Sunday, July 18, 2010

There's Always Room for Baseball...And More Star Wars

Since I am employed by a university, people always assume I have summers off. It really could not be farther from the truth. We close our buildings to regular students, bill them massive amounts of damages, fix everything, open our halls for summer conferences, bill those kids massive amounts of damages, fix everything again, train our new staff, and then open the halls for regular students again. We also do 2 hour tours each day for incoming freshmen and speak to parents at Orientation for 16 sessions.

But, the most time consuming part of all is training. In mid July we begin training our new professional staff (these are the Hall Directors that I directly supervise). After two weeks, we bring in our 22 graduate assistants and do week-long training for them. After that, we bring in our student staff (157 RAs) and train them for two weeks. Then, we have Opening Weekend when we physically move all 7500 students into the halls. Then, we deal with all the issues of the first two weeks of school: roommate conflicts, parent separation anxiety, sorority and fraternity recruitment, first time experiments with alcohol that go awry, etc. Basically, I am not allowed a day off from July 12th to September 1st. There is simply too much to do. Including most weekends. Luckily, I adore my job and know that while this is the busiest time of year, it is also the most exciting and fun.

Before I had a husband and son, training season was busy but not overwhelming. Now, it is all I can do to keep my head above water to balance both work and home. So, this year I have taken a new approach. My work will get done, my presentations (I have 21 of them coming up - no joke) will be prepared, and my emails will be returned. I can stay late a few nights in the office, but I also need to come home on time a few nights. I can't forget about the family to do the job. And vice versa. Similarly, I need to remember me in this crazy time. Case in point: the hall directors had a social event last week - a trip to see the Smokies play the Chattanooga Lookouts. Perfect. I could go and bond with our new professional staff members, I could take my boys to have family time, and I could enjoy a nice baseball game. Fun!

Buddy with our hall directors:Jess and Richie:Bud with Brandon and Sam. It really is nice how patient and polite they all are with my monster child.Jeremy said "bubbles" and when he says something we do it (encouragement to speak more), so we blew bubbles at the game. It about started a riot with a billion kids running to us yelling "Bubbles!!" Apparently it was more exciting than the game.Jeremy keeping score for the first time. *Proud Mommy*Bud hanging out at the bullpen, offering seasoned advice.Jeremy remains obsessed with Star Wars (Empire is playing as I type), so I have embraced this as a fun bonding activity. I have taught him how to use a flashlight as a lightsaber, and we made and framed some artwork that look like galaxies and laser gun blasts. I won't have as much time at home in the coming weeks, but the time I have needs to count.

Lightsaber skills:This is how Jeremy watches Star Wars. He jumps, runs, kicks, flails, exclaims, etc. This is him during the scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke is balancing on his hands with Yoda on his foot in the air. Who says watching TV is a sedentary activity?Star Wars-inspired art work (our house has very sophisticated decorations):Things will get busier before they get better, but I am confident I can handle it all with a good attitude - and that is more than half the battle. This week I am having my hall directors over for dinner at the house, I am taking the boys to my boss's house for our annual Christmas in July tradition with the staff, and in early August, Cheri and my lovely parents will be coming to help us out during the ultimate crazy time - move-in week - which just so happens to be the week Jeremy's school is closed for teacher conferences, go figure. So, thanks to everyone who will be helping us out for the next month, we love you!! XOXO, Buddy and Mommy

Thursday, July 8, 2010

May The Force Be With You...Pretty Please?

For everyone of my generation and the one before me, the moment we all first saw Star Wars was a huge life-changing milestone. I am a girl, but you better believe I loved those movies with a passion. Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of Cheri, Joey, and I playing Star Wars in our garage or front yard. Cheri always got to be Leia, Joey was Darth Vader and always ended our scenes trapped in a cardboard box, and I was forced to be Luke. Luke, not even Han. Even back then I knew I got the short end of the stick. Oh well. Anyway, I always knew that Jeremy's first Star Wars viewing needed to be an Event. The series could not be unveiled in a lackluster or casual manner. It had to be special, and Jeremy had to be old enough to appreciate the significance of the moment. [Incredibly important disclaimer: when referring to the Star Wars series, the original three films are the only ones in existence in our house. We choose to intentionally and unequivocally ignore the so-called prequels that almost ruined the franchise.]

