Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jenny Gardiner GuestBlog: Parrots, Kids And Other Albatrosses

CONTEST TODAY: One randomly chsn commenter wins a copy of "Sleeping w/Ward Cleaver" courtesy of Jenny!

From Michelle:
Whether or not you have kids, today Jenny Gardiner reminds us why the end of summer always brings mixed emotions -- and memories of that back-to-school daze we all go/went through. Jenny's a funny lady w/ a cheeky writing style, and her first rom com, "Sleeping w/Ward Cleaver" won rave reviews. Please welcome her w/your warmest "I've brought you an apple, Teech!" Bella buongiorno...

From Jenny: Ciao, Bellas--sending you Italian cheek-kisses from hazy, hot and humid Virginia! Grazie mille for letting me join you today. I think I'll have another cappuccino while I write this, in your honor!

Just as my languid, sleep-in-and-worry-about-responsibilities-later summer kicked into full-on school-year frenzy, my lovely editor sent me my edits for my upcoming memoir, “Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who’s Determined to Kill Me” (think Jen Lancaster meets “Marley and Me” with a deadly beak), with precisely one week in which to turn them in.

And so the week during which I should be focusing exclusively on my revisions, I have instead dealt with the following "It's School Again!" schedule (including a few additional challenges): help to pack/drive son back to college (a full day+); drive 15-y/o daughter to haircut, doctor, dentist & physical therapy (soccer injury) appointments, two soccer practices and a scrimmage; attend senior picture shoot for 17-y/o daughter (at her behest); devote much time to soothing same teary-eyed child whose boyfriend departed for college, far, far away; wrangle major last-minute overhaul of her school schedule (over which I am still being machine-gunned with complaining text messages from her as I write this); host empty-nester dinner party for all teary friends whose kids also left for college; drive to Pittsburgh and back in one day for funeral (13 hours in car); oh, and help my husband prepare to open a retail store next week, which I will be running, and still haven't staffed.

This schedule, besides nearly paralyzing me with things-to-do anxiety, has reminded me that I like summer. Wait, make that love summer. And I really enjoy having my kids home, without the pressing demands of the school year, though sometimes I welcome summer vacation with a little too much amnesiac-like zeal, only to wonder "What the hell was I thinking?!" Because come late July, when the kids are bored, the bickering ratchets up, the dirty dishes are piled eye-high on the counter, and the mere presence of the kids underfoot can become overbearing.

And then, well then, sure, I fantasize a bit about their return to school, knowing as I do that school was invented for a very good reason. But as I wish summer away, I’m dope-slapped into the truth: Fall brings with it managerial stresses that might not be quite worth the hassles. Give me a leisurely pool day with the kids any time over a crazy schedule that has me racing from 5:30 a.m. till 8:30 p.m. While there’s an element of needed regimentation and conversely some freedom that comes with kids returning to school, there is also an element of, um, the doo-doo hitting the fan.

So instead of actually cheering the kids' return to school, I will wave a fond farewell to carefree summertime, and look back wistfully on our days at the beach playing in the waves, or sprawled on the couch, reading books, or plugged into “Chopped” or “Ace of Cakes” on the Food Network.

Now, back to my edits.

So, how about you? How will you celebrate—our mourn—the start of school/end of summer?
***
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43 comments:

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Buon Giorno, Bellas! Thought I'd swing by before heading out to hide at a coffee shop and work on my edits today. Thank you again for welcoming me into the fold; I look forward to hearing from you today!

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Good morning! Back to school is pretty darn important to me, as my three daughters (14, 13 and 8) have autism. They have summer school as part of their programming, but there's still a 2 week break at the start and end of the summer. While I'm not thrilled with having to wake at 5:30 to make three breakfasts and lunches (they eat no wheat or dairy, so we pack) on 9/1, I know it's best for my kids to stay busy and engaged. And I'm the first to celebrate when the school bus chugs off so I can get back to my writing. My first draft of my "Kimoir" is due in February and that's feeling awfully close! Men don't seem to have these issues, do they??

