To Tone in Private: A Personal Weight Loss Journey

In August of 2012, I had a realization.

It was one of those epiphany moments where music played, the camera zoomed in, and someone with an incredibly deep voice began narrating in my head. “It is time.”

It was the start of my journey to lose weight.

We had just returned home from a Vegas vacation with our amazing friends, and we had celebrated my upcoming 40th birthday there.  I wasn’t turning 40 until September, but it seemed like a perfect “excuse” to go to Vegas and have some fun.

My friends came over bringing photos – printed out ones (amazing, right?!) – documenting our trip.  I was ecstatic to see the pictures.  We had had such a wonderful time, and the pictures were actually printed! Rock on!

I wasn’t prepared for the shock of seeing myself in photos.  Now, understand me when I say that I see myself daily, but it is easy to “hide” from my appearance in the mirror.  It is easy to “see” exactly what I wanted to see when I put on make-up.  It is easy to “convince” myself that I looked fine.

But photos tell another story.

I looked on them in horror.  After our friends left, I said to The Captain, “Why didn’t you tell me I looked just plain awful and disgusting?!”

“I think you look fine,” he said.

Fine. Hmph.

About a week later, my oldest, then ten years old, gave me a bear hug and proceeded to say, “Mom, maybe you should go on a diet. I can’t get my arms around you.”

The Captain, trying to spare my feelings, said, “Apologize to your mother right now.  That isn’t nice.”

String Bean looked at me and said, “Sorry, Mom, but really, maybe you would like to exercise sometime. You may feel better, ya know?”

He was right.  I had avoided being healthy.  I had avoided looking – really looking – at myself.  I had avoided it all.

I made a decision.  I didn’t share it with anyone.  Not my husband, my kids or my friends.

I made an appointment with a dietician.  And it has changed my life.

Walking into a new atmosphere can be daunting.  Walking in knowing that I was more than 80 pounds was downright frightening.

It took some time, but the weight began to come off.  And the new habits of eating right and exercising became commonplace to me.

It took a lot of time.

But now, two years later, I can safely say I have changed (and I am still changing), not only in body, but in spirit and mind.

I will write more about the transformation process soon, but, for now, I will end with this:

No one can decide what time is right, it is personal; a personal journey.  I had to make the decision to make a change, others could not make it for me. And I am still on the journey…

It literally makes me cringe posting this picture.  The left is 2012 and the right is this fall, exactly two years later. Wow.

It literally makes me cringe posting this picture. The left is 2012 and the right is this fall, exactly two years later. Wow.

 

Airplanes and Truth Serum

A little while ago, The Captain, the dudes and I flew to Houston to visit my dad and my stepmother.

It may seem strange, but The Captain refused to sit next to me on the plane.

There is a back story here.  I have a strange “power.”  It is the ability to talk to anyone and they will share some of their deepest, darkest secrets with me without being prompted to do so.  I don’t know where this gift (or curse) may have come from.  I do know this: With great power, comes great responsibility.  So, I am now letting my secret out.  I am human truth serum.

It started many years ago when I was traveling with business.  Flying alone can get lonely, but I love the quiet time to get absorbed in a book or take a quick nap on a plane.  However, this does not happen for me.  Ever.  People talk to me.  I smile.  I nod.  I show interest.  And then they spill it.  All of it.

I never really thought much about my days of flying until The Captain and I flew on an earlier journey to Houston many moons ago.  It was one of the few times he would meet my dad before our wedding, and to suggest this trip was a big deal is putting it mildly.  We ended up in a three-seat row.  I put The Captain by the window and sat in the middle.  A Mrs. Frizzle look-a-like sat down next to me.  She began knitting what looked like socks.  I smiled at her as I opened my novel.  She started asking me about my career, where I was going, etc.  By the end of the flight, I found out that she was divorced three times and was on her way to meet (for the first time) “a nice, solidly built man from the Internet.”  I don’t know why it was important to add the “solidly built,” but whatever works I guess.

The Captain rolled his eyes.  “I am not sitting next to you on a plane again.”

