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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

Some Books
I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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I never did learn to play the sitar

For the next two weeks, I'm participating in the DonorsChoose Blogger Challenge. See the end of this post for details!

Second grade was the year that began with Obsession, and ended with Neurosis. I was obsessed with, among other things, astronomy, Japanese culture, and sitar music. I…I don't know, either. These were not interests that began in school, but my teacher, Mr. Barry, did try to cultivate at least one of them.

I developed this brilliant idea for a special astronomy project: somehow I was going to create a constellation projector with a refrigerator box. One of my classmates joined me for this project, and Mr. Barry got us a refrigerator box and let us plan out our brilliant scheme in the hallway, just the two of us and… the box. I felt like this went on for weeks but it was probably only a few days. All we did was sit inside the box and giggle. Mr. Barry tried to get us to organize our thoughts, but it turned out we really wanted to giggle. Our special project got scrapped, and I had to join the Regular People in the classroom. I was none too pleased about that, having quickly decided that I was special and required hallway projects.


Behold the arrogance! And the eyebrows!

I was extremely concerned about Mr. Barry. Since I was already shaping up to be something of a nervous mess, this year marks the beginning of my proud tradition of projecting my feelings onto other people. I thought Mr. Barry was under a lot of stress. He seemed really worried all the time, not that I could say how, but I knew it. I saw him pumping gas at the local station, which is when I first learned that teachers are not paid enough. My worry increased.

As for me, my grandmother died after a terrible battle with cancer, my mom (and the rest of my family) was devastated, and I was peeing myself quite a bit because, it turned out, in addition to being too shy to ask to go to the bathroom, I was getting bladder infections--which were caused by a narrow urethra, which ended up requiring surgery. Also my sister was leaving for college and I pretty much cried all the time? But oh, Mr. Barry was the one who needed my help.


In addition to my many woes, I was not getting any better at posing.

Boy, that was a shitty year. Mr. Barry was one of the bright spots in that year. He was the first teacher I had who I remember laughing at my jokes and the stuff I wrote that was trying to be funny. He was an excellent teacher and he had to pump gas. Goddammit.

I don't have a picture of Mr. Barry but in my imagination he resembled John Denver. I still can't watch "Oh, God!" without getting emotional. You'd think I wouldn't have many opportunities to watch "Oh, God!" but you would be WRONG. Or, okay, right.

What do you guys remember about second grade? Please share with the class. allows donors to directly fund projects for teachers in struggling schools. Any amount you can donate will make a huge difference for these teachers! To date we've already helped fund FOUR classroom projects, which is amazing. Donate any amount up to $100 and enter the match code FINSLIPPY at checkout, and your donation will be matched. Thank you!

Reader Comments (52)

Miss Joy was my 2nd grade teacher, and she was truly full of joy. We were supposed to wear one particular uniform every Wednesday, and one Wednesday my mom was sick and we both forgot. The other girls told me I was going to get in trouble, but Miss Joy pulled me up into her lap and wiped my tears and told me everything was going to be okay, and sent me to the bathroom to wash my face.

Funny the things you remember, and that will still make you tear up after 30+ years.

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeigh

My second grade teacher was this adorable and mildly doddering old lady -- she retired a year later, so she had to have been over 60 when I had her. She was incredibly sweet, and had no idea what to do with me at all. The advanced program didn't start in my school until third grade, and it was obvious even to her (she really was a bit doddery, I don't remember a lot about her, but I remember feeling that even then) that me playing at sounding out words with in the phonics workbook with the rest of the class (remember when phonics was a really big thing?) was ridiculous. So, two or three times a week, during the Reading portion of the day, I got to go to the school secretaries' office where the computers were stored (my grade school had _just_ gotten a bunch of clunky computers when I started -- every so often they would wheel a cart with one into the classroom when I was in Kindergarten and first grade and we got to take turns playing Sticky Bear alphabet games on them, I remember that -- and then I avoided everything having to do with computers for the next nearly-two decades and never even sent an email until I was, almost ten years ago...which is a pretty impressive technological hold-out, I think) and spend an hour playing math and puzzle games and stuff on a computer. I also think second grade was probably when I first started having arguments with the (mean, ridiculous) school librarian, who never wanted to let me check out the books I wanted because she would say they were "a little above you, really, dear, look for something else" (third grade was when I started spending lots of time at the public library instead, stupid school librarian lady, who discourages a kid from reading books???).

