Top 10 signs school is about to end

Top 10 signs you know the school year is ending:

10. School busses start carrying salve on board for the third degree burns resulting from vinyl seats reaching 37,000 ℃ by 7 am.

9. Too short to be considered “crayons,” you now have a box of wax finger paints. All in Burnt Sienna color.

8. Notes from the teacher are now scrawled on the back of Expedia and Priceline search results printouts.

7. Entrees on the hot lunch menu include candy from the leftovers in the teacher’s lounge and the “You’ll get it back in June” drawer.

6. The only matching pair of socks in the entire fourth grade is between your daughter and the kid who slept over last weekend.

5. Backpacks have deteriorated into back-of-knee packs.

4. The amount of times you hit the snooze button has grown exponentially throughout the year; you now only awake to the alarm of your own sobs when you realize you have to return to school after Memorial Day weekend.

3. Because of #4, your kids have a laminated tardy slip.

2. Car line has become merely a suggestion.

And the number one sign that school is almost out?

Commercials start alternating between Sylvan Learning Centers, Back to School sales and top shelf vodka.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Graduation Wreaths

I’m usually not this crafty, but for our recent big dual graduation party, I wasn’t all that impressed with the generic “Congrats Grad!” balloons and paper cutouts.

Enter the wonder of the Internet.

I watched this Youtube video, and made a couple in each of my boys’ school colors and then personalized them with their initials, pictures, and extra touches to make it look like I overpaid for them on Etsy.

Permission granted to use this for graduation, birthdays, or anytime you need some fun.

Personalize them for your own event.
Personalize them for your own event.

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©2014 Tracey Henry

Happy Mother’s Day. For real.

My discomfort for Mother’s Day is well-documented. Over the years, I’ve explained that since my own mom passed away 13 years ago, ownership of this day has not been possible for me. This has eased slightly in recent years, or at the very least, worn the edges of the day down enough so that pain isn’t as sharp as it used to be, but it still remained one of my least favorite days.

This year, I thought it could be approached differently. When I realized that our oldest son’s high school graduation was scheduled for the same day, I thought, good, it will shift the focus to this bigger milestone.

Which it did.

Startlingly, suddenly, with a huge lump in my throat, here was the day my little boy grew up.

I know this is the moment that we parents work so hard for. We want nothing more than to watch our child on a graduation stage, cap and gown clad marching toward their bright future. The recognition of this incredible occasion is important and I did in fact graduate from high school and college, so I’m not sure why this epiphany is falling out on the keyboard in such a tangled incoherent mess, but I’d be lying if I denied that beneath the joy, there is grief. Not a wringing of the hands doubting yourself grief, or even the hapless wishing to turn the clock back grief, but one of the quiet knowledge that you’re going to miss something that has been so beautiful in your life every day for the last 18 years.

And that you’re also missing that other beautiful someone who felt this way about you on graduation day so many years ago.

Over the years, I’ve begged for her haunting. I’ve waited for her signs. I know they are there, but perhaps because I’m watching so insistently, I think I often miss them. That whole watched pot thing, I suppose.

But I know she will be there on Sunday. For me, and for him. Because she wouldn’t have missed this in life, I know she wouldn’t miss it now. It’s almost sacrilege to even doubt her presence there.

And when I realized that she would be there then, something else finally came into focus. She was there on his first day of Kindergarten, his hockey games, our vacations, and every day in between. She is in his face, Matty’s laugh, Amy’s eyes and Jessie’s spirit. She is in my mirror. She boils that pot over every night at dinner.

And so I think after all of this time, after all of the homemade cards and flower pots received with white knuckles, I can at long last welcome Mother’s Day.

The one the calendar says is Sunday, and the all of the real ones in between.

See you Sunday, Mom. I’ll be the one smiling looking up into the trees.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Public Health Alert–Senioritis

As two of my children approach graduations—one 8th grader leaving middle school and one high school senior about to enter college—I can attest to the very real, very serious condition of Senioritis.

