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The Two Little Piggies

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I have a love-hate relationship with teaching. The hours are horrible. The pay is a pittance. The work never stops – nights, weekends, vacations. There are times where it is as if no one wants to hear a word I am saying, and all I am doing is putting out one behavior fire after another. Not to mention all the times I have had to tell  the Three Monkeys that I can’t do something with them or for them because I have had something to do for the class.

It is EXHAUSTING.

And then there are times when it all is so incredibly breathtakingly amazing.

This is the story of the two little piggies – guinea piggies that is – and how an act of kindness lifted my heart in so many ways.

Way back in August, my students and I decided we wanted to get guinea pigs for our classroom. We had everything we needed. Cage? Check. Food? Check. Hay? Check. Guinea pigs? Ummm…

It’s not that I didn’t want them. I did! But, guinea pigs cost money. And with the pay cut I took in order to work at this little piece of academic heaven, I never had the spare change to go get them.

That damned empty cage sitting in my classroom mocked me every single day.

And then this week something serendipitous happened. I came across a listing for two male guinea pigs (cage included) FREE to a good home. Needless to say, I jumped on it. FINALLY we were going to get our piggies! I went to school the next day and excitedly told my class the news. The squeals of delight filled the room. We couldn’t wait!

That evening I took Monkey #1 (now 15 1/2, if you can believe it) and The Middle Monkey (almost 14!) to go pick up our new furry friends, Sergeant and Lieutenant – AKA Sarge and Louie. Together, the boys and I loaded the cage into the car and headed home. Upon arriving, we unloaded the cage to the kitchen table where they would wait until the next day when I would move them to their new home – my classroom.

There was just one little hitch in the plan. Something unexpected happened. In the span of about 10 minutes, Monkey #1 fell head=over-heels-hopelessly-in-love with Sarge and Louie. The very guinea pigs that were destined to go to my class the very next day.

All Wednesday evening, Monkey 1, my sweet little Aspie Monkey, was crouched on a kitchen chair, arms wrapped around his knees, gazing through the open cage door at Sarge and Louie.  He was so calm. So peaceful. Nothing, not meds wearing off, not his brother being very 13, was ruffling him. Occasionally he would tentatively extend one finger and stroke one of the piggies.

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“But, I love them,”

And then came the words that broke my heart. “I wish I could keep them,” he quietly whispered.

“But, baby, I’ve already told my class about them, and they are very excited about the piggies coming. You know they are meant to go to school.”

“I know,” he sighed. “But, I love them. I know I just met them. I can’t explain it. I love them.”

Oy.

I tried to make light, but I could tell, this was no ordinary love. This was a deep piggy love, and I – the worst mother in the whole wide world – was ripping them away from him. Not that he told me that. But he might as well have, because that is exactly how I felt.

The next morning, I brought the piggies to school. More squeals of delight. I told my school kiddos the story of Monkey 1 and his love of the piggies and how he had wanted to keep them. I don’t know why I told them. Except that maybe I have a case of verbal diarrhea and just talk even when I shouldn’t. But I did.

Today I got a message from one of my parents. Her daughter had told her about Monkey 1 falling in love with the piggies. Then the sweet girl asks her mother if there was a way that we could get other pets for the class and return the piggies to my son. Because obviously God wanted my sweet son and the sweet piggies to be together. The piggies belonged to him. Not the class.

I didn’t know how to respond. I was literally speechless. All that came were tears.

In the hours that followed, that mother asked and searched, and has now located another pair of guinea pigs for my class to have. All so my sweet Aspie Monkey can keep Sarge and Louie.

His response when I told him was to bury his head in my shoulder and repeatedly say, “I get to keep my boys. I get to keep my piggies.”

Yes you do, my sweet boy. Yes you do.

So while it means there will be more living things in my house, every single time I see those little furballs, every time I see that little smile on Monkey #1’s face, I will think of the sweet girl who knew it was meant to be – even when I didn’t.

And I’ll remember the time my student and her family taught me a lesson in kindness and compassion I’ll never forget.

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You Can’t Take That Away From Me

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 We were robbed.

I mean that in the literal sense. Not in the idiomatic “We were robbed” after one’s favorite team has lost (yes, FSU, I’m talking to you).