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMiss B

My 2nd grade teacher was the aptly named Mrs. English, and she was a gorgeously gorgeous black woman. One day, to get her attention, I accidentally called out "Mom!" very loudly across the crowded classroom. I died one million deaths.

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

the main thing i remember about second grade was that my teacher got married midway through the year and changed her name and always got strangely angry when we forgot to use her new name. even then i thought that was odd - give us a break, ms. whatever, we were only like 8 or something.
also we sang a song about hamsters for some kind of school assembly and it required us each to get our parents to help us make make us stuffed hamsters to cradle while we sang (?)

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleela

You were so cute! I was cute until fourth grade, and it was sort of downhill after that until I discovered curling irons and makeup and learned how to use them correctly.

My second grade teacher was a large motherly woman named Mrs. Huddleston, and she always wore polka dots. It was a tiny rural school and first and second grade were combined, so we also had an assistant teacher - Mrs. Vardeman, who everyone loved.

Some memories that stand out:

Everyone in the class turning on me because another student's mother had enrolled me while my family was out of town and had put my birthday down as September 11th, when it was really the 13th. When I corrected the teacher, everyone thought I was lying and that my mother was a liar, just because they had to wait two days to get cupcakes.

Mrs. Huddleston's punishment for talking too much was to duct tape your mouth closed for a while. I came close but never got taped.

Two or three of the first grade boys getting swats right outside the door because they were flashing girls at recess.

Getting run over by a sixth grader in the gym at recess. I hit my head on the floor, got a concussion, and missed my favorite thing ever - the Bible lady who came to school to tell stories with her felt board (this was in Oklahoma in the 70s).

I know it sounds horrible, but this is actually one of the few years I liked going to school.

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth B

I can't remember my teacher's name except I think it started with a B. We were in room 101 which we only remembered because she put a 101 Dalmations poster on the door. I spent the entire year doing worksheets because I already knew how to do everything the rest of the class was learning and I don't think the gifted program was set up yet. Plus I think I was too small to skip a grade, if they even considered it - I was also peeing my pants a lot that year because my bladder was too small! High five!

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlison

oh my second do you remember such detail from so long ago? I do remember that I had this odd habit of taking a crayon and absentmindly rubbing my belly with it. I liked the sensation but was oblivious to the fact I was doing it. I was doing it once during the national anthem and once the anthem was over I noticed the teacher and other students staring at me. I had taken a red crayon and rubbed it over my white shirt during the entire Anthem and had red-crayony circles all over my torso. I had to go around like that all day.

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGuera!

In 2nd grade our family moved at Christmas, and I started going to school at my mom's old elementary school, which was in a different country on a different continent. On my first day everyone was very nice to me, but I remember being so painfully shy and disoriented that I couldn't bring myself to ask where the bathroom was. So when the inevitable happened, the kid sitting behind me yelled, "The new girl WET HER PANTS!" and there were janitors involved and why it didn't occur to me that that would be much, much worse than asking where the bathroom was, I don't know. Horrible. But I survived! And now I make myself ask where the bathroom is if I need it. That's pretty much the most important thing I learned in 2nd grade.

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy B.

The classroom rat dying over Thanksgiving break. We thought we had trained poor Snowball to press the bar to get his food, but maybe not.

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

2nd grade. 1976-'77 school year. my teacher was mrs. gamrat. she was close to retirement and was a screamer, the "big kids" down the hall could hear her. spelling was the big deal that year. all spelling levels or units were on these laminated folders and it was a big deal to complete another one. the audio/visual room offered a story-on-tape (big ass headphones, too!), called "Octoberist", which i loved and and which my mother and grandmother (not good people) insisted i had the wrong title. i was in girl scouts and the vanilla cupcakes made me throw up on the way home was evening. i was in tumbling and failing at the "back bend" (never could). fleetwood mac was on the radio.

