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The Litter Box

Of course Natalie Portman reads my blog

Updated: 2017-10-16T04:58:52.355-05:00


I feel like I should say something...


Before something utterly SHITTY happened today, I was going to be all roses and wine and smiley emoticons and tell you all that now that I am divorced and living my life, blogging has lost its sparkle. It's need. It's urgency.

Which isn't to say that I'm Brett Favre: I'm not saying that I'm GONE FOREVER AND EVER only to come back again and again. Indeed that's not the case. But when my evening winds down, I realize that I just don't have as much of a need to share quippy stories and clever comebacks and classroom antics.

(Plus, let's admit it...this blog is tied to my past. The people who know about it, might STILL read it, have no business knowing about my new life...know this blog...which I gotta say influences my desire to share content.)

I find that I now more than before, I want to have a life. I want to be around people and do things and try things and be things that maybe I wasn't so comfortable doing before. I want to LIVE. And not just write about what has already passed.

I've made a concerted effort to DO STUFF, particularly when my kids aren't home with me. Going out with friends or even by myself just so that I'm not sitting around feeling crappy (which still happens from time to time). This has been a positive result of a crap situation.

And I like it.

I find that I use Facebook to express my daily thoughts, which I can do in a less expanded form, which means it takes less time, which means you don't love me anymore.

But you can try. 'Cause I'm really lovable. And cute.

Check back often. I mean, I'll be around for sure. But I didn't want to just disappear for the immediate time leaving you to wonder about me and my life. (I know you would.) So, guys, we aren't breaking up...we're just on a break.

Meanwhile, I'm going to the local pub to get my fun on.

Not quitting yet


Last week was A WEEK.


I have a student who is the bane of my existence. A button pusher. A real problem.

We began the week with birthday presents she'd brought for me, by mid-week she was standing at the front of the classroom yelling that she hates me, and by Friday she was defiant and difficult at best.

I refuse to write it all down because it consumed me all week and I am trying to put it behind me.

Really, it was a week where I thought about what other jobs I am suited for that pay enough money to keep me in the lifestyle to which I've become accustomed (read: poor).

Coming up with exactly NOTHING, I figured I'd have to stick it out.

Then, as if the universe knew that I needed a sign, I got an email from a mom of a previous student who is now in 9th grade across the country. She included the essay her daughter wrote about someone who influenced her life. Here's a bit:

"Mrs. Mann was instrumental in teaching me fractions, matter, and nouns, for sure, but her real lessons, what she actually wanted us to take away from 5th grade, were far more important: act inappropriately sometimes because no one ever *really* gets in trouble for running down the hall; stop what you're doing every once in awhile to make sure everyone is smiling, and if they aren't, stand on a table and tell jokes until they do; and most importantly, never forget how important it is to make other people valued."

Yup. I'm going back tomorrow.

My boy


Last night was the cross country banquet.

This is met, yearly, with heavy sighs, leaden feet, and resentment.

Yes, my anti-social son actually prefers NOT to go the large gathering of people where runners are recognized, awards are given out, and big deals are made. But, because his mother asked him to, because it is a "last," Reed went to the banquet.

To add insult to social expectations, the coach asked Reed, a co-captain, to say a few words as a senior "reflection."


He REFUSED to put anything on a notecard, even when I coached him, told him that it would be nice to have a specific anecdote to share, no matter how short. Denial.

But, we tromped over to the banquet facility, ran to the door dodging raindrops, and took a seat in the corner. We sat through opening remarks, Reed's terrible awkward thirty second speech, and warmed banquet food.

Then the awards.

Blah, blah, blah, most improved...varsity letters...blah, blah, blah, Tim Cook Scholarship Award: REED MANN.

It's whatever. My kid won a cross country scholarship renewable for all four years of college.


Love my kid.

Don't Worry


Part of me wants to apologize for being MIA from the blog.

(I do ever so love my blog.)

BUT, at the same time, less blogging just means more LIVING.

This is something that I didn't really DO until recently. I mean, BD I was pretty much a wife/mom doing wife/mom types of things. Now, AD, I find myself with chunks of time where I have no real responsibilities.


I ALWAYS have responsibilities.

But what is true is that I can choose to be responsible and stay at home and have no life and do school work and watch TV and go to bed at a reasonable hour and never meet anyone and die a spinster...or I can DO SOMETHING.

And, in keeping with my December 1st turn around date, I decided to DO SOMETHING.

So, last week I kept myself busy while my kids were with their dad. I went out to dinner with a friend, I went Christmas shopping with another friend, I went to dinner and a play at the high school with another friend, I went to dinner and a play with another friend, and I went out to a bar (gasp) with yet another friend.


Can you see why I wasn't blogging?

This week I will happily ensconce myself in life as a mom, the job I truly love and wouldn't trade for ANYTHING. Because my kids are here. And I love being their mom.

But when they aren't here, I plan on being Sherry. I'm a person. I have interests. I don't want to identify myself solely by my children. Plus, they aren't sticking around forever, so I guess it makes good sense to find something for me in the meantime.