Jenny, good luck with the edits!

KIM

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Oh Kim, as I wrote this I thought of you, knowing as I do how very important sending those girls off to school is! And I can't wait to read your memoir--I know it's going to be so poignant yet funny and compelling. Now, get those girls off to school! Thanks for stopping by!

Malena said...

Morning, Jenny. I love the "dope-slapped" comment. Priceless, and so true. I love summer with my 3 kids, but returning to school brings with it a few (okay, 2.5 hours) to myself as TinyHulk has entered Pre-K, but I had forgotten what comes with it. All the back to school shopping and back to school night events and fundraiser packets and then the activities, oh sweet lord the activities.

amy kennedy said...

Hi Jenny, I adore summer,even though ours is still packed with sports, so it's not completely stress-free. My older kids aren't actually "kids" anymore, they're adults, but I have a 10 year old -- so I still have quite a few back-to-school years left. But, the trade-off is more time, I enjoy my day off in the middle of the week w/o Mommommommom...

Kim, sounds like you're doing a great job...I can only imagine what your days are like. And would love to read your "Kimoir" -- love that.

Becke Davis said...

Jenny - What fun to see you here! We met at RWA outside one of the book signing rooms. I'm definitely going to buy your parrot book when it comes out. I know I bought Ward Cleaver (how could I resist that title?) but it must be in my TBR pile. I need to find it FAST, because I want to read it!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Bellas, and welcome, Jenny! Happy to have you visit after waiting so long since we met at RT a few years back to talk our mutual familiarity with Altoona, PA and its environs. :)

Did you guys know Jenny is an American Title Winner? Ayup. Her critically acclaimed "Sleeping w/Ward Cleaver" scored her that award and a contract w/Dorchester.

Having read so many of her funny posts, I knew she was just the person to come speak with us about that 'most wonderful time of the year,' back-to-school days. Or, that bittersweet time, end-of-summer, for those of you w/out kids -- or who really can't tolerate the little sweethearts, which is a place I travel to frequently in my own home, I must say, especially in the summer months. then, the day before school starts, I get all weepy because they're going back. For about 5 minutes.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

'morning, Kim! Your sitch adds lots of work and challenges, but also benefits lots of folks don't understand. One of my kids is on an IEP and lst year was kind of a nightmare at the school in the new state we've moved to. But he still headed off to the bus stop yesterday cheerful and ready to make this year better. The challenges we face aren't so much the children, but folks around them, and kids, of course. but when we meet people who 'get' our kids -- and teachers, especially, willing to help us and our kids -- it makes all the difference in the world to our children's education, as well as how we can 'breathe' about our situations.

Happy writing on your 'kimoir!'

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

oh, gosh, malena! Even in pre-k they start with the 'packets!' Endless forms in different colors! And the fund raisers. But those activities; you're right, they're killer. :)

Amy, you're 10 year old's an angel. I don't knw what you're kvetching about...

becke, I can just imagine what it must be like trying to find a book in your TBR pile. Be careful, for gawsh sake!

LisaK said...

Welcome Jenny and ciao Bellas (no buongiorno from here since it's already after 4 p.m.).

Since I'm still at school, I can talk about the other POV, so to speak. We're halfway through our holidays here, school starts again September 14th, I think (give or take a day) - which leads me to the question I've wanted to ask on several sites the last few days but always forgot: How long and from when to when are the holidays in the US?

Now, to the actual topic, I enjoy being at home for six full weeks (although those can be so very short, too!) and just. Doing. Nothing. Unlike the majority of the world's population, I do not like summer. I mean, it's nice to see the sun from inside the house and I love all the flowers and everything blossoming, but it's definitely tooooooo hot for me. And to sunny. I'm a typical redhead and pass half my summers walking around looking like a lobster (oh yes!). My mum and I are very close and I love spending so much time with her, however, concerning my sister, we'll all thank god when school starts again. She's thirteen and one of the most difficult persons I've ever known. She absolutely doesn't get along with my mum and feels like she's oh so cool, so I'm happy when she's back at school where she can try convincing her friends (and not my mum and me!) of how cool she is... :)

ev said...

