Sunday, December 28, 2008

Goodbye 2008. Let me show you the door.

Since I am celebrated out, I have decided to skip over the last week of parties and late nights and move right on to the diligence that comes with January. After two weeks of subsisting on Dr. Pepper, card games and homemade rolls (oh so yummy), I am actually starting to crave both order and vegetables again. I am sure that it will fade with time, but while I still have plenty of simple carbs running through my system, I figured it would be a good time to make a few resolutions.

So, the theme of my 2009 is "...may it go better than 2008". I'm setting my expectations low, so I will actually have a chance of meeting them. I ended 2008 a full 15 pounds heavier than 2007. The first ten pounds I would like to blame on my sister and all of the self-coddling I indulged in after her death. The last 5 pounds, I will blame on my other sister who came out over Christmas and insisted that I partake of all sorts of sugary goodness with her (as much as I resisted). See, none of it is my fault at all. But, even though it has nothing to do with me, I am still going to have to be the one to work to get it off. Life is so unfair that way. So, I am hoping to end 2009 in at least the same place I was at the end of 2007.

Now, of course, if I am following popular American culture, I would list "save more money" directly after "lose weight" on my resolution list. But, I'm not going to. See, I'm a little frustrated with the whole saving money thing right now. We lost a full six figures in our retirement funds this year due to the supposed "global recession" issue and I am staging my rebellion by funding a trip to DisneyWorld rather than contributing to my Roth this year. It is probably about time I did something irresponsible and I think this is just the thing. Now, as not to go overboard, we will still get our 401(k) money put away, but that's it. I will resist every temptation to put any other money into retirement funds.

My third resolution is to take things one day at the time. I've felt overwhelmed a lot as of late and I think that this will be the most important of the resolutions, should I choose to carry any of them out. With three kids, a husband, a slew of students and pile of laundry the size of Seattle, I sometimes wonder if I am going to make it to the next week, but I can usually see my way clear to survive the next 24 hours. I can always do another day...and it is that very perspective that keeps me going.

So, that's my plan for 2009. I totally think it is doable.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Almost Comical

Do you ever have the feeling that your day is following a script? That some sadistic situation comedy writer has carefully orchestrated every movement down to the creepy Salvation Army bell ringer loudly singing off-key carols in the Kroger lobby? Yeah. That's how today has been.

I had big plans for today. You see, tomorrow my mom and sister come to visit. I had shopping to do and a house to clean and all kinds of big plans to ensure Christmas-time bliss. Of course, I should know by now that the key to disappointment is high expectations.

I woke up this morning with two crusted over eyes. I was the last in the family to get the leftovers from our Thanksgiving trip and I almost thought I had escaped. But no, a full two weeks after our return I came down with a double case of pink-eye. So, this morning, I called and made myself a doctor's appointment and then dragged Michael, fully garbed in Thomas the Train pajamas, through a waiting room, a doctor's office and a Wal-mart pharmacy experience which I couldn't possibly give justice to at this late hour.

Then I went home and looked at my house and I wanted to cry. It didn't help that a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios had been left unattended by a certain 1st grader and dumped over by either the toddler or the cat. I carefully scooped up what I could of the Cheerios and just decided to avoid the sticky spot on the floor until later that day. Maybe the horse pill super-antibiotics that my doctor had put me on would kick in and I would suddenly feel great in a few hours.

After car pool, piano lessons, and a quick nap, I made an executive decision that my visitors would value a full fridge over a not sticky floor and made my way to Kroger. You guessed it. This is where I spotted the creepy singing bell-ringer. I had never seen a Kroger so busy in my whole life. Never. What was the deal? It didn't help that this particular Kroger is in the middle of remodeling to better serve us and in order to go from the meat department to the cracker aisle required a hard hat. But, back to the point, yes, the Kroger was super busy. Then I noticed that just about every cart had a large bag of de-icing salt under it. Then I heard a lady talking to another in line about whether or not the ice storm that is coming tonight is going to shut down the city like it did in 2002. Then I realized that everyone was stocking up so they wouldn't have to leave the house tomorrow. Then I remembered that I am picking up my mom and sister in Louisville at the airport tomorrow with two swollen crusted over eyes in a minivan that has a questionable braking system. And, I had plenty of time to think this through, because the line I had carefully selected was held up for a good 20 minutes for some unknown reason after my groceries were already on the belt.

