Saturday, March 31, 2012

Running out the door...

Ok, I can't believe I'm up at 5:30 on a SATURDAY! But, some people from school planned a day trip to some big flea market a few hours from here, so I'm up and, well, not really at 'em, but close to it. All I need is a giant Coke and I should be fine. (And maybe a short nap on the way there!)

This is the first outing I've had with people from school since we moved here, so it should be fun. I'm looking forward to getting to know people a little more on a social level.

I know I won't have time today to post later, so this will have to do as my final post for the slice of life challenge--a bit anticlimactic, but maybe appropriate. I don't want the writing to get in the way of the living, just to enhance it!

Way to go to all of us--31 days! I know this is a huge accomplishment for me and I am feeling...mostly proud, and a little sad that it's over. I will definitely be slicing on Tuesdays--I think I'm hooked!

Thanks, Ruth and Stacey!

Friday, March 30, 2012

It's always fun until...

It is a beautiful day here--almost 80, sunny, puffy white clouds. So, on the way home from school we passed a park the kids like to go to and they asked if we could stop. Well, asked might be too serene a word for the screeching and pleading that actually happened. But I was happy to stop for a while on such a fabulous day.

The last time we were there, the kids discovered a little creek with a plank across it and proceeded to get their sneakers soaking wet. So, of course, they asked if they could go in the water (again, that might be too staid a description!).

I think their mouths dropped open when I said just to take off shoes and socks first. At one point, my youngest said, "Well, how are we going in it then?"

That is when I decided that they would definitely go in because is it possible that my 6 year old has never been wading in a creek? The ocean, yes. The lake, yes. But just a random sun-dappled creek with tons of flat stones for skipping? It was time.

They had the best time wading around, trying to skip stones, and then the big discovery--clay. Real clay and a large flat-topped rock just waiting to be used as a potter's wheel. The kids just scooped up gloppy handful after gloppy handful, constantly calling to me to show me their clay-caked fingers.

It was so awesome.

You know the old saying, though--it's always fun until someone gets hurt?

And that's where we ended up. Jill slipped and put out her hand to catch herself and sliced her hand right where the finger and palm meet--ouch! When I looked at it, it seemed a little deep to me.

Now when I looked at the water, instead of seeing this fresh, sparkling little creek, I instead saw a stagnant, bacteria-infested swamp.

So, the end of the fun (for today). Grabbed everyone's shoes and socks and headed to the car.

Did some major cleaning and sterilizing of the cut when we got home. I think it will be ok without stitches--it seemed to be closing up a little. So we're going to clean it some more before bed and hope that this is just the normal type of thing you might get when you're having a lot of fun. Right?

It didn't seem to dampen anyone's enthusiasm, though, since they all asked if we could go back tomorrow!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reflections on the slice of life challenge...

Wow! 29 days in a row of writing. And not just school writing. Writing for me. I'm sort of surprised by myself and have been reflecting a little on the slice of life challenge. And here's what I think:

  • revisions are like exercise (at least for me)--kind of miserable in the middle of it, but feels so good when you're done
  • having an actual "deadline" seems to be the only way I make time for writing (what to do when the challenge is over?!)
  • slicing every day really builds the writing muscles--it's easier to keep it up and come up with ideas
  • some days are better than others
  • I'm a sucker for comments (thanks to all of you who have commented!)
  • I clearly need more time to write well--the posts I liked the best were when I was on break and was able to take a while to write and come back to it later
  • having a writing community is a nourishing thing--it has been amazing to read so many different slices and get a glimpse into others' lives and be inspired by their writing

I'm so glad that I am doing this! Only 2 days to go--we're almost there!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Post-is Interrupt-is

We've come home from school and dealt with the snack issue (my kids are always starving after school) and I sit down to work on my post (it's 5:20).  I start thinking about what to write, when...

"Mom, I need some help on my homework."

Get up, check on the math homework, give a few suggestions, come back to the computer (it's 5:40).

Just about to start typing when my husband calls to say he'll be late and can I get dinner started (he always cooks since my idea of making dinner is pouring cold cereal).

Get things started and in the oven and sit back down to the computer (it's 6:10).

The phone rings.

It's my sister and her husband just got back from his deployment, so I answer.  As we talk, she tells me she needs some help on an application. But now it's time for dinner, so I tell her I'll call her back (it's 6:35).

We eat dinner and I come back to the computer (it's 7:00). But I decide to call my sister, because, as she said, it "should only take a minute."  At 7:30, I tell her I need to get the kids in bed and I'll call her back.

Go upstairs and have my kindergartner read to me (love listening to him read!) and read to him. Tuck in my daughter.