Starting Wednesday, and just about every Wednesday to follow, yet ANOTHER friend (can you believe so many people like me? I can't.) are going to go to a local bar/restaurant for some food (wings for me, thank you) and to play a trivia game. I was introduced to it by another friend and it was FUN. Much more fun than I expected, so she and I decided to form a team.

I know, I't not MUCH, but it's a start. And there are other real live adults there, so who knows what kind of trouble we will get into?

All I know is that I am trying to embrace my new normal and this seems like a good start.



So, can you pick a day and DECIDE that from that day forth things will be different? BETTER?

Is happiness merely a mindset that you can choose to have? To find and take hold of?

The other day when I was down in the dumps (putting up the Christmas tree for the first time with the new version of my family), I found myself in a parking lot near my house. Crying. Like pretty hard. Of course, I perpetuated this by listening to music. Loudly. The kind that would make me more sad.

I'm typical like that.

It was at that point, my lowest, that I texted a friend known for being funny, mentioning the bit about the crying, the parking lot, the Christmas tree...yanno. This was the response:

What happened next, as you can see, was that I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a car pull up beside mine. And I laughed. Which was the reaction he was going for, I suppose.

We had a conversation, one that he steered, one that he somehow orchestrated in about 58 seconds during the drive to the parking lot. I found that amazing.

He first got out a box of horrible, terrible Christmas ornaments from his car. He told me that he and his college friends have a tradition of exchanging the most hideous ornaments they can find with the stipulation that the ornament must be prominently displayed on the tree for every year after.

Purpose: Maybe all we needed was to create a new tradition that would be ours as we go into this new normal.

Then he told me about a church he went to that morning to "try out." While he knows I'm not a religious person, he said that the sermon was interesting because they discussed the difference between optimism and hope: optimism being the thought there there is enough evidence to believe that things will be better, while hope looks at the evidence and realizes it doesn't look good but decides to take a leap of faith to create new possibilities.

Purpose: Realize that things don't always look good but that you have the power to change things.

Then he let me vent. I got a hug. We joked around. And I went home and decorated the tree with Tatum and Griffin. Without tears.

I think happiness can be a mindset. It can be something that you decide. And when things don't look good, you just cling to it, ride the wave to the shore, straighten your suit, and go again.

I'm thinking December 1st. That's my day. My HAPPINESS DAY.

I should probably come with a warning label.


Sometimes I think I'm too complicated.I realize this is a very self-centered way of thinking because I know you guys are ALL pretty messed up, too. Everyone has issues from their childhood, relationships, marriages and divorces. I know that.But still, sometimes I think I'm too complicated. (It's MY blog after all, so let me have this.)And, it is during these times that I fancy being on my own (notice I avoided the word "alone") for the rest of my days. It's not necessarily connected to depression, so don't go getting all worried about me. It's just a thought, simple really, that I would quite possibly do better if I was on my own.This December I'll be 43 years old. (Holy shit. 43.) That means that, if I am the average American (I do prefer to think of myself as ABOVE average, but for argument's sake), I'd have a good 35 - 40 years left. I don't smoke, I don't drink, I eat healthy foods, I exercise moderately. I could, as most predictors show (and barring all potentially unexpected digs at my mortality) live to be 80 years old. My grandmother did.How would it be to live for 40 years on my own? I have no answer for this. (But probs not that great.)The thing is, I don't have any idea how to do THIS - THIS being meeting someone, dating, being together. (And I'm not looking for anyone to fix this for me, so just read and think...but don't solve.)I don't know how to date. I've dated exactly three guys in my life. One was a three date deal in 9th grade; one was a hot Asian dude from Laos who danced to Pet Shop Boys like none other in college; and one who married me. This, as I look back, might have been a mistake. Perhaps I should have opened myself up to more people.I don't understand flirting. I've been told I inadvertently flirt, giving the wrong impression to many a confused guy. I also don't have a clue when someone is flirting with me. If flirting is a language, it is foreign to me.It all stems back to my childhood. And perhaps this is the most frustrating part of the entire situation: I can intellectually summarize exactly what happened to me, what I am doing, and yet I seem to be powerless to fix/stop/remedy the situation.I was not on the receiving end of unconditional love as a child. If I wanted my mother to love me, I grew to understand that there were conditions to being loved. However, it wasn't as if there was a list of rules or expectations to which I could aspire. Not at all. In fact, the rules and expectations were ever changing at the very whim of my mother, who would decide on the turn of a dime that what I had or hadn't done made me unworthy of speaking to for a day, a few days, or a week. Scrambling to fix it, I would take exhaustive strides to be back in her graces, all while knowing that there was a 100% chance that at any moment the rules and expectations would change yet again and I would be back in a black hole of despair. It was in these moments, the ones where my very own mother refused to speak to me, that I grew to believe I was unworthy of anyone's love. To my credit, I never gave up. I always worked diligently to secure my mother's love and approval. It wasn't until I was an adult, with children of my own, that a therapist said, "There is nothing wrong with you. You are worth loving. In fact, your own mother loved you for sure, but it was as if she spoke a foreign language that you didn't understand, and so when she was telling you that she loved you, the words made no sense."There was no lack of tears that day. I felt renewed. I felt lighter. I felt better. I could be loved. However, it isn't that simple. Regardless of what I know, what I have been told, what makes sense in a logical way, all those years with my mother robbed me of the ability to trust that I am worthy of being liked (let's not even entertain the idea that I could be loved). I never believe that someone likes me - in a friendly way or otherwise. I can always find a[...]