And so here we are.

On one occasion, my brother and I flew to Mississippi for the funeral of our grandfather.  On the first leg of the flight, what looked like a college student sat next to me.  I was annotating To Kill a Mockingbird for Monday’s lesson plan.  She leaned over and told me it was one of her favorite books.  She proceeded to tell me about her upcoming graduation from college, her job search, her cheating boyfriend and her impulsive interview for an out of state job.  By the end of the flight, and to my brother’s amazement, she hugged me and thanked me for the support.

On the second leg of our flight, I was sitting next to a twenty-something who seemed very busy.  She was organizing her airplane space, and had a book on her lap.  I was ready to snooze.  Five minutes into the flight, I passed a piece of gum to my brother and offered one to her (to not offer it would be rude, right?!).  She took the piece of gum and then proceeded to tell me her life story.  By the end of the flight, I learned she had survived a horribly abusive marriage and finally had won custody over her two-year-old daughter.  She was flying to pick her up and bring her to her new home where she had made a fresh start.  We were both in tears by the end of the flight and exchanged email information (and she, to this day, is doing very well).

IMG_4384Flying back home on a different flight than my brother, I thought there would be no way to top the truth serum from the first two flights.  I was wrong.

The first leg of the flight, I had an aisle seat.  One woman crossed over me to the window seat and opened her gigantic purse to reveal some KFC.  She pulled it out and began eating.  Boarding continued, and the person who was in the center stopped and asked me if I could move to the middle seat because she “couldn’t stand the b**** at the window.”  I was speechless.  I grabbed my things, almost afraid to say no, and moved over.  The woman at the window muttered some foul language toward the other woman.  Then, amazingly, they realized they could use me as a middle-man for their argument.  It began innocently enough when Window said, “Tell Aisle I can’t believe she did that to me.”  Aisle responded by stating, “You can relay to Window that she is a complete _____ and ______ and should have slept with my husband.”  Now it was beginning to get awkward.  Let me just conclude this by saying the flight attendant had to come over three times to ask them to stop yelling at each other.  Each time, she would throw me a look of sheer pity.  A stiff drink would have helped, too!

After we landed, I knew it couldn’t get any worse.  I boarded the last leg of the plane and had the horror pleasure of being seated in the front.  I thought I was alone in the row.  I began to relax, look out the window and prepare myself for a nice little nap on my flight home.  So wrong.  A guy sat next to me.  He had his shirt unbuttoned like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.  His name was Glenn and he was a genuine gigolo.  Glenn had on three very thick gold chains and two gold bracelets.  I secretly wondered if he had attacked Mr. T. earlier that day in the Atlanta airport.  He informed me that I was a “lovely woman” and he was “lucky to sit by such a jewel.”  I must say I am neither lovely or a jewel.  Glenn told me he was on his way to Ohio to “check his investments” before returning to his villa in Mexico where he “painted naked pictures of willing subjects and sometimes got lucky.”  After downing three Glenlivits, Glenn told me about this magical villa and his thankfulness to Pfizer for inventing Viagra.  I have never wanted to use a plane’s barf bag before this day.

And to all of the lovely jewels out there – stay far, far away from anyone named Glenn that owns a villa in Mexico.

A Time to Tap

My favorite tap shoes.

My favorite tap shoes.

A million moons ago I taught tap.

I was the kid in middle school and high school who was always in dance classes.  I was the kid who kept taking dance classes even as other students dropped out.  I was the kid who competed in dance.  I was that kid.

My specialty was tap.  I loved tap dancing – the rhythm, pace, sounds – all of it.  And I was pretty good at it.

In my 20s, I was approached by a friend to teach tap at her studio.  I was a young pup, and with my schedule, it was easy and fun.  I taught for her for quite a few years, but when I was pregnant with our second son, I was put on bed rest.  I wasn’t allowed to teach tap – or do much of anything for that matter.  After Squishy was born, I did not go back to teaching tap.  I really didn’t miss it that much.  My hands were full with a three-year-old and a newborn.