So, with all of this heavily weighing on my mind, I made my way home and with the help of my sweet husband, I got groceries put away and even managed to get the sticky stuff off of my kitchen floor. My eyes were crusting over again, but I had a system comprising of warm washcloths and gentle strokes and I was at least managing to save most of my eyelashes.

Just as I was ready to go to bed, the final straw was placed. I was looking up my son's school website to try and get the time to record his school program from the TV when I noticed that he was, as a 3rd grader, required to wear an orange or yellow dress code shirt to school tomorrow for this special day. Though I was sure we had purchased every color possible of the schools required dress code, apparently we had neglected both orange and yellow. Had he been in any other grade, he would have had the shirt. So, at 10:00 p.m., I was back at Wal-mart. The only orange dress code shirt left was a size 10-12 husky. It'll drowned him, but it is the right color and quite a bargain at only $6. Of course, it took me 20 minutes to check out since the register locked down when the woman in front of me attempted to use a gift card (apparently the registers are not set up to actually redeem them). While we waited for a manager to come, the cashier looked at me and said, "Wow, what's wrong with your eyes? Are you sick?"

I just nodded. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Let's talk toilet seats....

Lately, I have had what some might call an unhealthy obsession with toilet seats. Since I grew up in a household of mostly girls, it didn't occur to me until recently that a mixture of boys with germaphobic me would result in an almost constant anxiety about the state of our toilets.

Now, my husband has had many years of practice and I'll dare say that he is a fairly good aim. But, the younger boys....not so good. When we were first potty training J in Ohio, I would just keep a package of Scrubbing Bubble Toilet Wipes close by and make sure to wipe around the toilet and on the seat every time he used the facilities. Now that we have three boys, I just can't keep up. So, I just do what every mother with three sons has done since the beginning of time, I clean as often as possible and learn to look before I step when I am approaching a toilet.

Lately, though, we've had an additional problem. The toilet seats have become uncleanable (I know - not a word). It's true. No matter how many industrial strength cleaners I have poured onto them, they are still stained and the kids bathroom has taken on a permanent odor that I would rather not describe in detail.

So, sometime last month, I declared that our toilet seats would be replaced and I started researching. I had a quest. I was in search of the perfect toilet seat. I listed the problems with our current toilet seats and worked from there. First off, the current toilet seat had a gap between the top seat and the bottom seat which meant that when the occasional lazy boy decided to use the toilet without lifting both seats, any excess would drain to the back of the toilet and down into the hinges where the seat meets the toilet, which were impossible to clean without the aid of a phillips' head screw driver and an oxygen mask. Secondly, the toilets slammed. In fact, Michael has entertained himself for a full ten minutes at the time with this activity. Lift up the seat, slam the seat, watch everyone jump, repeat. So fun. Then there was the yellowish-brown stain issue. I was relieved to see that none of the new toilet seats I was looking at came with this feature.

Yesterday was the big day. I finally bought new toilet seats. I could hardly wait as we drove home from Lowe's. These were not just any toilet seats. They had all of the options. They came with the easy hinge, which allows the seat to come off from the toilet with just a turn which makes for easy and thorough cleaning. In addition, they are unslammable (which I believe actually is a word). They also have a lifetime warranty on the finish - guaranteeing that yellow seat stains would be a thing of the past in the Cook household. And last, but not least, the top seat meets the bottom seat, so when our boys forget to lift both, their misdirected flow will safely slide into the toilet bowl rather than the hinges behind it trapping odor forever.

After the unpleasant experience of changing out the seats which required a full aerosol bottle of scrubbing bubbles and a sponge which should probably be burned, I eyed the new seats in all of their glory. They were so beautiful. So white. So clean. And then came the real test. I the boy's bathroom...and I smelled...nothing. That's right. Only the residual fumes from the arsenal of cleaners that I had used remained in the air. In fact, if I hadn't my eyes open, I wouldn't have even known I was standing in a bathroom. It was heavenly.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

An Open Letter

Dear Ohio Department of Transportation,

I am not a resident of your great state, but having spent almost 8 hours on your roads today, I feel that I am qualified to make some suggestions that might improve the Ohio driving experience. I hope you find these helpful.