I'm going to take the week off.

I hope you'll be back...

Like Eminem, she's been sent here to destroy me.


There is a girl in my class who is killing me.

You think I'm joking, that this can't be literal - surely it is figurative.

But I assure you that she is LITERALLY KILLING ME.

I try very hard to like all of my students. I realize they are all unique individuals, they all have a set of goals, an IQ score, past mistakes, personality quirks. THAT sort of stuff. I don't know that I truly LOVE all of my students, but I like most of them, for sure.

And I know that they desperately want me to like them.

This is not self-centeredness; think back to when you were in elementary school; you wanted your teacher to like you, to see you as something special. Even if for just a moment.

This girl? SHE IS THE DEVIL. Or WORKS for Beelzebub. 'Cause somebody done told her about my buttons and she spends EVERY WAKING MOMENT pushing them.

For example, yesterday morning she came into the classroom smiling and laughing, holding a large piece of poster board in her hands.

devil spawn: "This is for you, Mrs. Mann!"

She hands it to me and I turn it over, partially shielding my eyes at the unknown, when I see that in fact, it says, "Mrs. Mann is fabulous!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (Her exclamation points, not mine.) Made of noodles and paint and leftover string, it was obviously a labor of love.

Or just another way to lead me to the doorway to hell to see if I am stupid enough to step back in.

Moments after I place the poster exclaiming my greatness for all to see, she rolls her eyes at me, talks back, lies about her homework, refuses to sit down and do her morning work, and then refuses to STAND UP for the National Anthem.

THIS, or something like it, goes on for 7 hours a day. EVERY DAY. She even comments on my school blog after hours lest I forget THAT SHE IS STILL TORMENTING ME.

Look, I did the whole, "she's just doing this because she doesn't know how to work towards positive attention, so she shoots for negative attention because at least it's attention." I tried, really I did. I asked her to lunch in the room with me. I let her stay after for extra help on a math concept she bombed. I complimented her in Social Studies IN FRONT OF EVERYONE.

And still she takes a shit on me.

The only thing I can come up with is that she was SENT HERE TO DESTROY ME.

Guys? We're on day 55. I don't think I can do 120 more of these.

A Mantra


When I was young, I read a lot of books. I mean, A LOT of books.

Living where I did (my parents choose Narnia, while the rest of the kids from my school were in a different phone exchange - for today's youth, that's the equivalent of NOT HAVING A PHONE), I had next to nothing to do. School wasn't a challenge for me and summers could drag on forever, so I read.

I read series, stand alone books, books from my parents' bookshelves, borrowed books from the library, books from my bookshelf, and books from my grandmother's house (she worked for Book of the Month, so, yeah, a lot of books).

I remember one particular summer day where I sat in a lawn chair and read Misery in its entirety. (Oh, how I loved Stephen King as a teenager.)

My love of books grew into a love of writing, which, well, you know.

Over the weekend I stumbled upon an article written in earnest by a twenty-one year old male student at Berkley.


So, I want you to read it.

You Should Date an Illiterate Girl (it's two pages - YOU HAVE TO READ BOTH)

I'm not saying that I regret any of the choices I made when I was nineteen years old. LOOK AT MY CHILDREN. I don't have any regrets.

But I will say this - I feel like this article is my mantra. I don't want to be afraid to have the kind of life I deserve. I just have to wait until I ready...but every day I feel more ready.

Half way house


There's too much to get done in a normal school day, yet expectations run ridiculously HIGH.

Do this, and this, and this, and don't forget THIS, and make sure your kids participate in this, and send this home, and do report cards, and juggle bowling balls, and don't fall asleep in class, and ARE YOU HAVING FUN? STOP IT.

I love my jobs, but if it weren't for the kids, I'd give it up and find one of them there jobs you leave behind you when you go home.

Last night I was troubled by the young lady who ate lunch with me in my classroom yesterday. She ate every bite of her (kinda yucky school lunch), scavenged food off of other trays and from within other lunch bags...and when that wasn't enough, she straight up ate three packs of mayonnaise, "because I never know if we're having dinner or not."


But this week I offered to stay after school for a total of three hours if any of my kids wanted to participate in the Martin Luther King, Jr. essay contest that is supported locally in our community. The prompt was REALLY HARD, so of the ten kids who raised their hands (not bad, 50%), only four were allowed to stay because they could specifically say what they were going to write about. (The other six heard I baked treats and thought that if they pretended to want to write the essay, they might get to partake.)

So, Tuesday night we sent the rest of the class home and tromped back to our room. We had a snack, brainstormed, and started writing.

Look, I don't REALLY mind doing this. I mean, my kids were with me this week, but they aren't home much before 4:30 anyway, so I wasn't missing that much time with them. And it's report card week, so there are certainly 26 (plus 28 plus 22) report cards to get ready. Not to mention giving up my normal "get ready for tomorrow time" at the end of each day. And never mind that I would have to take all of my grading home each night because that time, too, was gone.