But, in the summer of 2012, I was approached by a former dance student of mine named Lacey.  She was in her second year of running her own dance studio, and wanted to talk to me about a few things.

I stopped in and she sat me down and asked me to teach tap for her.  She said all of the right things to convince me to teach: that I was enthusiastic, that she looked up to me, that I was a great tapper and that I was hilarious.

She played the funny card.  I was hooked.

I taught classes at the studio all last year, and realized that, yes, I did kind of miss it.

At first, the mirrors were daunting.  I wasn’t used to seeing my full self in floor to ceiling mirrors.  Do you know what this can do to someone’s self esteem?!  Scary times!  Those mirrors helped motivate me lose weight.  Really.

I also wasn’t used to tapping for three to four hours in a night.  After teaching angelic high school students English all day, tapping until the sun was in bed was a hard transition for me.

Recital time!

Recital time!

But I did miss a few things about teaching dance. First, I missed the kids and how entertaining they were.  Fixing hair bows and tying tap shoes and consoling little girls who missed their mommies was something I was not accustomed to being a mom of boys.  I also missed the thrill of seeing their dance steps finally click – those “I got it!” moments.  I missed choreographing and perfecting recital dances.  But what I missed most of all was me.  I know it sounds strange, but all the memories flooded back about how much I loved tap dancing and who I was when I was knee deep into shuffles, flaps and wings.  I had found a part of me that was lost; a part I truly missed.

Teaching tap again has made me a better person.  It amazes me how life can be a series of reinventions, but sometimes it is important to look back to help remember, reflect and refine today.  Dance does that for me.

My flowers from the recital and my happy dance-teacher face!

My flowers from the recital and my happy dance-teacher face!

On the day of the recital, I told Lacey how important the year of teaching for her had been.      I told her how I found a piece of myself I thought may have been lost forever.  I thanked her for what she had given me – a chance to find a hidden side of myself I had thought was long gone.

She said these words to me: “You made my year special and memorable. I couldn’t have done this without you. Thank you.”

Maybe we all find ways to find ourselves.

Gotta love the dance.

Coffee Mug Crusade

When it comes to travel coffee mugs, I have horrible luck.

Now I know this isn’t a deep topic, but I realized this morning as I stared into the cupboard that I only have three travel mugs left in existence.  There is an eight to ten extinction rate with my travel mugs.

This is a problem for it seems I can never find the perfect mug.

Or, it seems that no mug will ever fulfill its sacred duty: traveling day to day with me to school and back and living to tell about it.

For some reason, I have incredibly bad luck when it comes to travel mugs.

I blame my husband, The Captain, for part of it.  He does not heed to the warnings imprinted on the bottom of the coffee mugs.  Many say, “Not dishwasher safe.”  He believes they say, “Put in dishwasher. Hope they last.”

The Disney one is the first one, followed by the rest that are now long gone.

The Disney one is the first one, followed by the rest that are now long gone.

One of my favorites came out of the dishwasher in the shape of a lava lamp.  Another ended up with so much condensation inside it looked like it came straight out of the rainforest.

And then the worst of all.  My Disney Finding Nemo mug began to leak.  From the bottom.  Leaking water, not coffee.  I do not understand how this is possible, but, alas, it is.

Darn.  I love that mug.

So, now, I am in a quest to find quality travel mugs that can a.) withstand being useful each and every day of the school year, and b.) withstand The Captain’s insatiable desire to put anything and everything into the dishwasher.

Wish me luck!

The Big Game

Tonight is Big Game night.  High school football big rivalries team up against each other for the final fight of the regular season.  But that is not all that will “team” up; sometimes the towns team up against each other, too.

The Big GameFriday Night Lights takes on an entire new meaning in my neck of the woods.  I have really never seen anything like it until I moved to this area when I was a junior in high school.  I was completely overwhelmed how an entire high school could, basically, suspend all learning to be athletic supporters (pun intended).  By mid-week, all the hallways were elaborately decorated (students were in and out of classes to do so), students were dressed in daily themes (pajama day, hat day, hippie day – some kids took this one a little too far) and pretty much, the school itself was in a constant state of chaos that all led up to Friday’s end of the school day pep rally and The Big Game. This was my perception as a junior in high school.

