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When people talk about having “all the feels,” does that include feelings like grumpy, disappointed, jealous, and agitated? My sense is that “all the feels” usually means “bittersweet” or “proud, yet wistful,” or something else that ends up leaning more toward the side of heartwarming and nostalgic rather than annoyed and overwhelmed. Maybe that’s just me.

Today was Zoe’s graduation from middle school. Except “graduation” here means, they showed everyone’s name on the screen, along with their photo, or if their photo wasn’t available, the Yellowjacket school mascot. A couple kids read poems they had written and the principal shared some “words of wisdom.” (Clearly I’m really feeling the air quotes today). Zoe watched this “ceremony” on her laptop, in her bed (where she has done most of her classes this year) as shared by her 7th grade teacher. Randy and Zeke and I watched downstairs. We quietly cheered for the handful of kids who we recognized. When Zoe’s name came up we cheered louder and I went upstairs to give her a hug. She was nonplussed. She is now a rising high school freshman and she is still, as usual, in her pajamas in the middle of the afternoon. And I don’t blame her. She and her classmates missed out on the 8th grade dance, Kings Dominion trip, picnic, and of course a real life graduation ceremony. She never even met most of her teachers in person. She’s only been to school a handful of times to take standardized tests or to pick up supplies. Tomorrow she will go to pick up a t-shirt and a certificate. Anticlimactic is an understatement.

I keep trying to hype high school, and as Zoe will be fully vaccinated in less than a week, she will be able to enjoy as normal a summer as is possible in a country that is still unevenly recovering from a pandemic. She’s looking forward to the beach, and returning to sleepaway camp, and getting to see friends in person at school. But she still won’t get back what was lost this year. Yesterday we were at the pediatrician for her annual checkup. When the doctor asked about Zoe’s sleep habits and when she goes to bed, I just laughed. The doctor said she’s gotten that reaction from all the other parents of teenagers this year. Pretty much everything Zoe reported sounded pretty typical, the doctor said. Which I guess makes me a feel a little better, a reminder that I’m not the only parent who has struggled every day for the past 18 months trying to figure out how to keep their kids engaged while also cutting them an appropriate amount of slack. Of course I know I’m not the only one, because I have friends and they have all had similar if not identical struggles this year. But in the moment, it’s easy to think you’re the only one who doesn’t have a clue what to do, because at any moment the pressure is only on you to figure it out.

Meanwhile, this week I have also been trying to get my client work done. At the beginning of the school year, when we decided to homeschool Zeke for second grade, my husband asked if it would be too much for me to be Zeke’s teacher while also running my business. I said, “probably, but I feel like that’s what we have to do.” Now at the end of the school year I can confidently say, “absolutely, it was too much to do,” but I still feel like it was what we had to do. Hopefully Zeke learned something. None of my clients have fired me yet, so I guess I managed ok, although I know I could’ve stayed more on top of my work. When you’re homeschooling, you have to provide some sort of evidence at the end of the year that your kid learned something. This can be a portfolio evaluated by a qualified professional, or a standardized test. As much as I do not like standardized tests, I chose that option because it was a lot simpler. Since Zeke was in second grade, I gave him the second grade test in late April, when we had pretty much finished everything I planned to do and both of us were running out of steam. He did great. Then this week I learned that you’re supposed to give your kid the test for the grade they’re entering, not the one they finished. This is totally counterintuitive to me, but I wanted to do the right thing, so I ordered the 3rd grade test and gave it to him. The test is online. When I tried to access the scores, it kept telling me sections of the test were incomplete. Apparently Zeke raced through several sections (it’s a long test) so he could play Xbox sooner. So we sat down together and I watched him answer all the additional questions. This included the reading comprehension section. One of the reading passages was extremely confusing, even to me. So in the end his reading comprehension score was not great. In fact, it was much lower than his score in April. I emailed all the test results to the principal, who shared my confusion about why you would give the 3rd grade test to a second grader, but she assured me that she would put him in class with the right teacher who will presumably see that he reads well when they hear him read.

When I submitted Zeke’s test results to the school system, the person in charge of home instruction students wrote back and asked if Zeke would be continuing home instruction next year. I replied that no, I had already enrolled Zeke at his old elementary school for third grade. She responded, “how wonderful for your son!” I chose to interpret that as her pleasure that things would be back to normal for him, not her relief that he would not be forced to do homeschool with me for another year.

The rest of the time I’ve just been trying to balance Zeke’s screen time with other activities that he can do without me, reminding myself over and over that he starts camp next week and will be intellectually stimulated, have the chance to make friends, and run around outside. Since he hasn’t had to get up and get dressed at a particular time on a regular basis since last March, this also feels like the first week of school for him, even though it’s summer. To that end, I’ve been trying to buy him new sneakers. He has complained for a while that his are uncomfortable, so I assumed he had outgrown them. I’ve bought his last few pair of shoes without getting him measured because the only children’s shoe store I know about is 40 minutes away. We were all set to go there on Tuesday, when I discovered they are closed on Tuesday. We went to the mall, against my better judgement. Three different people in three different stores measured his feet and got three different sizes. We didn’t buy any shoes.

