Tuesday, June 23, 2009

If You Want to Soak Up the Sun, Use Sunscreen

I really love this neighborhood.

It's like being on vacation every day. Especially in the summer.

This is the view from my front porch. That's the community pool behind that building. We've been there everyday since they opened it in May. It's the reason you don't hear much from me.

It's also the reason we go through so much sunscreen around here. We've emptied four spray cans and two rub-on tubes since school was out three weeks ago.

I have to admit I have a bit of a sunscreen addiction. When I was younger I couldn't wait until the suntan lotions were stocked on the store shelves. I preferred the oils back then, all tropical and coco nutty and completely devoid of any UVA protection whatsoever. At sixteen (and eighteen. and twenty) I thought I'd get a tan. Have you seen me? I'm all red hair and freckles. My "tan" came in the form of a first degree blistering burn. But it didn't stop me from hoping the next time would bring the deep dark Hawaiian Tropic sun that greasy bottle promised me.

So I wasn't really surprised when, at twenty-two, I noticed a tiny spot on my side one day. And then two weeks later realized that spot had grown to the size of a dime. If my dad hadn't spent so much time at the dermatologist getting his own skin cancers removed, I may have just brushed it off as gross, but being the semi-hypochondriac that I am, I called the only dermatologist in my college town and sobbed into my new-fangled cordless phone about my certain death insisted they fit me in before the only appointment they could give me: four months from then.

He saw me the next day.

I was prepared for the lecture I received about the dangers of the sun. I was prepared to have that nasty thing removed. With a knife. But as much as I knew that spot was bad, I wasn't prepared for the phone call telling me that the hole in my side was previously a squamous-cell carcinoma and I needed to come in right then to remove a little bit more of the skin around it.....just in case. And then my dime-sized hole became a quarter-sized hole. Until that nasty thing grew back three months later and I had to repeat the entire process all over again.

So I gave up my tanning oils for sunscreen.

That dermatologist and every other one after him have insisted I use at least an SPF 15 every single day, rain or shine, winter or summer and that's what I try to do. It's not always easy, though, because sunscreen is sticky and thick and smell like, well, sunscreen. I mean, I love the smell of sunscreen and I could smell it all day off the back of my little water babies, but on me...ick.

A few months ago I was offered a bottle of skin md natural shielding lotion to try. I was anxious to try it because I am always on the look out for a cream that will protect my skin from the sun yet not smell like I'd been at the pool all day. Especially in February. Because that's just weird. And also, I was running low on my usual moisturizer/sunscreen and really didn't want to dish out the dough to buy more.

When it came I thought no way was that small bottle going to last through the month. I was bummed because I figured I'd have to go out and spend money again. The enclosed pamphlet said a little bit goes a long way and it was right. I only needed a tiny squeeze to cover my face and neck. I've used that little bottle for three months now and it's still half full.

I do like this lotion. It goes on light and is perfect for an everyday moisturizer under make-up or alone. It works well as a sunscreen for short periods of time, but I've had to switch to a 70 SPF for our mornings at the pool. We are in Texas after all, the summer sun is brutal. When (and if) I do run out of this, I will buy it. I haven't seen it in stores near me, but you can purchase it from their website. It's a little pricier than most drug store brands, but it'll last forever. Well, seems like it anyway.

I wish they'd sent me two bottles because I'd love to give one away. I'd send you mine, but that just seems gross and unsanitary. And I like it too much to part with it.

And while I'm on the subject, use sunscreen this summer. It doesn't have to be this kind, it can be any kind. If you need a deep dark tan try a self-tanner. I used them for years back when they made your palms orange and took hours to apply. It was the best tan I ever had. I even dated a guy for six months who thought I was going to the tanning bed every day. He never knew the difference.

