Winding Down

The school year is coming to a close. It’s been a tough one, to say the least.

I understand why so many teachers quit before their fifth year. I actually interviewed for a technology position this year, and just missed the cut coming in as a second choice. Something keeps pulling me back into that classroom, though. Like my work isn’t through yet.

More students come back every year, telling me how much they loved my class. But that’s not enough for me. I don’t want to be the one that they just remember. I want to be the one that changed their life.

I know that sounds narcissistic, but it’s not like that. You’d have to know, to see, my kids. If I ever spoke to an adult the way these children speak to me, I would have no teeth left in my head. Respect, in their world, is not taught. It is earned. It is only after I hunt them down for skipping class, or break them down for getting caught making out in the stairwell, or hold them down as they try to beat the crap out of another kid for the stupidest of reasons. It’s only after those moments, when I break them off from their herd and have a one-on-one conversation with them that I EARN their respect, and then they speak to me with quiet, hushed tones and a remorseful attitude. They are capable of civility.  They have empathy. They have manners.

But only if they trust you.

Working in this environment is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. Every time I throw my hands up in disgust and scream, “I QUIT,” an old student will walk in. And they make me so proud.

This summer is needed. If you know a teacher, please, for my sake, tell him/her thank you for giving their heart and soul to your children. Because they are, if they’re doing it right.

The Troops Are Gathering

I knew that there would be consequences when we flushed that damn roach. I told you he was going back to his sewer-home to conspire with all his little roach relatives… well, today, it happened.

We’re closing in on the end of the school year, and with that comes every teacher’s favorite event: yearly evaluations. That’s where one of the school principals become your “evaluator,” and sit in your classroom for an entire hour to make sure you’re not warping the minds of the children. These particular evaluations are rather important, so they give you a heads-up so that you can prepare accordingly.

Now, many teachers use this time to put on a dog & pony show, but I own dachshunds who are completely uncooperative and the pony poops too much, so I just wing it.

I chose a time with one of my most talented classes (note that talent does NOT translate into cooperative behavior, but my kids are pretty awesome, so I wasn’t afraid.) The “bad kids” require a little more attention, but seriously, I got this.

Until the roach showed up.

It wasn’t long after The Evaluator sat down that a chorus of high-pitched screams erupted from the second row. I know the scream well; usually, mine is part of it. But today, I had to LEAD, so with false bravado, I called out, “Is it a roach?”

“OH MY GOD! OVER THERE!!! OVER THERE!!!!!!” came the replies at a decibel level that could shatter glass. My entire second row of students were perched like parrots on the back of their chairs. I looked back at The Evaluator, who was click-click-clickity on her computer, observing my classroom management skills with a slight but distinguishable frown. I looked around the room at my boys…..

….. who left me hanging.

Damn it.

I took two steps toward the roach, who recognized me immediately, and ran kamikaze-style at my size 10 Sketchers. I looked down, took a deep breath and summoned every ounce of courage in my body. As I lifted my foot, I subconsciously thought about how thin the soles of my shoes were. Damn comfortable shoes. I closed my eyes and stomped with a grimace.

I looked down quickly to find I’d only gotten HALF of the roach, and he was now writhing his germy arms wildly, suicide-terrorist until the very end. I tried to kick him, but he was stuck to my shoe.

I’m going to pause for a moment, so you can truly appreciate the level of freak-out I was at. ANYONE who knows me understands that this situation sends me into DEFCON 1. This is my second worst nightmare (with the kitty incident being the first.) This is very close to peeing-pants freak out, except the stigma of being the “teacher who peed her pants during her evaluation” somehow outweighed the complete terror I was having at that moment.

I know it’s a BUG, but I have seen these bugs CRAWL INTO SOMEONE’S EAR. And not just on YouTube, but IN REAL LIFE!

So, I shook Half-Mashed Zombie Bug violently from my shoe, but he continued to crawl back towards my leg. I tried to give him another kick, but I missed, and when I looked back down…

….. he was gone.

But I know I missed him, which meant the only place he could be….

….was in the deep cuff of the hem on my dress pants.

I walked over to a student sitting at the end of a row and leaned over, speaking quietly. “Is the roach on my pants?”

“Ummmm…. no.”

“Will you look for me?”

He looked at me like I was insane, and I just realized that DURING AN EVALUATION, I asked a student to LOOK DOWN MY PANTS. “NO!!!” I quickly backpedaled. “I meant at the bottom, close to my shoe!! Do you see anything stuck to my pant leg?”

He glanced quickly. “No.”

