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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.

Wedding Wishes

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There’s a song in the musical Wicked in which Glinda and Ephelba sing about how meeting one another has changed their lives (“For Good”). In it Glinda sings:

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
(Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz)

People come and people go – and if we are lucky, they come back.  If we are very lucky.

When LeaTreacia came into my life, she was the ripe old age of nine – bubbly, full of laughter, exuding joy, and oh so wise for her years. My mother was teaching at Treace’s school and had been assigned to be her mentor. Before too long, I was brought into the mix, and it was love at first meeting. I adored her. We would take her on outings, and eventually she would come to our house for weekends. She filled our house with her exuberance. She was the little sister I had always wanted. We were two peas in a pod.

As the years passed, our bond grew tighter. When it was time for Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, I brought her – after all, she was the closest thing I had to one. She was there when the Monkey Daddy proposed (well, the night he surprised me with my ring…another story for another time). And when it came time for my wedding, I knew she had to be a part of it. She was my junior bridesmaid.

LeaTreacia and I at my wedding

LeaTreacia and me at my wedding

Smooches

Smooches – also known as how to embarrass a teenager in a picture.

I loved her.  More than a little sister.  I loved her like a mother loves a child.  She was a part of me.  And I was a part of her.   We knew we were in this for life.

I lost track of her when she left for college.  She and I haven’t spoken about why it happened, but it did.  I was a new mother.  She was miles and miles away.   And life happened.  But there was always a hole in my heart.  A LeaTreacia size one.  I never stopped wondering about her.  I would try, desperately, to find her.  I had to know she was ok.   I knew in my heart that one day I would find her.   And through the miracle that is Facebook, one day it happened.  There she was.  My girl.  All grown up, but there was my girl.

Today, she got married.  I was to be there.  I was going to drive the eight hours from Atlanta to Indianapolis and I was going to be there.  She needed me there – and I needed to be there.  The years of separation didn’t matter.  All that mattered was that my girl was getting married, and damn it I was going to be there.

And as much as it killed me, last week I had to tell her that I was not going to be able to come.  I cried as I told her.  I cried because sometimes life is so damn unfair.  I cried because I felt that once again someone she loves let her down.   I cried because I wanted to be there to see for myself that she was ok.  I cried because I love her and wanted to be there to share in her joy.  I cried because, well…because I cried.

And I cried again today, at the time the wedding was to start, because I wasn’t there crying tears of happiness.

So, my dear LeaTreacia, (with tears streaming down my cheeks) I want to say here’s to your wedding day.  I wish you all the happiness you have always deserved, and yet sometimes found out of your grasp.  I wish you someone who appreciates and understands all the things that make you you.   I wish you years of joy and only moments of sorrow.

But mostly, I want you to know this:

I’ll love you forever, I’ll love you for always, as long as I’m living, my Treace you’ll be.

Happy wedding day, my sweet girl.  Best wishes on this new journey.  It can be smooth.  It can be bumpy.  But like a roller coaster, it’s a hell of a ride.  Hang on tight and enjoy the trip.

He Put My Ring In His Pocket!!!


Daily Prompt: Tainted Love..

Ever been dumped by a boyfriend or girlfriend? Was it a total surprise, or something you saw coming? Tell us your best worst breakup story. Never been the dumpee, always the dumper? Relate the story of a friend who got unceremoniously kicked to the curb. Change the names to protect the innocent if you must.

I swear, I laughed out loud when I read this prompt.  Loud guffaws.  Tell about a break-up?!?  Hell, this blog was STARTED as a way for me to work through the rambling musings bouncing around in my brain post-break-up with my former love!  I have written mmmaaaannnnyyyy posts about the very subject.  Well, more about the aftermath than of the actual event, but still.  I’ve also written about the end of my marriage.  May haps I should just link my whole damn blog!?

But, I shan’t.  As while those are interesting stories, they are not one of those epic “Oh. My. God.  Are you kidding me?!?” break-up stories.  But, honey, have I got one for you.  Buckle up!

I have mentioned before that I was engaged TWICE in my early twenties, neither of which “took.”  I am not three times divorced.  Just once, thank you very much.

So, here is the story of my break-up with fiancé #1 – AKA Fratboy.

Fratboy and I met my first year of college.  Became engaged my second year, and were planning a wedding the summer I graduated.  Right on schedule.