Seeing the rivalry as an adult has taken on a whole other dimension for me – one that is almost worse than in my high school days.  At the start of September, before the school year is even in full swing, papers begin to trickle home. “Go Team, Beat the Other Team” t-shirt sales, stickers, information regarding The Big Game and spirit week and community pep rally events. And so it goes.  I have two dudes who both want the “latest and greatest limited edition” t-shirt design created specifically for The Big Game.  There are “all-calls” from the schools about the community bonfire, ticket sales and even spirit day themes.

There was also community outrage about the town’s trick or treat schedule because it conflicted with the scheduled community bonfire/pep rally. Many wrote letters to the editor.  Many complained about it on social media. Many are just plain crazy.

The rivalry may seem a little bit out of control.

This spring, some seniors from my town decided to paint the windows of their Big Game rival school with window paint – less than two weeks before graduation. Unbeknownst to them, the rival school had their windows treated with special UV decals to help keep the rooms cooler.  The window paint ruined the window treatments, costing thousands and thousands of dollars in damage.

Outrage and panic commenced from both towns.  Both communities were quickly playing judge and jury.  Both communities yelled about how horrible these seniors were.  Both communities made a frenzy out of the issue.  Both communities wanted these students to pay – with more than money.  Some of the common phrases heard around the area were: “These students have no respect,” “They should not be able to graduate,” “They should be arrested and have a criminal record,” “They are vandals,” “They should not walk at graduation,” and even as far as saying, “They must have horrible parents!”

Amazingly enough, no one said anything about how this zillion year old rivalry might have affected their judgment. And no one pointed out the fact that they have been raised on this rivalry, so of course they might make a bad decision based on the craziness of The Big Game.  No one mentioned that since the tender age of kindergarten, these students had been going to the community pep rallies and bonfires and dressing up for spirit week and buying the latest, limited-edition Big Game t-shirt.  No one mentioned any of this.  Instead, they wanted these students to miss graduation. Unreal.

Now, I don’t condone their behavior. I would be livid if it was my child, but I do think the issue is more than just a few seniors vandalizing property.  I firmly believe that the rivalry is so ingrained in them they can’t see the forest for the trees. The seniors mentioned above did get to graduate – and walk at graduation to the dismay of some. However, they lost out on some other rights of passage like Senior Day.  And respect.  They were required to perform many hours of community service and make restitution for the ruined windows.  Many people – in both towns – felt this was not enough.  They felt these seniors deserved the book thrown at them.

But, hey, enough about that.  After all, tonight is the big game.  These same community members will be heading to the stadium.  These same community members were a part of the record attendance at the community pep rallies.  These same community members stood in line for hours to buy their Big Game tickets.  These same community members participated in the annual adult party after the community pep rally.  They have purchased those limited-edition t-shirts. They have even trash-talked the rival team for weeks on Facebook (believe me, I have almost blocked people because of this). They are ready for The Big Game.  As they were last year and the year before – even the parents of those window-painting seniors.

IMG_4029So, what am I going to do as a parent to help my dudes put the rivalry in perspective?  I am going to start by skipping The Big Game tonight.  We are going to visit with friends and talk about other things.  We may even play board games, like Life, Sorry and The Game of Things – a big favorite around these parts.

I guess it will be The Big Game with us tonight, without the limited-edition t-shirts.  Monopoly, anyone?

The Birds, the Bees and Puppies

You never know when you may have to explain the birds and the bees to your children.

I did not think this would come into play at their tender ages of 11 and eight, but thanks to my mother-in-law, I had the horror opportunity to tell them a little bit about how babies are made.

One Tuesday night as I was in the middle of teaching a tap class, I received a frantic voice mail from my mother-in-law, Salt.

It went a little like this:  “Allison, hey. We have a problem here. The dogs are stuck together and I don’t know what to do! They have been stuck for over 20 minutes and I can’t get a hold of anyone.  You must call me back as soon as you get this because I just don’t know what to do!”