I mean our home, Happy Monkey Land itself, was broken into, searched, and had things removed from it. Someone we do not know smashed a window, crawled through, slinked through our safe haven, rifled through our drawers, and took our THINGS.

I know we were lucky.

We could have been home. But, we weren’t. We were at our respective schools.

We could have walked in on the offender. But, we didn’t. We came home to discover the broken carport door window, well after the event.

We could have walked in to find everything we own had been loaded into a truck and carried away. But, we didn’t. We are missing only the electronics the offender could load into the backpack he found in my room and carry out with him.

The Wii, the games, the girl child’s DS, my camera, and yes – even my laptop – can all be replaced. The THINGS can be replaced. But, yet, I mourn.

I mourn that someone, some criminal, touched my things. I am tempted to burn all the panties that had been in my top drawer, but were carelessly tossed to the floor, all because he touched them whilst looking for hidden gems. (Thank you, Mr. Burglar, for leaving my vintage silver jewelry collection)

I mourn the pictures “saved” in my laptop. Pictures of our past two and a half years. Pictures of birthdays and special events and field trips. Pictures of our vacation this summer to Washington and New York. Pictures from the vacation my former love and I took with our children. That amazing week on the beach. Not that I looked at those images from that summer. I didn’t. Why dwell? Those pictures were tucked away in their own little folder, but they were there. Visual proof of what we once were to each other. And while I no longer mourn the loss of the relationship, the fact that I no longer have that proof, that data, that EVIDENCE, has hit me harder than I ever could have imagined. It is as if it never happened. I have lost them all over again.

But, mostly, I mourn the loss of The Monkeys’ sense of security in their home.

The Girl Child didn’t want to sleep in her own room last night because the offender was in there. He took her DS from off her bed. She made sure I not only reported the DS as being gone, but also its Hello Kitty case. She counted all her American Girl dolls and has proclaimed them all present and accounted for. She wants to inventory the “buddies” on her bed, just in case some rogue stuffed-animal-thief comes and takes THEM, she’ll know what is missing. You, my dear baby girl, know what is important in life.

The Middle Monkey is quieter than usual, none of the trademark arguing with his sister. He quickly ran upstairs to count his books, and check to see if the Kindle and HIS DS were there (everything was, the boys’ rooms were unscathed). He will randomly come up to me and hug me and say, “I hate burglars.” It’s happened about 10 times since yesterday. I understand, baby. Really, I do. So do I.

Monkey #1 has taken it upon himself to be The Man of the House. He has been updating me on the value of all the missing items, especially the missing games, “so we get the right amount back.” He allowed his little sister to sleep on his futon last night, even though what he really wanted was to be left alone. When I came out of my room this morning to let the dogs out, he was standing in his doorway, holding the dowel that keeps his window shut, standing guard. “Just let anyone try to come in.” He has spent the day with his Nerf gun always by his side, threatening to “shoot in the brain anyone who tries to hurt my brother or sister.” My sweet little man. Excuse me. My sweet almost-full-grown-man-who-shouldn’t-have-to-feel-the-weight-of-the-world-on-his-very-narrow-shoulders.

We all took the day off from school today, The Monkeys and I. A day to clean-up and call insurance and make lists of missing items. But, most importantly, a day to heal and cuddle and to try feel comfortable in our own skins again. A day to reclaim Happy Monkey Land as our own.

So, Mr. Burglar, you may have broken our door. You may have taken our things. You may have pawned them for a quick buck. But, Mr. Burglar, you will NEVER take our love for one another. For, you see, we are the Mighty Monkeys of Happy Monkey Land, and no matter what happens to us, no matter what is taken, we will ALWAYS have each other.

No, no. You CAN’T take that away from us.

Not now.

Not ever.

Being a Mother Can Suck


There. I’ve said it. Being a mother can suck.

Please understand, I am not saying that it sucks to be a mother. I love the monkeys with all my heart and soul.  But, there are times when it sucks to be the mommy.

This morning was one of those times.   One of those mornings when I wanted to throw in the towel and just give up.  One of those mornings when I want to call the Monkey Daddy or the Nonna Monkey (my own mother) and admit my defeat and beg for them to simply raise them.  One of those mornings when I found myself envious of the childless.