I knew he didn’t look, and I knew if it was in there, he couldn’t see it anyway. Behind me, at the front of the room, I heard more clackity-clack-clack. I took a deep breath, shook both of my legs HARD, and continued to teach the lesson, constantly waiting for the scratch-scratch-scratch on my leg. It never came.

The hour ended without any further drama, and thankfully, it was my conference period. I ran to the bathroom, slamming and locking the door quickly behind me. I came out of those pants faster than a senior boy on prom night. As I shook the cloth, my fears were finally confirmed.

The roach dropped out of the cuff and onto the floor.

And that’s when I died.*  The end.

This story is 100% true, except the part where I died. I cannot make this shit up. They are OUT TO GET ME. 

Eating Crow

I spend a lot of time trying to teach my kids not to talk behind people’s back, but sometimes, I really need to take my own advice. Through the years, I’ve said some crappy stuff to people, and I truly regret those actions. I’ve really made an effort to be a better person. But every now and then, the kitty can’t resist stretching her claws, and I say something stupid that I can’t take back. I’ve noticed, through the years, that karma ALWAYS catches up to me.

I’m guessing karma is tired of dealing with me, because when I’m an asshole, retaliation is IMMEDIATE and SWIFT.

My ex was posting all morning about his recent divorce, interlaced with pictures of a new monster buggy that he was excited about. More posts about the divorce followed, with pictures of his new girlfriend (whom I really like) and statements about his new family.

This absolutely does not justify my bad behavior in any way, but my bitchiness got the best of me. The behavior reminded me of *our* divorce, when he posted pictures of how happy he was with his new girlfriend. I also felt a surge of jealousy, because sometimes I really miss the Jeeping lifestyle we used to live. Rather than spewing my nastiness all over the Internet, like I used to do, I tried to contain it by texting my BFF.

Me: “Do you see all the crap this idiot is posting? I want to take screen shots for divorce number 4.”

BFF: “Which idiot?”

Me: “Chip”

(Evidently not my) BFF: “This is Chip, you dumbass.”

Oh, snap.

And that’s exactly what I get for being an asshole. The sad part is, I worked really hard to get our relationship to a better place, and that one moment of pettiness could possibly ruin it. The problem is once you’ve done it, people assume you’ve always done it, and everything else was insincere. It wasn’t. It would not be the first time my mouth ruined a friendship, and it certainly is not the first time I’ve said something I wish I could take back. I felt like a complete shit.

I immediately owned up to my crappiness, and although I didn’t have to share my embarrassment publicly, I am because I not only wanted to say I was sorry, but I wanted to prove it. He’s a pretty forgiving person, but I know things will probably be strained for a while. I probably wouldn’t trust me, either.

It’s just one more reminder that karma will ALWAYS get you in the end.



Sleeping With The Fishes

I don’t know what possessed me to replace my carpet with a deep espresso hardwood, but if I don’t sweep EVERY SINGLE DAY, my floor looks like a family of pigs lives in my home. As I swept for the third time, I glared angrily at the dogs, who are the main culprits for the mountains of dirt. D was walking by as I started mumbling under my breath.

“There has got to something we can put on their feet so they don’t track in so much dirt.”



A couple weeks ago, around 2:00 am in the morning, I heard the cat batting something around next to the bed. I thought I was dreaming, but I was pretty sure I heard a bird chirp. I contemplated getting up, but I’m extremely lazy, so I laid still for a few moments until the noise stopped. For a split second, I had an overwhelming fear that he would jump on the bed with whatever he had maimed and drop it on my head, but he didn’t. I laid there for about ten minutes longer, silently praying that some half-dead zombie bird wouldn’t jump up and peck my eyes out, until sleep pulled me back under.

The next morning I awoke to a pile of feathers next to the bed.

“Where the hell is the rest of it?” I wondered aloud as D peered beneath the bed for bird parts.

“There’s nothing else here. He must have eaten it.”

“Where did he get a bird at 2am?” I pondered.  There were a couple of feathers tipped with bloody stumps as Koal lay across the room with a look of deep satisfaction. “Bad kitty,” I admonished, shaking my finger at him. He ignored me with typical catty disregard. The bird feathers remained in a pile next to the bed for about two weeks, because I’m apparently not the only lazy one in the house. I’d just like to point out that they were on D’s side of the bed.