Reluctantly I returned the call.

“Hi there.  I only have a minute because I am in between classes,” I said.

“Chewie and Maisy got stuck together!  It has been over 30 minutes!  I didn’t know what to do!” she wailed.

“Are they still stuck together?” I asked in a calm voice so I could try and assess the situation.

“No. Finally they got themselves unstuck.  I called the vet because I couldn’t get anyone on the phone,” she exclaimed, her voice revealing how stressful it had been for her. “And the boys wanted to watch it the entire time!  I had to close the curtains!”

After hanging up with her and finishing teaching my dance classes, I ran my dudes to the store.

It would be an understatement to say there were a few questions that were asked.

“Mom, why were the dogs stuck together?”

“Mom, grandma said that Chewie’s penis had to shrink before they could be unstuck.  Why?”

“Mom, what does amorous mean?”

“Mom, why did grandma tell the vet the dogs were ‘getting it on’?  What does ‘getting it on’ mean and where were they getting it on to?”

“Mom, did you know that Chewie looked like he was doing the Harlem Shake on Maisy’s back?”

“Mom, Grandma kept trying to close the curtains so we couldn’t see the dogs. Why was she doing that?”

and the biggest question of all:

“Mom, is that how people make babies?”

OMG.

By this time, I am standing in front of the cashier at Kohl’s.  She is staring at me like I have lost my marbles (which, at that second, I wished was true).  Both boys were staring at me, too, waiting for answers.

Surely this should have been the exact moment I could’ve said, “Ask your father.”  But, alas, I am not that lucky.

I started lightly.  “Amorous means really, really lovey.”  Yes, I took the easiest question first.  Can you blame me?

Next answer: “Chewie probably doesn’t know the Harlem Shake,” but then I asked the stupidest question, “How exactly did this start?

Both dudes jumped at the chance to answer, speaking over each other.  The cashier looked at me like I had horns.

“Well, you see Mom, Chewie came inside and started following Maisy around. I mean, literally, (he uses this word a lot – he is 8) Chewie would not leave her alone,” Squishy chimed in.

“Yeah, and then he started to jump on her and stuff,” said 11-year-old String Bean with a wide-eyed grin, “And he wouldn’t stop, don’t be mad if I say this next part, Mom, OK?  Grandma said it wasn’t a bad word.”

“Ummm, OK, I guess?!” Fear bubbled up inside of me.

“Chewie started humping her.  That is what Grandma called it,” he said, looking at me to gauge my reaction.

Squishy interjects, “Yeah, Mom, it was crazy! It looked like this,” as he begins a vivid demonstration even Elvis would not have attempted on national TV.

“OK. You can stop showing me now,” I said as I pushed them out of Kohl’s.

“And Grandma said Maisy was a hussy.  What exactly is a hussy, Mom?  I’ve never heard of that word before.”

And so it goes.

As I tucked the dudes into bed that night, they were still buzzing about the events of the evening. They were hoping puppies would arrive soon (I did have to break down and explain how puppies are made), and they were bouncing off of the walls about the entire situation.

Squishy did have an ace up his sleeve.  “Mom, look at this!” he said, shoving his iPod in my face, “Here they are stuck together!”

Photographic proof of the event taken by an eight-year-old.  Amorous, indeed.

Stuck together.

Stuck together.

Rationalize It

Last January, I was going to go on a diet/exercise regime.  By the time April rolled around, I realized something. I had actually and successfully poorly rationalized three full months away.

Yeah, these cupcakes do contain calories.

Yeah, these cupcakes do contain calories.

What completely cracks me up about my behavior is that I act as if I am a person who does not rationalize poor choices.  There was a guest speaker at a previous Etech conference (a big technology conference for educators) and he spoke all about how humans rationalize things.  Feeling sick?  It will probably be OK tomorrow.  Eat the cupcake?  Sure, I can work it off.  Another glass of wine?  Heck yes, I deserve a fun night.  And so on.