The road that first brought me into Ohio today was I-90. I was driving along, enjoying my cruise control and the Sponge Bob Square Pants theme music blaring from the DVD player when suddenly the car jolted. It was then that I saw the "Welcome to Ohio" sign. The next two hours were like a very long ride on a very old wooden roller coaster. There was a seam in the road every 20 feet and I was able to reach a top speed of 55 mph.

Now, I understand that economic times are hard and Ohio can't just go around fixing all of its roads because some crazy woman from Kentucky had an unpleasant experience. But, I do have an alternative. At theme parks, such as your very own Cedar Point, there are signs posted warning certain people that they may not enjoy certain rides or that they may even be hazardous to their health. Maybe, at the state line, you could just put out a big sign that says, "This road is not for people who have back problems or a heart condition."

Enough said about that. My second issue is with a certain construction project that you have going on on I-271. I do applaud your attempt to fix some of your roads. This shows real initiative. But, the idea of merging everyone into two lanes just as I-76 merges with the main interstate was probably not a very good one. You should maybe look into firing the guy who came up with that one. Either that, or make him drive through it during rush hour as a penance.

I have one other suggestion that I hope you will consider. I believe that Ohio is not appealing to their driver's sense of psychology with some of the signs they have posted. Along I-90 in New York, there are signs requesting that drivers only use the left lane for passing. I found that most drivers actually did this. Once I arrived in Ohio, the sign changed. Instead of requesting that the left lane be used for passing, it asks that slower traffic please use the right lane. Now, nobody wants to believe that they are actually "slower traffic". Who wants to be slow? It has been associated through the years with a lack of intelligence or stamina - nothing that anyone wants to admit to. So, as soon as I passed the state line, everyone moved into the left lane, except for the semi trucks that have all come to terms with their label of "slower traffic" on account of their size. This meant that both lanes were traveling a good 5 miles beneath the speed limit and there was no way to legally pass anyone - though the shoulder looked awfully tempting at times. I believe a simple sign change would remedy this problem.

Thank you for your consideration in these matters. I appreciate your time.



Friday, November 28, 2008

Orange Rolls and Eye Drops

For Thanksgiving this year, we are at my sister's house. She lives in upstate New York. For the record, it is colder here than it is in Kentucky. They also get snow and it sticks to the ground and apparently I haven't even really seen anything because it gets much worse in January which is why I have never made the trek to Manlius in January. See, even us Math people have a little common sense.

My sister and I enjoy each other and we usually even vacation together in the summers. But, somehow we manage to forget between visits that together we have six kids and that all of our kids are loud and that at least one of them will get sick anytime we get together. Usually the person who is several states away from home is the one who gets the sick kid (or sometimes husband). This trip has been especially fortunate because I have two sick kids. And, of course, neither of them showed a single symptom until we entered the great state of New York.

It started when we came in on Wednesday night and I noticed that Michael's eye was gucking up. By Friday morning, Spencer had the conjunctivitis look as well and since Spencer really only has one eye that works well and it happened to be the pink one, we decided that a trip to the local Urgent care center was appropriate. Three hours later, we came out with the diagnosis of two eye infections (one for each), a double ear infection for Michael and a sinus infection for Spencer. We also had 5 prescriptions to fill. At least I got to spend some quality time with my sister in the waiting room making fun of the parenting magazines.

But, the trip is only half over and with antibiotics and eye drops and ear drops we should have some functional kids by tomorrow. The plan is to take them all to Chuck-E-Cheese for lunch and spread their germs so that other parents will feel our misery and there will be balance in the world. And, also there are orange rolls coming out of the oven in a few minutes, and of course, orange rolls make everything better. So, overall, I believe the trip will be a success.

The other reason this is all good is a pretty selfish one. You see, our next vacation with them will be in Disneyworld in 2009 and it will be my sister's turn to have sick kids.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Girl Date

In my early college days, before my Brig-in-shining-armor came along and rescued me, I used to live in an apartment with 5 other girls. Though I am still close friends with some of those girls, I have to admit that the situation did not suit me well and I'm afraid that many of my ex-roommates would agree. Being a left-brained, logical, rational person didn't bode well in the emotionally-laden, PMS-prone environment. So, when the weekend came around and I had a date - which didn't happen every weekend, but often enough - I celebrated my time away from my female world with great pleasure. Well, except for that one night where my date wore too much cologne and left me with a migraine by the end of the night. But, that's another story.

