I’m in rare form

Author: natalie  //  Category: It's all about me

I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath to hear of my kids-are-back-in-school adventures in holding down the couch. And I’d be glad to tell you all about it, but my brain is caught in a continuous loop of regurgitating my name, address, phone number, relationship to my children, and emergency contact information.

For good measure I’ll throw in what I had for my last meal; that’s about the only thing I haven’t been asked by the schools to divulge. Of course I speak in jest.

For those of you who are years removed and have forgotten: allow me to remind you of all the forms that must be filled out at the start of each school year. I’d even wager that if you have been removed for some time, the paper has increased by at least double. Bureaucracy is not a beautiful thing.

I’m considering the launch of major reform in this area as I believe each piece of paper should be uniform, allowing me to have a stamp made whereby a single movement would replicate all the particulars that have remained constant since my children entered school over a decade ago.

I want to scream from my rooftop, NOTHING HAS CHANGED!

I know that’s probably odd in this day and age and definitely boring (it’s exciting being me), but seriously . . .  I know there is someone, sitting somewhere with a horned head, wearing a red body suit and holding a pitchfork, thinking up a new form where I can be asked for my specifics yet one more time  . . . in my personal handwriting.  With all the technology available . . . really?

With each piece of paper I watch my somewhat beautiful longhand degenerate to the point of where it appears I need to go back to second grade. I can’t help it. I try to complete everything legibly, it’s just that my brain goes on auto-drive, my mind wanders to something far less tedious, and before I know it I’m rambling incoherently via ink pen. And you thought I only did it here.

I’ve often wondered what the point even is in offering up the various phone numbers requested, “should they not be able to reach me” at the first one.

I can recall every occasion I was ever contacted at home by any of the schools, and few times did someone have to use the second line of defense: my cell number.

You see, school nurses and some teachers have this special radar that is highly tuned to my personal whereabouts. I only receive phone calls needing my immediate attention in two scenarios: 1) while showering; 2) on the rare occasion I leave the greater metropolis of the Baytown area during school hours.

The first scenario is the most popular and I’ve usually just lathered up my hair with an ample dollop of shampoo.  I gave up on the slippery dash to the phone and now the landline’s cordless device and cell phone remain perched in an area of special reverence as I attend to my hygiene.

The second: I may leave town twice in an entire school year—take a day and enjoy some shopping and dining in a different locale. Never fails.  Those are always the days my otherwise healthy cherubs fall to some unknown malady.

Oh well. I suppose they can call me any time. And when I answer, I’ll dutifully recite my name, rank and serial number . . . just don’t make me write it one more time, please.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Back to school is cool

Author: natalie  //  Category: Life with children

When the human body becomes overheated, or maybe it’s half-baked, things go haywire.

Bad timing like no other, my home’s air conditioner chose this past week with its 100-degree temps to have issues. In a heat-induced hallucination I began dreaming of an ice cold “Winter Wonderland” devoid of heat and bickering teens.  In that snow white pleasant state of delirium I heard bells. School bells.

Then I found myself humming Felix Bernard’s famous winter melody and taking liberties with the lyrics Richard Smith added to it. I’m certain they won’t mind the ramblings of a deranged woman.

 Open your freezer door, stand in the crisp coolness bellowing out, and sing along in celebration for what is truly the most wonderful time of year:

                School bells ring, are you listening

                In the lane, Mom’s smile’s a glistening

                A beautiful sight,

                We’re happy all right.

                Kids are back to school throughout the land.


Gone away, is the summer,

Here to stay, homework’s a bummer

It brings smarts along

To even the headstrong,

Kids are back to school throughout the land.


In the classroom they can’t visit sandman,

And someone will be acting the class clown 


He’ll say: Are you buried?

They’ll say: YES, man,

‘Cause who can do a job

When they’re this down?


Later on, they’ll aspire,

As they scheme with some ire

To launch a tirade,

Over assignments displayed,

Kids are back to school throughout the land.


At the schoolhouse they will now spend their days,

And complain it’s really quite a bore

I don’t care the complaints leave me unfazed;

I did my time, now you must do your chore.


When school starts, ain’t it thrilling?

‘Cause young minds get a filling

They’ll whine and they’ll cry,

For summer’s gone by,

Kids are back to school; life is grand!


Ah! Back to school is so refreshingly cool.  The thermometer can explode tomorrow for all I care because life will be good, and more importantly: quiet. 

Summers with my children are special, but mostly because they’re fleeting. No way could we all handle so much together time year-round.

The last couple of weeks are always an extreme exercise in toleration. And to have the indoor climate control on the fritz when folks are already hot under the collar: not pretty.

But we made it through and fully recovered with the help of a skilled repairman and several hundred dollars.

We’re cool, calm and collected—ready to take on the new school year and jam-packed calendar.  And I can’t stop myself from singing: When school starts, ain’t it thrilling . . . 

Hope he hears me now

Author: natalie  //  Category: Life with children

While I was growing up my parents always lamented over some difficult task “taking an Act of Congress”.  As a grown-up, tax-paying voter watching the news and cringing, I get it.  Why must things that seem so commonsensical to us ordinary folks be so mired in a wormy-muck maze?

