Endings, beginnings, elusive middles

It seems like I should have more to say about the end of middle school, but I’ve been a little too verklempt to manage it. [Talk amongst yourselves! Here, I’ll give you a topic: Attendance awards; universally annoying or only to bitter parents of chronically ill children who feel like other kids getting medals and certificates for having good immune systems is bullshit? Discuss.]

In the end, it was sort of anti-climactic. Chickadee hasn’t been feeling great, and in the post-moving-on-no-we-are-most-certainly-not-calling-it-a-graduation-ceremony hubbub as I tried to corral her and some friends for pictures, she finally stopped rolling her eyes long enough to walk up and stand nose to nose with me. “Time to go,” she said. “I need to go home.”

So I bought her a milkshake and took her home, whereupon she slurped down said milkshake and promptly fell asleep on the couch for several hours. Not really the celebration we’d maybe had in mind, but sometimes you’ve just gotta take a nap.

Monkey’s last day of Hippie School is today, too. He is heartbroken to see the year end, and although I hate to see him sad, seeing him anything other than relieved to see the year finish is nothing short of gratifying. Who knew school could be HARD and CHALLENGING and filled with NEW STUFF and still be AWESOME? We didn’t. I mean, not before this year. And Monkey is sad to have a great year end, plus he’s sad that his beloved teacher is moving away. Fortunately we are dealing with that grieving process head-on by whisking him out of town immediately on a fun-filled family trip, mostly because the only person sadder about his teacher’s departure than him is ME.

(I’m a delicate flower, people. Plus, I have abandonment issues. Plus I feel like she pretty much saved Monkey’s life, no foolin’. Plus I am just sad someone I love is leaving the state, OKAY? Geez.)

So: Onwards to summer, and the different chaos it brings, and then in August Chickie starts high school and Monkey resumes Hippie School, but with some new teachers, and only part-time. The rest of the time he’ll be doing some online classes from here at home, and somehow—thank God—we’ve sold him on this idea, so I think it’s going to be okay.

That brings us to our trip. Remember how once my dad took the extended family on a cruise to celebrate a certain landmark birthday? That was the most fun we’ve had, um, EVER. It was SO much fun, Dad decided to do it again.

Except not on a cruise. Mostly because we’re all still trying to lose the weight from the last one. (Kidding! Kind of.)

Nope, this time my dad and stepmom decided it would be fun to rent a giant house and have everyone come hang out together and maybe do some other stuff together, so why not Arizona? Why not go see the Grand Canyon and some other stuff in that area, and make this trip a little easier for my brother and stepbrother, as they both live out in the west?

Planning began many months ago, and it’s all been pretty exciting. I mean, I’ve never even been to Arizona before. My kids have never been further west than… hmmm… Ohio. Heh. Plus for a few months there we didn’t even know if Chickadee would be able to travel, so the fact that we are Honest And For True Taking This Vacation Dammit feels like a landmark in and of itself.

It almost seems like nothing could possibly make it better, except that my folks called us up about a month ago and said, “Oh, hey, by the way? While we’re in Arizona we’re gonna get married.”

Yeah, I know I call her my stepmom. I mean, she IS. Has been, for the past 17 years or so they’ve been living together. Why get married NOW, after all this time? You’d have to ask them, I guess, but I’d wager they’re too busy planning and giggling to answer you. I swear, they are the cutest couple EVER, and somehow the added excitement of planning for a little ceremony with everyone there feels perfect. It’s like… a whole new chapter in the middle of your very favorite book.

Yesterday my stepmom and I were emailing back and forth about various packing sorts of things, and she told me that she’d already packed five pairs of shoes in spite of “not being a shoe person.” (Just to be clear, this isn’t a super-long trip.) I feel like that’s just proof that I’ve already brought her to the dark side we’re already related, really.

Tomorrow we leave at the butt-crack of dawn to have a new adventure, and my goal for this trip is to savor the moments. Not obsess on the ones past, or worry about the ones to come, but just BE. Right there. Right then. It’s what I think all of us in my little family really need right now, and who better to help us do it than our bigger family?

Also, I am totally taking pictures of all five pairs of my stepmom’s shoes as proof. Stuff like this doesn’t happen every day, you know.


  1. Maria

    Have so much fun, you guys. Also butt crack of dawn is one of my favorite phrases.