So, time has passed and my world has changed. Now I live in an all-male environment. My basement is full of camping gear and my garage is full of power tools. Even most of my students are male. So, it was with great anticipation that I embarked on my "girl date" this weekend. My friend, Hiroe (who also lives in an all-male home), and I left our kids with our husbands and hit the town on Saturday night. Our wild night included prime rib and Barnes and Noble, which is about as wild as I get these days.

I don't get a girl's night out very often. This is mainly my own fault. You see, we have moved close to every three years (or less) since we have been married. I am an introvert (understatement) and tend to lack some basic social skills, so it takes at least this long for me to find a female friend. Then comes the hard part - keeping the friend. Between my innocent comments that sometimes come across as offensive and my woman cave, which can be interpreted as the silent treatment, I tend to lose friends quickly and with great skill.

Lucky for me, there are a few unique people in this world who can handle the idiosyncrasies that are me. This is a good thing, because I am somewhat stubborn and set in my ways and I'm just not willing to change who I am at this point in life to accommodate friends. But, and it is hard for me to admit this, I still need them. And I still need girl dates. And since I have been unable to convince any of my sisters to move to Kentucky, I am grateful to Hiroe and all of her predecessors for chipping through my granite shell and finding out that underneath it all, I'm just as human and needy as everyone else.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Imparting Wisdom

It has been a good long time since I have shared the joys of teaching with my faithful blog readers. Since I gave a final last night and another this morning and I won't see the eyes of another college Algebra student for at least two weeks, I feel that I am in an appropriate state of mind to conquer this very task.

Last night, after completing his final, one of my students was joyfully exclaiming that he had miraculously passed the class. Since we were practically alone in the classroom, I commented that had he attended class a little more often, it may not have been such a miraculous feat. He then proceeded to tell me about his life that quarter. Now, being a Math teacher, I would not think that, by nature, I would inspire people to share their deepest life issues with me. But apparently, there is something in my demeanor that screams "tell me all of your problems." Yeah, I've got to work on that.

So, his girlfriend had broken up with him. His car broke down for a few days mid-quarter. At the first of the quarter, he didn't have enough gas in his car to make it to class one night. I've heard it all before. Life can be very traumatic when you are 23. If I seem cynical, it may be because I am. I looked at him straight in the eyes and told him that not one of us had a life free of disruptions and problems and that sometimes you just needed to keep going and figure out how to still keep the important parts of your life running while you sort out the crap on the sidelines.

He sort of shrugged his shoulders and went off to celebrate his D in the class, but I really wished he would have taken a second and listened to what I was trying to tell him since I believe it was much more important than the unit on matrices or maybe even the trigonometry unit. Okay, not the trigonometry unit, but still, many of my younger students believe that in order to have a successful life, you must have a life free of "bad things happening to you". And, when bad things do happen, you are then given a free ticket to fail in whatever way is most convenient at the time, you know, as a recompense.

I don't know how to help these students. In fact, I don't know a lot of things. Maybe, I should just stick to Math.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I lied.

I am not a liar by nature, but a few posts back, when I said I had overcome the "ewwww" factor to parenting, I now believe I may have lied.

Lately, sweet Michael has been going through the water fascination stage that all kids go through at one point or another. Luckily, the manufacturers of refrigerators know this is an issue and have installed a lock button on their water dispensers. But, if someone forgets to press the lock button for the full three seconds after filling their cup with freshly filtered fridge water, we pay for it shortly. Michael fills up whatever cup or container he can get a hold of and dumps it on the carpet, or the wood floors, or sometimes, if we are lucky, just in a plant or on the cat. Then he runs to fill up his cup again. Usually we catch him in action pretty quickly and the consequence are just an unexpected load of laundry or a very angry cat.

This morning, I started my day with a cool, clean glass of filtered water and then diligently locked the dispenser. A while later, I saw Michael running around with a cup, but I felt confident. I knew he had no access to water - not on the main floor anyway. He can't reach the sinks without a boost and doing that gives the rumbling warning of a chair being pushed across the floor along with two year old grunting. No, all was safe. I could lay back and relax.