I was lucky. According to the doctor who took the hunk out of my side, my spot could've become melanoma at any time. I was smart to insist on being seen when I did. A girl down the street from where I grew up wasn't as lucky. By the time she was seen about her spot, her melanoma had spread to her liver, lungs, and brain. She died four months later. We both spent our summers at the pool slathered in those sweet smelling oils.

I'm still spending my summers at the pool and the sunscreen companies are happy about it. We're averaging two cans of it a week. It's pricey, but it's worth it. I don't think we could afford the alternative.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Part Three

A few of you have asked what our plans are for Jacob next year.


As of right this minute Jacob will be attending third grade at his usual school. We have already paid almost three hundred dollars on materials, paper fees, and the ransom to hold his spot. I know we shouldn't base whether or not our child is happy and safe on money, but truly, that's a lot of money. Non-refundable money.

After the field day fiasco, which in all honesty didn't seem to bother him in the least, I was ready to pull him out of there that very day. When we got home I composed myself and made a list of our options: 1. stay there, 2. home-school, and 3. our local public school. Then I presented them to Jacob. In detail. I offered to drive him to the public school right then so he could look around (we had only a half day that day). We got as far as the parking lot and then he refused to go in. We researched home-schooling curriculum on the internet. That lasted five minutes. When he realized we'd actually have to WORK! At HOME! He wasn't as interested.

Jacob likes his school. He has a few friends and he likes seeing them every day. He likes studying scripture and doing bible study and going to chapel. I've found other Christian schools, but we can't afford them. We are barely affording this one.

We're not against public school. Our new neighborhood school is one of the best in the district. We'd love to save four hundred some dollars a month, believe me. I just don't know that things would be any different for him there. See, Jacob has always been bullied in some way or another. As a toddler at Gymboree he was pushed off the equipment and shunned by the other teeny toddlers who would run screaming away when he tried to play with them. I've seen kids wing basketballs at his head at church. I've heard strangers call him weirdo at random festivals, the beach, the library. Everywhere we go it seems some kid will approach me and ask me to tell my weird kid to leave them alone, that they don't want to play with him, that he is bothering them, that he's not in their club. Something. How do you respond to that? I used to take my exuberant son by the hand and lead him somewhere else to play alone. Somewhere with our backs away from the others so they couldn't see me cry. I still do that sometimes because I try to shield my baby from the cruelty that is other people's children. Most of the time, though, I tell the whiny-ass kid who is complaining to go somewhere else if he's bothered so much. Or not to go out to a public place if he can't learn to deal with others. In a nice way of course. It seems to work. At least the evil-eye usually does. It's just I can't be there at school all day to intercept the meanies for him. He has to take them head-on at school.

I take him every two weeks to see a counselor who I hope can give him some strategies to deal with the bullies and also sort through any issues he might be having that he doesn't tell us about. I do get the sense that he's embarrassed to discuss these things with me or his dad. Hopefully she'll be able to help him.

If it doesn't help and things don't improve next year, I'm preparing to home-school if necessary. The mom of one of Jacob's friends here in the neighborhood told me she was going to be home-schooling next year and is on the waitlist for a virtual school through the state. I'm thinking of getting on the waitlist too. Just in case. I don't know how well Jacob would work for me, but I do think it might be a good opportunity to learn with his friend and I like that I'd have someone to back me up and help me out.

But for now, Jacob's going to third grade in August to his usual school. We're going to hope for the best. But we're preparing for the worst.

***Edited to Add***

I DID talk with the principal. Not only about wanting to talk with the recess teacher, but with all the other things that had been happening as well. Yes, I am ticked about the teacher's treatment of my child. But after talking to a friend of mine who has already gone through this with her now high school kids, I was encouraged to back off that issue until the bigger issue, the bullies, was resolved. The principal is aware that she MAY have said that, but, of course, without proof....well, you know. So I chose to focus my complaints on the reason I ended up there in the first place: the bullies. I am confident, after our discussion, that Jacob will be separated from those kids next year and more effort will be placed on seeing that bullying isn't tolerated from any children. I think she'll make sure recess is monitored more carefully in the future as well. I still wanted to talk with the recess teacher. If I knew which one she was, I'd approach her with it next year even. I love my kid and I hate more than anything that he was treated like that, but I had to let that go. The rage I felt toward that woman was taking me over, I had to channel it in a different way so I did what I could. I also needed to teach Jacob that sometimes in life people are mean. Sometimes Mommy can't always make it better. But we can still be happy even after someone has made us sad. It may not have been the right way, but at the time it was the best way for us.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Part Two

Okay. Where was I?