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlori

Can I just say how much I am thoroughly enjoying this series! I love hearing how people were when they were children, how they became who they are today. love love love it. And you're so funny and insightful. Lovely to read!

Second grade... well I did a whole lot of crying and pants wetting too. Lots and lots. I hated my teacher (who was probably very lovely, but I was such an emotional mess, I couldn't settle down in class, hence we clashed). I started a long long tradition of love/hate relationships with all the girls I was stuck with until high school when I finally got out of that horrible tiny school

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterD

Can I just say that I enjoy virtually everything you post? Love the humor, wit, and honesty.

Nothing wrong with a little compassion for Mr. Barry.

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Kindergarten: Failed skipping. Confused it with galloping.

First Grade: Was disgusted with our homework assignment that required reading a 6-page "book" that the imperative sentence "Look." on every page.

Second Grade: Cried over forgetting some spelling homework assignment. Claimed the tears were from poking myself in the eye with a pencil.

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commentero-ya

About second grade--my teacher was Miss Knight, an elderly generous bosomed woman who never married. She made students who misbehaved stand in the empty trash can.

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTerri

Mrs. Showalter- I loved her so! The 2nd grade boys had an obsession with tormenting the girls (dragging us into the boys bathroom and lifting our skirts) so one day she gave everyone a tour of the opposite bathroom they used-- tried to take about the mystery, I guess.
She did something really unorthodox about the skirt-lifting... she flipped up her own dress, and showed us her undies. Weird, I know, but it seemed OK and we didn't freak out as a class at all. She was an older lady with '50s glasses and always wore kind of old fashioned dresses-- there she was, liftin' up the skirt. The boys continued with their tormenting, though....

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

My second grade teacher was Mrs. Martin, who was about 347 years old and wore a wig that must have itched because she was always scratching the back of her head. For some reason, I think because I finished my work too quickly and would distract other students, I was assigned the job of correcting everyone else's spelling books. That little bit of power went to my seven-year-old head, let me tell you. I wielded that red pen like a sword and took a great deal of pleasure in using it. In fact I would sometimes pretend that I couldn't read someone's messy handwriting just so I could mark their answers wrong. Check mark, check mark, CHECK MARK!

March 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhillary

Second grade . . . only one memory. One day I ran inside during recess and found my teacher, Mrs. Johnson, at her desk. I was in tears, and with difficulty, was able to pour out my troubles. "Jerry kissed me!"

I do remember Mrs. Johnson covering her face with a paper, and I know now she was covering her amusement. This was in 1942, long before anyone was concerned with sexual harassment of children by children.

March 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlois

In second grade I turned 8, my mom had the 5th of her eventual 6 babies, and I made my First Communion. Miss Wintergrad was my teacher, and I don't remember much about her except that she had dark hair, and she wore an olive-green dress with a white bra that (unintentionally) showed through her dress for our class picture.

In 1967-68 in public school in the suburbs of Denver, women and girls were not allowed to wear pants to school. For gym, we wore shorts under our skirt or dress. We had a male gym teacher that year, and he let us dance to rock 'n roll records as a form of exercise. My seond-grade classmate Bryan Stephens showed us all how to do the Mashed Potato and the Pony, because his older sister taught him.

My baby sister P. was born over Christmas vacation, two weeks late. I told Miss Wintergrad that she weighed 12 pounds and 9 ounces. Based on the size of my mom before Christmas, Miss Wintergard was not surprised at the size of that baby. (P. really was 9 pounds 12 ounces).

Even though I went to a public school, I had to attend religious ed classes (or CCD - Catholic Children's Doctine) on Saturday mornings at the local Catholic school. First Communion was a big event in the spring: I got a new yellow dress made out of dotted swiss fabric, and white patent leather shoes with a little tiny heel for the occasion. There were 75-100 kids all making their First Communion at the same special Saturday Mass; we all wore robes of white, trimmed in gold over our new fancy clothes. The girls all had white veils, and all the boys had jackets and ties on under their robes. We have a picture of me in my yellow dress and white tights, sitting in the burnt orange vinyl upholstered swivel rocking chair in my parents' livingroom. The Pixie haircut, the blue cat-eye framed glasses and the missing teeth complete the picture of my parents' oldest child on her special day.

