Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Weary World Rejoices, The Sequel

 Approximately a year ago I wrote this post: The Corona Chronicles: Day Eleventy Billion. And now we gear up for our second COVID Christmas. 

My life tends to function in school years. Last year was really, really tough. Virtual learning, tracking COVID cases, serious illnesses, fear. Personally, we lost family members, worried over those who had COVID, held our breath each time we coughed. Tough. 

And there was loss. Death. The lives of survivors and family members changed forever. 

Then the new year started (school year, that is). It felt like new school years always do - new and fresh and full of possibility. But it was different. I suppose I couldn't really put my finger on why, but it was different. I've decided it was an expectation of a normalcy that no longer exists. Maybe mourning what "was." Maybe it was all of the effects of a pandemic compounded into the school system that exists as microcosm of society as a whole. Maybe it's simply exhaustion. I don't pretend to understand what everyone else has experienced, but this is the best way I can describe it. Basically, things again are...tough. For the world as a whole. For teachers. For schools. 

And now, one year since Day Eleventy Billion of the Corona Chronicles, here we are again.

Christmas and Christmas break are supposed to be fun and restful and happy and carefree. But people still have COVID and have to quarantine and reschedule and "Who says Christmas has to be December 25th, anyway?"

But what is different this time - in 2021 - is this feeling that it's going to be okay. What felt last year like fear and impending doom feels instead kind of normal. Something we do now. There are infusion therapies and vaccines and today I read there is even a medication that can be prescribed to help with COVID specifically. We're going to make it. 

Many of us broken from the loss we've experienced, but making it all the same. 

We are flexible. Resilient. Connected. Capable of seeing the sunlight when darkness looms. We recognize with real clarity that faith is, in fact, sometimes all we have. 

The weary world rejoices. 

REJOICES!

Last Christmas I worked hard to convince myself that even though traditions and schedules and life were totally different, it would still be okay. This year the differences make me thankful that we have traditions and schedules and lives to adjust. 

Merry Christmas. 





Monday, September 6, 2021

Personal Growth

 First, disclaimers:

1) This post is gross.

2) I hesitate writing this because it feels a little like making light of COVID which is borderline inappropriate. Having very recently lost two close family members from it, I acknowledge that it's a terrible, terrible, illness. I also acknowledge that laughter is still important. 

3) This post is not political. If you read something political into it, that because you're inserting your own politics. Don't blame me for that and call me conservative or liberal or anti- or pro- anything. 

Now, a post. One of those stories I want to tell my grandkids and make sure I get right. Or at least my version of right. 

If you ever have a medical emergency involving bodily fluids, I'm your girl. Profuse bleeding? I got you. Need someone to hold your hair back while you're ravaged by a stomach bug? Just holler. However, and I wrote about this previously when describing my disdain for hand sanitizer but it bears repeating in the context of this story, I can't handle snot. 

I totally blame a kid who sat next to me in elementary school. (I won't share his name because he probably still lives with the shame of it.) He always had a runny nose, and he never seemed to notice. A glop just sat there below his nose all of the time. I can still see it in my head. It's a wonder I passed third grade when living with that trauma every day. All these years later, if I see a kid with runny nose, I'm grabbing a tissue and taking care of that business right then - social norms be damned. 

Then about a week ago, my employer started providing free COVID testing to staff from 6-9 a.m. every morning. I immediately offered to help. See, many people in my profession are on the front lines of COVID exposure, except I find myself on the second-to-front line. I desperately want to help, but the ways I can help from my office are limited. 

Until we started COVID testing. If someone is exposed, feels fine, but wants to be sure they don't transmit the virus to others, we can test them and provide some peace of mind. If someone wakes up with the sniffles and can't let go of the idea it might be the actual, literal plague, we can help. Even someone who hasn't seen their elderly mother in months but wants some reassurance they won't take something extra with them on their weekend trip - we can help them, too. I volunteered, completed the online training course to become certified, and started showing up.

A sidebar or two: I am currently working on a dissertation about what makes early career teachers want to remain in the profession, so I'm studying factors that contribute to job satisfaction. Leadership and feeling valued and such are obvious choices, but I'm particularly interested in the idea of self-actualization as it relates to the job satisfaction of teachers. I believe that the idea or feeling that you are doing what you are meant and made to do is essential, and that while not all people get to self-actualization from their jobs I'm betting most teachers do. 

