On Hostess Neurosis

My friend Sue recently introduced me to a delightful term especially applicable this time of year: Hostess Neurosis. I am sure it is something most readers have experienced at least once; I know I sure have.

Thanksgiving and I are in a complicated relationship. Early on in my hostessing career, I was plagued with much anxiety and perfectionism. While this doesn’t make for a happy, calm person, it certainly helps to produce an amazing overachiever-style meal to remember. Back then, I cooked like my life depended on it.

At some point in my early thirties, I snapped out of it and found what healthy people call perspective. I realized that people will still like me and love me even if I’m not perfect. Even if the stuffing is dry. Even if my silverware has water spots. Even if I’m not a size six.

The downside of this, of course, is that I’m no longer a size six. Ha, I kid! No, the real downside is that when you lose your anxiety, you also lose a lot of your desire to perform at the top level of every single thing in life because you’re in on the secret that it doesn’t really matter. Well, no, that’s not quite right. Things matter, but they start mattering for the right reasons. Things no longer matter out of fear of rejection, they matter because they are truly important to you. This knowledge frees you up a lot. And by you, I mean me.

It’s my long-winded way of saying Thanksgiving is still very important to me, but in a more normal way. I’ve never stopped working hard at planning Thanksgiving. I’ve never stopped making lists, and lists of lists, and attempting to serve The Best Thanksgiving Dinner You Ever Ate. I’m still a little competitive and I still care about doing a good job. It’s still a helluva lot of work and there’s no getting around that part. But finally I can say my Hostess Neurosis has evolved into basic garden variety Hostess Seasonal Stress curable with a little wine. In losing the perfectionism, I’ve lost some of the excellence it once produced, but I’ve gained a lot of joy in the production. I think that’s a pretty fair trade, and I’m thankful for that.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life… I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it. — Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

 

 

The Peculiar Taste of Flintstones Vitamins

I heard a story on NPR yesterday morning about memories, but I’ve forgotten most of it already. This might be amusing if it wasn’t actually true. Yes, I can’t even remember any significant details about a story I heard on the topic of memory from one day ago. But I will summarize: You will get old, and your memory will start to suck. The end. I’m sure NPR used classier words, though.

I was always one of those annoying people who claimed to have memories from a freakishly early age. Except for other people who have freakishly early memories, most people don’t believe me, but I don’t know why not. What would I stand to gain by lying? After hearing this story, it did make me start to wonder if my earliest memories would eventually be purged, too. And it got me thinking about some of my remaining early memories. Most of them have to do with food or toys or other material goods. I will spare you my litany of unique personal memories, such as my father waking me up with his off-key rendition of, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” (is there a better line than the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye?) or the opening orchestral strains of the original All My Children theme song, signaling my afternoon nap.

Here are some things I still remember from my early childhood. Perhaps you do, too?

Lemon Up Shampoo – While most of my friends remember the 1970s classic shampoo Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific, I remember this old gem, usually perched next to the original green bottle of Clairol Herbal Essence.

Silly Putty – Oh, how I loved this stuff. Now that I’m a mother, I understand why my mother hated it. Essentially, it’s like flesh colored chewing gum, only more difficult to remove from carpeting. But an afternoon with a fresh egg of Silly Putty and the comics? Heaven.

Our red Dodge Dart Swinger – My dad always loved cars. I’m pretty sure our red Dodge Dart Swinger wasn’t the Lexus of its day, but I thought it was pretty cool, probably because it was red. Had I any idea what swinger meant, I would have been mortified, even at age four.

The shiny silver knobs of cigarette machines (the only thing available to play with while our father dragged us to new car dealerships for hours on end. See above.)  – When my kids complain that they’re bored, I tell them my only toy on a long Saturday afternoon was a cigarette machine, and that usually shuts them up.

Romper Stompers – Before you start feeling too sorry for me, please know I also had some real toys, such as Romper Stompers, which appear to have been designed by a personal injury attorney. These originally appeared on Romper Room, where Miss Louise NEVER said the name Dawn in her magic mirror, not even once. Thanks, Mom.

Flintstones Vitamins – I loved the edgy humor of The Flintstones cartoon, and I loved my daily chewable Flintstones vitamin. It may have tasted like chalk soaked in Tab cola, but I didn’t care. I looked forward to that thing every single day. Flintstones vitamins remind me so much of my childhood — a little bit kitschy, a little bit sweet, and full of good intentions. I hope I always remember that.