Even as I write this, I understand how horrible that sounds. I understand there are those who are childless who desperately want to not be.  I understand there are those that due to custody issues would kill to have time with their children. I understand there are those who as they read this are looking up the number for Child Protective Services.

But, I also understand there are those who as they read this are thinking, “Finally!  Someone who has the guts to say it!”

This morning I found myself asking what I had done to deserve this. What kind of bad Karma I had brought upon myself?  What god had I angered to incur such a punishment?  And for how long was I to endure it?

I felt like Nancy Kerrigan, after she had been whacked on the knee, crying out to the heavens, “Why? Why? Why me?”

And the question wasn’t just rhetorical. I really wanted an answer, damn it!

Alas.  None came.  And I am fairly confident none will come.

So, I’ll say it again. Sometimes motherhood sucks.

But, I also know that when the Middle Monkey comes and sits next to me after Sunday School, he will snuggle up next to me, and say in that sweet little lisp, “I am sorry for screaming at you this morning.  I love you.”

And my heart will melt and I once again be reminded how much I love him and all will be right with the world.

At least until the next time.

*sigh*

The Middle Monkey and me, in a time where being a mother did not suck

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An Unexpected Love

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Duffey was always in the middle of everything.  Every Christmas I would have picture of him buried in wrapping paper.

Duffey was always in the middle of everything. Every Christmas I would have picture of him buried in wrapping paper.

via Daily Prompt: I Want to Know What Love Is.

Some of the most amazing relationships in my life have come about when I wasn’t looking for one to happen.  The night I met the Monkey Daddy.  My former love.

Such a happy dog...

Such a happy dog..

My first baby…

No.  I didn’t have a child I haven’t talked about before.  This baby wasn’t a “human” child.  He was a furry one.  A VERY furry one.

He was a dog.  Duffey.

The day I found Duffey (or I should probably say, he found me), I wasn’t expecting to fall in love.  I was just looking at the puppies.  And then he looked up at me from out of his cage with his silly little grin and that right ear flopped over his head – and his chocolate-brown eyes locked with mine – and I was lost.

I actually walked out of the store, got into the car, and started driving away.  Then the tears came.  I knew I couldn’t leave him.  He was mine.  So, I turned around and walked back in and didn’t leave again until that 11 pound 11 week old collie/shepherd mix was with me.

He was the sweetest dog.  Always happy.  Playful.  A tiny bit mischievous.  And BIG.  85 pounds of love.

Duffey was in my life before The Monkey Daddy.  Before any of the Three Monkeys.  But, Duffey welcomed each one of them into our lives like they were meant to be there.  He was so good with the Monkeys.  They crawled on him.  Used him as a back rest.  Fed him from their high chairs.  Every night we would hear him make his rounds into each of the children’s rooms – checking on them – making sure they were safe.

The Girl Monkey with her two best friends, Duffey and Kitty Kat (the rabbit)

The Girl Monkey with her two best friends, Duffey and Kitty Kat (the rabbit)

His bond with The Girl Child was the strongest.  She loved him almost as much as me or her father or her brothers or even her beloved Kitty Kat (her lovey…yes it is a rabbit – long story).

I knew he wouldn’t be around forever.  After he turned 10, I pretty much considered every additional month with him a gift.  After he turned 13, he started aging more rapidly.  Within 6 months he lost most of his hearing, had doggy dementia, became incontinent, walking became harder.  I stopped letting him go up and down the stairs.  In this same time period, my marriage was coming to an end.  I couldn’t bear the thought of losing Duffey, too.  But it was coming – faster and faster.

Then came the day when he could not stand.  At all.  Not even with help.  He wouldn’t eat.  He barely drank.  And I knew it was time for us all to say our final good-byes and with love let Duffey go.  It was the day before Monkey #1 was to come back from his trip to France with his grandmother.  So I had to make the agonizing decision to either wait until #1 came back, or have him not be able to say good-bye to his beloved dog.  I decided to wait until he came home.

I still miss him.  And I swear, even four years later, I still find some of his long hair in corners of closets.  (Every summer he would blow that double coat – and we would be knee-deep in fur. )  I know that dogs like him don’t come along every day.

