Thursday, October 8, 2009

Like a Good Neighbor, the Matron is There

The Matron has a cozy little office, one in a row of cozy little offices strung together down a narrow little hallway. Biologist, philosopher, sociologist, political scientist, linguist, medic: that hallway has it all! There is much collegiality and good will. The Matron has only known these people for a year and she adores them (mostly but that's a post-tenure post).

She especially adores Edward, not Ed, who has the office directly across the hall.

Edward, not Ed, looks like he hit retirement age about five years ago but bounced back against that wall for another season. He can't hear all that well. This second trait immediately endeared him to the harried working mama Matron, who is often as not happy NOT to have that ten minute chat about this and that. Edward, not Ed, usually doesn't even notice when her comings and going.

Edward, not Ed, generally brings along his dog, Elsie, a lovely Australian Shepherd who shares Ed's seasoned status.

Official College Memo Distributed Every September Since 1989: "Please remember that because this is a state building, no animals are allowed. You may not bring dogs, cats or ferrets on campus."

Elsie has been coming to campus with Edward, not Ed, since about 1989, too.

Edward: "Why, Mary. I just ignore those old memos! What's an old professor without his dog?"

Edward, not Ed, has a strained relationship with his computer -- with technology introduced after 1989 too, actually. For this reason, the Matron is a frequent visitor to his office.

Edward: "Mary? Say, you would think the faculty bulletin is on our web site, right? Do you think we could locate that?"

Edward: "Mary? Say, aren't we supposed to fill out student withdrawal forms online. That can't be too terribly tough to find, can it?"

Theirs is not a one-sided relationship. Edward (rightfully) assumes that the Matron shares his sweet tooth and takes keeping her satisfied, seriously. If he's just read a fabulous book, a copy makes it to her desk. He inquires after the children and his interest? Not rudimentary. He's genuine.

They share dog stories. She inquires after his grandchildren. Genuine, too.

Today, Edward not Ed, tapped on the Matronly door.

Edward: "Say, Mary. Are you going to that hour and a half training session for the new voice mail system?"

Matron: "You mean the hands-on facilitation for our new communication tool - the telephone/internet/email units we're getting, headsets optional?"

Edward: "Say, Mary. I meant to ask you about that. Yup. That's the one. Will we be able to answer the phone and use voice mail?"

Matron: "Oh yes but there's so much more! These are incredible, complex machines that will let you send messages to groups, set up meetings, invite people to forums, email and more. That's why we have the hour and a half training."

Small silence.

Edward: "Say, Mary. About all that hoopla. Are we still going to be able to answer the phone and use voice mail?"

Matron: "Of course!"

Small silence.

Edward: "Say, Mary? Are you going to that training? Sounds awfully involved, doesn't it?"

There was something about that 'say Mary,' that gave the Matron pause. She took a good long look at him.

Matron: "Edward. I have an idea. How about if you skip that meeting. I'm going. I'll show you how to answer the phone and use the voice mail."

Edward: "Now, there's an idea!"

And later that day there was chocolate--in the sweetest way possible.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thank God-Buddha-Oprah-Allah-Universe She Outgrew This

By the time the third child arrived, the Matron and her husband pretty much put him on the kitchen table and carried on.

What a difference a decade makes! Well, seven years but she is fond of alliteration.

This morning (just to torture her a really special way), the completely ridiculous things the Matron did as a new, overly anxious mother, came back to visit her.

Look at me! Look at me, they screeched! What WERE you thinking?!

* When Stryker was three months old and the Matron noticed ugly yellow snot oozing from his nose, her first INSTINCT was to call 911.

* The Matron and her husband interviewed not one but four pediatricians before they found the right 'fit.' In retrospect, she realized this sainted man was the only one who would tolerate them.

* The Matron visited no less than 16 schools when deciding upon kindergarten for Stryker.

* She also-- for some reason she can't now recall--required several private audiences with the school principal to discuss her offspring.

* She followed the school bus in her van. More than once.

* She pumped breast milk and made baby food from scratch using only organic, locally grown ingredients because by God, that child was not only going to be healthy he was going to be PC too.

* She carried a baby monitor on her person at all times when the tots were sleeping, lest one of them breathe oddly.

* She read all those big parenting book Bibles.

Fast forward 14 years.

Merrick (who hasn't been to school since Thursday): "Mama. I have a tummy ache. I still don't feel well enough to go to school"

Matron (in sunny optimistic tone!): "People go to school with tummy aches all the time! You have to have a fever over 100 or be vomiting to stay home."

He also has never had a pediatrician. The Matron never shopped for schools for Merrick, but put him in the same elementary school as the older children the SECOND she could so she could experience the glorious, orgasm-like convenience of all children at the same school for ONE year. Yes, that was orgasm-like. Orgasm-like-ish. She waves good-bye to all school buses and happily closes the door. When Merrick was still nursing, if the Matronly pumps weren't around, he drank formula -- and as soon as he was old enough, he just ate whatever the rest were eating, diced. Yesterday, she threw the intercom down the basement stairs in a fit of rage ("WE ARE ALL WAY TOO CONNECTED" ) and a stiff chardonnay has replaced the parenting books.

Stryker: "Mom, you are a complete control freak."

da-da-dum. Da-da-dum.

Stryker: "Mom? How come you're not getting mad at me?"

Matron: "Because I am. A complete control freak. What's to get angry about?"

Now please excuse her while she gets busy doing something about winter, which she has decided needs to be middling event this year.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

All Things, Rising

Lazarus and the Phoenix are currently residing in the Matron's house, as Jekyll has made a miraculous rebound and the children are returning to school tomorrow after a bout with what was most likely H1N1.

Rebirth, renewal, return to school!

