Attack of the Black Mold

Fridge front

My time capsule

When we came back from summer vacation I discovered that a creeping case of black mold had overtaken the refrigerator. The fridge was the one thing that stood unchanged for years, a silent witness to the events happening around it in our house. The toddlers that were growing to little boys and then into young teenage men. Our lives were reflected in its face and I hadn’t changed a thing on it for precisely that reason. It was one small space in the house where I could keep that time capsule frozen. Now the cruel march of time and kitchen bacteria was forcing me to move on.

I had one pang after another while uncovering the layers. There was a peace sign from elementary school and the pledges of hopeful youth – I will recycle and take care of the Earth. I will be a good citizen and member of my community. I will care for others. There were completely random stickers, placed when little ones were fascinated by the wonder of things that simply peel and stick, and you can put them anywhere, from back seat car windows, to clothes, to furniture, to fridges.

Fridge side

Side view – for real.

The poison control number that I called on numerous occasions and yet my children still grew to teenagers. That time when they ate the toothpaste, swallowed a bead, bit into the swirly water ball, or thought the window clings were fruit snacks.

A dinosaur magnet with the name of the local museum we visited so many times, during every period of youthful fascination: dinosaurs, planets, preserving the ecology and endangered species, the lemur project, chemical reactions, and even their growing interest in world history, art, and sculpture.

I was able to save the most precious items – a paper heart that said “I love you amy” from a time when I didn’t even think my son knew I had a designation other than Mommy. A hand cut and colored cupcake made for my birthday, when I didn’t even think my son knew what day that was. Other favorite drawings and scribbles that saved my life and gave me strength when they caught my eye on hard days.

Power Rangers

Hidden gem from when Younger discovered how to use the printer. Also the best Power Rangers season.

Finally I had to scrape off the last remnant – a sticker of Winnie the Pooh from one of those calendars they give you at your shower to record your baby’s firsts. I had gone back in time a full 16 years. You would think I would have to sit down and catch my breath after that, but I felt peaceful. We all must accept time marching on, especially those of us who feel it so keenly while watching children literally sprout up several inches in a year. I am sanguine about where my kids are today. As my good friend Rosie said, “It just keeps getting better,” and I have to believe that even as I sit alone and they are out with friends, doing their teenage thing and moving into life on their own, as they should be.

Pooh Acorn

Always remember you are braver than you believe…

After cleaning the offending mold off most of the fridge (it will be back in a few years, it always is, after lurking in the cracks that are unreachable by any tool invented by humans), I replaced the salvaged magnet collection. This is the culmination of our habit of buying one of those 2×3 tourist magnets at every place we’ve visited. And what a journey its been – we’ve seen canyons, mountains, beaches, the Liberty Bell, halls of fame, the Old North Bridge, and New York City. Battlefields and places where revolutions were born. Plays and jokes and moments of significance to our family. Our journey is not over, but I pass it on to the young men who will soon be covering their own fridges in memories.


On Graduating Middle School

On the day when Older graduated 8th grade, I went into his room to wake him up and his alarm was already going off. That song from Furious 7 was playing. You know, the one that makes you weep on a normal day.

“We’ve come a long way from where we began, and I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again…that bond will never be broken…family’s all that we got…everything I went through you were standing there by my side…So let the light guide your way, hold every memory as you go, and every road you take will alwaaaaays lead you hoo-ooh-ooooome.”

The idea of my baby being in high school hadn’t bothered me until that moment, in which I had to sit down right there on the floor in his room because I was overcome.

Now we are renovating the house and I’m digging through boxes and finding old treasures. The Madagascar landscape Younger crafted from foam and papier mache in 5th grade. Notes that said “I love you” in crayon scribbles. The action figures and trinkets that they couldn’t leave the house without now stored in a box in the basement. It seems that motherhood is this long push and pull – I can go for months in denial that anything is different, and then I’m surrounded with reminders of exactly how different it is.