I'm not technically a teacher anymore (I will always be one in my heart), but the self-actualization I strive for through my career is still important, and for me that involves being helpful - making a contribution to my organization that ultimately provides more and better opportunities for generations of people to be educated. 

This, of course, reminds me of the episode of Friends where Joey told Phoebe there was no such thing as a selfless good deed. He posits that doing good for others makes you feel good about yourself and, therefore, is in some way selfish. Try as she might, she can't prove him wrong.

So I volunteer in the COVID testing center in order to fulfill my need to be helpful to schools and, thus, do what I was made to do. In other words, it's highly likely my benevolence is mostly selfish. 

/end philosophical sidebar

Anyway...

I feel perfectly safe working in the COVID testing center. I am masked and gloved, and the test-takers and I never touch the same items. (Big props to anyone who wears an N95 mask regularly because that thing makes my whole darn face hurt but ain't nothing getting through there.) 

Administering the test goes like this: I approach a vehicle, confirm the identity of the test-taker, hand them a swab in a sealed container, have them open the swab and insert it into their nostril "about an inch - far enough for resistance but not so far as to cause pain," swirl it around at least five times, and then repeat in the other nostril. Then, the person has to thread the swab into a testing card where I have carefully placed a solution to perform the test. I hold the card, they hold the swab. Once it's inserted they have to spin it around three times to ensure the sample is tested correctly. Then I seal it all up and set a timer for fifteen minutes until the test is ready to be read. 

When I first started doing tests, this is what I heard in my head:

Please take this giant q-tip and stick it up your nose. Make sure you get lots of snot and boogers on there, and then put it on the other side and get some of those boogers, too. Now stick those boogers into this card I'm holding and spin it around so that they are well-distributed. I need to watch you the whole time to make sure you're doing it correctly, so please excuse me if I a gag a little. 

Strangely, after several days of testing, it doesn't seem to bother me as much. Every once in a while if there's a particularly colorful snot I accidentally make a face, but I don't gag at all. This is personal growth, people. It's like I have developed a resistance to the grossness of snot. It only took me 44 years and pandemic. 

But I'm still not using any gloopy hand sanitizer. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

The Tale of Mike Greeson's Grandson

First, back story.

For about two and half months now, Keaton Hickman has been a 16 year old driver of a vehicle. 

He has a cool car and has waited his whole life for it. If you know me at all you've already heard this part, so here's the summary:

  • Keaton worked hard and saved money to go toward a car. 
  • Keaton's mom is super proud and bragged about it whole bunch. 
  • Keaton's car is a new 2020 Mustang.


Immediately he began talking about all the things he was going to do it. All the ways he was going to make his cool car even cooler. These conversations came with trepidation from me and lots of "don't even think about it's" from Trey. We figured we'd made our point. Over and over again. 

Two months passed. Summer. Keaton doesn't do sitting still very well, and I'm always thankful for his best friend who lives down the street because they keep each other pretty entertained. They build things. Keaton makes up random recipes and feeds whoever happens to be here (I hear the savory waffles with spicy syrup are great, but they were always gone before I got home). They toodle around with anyone's car who will let them.  The mustang has been frequently washed and waxed.

Fast forward to yesterday, the second-to-last weekday of summer break. My phone rings. 

Keaton: So, it seems I've locked myself out of the house.

Me: Huh? How did you do that?

Keaton: Well...I mean. I'm not sure. I mean, I know how I did it, but I'm still locked out. The keypad on the garage door isn't working. 

Me: Why can't you use the clicker in your car?

Keaton: Well.  Let's see. My car is sort of on blocks in the garage. And the garage is closed. 

(This is part of the story where I remind you that Keaton REALLY needs to go back to school. And that his car is a new 2020 Mustang. Back to the story.) 

Me: WHAT ARE YOU DOING? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?

Keaton: Why are you freaking out? I'm just taking the exhaust apart so I can decide what I want to fab to replace some of it. I need to see it and look at it so I'm really clear on what I'm working with. 

Me: I'll be right there. 

I run to my car and head home to check out exactly what the hell is going on in my garage. And maybe let Keaton back in the house if I don't kill him.