Come back downstairs (it's 8:10) to my oldest son and husband practicing fencing moves.

Remember I need to call my sister back. As we're finishing up and getting the computer issues straightened out, my daughter comes down to say she can't fall asleep (she has the worst allergies right now) and can I come up and snuggle with her (it's 8:50).

Go back upstairs and stroke daughter's hair until she falls asleep (it's 9:10).

As I'm walking downstairs, get a text from a good friend that she needs to chat and can I call her in 20 minutes.

Decide that there is no way I'll be able to get any uninterrupted time tonight, so I'll just brush my teeth, get in bed and call my friend back.

Maybe tomorrow I'll take the laptop into the bathroom with me, lock the door and not come out until my post is done!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Money, money, money...

Who was it who said, "Money isn't a problem if you have a lot of it."

Ugh. Right now my husband and I are trying to figure out how to deal with some debt and make better financial choices. This is never a conversation that I like to have. I was raised with a pretty comfortable lifestyle, one that definitely didn't require me to be independent financially (and maybe even discouraged it).

So it was definitely a shock to be living on not just one, but two teachers' salaries and also go to grad school--a great thing professionally, but a real setback financially (don't I wish that schools would pay for a PhD like some companies pay for an MBA!).

My first instinct is head-in-the-sand avoidance, but apparently, as one of two grown-ups in a (relatively) equal partnership (can you ever get them to actually see dirt?), I am trying to figure a more productive reaction.

No, I didn't scour the house for chocolate (although I thought about it!). Instead, I decided to go for a walk.

What a difference it made in my mindset. Instead of being completely panicky, now I'm only partly panicky! The rest of me agrees with my husband that we can get through this together.

But I still wish we'd win the lottery.

Monday, March 26, 2012

My "baby"...

He is my baby. My first baby. The one who still likes to cuddle and have a story read to him at night. The one who lays his head on my shoulder and says, “I love to be near you, Mom.”

Even though he is a big 10 year-old kid.

And he’s this great, interesting, thoughtful kid, who takes his school work seriously, has taken up fencing with the same seriousness, who feels the sting of injustices no matter who is on the receiving end, who is kind and thoughtful toward everyone (even his brother and sister—most of the time), who is starting to get adult humor.

And now…

I think we’re starting to have mood swings here, and they’re not mine (at least, not usually).


You can see it come over him, and I think he can feel it too, and yet he can’t control it. So he’s alternatingly snappy or overly sensitive.

But being Ben, he’s so completely verbal that he’s talking about it in the middle of the mood swing. After snapping at his sister, he’s saying in the next breath, “Why am I feeling so angry about this? It’s not that big of a deal. But I’m SO angry with her!”

Then we have a prolonged (to my mind) conversation about adolescence and the changes that happen.

But for the most part, he’s happy to be growing up.

Except for last night, when he asked if I could come up and read to him a bit. I was sitting on his bed with him, in the dim light of the bedside lamp, with the ceiling fan making its click-click-click sound, when he looked up and said, “Sometimes I wish I could be little again. It just seems easier.”

And then he asked for the song from when he was a baby.

And I was happy to have my baby back for a few minutes.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Make it go away...

It looms over everything today.

When I'm doing schoolwork I'm thinking about it.

When I'm running errands I see the different groups.

While the kids and I are playing at the park I know it can't be avoided.

While I'm writing this blog I know it's waiting for me.




Laundry...why can't you do yourself?!

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Today my husband and I spent about 6 hours doing yard work (it's been a while!).

We weeded (and weeded), mowed, edged, swept, washed down tables and chairs, reorganized the garage.

Tonight I can feel every muscle in my body.

I just hope I have enough strength to lift my martini to my lips.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Grammarians unite!

Ok, I admit it, I'm a grammar girl. I have been all my life. It's one of the things that my mother and I bond over--we can have a 40 minute discussion of a particular fine point of grammatical usage--and enjoy it (I know, not many people share this enjoyment, my husband among them!).

Whew! It's good to get that out there.

It's hard sometimes being so aware of grammar when other people just cavalierly throw grammatical rules to the wind and scoff at the idea of correct speech. You start to feel just the tiniest bit of a curmudgeon, especially when people justify their odd usages with the comment that English is a living language and always changing. I know, I know, but I'm just not ready to get rid of:

--saying different from instead of different than
--saying fewer instead of less when appropriate
--using subject and object pronouns correctly (it's always between you and me!)
--saying I'm doing well instead of I'm doing good
--when someone on the phone asks for me, saying "This is she," instead of "This is her."
--only using an apostrophe in "it's" when it means "it is"

I know, I know, I'm a total grammar purist! But don't worry, I only apply it to myself, and I don't worry about how other people (except my children) say things! So, I'm (pretty) sure that I don't come across as insufferable to others (except maybe tonight?).