The first symptom is a noticeable lack of interest and energy. Unfortunately, this isn’t limited to the expected school-related assignments, but with most normal human activities. In fact, it may appear that the only thing your child will graduate from is higher levels of apathy.

Victims of Senioritis may appear to have some yellowing of the eyes. You may suspect jaundice, but don’t worry, it’s just that they’ve used up all of their bathroom hall passes weeks ago.

You may also notice a severe and rapid decline in cognitive skills. While it could be attributed to long and late studying for final exams, unfortunately the only math your student is doing is the computation of how many days, hours and minutes are left in the school year and how many cubic yards of garbage will come home from their lockers.

Difficulties with hearing may also result. You can ask them what time the athletic banquet is or when they get their yearbooks and they simply stare at you as if the words were spoken in Spanish—a language they just spent the last decade studying in school so even then it shouldn’t be that incomprehensible—but nonetheless they will mumble they think their teacher said something about that last week, but lately her words are coming out all muffled and monotone, to which you’ll laugh and say, “Like Charlie Brown’s teacher?” and they’ll say, “Who’s that?” which you’ll then wonder what you just wasted the last 12 years educating them on when they can’t recognize a simple pop culture reference but then it will make sense why every time you’ve called them “Pigpen,” in the past it never seemed to register and then you’ll really start feeling guilty that you’ve raised a mess maker who will never win Jeopardy! and then you won’t hear anything either above your heaving sobs of failure.

Nausea can also occur. While it can be due to anxiety or excitement, the more likely culprit is they’ve resorted to eating the old snacks at the bottom of their backpacks.

Other psychological disorders and behaviors are common. Like spending hundreds of dollars on Prom night food, flowers, clothes and cars to spend exactly 12 minutes at the actual dance. The obsessive compulsive use of car window paint and Sharpies. Amnesia regarding uniform and attendance policies.

Be advised that Senioritis is not limited to graduating students. It is very common among parents of said pupils. They can be easily identified as the babbling adults standing helplessly in school offices with open checkbooks. Pale, with elevated blood pressures and profuse sweating issues, they are usually chanting from the fetal position in the corner, “Are you sure you turned that in?” or “But the Evite said 7:00, not six.”

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Senioritis. The condition seems to be exacerbated by long banquets, presentations and ceremonies where its contagion level is at its highest. The only treatments currently are radical and random in their efficacy. For student patients, hours spent with other sufferers, laughter poring over yearbooks, new country music, Doritos and long summer days seem to bring relief.

For afflicted parents, it is not so simple. Common methods are lame and last-minute attempts at scrapbooking, wine coolers, old country music and sappy reminiscing. Unfortunately, these are mere placebos, and those exhausted parents of seniors rarely take their medicine as directed, and all end up hoping for reinfection.

Because it’s the one disease that you beg for recurrence if it means your kid can be quarantined at home just a little while longer.

Good luck boys, you’ve us proud every day.

©2014 Tracey Henry

The 9 nonsensical lessons I learned at DisneySMMoms and 1 important one

Last week I was lucky enough to have been invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. I attended with a friend and my two daughters, and it is truly an experience I will never forget.

I had a wonderful time, met amazing people and learned a lot. To summarize a trip of this size and scope is almost a disservice, so I have attempted to compile the top 10 lessons I learned.

1.) Remember to bring the Fit Bit next trip. The massive step count will justify another Dole Whip.

2.) Never trash-talk a 7 year-old about who is going to puke first on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. There are no winners in that game.

3.) Buzzfeed needs to issue a quiz on “What kind of Ride Line Person are you?” Answers will range from Personal-Space-Ignorer to Huge-Gap-Leaver. I will probably score, Why Yes, I am the Line Police, since both of the previous profiles seem to haunt me at every attraction.

4.) Finding Hidden Mickeys does not constitute make-up homework in Geometry. (But it should.)

5.) Those huge mylar balloons that they sell on Main Street will out-last the stand-by line at Peter Pan, a week’s hotel stay, hundreds of miles stuffed in a trunk, several seasons of “Good Luck, Charlie,” a forwarded power-point slideshow entitled, “FW: FWD: RE: FWD: YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS KID!” from your grandmother and an Oscar acceptance speech.