However, apparently the parents of these kids didn't appreciate my efforts quite as much as I did.

The first mom stuck her head in my doorway at 4:15. I smiled and asked if I could help her. Ignoring me, she called to her daughter, A GIRL I SPEND SEVEN HOURS WITH EVERY SINGLE DAY, and asked her what she was doing in detention.

You. Are. Kidding. Me.

You don't even know why your daughter is staying after? And you show up early to get her? And you don't have ANYTHING to say to me?

At 4:30, the remaining three (and me) walk to the lobby. Two boys walk home (yes! boys like to write, too!), and I'm left with my remaining writerly girl. I asked if her mom knew to pick her up at 4:30. She responded by telling me that an hour earlier, when her mom picked up her little brother, she reminded her.

At 4:55 I asked her to CALL HER MOM AND ASK WHERE SHE WAS.

She didn't answer.

Five minutes later, she called my phone, spoke to her daughter, and hung up.

She wanted her daughter to walk home AFTER ALL OF THAT TIME WE WAITED.

And she offered no apologies.

Really. Half way. Just meet me halfway. Please.

Start shaving my legs


The other day I was texting a friend like those young kids do. Harmless. Random texts that ended up spreading over two and a half hours on Sunday night.

As the conversation (and clock) were winding down, a very strange thing happened.


Well, kinda. There was a long, awkward pause after I said something (ahem) particularly funny. I thought he had disappeared (I attract the ADHD types, I suppose) and texted to that end. Then he replied that he was "working on a response." After another awkward silence (lack of texts), he wrote, "I was afraid to ask you out."

So...I guess that's asking me out.

He quickly added a few awkward explanatory texts acknowledging that it was complicated and probably impossible, and I sent a few awkward replies. It went from comfortable, enjoyable friendship to strained "what just happened" moments. Then we managed to awkwardly (again) say goodnight.

I don't even know what to say about this. I really don't. What's a date? How does THAT work? And why did he ask ME?

Before we go any further, let me make it clear that I am, in fact, NOT going on that date. Why, you ask?

  1. Too early - for me and my kids
  2. Too complicated 
  3. Flattered but not sure if I'm interested
  4. Totally unexpected 
  5. May not have reacted in the best way and therefore may have sent him running
  6. Too complicated (yeah, did I say that already - it's sooooo complicated I can't say it enough times)
I've pretty much obsessed over this for the past few days. Not just the specific incident, but the idea that I might actually need to start shaving my legs again - with regularity - to date someone. (Or as my best friend assures me, to "juggle three guys in about a year."

Of course, being a girl, I also reread the texts multiples times looking for missed nuances, things I said that  held subtext, things he said that held subtext, grammatical errors (kidding), and ANYTHING ELSE BECAUSE I'M A GIRL. 

It was a strange, strange thing. I'm still not on solid ground. Wish me luck.

Man of my dreams


I have reoccurring dreams about Dave Grohl. As to the reasons for this, I am unsure.

Dave Grohl is, arguably, an attractive man at his best with gorgeous locks, deep brown, penetrating eyes, and a smirky smile that keeps you guessing. For years I've enjoyed the musical stylings of both Nirvana and Foo Fighters (not so much Them Crooked Vultures, but hey, can't have everything). I find him to be clever AND intelligent, as well as mildly entertaining.

Yet Dave can be a weak-chinned (I'm thinking of an Anna Torv type-chin, which, I gotta say, is a deal breaker for me.) unkempt slacker with bad hair and chubby cheeks at his worst. He has been known to throw temper tantrums and partake in illegal substances.

It must be a wash for I have had many, many dreams in which Dave plays a pivotal role.

I was awoken early last Friday morning, startled because I dreamed that I returned to my house and someone had tossed my dish drainer across the floor of the kitchen and stolen my sofa. Dave Grohl was behind me, holding a baseball bat and looking for the perps. (Why he wasn't in front of me is another subject, one we won't broach today.)

Before that Dave was seen in my classroom, sitting near the back, giving me grief pre-PSSA testing.

And we once took in a Dido concert together, during which Dave stood behind me, holding me around the waist, swaying to the soft sounds of the music. He also, remarkably, knew the words to "Mary's in India." I don't even know the words to that gem.

Dave and I have gone grocery shopping, using jumper cables he once started my stalled car, he held my hand as I crossed a rickety bridge, and he showed up at the tail end of a dream where I was jumping off the diving board into the deep end.

Most dreams are chaste; Dave has done little to further our relationship. I have not discouraged him, but opportunity hasn't arisen.

So, my favorite dream analyzers, what do you suppose it means? I googled for it and got nothing.

A day that will go down in infamy


Yesterday, as we walked down the hallway on the way to (glorious) dismissal, I was accidentally privy to a conversation between two cute, clever boys in my class. They weren't exactly trying to keep it a secret from me, but I know that didn't exactly intend for me to hear it either.