When Zoe and I set out for the pediatrician yesterday, we discovered our van had a flat tire. One $22 Lyft later, we made it to the doctor. I didn’t have time to deal with the tire until last night. At 9:30, the AAA driver arrived, and had me drive my van up the ramp of his tow truck. It felt like being on an amusement park ride but much scarier because you’re in your own car. He towed us up the street to the service station, and then had me back the van off the truck! A friend of mine lives in the apartment building behind the gas station, so I alerted her to come to her window and watch. Apparently she waved but I couldn’t see because I was trying not to drive my car off the side of a truck.

Thankfully, today the van is fixed. They changed the oil and replaced the wiper blades, and the total repair cost was less than I’ve ever paid for a car repair, so that’s something. I should have the words “silver linings” tattooed on my arm. But not in air quotes.

Today we said goodbye to Ella, our 18-year-old Honda Civic, whose transmission conked out. We decided that the $4000 it would require to replace the transmission would be better spent on a down payment for a new (to us) hybrid car. Even though Randy has primarily been Ella’s driver since we bought our Honda Odyssey in 2013, I bought her on my own and she was our only car for a long while.

I bought Ella from Landmark Honda after my Saturn was–oddly–stolen. My Saturn was later recovered–unexpectedly spotted in an apartment building parking lot by a friend of mine six months after it had been stolen. But by then the insurance company already owned it and I had bought Ella.

Ella was the first new car I ever bought. I did my research and decided on a Honda Civic, then went to three different dealerships until I found one where the salesman wasn’t condescending. I brought my dad along because I was worried that the salespeople would take advantage of me somehow, or I wouldn’t ask the right questions. But it was going to be my car and I was going to be paying for it. At the first two dealerships, the salesmen addressed my dad instead of me. Finally, at Landmark Honda the salesman acknowledged that I was an intelligent adult, so I bought the car from him.

My favorite thing about her was the sunroof, which I chose specifically because I remembered how much I loved the feeling of the air coming through the roof at night (at which time it becomes a moonroof?) of the car my boyfriend in high school drove.

A Honda Civic is not a fancy car. And after 18 years, Ella had experienced ups and downs and was more than a little messy. She had worn through many bumper stickers and had collected a lot of crumbs that seemed to be just a permanent part of her.

At times when you’re a parent it’s hard to remember what it was like before you had kids. I know that I drove Ella for five years before Zoe was born, and then for six more years until Zeke was born and we felt compelled to get a minivan because we needed the space. So I know Randy and I must’ve been driving Ella on great dates and road trip adventures and who knows where else. But the pandemic has caused significant sections of my brain to fog over, so the details are murky. I know in my heart, though, that Ella was a good car and served our family well for a long time. And I always enjoyed feeling the breeze through the sun and moon roof.

This is the part of my car that is no longer attached.

I still have the driver’s side mirror that came on my Honda Odyssey, but it’s currently sitting on the floor of the back seat. Maybe a little Gorilla Glue will take care of that?

But let me rewind to the earlier excitement in my day.

Zeke stayed home from school today after receiving a diagnosis of flu b yesterday at the doctor’s office, where I took him at 8:30am because he had a high fever and seemed utterly miserable. There are many times when a parent wonders whether to take the kid to the pediatrician or just wait it out, but this was not one of those times. So I drove him to the doctor, dropped him off at home, drove to the pharmacy, discovered the pharmacy doesn’t open until 10am on Sundays, drove home to eat the breakfast sandwich that Randy got for me on his way home earlier in the morning when he realized he had shown up a day early for his volunteer shift at the Arlington Food Assistance Center, and drove back to the pharmacy at 10.

Anyone who is a parent knows that this diagnosis on a Sunday requires immediate canceling and shuffling of plans. Zeke couldn’t go to church. Randy had to cancel his mandolin lesson because I had somewhere else I had to be and we didn’t want to require Zoe to babysit while Zeke was sick. I did some frequent checking in from the place I had to be. I had to find someone to replace me at a job I was scheduled to do and then pay them. And on and boringly but necessarily on. The ripple effect of a child’s fever and the instructions to be at least temporarily quarantined are far-reaching.

I had to take Zeke out, however, to pick up Zoe from school. It was pouring rain and I didn’t want her to have to walk the mile and a half home. Zeke was contentedly reading the latest Dog Man book in the car while we made the quick trip. On the way home, we were turning left from Walter Reed onto 9th Road South. This is a street lined on both sides with garden apartments. The two-way street has service roads on each side, which are also narrow parking lots for residents. As I turned left, another minivan was turning the wrong way down the street and suddenly pulling out toward me. I honked and swerved out of the way, but not wide enough to prevent her from hitting me. Somehow, most of the damage was to her car, although mine was scraped up, nothing was hanging off of it.