At the stop light, I text my parents because clearly this is my dad's fault. 



I got home, opened the garage, and stared the kid down. I didn't say anything. I just looked at him with a look that says "you are insane and I can't believe you did this and you better hope you didn't do anything that you'll be sorry for you crazy kid."

I ran inside and grabbed a glass of water and remembered that this exact craziness is a gift. The kid has been taking things apart and putting them back together since he could sit up. I have a flash of a time when he was about five and I said to Trey, "Maybe Keaton will be a surgeon. It takes a certain kind of person to look at you, see you're sick, and say 'Hey, I'll tell you what. Let me cut you open and move some things around. I bet I can figure out how to fix you up.'"  

Of course he's taking his car apart and putting it back together. And that might be his superpower. 

Ugh.

I walked back into the garage. He doesn't even give me a chance to speak.

Keaton: Mom. I studied this car before we bought it. I research things about it every day. I watch YouTube videos and read articles and I know what I'm doing. 

I channeled my inner Mike and Gale Greeson, parents who always encouraged us to not be afraid to figure things out and believed we could do anything given the opportunity. I told him he is the most capable person I know next to his Pop, and that his ability to work on things is a gift and I don't want to squelch it. I told him I was going to trust him, but I needed him to look me in the eye and swear he would not get in over his head. He did. 

He then corrected me that his car was on jacks not blocks, demonstrated how incredibly stable it was because it was tied down and done exactly right, and I went back to work. 

I made him text me every half hour the rest of the afternoon to assure me everything was okay. And it was. I have no idea what he did or didn't do because his incredibly detailed description included a lot of car words that I have no idea what they mean. I hope it's legal and good for the car and such, but how would I know? The car still seems to work fine, so there's that. 

When I told Trey, he didn't have a heart attack or anything. That was particularly impressive. 

And so I continue to live the experience of raising a clone of my father. The Greeson temper and almost annoying stubbornness (that we like to call "determination") are a small price to pay for this innate ability to construct, create, assemble, and simply make anything. 

I'm sure I'll probably have to be reminded of that again and again and again.

It's not lost on me that had he not locked himself out of the house all of this would have happened and I wouldn't have been any the wiser. I'm a little concerned about what else might be disassembled and reassembled in my absence. 

This kid. He's going to do great things. In the meantime, pray for me. Seriously. 

The end. 







Monday, June 7, 2021

The Music Makers

What follows is documentation of one of the coolest things I've ever done. If you love music - specifically country music - then you'll get it. If you're not a "music person," you might think I've gone off my rocker to be so excited about this. But I don't judge folks for collecting stamps or watching MMA fighting or countless other weird obsessions, so leave your judgy-pants at home.  

On the day of the high school state gymnastics meet, Trey and I were killing time in our hotel until we had to leave, and I was scrolling Facebook. I saw a post - one minute after it went up - that The Next Waltz was hosting an event called the Bunker Bonanza where fans could go visit the famous bunker, hang out with Bruce Robison, eat Lockhart barbecue, and basically just be in the presence of musical greatness for an evening. I immediately noticed that it was on Keaton's sixteenth birthday and bought tickets anyway, pleading with Trey to agree with me that Keaton would love it. 

Then, because I am the Queen of Overthinking, I sent an email to make sure it was okay if my sixteen year old attended. What if it was age-restricted and I just missed the fine print? Then everything would be ruined!  

(Not really, but, well, really. Ruined.)

They emailed back to say it was fine for him to come, and I asked if he wanted to go on his birthday, and he acted just as excited as I wanted him to because he is nice and adventurous and loves music and his momma.

And so yesterday we attended the Bunker Bonanza.

It all started with an email that contained an address, very detailed driving directions to a remote location near Lockhart, and a request to do our best to be on time. Keaton and I drove the winding roads, not sure what to expect and feeling as if we were headed to some secret meeting, anxious about getting lost, being late, or not knowing what to do when we got there. We meandered down the gravel drive and parked on the grass next to an unassuming building. 

"You think this is it?" I asked. 

"One way to find out," Keaton replied as he got out of the car. 

We walked into the building, through a small kitchen, and there we were. The studio. The same one I'd seen hundreds of times when streaming their videos online. It was surreal. 