Fast forward to the summer before my final year.  We were in the homestretch!  10 months before we were to be married!  Life was perfect…or so I thought.

I show back up to school for my senior year, my head full of plans for the future, and a U-Haul trailer full of my stuff.  Fratboy meets me at my dorm to help me unload and to help carry all my things up three flights of stairs.  WHAT A SWEET BOYFRIEND!!!  Was I lucky OR WHAT?!?!?

*snort*

Back and forth we go for 45 minutes.  Everything seemed fine.  We had  spoken the night before and he told me how happy he was I was going to be back the next day and how happy he was that I was going to be back in the same town with him and how much he missed me and loved me.  Blah blah blah.  While I had chattered on about how I had just gotten my ring professionally cleaned and how sparkly it was and how I couldn’t wait for him to see it.  Ah…bliss.

So, here we are on the final trip down the stairs to get a few more things, when about half way down Fratboy says to me, “Hey, let me see the ring.”

I grin and hold my hand out for him to see the sparkle.  “Isn’t it beautiful?!?”

“No, let me SEE it,” he replied.

Being the trusting young thing I was, I slid the ring off my finger and held it out to him to look at.  Makes sense, right?  I mean, we were GETTING MARRIED!!!!!  Weren’t we?

He takes the ring from me, and then…

(ready for it?)

PUTS IT IN HIS POCKET!!!!!

My ring.  It was no longer on my finger.  It was no longer in his hands.  IT WAS IN HIS DAMNED POCKET!!!  What the hell?!?

My two-thirds of a carat heart-shaped diamond on a gold band FREAKIN’ CUSTOM-MADE FOR ME engagement ring WAS IN HIS POCKET!

Ok.  In retrospect, the ring was incredibly cheesy, and I want to go back and slap the shit out of my 20-year-old self for ever loving it in the first place.  But, HE PUT MY RING IN HIS POCKET AND I WANTED IT BACK!

I remember I kinda laughed and said, “Hey!  Give it back!”

“No,” he said.  “I’m going to keep it.  I don’t think I want to do this any more.”

(BTW, gentlemen, “I THINK” is a passive statement.  If you are in the process of breaking up with someone, passive terms do not sugar coat the situation.  Use plain language.  A helpful little hint from me to you.  You are welcome.)

All this happened as we were walking down the three flights of stairs to go back out to the parking lot of my dorm.

At this point I am somewhat hysterical.  Standing, by now, in the parking lot next to my 1974 orange Volvo SOBBING.  He asked if I needed him to bring my things up to my room.

I just answered, “NO!  I WANT MY RING BACK!”

“I’m sorry, but I just can’t do that right now,” and he got in his car and drove away.

Somehow I made it back upstairs and into the arms of my best friends who started calling him every name in the book, and how they never liked him, and how I was better off, etc., etc.

And how right they were.

If I had married him, I know for a fact that I would have either divorced him, or killed him.  Either way, I would not be with him now.

Ironically, he ended up marrying another girl from my college.  She is Facebook friends with several of my Facebook friends.  I can not tell you how badly I want to stalk her pictures and see if she has a cheesy two-thirds of a carat heart-shaped diamond in a yellow gold band engagement ring sitting on her finger.  Just so I can laugh, and know how she was given the ring that was custom-made for ME!

Oh, and to be ever so grateful for the day that Fratboy took it back.

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

Where Has the Time Gone?: Part 2

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My goofy Monkey #1 - letting his freak flag fly

My goofy Monkey #1 – letting his freak flag fly

Monkey #1 will be 13 on the 25th of May.  *sigh* I will officially be the mother of a teenager.  And not just any teenager – one with Asperger’s.  Teenage hormonal issues are enough, without the addition of Asperger’s.  Puberty has just started to hit here in Happy Monkey Land – making things not so happy at times.  Of course, it is a little hard to figure out which is a hormone meltdown, and which is the general run of the mill Asperger meltdown.

Tomorrow is his “Rite 13” ceremony at church.  It is a time when the church welcomes all of these burgeoning teenagers in to the adult fold – and they transition into the youth groups.  Kinda like the Episcopal version of a Bar Mitzvah – without all the chanting.  😉  But it is a part of the service, where they figuratively move from their families to the youth.