Thankfully the kids were ok and I got out of the car to talk with the other driver. She did not speak English. I tried for a while to ask about insurance or the police and she responded but not in any sentences I could quite understand. I had no idea what to do. I gave her my insurance information and my phone number. She gave me nothing. I don’t know why I didn’t ask for her phone number. I guess I wasn’t sure if she could provide it, although she had two phones with her in her hand. I don’t know why she had two phones. One didn’t seem to be working. I knew I should call the police, but I was also worried about my kids sitting there in the car, in the rain and cold, especially with Zeke having the flu. I kept thinking I could get arrested for leaving the scene of an accident but I didn’t know how the police would communicate with the other driver and I just really wanted my kids to be home.

Meanwhile, a gentleman with a mustache pulled up on the service road on one side and asked if we were ok. I explained the situation and he got out of the car and said, “I know a little bit about these things.” Not sure what things he meant, but ok. He looked at my car and looked at her car. He asked me, “what do you want to do? Your car seems ok.” I told him I just wanted to go home, but I wasn’t sure what to do because I couldn’t get any information from the other driver. He went up to her and said, rather close to her face, “She’s going to forgive you! This is why America is a great place! This is clearly your fault but she’s not going to call the police.”

This patriotic bystander seemed like he might have been an immigrant as well. He spoke English with a slight accent. The other driver did not really respond. I have no idea if she understood him or not.

I was, understandably, flustered by the whole thing. So I left, without getting any information from the other driver, or the witness, or the other car. I did not remember to do any of those things that you’re supposed to do.

So we went home and Zeke and Zoe and I played a board game and Zeke and I watched a movie and I folded laundry. I had left my phone upstairs and missed two calls from “unknown number” and two accompanying voicemails from a man saying he was calling this number because “a lady named Betsy hit his car and needed to repair it” or something to that effect. He did not leave his name or number, but a phone number that I later realized belonged to MY insurance company, that I had given the driver (presumably his wife?).

Then I remembered to call my insurance company. I felt ridiculous not having all the information I was supposed to have, but the guy on the phone was super nice about it. I’m guessing things like this happen more often than I realize.

After Randy got home I had to pick up Zoe from martial arts. It occurred to me that I might be able to find the car that had hit me if it was parked close to where the woman was inexplicably pulling out the wrong way. So in the dark and in the rain I had Zoe jump out of the car to take a picture of the license plate of the offending van.

Then I took Zoe to Giant because she needed yellow and blue sprinkles for a cupcake competition she’s doing at school in one of her classes. Giant has many things but yellow and blue sprinkles are not among them. We decided to head to Michael’s to check out its extensive inventory of dessert decorating accessories. I began backing out of my parking space in the garage at Giant when a massive cement pillar interfered with my exit by knocking the driver’s side mirror clean off of my car. I picked it up and put it in the back seat.

When we got to Michael’s and got out of the car, Zoe asked if she could give me a hug.

While Zoe located blue and yellow sprinkles and decided to make candy letters to spell out her school’s motto, I went to the bathroom, where I discovered I was getting my period (sorry for TMI but it’s germane to the rest of the story, I promise).

We checked out and I remembered to use some of the coupons that Michael’s sends me rather aggressively, and saved $5 on Zoe’s $15 worth of baking supplies, thinking that savings would come in handy when I had to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to get my mirror reattached to my car.

Back in the car I texted Randy that I had a) knocked the mirror off the van b) gotten my period in the store c) received a $5 discount. Randy replied that that was a weird reason for a discount, which made me laugh and laugh and laugh. And I showed Zoe and she laughed with me.

Oh, and did I mention that my mom is having heart surgery tomorrow?

Oy.

indexJust as I was filing the insurance claim for the minivan (Ghost George) in which we were rear-ended last weekend on our way to our ill-fated vacation, my husband called to say he had heard from the mechanic that our other car–my trusty 12-year-old Honda Civic (Ella)–needs a new timing belt and brake pads.

As it happened, I had the minivan into the mechanic just a few weeks ago because of a leaky tire, when they discovered my tires were all cracked and not good. Hey! Four new tires! Why not? While they were installing the tires, they discovered I needed new brake pads. The car would not pass state inspection without new brake pads, they said. Sure, install new brake pads. Why not?

Then we were rear-ended but managed NOT to hit the car in front of us, potentially saving ourselves and others from serious injury and expense. Could it have been because of the new tires and brake pads? Who knows? But let’s say it was.

So Ella needs a new timing belt and brake pads, and I am happy to give them to her, because we like to be safe. And Ella’s never had a new timing belt. That’s what credit cards are for, right? So we can be safe. I love new brake pads.

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