Then, I saw him walk by casually. He was drinking water. From his previously empty cup. And I saw what room he had come from - which I'm sure you've guessed by now. And the lid was up. And...ewwwwwwww, yuck, double yuck. My gag reflex went into overdrive. I grabbed the cup and threw it in the sink. Then I washed his hands and face. No, I have not overcome the "ewwww" factor. Not at all.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Rainy Day in Kentucky

So, this is not going to be a happy, fun post, because it is raining outside and I feel that every once in a while I am entitled to feel a little rainy inside too. I'll be better once Brig gets back from travel today and I can take the nap I've been craving all week, but for now, I am going to be a little down and you, my lucky blog readers, are going to get to hear all about it.

This morning was Spencer's eye appointment in Nicholasville, a good half hour drive from our home. Spencer has Strabismus and is seen by a specialist about once every six months. With the help of bifocals and some real diligence on our part, he has managed to avoid the more unpleasant therapies related with his eye disorder. We haven't had to patch. There hasn't been any mention of surgery. We just get a new prescription every six months, sign our weekly salary over to the glasses store and come out with a shiny new pair of bifocals that will be completely destroyed in 3 days flat. Hooray for the insurance plans on kid's glasses.

Anyway, the eye doctor informed us today that we were going to need to take further steps. He has started by covering his "good eye" lense with contact paper in hopes of strengthening his bad eye. We are also back to appointments every other month. I don't know where this is going to lead eventually, but I am an ace-number-one worrier and my imagination has already taken over. Spencer is being a good sport about the whole thing and did inform me that he felt his right eye "already getting stronger" on the car ride home.

It was at the end of this appointment that I felt like the universe was playing a little unfair. I was already feeling pretty down when I went out to make Spencer's next appointment and the receptionist looked up and said, "Is January 7th a good day for you? That'll be a Wednesday." I just about lost it right there and then. January 7th would have been my sister's 36th birthday. She was always funny about her birthday because she felt that it was never celebrated enough since everyone was always celebrated-out by the time January 7th came along. I suddenlty felt a terrible wave of guilt, because I've just been going on with life and I've been shutting out reality, because if I think about things too much, it hurts too bad and I'm so tired.

So, this morning, after dropping off Spencer at school and putting Michael down for a nap, I allowed myself an indulgence and I let my tears flow. I cried because she is gone and I couldn't stop it and I don't think I ever really understood her and I'm so sorry. I cried because I can't help anything now. I had grandiose ideas at one point of how helpful I was going to be to her grieving husband and young son and, really, I'm just not. I'm barely holding myself together. I cried because it all still seems so wrong. I'm not so sure that I will ever completely come to terms with the fact that my sister took her own life. And in a way, that makes me feel broken...and I don't want to be broken. But, I don't know if just pretending it isn't what it is is even worse.

So, that's where I'm at. I'll cry a little longer and then I'll go pick up my kids from school and I'll work on lesson plans and get everything ready for the primary brunch tomorrow and I'll just keep on going and living because that's the only thing I know how to do. And, I hope, that with time, these rainy days won't be so hard.

Monday, November 3, 2008

...and candy bars for breakfast.

I have three kids, three boys that is. My oldest will soon be nine years old, which including pregnancy gives me almost a full decade of parenting experience. I have cleaned vomit out of carpet at 3:00 a.m. I've changed diapers that would have left some veteran parents weak in the knees. I have dealt with and conquered almost every dreaded parenting situation imaginable.

But, and you knew a but was coming, I am starting to get tired. While I have overcome the "ewwww" factor to parenting, I have yet to learn to deal with the exhaustion which only seems to multiply with each child. I think I now understand why oldest children are classified as the most ambitious of the bunch. By the time their parents have given into a more relaxed parenting, they have safely made it through their formative years.

So, poor little Michael is my third. I am trying to raise him with as much diligence as the rest. I'll confide though, that it just isn't going to happen. I love my sweet Michael as much as any mother could love a baby. This has nothing to do with favoritism. I just don't have it in me to fight his two year old ways like I did with my other boys. At this point in family life, keeping the peace seems so much more important than making sure he wears what I want him to wear or eats every last green bean on his plate. This means that sometimes he still has his pajamas on during afternoon carpool and more often than not, the vegetables are thrown on the floor (and stay there until the cat finds them).