Which is why I so enjoy rereading Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. It's nice to know there are other crazy grammar freaks out there, too!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Funny or not?

So, two of my friends at school played a practical joke on me today (involving teachers being asked to move to different grade levels, including me). I laughed it off good-naturedly afterward (and they actually felt bad because I looked so concerned), but later, found myself thinking more about jokes, and particularly practical jokes.

And I think I'm not a really big fan of the practical joke. I know there are people who love them, whether they are the joker or the jokee (?), but I can't really get into them. Mostly because I feel like they're always at someone else's expense--that at the end, it's people laughing at you, instead of with you. Which is why I could never watch that Punk'd show--I always felt bad for the person getting Punk'd. I'd think, oh, they must feel so embarrassed or worried or angry, and then they would try to instantly change into (false?) heartiness.

We just had to deal with this in class today, too. One of my second graders got his feelings hurt because a few of the boys were joking around with him and then all of a sudden it didn't feel like a joke any more, it felt like teasing.

We all talked it out (I'm big on the "I" statements) and I reminded students that it's only a joke if everyone finds it funny. If someone is upset by it or gets their feelings hurt, then it's not really a joke anymore.

But I really knew how he felt, because for a split second, I had my feelings hurt this afternoon, until I realized that my friends would never make me feel bad on purpose. I think it might be a little early for my students to be able to have that realization.

I know this puts me farther down on the fun scale than many other people, but my Secret Garden-Father of the Bride-loving self just wants everyone to be happy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's a blur...

When, exactly, did time start to speed up so much? I remember as a kid just feeling like weekends lasted forever, let alone summers. I would wake up on a summer morning with the whole day stretching ahead, like highway 66, going on and on and wonder where I might go and what I might do that day. Maybe I would shoot some hoops with my friends, maybe go exploring in the creek behind our house, maybe get a neighborhood game of kickball going, or go for a bike ride. I just know that there was so much that I could do in a day. And sometimes, I was even bored! But in that really good way, where you're just contented and lazy, like a cat. 

Even in college, time seemed pretty normal, if not slow (especially thinking of some of my three-hour classes!). You could go to class, do some work, get dinner with friends, (maybe) do some more work, and then go out for the evening.

I think it was after I had kids that time seemed to start speeding up. Not with the first one, especially in those early days, when every day seemed to last for a month, but with each new baby, the pace quickened.

Now, time is racing by so fast that I can barely hang on. Work, meetings, kids' activities (and we don't even let them do more than one a semester, and usually only let them do an after-school activity at school!), homework (for the kids and me), dinner, bath, bed. It's like one of those spinning, tilt-a-whirl things at the boardwalk rides that always makes me want to throw up!

And unfortunately, these are the times I want to slow down and savor being with my kids. They are getting to be such funny, thoughtful, independent little people and I really want to be present and focused. I definitely have a hard time finding that balance. 

But to that end, my husband just got home with my oldest from his fencing class. I'm going to stop thinking about how fast everything is going, and go have some dinner with them and talk about our day. And maybe forget about what time it is for a while.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No tornadoes, just a great day...

Well, safety girl did not need to use the closet, so she is very happy! I will take into consideration the suggestions for storing some adult beverages in there for next time!

We are back to work this week after break, and today was one of those days.

No, not the frustrating kind. 

The amazing, fantastic, sunny day-rainbow shining-birds singing kind where every lesson seemed to flow, the kids were listening to me (and each other), the timing of everything worked, and I was able to work with individuals and small groups in really focused, meaningful ways.

Happy sigh.

Although it does beg the question, why can't my principal ever stop in during these days?!

I'm off to regale my husband with more exciting (to me, at least) tales from the classroom today!

It might be too much to ask that tomorrow be as good, but a girl can dream, right?

Monday, March 19, 2012

You never let's be safe!

So, I'm kind of a safety girl. I have always been the cautious type--I usually have an umbrella on me, "just in case," I make sure the gas tank never gets lower than a quarter tank, I carry one of those life hammer things in the car (velcroed on so if I needed it, it wouldn't have been flung around the car) and I'm big on helmets for just about anything (fun). One year, my husband gave me The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook and it was one of my favorite books--I mean, who wouldn't love something that tells you how to escape from your car if it goes over a bridge or survive an alligator attack. You never know when that information might be useful!

So, tonight is our first major Texas storm and I have to admit, I'm a little concerned. I've been through evacuations for hurricanes on the East Coast, been through major nor'easters and several feet of snow, but something definitely freaks me out about tornados. Probably because its path is so capricious and its force so malevolent.

