Just beginning is almost the same thing as ending

This morning I took Sophia to her first day of third grade. She slipped her hand out of mine and ran ahead to exclaim hellos to her friends. Parents stood around and chatted while kids swarmed around us. Then the doors opened, and all the students turned toward to go inside. I dodged around a few of them to take my place next to Sophia again. She was holding hands with a friend and when I touched her arm she looked at me, startled. 

She waved a shooing hand at me, subtly, by her side. "It's okay, Mom," she said, "you don't have to come." I kissed the top of her moving head and stepped away to watch her dance up the stairs. 

 

At the grocery store, the eclipse began, and the sky started to shift to gray, ever so subtly. I was getting my groceries rung up, and the checker and bagger were talking to each other. 

"I will be glad when this thing is over, just so people can stop talking about it." 

"Seriously."

I waved a hand at the dimming sky. "And look! Here it is, almost over."

The checker gave me a look between pity and contempt.

"Actually, it's just starting. Right now."

I nodded, but he was the one who didn't understand. Just beginning is almost the same thing as ending. He is far too young to know that. There's no use in trying to explain it. Life will show him soon enough.

 

I arrived to pick Sophia up early. It was a noon dismissal. Third grade was going to watch a live stream of the eclipse in their classroom, which she was looking forward to. Here we were going to see 92% coverage at 11:47, and I didn't want to be driving and miss it. 

I saw a friend whose mom died this summer. She stood with a group of moms. Her kids milled around her, peeking at the sky cautiously through their boxy eclipse glasses. She was on the edge of the sidewalk, just where the concrete gives way to a sweep of green lawn. She smiled and chatted and looked through the glasses. Every so often she turned away, distracted, and stared at nothing.  Everyone looked at the sky, and she stared into the middle distance, studying the nothing in front of her. 

I made my way over to her to give her a hug. She hugged me back, tight. Before she even spoke, I could feel the weight of her shock. 

You never really think your mom will die. How can you? She's always been there. 

 

At the last minute, encouraged by the other moms around me, I went into the school to collect Sophia from her classroom. She had been interested in the idea of the live stream, so I wasn't sure she'd want to come. I peeked through the window, and the class was sitting on the floor, watching the disappearing sun on a laptop. I hesitated. But when I stuck my head in the door, Sophia's face lit up, and she scrambled off the floor to run over and take my hand. The teacher waved us permission to leave, and we slipped out.

Back outside, another mom gave Sophia some eclipse glasses, and she turned her face to the watery light. The air had grown cool and the sky looked like a storm was bearing down on us. I watched her as the minutes slipped past, and the light dimmed, then brightened, so slow it seemed you must be imagining it. 

Soon the sunlight grew strong enough to throw crescents through the shadows of the leaves of the tree next to us. I moved her into the strange light, to try to take pictures of it on her face. She came around to look at the pictures, and for a moment she leaned against me.

20170821_115845

"I'm so glad you came to get me, Mom." She stood there for just a minute, warm and soft against me. Then her friends started streaming out of the school, and she was gone.

 


Love for him

Everyone I know who used to blog and doesn't anymore says the same thing: growing kids. When kids are little, it's easy and lighthearted to talk about their lives. When they get older, it gets unbelievably more complicated.

When kids grow up EVERYTHING gets more complicated.

I want to respect my adult kids' lives. I don't want to reveal what's not mine to share. At the same time, I miss talking about what's real and important to me. So this is my attempt at a compromise. I hope it's careful enough; I hope it's true enough.

When Max was three, he was gripped by the worst night terrors I ever saw. Deep in the darkest and most bewildering hours of the night he stiffened and reached out. His feet shuffled, then kicked. His arms flexed. Soon he was writhing, clawing and punching the air, bellowing at nothing. He seemed determined to hurt himself and the people around him. 

As his mother, with love for him knit into the very flesh and bone of me, my job was to hold him. I reached around him and circled his wrists with my fingers. I folded his arms across his chest and pulled him close, pinning him against my heart. I whispered words of comfort that he could not hear and waited for the storm to pass.