Right about the time I’d finally had enough of the feathers, I decided to have a massive spring cleaning event. I blew the dust off the vacuum cleaner (ok, not really, because I’m too lazy to do that, too), and sucked up Koal’s trophies. Since I’d gone that far, I decided to keep going because I felt guilty for leaving dead bird parts laying around for longer than I’m ashamed to admit.  I spent the better part of the day cleaning the house top to bottom, and was happy to find that we were only harboring two lizard corpses and a couple of dead crickets. I collapsed into bed around 9:00 pm, satisfied that my house was no longer a petri dish for bird flu and other CDC-worthy diseases.

Seriously, I work all day. How do women pull off the whole domestic/working mom thing? I like sleep too much for that.

Anyway, I was halfway between awake and asleep, in that beautiful world of heavy-lidded fuzziness, when Koal jumped up on the bed to cuddle as he does every night. He likes to climb right up to my chest with his nose next to my mouth. I read somewhere that cats do that because they can tell everything about your day that way, including how you feel, where you went, and most importantly, what you ate. It makes them feel closer to you. I’ve also read that this is how they suck the life out of you.

I disagree with the latter theory. I think their plan is much quicker than that. I have proof.

Koal was about boob-level when I noticed in my sleepy state that something was wrong with his sweet little cherub-like face. As he moved closer, I realized he had something in his mouth. As he settled in on my chest, my eyes finally focused on a small, brown head.

My worst nightmare. A roach.

And that’s when the little bastard dropped it on me.

And it was still ALIVE.

I shrieked so loud that I’m pretty sure D grabbed his gun, but I don’t really remember because I was screaming and jumping around so riotously that I flung the covers violently, which threw the roach back INTO THE BED. It ran for its germ-filled, sewer-sucking life, ducking in and out of the covers as Koal pounced playfully, slapping it around with his paw. By now, D realized that the perpetrator was not human, and traded the gun for a shoe. Now both D & Koal were taking turns trying to smash the roach ON THE BED as I’m hyperventilating across the room. D finally trapped it beneath the shoe and a towel as Koal tried to bat the towel away, thoroughly enjoying this kill-the-bug-and-give-mommy-a-heart-attack-game.

“Come here!” D called, trying to keep the roach between the soft towel and the shoe as he moved towards the bathroom.

“OH HELL NO!!!!” I answered.

“Come on, I need your help!”

I followed about four feet behind him as he poised the towel-shoe trap over the toilet. Koal followed, disappointed that the game was over. “Okay, get ready.”


“Kristie, it’s just a bug.”

From behind, the cat echoed his statement. “Mew!” I glared at him, no longer feeling guilty about chopping off his nuts.

“Shut up, cat!” I turned back to D. ”NO! As soon as you move that shoe, it’s gonna fall down, land on the ground, and crawl up my leg!”

D sighed in exasperation as he maneuvered the towel so the roach dropped unceremoniously into the toilet.

“FLUSH IT! HURRY!” I yelled. He rolled his eyes as he pushed the silver lever down, sending our nighttime tormentor to a watery grave. Actually, he probably just sent the little bastard back down with all his buddies, and I’m pretty sure they’re planning a full-scale attack when the weather warms up. But that’s another story, and I’m pretty sure the cats are in on it. And I have proof.

I walked back into the bedroom to find Koal stretched out on my pillow. I lifted him up and promptly tossed him out the bedroom door, closing it loudly behind him.

D laughed. “You’re kicking him out for that? I thought he was your ‘baby!’”

A small black paw poked underneath the door, a useless gesture of amnesty. On the other side, I could hear him apologize in his sweetest, manipulative kitten voice.

“Mew!” Paw, paw. Pause. Paw. Paw.

But my heart was still racing, my bed was a mess, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to sleep for two months without imagining something crawling in my ear.

And that’s why the cat doesn’t sleep with us anymore. The end.

Mr. Potato Head, Pt. 2

We pulled into the gas station in my Jeep the other day. I handed D my debit card. A few minutes later, he jumped back in the Jeep and returned the card to me.

“How much did you put in it?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

“I need to know. It’s my debit card, not my credit card.”



Learned Behavior

Since I’ve returned to school, I occasionally add an additional “ed” to past-tense verbs. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’ve spent too much time on the Internet. Maybe I’ve spent too much time with 8th graders. Maybe I’ve just lost the ability to function, and my brain occasionally checks out. Either way, it’s an inside joke with my husband, who is all too familiar with my Grammar Nazi ways. In fact, the entire family has fallen victim to the Grammar Nazi, but none as often as my poor daughter.

Last night, D & I were having a discussion in the kitchen as Alex played on her iPad in the other room. I don’t remember the gist of our conversation, but it usually involves me being right about something and him attempting to prove me wrong.