  2. Jill W.

    You are going to love Arizona- its beautiful!

  3. Karin

    Enjoy yourself in our beautiful state! It’s warm, but there are many awesome and cool things to see – not the least of which is the Grand Canyon, of course. It’s really one of those things you have to see to really understand. Well, you’ll know what I mean when you see it. Have a wonderful time. :)

  4. Jill W.

    And congrats to your dad and step mom!

  5. amy

    Awesome! Have fun! :)

  6. Andrea

    Oh, have a wonderful, amazing time! Congrats to you all on the successful completion/survival of another school year. Hope you all have a great summer with tons of pool time and downtime to get everyone ship shape!

  7. bj

    Have fun. Much physical beauty abounds in Arizona. It’s a big state with lots to see and really different from all the states east of Ohio!

  8. diane

    I just wanted to pipe up and say I too HATED the attendance awards. I was a sickly child, missed 36 days of school in 1st grade because I had strep, an ear infection, and then pneumonia (while in Disney World). And I still passed! Shouldn’t I have gotten a special achievement award for THAT?!
    I guess it does teach us that some people get awards just for showing up, which is a good lesson for adulthood. *sigh*
    Happy (healthy) trails!

  9. mar

    We refer to it in military time around here – instead of, saying “oh-eight-hundred”, or “fourteen hundred” to explain a time, anything that we attend that refers to the butt crack of dawn is dubbed oh-dark-hundred. Just military for “good God, people get up at this time??”

    I also am fond of the somewhat British phrase, “getting up at sparrow’s fart”, but then, I live in a house of pre-teen and teenagers, so …

    Enjoy the trip – may it be peaceful and uneventful in the best ways!

  10. Nancy R

    Sweet! Congrats Mir’s Dad and Stepmom!

    I too am annoyed by the “perfect attendance” award. Why awarding kids for probably coming to school while sick and germy? And if they’re encouraging that, why exactly are vats of germ-x still on the school supply list?

    The P.E. award is right up there too. They’re awarding the best athletes who, oh, yeah, that’s right, already get awarded for individual sports they’re involved in…hmmm. My kid gets straight A’s in P.E. (as well as all her other subjects), but because she doesn’t show “athleticism” she has never gotten the award. I’d rather her have the armload of academic and citizenship awards she received last night, than 9 years worth of ‘hey, you’re good at kickball’ awards. Just sayin’. (and I may still be riding on a parent-high from last night, lol). :-D

  11. Liz

    Congrats on, well, EVERYTHING!

  12. Megan

    Yay! Congrats to Dad of Mir and Stepmom of Mir! That’s fantastic.

    Also – drink loads of water. I mean LOADS. I had to explain to a bemused Brit that in the desert Southwest we Do Not Do Humidity and therefore drinking water constantly (when outside) is pretty much a given. She smiled and humoured me right up to the point where she got off the plane, turned and said, ‘dear God I think the air just sucked my face off my head.’

  13. Keryn

    Oh, Mir!!! How awesome! Are you so excited about the annular eclipse? It’s going to be on Sunday, May 20, and is going to be amazing. I’m going to be in St. George, Utah (where my brother is a professor of physics and astronomy) to watch it. I hope that you and your family will get to see it too.

  14. Melissa

    Aw, congratulations to EVERYBODY!!
    Yeah, I used to hate the attendance awards too. But you know, a lot of those kids don’t get awards like your girl, so at least they are being acknowledged for getting themselves there every day.

  15. Kim

    My son never missed a day of highschool. Once I tried to get him to stay home when he was feeling under the weather. His response to me: “Perfect attendence. It’s all I’ve got.” He made me laugh. And at least he got an award for SOMETHING… :D

  16. Catherine

    Hope the trip is great!

    As a teacher, I hate attendance awards (we don’t give them at our school) because I don’t want kids to come to school sick. That said, Chickadee has many gifts, and has been awarded and medaled throughout her school experience. For some of the kids, the attendance may be the only award they get. I wouldn’t begrudge someone else their award.

  17. Janet

    I’ve enjoyed your blog for many, many months now! I’ve got to say, as the mom of some healthy underachievers it’s kind of nice to get recognized for SOMETHING, ANYTHING! I think that’s the only award my oldest ever got until his senior year football banquet when the coaches were required to say something positive about every senior.