Anyway, I was with one of the girls about three kids behind them. She was filling me in on her mom's new baby. I nodded a lot and smiled in her direction, but you'll forgive me if I wasn't paying close attention (here's hoping she didn't say anything IMPORTANT).
student a: " what's a MILF again?"
student b: "Ummm, not sure...but I think my dad said Mrs. Mann is one. Wait. Maybe he said she ISN'T one. I can't remember."
student a: "Well, it must mean funny."
student b: "Maybe. But I remember that it didn't seem like funny was what they were talking about."
student a: "But Mrs. Mann is funny. I mean, isn't that what everyone says about her."
student b: "Probably. Yeah, I mean, that makes sense. My dad was laughing."
This, of course, was a fascinating conversation to overhear.

And possibly mildly disturbing.

First of all, ten year olds talking about MILFs? Students' FATHERS talking about whether or not I am a MILF? THE STUDENT NOT REMEMBERING IF HIS DAD SAID I AM ONE. A MILF.


Anyway, I could use the laugh. Or the boost.

'Cause today is the day that I am officially divorced. (That doesn't feel good.)

Walking Dead Daughters


I'm impressed with myself because I am able to watch WITH BOTH EYES OPEN episodes of The Walking Dead on Sunday evenings.

I know, right? It's ridiculous. I don't even have to hide behind spread fingers.

How about this week? Shane. He's a horrible person...or is he? And what's up with focusing on the lost Sophia. I didn't even know her name until she was suddenly lost and the focus of all things Dead.

Think she was in the high school and saw Shane pull the trigger? Something's gotta give.

Meanwhile enjoy Tatum the zombie all gussied up for Halloween.

Help Wanted


Yep. I was one of the lucky few to enjoy a rare snowfall in October.I mean, really. I don't know if it has EVER snowed in October 'round here. At least not that I can remember. And while no one believed the weathermen (can you blame us?), never the less, it did in fact snow in Pennsylvania on Saturday. In fact, ALL DAY Saturday.It was actually quite beautiful. Amid trees still full of colorful autumn leaves, there lay a blanket of snow.We snuggled up in the house, post Slammer, with a few of Griffin's friends, some hot chocolate, and a rousing game of Heroscape.It was just beautiful.Then the power went out. And the house started to get chilly. Then Tatum realized there was no INTERNET OH MY GOD YOU GUYS HOW WILL I EVER BE ABLE TO TALK TO MY FRIENDS?Then we heard a very loud CRACK sound - one that reminded us of lightning striking trees in the summer.TREES. Yup. I happened to be standing in front of the large picture window in my living room as said CRACK sounded and I watched as a very large branch snapped off of the very large tree in my front yard. It snapped off and fell partway to the ground, resting on my car, the roof, and the gutters.Then another one fell beside it...and another one...and another one.It is only by strange luck (and possible placement of the sapling 70 years ago) that I do not have a gaping hole in my roof, picture window, and/or car.I held back the tears, sure that more branches were going to fall - the next time wiping out my house.And all I could see before me was my $500 deductible. Owning a house. That's FUN.Alas, while a few more, smaller branches fell, there was no more damage to be had. I moved my car to the parking lot across the street, had a few strapping young men pull the branches away from my house, and tacked the gutter back up.As I lay in bed Saturday night, tired but unable to sleep, I thought about how nice it would be to have someone around who could DO STUFF. Yanno, cut up branches, call the boro, fix the gutter, clean up the leaves, figure out what to do with the tree that's split like string cheese but still standing in the back yard...I don't have one of the anymore.But when I woke up Sunday morning, I realized I am that person. I can DO STUFF. While I haven't always been the DO STUFF person, I am capable.I posted my plan on FB and an intrepid friend showed up to help, and with a hacksaw, two kids, and a friend, I managed to clean up my yard, fix broken stuff, and ROAR.Yeah, I know. This was one of those annoying, "yeah, yeah, you're divorced and you can do stuff" posts...but dammit. I felt pretty darn good about it.[...]

Holiday parties


This week I spent considerable time trying to come up with a costume that would be school appropriate, cool enough to wear in front of 5th graders, easy enough to put together in a week, and cheaper than lint.

Not an easy task.

I even sent out a request via FB, and although there were several decent suggestions, ultimately, none worked out.

Then school happened.

I don't want to be the one to burst your bubble, parents of elementary aged students, but teachers HATE school parties. And the week leading up to the party. And the three hours after the party. And the two and a half hours of the ACTUAL party.

Trust me, we don't WANT to hate the party. We want to enjoy it as much as our class does. (I mean, hell, I even spent a week trying to create a costume for them to appreciate!) We enter into it with the best intentions. Some of us even bake holiday themed cupcakes. Or buy trinkets to share. Or create fun and silly games to play.

But your kids can't handle the excitement and anticipation.

They are full on jittery early in the week of the party. Halfway through the week they cannot keep their mouths shut. And by Friday, the day of said shin-dig, they are bursting at the seams. There can be no learning on this day.

I'm ok with that, too. I mean...I plan "fun" activities for the first half of the party day. Coloring sheets, word games, Halloween math problems. Heck, it's Friday and I'm exhausted, too. Bring on the fun.

But it's the noise. And the chaos. Oh, the chaos.

And please don't ask me about the parade.

So, I think I've decided on a costume this year. I might as well stick with the theme. I guess I'll go as Ebenezer Scrooge.

To call it a party, sheesh...