That seems to be a theme in my life. Hmmm.

Anyway, D & I were teasing one another in our relentless fashion, going back and forth. D did something to which I responded with a very D-like answer. He made a shocked face.

“Don’t act surprised! I learnded that from YOU! I LEARNDED IT!”

From the other room, Alex calls out:

“It’s LEARNED, Mommy.”

I am so proud.

Mr. Potato Head

Just because I don’t cook doesn’t mean that I don’t know how. I spent part of my life cooking for a particular Old Country Store, and after you cook in that kind of bulk, you cease to have any desire to cook again. Especially since you’re not getting paid. There’s no motivation. So when I do, my husband assumes there’s some kind of cosmic event or impending apocalypse, and feels the need to micro-manage me in the kitchen.

Last night was a “fend-for-yourself” dinner (which usually happens if HE doesn’t cook dinner.) So I popped a sweet potato in the microwave.

“How long did you put it in for?”


“What do you mean, potato? You usually have to put it in for 5 or 6 minutes, and you only put it in for 2.”

“I put it in for POTATO. I pushed the button that says POTATO.”

“That’s not going to be long enough.”

“Then why would they make a button called POTATO? I trust the machine. The machine is usually smarter than me. If it has a button that says POTATO, I’m going to assume that it’s going to cook the POTATO the right way. Otherwise, why would they even bother with the button?”

The microwave punctuated my question with a loud beep. We both leaned in to see the results: I poked the potato with the knife several times before closing the door and adding an additional minute. D said nothing, but smiled smugly.

And this is just one more example of how engineers have failed me in life.


Last year, a fellow teacher left the classroom to pursue motherhood, leaving behind a rather large yet adorably affectionate tarantula named Fifi. The substitute teacher refused to set foot in the classroom with the spider, so I adopted her.

Fifi had a rough life; during a bad molt, she lost one of her legs, so she’s handicapped. She also has a large scar on her back from an unfortunate incident with a student and a rabbit (which is another story entirely; Fifi was the victim). After watching several students tap on the glass, and several others who threatened to squash her, I decided to bring her home so she could retire in peace. Despite all the trials in the classroom, she remained extremely docile, which is more than I can say for myself.

photo (2)


Fifi lives on a diet of gut-loaded crickets that I buy in bulk at Petco. Until Fifi moved in, I had no idea how much crickets stink. Seriously, these things are disgusting. The spider is amazingly clean, and grooms herself often (which is fascinating to watch, because she looks like she’s scratching her butt). But the crickets…. yuck.

The cricket cage has two portals where the bugs can climb up a tube and pray for a miracle that doesn’t end with a violent & gruesome death, or you can take out the tubes and close a small door hatch to deny them that hope altogether.  I can’t stand to touch them, because I hate bugs, so when it comes time to feed Fifi,  I pull out one of the tubes and shake it furiously until one of the crickets falls free into the cage.

I quickly discovered that crickets have supercricket strength, able to push the small door open and escape. So I leave the tubes in, which required me to remove the small door, leaving a tiny opening. I was amazed to find that crickets can squish themselves through that tiny hole as well.

If only humans had the perseverance of a cricket.

They also found their way out through a tiny crack in the side of the cage. I started to think they were squeezing through the airholes…. I stuffed the crack full of polymer clay, and finally, the crickets were contained.  A couple days ago we were due for a refill, so I bought 2 dozen extra-large crickets and went about my day.

That night, as I was working on my homework, I lifted up my blanket when something caught my eye on the floor. I have an unholy fear of roaches, so when I see anything crawling, I immediately react. It took my brain a moment to realize it was a cricket. I grabbed a paper cup, slammed it on top of the cricket, slid a piece of paper underneath & promptly delivered the offending bug to Fifi. As I was walking back to the office, another cricket hopped across my path in the hallway.

“What the hell?” I muttered, grabbing the cup again. I dumped it in front of Koal, who immediately ate it. I started walking back to the kitchen when yet another bug jumped across the white tiles. Now they had my attention. I walked over to the cricket cage to discover the trap door had fallen off….

…. and not a single cricket remained in the cage.

As darkness descended in my home, the sound of summer filled the air, despite the freezing temperatures outside. Crickets chirping in every room of my house. I could imagine them gathering as I slept; plotting their evil cricket mob and deciding which kamikaze cricket would sacrifice his life to climb in my ear as I slept to drop a million cricket babies that would eventually chew through my brain.