6.) No one who hasn’t had their face on a jar of Smucker’s with Willard Scott on the Today Show knows who Mr. Toad is but everyone agrees his ride is little more disturbing than wild.

7.) Even though you may feel the same effects the next morning, “park-hopping” and “bar-hopping” are not interchangeable activities.

8.) Restraining orders signed with big overstuffed costume gloves are still legally valid. (Sorry again, Hercules.)

9.) Turn on the flash for selfies on Space Mountain.

10.) Just because parenthood can be serious business, childhood isn’t. There is this modern tendency for us to be so wrapped up in the responsibilities, expectations and journey of motherhood, that we can easily overlook the happy fact that a childhood is occurring in tandem.

Don’t miss it.

We can’t go to Disneyland everyday, but magic can be a daily event. Find it. Point it out. Laugh with it. Create, make, build, feed, read, appreciate, praise, worship, sing, breathe, adore, photograph, grow, enjoy, write, cry, memorize and wonder at it.

Share it.

The memories will last even longer than that mylar balloon.

The best hosts ever.
The best hosts ever.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Your Conference Packing List

I’m about to embark upon a really wonderful trip. Disney has once again pulled their magic strings and I find myself invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. This year, it is in Anaheim at Disneyland, so I am completely out of my element.

Pair this with the fact that the other women coming are all very organized, helpful, professional bloggers who have made businesses giving lifestyle tips. My contribution to the blogosphere is passive aggressive cookie selling and the worst cost-analysis ever of Thanksgiving Dinner. I provide the before content to their after.

And as I read their posts and see their pictures as they prepare for this trip, I realize how grossly unprepared I am for this, and really, most things. Most of the women have really lofty goals that I should probably emulate, but mine is simply to avoid public humiliation and arrest.

So in the spirit of earning my place, I present my—totally inadequate but realistic for me— packing list. I hope it helps. Someone.

1.) Clothes. In some form and combination. I have no idea what’s in your closet, and you have no idea what’s balled up in the corner of mine, so there you go.

2.) Camera. But I’ll forget to charge the battery and the SD card will be full, so I’ll pack an extra $80 to buy new ones at the airport gift shop.

3.) Some stock catch tech phrases. So when people start talking about things that I don’t understand, I can just drop some random sentence about who’s behind Bitcoin in a fake accent and then we’ll laugh and laugh.

4.) Corkscrew. Because when the Bitcoin bit fails miserably, I’ll have something to cuddle up to back in the room.

5.) Eyeliner. First see #4, then I can write notes with it because I will have lost all pens to character autograph sessions and restraining orders.

6.) Chargers. I will actually remember to take these, but because there’s no repacking list, I will leave them all plugged into desk outlets at the hotel as I leave.

7.) Scissors. Because let’s face it, I’ll forget the rain ponchos and even the large trash bags people use in a pinch, so I’ll end up cutting holes the small draw string laundry bags in the hotel closet. You’ll know it’s me because I’ll be wearing the plastic vest with the upside “Marriott” across the front and the shower cap from the bathroom.

8.) Photoshopped images on my phone of really awesome and clever things I didn’t make but pretend to blog about.

9.) Phone number for a really good copyright infringement attorney when one of the other attendees recognizes that I’m taking credit for her hand-forged Mickey pickle fork set as my own.

10.) My children’s Birth Certificates. Documented proof they’re mine since no one ever believes I’m legally allowed to care for other human beings let alone cross state lines unsupervised.

Now after I Instagram my shampoo and file off my fingerprints, I’m ready to go.

See ya real soon!

©2014 Tracey Henry

If you want to celebrate with me with a chance to win a $50 gift card from Kohl’s, see this post.

A few words on #DisneySMMoms

I’ve been to Disney so many times, I park in SubDiva 53.

I’ve been to Disney so many times, A Small World is sick of my theme song.

I’ve been to Disney so many times, my Fast Passes used to read, “You again?”

I’ve been to Disney so many times NASA has mistaken me for a moon orbiting the Epcot ball.