This happened four and five times a night, for months. Sometimes I was so tired that my vision shimmered. I moved carefully as I could through my days. Some days I didn't trust myself to drive.

When Max was eighteen, a different storm gripped him. He lashed out, seeming determined to hurt himself and the people around him. I longed to reach around him again, as though these fingers could fit around his man-sized wrists, as though these arms could span his shoulders and chest. I wanted to pull him close and hold him still and wait for it to pass.

But as his mother, with love for him knit into the very flesh and bone of me, my job now is to let go. My hands dangle, useless, at my side. I don't think he can hear me and I'm not sure what to say anyway.

He is gone from me, out on his own, and has been for nearly a year.

I'm doing pretty well, actually. This may sound cold, but I have lots of people I need to be here for, not least of all myself. I think of it like living with a chronic illness. I am careful with my heart and opt out of any drama I can. I have only so many emotional spoons to spare

Some days missing him howls through me. Some days I can feel the love that lives in and around him and I know he's going to be just fine. Some days I only look at the other parts of my life and sift them through my fingers as if everything were perfectly normal. Occasionally I even talk to him, and some days we are both kind and reasonable. Some days we are not.

Always I am his mother, with love for him knit into the very flesh and bone of me.


Pictures to keep

A few weeks ago Raphael asked me if I remembered what hand he smashed in the window when he was 3. I puzzled over it, closed my eyes and tried to picture the scene, dithered for a while, then said "OH, I know! It's on the blog!" And indeed, it was

We looked it up, which took way more time than it should have. It ended up with us meandering through old posts, mainly the ones about him. We laughed, a lot. He finally found out why Mir always says "Ah gonna DIE!" when talking about him. It was like taking an afternoon trip back to when the boys were little and I traveled in the midst of a cloud of them, their words, their adventures, their ridiculousness.

I enjoyed the pictures of them, of course, but back in 2003, there weren't that many pictures. But all the way through there were word pictures that brought those boys back so vividly that I could almost smell the grubby puppy scent of their sweaty heads. 

It made me think about Sophia, and how I've missed writing down a lot of her childhood so far. All those pictures that are gone already, like they were left behind on some picnic bench, to get caught in the wind and dotted with rain. 

So here are a few word pictures of my own girl.

The other day we went for a walk. I took Tchai (our ridiculous dog) and she took her scooter. She was excited to get to the big hill, a steep swoop of blacktop that takes her breath away with its dangerous, flying joy. The sun was easing down toward the horizon, and the light turned golden. She sailed away ahead of me, hair flying out under her pink helmet with the ears (wolf, not kitten ears. Don't call them kitten ears). We were almost to the big hill when she glanced over her shoulder to check on me. That glance caused a wobble, and in a moment too quick to see, she went from flying to curled up in a ball on the blacktop, cradling her elbow, and gasping in the air that was about to be a wail. 

Tchai and I ran to her, and by the time we arrived her elbow was bright with blood. It was an impressive scrape, spiraling around her arm from wrist to elbow. Her palm stung and her knee was tender, but the brunt of the fall was worn on her arm. I sat on the road and pulled her onto my lap and she leaned into me and cried spots onto my t-shirt. 

When she was ready, I picked up her scooter and threw it over my shoulder, and we turned to walk home. After a few minutes, her crying died down, and she rubbed at her eyes with the back of her uninjured hand.

"That was an impressive fall," I told her.

"I guess. I think I looked back and that's why. I didn't even get to the big hill."

"Sorry."

"Yeah. It seems like it's taking a long time to get home."

"Well, you were on your scooter before."

"Yeah. It's a lot faster that way." She fell silent, thinking. "HEY! I should put some of this blood on a slide! Do you think I could see something under the microscope?" She got a microscope for Christmas. 

"I think that's a great idea. That's thinking like a scientist."

"YES." Our house was in sight now, and she looked at it, then at me. "Why don't I run ahead? So the blood doesn't dry up before I get there?"