About The Next Waltz. It's a production company that records mostly singles with country artists. I'll never get all the details right, but it's a mechanism for artists to record and release songs without having to front lots of costs. The business side of the music industry has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades, and artists have to do things differently now to make a living. This production company (under the direction of Bruce Robison) is a way to support and encourage those artists. 

I think I first discovered The Next Waltz when Turnpike Troubadours recorded Come as You Are there. As content has been added over the years, I have more than once found myself whiling away an evening sitting on the back porch enjoying the music. There's something pure and nostalgic about The Next Waltz tracks. What they do feels like preservation in some way. 

I follow them on social media, and I contribute $5 a month to their Patreon. It's not much, but it's a nod to the fact that I'm grateful the organization exists. You should, too, by the way.

Anyway, back to the event

As we entered the studio, we were greeted by Bruce himself, a tall, kindly figure welcoming folks into the room with "Hi, I'm Bruce. Have a seat anywhere. We have plenty of chairs." And so we found some empty seats and began to take it all in. 

Once everyone was settled - about 25 of us - he began to explain the concept behind the studio, his path to building it, and the various equipment used in the production process. We saw an old Wurlitzer, a large cabinet housing a piece of tin that creates reverb, a sound board and a tape recorder. In this studio, they record everything in analog on tape. Their aged equipment creates a sentimental sound that feels new and old at the same time. Keaton and I both commented later about Bruce's explanation that they can do everything there that a digital studio can do except autotune. That says a lot about the quality of the music they put out. 



The group of us followed Bruce around the small space as he explained the equipment and instruments. When we entered the room with the sound board, he asked for a volunteer and commented that there was supposed to be a young kid in the group who was about 16 and maybe he wanted to be the volunteer. 

The kid was Keaton, and he sure enough wanted to volunteer!

In that moment, Keaton sat down at the sound board and, under the direction of Bruce Robison, played with the mix on Charley Crockett's I Can Help. It. Was. Amazing.




Once we finished the tour (and Keaton's work on the board), we all took our seats back in the studio and listened as Bruce and his band of musicians played a few songs. The space was vacant but for the sound of the music and the light from the neon logo sign. Travelin' Soldier. Angry All the Time

He played Guy Clark's Desperado's Waiting for a Train, and I saw the man sitting in front of me shed a few small tears while his wife gently patted his shoulder. I knew immediately that the song meant something very important to him, and I was happy that he got to experience it in this almost sacred place. 

As they played Keaton and I sat silently. Every once in a while we exchanged wide-eyed looks that said, "I can't believe how awesome this is," and "This music is incredible." I had a distinctive thought: When he is old and I am dead, he will tell his grandkids about this. 

After Bruce, Tony Kamel performed a few songs. He recently finished recording an entire solo album in the Bunker, the first complete album recorded there. We didn't know of him before this event, but we were immediate fans. The album comes out in September which feels so far away! He has several Texas tour dates coming up, so if you're looking for live music you should totally check him out. Hearing him tell the story behind the songs he wrote and then performing them for us felt kind of reverent. And he plays the banjo like a beast.



(Keaton declared him to be GOAT'd, which I think means really good, and also proclaimed that this guy should be and will be incredibly famous and how do we not already know about him.)


After a little more music, we ate barbecue and visited with the other attendees. Lockhart barbecue is apparently a big deal (which I also learned from Keaton), and ours came from Chisolm Trail. It was delicious as advertised, with the sausage being my favorite. 

When dinner was over, we all found our seats back in the studio and Bruce and company did a few more songs - Wrapped, My Brother and Me. Then he ended the night with the London Homesick Blues. We took one more photo and made our way back up the gravel road, processing what we had just experienced. 

Here's the thing (or, the things, as this post is quite long and I apparently have lots to say): 

The musicians that played throughout the night were incredibly talented, and it was a joy to see them even though we didn't know their names before we arrived last night. One man in particular played guitar, piano, accordion, and maybe even the mandolin. There was so much talent in that room!

There's usually a line between the people who make the music and the people who love the music. Sometimes those are the same people, but sometimes they're not. I'm not a music-maker (although I think I can sing just about anything and my current rendition of Tyler Childers's Feathered Indians is, I'm sure, fantastic). 