One of my dear friends and child care clients had a son who was a few years older than her daughter who I cared for. I would watch him growing so quickly and be upset, not wanting my babies to be that big. She said, “Amy, it just gets better every day.” That little phrase has gotten me through a lot, and she was so right. We’ve had a lot of amazing adventures lately. Older’s soccer team went to a regional final and WON the championship! When he started with the team they regularly lost about 8-0 if not more. What a long road and wonderful outcome for him. He finished an awful school year marred by racism and impotence on the part of school officials by staying after every day and working his butt off to pass his finals. I’m so proud of his determination, the skills to seek out the help he needs, and most importantly his ability to rise above.

Today Younger has his 8th grade graduation and I’m bracing myself. Nowadays my life is even more chaotic than when Older graduated – it’s literally look at the calendar and see what I have to get through for the next ten hours – so everything comes on me very suddenly (well, that’s busy plus menopause I’m sure). I had one of those moments on Friday when I brought Younger for his last full day of school. After six years of daily grind, rushing to get there, being stressed about we’re late because you couldn’t find the shirt I told you to find last night, TODAY is the last day I’ll drive down this driveway with a student who attends this school. Ouch. Deep breath.

In the usual flurry of end-of-year activities (aka reminders that time is flying by), awards night was last week. Younger won an academic achievement award for which I was of course thrilled and proud. We were also told he was winning the Student Awareness Award. I was happy for him but didn’t really know what it was about. The night of the ceremony we sat in the audience as the vice principal began reading the introduction. The criteria for the award was “a student who actively displays a willingness to continually push his understanding of diverse cultures, lifestyles or beliefs, continually challenges cultural misconceptions and urges others to do the same; recognizes his own prejudices and strives to reach a new level of understanding regarding the complex world in which we live, displays the courage to challenge the thinking of his classmates, and whose commitment to celebrating differences will be carried into adulthood.”

Can you imagine? Especially in America circa 2017? As I’ve been digging through those old boxes I’ve remembered all the years of running the child care and how much time Younger spent with me working with the kids. I thought of how hard I worked, every day, to make sure those little ones were treating each other with respect. I like to believe that while Younger was already born with the personality to be kind, the lessons he learned during those years informed who he is today and what that award represents. I believe he truly is that person and he will carry it forward. I couldn’t possibly ask for more.

On Monday graduation will be different. Instead of spending the day with me going somewhere to swim and eat ice cream, Younger will want to hang with his friends. Older will be standing an inch taller than me, as he does now. My husband and I will probably be left to our own devices, having taken the day off to be with our kids and instead will entertain ourselves as they move a little farther out into the world. My job as their mother will be over soon. I can’t hold on to those baby days any longer, but I’m so lucky to embrace the beautiful young men they are today.

Why does #leggingsgate matter?

After hearing about nothing but leggings all day yesterday, my husband asked me what the big deal was. The facts commonly agreed on are that two girls were not allowed to get on a United plane because they were wearing leggings, but they were flying on a free pass so they had to meet a dress code. Dave said, “If they’re flying on a free pass, what’s the big deal about meeting the dress code?” Because, as I pointed out, Dad was allowed to wear shorts. Whether or not he was paying for his ticket (which is also what I gather), how is he allowed to go bare but the children are not? Why are the girls held to a company standard of dress (a company that recently used a woman clad in leggings in an ad) while dad can go casual?

Here’s the message those girls received: you can either put more clothes on or pay your way. It doesn’t matter what choice you make, there are restrictions on your behavior.

Daddy’s skin is acceptable, because he’s a man. You, on the other hand, can’t be comfortable in your skin. For the rest of your life, btw. You’ll be told you’re too fat, too short, too tall, too skinny. You must remove all body hair – even in the most painful places – because it is unattractive. Your breasts are too small unless you have back problems from carrying their weight. But if you breastfeed in public you have a 50/50 chance of being asked to leave. Let’s not even talk about your hips – they’ll never be right. Your skin is too dry and you’ll never look young enough, unless you’re too young to wear leggings. Or is it too old? Your fingernails are too plain, your face needs makeup before you even leave the house, your ears should be pierced, your teeth aren’t white enough – and yes, there’s even a procedure called “anal bleaching” because God knows, even that part of you that never sees the light of day – it’s not good enough either. And soon you’ll be able to get pregnant, honey, so you should hear this. If there’s a baby in your belly we own it, but once it’s out don’t you dare ask for help supporting it. In fact, your healthcare, your very right to see a well-informed doctor, will be debated and legislated endlessly by men who can head on over to CVS and pick up their Viagra for free.