"Good plan," I told her, and then she was gone. I walked along, with my ridiculous dog trotting beside me and my daughter's scooter swinging from my shoulder with the rhythm of my steps. The gold of the light deepened, and the moment hung suspended. 

I decided to keep the picture. And so I did. 

20170528_193615

 


In the Service of Life

Every spring I experience two cravings. One is to paint my fingernails. Apparently (I discovered while hanging out around on campus) people don't paint their own fingernails anymore. I can't fathom the time and money required to get manicures that often, but whatever. I slosh polish on my own fingernails, every spring, and feel very pretty about the whole thing. Right now I'm very fond of a lavender shade.  

Unfortunately, the other thing I crave in the spring is gardening. I'm not a tidy sort of gardener, either. I don't wear gloves, because how do you feel the proper tension in the root of a weed with gloves on? If you pull too hard, you'll snap that thing right off, and then you just lost. How are you supposed to feel the texture of the soil, how compact or damp or crumbly it is through gloves? Look, I know lots of accomplished gardeners manage it just fine. I'm just stuck at some earlier stage of gardening development, apparently, where I have to feel it in my fingers. At the end of the day, I come inside wearing smudges of dirt, and fingers that are rough with drying soil.

Unfortunately, that doesn't do a manicure any good. It seems like every year I spend a few weeks fighting these two springtime urges until enough nails have given way to the abuse, cracking away in shards. I remove the polish and clip them as short as I can, and get back to the weeding.

It's a relief, really, because looking nice is not really something I'm all that adept at. I don't always grow things successfully either, but I feel better about that effort. As the garden takes shape, I sometimes run my thumb over my nails, feeling the rough tips that are traced with fissures, and scraps of hangnails that sting as they peel away. When tender nubs of green shoulder the soil aside to unfurl in the sunlight, it seems a fair trade. 

I will always choose to work in the service of life, even when I look foolish.

So, I graduated. That was wonderful. I don't think I realized just how much I carried the fact that I'd never finished my degree until I was there, within spitting distance of finishing. The last week of classes, people kept saying to me "You're graduating! You're out of here!" and I would shake my head and reply "Well, I have to get through finals first."

This was a silly thing to say, because I calculated my grades and I knew that I could not get a low enough grade on my finals to fail my classes. And yet, I muttered fretting things about those finals. It wasn't until I finished the very last one (Microbiology. You guys. Microbiology is SO COOL), that I realized I'd actually done it. I got into my car and drove home and sobbed the whole way. I did it. I finally, really did it. It felt so good, and I'm so glad I did it. 

Of course, now I'm job hunting. Here's a news flash that will be shocking to all of you, I'm sure: Job hunting is TERRIBLE. Don't do it, if you can avoid it. It's a horrible thing to do. It's been 22 years since I've had a job, and it turns out that the professional world was not waiting breathlessly for my return. Weird, right? Also, the entire process of looking for a job has turned into the very worst massively multiplayer online role-playing game EVER. I am not good at it. 

At the same time, home life has changed. Tre has moved out - well, I know that happened a while ago. But now he has his own apartment, which feels different yet again. He doesn't come home for the summer. Actually, when he leaves here, he IS going home. That's just weird.

Max also moved out. Hmm. How do I say this? The details aren't mine to share, but suffice to say it's not what I'd hoped. Ultimately, I believe in the heart of Max, and I believe in his future. Right now? There have been a lot of tears. 

We are down to a family of four, huddled at one end of the table at dinner time. I am no good at cooking for this number of people. I end up making hot dogs AGAIN or preparing an enormous lasagne that we will never, ever finish before it goes bad. I feel out of step in this new configuration. 

It's not hard for me to turn these hard things into self-doubt. I turned my back on the working world 22 years ago, assuming it would be fine. Now it's like a massive, smooth wall to me. There are no doors or window, no fissures that I can get a fingerhold on. I don't seem to have been very wise about this, and I'm embarrassed by how bewildering it all is. It feels like something a grown-up should know. 