I experienced such duress trying to—of all the silly things to get miffed over—shut off a cell-phone line.  Previous attempts had proven fruitless even though the 18-year-old I-want-my-own-phone-plan-apart-from-mommy-and-daddy user of said line was readily handing over the early termination fee.   

With elevated and then subsequently-lowered blood pressure, I left my provider’s establishment telling yet a different child accompanying me to handle his own cell-phone issue, “Well, that took an Act of Congress!” 

And I should also make clear that it wasn’t a local in-store issue putting me through my paces, but rather a rude man sitting in some unknown super-secret location at the end of a “customer service” number. I tired of dealing with him and showed up where I could talk to another human face-to-face.

As if living with three teenagers isn’t trying enough, today’s technology adds a heaping, wriggling can of worms. And I’m not even talking about the venomous-snake mess that is troubling content potentially at a young person’s fingertips. No, I’m referring to just the basics: music, pictures, games, and their storage and retrieval.

When it comes to technology, there is a GIANT chasm between my children and me. It’s nothing personal, and we try not to let it affect otherwise loving relationships, but more often than I’d like to admit, there are things I simply can’t help with. Not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t know how.

So when a speaker went out on my middle child’s phone, making it impossible to hear the person calling, I knew exactly what to do: get another phone. But wait. Middle child had spent hundreds (of his own hard-earned money) on music and games. Those purchases and copies to be downloaded to a new phone were available . . . somewhere out in cyberspace.  Retrieving them proved to be a long, winding road.

 As you all know I’m profoundly techno-challenged and to the degree that I can, I’ll keep it that way. I’ve only mastered what was necessary for survival.  And believe me when I say I’m dragged kicking and screaming when survival ups the technological ante.

But back to being at my service provider’s brick-and-mortar: I was there because I needed help. (You’re right: Verizon Wireless cannot provide the help I really need. I’m almost ready to check myself into the nearest psych ward.) More importantly, my child needed help.

Laptop computer in hand, Momma Bear charged in to show the techies who had so carefully—just days before—given precise instructions on how to accomplish the retrieval mission that I apparently wasn’t doing it right. Error messages don’t lie.

Like a true saint, Verizon’s Senior Sales Rep Mr. Ronnie Chaidez patiently worked through the very same walls I was running into. (It was somewhat comforting to learn I was indeed following directions, but hitting an account snag that I didn’t have the proper national security clearances to override.) Only he didn’t stop at each one to bang his head, but rather knocked them down and made my and Jeremy’s world all better.

And even though I’m not savvy enough to grace Verizon’s 4G network from my own personal phone, I hope Mr. Ronnie Chaidez can here me now . . . THANK YOU!

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

It’s extremely uncool

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

Would one of you please turn off the oven! I’d do it myself, but I’ve half melted into a puddle. Try as I may, I can’t reach the knob.

While reflecting on what to share with you all this week, I opened the morning paper to the headline “ERCOT urges power restraint during peak hours” and I already heard on the news that rolling black-outs were a possibility. The power grids: “She can’t take much more of this, Captain!”  

Since I’m committed to the let’s-keep-us-all-cool-enough cause (note I didn’t say “cool”, but rather “cool enough” . . . there is a difference) I’m tapping out this week’s column with a stone tablet and chisel. I bet you had no idea my writing methods were so versatile.

I’ve taken some time over the past several months to scan a few articles on the extreme temps—both hot and cold—that we have “enjoyed” in these parts over the past months.  Most of it was very scientific, and I couldn’t bring myself to really care about the whys and whatfors, but rather looked for someone, anyone to tell me when we could expect to feel extremely normal again. 

Anyone else not like the answer, “No end in sight”? That’s unacceptable. Let’s all have a word with the man in charge.

And I get a kick out of the recommendations for weathering the heat. But I suppose when it gets to the point of reviewing said recommendations we’re talking basic survival versus luxurious comfort.

Straight from a governmental agency’s website: “Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home”.

 Have you noticed that some of our brethren extend that directive to the public domain? Normally I would be upset with them as most of us only remove so much clothing in polite company, but it’s been so darned hot that even wearing my birthday suit makes me sweat. So, I sort of understand and find myself extending sympathy.

And while I sit around my home, skeleton exposed because I’ve stripped down as far as I could go, I’ve been doing just as ERCOT has asked: conserving energy. I don’t do anything I don’t have to. I’m so good that I’ve added five additional pounds of reserve. I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

All non-essential electronic equipment is powered down, thermostat is set several degrees above my standard comfort zone (and the a/c still can’t keep up) and other household occupants have been advised to “use restraint” lest they want to cut off entirely.

In short: It’s a bit warm. Folks are running around nearly naked and fully agitated. Who could blame us?

It’s disconcerting to learn firsthand the feelings of a frankfurter encased in a convenience-store rotisserie. And I must speak to one of them and get some hydration tips. They always look so succulent. I feel beyond parched.

All this extreme heat and so little precipitation . . . it’s extremely uncool!

© 2011 Natalie Whatley