So, I dragged my little kids into the school way fricking early thirty minutes before school started to chat with Jacob's teacher. Trying to have a serious conversation while also trying to keep a two year old out of twenty little desks is harder than you might imagine, but it can be done. Barely.

The teacher, as suspected, had no idea of the events that transpired the day before. As much as I wanted to go bat shit crazy on her and demand an explanation and some sort of repercussion for the accused, I didn't. I was a teacher. I never really wanted to do much for the parents who went bat shit crazy on me so I kept it together. I think the teacher was pretty amazed that a fight had happened without her knowledge, but not too terribly surprised. In my heart I guess I wanted her to say she'd call all those rotten heathens kid's parents and tell them all they were no longer welcome at their wonderful Christian school because, DANG, it's a Christian school and their kids are just not exhibiting Christian behavior so, too bad, it's time for ya'll to go. But in my head, I knew she'd do just what she did. Discuss it with all involved. Document it. Go on with her day with maybe wider eye open. I mean, she wasn't even there. What could she really do about it? I've been on her end before. There's not much you can do without proof. Parents, you see, can get a little cranky where their kids are concerned. Go figure.

But she did give me the name of the recess teacher and told me to talk to her. And to go ahead and talk to the elementary principal. And the school principal if I had too. Which is what I did. Or, rather, tried to do.

I had to wait until after lunch to talk the recess teacher I was told since, well, recess is after lunch and that's when she comes in so that's what I did. At 12:45 I went back up to the school and out to the playground to find four recess teachers sitting in chairs that weren't there the day before in a deep discussion. Two of them with their backs to the actual playground. You know, the playground they were earning money to watch.

So I drag my little children to their pow-wow and ask them where I could find Mrs. K. Funny, but they had no idea where Mrs. K was. I'm not even sure they knew who she was, which is odd since that's exactly where the elementary principal said I could find her. Interesting.

So I go inside and tell the office that she wasn't out there and, of course, they are pretty confused and I ask if I can just wait on her to be done and, well, I could, but I'd be waiting there until 5:00 since she had all the other recesses as well as after school care but did I want to leave her a note? Oh, hell yeah I wanted to leave her a note! So I did. I left her a note. I asked her to call me after 5:00 so we could arrange a conference at her convenience.

You know she never called.

But when Jacob's teacher loaded him into the car at pick-up that afternoon she told me she'd talked to the other boys who told her they were just trying to play with Jacob. She figured then and there they were lying because at no point in the entire year did they ever try to play with Jacob so she punished them with no recess time and were informing their parents. She also said she had a long talk with Mrs. K before recess who backed up the "we-were-just-playing" story and let her know that she needed to keep a better eye on all the kids. I'm guessing that serious discussion they were all having on the playground was probably about me because if I've figured correctly, my posse and I came trotting up about ten minutes after the teacher gave her the smack-down.

And in the car on the way home I asked Jacob if the kids had bothered him and he seemed pretty happy and told me that he was able to play without having to worry about being pushed off the swings or pulled off the monkey bars so it was a good day, except, well, for the part when Mrs. K. took them out to the playground and stopped them before they went running off like a pack of wild dogs to tell the whole class:

"Don't play with Jacob! He'll just tattle on you and you'll get in trouble so stay away from him!" "Now, go play everybody. Have a good time!"

At least this is what my son relayed to me.

I'm kinda inclined to believe him since Mrs. K hid from me just a few minutes later.