But I put my grown-up self to the task of parenting. Maybe more than I should have, I invested in my kids. Maybe I should have kept more space for myself in my life. I look at the struggles my kids face, despite my every effort, and wonder what I thought I was achieving there. It turns out that in the best of situations, children are supposed to grow up and leave. It turns out that no amount of love guarantees the best of situations. It turns out that I was unprepared. 

I don't know. All I really got from those years is...those years. I got to spend that time with them. It's all I get right now with Raphael and Sophia, these days that slip through my fingers. I picked that over having a career. So maybe I look silly, a 46-year-old, trying to figure out how to win a job in a strange new world. 

But I suppose I will always choose to work in the service of life, even when I look foolish.

 


Most improved

About a month ago I met with a professor to arrange to be registered for the capstone course for my degree. 

Capstone, baby. Like, the last one. The one you take in your FINAL SEMESTER. 

I'm in, by the way. My transcript is a hot mess, with credits from two universities and three different degrees programs. I like to think of myself as well rounded. A renaissance learner, if you will. The university likes to look at it as "Please graduate, already. Srsly." They send me frequent emails reminding me. Nonetheless, the professor and I waded through my many pages of transcripts and determined that yes, I was within spitting distance of graduation, and just like that, welcome to the capstone course. 

I walked out of her office clutching my fistfuls of paper, barely touching the ground. CAPSTONE. I am going to ACTUALLY GRADUATE.

In the hall I met a young man. We had a class together last semester, and I recognized both him and the nervous shuffle of paper in his hands. 

"Andre! Are you taking the capstone in the fall?"

"Yeah," he looked nervously professor-ward, "I hope so. I'm finally going to finish."

Finally. I looked at his worried, shining young face. Finally.

The first time I went to college, I was in the marching band. It was amazing and so much fun. I played percussion in the pit. I loved it, but I was also dead intimidated by the caliber of the musicians around me. I drove the percussion instructor insane, because I played so softly no one could ever accuse me of an error. Or of existing.

"If you are going to make a mistake, PLEASE," he would bellow at me, "PLEASE MAKE IT LOUD!"

I nodded a sheepish okay, sure thing, by which I meant, hellz no. I patted gently at my instrument that whole first season.

Next year I came back, though, with a new determination. I played. I played loud. And I practiced my behind off, so my mistakes were audible, but they also were less. One day I spent hours locked in the percussion studio, working on a solo. When I came out, my hair was damp and my shoulders ached, and the hall was lined with the hotshot percussionists who (although irritated at the wait), nodded at me with grudging respect. It was like a movie. I was the one with MOXIE.

I really have always wanted to be the one with moxie in a movie.

Anyhow, at the end of that season, at the banquet, I was given an award for "most improved" in the percussion section. I felt pretty good about this, grinning at my self and just generally enjoying my moxie. After the banquet a friend of mine (low brass. I should have been on guard) came up to me and shook his head.

"Wow," he said, "you must be pretty pissed about that award. I mean, most improved? Your second year? What an ass that guy is. What was he saying, that you sucked last year?"

And just like that, all my delight in it deflated. From something light and glossy it shriveled into something dull and embarrassing. I closed my mouth and never mentioned the silly award again. 

I thought about that award, standing there in the hall outside the professor's office. I thought about being so ready to accept embarrassment instead of delight because I hadn't arrived at improved sooner. I thought about a conversation I had a few months ago with a friend (who is himself a college instructor, actually). He was telling me how great he thought it was that I'd gone back to school, and I confessed that I usually felt pretty darn snazzy about the whole thing. But then, sometimes, I would look around and realize that I was accomplishing something normally done by 20 year olds, and I would feel kind of dumb. He shook his head at me.

"Competition," he said sternly, "has absolutely no place in learning."

He's right, you know. If I get there first, if I get there last, does it matter? I will get there. Hopefully in December, twenty seven and a half years after beginning my degree, I am going to finish it. 

Twenty five years ago I was the most improved percussionist, too. Just so you know. 