Reporting of this story, not surprisingly, has missed the point. There were three girls involved, and one who happened to have a dress in her carry-on bag was allowed to board. The other two were turned away. Imagine being those girls, singled out in front of the dozens of people waiting at the gate. One of them was a ten year old girl. A child. Which led my husband to this conclusion: “So they are sexualizing the ten year old girl. In that case, it’s equally as sexist toward men, because apparently men who see ten year old girls in leggings can’t control themselves.” (Which led me to point out that a man who can’t control himself around women and openly admitted to committing sexual assault is leading the country, but that’s another story.)

If you are still shaking your head wondering what the uproar is about, here it is. Women truly aren’t free in our culture and they learn this from a very, very young age. Simply put, your body is governed by the sexual purposes, needs, or opinions of men. Not only will you receive all the messages listed above about your body, but you’ll also be told how to dress and what your intentions were when you chose that outfit. You will be harassed, with a 20% chance of that turning into assault. You will be walking alone one night and suddenly realize you’re afraid. You may choose not to take part in activities such as taking a walk in the woods alone because you won’t feel safe. You may wake up behind a dumpster after being raped but hear about how the man who did this to you has a future that is more important than yours because of his swimming career. He will serve three months but you’ll get a lifetime sentence. Our culture subverts and perverts the very existence of women’s bodies and sexuality until we have to keep ten year old children from wearing tight-fitting pants. That’s the bottom line of this story. Dad, your skin is perfectly acceptable because, well, you’re a guy. Ten year old, sweet child of a girl – your skin is not acceptable, even though it’s covered. Get used to it.

Well so much for that whole freedom and democracy thing, it was fun while it lasted

I had to take my son to the hospital this morning for a procedure. I was feeling dazed from the lack of sleep and worry brought on by the election. People were walking furtively through the parking lot, as if we didn’t know who to trust anymore. We passed a doctor of Indian descent and I thought, are they OK on the checklist in the new world order?

We approached the desk and the older gentleman smiled kindly and said, “Good morning.” I felt relieved. Ahh, life goes on, we can still be civil to each other. He was wearing the most kick-ass red velvet paisley-print smoking jacket I’d seen in – probably forever – so I commented on it. He said, “This is for the big red ONE!”

Oh God, here it comes, I thought. My first gloater. When I get stressed I feel it in my neck, and my whole spine was starting to bend into a fetal position from the pressure of this comment and how to respond. But then I thought, no. If you did this, I want to know. I want you to reveal yourself to me so I know who I’m dealing with. From now on, I need to know who I have to watch out for in order to protect myself and my children.

Hiding in the hospital room while my son had his appointment was soothing. It was dark and quiet and life was moving forward – the women taking care of him were efficient and all business. They were extra kind to a boy who had to get stuck with an IV and his chilly mother who received a warm blanket while she waited. Can I just stay hidden here for a few more days? I read a book I’d brought and the words were unexpectedly soothing.


Do we get to keep our books in the new world order?

After the appointment was over the tech told my son he’d done such a great job and gave him a coupon for a snack at the cafeteria. I thanked her again for her kindness, which was so sorely needed. We encountered more subdued people milling about in the cafe – not sure what to say to each other, sometimes briefly smiling but mostly just keeping to ourselves. There were several people with brown skin and a woman in a wheelchair. “New world order” appeared in my mind again.

When we got home CBS was broadcasting Hillary’s speech to her supporters. I opened the page to watch and this greeted me:


Why are these frat boys so happy? (Oh yeah. That.)

Social media was telling me how we all have to hurry up and get over it and move on. How our anger is ugly and we need to stop. Don’t tell me how to feel. I love my country and it has just been dealt what is possibly a fatal blow. I’m not going to just get over it and move on. We just handed our country over to a guy:

  • who openly admits to committing sexual assault
  • who disrespects servicemen and women and their families
  • who silences people who disagree with him
  • who doesn’t pay his taxes
  • who denies climate change
  • who has never worked a day in his life
  • who allows his children to kill endangered animals and gloat about it
  • who communicates via drunken texts at 3AM
  • who encourages other nations to hack us
  • who asks people to shoot his political rivals
  • who mocks people with disabilities
  • who counts known child rapists among his friends
  • who incites violence at his rallies
  • who will be going to court for fraud in a few weeks
  • who has squandered millions of dollars over and over again without repercussion
  • who doesn’t pay his workers
  • who disrespects, slanders, and sues every person he disagrees with
  • who encourages people to kick the wheelchair of a 12-year-old child who was brave enough to speak his mind
  • who, during his acceptance speech, allowed people to chant “send him back,” among other things; their war cries against all the so-called repression they’ve faced already beginning to rise.