But, you know, I'll give anyone the benefit of the doubt, although I doubt she'd tell me the truth, so the next day when I hadn't heard from her I went to the principal and asked to speak with her. Told her my son had an issue on the playground and I wanted her take on it. I was told it was her day off so I could leave a note to have her call me. I laughed.

But I left my note. And let the principal know that I was still waiting. And waiting.

No. She never did call.

I'd like to say I kept after her until I finally found her and went bat shit crazy on her ass, but I didn't.

I got busy. I got tired of trying. I forgot about her.

I like to think that maybe Jacob misunderstood what she was saying to the other kids that day, that surely she wouldn't be that childish, but how can I know? Even if she were to ever call me, certainly she wouldn't own up to that.

So the last week of school my mom took the little two and I was able to do all the last week of school crap stuff without having to drag the others around.

There was a swim party/field trip to a classmate's house.

This is Jacob flinching while Bully 1 and 2 throw food at him. I guess they figured I wouldn't see them behind the camera.

And this is Bully 3 thinking no one can see his attempts at kicking my kid while he's underwater.

So the next hour was spent with me walking around the pool giving all the bullies the evil eye while all their mommies just gabbed and laughed and had a grand old time!

And after they realized I was onto them, they stopped and Jacob was able to have a good time:

I had to do the same at field day.

My kid won't be doing field day next year. Not so much because of the kids, well they were pretty bad, but the parents were pretty awful too. It's just sad when a dad can't accept that it was his kid who dropped the baton and gives his kid a high five when he yells out to everyone that Jacob lost the race for them. And his kid did drop the baton. I have it on video. But it's just a fricking second grade race. Why the heck does it matter?

So, YEAH! Summer's here. We are bully-free and loving it!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


It's taking me a while to finish the rest of my story. Here's a little funny while you wait....

A couple days ago I realized I hadn't been to Target in FOREVER and started to get the shakes headed to Target to get some things that we couldn't live without. You know, toilet paper, laundry detergent, the last season of Seinfeld on DVD, the important things. So I'm driving down the road and then the traffic just stops in front of me. WTH? I think about turning around, but NO, we cannot live another minute without swim goggles and teeny hair bows. So I putt along for a bit wondering if there had been an accident when I get a quick glimpse of a big orange sign. Roadwork. Of course. As I get closer I see the sign says right lane ends. And end it did. Right smack there where the sign was. Thanks for the advanced warning TxDoT. I guess I should just be glad there was that sign. I was thinking I was lucky I was in the left lane and, man, those poor suckers in the right lane. What are they going to do? Geez.

Well, I'll tell you what they did. They tried to squeeze in front of everybody in the left lane. Because, well, they had to. Because the right lane ended. Right then. Without any warning.

I did my part and let a white suburban cut me off. Did she thank me? Hell, no. But I had used my kind traffic deed for the day. So sorry to all you other losers right lane drivers. I must get to Target. My good deed, though, apparently inspired that dang lady in the white suburban because she proceeded to let them ALL in. All of them. So many in fact that when I looked in my rearview mirror I could see people moving out of the left lane to go around me in the right lane because she was letting every dang car on that road go BEFORE ME! Damn! That's what I fricking get for being nice.

So I wait a little bit thinking, My GAWD, what a crazy lunatic! surely she's going to stop this eventually until I could take it no longer and honked my horn and yelled, "Go, assh*le". And three cars later the assh*le did finally go.

I HATE being in traffic. HATE, HATE, HATE it!

You will all be thrilled to know that we made it to Target and back alive. I even have some stinky new lotion to prove it. I'd return it, but I don't want to go back there. Ever. Or at least until they quit laying that pipe or expanding the road or whatever they were doing wreaking such havoc on an otherwise pleasant day.