New classes - first impression

Math Class 

Hey, I don't think this will be too bad. I think I can do this! I mean, I wouldn't say that I'm excited about it, but this is math for...my people. 

Writing Class 

Love. Love this. Love love love. Can I just live here?

Biology 2

Oooh, we are not messing around here, are we? Okay, okay. I can do this. Some interesting stuff here. Wow, this lab is kinda intense. Okay. Let's do this thing. This biology thing. 

Human Anatomy and Physiology

Oh wow. There is a lot here. And this lab is...how can a lab manual be that thick? Okay, the professor is going to give us a starting list of terms to memorize.

That's a lot of terms.

She just keeps saying words.

Is she trying to say all the words? In the world?

I think you're done now! I think that's enough!

Sweet jeebus. More words.

So. many. terms.

I wonder if she'll stop if I pretend to die?

Mommy.

Did I say that in the outside the head voice?

Professor: Okay, I think since it's our first day, that's a good start, without getting too in-depth.

whimper.

 

 


Fairly okayish!

Tomorrow I start classes again, and so today I had planned to get everything I need to accomplish out of the way for the next four months.

I didn't quite manage it. But Sophia's lunch is packed for tomorrow, and I cleaned off my desk, so let's call that a win. 

Last semester when classes started I felt like I just fell off a cliff. I watched helplessly as the tasks I'm so used to dispatching without even thinking about just whizzed past me. When I was home I was mostly parked on the couch, in a nest of papers and books, or sobbing into Clay's chest that I couldn't do it, it was just too hard and I was just too old.

There was one class last semester that I found so very intimidating that I spent a portion of the first two weeks of classes doodling in the margins of my notes,"Don't cry. Just don't cry. Don't cry." I'd write the letters one on top of the other so no one would know what I was saying to myself, because that was convincingly normal.

I was so overwhelmed by it all that I did things like get on the wrong train to come home. More than once. I forgot to eat, which is not a thing that I do. And one night I finished studying for a big biology test and tried on a shirt I'd just bought. This was the first time I'd put it on at home and two buttons just fell off, so irritating. But I knew the idea of getting it all the way back to the store to return it was absolutely laughable. ANOTHER TRIP! HA! So instead I sewed the buttons on myself. 

When I got up in the morning and put the shirt on, I found I'd sewed one button on right, and the other on the opposite side of the shirt. I...don't even know how I managed that. I just stood there for a moment, looking in disbelief at my buttons. And then I just wore the shirt that way because that's the level of my decision making skills at the time. 

I went to my biology test, and you know what? I completely DOMINATED that test. Not only did I get an A, I got the highest grade in the freaking CLASS. LIKE A BOSS. 

I promptly decided that the button thing was just evidence that I was one of those absentminded geniuses, like Einstein. I bet he never sewed anything anywhere, or he would have made hash of it all, right? And then I went and got on the wrong train to come home.

I'm not kidding about the train thing. 

This semester I'm not quite as terrified. I know it's going to be a tough semester, but I also know that it'll all be okay. It's hard to let things go around here, but I've found that when I do, sometimes magic occurs. I think before I went back to school Clay had done...maybe three loads of laundry in our entire marriage? That's not a complaint. That was just how we did things. In the fog of the new semester, one day I realized that I was discovering clean clothes in my closet and that I hadn't put them there. Without a single discussion Clay had quietly taken over laundry and it turns out that A) he is SO GOOD AT LAUNDRY and B) OH MY LORD I LOVE NOT DOING LAUNDRY. This whole school deal is worth it just for that.

I figure this semester will be more of the same: exhilarating, terrifying, exhausting, sometimes humiliating, but mostly just fine. Fairly okayish, even!


Weird/not weird

Let's play a game, shall we? I'll tell you a little something that is happening in my life, and you tell me if it's weird or not. Okay? Okay!

 

Sophia's first grade class has been talking about the idea of temptation (those crazy Catholics, amIright?). Sophia is very taken with the concept, and was delighted to discover that I had bought popcorn at Target this afternoon! Because I was tempted! This is awesome!