It has taken me four years, but I think I am ready to enter into a new furry romance.  Ironically, it has taken me longer to feel ready to “replace” Duffey than The Monkey Daddy… Please don’t take offense to that when you read that, Monkey Daddy!  🙂

The Monkeys and I have been searching for the perfect rescue dog, and we think we might have found it.  Her picture stirred the same feelings in me like I had with Duffey,  Something is pulling me to her.  We will meet her for the first time next weekend.  We are all nervous.  We want it to go well, but we also all know that we can’t let pure emotion rule this decision.   With any luck this furry baby will be with us for a long time, and we have to make sure she will make a good addition to our family.

Of course, the last time I was in this position, I did let my heart rule my head – and look how beautifully that turned out.

Maybe this will be just as grand.

Monkey #1 and Duffey

Monkey #1 and Duffey

The Middle Monkey with his favorite pillow

The Middle Monkey with his favorite pillow

On Motherhood, on Mother’s Day…

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Me and My Monkeys

I know it sounds a little trite, but I wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember.  I mean, most mothers I know say that.  Only a few say, “I soooooo didn’t want to be a mother – yet, here I am.”  Or at least they don’t say it out loud.  I am not sure if it is that we are genetically predisposed to desire to be mothers, or if we feel some sort of societal pressure to fulfill our “womanly duty of motherhood.”  Who knows.  All I know is that I felt the “call” to be a mother long before I was one.

When I was 19, I got engaged to my college “sweetheart.”  Why so young?  Because I felt I was on some kind of schedule.  Engaged at 19.  Married at 21.  First child at 23.  Second at 25.  Done.  I even had a name picked out for my first child – which of course would be a daughter.  And yes, The Girl Monkey does have part of the name.  She is named for my grandmothers…

Needless to say, I did not marry that fiancé.  Nor did the next engagement, at 22, end in marriage.  Still no Baby Daddy…

I was officially off my motherhood schedule.

But, I still wanted to be a mother.  More than anything.  It became obvious to me that being a mother was more important to me than the whole being married part.  In 1990, the ABC-TV news show, 20/20 broke the story of the atrocious conditions in Romanian orphanages.  Of the vast number of children.  Of children who were severely malnourished.  Of children who never received physical contact.  I cried as I watched it.  And then I thought, “That’s it!  I will go rescue myself a Romanian baby girl!” (Like it was going to be that easy.  How delusional was I?)  I started saving money and was even buying cute little girl dresses.  This was it!  The perfect plan!  Never mind I was in graduate school and only working part-time and was single and lived with my mother.  What in the hell was I thinking?!?!

You guessed it.  I do not have a 24 year-old Romanian daughter.  Sanity kicked in.

I did not become a mother for the first time until I was 33.  A full decade off my original “schedule.”  (The Middle Monkey was born when I was 35 and The Girl Child, 5 days after my 38th birthday) But, in retrospect that was ever so much better than having a child in my 20s.  I wasn’t ready.  Not one bit.

Not that being a mother is everything I thought it would be.  I really do think my naïve 20 year-old self thought it would be all hearts and flowers and cuddles and kisses and cute dresses and joy and laughter.  And the reality of motherhood – especially with mine – is that there are times when I want to lock them outside to be raised by the wolves.  Or the gypsies.  Or the mean guy who lives across the street.  Who cares who takes them just so long as it isn’t me.  The crew I was given is a difficult bunch.  Which really is an understatement.  For reals.  Screaming and yelling are far more frequent than hearts and flowers.  They say that God only gives you what you can handle.  Well, I firmly believe God has far more confidence in me than He should.  Seriously.  But I guess that is why God created alcohol.  (As I am typing this, I am hearing screeches wafting up the stairs.  Middle Monkey saw a bug.  *sigh*)

Yet, for all the screaming and stomping and slamming (oh, my!), I wouldn’t trade The Monkeys for another batch.  Not even the newest model.  Fresh off the factory floor.  I love them with all my heart and soul and mind and body and strength and weakness – in spite of their “faults.” (And yes, my children do have FAULTS.  I am not one of those deluded mothers that sees no fault in their children.  Mine have big ones.  Bless their little hearts.)