Honest to God-Buddha-Allah-Universe-Oprah, the Matron nearly pulled the plug on Jekyll, Tuesday, when he apparently lost the ability to stand up-- a skill he recovered completely by Friday and he is now back to bumping into things and falling downstairs.

At the moment, Merrick and Scarlett are watching. . guess what?

Scarlett is actually reciting lines from Elf over the phone, to her best friend, Eleanor, who is also home with the flu.

This blog post is as scattered as the Matronly mind, which has raced between dog-deathbed vigil, convalescing children ("MOM CAN I HAVE SOME MORE GINGER ALE") and her online classes, a gig that means it is possible to be working all the time. You are one click away from a student question.

Now, way back when the Matron first moved into this house she and her husband installed an intercom system. Theirs is a vertical environs, four working floors between basement and third floor addition. Two weeks after moving into the house, the very pregnant (and very old) Matron was on the third floor when she heard DEATH SCREAMS coming from the kitchen, where Scarlett was supposedly sitting alone and watching Barney. She was four.

Death screams, as in the Matron grabbed the phone and dialed 9-1 and waited on the other 1 until she could see what rapist was in the kitchen, as she hauled her fat pregnant ass down two flights of stairs as fast as she could to the sound of her daughter SCREAMING.

Heart pounding, the Matron rounded the corner to find her daughter in hysterics because: the big bad wolf was on Barney. Yes, everyone should have known at that moment that theater was in this family's future.

The end game here is that she realized some kind of communication was needed, so a frightened child could press talk and say: "Mom are you here, I need you?" instead of feeling the need to raise the dead with screaming.

After five days of illness, the Matron is here to tell you that the intercom is a very bad idea. Here is the Matron, in the shower, just a few feet from the basement unit.

"MOM! Are you there? I would like some cereal!"

Here she is on the telephone with her boss, the Dean.

"Mom! My tummy hurts. Are you there? Why aren't you answering?"

Here she is, staggering under mountains of laundry, trying to work her way upstairs for the fun and the thrill that is folding and sorting.

"Mom! Did you see my yellow pen that I used to color in the sun on last week's homework assignment?"

The Matron now cringes whenever she hears the tell-tale 'click' that means an alert is coming.

"Hey! Who turned off the bathroom light on the third floor? I was just going to take a shower."

"Mom my poop is runny! Should we call an ambulance?"

"Jekyll fell over."

Given this delicate state, imagine how she felt when sitting down to check on her online class, a HORRIBLE beeping sound went off: Beep, Beep, Beep!! Beep, Beep, Beep!! Turns out that her online class software includes a PAGER so her students can PAGE her 24 hours a day!!!!!!

"Mary are u there i need u to fix the miss takes in my paper. i have to work in a hour so i need u to do this 4 me fast"

This, dear friends, was the straw that broke the proverbial back. Sweating, swearing and HOT with rage born of circumstance, the technologically challenged Matron FLEW at that computer and figured out how to permanently silence the pager. In the process, she noticed that she'd been paged oodles and oodles of time but never noticed because for some reason, the sound hadn't worked until today.

"Mary! Help! Are you there?"

"Mary I need a big help with the reading assignment. Can you explain what it means?"

"is there any way to get out of this class without filling out paperwork?"

"what good is this pager if i can't get help the minute i need it?"

Good question. Let's see. Absolutely no good whatsoever! This doctor is not the kind who is on call. Well, mostly.

"Mom! Is there food in the kitchen?"

Monday, October 5, 2009

World Record

The Matron will admit to tearing up, smiling a little and flat-out cracking up the first THREE TIMES she watched this movie.

Three. Four. Five. Six.

You see, Scarlett and Merrick both have what the family doctor - consulted over the phone -- says is most likely the H1N1 flu. Scarlett fell ill on Thursday; Merrick came home sick from a birthday party on Saturday.

The symptoms?

Fever, head ache, eyes hurt, cough. The basics. Scarlett appears on the mend but she will miss at least three rehearsals of Annie, which causes her great additional physical pain.

However, while convalescing, Scarlett happened upon a particularly brilliant plan: set the world record for watching Elf. So that damn movie has been going through a permanent loop.

This from the family who brought you The Simpsonathon. New readers will definitely want to check out that link for some high-end parenting tips.

All this mind-numbing screen time brings her to another question. First, let's set side the flu. Sickness, in the Matron's own childhood, was a precious condition precisely because endless TV was possible. Endless TV was always ALLOWED in her childhood but, given that whole problematic school and band and theater and speech situation, endless TV was only POSSIBLE when one was ill.

But on a normal day, like a Monday after school when there''s just an hour of homework and no good book -- how much screen time is enough? How much, how much! Now, the Matron is NOT allowed to blog about her oldest but suffice it to say that the amount of time one should spend at the computer is a hotly contested topic in these environs.

The Matron knows what David Walsh says. But what's the reality in family life? Could Walsh be wrong? The Matron herself quite literally lives online: she teaches, blogs, socializes and shops. If the center of adult life has shifted to something electronic, why not teens too? Maybe the soapbox Walsh is standing on is floating away, far far away, lost in time.

Here's another thing. The Matron thinks that people tend to be a little ingenuous about how much time their children spend plugged in. On the one hand, she hears statistics like children spend four after school hours watching TV. But everyone she knows?

"Oh, we have a strict one hour policy."

"No TV on weeknights, ever!"

"We allow one hour after homework is done."

A friend of hers summed it up best: "Everyone lies about sex--and about how much time their kid spends plugged into computer or TV."

Help her! How do you help a teenager unplug? Should he?!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Mood

Hey! The Matron is on the cover of The New York Times Magazine this morning!