People who are from here are either completely calm, in a "Oh, this is nothing, I'm not even sure I've ever heard the tornado sirens," kind of way, or showing their stress in a "You don't have food and water in your safe place at home?! Get it now!" kind of way. But, everyone has been talking about it all day, so we raced home from school to batten down the hatches and get things organized in case we have to huddle in the closet tonight (blankets, pillows, baby books, goldfish crackers, capri suns--will clearly need to get some water for next time!).

Hopefully, it will just be some rain and strong winds (we did manage to get both cars in the garage in case it hails) and NO tornadoes.

In any case, safety girl has just informed her husband that we are getting a NOAA weather radio after this, "just to be on the safe side."

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Where is everyone?

It's quiet in the house when I wake up. (Too quiet!) Why don't I hear the kids racing around downstairs playing mountain lion (we went to the zoo the other day)?

Hmmm...I come downstairs and see the note.

"I took the kids to the movies. Enjoy some time alone!"

Oh, he is good! What will I do with this time?

I could...
--do the laundry
--clean the kitchen
--write my lesson plans

...but instead, I will grab my book, get comfortable on the couch, and revel in the two hours of quiet to do whatever I want!

Friday, March 16, 2012

What do you hold back?

So, a few days ago, Nancy from Two Years and Finishing Strong, talked about the author of a book who had gotten her thinking about what you hold back. I started thinking about it myself, and then it took a little different turn. Here are some things that I (try to) hold back:

--a harsh word
--a snarky criticism
--saying "no" out of fear or worry
--judgment of others
--being defensive

It doesn't always work, but as my grandma always said, "Once you say something, it's always out there. Even if someone forgives, they never forget." I don't always take this wise advice, but I try. Every day.


I've heard many of you talk about your wonderful crafting hobbies, and...I am jealous. Mostly that you all derive so much enjoyment from it. Unfortunately for me, I think that, except for teaching and reading, I am actually all about the product instead of the process. So I like the idea of being able to knit, or cross-stitch, or scrapbook, but only in the actual completion of a particular project.

However, I have learned to knit and cross-stitch (no scrapbooking--I have no spatial ability and cannot pull it off!) because I have wanted to make things for friends at first, and then for my own children. I generally can only make things that are square or rectangular because anything else becomes too complicated. So that means knitting a baby blanket for my best friend's daughter and for my niece but not a baby hat.

When I was pregnant with my oldest son, I decided to make a baby sampler, with the alphabet and his name, birthday and weight. I found a beautiful pattern, and my friend, who owned a needlepoint store, wondered whether it might be a little ambitious (yes, it probably was, but it was the prettiest one there!). I was determined, and after giving me some tips, I was on my way. I finished it before he was born, added the information afterwards and had it framed.

Then I decided to make the same sampler for my daughter when I was pregnant with her. I didn't quite get it finished before she was born, but by her six month birthday, it was completed and framed.

Then I got pregnant with my third child. Again, I decided to make the same sampler (I was slightly consumed by the idea that he should have the same things that they had) and set to work.

Um...that child is now 6 years old and started asking why he didn't have the alphabet picture like his older siblings. Yes, that's right--even though I started before he was born, it still wasn't done!

So, I finally finished his sampler over Christmas break (whew!). It is being framed and he will, finally, have his alphabet picture.

But, a few weeks ago my daughter wanted to try some sewing, so I picked up a little animal-making kit at Michael's. Her little brother watched her working on it and asked her when she would be done.

Her reply?

"I'm not sure, but I don't think it will take 6 years like it took Mommy to finish your picture."

Probably not!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


It's my birthday today! Yay!

I was just about to sit down and write about birthdays and getting older (ugh) and how I still feel like I am only 26 in my mind (even though the rest of me is clearly not!), but my kids have come bursting in and want to go on a scooter-walk (they're on scooters, I'm walking!) and it's a beautiful day. So, maybe I'll have more to write about tomorrow, maybe I'll clean the office and the car tomorrow, maybe I'll do a little work tomorrow. Today, I'm going out into the sunshine with my three little peanuts and just enjoy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Favorite Car...

It was slate blue. It had air conditioning (if only for a day). It was big. And it was cheap.

It was the first purchase my now-husband and I ever made together--a Chevrolet Ipanema station wagon.

We didn't think we'd live in Brazil for more than 2 years. How could we know that it would be four (and we wished it was more) and that we would take that car on so many miles in and out of Sao Paulo? Would we have bought it if we had known? I like to think so. How could you not buy a car called the Ipanema when in Brazil and young and in love?