    He’s still super healthy. And a super nice kid. Just not a super student.

  18. Katie in MA

    Get! OUT! Getting married?! Way to go Mir’s Dad and Step-mom!! I think that calls for milkshakes and naps all around. :)

    One more wiseass remark: I know you are not thinking about the future during vacation and that’s good, Mir, that’s GREAT! Except if cabin-elves leave cactus art or something on your pillows each morning, just GRAB FOUR OF THEM to stash away for Christmas. You don’t want to reenact the Great Towel Folding Experiment of however many Christmases ago. ;)

    Here’s to a perfect & relaxing vacation!!

  19. Fabs

    Have fun on your WELL DESERVED family vacation!! Not sure where all you are going in Arizona, but there’s so much to explore there. Of course there’s the Grand Canyon, but Sedona (slide rock), Lake Havasu and Flagstaff are all wonderful.

  20. Sheila

    I remember you wrote about how unexpectedly great it was to have your whole family together on the cruise, and so I hope this vacation/weddingfest is just as lovely for you all. Sound like a great kick-off to summer!

  21. Sarah

    Yea! Have a great time on the trip and congrats to your dad and stepmom!

    My folks work at the Grand Canyon, and they told me that the average person only spends about 20 minutes looking at the canyon. Which means that many people walk up to the edge say, “yep there it is” and turn around. That is what I did on my first visit 10 years ago. Since then I have had the pleasure of hiking the canyon and seeing it at many different times of day and under different skies. Don’t be like I was – take your time it really is worth it to savor the astounding natural beauty.

  22. meghann @ midgetinvasion

    Have fun!

    And YES, totally with you on the Attendance Award thing. When Ryan was still in public school, one year he would have gotten it, except we had a death in the family and had to leave town for the funeral. He was pretty young, then, so it was next to impossible to explain to him why the other kids were getting awards for not having a family member die that year,

  23. Karen

    THis is all sounding pretty wonderful… I hope it’s just that for all of you. Loved this post, Mir. Life is Good…and congrats to your parents! That’s pretty awesome after 17 years.

  24. CIndy

    How wonderful! Sounds like just what the doctor ordered, all the way ’round.

    I feel compelled to weigh in on the stupidity of attendance awards. My son’s elementary school, in addition to the end of the year attendance BS award, gives incentives to kids throughout the year. Even though my kid is healthy and usually eligible to go, I thought it was insanity. You’ve been sick? Aww, too bad….let’s take a whole day to make you feel excluded while everyone else watches a movie or other fun activity! I was, and still am, appalled at the lack of compassion for kids who have any kind of chronic or acute illness that puts them out of school.

  25. Leandra

    The Grand Canyon! Woo hoo! You guys are going to have a great time. Plus, I don’t know about you, but there’s something about being with my parents (for me, my mom especially), that allows me to let my guard down a little and rest. I think it partly has to do with the fact that even though she’s aging, she still wants to take care of me. And because she’s healthy and in great shape, sometimes I let her. It’s nice sometimes to be the one taken care of, instead of the one taking care of everybody else.

    As for perfect attendance — who ARE these kids with perfect immune systems? I blame THEM for getting my kids sick when they come to school with who knows what just so they can get perfect attendance. :P

  26. Crista

    Oh my! So many things to comment on! Congrats all around to everyone who made it through the school year!! (That would be all four of you ;) )
    Congrats to Mir’s Dad and Stepmom! My dad and stepmom got married after 16 years together, so it happens :). Things change.
    Welcome to our neck of the woods! Well, tomorrow anyways…
    I second the “lots of water!” Which probably won’t be a problem as you will be soooo thirsty all the time. If you haven’t yet experienced it, you will now understand what a “dry heat” feels like. Just to give you an idea, we’ve been at 7% humidity lately. Today we’re up to 10% because there’s a few clouds in the sky.
    Have an awesome trip!

  27. TC

    My kids have good immune systems but never ever get a perfect attendance award, because they almost always miss at least one day of school in the beginning of the year because OF JEWISH HOLIDAYS THAT THE SCHOOL SYSTEM DOES NOT GIVE OFF. Nothing like punishing a child for BEING A PARTICULAR NON-MAJORITY RELIGION, right?

    But I don’t have attendance award issues. Nope. Nosireebob. (Whistles innocently.)

