Here’s the truth: When I envisioned Evie’s first day of kindergarten, it was a scene ripped straight out of an episode of Leave It to Beaver. There I am in my bright blue house dress, freshly pressed apron and pearls, standing at the end of our front walk and waving goodbye to Evie, all pigtailed and apple cheeked as she walks the two blocks to John F. Kennedy Elementary School, swinging her lunch pail and humming the theme to Bonanza. After wiping away a tear, I tuck my handkerchief back into my sleeve, brush the front of my dress and go back inside our pretty little ranch house to wash the breakfast dishes and make a list for the milkman.
Like many American dreams, this one’s gonna look a bit different once it’s all said and done.
Around here, getting your child into kindergarten at a school for which you’re not zoned is almost as easy as having frizz-free hair or finding a parking place at the good produce market during Snow Bird season. Which is to say, it’s not easy.
As far as I know, all the charter and magnet schools’ admission policies are based on a lottery system. All the applications are assigned a number and then randomly drawn. Fundamental schools also use the lottery system. For those not familiar, fundamental schools…well, I’m not sure what fundamental schools are. I just know that parents are required to volunteer and sign a bunch of stuff that’s sent home and everyone loves them and wants to get in. I toured one fundamental school, Curtis, and for reasons I find hard to name now, I loved it, too. I’m not sure what that’s all about, if there’s some sort of brain wave manipulation going on there, or even if Scientology is involved in some way, but after visiting Curtis I was all in.
The results of Curtis’s lottery were revealed this week. I heard there were 400 applications for 45 seats. I was still disappointed to discover that Evie is 175th on the waiting list. Nope, that is not a typo. One hundred and seventy-four kids have to mysteriously disappear before Evie can attend Curtis in the fall. I kid, of course, but the results were upsetting. I even debated crying about it, but it was the end of the day, and I just didn’t have the energy. I’m disappointed for several reasons. First, all Scientology jokes aside, Curtis is a really good school, and Evie would have gotten a solid education there. Second, fundamental schools feed into each other, meaning once your child gets in at the elementary level, they’re guaranteed a spot at the middle and high schools. Which also means I don’t have to go through this flippin’ lottery process again and can go back to eating bon bons and watchin’ my stories. Third, Curtis’s location is a very easy and short commute from our house. Given our reputation for getting our shit together and getting out the door in the morning, this was an exciting prospect. Fourth, and most important to Evie, her best friend, Meredith, will go to Curtis courtesy of Meredith’s big brother whose prior admittance secured her a spot. To Eve, anything in life is better with a little Meredith thrown in.
So, we’re sad. Or, I’m sad. I haven’t told Evie. She wouldn’t really understand, and I don’t think she really cares very much anyway. As far as she’s concerned, preschool lasts forever. Would that were true.
We have four more chances for the opportunity to shadow the elusive and hallowed halls of a charter school. The first school is Plato, which is a very good school, but sort of knows it, you know? Like, is all snobby about it. Shut up, Plato. You’re still a public school, and your mother buys generic soda. But, let us in! You’re awesome! Next is DaVinci, which is just precious. And small. Very small. But its focus is performing arts, and if you know Evie, you know why I toured that school first. Then there’s Pinellas Prep. This school is also very good but has no natural lighting in the classroom. As good as the school is, this is very depressing to me. Lastly is the Pinellas Academy of Math and Science. This is how desperate I am, friends. Math and freakin’ science.
I’m desperate because of the school for which we’re zoned, which is in walking distance, by the way. I’m very concerned that Evie be challenged academically and is well-prepared to progress successfully in her education. I don’t believe those things will be available to her at a level I’d be happy with at the school for which we’re zoned. Bottom line: There are better options out there for Evie’s education. And we will attend one of those options if she and I have to Mission: Impossible our way in there.
Does this mean my Leave It to Beaver dream has died? Well, yeah. Everybody’s has to eventually.
I’ll still wear pearls that day though, damnit.
You drive in silence. No radio, no phone. You drive and think. You listen to your child chatter in the backseat and try not to imagine that chatter stolen from you forever.