I am a music-lover. It feeds my soul. Live music, especially. And after a year and a half without live music, experiencing it in the way we did last night was downright holy.

I got the feeling that some of the guests last night were musicians who had bought their tickets just like we did. While I'm certain they enjoyed themselves, they probably didn't have the same experience we had. This is the part that makes me seem a little crazy - that I really loved the whole thing that much. But we, the music-lovers, got to sit behind the curtain with the music-makers. We got to feel it. And it was an experience of a lifetime. 






Snowpacalypse

Well, Internet, here I am again documenting a once-in-a-lifetime event. Central Texas is cold. 

I've said many times I'm a good Texas girl. I can find it in my heart to enjoy that week of winter we get in January every year. Temps drop into the 30s (20s if it's a bad year), maybe we get some sleet. I can think of a couple times we got enough snow for the kids to play in. I enjoy the cold for a day or two provided that we see 60 degrees post-haste. 

But I have decided that is a lie brought on by what must be my eternal optimism. I hate winter.

Sometime last week we started seeing the news reports about a "major weather event" coming this week. As with all things weather in Texas, I kind of paid attention because it changes like, well, the weather. Sometime Friday I decided this was legit. When I left work at the end of the day, I took anything I might need to be snowed in at home for a day or two. I asked Google if my goldfish would live. I bought groceries. 

Sunday it got cold. We went to bed that night and woke up on Monday to a Major Weather Event. 








Luckily, the kids were already out of school and the bank was already closed because of President's Day, so we snuggled up and took a day off. Unluckily, the temperature never got up above freezing that day and the following night. On Tuesday, Trey went into his office but due to ongoing power problems was mostly just frustrated (more on the power issue later). 

During bad weather, COVID, and any other such thing that closes places down, Trey goes to work. He's pretty essential to the functioning of the bank when it comes to customers being able to do important things, so I gave up long ago admonishing him for risking his life to go to work. He's good at his job, and this is one reason why. And his trip on Tuesday included making sure he was all set to work from home if needed on other days this week. 

So...below freezing temps for several days, snow and ice everywhere, the word "unprecedented" once again losing its impact. Once in a lifetime event and such. 

Then the ice storm came on Tuesday night while we slept. Awesome. 


And now it's Wednesday night. Snow is in the forecast for tonight again, but only like a half inch so basically nothing to us now. It's supposed to be just above freezing the next couple of days but in the teens overnight. 60 degree temps don't return until sometime next week. It's madness and I might have to move. 

Texas and I are not prepared for this kind of weather. There's apparently not enough electricity to handle it. Rolling blackouts started Sunday night. Some people have gone without electricity for days. The water supply in some places has frozen up or run out or something, and pipes have frozen and broken all over the State. In some cases, the situation has proven to be quite dire. 

My parents lost power sometime late Sunday, I think. They live out in the wilderness. I was very worried about them all day Sunday and Monday. They also were without water and cell service, so I couldn't check on them. At one point, Dad drove to Buccee's to get gas for the generator and called to tell me they were fine. When I realized even my friends in Austin and other cities around the State were in the same shape - without water or power - I stopped worrying. My parents are better equipped to deal with this craziness than anyone else I know!

Speaking of eternal optimism - my dad is the King. I knew he was seeing a grand adventure happening right in front of him. When he called he was laughing and talking about how they had enough blankets to keep warm enough and how he couldn't leave because he had to make sure the animals have access to water. And I knew he'd figure out a way to make it work because that's what he does. 

I have great stories from when I was kid. At least once we had to ride on the tractor to church. The school had a special place for our mud boots so when we got to school we could change into clean shoes but change back into mud boots before we left to go home. We picked dewberries on the side of the road when we walked from the bus stop but were always careful to look for snakes. So many things that seem kind of crazy in hindsight but were fantastically grand adventures when I was a kid!  Sometimes I wish my own kids had more those kinds of stories. 

Back to Snowpocalypse. We've managed to be some of the few who have kept power and water. I've written a giant paper that isn't due until March 12th, cross-stitched what might be an abstract cow, and watched more episodes of ER than I can count. Keaton and his best buddy (who thankfully lives down the street) have goofed around in the ice and snow for too long, hopefully not doing anything too dangerous or illegal. Trey worked from home today - for the first time ever. I don't think he's a fan. 