Well, this week apparently saw Jeremy grow from baby to kid. I decided it was time for this most revered rite of childhood passage, and Star Wars was unleashed in its full glory. I was nervous, Jeremy had just gotten home from school and he already had Thomas and James in his hands and one foot on the stairs headed to the "Island of Sodor" in his room. Then I heard that unmistakable opening theme song. His little feet stopped, his little head turned, his little hands froze with the trains held midair, and his little eyes started to dance.It was pretty immediate. Sodor was forgotten for Alderon, and Thomas was usurped by R2D2. Constant were his little cries of "boom" and "zoom" as blasters were deployed and space ships made the jump to hyper speed. From the capture of Princess Leia to the triumphant return of the Millennium Falcon two hours later, Jeremy was transfixed. He barely moved from his spot in front of the TV (other than the dinner break). I am not sure why this is a huge relief for me. I guess the thought that my only child would not like Star Wars was such a horrifying one that I couldn't bear it. Like if he didn't like baseball or books. But, that is just crazy talk, who doesn't like Star Wars, baseball, and books?But, it got me thinking: are there things that you always wished for your children to enjoy? I secretly have a need to play dress up in spinny dresses with my hypothetical daughter, just as I need my son to throw a curve ball. What is your hobby or interest of choice to pass down (or to have passed down) to your kids?? And why is it so important to impart these experiences to them? I know Jeremy will have a completely different childhood than I did, but I can't stop myself from injecting little bits of my past into his future. Hmm, deep questions, if only Obi Wan were here to whisper wisdom in my ear with his sexy disembodied voice...May the Force be with you, always.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sticky and Sweet

At different times today, Jeremy's hands and face were covered in watermelon juice, sand, chocolate, sweat, markers, syrup, re-fried beans, and finally, soap. That, my friends, is the sign of a good day.

We woke up this morning after a great weekend in Nashville, ready to tackle the day and its many projects. After rubbing the sleep out of our eyes with a dose of Super Why on PBS, we made our list of tasks.First up, Speech Therapy with Jennifer at 7:45am. Jeremy did a great job, though he threw in a few of his patented avoidance techniques just to keep us on our toes. After speech, I made pancakes and eggs for breakfast. Yum. Jeremy put away 3 full sized pancakes. In like 4.5 seconds. It was both hilarious and disturbing. Good thing I didn't make bacon. He may have had a heart attack at 2 years old.

We also set up Jeremy's new sandbox. His old teacher, Jill, moved to Pennsylvania, so she gave us her daughter's sandbox since she knew how much Jeremy loved playing in the one at school. Jeremy loves his new play area! Dump trucks, bulldozers, and cement mixers all in a pile of sand - absolute heaven!I spent several hours cleaning out our sorry excuse for a downstairs closet in order to set up a craft storage area for Jeremy (read: me). I did not take a 'before' picture because I was just too embarrassed. Imagine a closet with just piles of junk in it. No cabinet, no nothing, just piles of junk. Now, it is nice and organized for crafts and photo albums. Jeremy can now get his own supplies when he wants to color or use his stickers. Fun! (it was hard to take a picture since it is in a narrow hallway, plus it is like 2 feet by 1 foot).After lunch, we cut up a juicy watermelon, then went to the grocery store. Going shopping has become one of Jeremy's favorite pastimes. He is great in the store, and loves to help by placing the items in the basket for you. I always get compliments from people, which is nice since every other place we go he is a monster. I bought him some M&Ms since he was so good at the store, and he ripped them open in the car and got the colors all over his hot little hands. I wanted to be mad that he made a mess, but it was too cute.Anyway, our day ended with a taco bar Jeremy and I made for dinner and a nice long bath with lots of soap and shampoo. 30 minutes of reading Thomas the Tank Engine, The Cat in the Hat, and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back later, my exhausted little man finally laid down. Naturally, he snuck out of his room three times after that, but he did indeed finally fall asleep.