A few weeks ago, Griffin approached me to ask if he and a few friends could throw a "Slammer" in the Eric Foreman basement.

Eric Foreman basement, you ask? Come on, surely you know the Eric Foreman basement. It is only the epitome of awesome underground hang-outtery made famous in That 70s Show. One that we have no actually painstakingly recreated, but have sort of created "in the spirit of" down there where it leaks a lot. We have a second hand couch, two lawn chairs, a dart board, a washer and dryer, and a small foreign guy. (OK, not the foreign guy, but we do have the rest.) Working on an electrical wire spool coffee table. We have a few pieces of cheap carpet scattered around, and this week, we tacked up Christmas twinkle lights for ambiance.

We take our Eric Foreman basement seriously.

There are always kids down there. Talking. Listening to Floyd or the Smiths. Riding scooters around the oil tank.


Just to clarify. In case you've seen the show.

Eric Foreman = Griffin
Fez = Dan Yang
Steven Hyde = Simon
Kelso = hmmm...not sure yet

We have NO GIRLS to play the parts of Jackie and Donna. Yet. Trust me, we're working on it.

ANYWAY, he wanted to have a slammer for about twenty sophomore friends. When asked what a "Slammer" was, he described what I would call a PARTY. Yanno, food, drink, friends, music, darts...that sort of thing.

Calling it a party, however, is apparently OFFENSIVE and if I ever say it AGAIN, I will be branded a noob and confined to my bedroom permanently.

Anyway, there have been countless committee meetings both here and at other locations, several trips to the party outlet, and a few well hung streamers. I believe the boys are serving pretzels, chips, and a new (to them) soda they discovered called Squirt. "It's lighter and more refreshing than Sprite."


So, if you're planning on stopping by after the big game Friday night, you should probably know that there is no alcohol, dress is smart casual, and you may NOT tell anyone about the Slammer. It's a closed event and if you weren't included on the FB event page, you're not invited.

Bummer? The girl Griffin likes, who I am pretty sure was the impetus behind organizing (and making other people clean, decorate, set up for, and buy supplies for) the Slammer was to have Michaela in the impressive Eric Foreman basement.

But she has a prior commitment.

California or Bust (mostly bust)


We had the day of from school on October 10th. Woo!I told Reed that no matter what else he had scheduled that day, we were beginning the college application process. Boo!So, that Monday afternoon we sat down at the dining room table, computer before us, and began filling out the required page (AFTER PAGE AFTER PAGE) of information for admittance to Virginia "Wait? Why are we doing Virginia Tech first? Should we be doing one for Cal Poly?"Reed: "Ummm, yeah, about that..."me: "Yes?"Reed: "I was looking at the application over the weekend and I think I found a problem."me: "Meaning?"Reed: "I don't think I can apply anymore."me: "Say WHAT?"Reed: "I don't think I have the required courses."me: "You're acting like this is NOT A BIG DEAL."Reed: "I'm going to talk to my counselor on Thursday. Then I'll know."me: "Thursday?!"Reed: "That's my next study hall."We filled out most of the application for Virginia Tech instead. I say we, but I was mostly just moral support, sitting beside him to make sure he didn't get distracted by THE INTERNET. (It happens, people.)FINALLY Thursday rolled "So? What happened?"Reed: "Can I come in the house first?"me: "Sure. Whatever."We sat down and chatted. Which is to say, I talked about it and asked questions, and he looked longingly at the shower. Here's what I got out of him: while in the counselor's office, she placed a call to the REAL LIVE admissions office of the California State Polytechnic Institute in San Luis Obispo. She asked what would happen if they received an application from a student who was top ten in his class, had whatever-whatever SAT and ACT scores, but had taken no "arts" courses. She politely said they would toss the application into the trash without looking for it.So, yeah. State schools in California require you to take ARTS classes. And while that might not seem like a big deal to YOU, it is to Reed. He has no interest in anything that isn't concrete. See, you can't tell if a painting is good because there is no definitive matrix against which to compare it. A piece of music is "awesome" if you think so - even if your friend disagrees. Reed likes math and science where THINGS CAN BE PROVEN.When it came time to choose high school electives, he took German, computer programming, and tech ed courses. All related to the field a boy who hopes to work on engines for Formula 1 cars based in European countries would need.But not enough for that boy to be able to pursue his degree in California.To which I say, "Cal Poly - you're a STATE SCHOOL! What's with the bizarre standards?!"There was a hail Mary - where the counselor took a look at his schedule and said he could drop Java and Tech Ed and pick up AP Art History and Sculpting.This is like being sort being pregnant. It's not going to happen, people.A family friend, who is also a teacher, was over for dinner just days after it all went down. He tried to persuade Reed to consider taking PE online, and maybe an arts class online as well. Didn't work.Looks like we're putting our early decision eggs in the Hokie basket.*UPDATE: At dinner he reneged on early decision to VT, but did agree to visit the campus when XC is over.[...]