You hold your child. Smell her hair. Kiss her forehead. Try not to imagine.
You look at the parents. See the shock. The pain. The inconsolable grief. The years ahead of them, trying to reconstruct their lives around the empty place at the kitchen table. You see their faces, their eyes, begin to take on the hollow, deep sadness of those who have lost a child. It never goes away.
You watch TV shows recorded on the DVR the Thursday night before it happened. You wonder if the families watched those shows that night. The night before it happened. The night before the world they knew was ripped away by a madman.
You want it not to be true. Oh, how you want it not to be true.
You’re terrified. What separates your family from the same fate? A statistic? The astronomical odds of it happening? Astronomical odds mean nothing to someone who loves a child.
You read stories about the teachers in sad wonderment at their courage. The teacher who hid her students in cabinets and closets and took the bullets meant for them. The teacher who cradled someone else’s child in her arms as they both died from their wounds and maybe relieved some of that child’s fear. The teacher who tried to talk to the madman as her children ran around her through the classroom door and to safety.
You swear to yourself you won’t read anymore. You do anyway.
You want armed guards at every school. Then you want all guns to be gone. You’re tired of the word “gun.”
You and your husband don’t talk about it much. One or two conversations. As if talking about it would get its attention. Bring it into your lives.
You let your child sleep in your bed. And you haven’t decided when you’ll stop.
You forget about it for an hour. Two hours. An afternoon. Then it comes back. It always comes back.
You drive in silence. And pray.
Now come the days of The Great Elf on the Shelf Wars.
I’m not even going to explain what Elf on the Shelf is. You know what it is. And if you don’t, you’re better off.
Both sides of The Great Elf on the Shelf Wars are jumpin’ all over my last nerve. On one side you have the Elfers. These are the folks who have purchased an Elf, brought it into their home and are currently engaging in the process of taking the time out of each day to move an inanimate object to differing locations in their home in the hopes of pumping a unique combination of delight and fear into their children. The children are both delighted to discover their family’s Elf, which they’ve bestowed with a name like Chuckles or Peppermint Face or Secret Double Agent #25, in his or her new location and terrified at the thought of an impish creature scuttering around in the dark, witnessing their every misdeed and reporting it back to the Big Man.
This is what’s called Christmas tradition.
Some parents take this Christmas tradition to new heights. They take extra time to involve their Elf in cheeky or whimsical activities, ranging from failed efforts to make pancakes (leaving a huge mess) to wrapping a toilet seat in red and green Christmas paper, a particular choice which makes very little sense to me. “Good morning, family! Enjoy a Christmas poop on me! Love your Elf, Gingerbread Pants”
Still other parents, their mental faculties exhausted from the joys of the Christmas season, decide to engage their Elf in pornographic, violent or other inappropriate scenarios. Lucky Ducky may find himself involved in a three-way with a bald Veterinarian Barbie and a staunch yet bi-curious Optimus Prime. Through no fault of her own, Giggles may spend some time on a wobbly bar stool, a lit Marlboro Red smoldering in the ashtray before her, one plastic hand reaching for a half-empty bottle of Southern Comfort and the other caressing the cold, black steel of an unlicensed handgun.
All of this goes up on Facebook. Because of course.
I don’t begrudge these parents their fun. I don’t understand it, mind you, but I don’t have to. To each his own. Live and let live. One mom’s stoopid is another mom’s Christmas tradition.
There are those, however, who are pissed about all of this. Really, really pissed. Elf on the Shelf is a personal affront to these people, and they don’t mind telling you why. I’ve seen several blog posts over the past weeks denouncing Elf on the Shelf as everything from annoying Facebook clutter to representative of a bleak Orwellian future where no one is safe from constant government surveillance. Meet the Anti-Elfers.
Calm down, Anti-Elfers. The Elfers, while sometimes annoying, will not send their children into Elf therapy. Their children know what privacy is, and they understand how important it is. (Doesn’t keep them from the resisting the urge to invade any and all parental trips to the toilet, but I digress.) And I kid about it, but I doubt their children will feel unguarded or unsafe in their own homes. Although the Elf’s twisted, twitchy face might look creepy to you, children find it charming and representative of the holiday season. They are not afraid of their Elf. Further, most of the children understand that “being good” should be done for its own sake and not just in order to receive material reward. Those that don’t understand it wouldn’t have regardless of Elf on the Shelf. That shit starts in the womb.