So while I was unloading our stuff I was listening to Elizabeth play at her little pink Princess table in the living room, jabbering on and pretending with her dolls and Little People as she enjoys doing these days. I thought to myself how cute she was and so smart to be so sweet with her babies when I heard....

"Brrrmmmm........GO ASSH*LE"

Of course.

She had lined up an ambulance, a dump truck, and some sort of 4-wheeler thing around the perimeter of those beautiful Disney Princesses. The Hot Wheels were cutting in front of the ambulance.

I tell myself that she is really, really smart to be able to replay the entire scenario and even use the words in their proper context. It makes me feel better.

So I'm going to quit swearing. Really. It's my New Year's Resolution. In June.

If Hope can give up smoking, I can give up swearing.

But then I may have to quit driving.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

This May Take A While....

No more pencils, no more books, no more bullies dirty looks.

Or something like that.

Summer couldn't have come fast enough for us. I usually get pretty misty-eyed at the end of the school years anticipating my child climbing farther up the your-kid-won't-be-young-much-longer ladder, but this year, it was just, can we get this over already??

Jacob has always been a target for bullies. Even when he was Elizabeth's age the bigger kids would come over to make fun of his exuberance and try to steal his toys. I could handle that, though, pretty easily. We went inside and stayed away from the wretched little creatures, but now, well, as much as I'd like to, I just can't keep him inside.

This whole school year Jacob had his own personal bully. His teacher was the first to alert me to the situation way back in September and she assured me she was taking care of it. And she did. For the most part. Then bully boy got some friends, lackeys if you will, and things got a little worse. Not only did Jacob have to avoid Bully Boy 1, he was now trying to stay away from Bully Boy 2, Bully Boy 3, and Bully Boy 4. They'd corner him at recess and call him names, trip him, spit on him and then deny it whole-heartedly to the recess teacher whose stellar advice to Jacob was, "Don't play with those boys" before she'd turn around and continue gabbing with the other equally competent recess teachers.

So I'd write a note-send an email-make a phone call-arrive at butt-crack of dawn for a conference every couple of weeks to let the classroom teacher know what was going on when I went ape-shit crazy on those kid's parents. The teacher was as helpful as she could be, but really, she never witnessed the BIG things. Those little monsters were smart and saved their pure meanness for the lazy, minimum-wage making, I-don't-know-anything-about-children teachers.

But then a few weeks ago Jacob sat down to do homework and says to me, "C made me go behind the shed and fight him," all matter of fact because, well, it's a matter of fact that this damn kid is going to do something crappy to him every day.

And I was like, "Oh, no he di'nt"



And after rehashing the facts over and over to make sure I was getting the real truth getting the rest of the story, it seemed Jacob told on Bully Boy 1 for walking up the slide (which here I just shake my head because, DUH, quit tattling unless you've been hurt! How many times do we have to tell you this?) and I guess the highly effective recess teacher told him, wait for it...wait for it...."Don't do that" and apparently just being told not to do something really ticked this kid off or, yeah, maybe the whole tattling thing, but still, he and his lackeys told Jacob to meet them behind the shed. Why he actually went is still unclear, but I'm thinking Jacob in all his immature innocence probably didn't know that was what was in store for him.

And it was at this point in the story my head started spinning around and green smoke started blowing from my ears.

"Did they actually touch you?" Yes.
"Did they hit you?" Yes.
"Did they punch you with fists?" No. But they all used their karate moves on me.

Uh. Okay.

And so after a brief demonstration I was able to determine that Jacob was karate chopped with hands and kicked in the gut by these self-proclaimed karate experts.

He had no obvious scarring from his first "fight", but what happened next is what really pissed me off:

"Did you tell the recess teacher?" Yes. I told her that C and G and K were fighting me and she called them over and told us all to just not play together anymore and not to tell Mrs. S because she'd just be mad at us so it would just be a secret. And then she made me sit out the rest of recess while the other boys went and played on the swings.


And the next morning I was up at that school, DRESSED, at 7:30 waiting for his classroom teacher......