After a particularly muddy, slightly off-roading adventure reaching the beach house we shared with friends, she was christened the Swamp Pig (it sounded good after several many caipirinhas!). We believed she could do anything.

And we were right--she could even drive with no keys in the ignition. They fell out every time we turned a corner. After the first (panicked!) time, we just left them on the floor until we stopped.

Even though the air conditioning conked out the day after we bought her. Even though the radio stopped working the week after that. Even though it was so old that the odometer had turned over. Even though whenever you accelerated she would jerk forward and back, forward and back until finally (barely) creeping forward (it made for interesting merging). Even though we lost the gas cap and went for months with aluminum foil molded over the opening. Even though she got dented from various adventures in and out of the city.

We loved that car.

Our first purchase together. We knew we would have adventures in that car. Fourteen years later, we're still having them. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Night Owls...

Night owls
begin to stir as 
the sun goes down.

Night owls
stretch their wings and
look around

Night owls
choose a target
lift off
and feel the energy

Night owls
enjoy the quiet

Night owls

Oh, my fellow
night owls,
why must I
wake so early?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fabulous Friends...

Friends are wonderful things. They will do things for you even when, sometimes especially when, they don't really want to.

My sister and I have started a business that is super small right now and we're sloooooowly gaining some momentum. She mainly writes the blog on our website because she doesn't work full time, and I take over during vacations to give her a bit of a break. We don't get tons of comments on the blog, or sometimes any comments. So since this is my week to write (while I'm on spring break), I sent out an email to all of my friends to ask them to check out the website and blog this week and leave me comments (I'm getting spoiled from writing this blog and having people leave such lovely and thoughtful comments!). I already had two friends leave comments this morning, and one of them passed it along to one of her friends who was doing something related, and now that person is going to link our website to hers!

Another one of my friends sent me an email telling me that she will make it a point to comment every day, which I know is difficult in her busy schedule!

It is so nice to know that you have a core group of people that you can ask for favors and they will come through for you, no questions asked. What a spirit booster! I feel lucky today!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Big Laugh...

Sometimes I have to remind myself to smile.

I think I'm generally kind of a serious person and I'm not good at witty repartee (except inadvertently!). When I'm not smiling, apparently, I can look a little angry (yikes!). When I took my senior pictures in high school, the photographer asked me for a "serious" look. I told him it wasn't great for me, but he insisted, so I did. "Don't ever do that again," he said. So I remind myself to smile, or at least to mini-smile, so I look friendly!

But I love a good laugh. Any kind, really, and there are lots of things that crack me up. But I was thinking today about the really big kind where your stomach hurts, your eyes are watering and your cheeks feel like they might crack from stretching. And wondering how often I have those kinds of laughs. And I think it's not as often as it should be, since right off the top of my head, I can only think of three specific times, where I had that kind of laugh (although I'm sure there are others, right?).

I wish I could convey in my writing how funny it was when, as kids, my sister and I tape-recorded ourselves making up commercials (the "new steel-pocketbook" one was especially hilarious). Or when my mom and I went for a run when traveling in Scotland, through fields of cows, eyeing them warily. When they began moving toward us, my mom had us run through a creek, since, as "everyone knows, cows don't go in water." And then the next day, we saw at least 5 cows standing mid-deep in a lake. Or how, late at night a few months before we married, my fiance and I were talking about alternate careers, and he mentioned "master puppeteer" and went into a detailed description that was so funny, it makes me laugh even now. And then the night before the wedding, he gave me homemade finger puppets of a bride and groom. Sooooo funny!

But I know that probably reading this, you're thinking to yourself, "Hmmm...I'm not totally seeing this." Which I get, since I know I've laughed politely when someone was telling me something they found so hilarious.

I guess we all have our own laughter triggers. I want to make sure that mine is ready to release more frequently!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sounds in the Night...

I couldn't wait to get to bed last night.

The day was done--the half day before spring break, where the kids who had won the chance to be teachers for the day in our school auction were able to "rule the school," which, of course, meant complete chaos (in a fun, sweet way). Then the half day of planning with my partner, which turned into an extended time of planing interspersed with talking, talking, talking that lasted until 6:30. Then, out for drinks and dinner at a friend's house until 9:30.  Then home again, where my children were still up talking (every Friday night they all start out in our bed, which means lots of reminders before everyone finally winds down and falls asleep). Finally, a little tv with my husband, even though I could barely keep my eyes open.

At about 10:45, we went to bed. I cannot go to sleep until I read something, anything, so I opened up a well-worn book, one that I know practically by heart, so that I wouldn't be tempted to get so into the story that I stayed up (this has happened waaaay too many times!). And then I found myself reading the same lines again and again and having no idea what they even said, so I knew I had to go to sleep.