Elfers’ children will not look back on their family’s Christmases and pinpoint them as what kickstarted the pathological paranoia or depression or inexplicable fear of being trapped in the dark with a small person. They will look back and see their parents as great big doofuses, which they would have anyway. And they’ll probably buy Elves for their own children. This is the Christmas Magic of Capitalism.
As far as all the Facebook competition around who can post the wackiest, funniest, cutest Elf picture…well. Maybe it’s a competition and maybe it’s not. If it is, it is. Just remove those folks from your feed until December 26th. Lots of people did it during the recent election, and everybody seemed to get along just fine after that. Besides, what if your gettin’ your panties all in a wad is really just compensation for the uncertainty you have about whether you should be Elfing for your own children? Do you feel guilty that your inherent laziness is keeping your family from enjoying a fun holiday tradition? Perhaps you fear you couldn’t be as creative as that one asshole who constantly comes up with the most awesome adventures for her family’s Elf? Or do you just have some anger issues that need a redirect? Things to think about.
We tried the Elf on the Shelf last year. His name was Doug. Doug appeared in a few boring, unimaginative places and then got tossed under the sofa. When the holidays were over, he was retrieved, packed up and never appeared again. Evie wasn’t all that interested in him, wasn’t intimidated by his agenda and was much more into staring longingly at her mommy’s Department 66 Christmas village and wondering why the hell Christmas decorations “aren’t toys, Evie.”
As for me, I am inherently lazy and generally unimaginative in this area. Also, Doug creeped me out. In the end, I’m not an Elfer. But I’m not an Anti-Elfer.
I’m just over it.
So, I didn’t have 30 posts. So, some of the posts I do have are less than stellar. I still managed to cover everything from Star Wars to pee, and that’s gotta count for something.
I enjoyed doing this again this year. It felt good to write on a very regular basis.
Imma take a break for a couple days. Maybe I’ll even get some Christmas going around here this weekend.
Thanks for reading, everybody. Your support has been so encouraging this month. I couldn’t have done it without you. I love every single last one of you bastards.
Post. Post. Posty-post. Post. Post.
Poop. Poopy-poop. Poop.
I got nothing, folks.
Perhaps you would like to hear about my day. Would you? Too bad.
Let’s see. My friend Carrie gave me a bunch of clothes last night. After my post about not being fabulous, I’ve received a lot of clothing donations. It’s pretty sweet. Let’s think about what else I need. If anyone’s got a smaller butt lying around you’re not using…I’ll happily trade you my cellulite for it. And my crazy, crazy eyebrows. Sheesh. While the hair on my head falls out in copious amounts in the shower, my eyebrows are having a freakin’ free-for-all on my face. Calm down, eyebrows.
Disclaimer: My husband wants everyone to know that we can afford for me to buy my own clothes. (I just don’t have to now! Wheee!)
So, Evie and I had a fashion show this morning with the new-to-me clothes. I tried on a pair of kick-ass Express jeans that fit me like a glooove. A looove glooove. We were at the mall today, so I stopped in Express to see what I could do to get me some more. What I can do is slap down 100 smackeroos. No thanks. Do you know what I could get at Ikea for $100, teenaged salesperson? No, of course you don’t. Bless your heart. I like your sweater, though.
I also made a chocolate pie for a family Christmas celebration at church tomorrow night. The name of the pie is Foot Pie. Fifty bucks to the first member of my family who tells us how it got its name. And…go!
Evie wore a black leotard and black tights to her dance class tonight. She looked about 16-years-old. Terrifying. I planted my fabulously-jeaned butt on the floor outside the classroom only to realize I could barely get back up again. Fabulously-jeaned butt, meet Wendy’s number 2 combo with a Diet Coke. It was a delicious dinner, though, and I had only chicken noodle soup for lunch and three sneak-bites of Foot Pie filling. And we got lots of exercise walking around the mall trying to find Express as well as while looking aghast at the price tags in the dressing room. Looking aghast burns many calories.