I feel horrible. When mine went off to college, it was local, so she stayed home. Now that she is in undergraduate school, she is 3000 miles away, and though I cried when I flew home the first time leaving her there, I am enjoying being an empty nester. Hubby and I have been able to go do what we want without checking in to make sure there are no schedule conflicts.

I am heading out to LA over Labor Day to go visit and can't wait. But I won't be unhappy to come home to hubby and the furbabies again.

We are thinking about buying a camper. Can't decide between tow behind my new truck or a self-contaitned unit. Hm... Big decisions.

amy kennedy said...

Malena, I've already had the Phone Call: When and how often do you want to volunteer in the lunchroom?

I always think I'm going to say 'no.' But then some stupid I-should-be-a-better-mom voice comes out of nowhere and I agree to be a lunchlady. At least I get to wear a hair-net...hahahahahahaha.

Lisa, my child has 3 months off in the summer, 2 weeks in the winter and 1 week in the spring. Some kids have year-round school though...13 is such a hard age, here's hoping by the time your sister gets to 17 you'll like her again.

amy kennedy said...

Ev, sounds like you're having fun. Fun decision about the camper -- think of all the cool places you'll be going.

debbie haupt said...

Hi everyone, well like some of you the days of the mad rush to the bus stop or the mad dash to drop off at school then make it to work on time is over for me. So I usually celebrate the end of summer by taking the two days after Labor Day off and silently saluting the passing busses with my cup of coffee sitting in my screened in porch and enjoying a few days of peaceful solitude without the neighborhood hoodlums running around the streets.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Malena! Thanks for stopping by! How'd I miss that your youngest is THAT young? Somehow I thought you had 'em all in school. I remember those pre-school days, running in circles trying to figure out what I could get done in 2-1/2 hours before having to get the kids. Usually not much!
Amy, I know that "Mooooommmmmm" sound well! though I guess the older they get the more you almost miss that. Ish... We used to have a lot of summer sports too but we've been relatively free of that this year, well, except swim team, which does take up some time.
Becke!!! Thanks for stopping by! I do very much remember you from RWA (after that lovely book-grab LOL) . I think you'll enjoy my crazy parrot book--all sorts of amusing stories in there ;-)
And I hope you can find your copy of Sleeping with Ward Cleaver! Ack! Which reminds me, I forgot to tell Michelle I"m happy to give away a copy of it--is it too late for that Michelle?

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Michelle,thank you for the kind words!
Don't be too jealous, but we were awfully close to Altoona on one of our many road-trips this summer ;-) --made it to State College, which is always fun. And the IEP we're familiar with. We were told one of mine should have a 504 Plan but the school insisted that in-house 'accommodations' would be perfectly fine. The school was only interested in making it easier for them, paperwork wise. But that excluded any accommodations for College Board tests, which is SO frustrating, that despite professional recommendations we would have to go through hoops of fire and thousands of dollars of more tests to get it approved. All the child needs is to be able to wear ear plugs during SATs, but even that little thing they won't agree to. GRRR.

Oh Debbie, lovely little R&R you enjoy ;-)

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Lisa, it depends on the school. Some schools here do year-round school, with long breaks periodically. But most start late August, early september, and end late May, early June. Break at Thanksgiving, over christmas holidays, again around Easter roughly.
Ev--the road trip sounds great! And I do keep hearing that a lot of moms get over that empty nest and jump on past it to "whoo-hoo!" So that's encouraging!
Amy--the volunteering can really bury you! It's best to not answer the phone when they call LOL When my kids were little I did it a LOT but I found the more I did, the more people expected you to do it. So sometimes It's good to hand the baton to new blood.
Malena--those packets--oy. Every year all that info you have to fill out--takes hours!!!

Princess Bumblebee said...