Sitting there, I thought to myself, “I am not this person.  I don’t rationalize like that at all.”  Then, I looked around at all the suckers who, I thought, probably do over rationalize.  Poor souls, I thought, they are rationalizing their lives away.

Even Jim from The Office rationalizes.

Even Jim from The Office rationalizes.

Hello pot, meet kettle.  Crap.  I was one of those suckers.

I never realized until hearing this speaker and really pondering about it how much I actually rationalize things.  Here are some examples:

If I don’t write on my blog for a few weeks (hello blog, nice to see you again), I rationalize this by saying I have a lot on my plate right now, or I want the blog post to be good, or I am too tired/sick/cranky/silly to write.  Sadly, my last post was before Christmas.  I have rationalized almost a full month of blogging away.               Bad, bad girl.

I also rationalize people’s sometimes poor behavior.  Someone was rude to me earlier this week and instead of just sucking it up and being OK that they don’t like me, I rationalized it by thinking maybe they were having a bad day.  When I saw them in the hallway at the end of the day and they were laughing really hard, I realized they weren’t having a bad day.  They just don’t like talking to me.  Oh well, it happens, right?

Work out? In the cold? Sure! (Not!)

Work out in the cold? Sure! (Not!)

I rationalize other things, too.  My checkbook is one.  Oh, sure, I think to myself, I have money in there, and I really, really need it so it is OK if I go ahead and buy the flenderfloozle.  Not a good plan. And exercising, need I say more?  I am Scarlett O’hara sometimes with this.  I rationalize that the next day is a better day to exercise.  Then I think the next day and the next day until it becomes a vicious cycle with absolutely no exercising.

So, for my one and only New Year’s resolution, I am going to stop rationalizing things.  I am going be honest with myself and know that I am not going to walk outside in 28 degree weather and, instead, opt and read the latest YA novel on my Kindle.  I am going to pass on the gurligeezles and flenderfloozles because I really don’t need them and, if I eat the cupcake, I may not work it off later.

Glad to be back, and I will do my best to try and not rationalize another month away!

The Bet

My husband, The Captain, and I had a bet.  I lost.

I must preface this by saying I knew I was going to lose.  I agreed to the bet on the undeniable fact that I was going to lose.  Heck, I actually wanted to lose.  But I made the bet anyway.

It was: whoever has the most shoes must buy a Keurig.

Going into this, I was aware of my not-so-small obsession collection of shoes.  I am not a shoe crazed maniac or anything (unless I am in DSW with a time limit), but I like shoes.  They always fit.  They always look good.  They are amazing.

Even this mug needs a Keurig.

But, I digress.  I wanted a Keurig.  Badly.  Since our visit to my dad’s home in Houston this past spring, the Keurig was on my mind.  It was so easy to use, and there are oh-so-many flavors to pick from.  It was like a home Starbucks where pajamas and bed-head hair were welcomed with open arms and good coffee creamer.  The Keurig was Heaven in a coffee maker.  I had to have one.

Summer approached quickly, and I couldn’t justify to The Captain why I needed to drop some cash on the Keurig.  Here is a sample of one of our little “discussions” on the topic:

“I really want a Keurig.”

“We have a coffee maker.  We don’t need a Keurig.  Plus, we are going on some vacations this summer,” he said.

“I really want a Keurig.”

“We don’t need a Keurig.  Stop it with the Keurig already.  Geez,” he stated, adding a classic eye roll for effect.

“I really, really want a Keurig.”  By this time, The Captain has left the building (or room if I must get technical).

So, I put on my thinking cap.  “I am going to get that Keurig if it is the last thing I do before the school year ends.”  And then I laughed.  Loud enough to sound like a complete maniac.  Game on, Captain, game on.

A few weeks later, after setting around hints like leaving the computer on pages advertising the Keurig and posting Keurig sale flyers on the family bulletin board, I came up with the ultimate plan.  “I’ll get you, my Keurig, and your little K-cups, too!”

The Captain’s shoes before the bet.

The Captain was standing in the kitchen (he really likes it there, but that is another post for another day), and I began tossing jibes at him.