Speaking of weight loss plans, I’m trying to increase my water intake because adequate water intake is beneficial in so many ways and because pee should not be that color. I often get on Evie because she waits so long to go to the bathroom. By the time she finally decides she has to go, she’s jerking and dancing around like she’s just been struck by lightning, and we have to all out run to the nearest facility. I tell her not to wait so long that it becomes an emergency. I should take my own advice. Thanks to Evie, however, I already know where all the bathrooms in the mall are. JCPenney has the nicest.
American Horror Story is sitting on the DVR, waiting for me. Oy. What will happen this week that I will never be able to unsee? How can the actors on that show make eye contact with each other between takes? Was that Chloe Sevigny in that hospital bed last week? And sweet mother of Zachary Quinto, how much farther will that plotline go? Just kill her already so I don’t have to take a shower after every episode.
Okay. Posty-post. Post. Done.
I told y’all.
I suspect that my husband secretly kinda maybe sorta believes the world is gonna end on December 21st. He keeps slipping it into random conversations:
Me: I signed up for Amazon Prime. Now I can get free two-day shipping on all our Christmas gifts. Cool, huh?
Him: December 21st.
Me: Stop it.
Him: Just sayin’.
So the world is gonna end in 24 days. That’s fine. The thing is, I would like to know for sure before I get all this Christmas hoopla started. Also, I would like to be assured that when we go, it’ll be quick. Really quick. Like, one minute I’m scooping out the cat boxes and the next I’m not doing anything. Actually, I don’t need to be reassured of that because I’ve already decided it will be thus, and that’s that. Gill is more dubious.
Him: What if it’s not immediate? What if there’s…radiation poisioning?
Me: What will that mean?
Him: A slow, agonizing death.
Me: Oh. I wanna go quickly.
Him: Are you saying our December 21st preparation should be buying a gun and three bullets?
Him: Just sayin’.
I suspect my husband may want to survive the impending apocalypse. I am in no way down with that. I have no desire to be dirty and wild-eyed all the time. I don’t want to kill my own food, build fires and find water sources. I don’t want to fight zombies. I don’t want to re-build. It’s not that I don’t know how do any of that. I mean, I don’t, but even if I did, how exhausting. And tedious. And awful. I don’t want to live without central air or grocery stores or powered transportation. I just don’t. I just want to go. I’m too tired.
Yet, if Gill wants to build a bunker and give it a shot, what can I do? I have to decide what to take into the bunker. Things that will ease the pain of dealing with naturally dried hair and no cable. Here’s what I came up with:
1. All of Evie’s toys. Every single one. There’ll be long days in the bunker and no Doc McStuffins or X Factor to distract her. I don’t care if we have to leave behind food to make room. Every single one.
2. The ugly but comfortable underwear. What does it matter anymore?
3. Ear plugs. All of Evie’s toys, including the beepy ones, and my husband’s deviated septum will be coming with us. Things are going to get loud up in the bunker.
4. As many Costco-sized packages of toilet paper as will fit. After it runs out, we will revisit my “gun and three bullets” suggestion.
5. Diet Coke, coffee, wine, Nutella and Cheetoes. Obviously.
6. Battery-powered Christmas lights and various other decorative materials. There’s no reason a post-apocalyptic world can’t be fabulous.
7. All of the books in my house that I haven’t read. I’ll line them up in milk crates against the back wall of the bunker and continue to keep meaning to get to them.
8. The cats. I’ve heard they ward off zombies. If not, we’ll wear them as hats.
9. One of those country-cute plaques they have at Cracker Barrel to hang over the door of the bunker. I’m thinking either “We’re Out of Water, Too!” or “I’d Rather Be at the Rapture”.
10. All of the $500 million I won in the Powerball. We’ll burn it, bill by bill, in the wood stove and laugh together in that high-pitched, shaky way crazy people do.
I was right. It sounds awful.
P.S. Muchas gracias to KeAnne. Her post from today inspired this one. Still copying off your paper like a champ, Ke.