Hey, Bellas! Welcom, Jenny!
Ev, can i go with you? Wanna go back to L.A. SO BAD! Miss the guys. Gonna send em M & Ms wrapped in pink tissue paper, hehe.
Anywayz, even though I do not have children, I am glad school started here. Less noise and kids running around, hehe. Though, I too love summer and swimming and all those great things to do.

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Hi, Michelle - mia paisana! My kids really love school. And we're blessed with an excellent district with strong autism programming (pretty rare, especially at the middle school level) so I can mostly relax once they go. I call that a win-win! :) Love the blog.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Yeah, Kim, isn't Michelle's awesome? You must get on her mailing list!
thanks for the welcome Princess Bumblebee (love the name)--I hear ya on the quiet that descends once kids are back in school.
Though in my house even if the kids aren't there, the parrot is, and she makes enough noise for a house full of kids. Throw in my barking dogs and forget about peace and quiet in my home (which is why today I am working in a coffee shop! Have to get away from the noisy parrot in order to edit my book about the noisy parrot!)

amy kennedy said...

I really do limit myself on the volunteering...sort of. I co-chair one big thing -- book fair, and then I read once a week in my son's class. That's it. Except lunchroom, and maybe art night. Okay, I help with the Roller Blading" class too. Sheesh.

I don't mind the sports -- I get lots of work done during practice, bring my laptop. Plus, I just like watching my kid have fun.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

when my oldest was in Kindergarten we ADORED the teacher, a very seasoned veteran. I spearheaded making a quilt for her--I traced all the kids handprints, embroidered them on blocks, the pieced and quilted the whole thing. Yeah that was stupid planning on my part.
Then when he was in 1st grade he got a fabulous teacher who was retiring. And all the parents thought I'd be perfect to make a quilt for her. I had all the kids draw their pictures on blocks and I pieced and quilted it all together. And then I learned my lesson--never again!.
for 2nd grade, my son's teacher was pregnant. No quilt, no way. Made her a Raggedy Ann doll. And then we moved, and never did I let on about my needleworking hobbies LOL

Vanessa Kelly said...

Hi Jenny! Whew! Reading your schedule, no wonder you regret the summer coming to an end.

My dh's kids are grown and moved away, so that's not really an issue for us. And dh is retired, so our schedule is pretty much our own - except for the writing, of course. I actually love the end of summer, because the days are getting cooler in the evening and you can just feel a hint of that fall crispness. Of course, we spend the winter in Florida. Before we could escape from Ottawa for three months, I used to cry when summer came to an end! The winters were just so long and hard. Now I'm laughing.

Jill Kemerer said...

Boy you captured summer in a nutshell! (Let's hope your parrot doesn't eat it...) Good luck on the new book. Hope you have a much-deserved cappucino when everything settles down. Or before...

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

oooh, winters in Ottowa sound especially cold! I could be persuaded to maybe sail in the caribbean all winter long ;-) . I do like crisp autumn days, lovely leaf colors, and donning sweatshirts again!

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

thanks Jill! That darned parrot--snuck off into a cabinet the other day and pulled down a whole bowl of peanuts--ate about 15 of them. This was just after I'd read peanuts can be toxic for parrots if a certain bacteria is found in them...so far she seems ok! But I think the poor thing was a little stopped up for a while LOL

David B. said...

Have you ever seen that Staples commercial on TV? The one with the father dancing and pushing the cart around the store buying school supplies with two dazed children in tow, and the song, "It's the most wonderful time of the year.." playing the background?

That's me.

MPG

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

LOL spoken like a true dad. The moms are at least a little bit conflicted. The dads? Woot! We're free! ;-)

Becke Davis said...

I'm a little bit sad that I don't have to go shopping for school clothes and school supplies anymore. My youngest just graduated from college in June, and he is working hard at his new job.

On second thoughts, I'm not all that sad about it. They are grown up and happy and doing well. Now I can spend some time reading and writing and getting used to this whole "empty nest" thing.

Although, in Jenny's case, "empty nest" probably has a whole different meaning -- and when her kids are grown, the parrot will probably still be around!