“You know, for a guy, you really have a massive amount of shoes.”

“No I don’t.  You have tons of shoes,” he said as he began concentrating on loading the dishwasher perfectly.

“I think you have more shoes than I do.  Seriously.  When was the last time you counted your shoes?”

“What are you getting at?  I don’t have more shoes than you do.  No one but your mother has more shoes than you do,”  he said.

“I think you do.  Let’s bet on it,” I stated innocently as my plan was unfolding brilliantly!

“OK.  What do we win if we have the fewest shoes?” he asked.  Dang, I thought, this was way too easy.

“The loser buys a Keurig,” I replied trying to stop my pinkie finger from touching my lip a la Dr. Evil.

“You’re on,” he said, “but there are some stipulations.”

Ugh.  I thought. He is on to me.

“OK.  Spill,” I said, waiting for my plan to evaporate.

“All shoes count.  Even those we don’t wear, OK?” he said, looking to me as if I was going to challenge his little rules.

“Perfect,” I said with a grin spread from cheek to cheek knowing full well the outcome of this bet.

And, as I said, I lost.  My final shoe count was 126 (not including the shoes my mother had dropped off that were hiding in the trunk of my car).  His was 62, although I seem to recall that his was more like 82, but I won’t get technical today.

Home, sweet Keurig.

Surprisingly enough, we are both very much enjoying the Keurig.  My plan worked amazingly well.  Next time, I am going to go for something bigger.  A new TV perhaps.  Wahhahahaha!

Do the Presidential Debate Dougie

Disco inferno with the healthcare strut, the economy twirl and, the ever popular, family values jazz square.

This past Wednesday was the ever famous (or infamous) presidential debate.

For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t watch them.  Instead, I mused as to what might make the debates more intriguing to watch.

I decided a dance off would be a better debate.

Here is my Facebook status from Wednesday night:

Oh, what a wonderful world.

In a dance off, each candidate could pick a popular dance move to perfect.  I am sure President Obama could rock it out with some of the latest moves, like the Dougie or the new Gangham Style.  And Mitt Romney might nail down a few moves such as The Electric Slide or even a country line dance to try and win over his Southern voters.  This would allow them both to loosen their ties and get groovin’.

Afterward, pros from Dancing With the Stars could come in and work with each candidate.  The prerequisite would be a patriotic tribute to the USA, and ties and stick suits would be tossed out in exchange for any silver lame, sequined costume with an American feel encompassing the good ol’ red, white and blue.  Each would have to perform an extensive tango, salsa and swing dance (for those voters who are still swinging on the fence).  The candidates would be judged on their technique, skill and comfort level.  There could even be a text vote for the best dance candidate.  Go star-spangled sequins and spandex!

After the Dancing with the Stars portion, the candidates would be added into a Broadway-style dance competition.  Talented Broadway choreographers would work with Mitt Romney to bring his own version of Patrick Swayze to Broadway’s might-be-produced Dirty Dancing.  After all, nobody puts Mitt in the corner.

Barack Obama would be introduced to the Broadway revival of Xanadu.  He would have crucial tap dancing sessions a la Gene Kelley as well as roller-skating stylings from Olivia Newton John.  Especially since roller-skating builds family values AND is part of a healthy lifestyle.

The final portion of the dance off would be the freestyle.  Each candidate would have to design a dance to represent America’s diversity.  The dance must be at least two minutes in length and should include, but not limited to, the Macarena, the twist (for the baby-boomers), the sprinkler (because who doesn’t like the sprinkler) and the running man.  Hey, even Mitt’s moonwalk and Barack’s Dougie might make for a standing ovation.  BTW, the Glee dancer is Harry Shum Jr.The celebrity judges would be:       MC Hammer (because we can’t touch this), J-Lo, Madonna, Conan O’Brien,  Jimmy Fallon (because he is my fav), the awesome Asian dancer from Glee and the mighty George Lucas because if George Lucas is there, it is a must-see, epic event.

It would be epic indeed.

To Give is Human, To Bribe is Divine

String Bean is enjoying fifth grade.  Thank goodness.