So, this morning, I get the older boys off to school, change Michael's diaper and then begin the search for breakfast food. I knew I should have made it to the grocery store on Saturday, but between Brigham's obligations and my own, the day got away from me and it didn't happen. We did have some yummy bread that Brigham made yesterday, but yummy as it is, Michael isn't a fan. Not only was the breakfast cereal long since depleted, but even the canister of oatmeal was gone. Then Michael brought me a miniature candy bar scavenged from some unsuspecting Halloween stash and I opened it and I gave it to him. My parenting has reached a new low.

Friday, October 31, 2008

So, yeah, we bought a car....

Wednesday was an exciting and very long day in the Cook household. Brigham and I bought a car for him. Before telling you all about Brigham's new wheels, I feel, once again, that a little background information is necessary.

Shortly after we were married 12+ years ago, we found ourselves in the situation where we needed a car. The first car we bought together was a used Saturn SL1 with no options, though it did have a tape deck. Brigham still had several years left of college and I was finishing up a graduate degree. It fit the budget and, though not fancy by any means, it was dependable, got good gas mileage and was cheap to insure. It was our main (and really only unless you count motorcycles) form of transportation through our college years and our entire stay in the great state of Colorado.

Shortly after Spencer (our second son) was born, we moved to Ohio and Brigham was contracting on a military base where I could not easily drop him off for work on days that I needed the car. We decided that it was time to buy a second car. Since buying our first home in Colorado, we had diligently been saving to buy a car. The problem was that the car we had been saving for was no longer practical for our family. After a few late night "discussions" and a lot of convincing on my part, our family purchased a minivan, which, for the record, was not my husband's idea of glamorous. This purchase came with great promises for the day when the Saturn died.

Well for some time now, the Saturn has been showing signs of its impending demise. The "check engine" light has been on for over a year and refuses to go off no matter how many times we check the engine. The car amazingly does not leak oil, but still needs to be regularly filled for some reason. The tires are bald. There is a definite rust problem (who knew that Saturns could rust?). The emergency brake has to be manually held up to work, which makes parking an adventure. So, you get the picture, right?

Finally, a few weeks ago, Brigham informed me that we either needed to put a large amount of money into the Saturn or we would need to replace it before the ice in Kentucky season started up. The main requirement of this new car was that it have a convertible top (a promise that secured the minivan purchase). It also must be dependable and safe. I had a few requirements as well, even though I didn't plan to be driving the car very often. I needed it to have a back seat for days when Brigham had to help with the transporting of boys and I didn't want to paying some ludicrous amount to insure impracticality. So, with this in mind, we went car shopping.

I'll spare you the details of the various cars we looked at over the last week. Let's just say that finding sporty and fun for a 6'4" man isn't as easy as it might first appear. Most of the cars fit him just fine with the top down - it was the top up thing that caused the problem. I also started to have my concerns about the convertible concept. Some of my students shared with me the ease of breaking into a convertible and divulged that the cost of insuring and driving one to be higher than what I wanted to deal with. I actually spent a good deal of the day last Saturday convincing my husband that this just wasn't the way to go.

Then, we found the Volvo C70. It is a hard top convertible, which means that when the top is up, it takes more than a pocket knife to break into the car. It had the required back seat and every safety feature in the book, which means that the insurance costs on it are unbelievably low. I about fell over when we were quoted $562 for the annual (yes, that's the whole year) premium. That's less than $50 a month on a new car with full coverage. So, after some consideration we bought the car.

I've since been informed that they are not cheap cars to fix. We've never owned a European car and we might even have to outsource the oil changes. But, my sweet husband seems quite happy with the vehicle and it has been a long time in coming. Now, I will attempt to add a picture to my blog and I expect you all to be very impressed with my new skill.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Parent Teacher Conference

So, today I went to my first parent teacher conference of the year for J. He moved to a gifted/talented school this year and so I had to travel into town to meet with his teacher at his new elementary school. I think it might be good to give a little background information for those of you who may not know J that well. He is, well, a spirited child. In the past, at other schools he has attended this has been interpreted as a behavior problem which, on occasion, has resulted in jaunts to the principal's office.

Because of some past experiences that I have had at J's conferences, I tend to have some anxiety issues when I know one is approaching. First, come the bad dreams and then the flashbacks. When J was in Kindergarten, I was walking up the stairs to attend one of his conferences and ran into another Kindergarten teacher from the school. I asked her for directions to my son's classroom and she asked who his teacher was. The conversation continued as follows:

Me: "Yes, my son has Ms. So and So (not her real name)"

Other Teacher: "Oh, she has a rough class this year. That poor woman. She has one little boy that is just out of control and she's had to move him to his own desk at the front away from all of the other students. Your child has probably told you about him."