  28. Arnebya

    Oh, congrats on it all: endings, beginnings, starting overings (high school cometh! Hippie School returneth!). I hope you have a fabulous time on this much deserved vacation.

  29. Frank

    I feel compelled to point out that where you are is FURTHER west than 90% of Ohio…. its one of those tricky map things. i say it More because that would lead to the funnier joke of never having been further west than.. Atlanta! :)
    Be interesting to see if the drastic change in ambient weather will help or hinder any of the chronic badness the younglings deal with.
    Hope you have a great time!

  30. liz

    Attendance awards are utter bullshit.

    Mazel tov to your folks on their marriage!

    And woot! to your family for having made it through the school year. Have a terrific trip!

  31. Birchsprite

    The holiday sounds lovely, can’t wait to see lots of photos! You all deserve a lovely break after a tough year. Have a fab time.

  32. mamalang

    I don’t begrudge attendance awards, as others have said, because sometimes that may be the only award that kid gets. The same thing for PE awards at the lower levels. Why is it okay to reward my kids for being naturally smart but it’s not okay to reward someone for being naturally athletic, or heatlhy? I view it as a good lesson…not everyone gets everything equally. And my kids have been excited the one or two times they’ve managed to get one of those awards.

    I hope you all have a wonderful vacation! Congrats to your dad and step-mom :)

  33. Karen R.

    Mazol Tov to your Dad and Stepmom! I hope you all have a wonderful time.

    Re: attendance awards. They are marginally better than the ones my son’s middle school gave out for making it to any class on time 80% of the time (I wish I was kidding). I worked at a place that had attendance awards for never using sick leave. The people who were determined to get them came to work no matter how sick or contagious they were. Which not only knocked out lots of other people, we ended up passing the germs on to our kids, so even more sick leave was used. Really, not the results personnel was hoping for.

  34. shadymama

    ooh! come see us in durango? i know the *best* gluten free eateries and you can’t beat the scenery. (kidding! i mean – i *do* know the best gf eateries and you *can’t* beat the scenery, but i understand if you want to spend family vaca with, ya know. FAMILY. as opposed to interwebs strangers. indeed.)

  35. Navhelowife

    Have a great trip. And I second the whole “drink lots of water” idea…

    And am still laughing my head off at the expression “At sparrow’s fart!!”

  36. Stacy

    AZ is beautiful. I hope you have a wonderful time. And, my grandpa married his wife after being with her for 20 years (or longer), so it’s not as strange as you think.

  37. Aimee

    Aw… congratulations, Mir’s dad & stepmom! That’s so great.

    Arizona is beautiful. The Grand Canyon is spectacular — pictures never do it justice. They called it ‘grand’ for a reason.

    Have fun!!

  38. Amy in CO

    I have to say that attendance awards are bulls$@t. Your kid was there all year, yeah for you! Doesn’t mean they are a good student or even a good person.

    That is all. :)

  39. Betsy

    Certainly a well-deserved vacation…and the fact that there’s a wedding, too? Magical! Have a wonderful time.

  40. beth s

    Wow, Grand Canyon in May/June? Were your parents nuts when they planned this trip? Those of us who live here try to get AWAY once the temperature climbs over 100 degrees. All kidding aside, you will have a great time. The canyon is spectacular (even in the heat). Sedona is also kinda cool in a touristy way.

  41. Jan in Norman, OK

    You might want to bring a couple of vaporizers. If you aren’t used to the dryness, they can make sleeping much more comfortable.

  42. Scottsdale Girl

    As some others who live in this gorgeous state have mentioned, yes water. And OMG summer is pretty much here already (over 100) but it will be cooler up north of Phoenix proper.

    My one and only trip to the Grand Canyon was when I was about 16. And I was as you would imagine being a fully SULLEN TEEN and was duly UNIMPRESSED by it. Until my mom pointed out a helicopter flying in the canyon. And it the size of a matchbox car. THAT made me think and wonder and realize how magnificently HUGE that crack is.

    I might have relaxed a had a much better time after that. ENjoy yourselves in my great state and if you can spend a little touristy time in Sedona and South Scottsdale. Heck I will buy every one a cool beverage if you come to Scottsdale! :)

  43. Jeanie

    Have a wonderful, stress-free vacation!

  44. Lulu

    DO NOT LICK THE SCORPIONS! I mean, just on the extremely slim chance that you come across one…they aren’t like slugs, ok?