The Vine


Once upon a time, I was a happily (can you say that when YOU were but now you don't know if the other person was?) married wife and mother. With three beautiful children, I was living a fairy tale life of a stay at home mom. (God, some days I wanted to gouge my eyes out, but still.)So, it only seems appropriate that I painted a long, trailing vine on the wall of our second home and began tracing the heights of our children along the vine to mark growth, change, passage of time, and milestones.My kids stood proudly, still, backs against the wall, as I marked their heights with a Sharpie, then added the date and their ages. They'd compare themselves to their siblings to see who was taller at a certain age.All was good.Then we moved. To a more modern house. Less fairy tale.And although I'd traced all of the information onto a long, scrolling piece of paper, it never found its way onto the wall at that house. It didn't seem to fit.I guess I didn't either.After the decisions were made regarding the house at the time of the BIG D, I packed up my things and moved out. And while I left the obvious things (so as not to upset my kids), I took sentimental things that I had boxed and packaged and bagged up over the course of my (almost) nineteen years as a married person.I thought one of those things was the growth chart.Alas, it wasn't. And after an exhaustive search, it was nowhere to be found.I lost a few nights sleep over this, I'll have you know. And cried my eyes out. (OK. Maybe I cried my eyes out because EVERYTHING I THOUGHT I KNEW WAS NOW GONE, but losing that chart certainly didn't help).Then, through an odd set of circumstances, I got in touch (via FB, natch) with the woman who now owns that house. The house with the vine. Weird, right?AND THEY HADN'T PAINTED OVER THE VINE IN THE FOUR YEARS THEY'D BEEN LIVING THERE?! What are the chances? But, after a month or so of stalling, she allowed me to come to her (once my) house and trace the heights from the playroom (now bedroom) wall.I KNOW. SHUT UP.I brought the new scroll back to my zippy little 1940's house and promptly traced them onto my new vine.I'm not to proud to tell you that I cried while I was doing it. Mostly they were happy tears. When I traced the one where Reed was 6 years old, I thought about my little first grader. And when I traced the one where Griffin was 4, I thought about how he was always so bummed that he was shorter than his brother and sister were at the same age. And when I traced Tatum at 2 years, I saw her tiny little body and her cute little curls.I particularly liked this piece of history:Check out my weed-like daughter.So, yeah, new beginnings and all, I GET THAT PEOPLE. But there ain't nothing wrong with a little history.[...]

Taking back what's mine


It was weird enough when I moved out of the house in July. Because of the market, and because staying in the same house when it was obvious one of us didn't want to be in the same room, we agreed that JC would keep that gigantic house and I would find one that was suitable to my needs and budget.


You guys know that I love my super cool 1940s leaky house.

Of course, this whole DIVORCE thing was nearly deadly for the kids. I mean, come on. Obviously.

So, when I left, it was particularly hard to "pack up." I mean, what was I supposed to take?

JC and I agreed to some basics - I would take most of the kitchen stuff since I was the cook while he would keep most of the tools since he was the tool (too much? Come on, that was funny?) guy.

But since the kids would be doing a 50 - 50 split between houses (ugh - said most of us) it got dicey when it came to taking things from around JC's house that would be missing in a more obvious way.

When it came to things like furniture...I left ninety percent of it there and bought new stuff. (Karma, too.)

When it came to photos on the wall...I left them.

This was the hardest thing.

It wasn't just PHOTOS. It was PHOTOS.

(ironic that my photo of my photos is so crappy...)

I'd spent considerable time over the course of our LIFE together establishing a complex and adorable and meaningful and lovely wall of photos. Over fifty framed 5 x 7 photos of my kids, my husband, my pets, my LIFE lining the wall going up the staircase. And it followed us from house to house.

I left them all there. All of the photos of my babies.


But Tatum asked me to leave them. Her fear? JC wouldn't fill the gaps on the wall. And I didn't want to make it appear as though I was TAKING things from them, if that makes sense at all.


But, it's been months now and things have normalized (or ARE normalizing). So. SO. I asked JC for a share of the photos. I warned the kids that some of the photos would go missing, but that I thought it was OK now to have my share. To bring them to my house.

I hung them on the wall in the dining room. My babies. MY babies.

It's not the same as seeing them trail up the stairs, but I don't have stairs here in my super cool, single mom house. But I walk through the dining room ALL THE TIME, so I see the photos just as often.

It feels so right to have my babies back. I even ordered a few new photos to start off my new photo wall in my new house in my new life.