 

 

 

 

Vote and Eat

My first election was in 1988: George H.W. Bush versus Michael Dukakis. I voted, happily at the time, for George Bush. I loved Ronald Reagan, and Bush, while no dynamo, was the next best thing. My father had lived in New England for much of my life, so terms like “Taxachusetts” were part of my vocabulary from a young age. Plus, Kitty Dukakis was a bit fragile. She always looked minutes away from a complete mental breakdown. Definitely not first lady material, not in my book. Poor Kitty.

 

While my political opinions and party affiliation have evolved through the decades (and will continue to evolve), one thing has remained constant: the feeling of pride and patriotism which overcomes me every time I step into a voting booth.

After college, I lived with my mother in Philadelphia, and we had a tradition called “Vote and Eat.” You can probably guess what it involved. After we voted, we went to Nick’s Roast Beef on Cottman Avenue and ate. It was a fun tradition, and I can’t wait until my mom moves closer so our Vote and Eat can rise again.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to come up with some inspiration to cook something worthwhile for election night, and I’ve got nothing. To be honest, this election has exhausted me. I have seen ugly, hateful things coming from people I otherwise like and respect, and it’s hard to not be changed by that. Even some people I agree with politically have spread panic and paranoia to a degree I consider really unhealthy. I will be so happy when this is behind us.

This morning, I set off to my little country polling place to vote (we still use ink pens around here) and was greeted happily by both the Romney camp and the Obama camp. They were chit chatting with each other before I walked up to them and continued to do so after I left. While I did not know them, these are my neighbors, members of my community. I was happy to see citizens with opposing political opinions treating each other respectfully, as friends, despite all I’ve heard heard in the media. If and when things get ugly, I will hold on to that. And I think I will exercise my constitutional right to order pizza and wings tonight.

Two Holiday Helpers

If you, like me, sometimes browse through your holiday food magazines and find all of the choices a bit overwhelming and difficult to mentally organize, I am about to share with you a life changing gift. Zach and Clay of The Bitten Word have thoughtfully organized every Thanksgiving recipe from 2012’s Bon Appetit, Cook’s Illustrated, Cooking Light, Everyday Food, Fine Cooking, Food & Wine, Food Network Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Southern Living and Whole Living (that’s eleven magazines!) and with the exception of those snobs at Saveur and Cook’s Illustrated, every single recipe is linked online. Today I will be trying a yet-to-be-determined stuffing recipe from the index, and if it’s worthwhile, I promise I will share it. You can find The Bitten Word’s extremely helpful index here.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, did you know that Thanksgiving Eve is considered the biggest drinking day of the year in terms of liquor sales at bars and restaurants everywhere? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to why.

My extremely talented friend Beth, founder and CEO of SIPP, an organic soda company, is a true cocktail savant with genius instincts. She is always creating fabulous, original cocktails which she never bothers to write down, much to my dismay. Last night she whipped up a delicious, fragrant, goes-down-way-too-easy cocktail with apple cider and vanilla vodka, and I insisted she write it down so that I could hopefully serve it again. But what to name it? We had many ideas, ranging from Apple Crisp (too desserty) to Autumn Dream (too Glade air freshenery), and let’s just say the ideas did not improve with each subsequent cocktail. But in the middle of the night, like all good ideas, it suddenly came to me: Holiday Helper! I hope you will try this, and I hope this will help your holidays.

Holiday Helper

1 oz. Vanilla Vodka

2 oz. Apple Cider

Dash of cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg

1/2 oz. ginger ale (preferably SIPP ginger blossom if you can get your hands on some)

Combine vodka and apple cider in a cocktail shaker. Top with sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg, then splash of ginger ale. Garnish with apple, if desired. Cheers, friends!

p.s. I finally entered 2005 and created a Facebook page for Mom Mom’s Apron. You can like me by clicking the box in the right hand column. As always, thanks for your support!

p.p.s. If you are having a bit of a hostess meltdown, check out this.

The Blessing of Wind

Recently, I had a flashback. My son and I were in the car after preschool, and I was interrogating him about his day. I use the word interrogate deliberately. I still remember how hard it was to get accurate information out of that kid!

My main goal was to find out this: Was he happy? Were people nice? Did his teacher properly appreciate his brilliance? Did anyone make him cry? Was he unjustly accused of any preschool crimes that day?