I am now sitting in the living room watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It is nice and relaxing, and I am struck with how content I am with life at the moment. I have a long list of things I want one day: a house, a better paying job, more kids, nice clothes, etc. BUT, at this moment, I am so happy to have exactly what I have: Jeremy, watermelon, pancakes, Dr. Seuss, markers, stickers, dump trucks, and a little soap to clean it all up and start fresh again tomorrow. God Bless America.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Our family is going through some transitions and milestones lately, and I realized I have not given an official update in a while. Jeremy is still doing Speech Therapy three times a week and seeing his Early Interventionist once a week. We decided with our case manager and therapy team to cut the Occupational Therapy since we really don't see him having any motor skill issues other than with his mouth. He is doing really well right now - he can cut with scissors, glue things by himself, and...wait for it...HE CAN SAY THE ALPHABET!!! That's right. My apraxic son can recognize all of the letters of the alphabet and say them in turn. Some of them he says the letter name and others he says the letter sound, but he knows them all (he actually has known them for a while) and can say something recognizable for all of them. No, he does not clearly say them, but it IS discernible, which for Jeremy is really great. I am so proud!!! I tried to get it on video, but he kept getting too interested in the video camera to focus on the letters. I will keep trying!

Jeremy has also has transitioned to a new pre-school this week. Since the Sutherland Village complex is closing, the UT Early Learning Center had to relocate and move the kids around a bit (gee, what's up UT Housing? I wonder who is closing down the complex and causing all these kids and families to move??). Jeremy will now be at the UT Early Learning Center on Lake Avenue, which is three blocks from my office on campus and he is in the same class as his BFF William! Here is a picture of Jeremy and me on his last day at his first ever school. We are posing by his cubby right before we cleaned it out - I was very sad. I mean, come on, it was his first cubby! I seriously almost cried.
The same day, he helped me and the Sutherland Village staff close the complex. Luckily, we did not have to legally evict anyone, and I have now closed my first major apartment complex. Hopefully I won't close anymore or I will be out of a job. We no longer offer family or graduate housing at UT - it really is the end of an era. Here is Jeremy helping out at the SV desk. He and Mr. Moo enjoy filing vacate notices for us.Here is my Sutherland Village staff at 10pm the night we closed, after we finally got the last tenant out. Moments later we locked the doors of Sutherland Village for the last time after over 50 years of operation.And now an update on my health: my arthritis continues to rapidly progress (I am an overachiever), so my hands are perpetually puffy and gross. Every morning, I wake up to stiff knees and ankles and swollen hands that will not make a fist. I have also contracted carpal tunnel in both my wrists due to my swelling. Unfortunately, my rheumatologist caught a glimpse of my ring finger and immediately wrote me a prescription for more steroids and strictly forbade me from wearing my wedding rings anymore. I had to take a big dose of prednisone and managed to get my rings off after 4 days of trying. I am now wearing them around my neck and my finger is all gross and red with weird indentions. Apparently, I need to get them re-sized if I plan on ever wearing them again. I hate taking steroids, but it has been nice to deflate a bit and remember that I am not as fat as I seem - it is just arthritis puff. Gross. So, I now wear my rings around my neck and closer to my heart.

Other than that, things are moving along smoothly. I am gearing up for the fall semester preparing for training our staff and speaking with parents at orientation. Our new Executive Director has arrived, so I anticipate some exciting changes at work in the coming months. Jeremy likes his new school, classmates, and teachers. We are doing pretty well overall! I hope everyone heads into the holiday weekend in similar states of health and happiness!