No Child My Ass


Yesterday was an interesting day.Remember when I wrote about avocados? Any of my old school followers remember the post about ketchup?I had a similar experience during reading on Monday.We were reading a book about whales. Whales are FASCINATING to 5th graders. Actually ALL non-fiction is fascinating to 5th graders - but NO ONE every chooses it when we go to the library.Figure THAT ONE out, Einstein.So I picked a book about whales; one that lent itself well to main idea/supporting details - POSSIBLY THE HARDEST CONCEPT EVER. I'm not even exaggerating.Other requirement - enough copies in the book room. Minor FREAKING detail.ANYWAY, we get to the part about what whales eat. And YOU GUYS - it seems like some of these whales are a bit cannibalistic. Yup. THEY EAT OTHER WHALES. It's whatever. It's how they roll.This started an interesting conversation at the table. And, since reading is two and a half hours of (sometimes) sheer torture, I am always open to a good discussion - as long as I can reign in the troops should the principal decide to do a drive by.student 1: "Ewwwww."me: "What?"student 1: "They eat OTHER WHALES?"me: "Well, among other things. See?" (pointing to text 'cause I'm all about USING CONTEXT to support my ideas) "They also eat smaller mammals like sea lions and penguins."student 2: "You aren't making this any better, Mrs. Mann."student 1: "It's just gross. How can they do that? Seals are SO CUTE."me: "Come on! You guys eats some things that are decidedly CUTE."student 1: "Like what?"me: "Chickens. Cows. PIGS."student 1: (pushes desk away from table) "Excuse me? I do NOT eat pigs. I eat chicken, but they ugly."me: (ignoring the last part) "You eat pigs...guys...guys?" (blank looks) me: (addressing the whole class) "Someone help me out. You guys eats pigs, right? Put your hand up if you eat pigs." (a few hands go up; some kids put hands up when they see a friend's hand go up; only some look confident) me: "BACON. PORK CHOPS. HAM."student 1: "But that stuff is bacon. And chops. And ham."me: "WHICH COMES FROM A PIG."student 1: "You joking me?"student 2: (leaning in close to me) "Really? Like Wilbur?"YES! LIKE WILBUR!Now listen, if this is where we are starting AND WE ARE ALREADY TEN OR ELEVEN YEARS OLD there's gonna be a child left behind. I'm sorry. LEFT. BEHIND.Maybe even TWO OR THREE.I can't start with adverbs and cause and effect and adding fractions with unlike denominators, Mr. President.I GOTTA START WITH WHERE BACON COMES FROM.[...]

No, really. Gay.


(insert Homecoming photo here)

This weekend was Homecoming.

Well, the whole week was filled with activities, and now that Griffin is an elected official (questionable judgment starts early in voters, apparently), he was out almost every night.

Of course it had to be MY WEEK.

But I smiled as he went to Wingin' It practice. And I nodded when he went to Shakespeare and then to a meeting. I wished him luck as he headed out to the Dodgeball Tournament. I (secretly) applauded when Powder Puff Football was cancelled due to rain. And I gave him a few bucks when he headed to the football game.

And yes, he realized midweek that none of his dress pants fit and he would need to squeeze in a shopping trip. Oh, and his black belt and dress shoes were at his dad's house BUT HE DIDN'T REALIZE THAT until the following evening.


In the weeks leading up to the dance, I became Griffin's MO-OM, which is to say, I had the nerve to ask who he was going to take to the dance. I mean, I was relatively sure I knew who he LIKED liked, but that didn't mean anything.
me: "So, what's the sitch with the dance?"
him: "What? No sitch."
me: "Come on. Who are you asking?
him: "No one."
me: "But...but...I thought you liked Michaela?"
him: "It's dumb."
me: "Why? What's dumb?"
him: "She's already going with someone."
me: "What? How come?"
him: "She was afraid Jon was going to ask her, so she asked someone before he could."
me: "Well, that sucks."
him: "Yeah. The guy she's going with is gay."
me: "I don't think name calling is necessary."
Seems the guy she went with IS ACTUALLY GAY.

So, Griffin spent the evening dancing, holding hands, and going to Dairy Queen post dance with Michaela. He had a WONDERFUL night.

No word on the gay guy.

Shoot me


Insert long post here that wasn't deleted by Blogger when I tried to add a photo.

It was a swimming upstream kind of day.

Opps, I did it again.


So, yanno. Yesterday was a weird day. WEIRD.

I mean, I recounted all of the milestone moments of the DAY I GOT MARRIED like I do every year. Waking up. Getting dressed. Going to the church. The vows. The reception. The dancing. The cake.


As I was wondering if I would ever face October 10th as anything other than THAT day, I ADOPTED A KITTEN.

Yeah. I could have sat around and felt sorry for myself, or sad, or out-of-place, or lonely, or happy (?), but instead there was a kitten in need of a home and I TOOK HER IN.

Of course, now Daggers HATES us and Mama REFUSES to come into the house. So, pretty much normal.

BUT YOU GUYS. She absolutely adorable. She's black with little brown flecks. Her right ear is missing the top third. The bottom of her mouth is half brown. And she likes to STRETCH out her little arms when she is snuggling on your lap. WHICH IS SOMETHING SHE LOVES TO DO.

She's about five months old (it's an approximation) and has already been spayed. No fleas this time. ADORABLE.

Names we considered:

  • Steve McQueen
  • Sweet Dee
  • Harper
  • Charley
  • Lisa
  • Michaela 
  • Darth Vader
In the end, we named her Esther. 

Lord help the kitten.

p.s. We had a discussion and it was decided that TEN CATS make you the Crazy Cat Lady. TEN CATS. So I'm ok, yo.

The end


Today would have been my 19th wedding anniversary.

Yesterday, when JC dropped Tatum off for her week with me, he mentioned it. Our anniversary.

I wasn't sure what he thought I would say, or wanted me to say, but I'm pretty sure I didn't say whatever it was that he was hoping I'd say.

I would have worried myself sick about that a few months ago.

Don't have to do THAT anymore.

In twenty-four days we'll be divorced.  A new anniversary.

One I'm JUST as psyched about.