My witness was rarely cooperative. Good, fine, okay — these were the words I usually got, plus very convoluted tales about Legos and Power Rangers. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, I see I was attempting to rescue my son, right any wrongs, and make his preschool experience happy and easy. Happy and easy, these were my wishes for him back then. Fortunately, this is not what he ever wanted for himself. As always, children show you everything you need to know.

Flash forward to today. I texted my son, now a confident and resilient college freshman, and asked him if he ever wished I intervened more or rescued him. I was pleased but not especially surprised that he emphatically responded NO. Despite my early inclinations, I was not the mom who dropped everything to run to the school with forgotten homework assignments or band instruments or lunches. Like my children, I have changed and I have grown.

I used to hate wind. Unless I’m on a sailboat, I try to avoid it at all costs. It feels unpleasant, and it can destroy things. A gentle spring breeze? Sure. An ocean breeze on a hot day? Delightful. But cold, rainy 30 mph wind? Yuck.

Years ago, I heard a speaker talk about the Biosphere 2 project, and it changed my thoughts on wind forever. I still don’t like it, but I respect its place in nature now.

There are many beneficial affects posed by wind for plants. Wind helps to pollinate many species of plants, spread seeds, remove harmful gasses, bring in many species of animals that are wind-dispersed, and many other forces. Wind is also necessary for creating hardy and strong trees. When it was first created, there was no wind inside of Biosphere 2. Plants grew relatively quickly, but they frequently fell over before they were of reproductive age. After some intensive observations and experimentation, it was determined that the lack of wind created trees with much softer wood than that species would normally make in the wild. They grew more quickly than they did in the wild, but they were harmed in the long run as a consequence. — By Dr. James A. Danoff-Burg, Columbia University

It is one of those things I think of often. While it’s only human to want to avoid the wind (adversity) in life, the reality is that without it, we would be artificially inflated and weak like a tree in Biosphere 2. If we don’t grow up bending and strengthening with the wind, once we are big, the tiniest little breeze will be able to knock us over and completely destroy us. I want my children to have happy and easy lives, but I also want them to be brave and strong. Attempting to shelter children from any wind will only harm them in the long run; a little wind is good for us all. When times are tough, I try to remember this.

My 48 Hours as Ma Ingalls

Suffering passes, while love is eternal. That’s a gift that you have received from God. Don’t waste it. — Laura Ingalls Wilder

As expected, Hurricane Sandy hit our region hard and knocked out our power for 48 hours. Compared to the devastation many people suffered, this barely registers on the misery scale. Our house and rental properties stayed dry and undamaged. None of my people were hungry or injured or died. We are truly fortunate and grateful. Please consider donating to hurricane relief here.

However (you knew there would be a “however,” right? surly you know me by now), it was still very hard, both physically and mentally. I hate that I’m such a weak whiney whiner when deprived of my creature comforts while others are facing such heartache and devastation. Not charming, I know.

I don’t know why you’re complaining. It’s 54 degrees in here. I grew up in a house colder than this. — My husband

The first day without power is never bad, especially when it’s expected. You engage in all kinds of folksy old timey fun like boardgames by flashlight and junk food by the fireplace. The kids and I played Apples to Apples. The kids and Ed played Monopoly to the bitter end. Nate and Logan played chess. We danced and told stories and drank wine and laughed. Doesn’t that sound like a wholesome rip roaring good time? It really was.

But when you wake up the next day to cold darkness and no coffee and dark coldness and no coffee and no coffee in the cold darkness, something slowly starts to crack. You know intellectually you are still one of the lucky ones, but a hot shower and a hair dryer and a light in your closet would sure feel nice right now. And then you check Facebook on your phone and see everyone around you — literally everyone you know except your very own neighborhood — has either gotten their power back by this point or never lost it in the first place. The crack deepens.

We still have not purchased a generator — partially out of frugality, partially out of stubbornness, partially out of Ed’s camping heritage. I suspect he thinks they’re for sissies, even though he’d never say that out loud. (But see above quote if you’re doubting me.) Morning two without power is a dangerous place in any relationship. You start to turn on each other. You start to question motives. You start to compare who is more miserable and has suffered the greatest (hint: the answer is me, always me).

