying home with them all day, year-round.
But today, I moved things along by promising a trip to the pool. I finished up the above nonsense on Facebook and turned my attention to my journal, which is really the only way I can pray with the kids in the house. They had continuously interrupted everything all morning and sure didn’t slow down because I was in talks with God. Emma Kate was babbling excitedly when I finally rose from my
bed work station. Then she said something kind of garbled–like the teacher in the old Peanuts cartoons–something about mouthwash and Big Momma.
“Did you just call me…Big…Momma?” I asked incredulously. And what are you insinuating about my breath???
She was too happy about swimming to be contrite. She giggled, “Yeees.”
“Let me tell you something. I’m no Big Momma. I’m Appropriately Sized Momma. The bulges are all…proportional…mostly…” She continues to giggle. Disappearing into the closet, I glance around, and given her assessment of my shape (as unfair and inaccurate as it is), I make a decision. “Girls, Momma can’t find her suit. I can’t get in the water. Shucks and darn it.”
Now we’re at the pool. I’m smiling because the girls are getting along, playing together, and wearing themselves completely out. We’ll be glad for that at bedtime. I continue smiling because there’s a woman here having more problems with her two girls than I am with mine. That little one’s shriek rivals EK’s, which is something most people describe using the words “bloody murder.” It’s okay, lady. Remember the steps. Call your sponsor. See you in group.
At night, I’ve been counting down the waning hours of my summer vacation with a phenomenon I’d completely forgotten about since I left teaching full-time.
You’ve had them, right? Anyone? Teachers, haven’t you had that dream in the late summer where you’re going over your procedures with a class of 8th graders on the first day of school and suddenly, to your horror, you realize that you’ve got nothing on but your skivvies? No? Just me?
This summer I’ve had some loo-loos, let me tell you, and the one I’m about to relate goes in the record books. I think its accurate interpretation would have something to do with the fact that Katie doesn’t do stress well and has too many irons in the fire. Here it goes…
In this dream we were staying at my friend Laurie’s house, which is less than a mile from where I live. This would, like most things in dreamland, make no sense if it weren’t for the fact that we stayed with Laurie and her family on about five occasions last year while we were making arrangements to move to Arkansas. I was, at that time, very, very stressed. Back to the dream, I’m feeling all this guilt that we are being an imposition to these lovely friends of ours for the umpteenth time. To compensate, I’m wrangling my children, trying to keep the peace and not be such a nuisance. At the same time, I have piles and piles of books with me, which act as an excruciating reminder that I have got to get out of there and go study. But how could I dump my kids on these poor folks when they have done so much for us already?
At this point, the dream merges with a recurring nightmare that I’ve been having since college, in which I’m late for school but no matter what I do, I can’t get out of the house. Ordinary things like breakfast and dressing take hours. Frantically I check the clock again and again. Each time my anxiety grows and grows. Eight thirty. Nine forty-five. Eleven o’clock…
In this version of the dream, I’m panicking over the hours on Laurie’s clock and trying to get my family out of her door. And just when I think the anxiety is more than I can bear, I realize that I simply can NOT leave the house without my…
Wait for it…
You read that right. The climax to this drama broiling in my subconscious is the confounded absence of the appropriate women’s workout apparel. I’m turning over suitcases, rifling through closets and bureaus (not mine, remember), and running back and forth to each member of both the houses Beasley and Cox, wailing, “I’m LATE!! Where is it??? Where is my BRA????”
Now, Mr. Sandman, I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I’ve had some visits of late from your evil twin, Insomnia, and I’m okay with a bizarre dream here and there. But any latent phobia I may have regarding the availability of undergarments for high impact aerobic activity may stay safely housed in my unconscious. Please and thank you.
People keep asking me, “Are you ready for school to start?” I hardly know what to say.
So tell me, teachers? Are you ready? Feeling pressure? Weird dreams? Let’s hear it!