I dropped my book on the floor next to the bed, reached over my water cup to turn out the light, gave my husband a kiss, arranged my pillows just so, and luxuriated in being in bed with the knowledge that I had nothing to do on Saturday. Ahhh.

BEEEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEEEEP! shrieked out piercingly all over the house, non-stop.

At first, I was so disoriented I thought it was my alarm clock, and then I realized it was the smoke detector.

No, not just a smoke detector, it was every single smoke detector in the house going off at the same time.

At 4:00 a.m.

My husband was already swinging his legs over the side to jump out of bed, and I shouted to him above the din, "Get Dan!"

Our youngest, in kindergarten, had had a fire safety presentation by the local fire fighters a few weeks ago, and has since been in some anxiety about the idea of a fire and of the smoke detectors going off. Now it was pretty much his worst fear happening (the smoke detectors that is, not a fire).

We barely got out of our room before Dan was running to us, in tears. Then the other two came running in, as the smoke detectors stopped blaring as suddenly as they had begun.

We put everyone back in bed and laid back down, still with adrenaline running through my body, and started getting comfortable again.


And we were out of bed again.

I had all the kids get in my bed, then went out to help Clint figure out how to make it stop. It was difficult though, because some of our ceilings are so high that we can't actually reach the things (we just moved into this rental house and don't even own a big ladder!). So when Clint figured out which one was the ringleader, instigating all the other smoke detectors to buckle under peer pressure, he couldn't reach it, even standing on our daughter's bed.

So we did the only thing that made sense. No, not beat it down with the broom handle (although that was tempting). We grabbed a chair from the hall, perched it precariously on the bed, and I held it "steady" while Clint wobbled around on top of it, wrenched the smoke detector off, and pulled the battery out.



The kids decided to all sleep in one room together (I just let them go), and we decided to deal with the rebellious detectors in the morning.

Interesting start to spring break...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Spring Break Countdown!

Whoo-hoo! Spring break starts in 5 1/2 hours! (Not that I'm looking forward to it or anything!) Unfortunately, I'm not sure an entire week can hold all of the things that I want to do:

--finish two unit planners
--organize word study folders and activities
--rearrange the classroom
--take my children on some day trips (we just moved to Texas and want to see some things)
--play dates and sleepovers for the kids (they have been asking for weeks--they know I'm a sucker when there's a break because I feel so free!)
--a nap or two
--read, read, read (3 pleasure books and 2 professional books)
--go to dinner with my husband (yay!)
--birthday lunch with my girlfriends

Oh well, I'm trying to learn to live with what happens here and now(so not easy for me!), and if I get something done from the school side and more things done from the life side, then I think it will be time well spent.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I Need a Parenting Manual...

Why is there no manual for parents? One that lets you flip to the necessary chapters—“Homework Hassles” or “Friends or Foes?” or “How Long will the Mood Swings Last?”

I needed one tonight.

My oldest has just started fencing, and the coaches seem to think that he has some potential. They asked us to come several days a week. Which he enjoyed until tonight. My oldest has a bit of a dramatic tendency as well as some math anxiety, which is never a good combination. Today it all came together in one tear-filled, combustible mix.

He was working on math homework in my classroom while I was at my faculty meeting. When I came back, he looked up and said quaveringly, “I don’t want to go to fencing tonight.” There were already tears in his eyes.

The gist was that he was having trouble with a question on his homework. (In fact, I had trouble with it--it was a bad question and I couldn’t figure out why they were making this more difficult and wrong than it should be).  Usually he can get over it and move on, but not today.

My husband came in to check in and get the hand-off of our other two children and our oldest was sitting in a chair taking deep (dramatic) breaths and blinking back tears. So my husband tried to talk with him (note to self—don’t try to have a rational discussion with a hormonal pre-adolescent), which went about as well as your average iceberg-bound ocean liner.

So my husband and other kids left, I got my stuff together, and we walked out to the car. I tried to be cheery on the way to fencing and he tried to pretend that he wasn’t on the verge of a total meltdown.

Fencing was difficult, he was emotional and trying to hide it, and he couldn’t shake it all evening.

Finally, it was time for bed and he asked for me to come and tuck him in and get in a little snuggle. Usually this fixes things and calms him.  Not tonight.

Tonight he came in to our room at midnight and was just upset. We had him climb in, and he finally fell asleep, cocooned between us, with my arm and my husband’s arm draped over him.

 I would have liked a manual that let me figure out how to make him feel better a whole lot sooner.

But then I might have missed this midnight snuggle—and times like this don’t come around as often as he gets bigger.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Teaching by the numbers...