It is in the shelter of each other that the people live. — Irish Proverb

It is at this point when friends come to the rescue. They offer showers and lodging and warm meals. You don’t want to be a burden, but when they insist a second time, you take them up on it. And that is when you know no matter what, you’ll be okay because you have good people who care enough to look out for you. You know that it doesn’t even matter if they are voting for different people in the election. They are kind and good and generous, and as long as people like this exist, the world will always be okay.

Review: UNREAL “Unjunked” Candy

I hosted book club last night. Like most ladies of a certain age around here, I love my book club. Book clubs are like sororities for middle aged women: they’re not always easy to break into, and it’s important to choose the right one. Or, in my case, be chosen by the right one. Our appreciation for a good book is only exceeded by our appreciation for good gossip, naughty food, and a glass of wine or two three four.

Even though I’ve known many of these ladies for years, I wasn’t invited into the book club until fairly recently, which I completely understand. I, of all people, respect the importance of limiting size, the right kind of chemistry, etc. I think we’ve all had our negative group experiences in the past, and one can’t be too careful about messing around with the balance of a successful group.

When I went to my first meeting at the Mayonnaise Heiress’s house, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Uh oh, I thought, I am in over my head! I’ve been to weddings with far inferior food and wine than this (ahem, none of my friends, of course). I learned that some people go all out and some people really go all out, but a certain standard exists, and I’d better be up for the challenge. If it means tapping into my home equity line of credit to buy the wine, so be it.

Even though I obviously like to cook, I’ve learned not to be a martyr. I try to have a few special homemade items, and then I supplement with some easy packaged or prepared items (chips, things for the candy dish, etc.). I was all set to go with Lindor truffles and an assortment of Hershey products when I found this in BJ’s: UNREAL Unjunked Candy.

Basically, it’s a makeover of all of our favorite candy: M&Ms, Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, etc. While it isn’t healthy, it isn’t quite as junky. Below is the explanation from their website:

Adam was so inspired by the mission of changing junk food that he immediately brought together top scientists and chefs all across Europe to recreate America’s biggest selling candies, without the junk. Along the way Nicky and Adam developed UNREAL™’s mantra:  “Unjunk™!”  Corn syrup?  Out.  Partially hydrogenated oils?  Out.  GMOs?  Out.  Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives?  Out. Reduced sugar by over 40% per serving on average?  Check. They also decided key ingredients needed to be responsibly sourced, supporting farming communities and preventing destruction of the rain forests. All ingredients needed to be non GMO.  Dairy needed to come from pasture raised cows with no antibiotics or added hormones.  Why?  Because it’s the right thing to do for people and the planet.

But the real question, of course, is how does it taste? I bought the M&Ms and the peanut butter cups, and both were a big hit with my kids and with my book club friends. It probably goes without saying that the flavor is not exactly the same — not worse, just different. If you are expecting an identical substitute, it will taste “off.” But if you are expecting a yummy, unjunky, chocolatey treat, you won’t be disappointed.

My favorite part is from an aesthetic standpoint. The colors, dyed with beetroot juice, turmeric root extract, and purple cabbage juice, are absolutely stunning. These are high class M&M’s worthy of the most discriminating book clubs.

 

 

Come On Up For The Rising

But we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses. — Robert Ardrey

Recently, Andrew asked me about September 11. What was that day like? What happened? Was I scared? I realized that, like it or not, I was a part of history, and one day my grandchildren will learn about this day and wonder what it was really like. I decided to share this from the standpoint of an ordinary American citizen.

On September 11, 2001 at 9:30 AM, I was checking out of the pediatrician’s office for Nate’s six month well visit. Five year old Logan was with me. Ed was in Denver, about to get on a plane to return home from a week long business trip. The receptionist told me about two planes crashing into the World Trade Center, and of course my first reaction was simply, “How horrible. I hope too many people don’t die.” And then slowly the chilling realization that one plane could be an accident, but TWO planes? Definitely an attack. At this point, no one officially knew, and yet we all knew.

Driving home, I turned on NPR to get the live coverage. I remember hearing the whole “planes as bombs” theory and speculation that more were to come. I drove home with one hand covered over my mouth. If it wasn’t over my mouth, it was over my heart. I kept thinking I must have looked like a cartoon character of a woman hearing bad news, but it was such a natural instinct. This is what shocked people truly look like.

I was always one to shelter my children of the bad news and ugliness of the world, and precocious Logan was only five. For once, the radio wasn’t playing Raffi or Trout Fishing in America, it was playing a confusing and scary story, and he had a lot of questions. But the one that made me choke was, “Daddy’s on a plane. Will my Daddy be okay?” Of course he will be okay. Of course, of course, of course. But at that moment, I had no idea.