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

it is a little bittersweet isn't it? My son is SO thrilled to be back at college and doing his thing and it sort of feels like an indictment against his family but it's not, it's just he's thrilled with his life and life choices, so it's all good. But it's weird how we moms render ourselves obsolete, but don't quite realize the degree to which we've done it till we have. But yeah, then it's time to enjoy all the things that got put on the backburner for so long...(until grandchildren come along, right!?)

Chelsea B. said...

Oh, I like Summer fine, but I definitely won't mourn the end of it because I love Winter to much!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

nessa, I just have to chime in, cause you made me laugh out loud just when I needed it.

Surprize, surprize, second day of school, and per our earlier convo, the mess at school w/teachers, mean kids and IEP already has begun. ugh. I think my husband and I were kidding ourselves that if we just keep a positive enough attitude everything will be different. Can it be that we're going to have to give up on public school here? That really will stink.

So, yes, long and hard made me snort.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

I'm w/you on loving the cold weather, ChelseaB!And like vanessa, I love when we get those first autumn scents inthe air, and crisp nights. But I HATE that first really cold Midwestern day around Halloween. brutal. I usually stay in bed all day -- no kidding -- if it's on a weekend, act grumpy and read romances.

laughing, too, at the parrot/nutshell, Jill!

Oh, jenny jenny jenny. Major error on the handmade stuff, cause it always begets more. And Amy can tell you that I used to get sucked into volunteering at the school cafeteria, too. And, for some reason, I ALWAYS got in trouble w/the lunch lady. Always got scolded about something. It was humiliating.

becke, I envy you your empty nest sometimes...

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

oh it's so frustrating! my high school senior is 2 days into school and beyond miserable. so much so that I wonder if we should consider having her home school the rest of the year. She's just OVER the whole thing at this point, her classes are boring, it's all just going through the motions. Such a shame...

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

I noticed the Italian thing right away, Kim and even thought, wow, her maiden name's Italian, too! Glad to hear you have astrong program. We lived in MN for 4 years and they had a remarkable program there, too. The spec ed team and teachers worked so closely w/ us and teachers. And the kids were so tolerant and were taught as a school to see strengths in all kids. My son won the spelling bee one year and, I swear, walking through the hall, nerds to "jocks' and cool kids treated him like he was a rock star. It was an amazing moment for him and us.

Principessa, even if we like kids, it's always nice when the little hooligans quiet down for a change. My kids are pretty low key for the most part, but I love when school starts and I have that beautiful 7.5 hours of silence! I think m/ms are a great idea. Wait! I mean m and ms. I wasn't suggesting I wanted something kinky w/your bro and his hot friend... :)

Virginia said...

Loved your post! It seems like this summer has flown by, where did it go. I can tell you I am not ready for winter weather. I just sent my son back to college and miss him already.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

So, we talk to our son about not being 'random' in his humor because not everyone gets it, and it's better just to make friends straight on. But he tells me this afternoon, "mumma, I had to be random today. There were kids giving me a hard time in gym. They kept going, 'what's your name.' and i'd tell em. And they would say it again and again and again.

So he says, "I finally got sick of it and got kinda random and said, 'Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.'"

I said, "Good work." :)

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

LOL on your son's story. Smart boy ;-)
(and I do love the Principessa...I always speak Italian to my parrot and I love to just add 'issimo' to things I say to her, even if it makes absolutely no sense.
also laughing at the m/m. You are so irreverent ;-)

virginia-I'm with you, I miss my boy in college. Tho methinks he hardly misses us!

etirv said...

The teen and I celebrated by baking and shopping before school started this week!

Jill Kemerer said...

Michelle, your son cracks me up! And I'm a mid-western gal, too. Bring on September and fast forward to May!

Laurie said...

Well, I'm going to go back to work part time. Hope to get more reading done and also go through things that we've outgrown or don't use any more.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

good luck with the new job! I'm starting a new job too, so worried about time management all the more. And jealous if you find the time to go through and purge!! that's on my to-do list (and has been forever!)

ddurance said...

I'm just glad to get back to a routine. That's something to celebrate.

Deidre