    And if you go hiking, watch for turquoise. Really, the entire state is a treasure hunt for cool rocks.

  45. Beth in IA

    So, technically, this whole time your dad has been available?

  46. Beth in IA

    PS – Also, attendance awards are blooey, congratulations to your dad and stepmom, safe travels, and hope you find your vacation zen.

  47. RuthWells

    Sounds perfect – have a wonderful trip!

  48. Cran

    Attendance awards aren’t just for students: where I used to work, you were expected to never be sick. Every so often management would hand out cash awards or gift cards to one or two people, based almost solely on attendance, as the positions had exactly the same duties. So guess who never got one as a result of three maternity leaves? Bah.

  49. Kate

    Why is perfect attendance rewarded? Because the school milked every last dollar out of the government on that child’s behalf! It’s all about the money … and the TEST. Now don’t EVEN get me started in that one!! Enjoy your vacation! You so deserve it!!

  50. Jessica

    I work at a college prep school, and we don’t have perfect attendance awards. First of all, our kids are so competitive that they try to come to school with 102 fevers anyway, so we literally have to have a fever rule to get kids to stay home when they are sick. (See below, but we have kids with compromised immune systems and don’t need the sickies to make the okay-for-now students sick, too.) Secondly, we don’t feel attendance should be awarded when it’s kinda what you’re supposed to do anyway. We have a TON of students who are on the road to the Olympics (or trying to get on that road), so we have the urine testing and stuff that takes them out of class here and there (those are always unannounced, so they are pulled into the nurses office and have to stay there until they can pee and until the urine is tested by the officials). We also expect students to take college visit road trips to make an informed decision on where they want to end up. AND we are super understanding about extended illnesses, because we understand that kids get sick. We have kids with a myriad of lifelong illnesses and syndromes that require hospitalization, etc., and we want them to focus on getting better and not on “oh, crap, what else am I missing now?” They already focus enough on the in-class time they are missing — see the competitiveness above — that when I used to work in the student services portion of the school, I’d have to reassure parents AND students that, yes, the student should have his/her tonsils/appendix/wisdom teeth removed (or wahtever the issue was) if the doctor thinks it is best. We will work with them to catch them up on their homework and in-class assignments.

    I wish more schools were like this one, in some ways (other ways are just the same old, same old that you’ll find in any school, because people are people), especially in the way we reassure our students that their health (physical AND mental) takes precedence over harming yourself in any way just to get to class or get work done when you need to take care of your health first.

    Okay, that said, have a WONDERFUL vacation and happy wedding to your dad and stepmom. I am so happy that all of you are moving on to a time of happier transition. :) Go, Casa Mir!

  51. Meri

    Omg, have fun!

    A friend’s favorite phrase is “stupid o’clock”.

  52. Kate in Michigan

    My heart sings for all of you.

    Chickie, Monkey, Otto, you, the soon-to-be-newlyweds. All of you.

    Remember to sit back now and then and just take a damn deep breath and close your eyes and be happy.

    Perfect, it ain’t. But good? Yeah. It’s good.

  53. Lisa Kay

    OHMYGOSH! I thought I was the inventor of the phrase “the butt crack of dawn” and that nobody else used it! Did you know that if you have to get up super SUPER early – like my husband, who gets up at 1:00am to start his route at 2:00am – you can say “just south of the butt crack of dawn”? (Although, really, I don’t know why south…north makes more sense, kind of. I mean, if ANY of it makes sense…) Also, it can be abbreviated to The B.C. of D.

    OK, sorry, I’m done talking about this. Have a wonderful trip! That’s so exciting about the wedding!

  54. summer

    I took 5 pairs of shoes to Miami for a weekend. Four pairs of heels and my favorite suede FitFlops. And by that I mean have a fabulous time, don’t forget to write!

  55. shadymama

    hey mir – i tried to comment on “anti-poodley climax” but couldn’t…comments are closed, perhaps? just wanted to shoutout that i posted about my dreadlock chop, if yer interested…http://aftml.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/lockless/ ok! safe travels! xoxo (you can just call me…) – shady dreadless

  56. Rasselas

    Can’t be outshoed at your own wedding, after all. :D

  57. Jamie

    Wishing you a wonderful vacation filled with great family fun. Congrats to your folks, too!!

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