I barely slept that evening. Occasionally through the night, I heard the cats pouncing. I pulled the covers tightly over my ears.

The next morning, I awoke to the cricket apocalypse. There were tiny heads, bodies & legs strewn throughout the house. Koal was laying languidly across the kitchen counter top, his eyelids lazily regarding me with his cavalier kitty attitude. A cricket leg hung from the fur of his chin. Koal the Cricket Killer.

My hero.




June Bee*

Alex is closing in on her black belt, and she was starting to lose steam. I didn’t want her to give up, so I did what any supportive, caring mother would do. I signed up to take the classes with her.

Okay, okay. I’ll admit it. I always wanted to be a black belt. I did Muay Thai kickboxing in my 20′s, and I wish I’d never quit. When Alex expressed an interest in martial arts, I was overjoyed, but I wanted to be careful not to push my unfulfilled dreams onto her. I wanted to make sure it was something she truly enjoyed, and not something I could do to live vicariously through my child. So I watched with secret envy as Alex learned the moves, personally memorizing each position and “helping” her when we practiced at home.

The first class I showed up in uniform, the other mothers looked at me with disbelief. Had I lost my mind? Was I having a mid-life crisis? Did my husband beat me? Was I brainwashed by the Karate Kid? I began to feel a little weird as I heard them whispering. My self-doubt intensified when Master Berry, the seventh-degree black belt instructor, came over to me.

“What are you DOING?”

“Um, class, sir?” I answered feebly. He face immediately lit up.

“That’s AWESOME! This is GREAT!”

I should have taken heed to the incredulity in his voice with the initial question. Indeed, what WAS I doing? I know his excitement probably stemmed from the fact that he finally had someone older than 10 in his class. I should have paid attention to that fact as well.

Taekwondo is a mixture of martial arts routines, weapons, and self-defense moves. You practice by “sparring” other opponents. In Muay Thai, I loved to spar; the combination of quick-thinking and athleticism keeps you both physically and mentally challenged. Because I was older than the average student (by two DECADES), and because I had witnessed almost two years of classes and knew what to expect, I was allowed to bypass the usual requirements and jump straight into the Leadership Class. (I suspect that my credit card had something to do with that as well.) So I was pretty excited to get back in the ring, even if it was with a bunch of kids.

Ha. I’d like the following epitaph on my tombstone: “She assumed too much.”

The drill went like this: three people outside, one fighter in the middle. Each fighter on the outside was given a number; when your number is called, you jump in. Basically, the fighter in the middle is getting challenged from three directions. In my head, I saw myself looking like Jackie Chan.

Here’s how it really went down.

Kid #1 one comes straight for your shins. BAM. That will leave a nice bruise.

Kid #2 is Sonic the Hedgehog. You kick him back, he rolls into a ball and comes right back to bowl you down.

Kid #3 is a shrieking spider monkey. When all else fails, he just hangs on your arms while kicking you in the knees, shrieking hysterically the entire time.

Put the whole process in fast forward. BAM, roll (Ow!), freaking-LET-GO-Holy-crap-it’s-tangled-in-MY-HAIR-and-why-is-it-SHRIEKING-LIKE-THAT??!!!

Rinse. Repeat.

In the beginning, I was careful to use restraint. These are children, I couldn’t possibly use full force on them. That would be wrong. By the third class, I thoroughly rejected that philosophy. Those little suckers were out to kill me. Savagely. With malice. I think it’s something about having free reign to beat the bejesus out an adult with no consequences that excites them. Kill or be killed.

I honestly do try to give them only as much as I know they can take. But they, on the other hand, show me NO MERCY. So, on occasion, I may put a little more into a kick than I should, but that only happens when I’m gasping for air as Spider Monkey is giving me yet another kick to the ribs, and my survival mode kicks in. I’m pretty sure Jackie Chan never tried to fight a room full of elementary school kids, but if he did, I’m also sure he’d look a whole hell of a lot cooler than I do.

But the single worst sparring partner is my own daughter, who takes great pleasure in kicking her mother’s ass repeatedly. She also loves that I have to call her “ma’am,” and do as she says because she out-ranks me on the floor. But what she fails to realize, is that my diabolical plan has succeeded: she kicks harder, practices longer, and punches better. Her black belt ceremony is only four months away, and if I have to take a few punches to help her be successful, then I’m willing to do so.

And isn’t that what parenting is all about?

When you bow in, the instructor says “Chun bi,” which sounds an awful lot like “June Bee.” H and I got into a heated discussion about why an instructor would ask you about a seasonal bug.