120 (deliberately) broken pencils
50 times a day that someone tries to tattle
35 times a day that I ask, "What is your responsibility ___ (at morning meeting, at lunch, in line, during reading workshop)?"
12 classroom library books damaged beyond repair
2 seat sacks cut with scissors

5 nervous second graders who presented projects beautifully in front of the whole elementary school.

Some numbers count more than others.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Old Blue...

So, my sister keeps asking when we are going to get a new car.  Why would we get a new car, I say, this one is only eleven years old with 172,000 miles on it.  And she just shakes her head.

It seems clear that my sister is more like my dad, who would get a new car every year if he could.  Or it just might be that my sister, who is super organized and keeps her house immaculate, despite running a business and volunteering at her girls’ school, lets the inside of her car look like a bomb has detonated.

I, on the other hand, clearly take after my mother on this one.

In the course of my 43 years, my mother has only had three cars, although she did just get her fourth one last year. It wouldn’t have even been that many if she hadn’t decided to give me one of them when I was in high school—although I know she only did it so she wouldn’t have to drive us into another state for school each day!

The first car was Old Blue. I don’t even know what kind of car it was, just that it was giant and blue, and had black vinyl seats and was the car of my early childhood. How many times did we drive to the beach on a Friday night after my dad came home from work in Old Blue, with a cot spread out in the back for my sister and me to sleep on, straining to eavesdrop on my parents’ murmured conversations through the strains of “Me and My Bobby McGee.”

That car was like a tank and in it I felt protected as if I were in a cocoon.

And when Old Blue had finally had it, with the side mirror cracked, a beautiful rainbow of melted crayons in the back window, and the horn refusing to go off, even when it was supposedly “disconnected,” we knew that we would have to put Old Blue down.

And, just like with Old Yeller, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Birthday musings...

Today is my Grandma's birthday. She would have been 100 years old today.

My Grandma Gloria died last June after 99 amazing years. Here are some things I will never forget about her:

--She often watched my sister and my cousins while our mothers went back to school. She, who despised early mornings (I know where I get it!), would tell us to come down whenever we got up and wake her up by buzzing like a bee in her ear. And that would usually be before 6 a.m.!

--When I was little and afraid of the witch who lived under my bed, my Grandma took me out to the store and bought me a giant bunny rabbit to put on the outside edge of my bed so I would feel safe (of course, it  gave me a heart attack every time I woke up and the bunny wasn't there because I had knocked it off the bed!).

--Her famous rigatoni--yummmm.

--Grandma had a beautiful "golden" cricket box that my aunt had brought back from Korea and that each of the grandchildren used as their treasure box at some point during their childhood. She would often put a few Hershey's Kisses in it for us when we weren't looking.

--She would let us take all of the pots and pans out of the cabinet to play with, even if it ended up with a lot of banging!

--Whenever it was your birthday, and sometimes even when it wasn't, Grandma would give you a twenty and tell you to "go buy yourself a doughnut."

--When my sister, cousins and I would be at her house, she would make us toasted pita bread with cheese whiz on it (sounds gross now, but we all loved it then!), then sit us at her round kitchen table and tell us stories featuring all of us. We would be laughing until our stomachs hurt because the stories were so funny (and usually scatalogical).

--Grandma told all of us girls never to let a man put a hand on us. But if one did, to get the heaviest frying pan you could and "clock him one." None of us ever took that part seriously, but I know we all took the lesson to heart.

--When I was in college, I was invited to go to the May balls at Oxford University in England. I begged and begged my parents to go, and when that didn't work, I brought it up again at a big family dinner. As I suspected, Grandma and Grandpa took my side, and then offered to chaperone my trip. They took my sister, my cousin and me. They had such an amazing time, I wished I had stayed with them instead of going to the dance.

--Grandma called each one of us her "treasure," and we all secretly thought she really only meant us.

--Grandma wore high heels every day of her life until she was 86!

--As each of us grandchildren went to college, Grandma took us aside and told us that if we ever needed money and didn't think we could go to our parents, we should come to her. Only one of us took her up on it, and Grandma never mentioned it to anyone.

--Whenever we came back home for a visit, one of the first things we did was to go to Grandma's--she loved chatting with us about who we were dating (or marrying or divorcing) and what we were doing.

--She adored each of her seven great-grandchildren and they adored her. Even when she began to get forgetful, she always managed to remember and connect with the kids. They still tell stories about visiting her at her house.

--My Grandma's two favorite drinks were scotch and soda and pink champagne. Every time she had a drink, she would give her favorite toast--"Here's to those who wish us well, and all the rest can go to hell." The picture in the church during her funeral was of her holding a champagne glass (much to the priest's chagrin!).