Tonight, there is a dinner for the Rite 13ers and their families.  As a part of it, their parents are to write a letter to their child.  Lovely little sentiments giving pithy wisdom about entering adulthood.  Reflecting on memories of their childhoods and the adults they will be.

And for a person who has so many words running through my head all the time – I am stumped as to what to say to him.  I am drawing a complete blank.  Nothing is coming easily to me – at all.

I could tell him about the challenges he will face as a teenager – but I don’t really know what they will be.  His challenges will be – make that are – so different from mine, simply because of his Asperger’s.

I could tell him about what his adulthood will be like – but, I don’t really know what it will be.  His experiences will be different from mine.

(Of course, my block isn’t helped by the fact that The Middle Monkey and The Girl Child are currently screaming at each other.  But, I digress.)

I guess I just don’t know how to take all the words I want to say to him as a mother and put them down on a piece of paper.

I want to tell him how proud I am of how he deals with his challenges.

How I love the fact that he isn’t afraid to let his “freak flag fly.”

How I love the way he will still crawl into bed with me and snuggle.  Or rub my feet.  Or scratch my back.  And how he will still hold my hand IN PUBLIC!

How through all the trials and tribulations of his life, I can’t imagine my life without him in it.

Huh…I think I just found my words.

Love is Lovelier the Second Time Around (or even the twentieth…)

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Tell us about a book you can read again and again without getting bored — what is it that speaks to you?

via Daily Prompt: Second Time Around.

Love is lovelier the second time around
Just as wonderful with both feet on the ground (Second Time Around   – as sung by Frank Sinatra)

As I have mentioned many many times, I am wrapping up my 15th year of teaching.  I am a big proponent of the teacher-read-aloud – even in the upper grades.  I read to my class every day and use it as a jumping off point for so many lessons and discussions.  It is the most special time of our day.  I have students who are now in their mid-twenties who tell me they can still remember certain books I read to them and how much they loved it.  For some of my students, it has been what has made them fall in love with books.

I put a lot of thought in what I chose to read to them.  And I try not to just read the same book year after year.  After all, while THEY may not have read it, I would get bored reading the same things all the time.  With one exception…

I have read Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls to nearly every single class in the past 15 years.  It has become a link to each class.  Siblings from a previous class will ask the brother or sister in my current class if I have read it yet.  It sticks with them.

For those of you who are not aware of the book (and if you haven’t ever read it – read it…it is great), Where the Red Fern Grows, is the story of Billy Coleman, a young boy growing up in the backwoods of the Ozarks somewhere around the Depression.  Billy’s family isn’t just poor, they are dirt poor, living off the land.  However, Billy decides he wants some dogs.  And not just any ol’ dogs.  He wants hunting dogs.  Specifically Redbone Coonhounds.  His parents want to help him, but they can’t.  So, Billy works for over two years to gather enough money to buy his beloved dogs.  And that’s where the story really begins.

“It’s strange indeed how memories can lie dormant in a man’s mind for so many years. Yet those memories can be awakened and brought forth fresh and new, just by something you’ve seen, or something you’ve heard, or the sight of an old familiar face.”  
―     Wilson Rawls,     Where the Red Fern Grows

It is a story of perseverance and determination.  It is about setting a goal and not letting anything get in your way.  But mostly it is a story about undying love and devotion.

I have read the book somewhere around 20 times – independently as a child, to my classes and to my own children.  It still makes me laugh and it still makes me cry.  Real tears, not just brimming in my eyes.  Every single time.

I will probably be looping with my class next year.  Meaning, I’ll be going with them from 4th to 5th, with most of the class intact.  And since I read it to my students this year, I won’t be reading it to them again.  And I am a little sad about that.  I look forward to reading it every year.  So, looks like I’ll have to read it to my own children.  I read it to Monkey #1 when he was 8.  The Middle Monkey heard it from his 4th grade teacher (a fellow teacher who also reads it to her class every year).  The Girl Child has yet to hear it.  Perhaps it is time.

“It’s a shame that people all over the world can’t have that kind of love in their hearts,” he said.  “There would be no wars, slaughter, or murder; no greed or selfishness.  It would be the kind of world that God wants us to have – a wonderful world.”  
―     Wilson Rawls,     Where the Red Fern Grows