They are trying.

They are pains.

They are amazing.

And I am ever so happy they are mine.  All mine.

Jealous?  You should be.

Baby Lion

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Daily Prompt: Unleash Your Inner Dickinson.

I enjoy writing poetry.  But it is one of those things I cannot force.  If there is one to come out, it will.  If not – I should stop trying.  And sometimes, I may not be intending to have it be a poem, but it comes out that way.

The Middle Monkey turned 11 during my self-imposed radio silence.  My sweet, goofy little huggy monster.  This poem was one I wrote about him when he was just a wee little baby.  Somewhere around six or seven months.  I remember he had this silly little commando crawl – using his little elbows to propel himself across the floor. But, he was FAST!  He could make it across the room in no time.  Even then, he was devoted to his big brother (they are only 22 months apart).  He would lie there on the carpet, watching Monkey #1’s every move.  He was particularly interesting in #1’s sippy cups.  Middle Monkey never took a bottle (or a pacifier – just his thumb) so when I went back to work after 4 months, he went right to a cup.  He had to.  So, he KNEW that inside that sippy cup was something good.  But, his brother usually had juice, which he wasn’t allowed to have quite yet.  But, once he discovered the taste, he knew he wanted more.  Hence the poem.

Enjoy…

Baby Lion

Dedicated to my Middle Monkey

Alert –

He lies motionless.

Observing –

He spies his prey.

A sippy cup abandoned on the floor.

Cautiously –

He creeps

Pulling his body towards his defenseless target.

Gleefully –

He seizes the taboo grail

Gulping its sweet nectar.

Suddenly –

He is discovered.

The cup’s owner has returned.

Yet, he is undaunted.

His claim has been staked.

Angrily –

He wails in frustration

As he is stripped of his prize.

Dejectedly –

He creeps away.

But he knows if he remains patient

He will be rewarded.

I’ve Got a Bad Case of Mommy Guilt

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I have been a working mother the whole time I have been a mother.  My ex-husband is an actor (incredibly talented – and finally getting some long-awaited recognition), so our family needed the steady income…not to mention the health insurance.  He did (and still does) a great job of caring for them.  And now that my mother is retired, she certainly picks up a lot of the slack.  But they aren’t ME.  They aren’t the MOMMY.  So, I am used to having a small amount of Mommy Guilt  – not too bad since I have been fortunate enough to have The Monkeys attend the elementary school where I teach.

Today, though, I have really felt it.

The Boy Monkeys are both sick.  Really sick.  It started with Monkey #1.  He missed school Monday (and Tuesday).  Bad cough and fever.  Poor thing had to miss an overnight field trip with his middle school “team.”  But, luckily his father didn’t have a job yesterday and took good care of him.  I felt some guilt at not being able to be with him – but it was manageable.  Today, it was Monkey #2 to get sick.  Another bad cough.  And whenever he gets sick, it flips into his lungs.  Again, their father was able to care for them…but it wasn’t ME.

I feel as if I chose school over my Monkeys.

Now, I am not one of those women who feels like I am the only one who can take care of my children.  I know that their father can be a very nurturing parent – and he will cater to their every while-they-are-sick whims.  But, I can’t help but feel like I chose to take care of 31 other parents’ children instead of my own.

I know the Monkeys don’t feel that way.  I know they know I am always there for them – and if not physically, definitely emotionally.  I know The Boy Monkeys are probably not sitting at their father’s saying, “I want my mommy.”

Maybe the problem is that I wish they WERE.  Maybe I wish they were saying, “Hey, Mom, please come take care of us like only you can.”

So, this Mommy Guilt I am feeling is the WORST kind… self-imposed.  No one else is making me feel guilty.  I am.  If it were coming from someone else, I would get angry.  But, from inside, it becomes all I can think about.  It becomes hard to do everything else I need to do when all I really want to do is go take care of my Sick Little Monkeys.  I worry about them, because I can’t see for myself how they are doing.

This is when reality and my own mind have an epic battle and I have to just let reality win.  But, that is really hard for me.  REALLY hard.

Poor Little Monkeys.  Poor Mommy Monkey.

Daily Prompt: Deja Vu.