We all miss her so much, although there is more laughter than tears whenever we talk about her, because her larger-than-life personality gave us all amazing stories to share.

We all wish you well, Grandma, and we'll keep on telling your stories!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Old friends...

How can it already be 9:30 at night and I still have so much school work to do? I guess it's because we spent the day with our friends going to the zoo, the kids showing them our school, and going out to dinner. It has been so pleasant being with them. Our friend, Andrea, was our nanny for seven years--four when we were overseas, and three when she lived with us in the States when we came back for my husband to go to school. She is part of our family, and we haven't seen her since last June when she returned to her country to wait for her fiancee visa to come through. It finally did and she and her fiance are driving out to California and stopped here for two nights.

We had such a great day, with the kids interrupting each other to tell her and show her different things about our new life in Texas, until it was just about time for bed. Then my youngest, who has such a special relationship with Andrea since she has taken care of him for his whole life, melted down because she was leaving tomorrow. Even though we'll see them in June for their wedding, he just sobbed and said he didn't want to wait until then. It just about broke my heart, because I know how much he loves her. Luckily, Andrea came through as usual and decided to put him to bed and read him a bunch of stories and then snuggled with him, talking with him until he fell asleep. I think it soothed both of us.

Now, I'm going to put off doing the rest of my work so I can go and look at Andrea's wedding dress with her. My work will always be there, but this is something I definitely don't want to miss!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Great fun...

Ack! It's almost midnight and I haven't posted yet!  Great night--my husband and I made up--whew! I always feel better after that.  Then we went to a super fun school event and then, best of all, our great friend came to visit for a night on her way to move to California.  So, I've been chatting with her and almost forgot to post. So, I'm going to leave you with a view of my night, in the words of the inimitable Dorothy Parker:

I love to drink martinis,
two at the very most.
Three I'm under the table.
Four I'm under the host.

Not quite at four, but it's been a great night!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Night Fight

Ugh. I was planning on a different kind of post today, all about balance in my life (or the lack thereof).  And then my husband came home from a crummy, crummy day and we had a giant fight that came out of nowhere (well, maybe not nowhere since I know how awful his day was). Now I'm feeling completely unsettled and jittery, like I can't sit still (which is probably good, because I'm about to go finish cleaning the house before our guests arrive tomorrow) and I definitely am not feeling any kind of balance right now.

I think I can count on one hand the number of times we've had such a major argument in our twelve years of marriage, but each time feels so horrible. We both could have said some different things, but boy, is it hard to stop yourself sometimes. I could see that it was going nowhere fast, but couldn't figure out how to step back in the middle of it.

I hear him walking around upstairs. I'm sure we'll talk when I finally go to bed and the lights are out--somehow it's easier to admit my part in this when I have the protective cover of the dark. And then we'll walk tentatively around each other for a few hours in the morning until everyone's raw feelings have scabbed over and we can talk and laugh easily again. I wish I was already there.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Define Creativity...

Yikes! Here I am adding blogging to my already fairly frazzled life!  I'm not sure what I was thinking, except I keep hoping to do more writing and yet manage to find all kinds of reasons that it doesn't happen. The March Slice of Life Challenge seemed to spark some small hope that maybe I would be able to squeeze some writing in for one whole month. If I can do that, maybe I can find some way to get back on the exercise bandwagon, too!

Ever since I read about the challenge a few weeks ago, I have had at the back of my mind various ideas to write about. Tonight the one on my mind has to do with creativity, or the lack thereof. All of my growing up, I was the "school" child. I could memorize anything, had great handwriting, and never gave the teachers a difficult time (my parents, on the other hand, yes...). However, I never thought I had any creativity, and am not really a "crafty" person, although I like the idea of it. But as I was lamenting this fact to my sister (after seeing the amazing projects that my SECOND graders brought in the other day!), she told me that she thinks I have my mom's creative gene, and reminded me of various projects (most in the service of my own children or my classroom) that I have created, and usually on some kind of a deadline.

What I realized, after I thought about the bat costume for my son made out of a cut up old umbrella, the cow costume I made for my daughter with some felt pieces and spray adhesive, and my youngest son's homemade Club Penguin birthday cake, is that I am practically creative (in both the sense of "almost" and of "being practical")! I may not be the person who is able to come up with amazing and wondrous ideas right from my own head, but I can definitely take another idea I've seen and make it work for me (or more usually, my children!). It kind of gave me a glow for the whole day today.

Which is probably a good thing, considering I have to put my children to bed and then finish making 45 Rice Krispie bookworm treats to celebrate Read Across America and Dr. Seuss' birthday tomorrow with my second graders and our fifth grade reading buddies!