We were lucky; no one we knew was killed. None of our close friends lost loved ones. If I was still working, I might have known someone. Back in the day, my boss did a lot of business with Cantor Fitzgerald, who lost a staggering 658 employees, but I can luckily claim no personal connection to any victim. Nothing about that horrible day impacted me in any direct way aside from the fear, horror, anxiety and compassion we all felt.

Logan was in afternoon kindergarten, and I dropped him off around noon, business as usual. Then we went to his first soccer practice after school. Looking back, it does seem strange that the world was falling apart, my husband was stranded across the country with no flight home, there was vast amounts of uncertainty about everything, and I just put on my soccer mom hat and went on with life. We were all in a bit of a daze, and pretending to be normal was helpful.

Ed immediately rented a Suburban and began his long trek home with a car full of Japanese executives since all planes were grounded indefinitely. That following Saturday, we attended a large birthday party for one of Logan’s five year old classmates. They were supposed to have tethered hot air balloon rides and fly in a special Irish band for entertainment, but both activities were cancelled due to FAA restrictions. When I think of the pre/post 911 world, that party is something I think about often. We lived in a time where people thought nothing of having hot air balloon rides and a live band for a five year old’s birthday party. Some days it felt like Rome before the fall.

Life continued to go on. I felt rather safe and insulated and fortunate in our little Chester County bubble, and yet for weeks I’d find myself waking up suddenly at 3:00 am and turning on CNN just to be sure another bad thing didn’t happen while I was sleeping. Only after I saw the same old news did I feel relaxed enough to go back to sleep.

We were all inspired by the strength, bravery and heroics of our fellow Americans, but most of all, I craved normal life filled with the ordinary self-absorbed people I used to know. People were nicer for a while, but in an eerie, unnatural way. It made me feel uneasy. I just wanted things to be like they used to, but they never would be again. Ed and I started our kitchen renovation the following summer, scraping off old blue flowered wallpaper while listening to Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising over and over on continuous loop. It was the soundtrack which captured the sadness, shock and hope of September 11. That music was therapy to me, and I didn’t even realize how much I needed it until it seeped into my brain.

Sky of blackness and sorrow (a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life)
Your burnin’ wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life

The events of September 11 confirmed what I always suspected. Some people are capable of horrendous, cruel, unthinkable acts which they rationalize in the name of politics and religion. But more often, people are capable of extraordinary bravery, kindness, generosity, and unselfishness when it’s called for. When I think of that day, I prefer to remember the heroes, not the villains.

After a while, I had reached my saturation point of Dateline 9/11 Survivor Stories and inspirational specials. We had all grieved considerably as a country, and the network commercialization of the grief was starting to make me feel resentful and cynical. But there was one special on PBS that seemed to strike the right note of political analysis, human compassion, and quest for understanding. In this current political season filled with fierce venom and scary extremism from both sides, when it feels like people on opposite teams will never reach compromise or respect or understanding, I find myself thinking of it more and more. I can’t remember the particular details, but I remember the message to this day.

A religious leader of some sort (being PBS, all major religions were represented, of course), was speaking about the horrific sight of people jumping from the buildings, specifically the two people who were holding hands as they jumped. Were they husband and wife? Were they just two friends or coworkers? What was their story? At the time of the show, no one knew for sure. But the religious leader said that he thought they could have been two strangers caught in the situation of knowing that their life was about to end, and they had no choice but to jump or stay put and endure an even worse fate. And in our last moment on earth, when everything else is falling apart around us, it is still our human urge to hold hands and reach out for each other. We will always reach for each other.

Gratuitous Dog Shaming Post

I am assuming by now most of you have seen the hilarious Dog Shaming site taking the internet by storm. If you haven’t, go there right now! I’ll wait.

Isn’t that awesome? If you have a dog who has ever been naughty, Dog Shaming will make you feel better about him, or at least not so alone. Sort of when the kids were little and Ed coached soccer for them — sure, our own kids might have their bratty days, but all of these other kids? Well, our spawn is downright angelic in comparison. It’s good for the soul.

Here is my own naughty boy, Teddy. Don’t let his fluffy frou frou princess looks fool you; he is an Olympic level counter surfer and has taught us time and time again to never place food within six inches of the edge. Sometimes we forget.