And here we are, once again in an unprecedented once-in-a-lifetime event. And we're not enjoying it. 

The End. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Corona Chronicles: Day Eleventy Billion

 Y'all. Sometimes I forget how incredibly weird the world is these days. 

This week we went on Monday to the sports medicine doctor for Keaton's back. Tuesday the boys had dentist appointments. Today I took Keaton back to the doctor for an MRI to make sure there's no additional damage to his back. (They're pretty sure it's just the fracture, but are being extra careful.)

Each time we walked into an office, the person at the desk took our temperature. I mean, we leaned across a desk and had someone check our body temperatures before we were allowed to enter. And it was perfectly normal. 

Only it isn't.

Every time we leave the house someone says, "Everyone got a mask?" Because we need to have masks to go anywhere. Don't get me wrong, we want to have masks to go anywhere because it's a small thing that we can do to support public good and keep ourselves and others a tiny bit safer. 

But it's so not normal.

As of this week there is a vaccine for COVID. It's first going to health care and other frontline workers, and then people in nursing homes and over 75, and then people with underlying health conditions, and then other essential workers, and then anyone who is left, I guess. 

There is controversy about the vaccine because it was created and approved so rapidly. There have been vaccines in history that were disasters - making people sicker than they were before and causing birth defects and such. But there are many more vaccines that save millions of lives. I have been a vocal proponent of vaccinations for children, particularly several years ago when misinformation about common, widely used vaccines took over the interwebs. 

But here's the weird part with this vaccine: Famous people and politicians are getting their vaccines live on television. I'm quite sure this is in an effort to convince people it's safe, but it just creeps me out. 

Medical professionals who I know personally and trust have said this vaccine is just as safe as a flu shot, and I have no reason not to believe them because they are smart and have devoted their lives to medicine. Several of these friends have posted on social media about getting their vaccines this week, and I am so happy and comforted that doctors and nurses and hospital custodians and other workers are now able to have something to combat this crazy illness. And I'm incredibly grateful that their families have this vaccine to mitigate some of their fears for their loved ones. 

But watching people get vaccinated on tv is weird.

I'm home from work this week and watching morning tv too much. Every interview with every person includes a version of this question: "When it's your turn to get the vaccine, will you get it?" Today it was an actor and a person who runs an online basketball camp. It feels like they are having these perfectly normal interviews and then finishing up with "Do you eat enough fiber?" or "When was your last physical exam?" 

So. Very. Weird. 

I started writing The Corona Chronicles on March 18th, numbering each day that I deemed Texas to be essentially shut down because of the virus. I stopped on Day 47. Since then, things have gradually opened up a bit more and the number of cases has trended up and down (Brazos County has had 13,571 total cases as of today). We made it through a whole semester of school without having to shut down. The amount of effort that has taken is astronomical - and a huge shout out to school nurses and our custodians for being our frontline workers. 

I personally know people who have been sick, hospitalized, and who have lost loved ones (in some cases multiple loved ones) to COVID. And I know people who tested positive with no symptoms. And I know people who are sure they had it early on but tested negative for antibodies. And every so often I open up the coffee container and take a big whiff to reassure myself that I still have a sense of smell (don't judge). 

I started writing these posts as a sort of primary source for my grandchildren when they study these weird, weird times. My first post about COVID was 280 days ago. 

I think that makes today Day Eleventy Billion. 

Yet here we are. Many of us - the lucky ones like us - really no worse for the wear. We have our jobs and our health and our faith and such. And we're especially thankful for all of those things in a year when we see some around us who do not. 

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve which marks the beginning of the weirdest Christmas ever in the weirdest year ever. I saw the picture below earlier this week and immediately saved it to my phone. I pray that in these next few days we can all stop thinking about all of the weirdness and come faithful, joyful and triumphant to simply rejoice. No matter how weird this world is, we have steadfast hope because of a baby in a manger. That is worth rejoicing about!

Merry Christmas. 






Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Mediocre Mommy? Still?

When the boys were little, I frequently referred to myself as The Mediocre Mommy. I felt like (and still feel) that there's all this pressure on moms to be perfect little mommies, and that sounds exhausting. When other moms were throwing perfect themed birthday parties with monogrammed party favors, I was grabbing a cake at HEB on the day-of-the-birthday. 