And in two weeks, I’m going again.

For 11 years we lived an hour’s drive from the park in Florida. Our kids were little, then big, but it was a place that grew with our family. Anyone who came to visit us wanted to go there. If a friend or relative went to Disney World on vacation, we’d meet them there for the day.

And then there were the media visits. I was so very fortunate to be able to write for the Tampa Times and attend many events and blog about them. I was so lucky to be a part of the very first Social Media Moms Conference in which there were just 16 of us who represented a small slice of the blogosphere—both Mommy and non-mommy—I still watch those women in awe at where their careers and lives have gone from there.

And the extremely complex, deep psychological reason why we keep going back? Because it’s fun.

This year I was just as thrilled to get an invitation the Disney SM Moms Conference next month. It will be held in at DisneyLand in California—a place I once visited over 30 years ago on a family vacation. I can provide no frame of reference, no helpful tips, no sarcastic lead-ins because it will be completely new to me.

And that’s okay.

In fact, it’s pretty awesome.

As parents, we are natural planners. Particularly when it comes to travel, we need things mapped out exactly so that we can pack and make appropriate arrangements for all the little and big people we are responsible for. We want to know what to bring, when we eat, what to wear, what we’re doing and who is going to be there. There are reservations to make, suitcases to be filled, magic to create. I get it.

But if anyone is searching for counsel on how to approach this trip, my advice is simple: with utter abandon. Suspend your natural tendencies to plan every aspect, and allow the many talented people who put this entire amazing, one-of-a-kind experience to handle the details. They are gifted in the art of surprises, and it’s a time like no other. If you’re bringing your kids, show them the beauty of spontaneity. Be bewildered together. I guarantee you will learn more, laugh more, and engage more with amazing women doing amazing things.

No matter if it’s your first time or your address is on the parade route, engage in the joy. The only thing you really need to bring is an open mind.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Worst. Game. Ever.

Sometimes my husband and I play this game where we try to up the ante on torturing ourselves and our family.

The rules are simple: we take a very innocuous activity, then we each add a detail to complicate and add another layer of anguish.

Our most recent round? Spring Break.

Me: Let’s take the kids to Disney World.

Him: Sounds good…

Me: But let’s drive instead of fly.

Him: I’ll see you a 14 hour drive and raise you by leaving at 11 pm and driving all night.

Me: Nice. I’ll see your all-nighter and raise you open beverages and melted chocolate all over the back seat.

Once we arrive…

Me: We have only one day of bad weather this whole week. Let’s go to a park.

Him: Done. I will leave all of the rain ponchos in the car in the parking lot.

Me: Perfect. I’ll make sure the girls wear brand new flip-flops that give them blisters.

Him: Good idea. I’ll make dining reservations at the fanciest restaurant I can find so we will be soaking wet and miserable when we finally eat at a ridiculous time of day.

Me: Be sure to request the air conditioning be pumped up so we all leave feeling the beginnings of a cold that we can fight off for the rest of the week.

Back at the hotel heading to the pool…

Me: Forget the sunscreen!

Speaking of hotels…

Him: I’ve planned out the dates so that we basically have to stay in two different hotels due to availability.

Me: Good plan. I’ve added 3 more excursions, so you’ll need to triple the accommodations.

Him: Awesome. I was just thinking how easy and unencumbered it is to pack, unpack and repack six people and all of our gear multiple nights.

Me: Well, at least there’s free breakfast!

Him: Make sure to get extra helpings of the poorly refrigerated yogurt and undercooked sausage patties.

The beauty of the game is that multiple people can play! My daughter takes her turn at 3:00 in the morning.

Daughter: Mom, I think I ate too much free breakfast. I just threw up all over the room.

Me: Is it called “Continental” because you’ve just projectile vomited far enough to reach Europe?

Him: Well, at least it happened in the middle of the night when there’s plenty of staff on duty to help.

After 2 hours of cleaning up with towels and individual size shampoo diluted in an ice bucket…

Me: So, how do we know when this game ends and who won?

Him: I don’t consider it over until we get asked to leave or lose a security deposit.