The Captain and I were more than ready for the continued horror of the fourth grade to be over.

At the beginning of the String Bean’s fourth grade school year, he was happy, enjoyed going, and was excited to share what he learned.

After a month in, we learned that the rules for fourth grade were quite different from third grade.  One of the biggest rules we learned right from the get go was it’s every man for himself.  I wrote about our struggles here.

If the district really knew what I thought about fourth grade, they might not be too happy.

Being high school teachers, The Captain and I have some strong mild philosophies on education. We believe that our duty as teachers is to teach and empower students, not to tear them down.  For some reason, the fourth grade philosophy is different.  It adds an excited dose of humiliation and public embarrassment into the mix.  Fourth grade for my son this past year beheld a different theory.  It specialized in Darwin’s survival of the fittest.  Not a good thing.

By the last nine weeks, it got to the point where my husband, The Captain, started bribing String Bean.

Let me rewind for a moment.  The Captain does not believe in giving monetary rewards for grades.  He does not believe in giving gifts for grades.  He does not believe in any tangible rewards for grades.  Until now.

In the car this past spring, the dudes were talking about the upcoming state mandated tests.

“My class gets to have a movie day Friday after our tests are over,” Squishy said, happily.

“Well, we get a cool pizza party when our tests are over,” added String Bean.

The Captain is seething. “We let kids graduate when they pass our tests.”

Squishy interjects, “Your butt is going to graduate.”

“Dad’s butt already graduated,” I said.  (Side note: I have boys.  Butt jokes and fart jokes are imperative ways to get everyone’s attention.  It works.  Ask any mom of boys.)

“I don’t think these parties are necessary,” stated The Captain, or, Captain Obvious because it was obvious how he felt about the matter.

“It is a nice motivator for the kids, don’t you think?” I said.  I am the awesome peacemaker/cheerleader/glass half full/uber positive one in the family.

“I don’t think they should be rewarded.  I hate bribes,”  said The Captain.

“Dad, if I do well on the tests, will you get me an XBox 360?” String Bean asks.

I looked over at The Captain.  His ears turned red, a vein pulsated on his neck and he is in a low growl.  The car teetered on silence that seems to stretch on for miles.  No one breathes.  The air is frozen. All are awaiting the response that is surely going to include the word “no” in it.

“Maybe. Well, yes,” he finally said.

What the heck?!

“Yes, I will get you an Xbox 360 if you do well on the tests,” he stated.

I almost steered off of the road.

“Do you realize how expensive those things are?” I quietly asked him.

“No. Fifty bucks or something?” he asked.

“Uh, try two fifty, dude,” I said.  “Plus, we have a Wii already. We really don’t need one.”

Meanwhile, the back seat of the car is all abuzz with the amazing news.  I heard snippets about how awesome Dad was, and the games they were going to get, and how much they needed to get it with two controllers, and that they needed Kinect so even Mom can play games like Just Dance.

The Captain looked pained.

“A deals a deal, dude,” I said to him as we pulled into our destination.

The tests were taken. May ended.  Summer began with the anxiety of when THE RESULTS would come.

It took a while.

Finally, in late July, it arrived.  Believe me when I say that there were many heartbreaking trips to the mailbox – back and forth, back and forth – from May until then.  What happens when kids have time to kill in the summer?  Stalk the mail lady, of course!

On the day of THE LETTER’s miraculous arrival, String Bean grabbed it and raced up the driveway to have me open it on the spot.  To this day I am still unsure of how he knew it was THE LETTER.  All the envelope said was the district name (which is also where The Captain teaches – that letter could’ve been anything.) But it was certainly the one the dudes had been waiting for.

I opened it in a truly dramatic fashion, slowly and meticulously peeling it out of the envelope.  It was “the one.”

The results were there in black and white. String Bean did fine on the tests.  The Captain had to get an XBox 360.

A happy dude!

To give is human, to bribe (only this one time, I promise) was divine.

So excuse me while I go and play Just Dance.  After all, the dudes insisted on it.  So sweet of them!