There was one year we didn't get a plan together for Keaton's birthday (God bless teacher kids whose birthdays are early June), so we told him we had a huge surprise adventure planned for him. We got in the car and headed toward Houston while I googled "fun things for kids" from the passenger seat. Don't judge. It ended up being a pretty fun day. 

But this is not about birthdays. It's about Mediocre Mommies. 

In started with The Adventures of the Mediocre Mommy Then Red Ribbon Week at school. And then the time that I left Keaton alone with his very own pocket knife at the ripe young age of 8.

I am also a serious under-reactor. When I was a principal, the running joke in my office was that I believe Advil solves all problems. If one of my personal children wasn't feeling well or was hurt or something, my response was always "Take some Advil and give it a minute." Headache? Sniffles? Cut your arm off? Advil and time. You'll be fine. 

It mostly works. 

Fast forward to this week. Keaton came home from gym on Monday night complaining that his back was bothering him. He's a gymnast. He's hard on his body. Something is usually bothering him. Also, he's got a little touch of the dramatic. I know because when I was a teenager, I had a little touch of it, too. Hard to believe, right? Just ask my mom. 

Keaton: My back is kind of hurting. 

Me: Take some Advil.

Tuesday came. I got a text during the school day that his back was hurting. 

Me: Well, take it easy, and when you get home take some more Advil.

He went to gym like normal. 

Wednesday. 4:19 p.m. text from Keaton: Do I have to go to gym?

I called him. "You have to get your hours in. So you can go today or tomorrow, your choice."

He chose to go. Good on him. Tough kid. 

See, I want my kids to be tough. I want them to tough it out. Make choices and live with the consequences. Not think that mom is going to save them when they get in a bind. Understand the world doesn't revolve around them. I am 100% committed to NOT participating in snowflake culture. 

I've found this to be harder with teenagers than with little kids. Sometimes teenagers are dumb, and every once in a while it's okay to save them. But my job as a parent is to save them just barely enough. I worry about the mental health of teenagers these days, and I want my kids to know that I think they can do anything on their own if they are willing to put in the work. I also want them to know that I will go full-on-fight-to-the-death-crazy-mom if necessary. I want them to know I'm in their corner, but I also want them to want me to stay there while they handle their own business. 

The point of all this? Keaton's a little dramatic and I'm a purposeful underreactor. 

When I picked him up from his work out on Wednesday, he got in the truck and said, "Mom. Seriously. I think my back is broken."

Broken? Uh, okay. I told him I'd try to get him in to the doctor if it wasn't better in the morning. I may have made a comment to him about the healing powers of an x-ray because of that one time he got an x-ray, confirmed he wasn't seriously injured, and was magically healed. 

This morning the pain wasn't better. But I was busy. I planned to try to leave midday and take him to urgent care, but things got a little crazy at work and it was 5:00 before I knew it. The extra three or four hours didn't make much difference since we were on day three anyway. Finally, at 5:45, we saw the doctor.

They gave him some Advil (see? it's like I'm a doctor), and took him back for an x-ray. When he returned to the room they told him it would be about ten minutes for the results. We waited.

And waited.

And waited. 

It occurred to me that this was not a good sign. I was right.

The kid has a compression fracture in his back. He's worked out twice since it happened. Been to school every day. Taken finals. 

Oops. (I didn't actually say Oops. In my head, I said much more appropriate and inappropriate words.)

Once he got over the initial panic of what this might do to his competition season, he looked me dead in the eye and said, "Let it be known that I WAS RIGHT!  My back IS broken. Ha!" I think he enjoyed that a little too much.

For some reason, my first thought was, The Mediocre Mommy strikes again. 

But now I'm the Mediocre Mother to Tucker (if he really wants to make his point to me, he snaps, "mother"). To Keaton, I'm the Mediocre Momma (he likes to shout "MOMMA" with an emphasis on the "A" when he wants my undivided attention). 

I have teenagers now. It's like I've graduated from Mommy-dom but nothing too much has changed. 

And so we'll visit the ortho, pray our prayers that he heals quickly, and in the end he'll have a great story about how his crazy mom made him tough it out. 

And next time something happens maybe I'll prescribe two Advil.