Me: The housekeeping staff should be here in a couple of hours so I think that’s game and set.

Him: Ah yes, but we still have 500 miles and three days left to this Spring Break.

Me: Which leaves opportunities for a couple more HoJo’s and a petting zoo!

Him: If I call my mother from the car on speaker phone in a particularly bad reception area, I think that’s match!

©2014 Tracey Henry

Hockey and Heart

Many of you know me from my somewhat obsessive hockey tweets over on Twitter.(@Subdiva) If that is the case, then you probably know that last Monday evening while many of us were watching the Preds game, a very scary situation was happening over in Dallas when Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench from a cardiac condition.

In an eerie coincidence, this same day was the anniversary of our son’s first cardiac procedure four years ago.

Now I’m not a doctor, and I don’t know any more about Peverley’s condition than what has already been reported so I have no idea if the diagnosis is the same as our son’s, but it does have similarities in that they both suffered from an arrhythmia and both had to be ablated to correct it more than once.

Our son was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, an electrical anomaly of the heart that was asymptomatic until he was 14 years old. One day, he complained of his heart racing suddenly at rest which we all thought would end up to be nothing since he was in no pain, and the episodes were short and infrequent. But after weeks of testing with EKG’s, Echocardiograms, and a heart monitor, we were all shocked to learn that he had a silent ticking time bomb in his chest that required a 5-6 hour cardiac procedure to save his life.

My point in re-telling this story now is a reminder that our children will suffer from sniffles and stomachaches, but then there are other things that we as parents need to investigate further. When something feels “off,” it may be easy to dismiss first, but you and your child should always keep an honest conversation open about what signs their bodies are trying to tell them.

Our son’s second surgery was three days before we moved to Nashville, and I am happy to report that he is healthy and cleared for all activities.

Especially hockey.

©2014 Tracey Henry

How to lose weight, your mind and all close relationships

My husband and I just went through the most grueling, painful and literally fruitless experiment of our entire marriage: a no-carb diet.

Me: (Serving up a whole chicken on his plate.) I’ve made meat for dinner. Again.

Him: (Turning up his nose.) Darn. I had meat with a side of meat for lunch.

Me: Sounds eerily familiar to my breakfast.

Him: (Looking over all of the different animal proteins on his plate.) When do we get to eat something from a different aisle in the grocery store?

Me: This no carb phase is supposed to last 2 weeks, then you can start introducing fruit and nuts back into your diet.

Him: I might die of scurvy before then. I feel my teeth rotting at this very moment.

Me: Oh, I brush my teeth 10 times a day just so I can taste a little mint from the Colgate.

Him: (Sheepishly.) I’ve taken to stealing the kids’ Flintstone chewable vitamins to feel like I’m eating a fruit cup.

Me: Don’t ask why all the woodwork in the house is extra lemony-fresh. Or my tongue. Bon appetit!

Him: You mean non appetit. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love a steak as much as the next guy, but it’d be nice to pair it with a potato instead of a hamburger.

Me: You’re forgetting all of those eggs you get to eat.

Him: (Mumbling.) My colon hasn’t forgotten….

Me: What was that, dear? I can’t hear you over my stomach grumbling.

Him: That’s the other problem—I’m hungry all of the time. I just can’t get full anymore. No sugar, no dairy, no fruit, no grains…I feel like a hyena except I’m not laughing.

Me: (Gnawing on a rib bone.) I know, I can’t help but wonder if my appendix is regenerating.

Him: Tell me again how this is supposed to be healthy?

Me: (Heaving sigh.) I’m not even sure anymore. The doctor who came up with this is dead.

Him: Of starvation or rickets?

Me: Probably murdered from someone like me who just wanted a damn piece of Wonder Bread.

(Finishing our plates but still ravenously hungry.)

Him: What’s for dessert?

Me: Tuna fish.

Him: (Completely defeated. And hungry.) Can you at last scoop it into a cone and put a cherry on top?

Me: Of course I can. (Opening the pungent can.) Just as soon as we reach Phase 2….

©2014 Tracey Henry