Back to School: The Most Confusing Time of the Year

Back to school time is one of mixed emotions for me. I always envy those women skipping down the store aisles with glee and declaring, “Only six more days until sweet freedom, baby! THANK GOD!” or those women who declare, “Ohhhhh nooooo, only six more days until my precious angels go back to school! Why can’t it be summer f-o-r-e-v-e-r?” and then unabashedly sob at the bus stop. At least they’ve picked a camp and decided how they feel. Not me. On any given day, either one of those women inhabit me. Being a fan of consistency and making up one’s mind, I don’t like it. Group number one makes me feel like I don’t have enough of a life beyond kids. Group number two makes me feel like I don’t love or appreciate my kids enough. No wonder I’m prone to depression this time of year.

Being the sole woman in a houseful of men, otherwise known as the mayor of Penisville, the annual back to school experience is never how I envision it to be. It’s a little hard to relate to these people sometimes. As a girl, there were two things I was concerned about every year: 1) What will I wear to school on the first day? (duh), and 2) Will my friends and the cute boy I like “right” people be in my class this year? For starters, my boys get angry when I say the word “outfit,” as in, “Let’s go shopping for a good back to school outfit!” They run in the other direction. Also, they don’t really want me meddling in their social life, as in, “Should I ask Mrs. Smith to make sure you and John are in class together next year?” I would have made such a good Texas Cheerleading Mom.

I live in the area of the Meddling Mother, and while it goes against my nature to meddle or over-manage, it becomes a bit of a contagious phenomenon. When I just sit back and let the chips fall where they may (some people call that “life”), inevitably I feel like I should have done more. Teacher assignments, for example. Most schools have at least a few <insert one> crazy, incompetent, senile, undermedicated, overmedicated, plain old bad teachers, and unless you just rolled into town yesterday, you know who those teachers are. In our schools, the good outnumber the bad by at least twenty to one, but some still exist. I realize we are incredibly fortunate, and my respect and admiration for the numerous teachers who have gone above and beyond for my children grows more each year.

This is my thirteenth year as a part of this school district, and with only a couple minor exceptions among three children, I am so pleased with the quality of education my kids receive here. But sooner or later, my lucky streak has to end, right? What if it’s this year? What if my lack of lobbying for the best teachers lands my child with the worst teacher? And what if the worst teacher changes my kid’s opinion of himself and of school and starts him on a slippery slope which ends on skid row? What? It could happen.

Transitions are hard for a lot of people, and the older I get, the more I realize I’m one of those people. I am usually fine once I’m in my new routine, but I’m not a fan of that period of time (i.e. now) before the new routine gets established. I’m a little anxious and irritable, and the worry comes out in unusual ways. At the grocery store last week, I noticed they moved the ground turkey yet again. I like knowing where things are in the store so that I can breeze through and grab whatever I want without thinking. So when I asked the nice man in the meat department where the ground turkey was, I couldn’t just leave it at that. “Why?” I said, “Why do they keep moving the turkey? I like knowing where things are when I come in here. WHY does everything have to change all the time? Why can’t things just stay where they were?” He looked at me with pity and sympathy and just said, “I’m sorry.” I think he knew I wasn’t talking about turkey.

When I start to spiral into my own web of crazy, I am reminded that bad experiences and challenges are also as important as good ones, and I’ve had a distinct advantage in my life by possessing the ability to deal with difficult personalities. If everyone is always patient and kind and normal, well, you never learn to deal with irrational, moody, unstable people. Spoiler alert, kids: these people exist in the real world. In spades. You will need to deal with them one day, sooner or later. That is how I comfort myself when I worry that my precious angel might have a mean teacher — that mean teacher is prepping them for the mean professor, mean landlord, mean boss, mean mother-in-law. They will need to find a way to win them over or at least work amicably together. Less than perfect people, less than ideal environments are part of life.

When I’m not melting down in grocery stores or picking out spiffy outfits my boys will never wear, mostly I’m filled with optimism and excitement about new beginnings and growth. I try to remember how incredibly lucky my kids are to be attending safe schools that offer them a high quality education. I try to remember that children in different parts of the world, different parts of the US, and even in different parts of Pennsylvania are not afforded the same level of educational opportunity as my children, due to absolutely no fault of their own. I try to push out all of the worry and negative thoughts and simply be grateful. I say a silent prayer that it will all work out somehow, and then I bake cookies.