Tonight, as we all sat on the couch to say bedtime prayers, she knotted up her little cupid mouth like it was drawstringed, balled up one fist, grabbed that wrist with the other hand, and looked at me with crazy eyes. "Oooooo," she whispered, "I have SUCH a temptation to punch Max!" As soon as prayers were done, she ran over to the punching bag the boys got for Christmas, and gave it a great pitter pat of a pummeling with her tiny little fists. Then she scaled the big metal frame it hangs on, to slap it mightily from above. It was, she explained, the only way to keep others safe from her powerful temptation to punch. 

20151218_180625

Little angel, my foot.

 

Max's favorite snack currently is Doritos and sour cream. Not a sour cream dip, just a bowl of sour cream, scooped up with Doritos. Makes me gag and gain weight, just looking at him. He says it's delicious. I say it's disgusting, and yet I have not felt the same temptation to punch him.

 

I'm not speaking to my dog. Because she ate my lip balm. A whole entire pot of lip balm that my niece made me, and half of the plastic container. I tell her every time I give her a treat that I'm not speaking to her. She is...remorseful? Okay sure, she's remorseful.

20151222_132031(0)

"GOT ANY LIP BALM? YUM."

 

Finally, how about me just jumping into blogging again, like there hasn't been a five month silence in this conversation and I haven't ignored some very lovely emails from wonderful people? Now THAT would be weird.


College 2.0

Saturday morning Tre packed up his car, gave hugs all around, and left for College 2.0.

11828646_1061176863892463_496943891615949626_n

That car there? He's been working ridiculous hours as a shift manager to earn enough to buy that car. When he brought it home, he was so proud that I started referring to it as my grandcar. 

I know. Grandcar isn't a thing.

I keep thinking about the night we discussed him not returning to ASU. It wasn't what he wanted, and at one point he bellowed, with tears in his eyes, "But I DON'T WANT TO BE HERE!"

It didn't even hurt my feelings, at least not for myself, because it was just so true. He did not want to be here. My mom told me once that our children are born with their faces turned away from us. I don't think I ever understood that, until now. 

I have to give him credit, though. For the last seven months, as he found his way through this time, he was kind and pleasant and helpful. Well, when we saw him. He really did work a lot. But when he was not at work or with his friends, he was so good. He did as much as he could of the driving to get his siblings where they needed to go. He helped out when asked. Only a few times, when I reflexively started to lecture him on something or other, did he look at me and say evenly, "Mom. I'm an adult."

Yes, sort of. Yes, mostly.

Yes.

I know. 

He decided not to return to ASU, which was such a relief to me. It never was the right fit. The university he picked after all is in New Mexico, and happens to be my alma mater. Wait, can I call it that when I left two semesters shy of a degree? Anyhow, this factored into his decision exactly not at all. He will be travelling in vastly different circles than I did, since I was in the College of Education and he will be in Engineering. We visited the campus in June, and although I saw my memories overlaid on so many views there, it was clearly his campus now.

I think he is ready now in a way he wasn't last year. There is the obvious maturing influence of having to make a course correction. There is the months of working as a shift manager. There's one more year slid past him. But there's one other thing too.

After a few months home, he asked to be tested for ADD. He'd been reading about it, and thought it would explain a lot. Genetically, it makes perfect sense. Both his brothers have ADD. But I didn't see it. Not Tre. Tre was the linear one. The one who had it all together. Compared to his brothers (not that I would EVER compare any of my kids - heh), Tre is a paragon of orderliness and scholastic achievement.

Except, as it turns out, he also has ADD.

I'm trying to forgive myself for being surprised by it three times now. It looks so different in each of them. Tre is mostly inattentive type, which is different from Raphael's hyperactive type, and different again from Max's combination type. The point, I assure myself, is that he now knows. He now has strategies. He has a path forward.

Last year, when we left him in his dorm room, it felt overwhelmingly sad. The end of his childhood. And yes, I was also excited for him, but that was tempered by a niggling anxiety for him that I couldn't quite identify. 