So yeah. I’m allowed to be mad. And don’t tell me I’m calling him names (the first defense of the bully who can dish it out but can’t take it). I’m simply stating facts.


Don’t tell me to move on. I’m gonna be angry about this for a long time.

Don’t tell me you’re disenfranchised to account for your hatred.

Don’t call me elitist to excuse your racism.

Don’t tell me I don’t understand your plight. As a child care provider I literally worked harder than most people I knew for 13 years and still made less than minimum wage. I’m still paying off my first Master’s while finishing my second, which will entitle me to a job that pays as much per year as he pays for one of his golden toilets, and my own kids are off to college in three years. So don’t tell me I don’t get it.

This anger and hatred has been boiling just below the surface since mere days after Obama was elected. It’s like watching the face of the guy who knows he’s not supposed to say it because it’s not accepted anymore but holding his tongue is just killing him. You can see him literally chewing his words, trying to behave because he has to, but you both know damn well what’s on his mind. And that’s all been unleashed. Just when we were making a little progress we’ve been smacked down. You got it white guys – you got your 1950s country back. You can have your wife safely ensconced at home in your straight white neighborhood while you hoist a few whiskeys at lunch, grab your secretary’s pussy, and stop by the mistresses’ before you hop on the train for home. You can pillage, plunder, and take what’s yours without consequence because you are the only person who matters now.

So don’t tell me to be respectful, to just be quiet and take it (Ann Richards is rolling in her grave). I won’t shut up. I’m going to be as mad as I want to be for as long as I need to be. And when I’m done with that, then maybe I’ll get over it, but probably not. And then I’ll keep fighting.


14 Reasons to Vote No on 2

1. Our public schools are not failing. Massachusetts has long been known to have one of the best school systems in the country. The only scale being used to determine failing schools is standardized testing, which is designed for large groups of student to fail. And of course the businessmen and politicians who want us to believe they’re failing, but we’ll get to that later.

2. Students are not “trapped in failing schools” as the ads would tell you, when we have school choice in Massachusetts and parents can choose to put their child in any school in any town that has room for their student.

3. Waiting list numbers are vastly exaggerated. It has long been known that charters keep students that have already enrolled in other schools on their wait lists, and by the time they get around to offering a spot those families are happily settled somewhere else. The numbers are inflated by counting students more than once if they are on more than one waiting list and even students who have aged out of the school’s grade level. In the meantime those students “languishing” on waiting lists are not sitting at home crying – they are being educated. In the public schools. Which accept all students.

4. It is fiscally irresponsible. Nowhere in the world does this business model succeed. Try applying it to your local hospital. How would it go over if they said we’re going to take only the chosen patients and bring them to a different hospital, where they’ll get better care than you, but by the way we’re going to take your money to pay their bill. Or in the words of municipal treasurer Nancy Grossman, “The dirty little secret they aren’t sharing is that opening more charter schools without significantly increasing funding — even beyond the $1-plus billion per year current deficit, which would only catch up funding for existing schools — will necessarily mean that many community schools will have to close or survive as thin shadows of their former selves.”

5. Question 2 has the potential to seriously damage city budgets for years to come. Just this week Moodys Investors Service told city officials that more charter schools will hurt the credit ratings of the towns in which they are built. While covering this story The Boston Globe, which has been inexplicably pro-charter in its coverage, claimed that there is no financial hit on districts when students leave for charter schools. This link will tell you exactly how much your district loses when students leave for charter schools.

6. No oversight and flat-out lying. Charter schools have no oversight and do not have to report student (or any other) information in the same way public schools do. They don’t have to hire licensed teachers. Nor do they have to disclose where the money they receive from the state is being spent. They don’t have to pay their teachers and they don’t have to account for where the money goes – to their own offshore accounts. As a teacher of students with special needs I have seen firsthand the disastrous consequences that come from the lies and empty promises put forth by unregulated charter schools.