March 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

My teacher was Mr. Gagné. He was wonderful and jolly, but he never could pronouce my name right (English was his second language, French his first.) This annoyed me.

For one project we got into groups and, supervised by parent volunteers, created papier-maché animals using recycled cardboard boxes. One group made a 3-foot-tall poison frog. Another group made a 6-foot-tall giraffe. A third group made, no joke, a LIFE-SIZED ELEPHANT which went on display in the school library for a month.

Our group? We had a prissy, uninterested mom in charge who only allowed us to make a small, life sized... snake. Out of toilet paper rolls. It was pathetic.

March 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Lloyd

I had Mrs. Miller for first and second grade in a combined class. In second grade we played a guessing game like pictionary where the teacher drew a picture on the board and we had to guess the word. The answer was "Hobo" and she drew a bearded man with patches on his clothes and when the other kids guessed the word I didn't know what it was. I had never heard of the word before. I really truly thought everyone had made up a secret code together behind my back to trick me.

Mrs. Miller was a short older woman whose breath always smelled like coffee and cigarettes. She played the piano to get us to settle down and she was always jolly. She gave us weekly creative writing assignments with fantastical prompts and we had to complete the story using all our spelling words. Then she read each person's story out loud in front of everyone with such drama and flair and complimented all of us profusely as if we were the best most creative writers in the history of the world. One boy was so embarrassed when she did this that he refused to write a dramatic story ever. So she read his with frowny face in a bored slow voice. He loved that.

She kept in touch with my family and hand wrote long letters to us every Christmas. I got the greatest surprise of my life when I was walking down the aisle at my wedding and the first person I saw of everyone in the room was dear old Mrs. Miller. I love that woman.

March 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica Flemming

Her name was Mrs. Larson. It was the first time I suspected I was not like other little girls. I couldn't stop staring at the mounds that popped out of her blouse that was never buttoned to the top. She loved my stories about unicorns and made me blush.

March 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Mommy Psychologist

I'm guessing that you were just as funny in the second grade as you are now, and that your teacher didn't have to humor you. My daughter takes after her hilarious father and a sharp wit seems to be ageless :)

My second grade teacher was so horrible and thoughtless, that my (very not rich) parents decided to dump the public school system entirely and put me in a private catholic school. I had Mrs. Britten for third grade, which might have been my most academically challenging year of school ever. She was tough, but so caring. I still think my parents rigged the system because I then had her again in 4th grade - my second most challenging year of school!

March 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

You may have had some issues, but your sense of style was impeccable! What happened to that shirt?!

March 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

I moved to a new town in 2nd grade and suddenly, desperately missed my mom when she dropped me off. My teacher, Mrs. Wenz, let me sit on her lap (at 7!) and bought me special snacks (Cheez-its in a little bag!) from the old timey store down the street and let me cry without shushing me. She somehow did all this without the kids making fun of me -- tho they were a little jealous of the snacks.

I never much loved school, especially as the newbie, but she made it bearable and even a bit cozy.

March 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbluejeanamy

I went to second grade in 1988. My teacher's name was Mrs. Demchuck and she was a lovely older woman. I remember her being very patient and kind. Every day after lunch and recess, we would sit on a massive braided rug in the classroom, and she would read us a story.

On one particular day during story time, I had gas so terribly bad. My stomach hurt, and I was trying desperately hard to hold it in. I tried to change my sitting position from my butt to my knees, when it happened: a very loud fart. It seemed like time was suspended for a few seconds. I sat there, stunned, not really knowing what to do. The teacher stopped reading, while the rest of my class stared at me. Finally, the other kids started shrieking, "ewww!" or laughing, and scooting away from me. I remember putting my face in my hands and crying. I was so embarrassed.

Mrs. Demchuck gracefully settled the class and continued reading as if nothing had happened, but I carried that shame for a while... my maiden name was Carter, and for the rest of the school year I was known as "Emily Farter."

Fun times, fun times.

March 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

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