What I discovered was that even though he came home at the end of that semester, it didn't undo the leaving. He lived here again, but he never did come back to his childhood. He was just marking time until he could start again.

On Saturday, he started again. I will simply miss him so much. I was so blindsided by the grief that I forgot to give him the gift Clay and I got him, a key chain that is a metal guitar pick stamped with the GPS coordinates of our home. Just so he doesn't forget. 

But with a few days to clear my head, I find that I am mostly so very happy for him. There he goes. Isn't he just beautiful?


Back to school

The summer is waning. Have you noticed? The light is thick and golden in the evenings, and the grass in the front yard is turning crisp and tawny. Sunflowers bob beside the road. This portion of summer is like the saved last few bites of frosting from your favorite cake. That is, if you love frosting more than cake. I do. Right now tomatoes are ripening and mornings are just cool enough to start the day beautifully, and I wish it would never never ever end. 

Of course, it will end, and very soon, because school is bearing down on us all. This year is different, because not only are all of my children going to school this fall, I am too.

I never finished my degree. I have a ridiculous number of credits, but no degree. I could teach you The Kira Method for achieving this (change schools at least once, change majors often, change minors like a madwoman), but it might be easier to just flush money directly down the toilet. Heh.

THIS time, however, I am only about a year and a half out from finishing my degree for realz. Of course, first I have to navigate the...everything about returning to college. I had to take a math placement exam, because the "Math for Educators" class that I barely squeaked by in twenty five years ago (!) somehow won't do anymore. So I studied up for the test, took it, was told my score was too low, then found out that my score was plenty fine, but they'd put in my student ID number wrong, which is a problem that could never possibly be solved, so I'll have to take the test again. 

For reals, higher education. For. Reals.

There's a lot I'm nervous about here. The schedule, gracious. How am I going to get three kids to three different schools and pick them up again? If that was all I did all day, I would still need at least one more of me. Clay and my mom and dad are all on board to help, but they all have jobs and whatnot and gar. I just don't know.

Also, I'm going to have to let go of a good deal of the stuff that I habitually do around here, like cooking and cleaning and...wait, this part is actually great. I mean, yeah, I know it's not going to get done like I like it, but on the other hand, I won't be doing it. I would pretty much prefer to set my hair on fire over cooking another meal. So this actually is just fine.

But you know, time will be tight, money will be crazy tight, my elderly van absolutely must live another two to three years, and the kids may absolutely not have any crises until I'm done with school. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Sorry. That's parenting teen humor there. It's not actually funny.

But one of the hoops I had to jump through to register for classes was to see an advisor about my major (English, with a writing emphasis. Please don't everyone jump up at once to hire me). The English advisors are a massive pain in the butt. They don't make appointments, so you just have to show up during office hours and hope they deign to see you. Then they act like you're clearly interrupting their ART by existing in their office. It's great. It gives me an opportunity to use that old Lamaze breathing.

Nonetheless, this meeting went fairly well, even though he sent me off to get a copy of my transcript from the bursar's office because he doesn't like the computer system that he could use to look up my transcript (deeeeep breath). When I returned and handed him the requested transcript, he looked at it, squinted, cocked his head, then said to me, "I...I'm just not sure what you were doing here. With all these...classes?" 

That would be The Kira Method. Don't be jealous. I managed to convince him to move past all that, and just tell me what I needed to take to finish already. Turns out I'm in good shape, really close to finishing up my major. He handed the papers back to me, then fixed me with A Look. He leaned back in his chair, folded his hands across his stomach, smirked ever so slightly, and said, "Well. It must be pretty intimidating, isn't it? To come back after all these years?"

And I smiled, thinking of the chaos at home, of the years and mountains and traumas and triumphs I'd weathered in the years I've been gone. I thought of my babies, sprawling and stomping their way out into the world, and of my steadfast husband, weathering it all by my side. And I smiled right back at him.

"Nope. Not a bit."