7. Dark money is funding the Yes on 2 campaign. $18 million has been spent on pro-question 2 propaganda – more than on any other ballot question in MA history. Do you really think the investors care about children? If they did why wouldn’t they just give that money to our existing schools? This has nothing to do with what students really need. Wall Street investors could give a rat’s ass about your child’s education. They stole your grandmother’s pension, they stole your uncle’s mortgage, and now they’re stealing your tax money that is intended to teach your children.

8. Charter school teachers aren’t as qualified – or happy – as you think they are. Because the people behind charter schools are looking to make a quick buck, they hire young, inexperienced teachers and some who aren’t even fully licensed (because they have no oversight, remember?). Read this mom’s story about not only her own awful treatment as a teacher at a charter, but her son being branded as a failure in kindergarten. Ask a charter school teacher how they feel about having no pension, no benefits, and no protection, or having to work extra hours without overtime pay. Or how they feel about being sued for damages when they go to work at another school. Or read this teacher’s story, which gives another peek at what it’s like working as a teacher in the “toxic” environment at a charter school.

9. Who is paying Charlie Baker? Why is our governor leading the charge against his own schools? Has a governor ever actually put themselves in a commercial for a ballot issue before? In these unprecedented ads he is admitting – no, convincing us – that the schools he presides over our failing. Is he proud of this? What is his motivation? Perhaps it’s because the head of our education department is also on the board of Pearson, and these guys love to get cozy and share the wealth. For example:

10. Pearson and other multinational corporations are desperate to keep a toehold in Massachusetts. As parents wake up and try to protect our children from these predators, they have doubled down on trying to convince us that our kids are trapped like rats all day (when in actuality it’s the charter schools that treat them like experiments in behavior). As explained in this article, “More cash has been raised for this issue than for any other ballot battle in the last ten years — more than double the dollars spent during the casino debate in 2014 — which, until this summer, had been the state’s most expensive ballot question campaign.”

11. Using public school teacher pensions to pay for charter schools. There’s not much I can say about this damning story except that it makes this whole situation look as ugly as it is, while they try to convince us it’s about “the children:”

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, himself a former financial executive, is leading the fight to increase the number of publicly funded, privately run charter schools in Massachusetts — and he appoints trustees to the board that directs state pension investments.

The architects of this “morally bankrupt situation,” need I remind you, are using children to sway voters into pouring more money into their coffers. Which leads us to #12:

12. “The children” are being used as pawns. This is a very simple formula. Big money invests in getting a school building, convincing parents they’re the best school in the area and that their children are being victimized by their failing local public school. Enraged parents start lining up to go to this “better” school, in fact demanding it, and after the initial investment the businesses sit back and let taxpayer money roll in (for years to come, as Question 2 lifts the cap in perpetuity – that means forever folks). This is possibly the most debased business strategy we’ve seen yet. Wall Street decimated our banks, retirement plans and mortgages, so what was left? The easiest target of all.

13. The initial investment promised toward the new charters dries up after three years. I guess we’ll just have to figure out how to pay for these schools down the line – which means closing the public ones, which is truly the political motivation behind Question 2.

14. This is simply not the answer. I have been a defender of public schools since my kids started in kindergarten. They aren’t perfect. Common core and “MCAS 2.0” are unacceptable ways to teach children. But public schools are one of the few remaining free public institutions in our country. They are a microcosm of the society in which we live – a community that prepares children to live in the bigger community. There are bullies, there are teachers who we don’t get along with, and some things that happen aren’t fair. But there are also best friends, great and inspirational teachers, and life lessons. But as my husband (also a special education teacher) points out, “Experience and lasting friendships are not metrics that can be measured.” The people leading the charge for charters want to boil our children down to numbers on a financial graph, with a bit fat arrow pointing UP towards the profits they’ll be making by stealing taxpayer dollars. Public schools are a foundation of democracy, and just because the plumbing is leaking you don’t burn the house down. Vote No on 2 and preserve one last truly public institution, which is bound by law to provide a free and appropriate education for all children.