Me: "No. He hasn't said anything. That bad, huh?"

Other Teacher: "Yes. Good thing she is a patient woman. She's been doing this for decades and she said this is the worst she's ever had it."

We parted ways as she pointed me towards his class and then I greeted Ms. So and So and she walked me towards my son's desk, the separate one at the front of the room, away from all of the other kids who sat at tables. It didn't get much better from there.

Then there was the incident in the first grade. The one where he hacked into the school computer and saved blank sheets over all of the assignments of a girl in his class. It was hard to act disappointed while meeting with him and the principal when I was secretly impressed that he had managed to get around the user ID and password issues and into her files at the tender age of six.

So, anyway, back to the story at hand. You get the idea.

As I was making the drive into town, my stomach was knotting up. I was so deep in thought and anticipation that I almost ran a red light. I did manage to make it to the school safely and found the classroom on my own this time. His teacher greeted me and started with, "Your son is definitely in the right place. He is very bright even for our gifted and talented class." She proceeded to show me test scores and work examples verifying my parental claim that my child is a genius. She is having a gifted specialist come in from the district to work with him and two other boys who are both far beyond what the gifted curriculum has for math.

Then, of course, came the rest of the conversation. But, I liked the way she handled it. She straight out said, "His writing is terrible." I'd heard this before. We know it is an issue with him. But, instead of looking at me accusingly, she said, "since this is an obvious weakness for him, let's find ways around it as we help him develop this skill." She is going to let him type his papers. She is going to give him less writing to do and ask him to take his time and slow it down. She is sending home some sample open response questions for me to help him with. But, all through the conversation, she reassured me that my child was special and different than any other child she had taught before and not in a bad way. He pulls a ticket every now and then, but she said he has been very respectful and she doesn't consider his behavior an issue at all. I actually came out of the conference with my head held high.

....and, he's getting straight As. That's my boy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Apparently, I've been tagged....

I was never good at this game in elementary school either. Though I have blocked out a great deal of my formative years, I do remember playing tag during those early days. There were two different forms, both of which scarred me for life in one way or another. There was the more formal version where teams were chosen and I tried to inconspicuously wait for someone or anyone to let me be on their team. Then, after the initial humiliation of being chosen last, I was usually frozen or captured and jailed within 30 seconds. Then, of course, there were the less formal playground games where you were tagged and, in turn, had to be able to run fast enough to tag another person so that you wouldn't be "it" anymore. I spent a lot of time being "it" until I moved on to other, more productive, recess activities.

So, my husband tagged me and now I am suppose to blog in a specific way about a specific thing. It even has rules. I don't really do rules, but since it was my husband who asked, I'll try.

So, rule #1 says: Link to the person who tagged you. I'd really love to do this. I really would. My husband has a very fun and informative blog. He talks about scouts and camping recipes and projects he has going on. I just don't really know how to link. In fact, I don't really know how to do much at all with this blog except write in it. You've probably noticed the lack of pictures and such. Well, least I'm good at Math. So, I have a great alternative for this. Brig will just need to post a comment to this post and then you can click on his name and go into his blog from there. He has pictures and links and all kinds of good things in his blog

Rule #2: Post the rules on the blog. Done.

Rule #3: Write six random things about yourself. I should be able to do this part. I am the most random person I know.

1. I like Swiss cheese.
2. I inadvertently and unintentionally count my steps when I walk. I really have to concentrate to stop myself.
3. The carved pumpkin on my front porch is rotting and the lips are curling in and now it looks like a grandpa pumpkin and it makes me snicker when I see it. (See, now would totally be a good time to know how to insert pictures).
4. I wear footed sleepers during the winter months - sometimes all day.
5. My bath to shower ratio is approximately 150:1.
6. I lie about my age to my students. Many think I am 5 years older than I am.

Rule #4: Tag six people at the end of your post. Um, I don't think I even know six people that weren't already on my husband's list and if I'm suppose to link, this is going to be a totally hopeless endeavor. Let's see, Christina, Matt, Kim and anyone who read my blog for the first time in the last week....consider yourself tagged. You can write a comment on this post if you would like to be linked so that we can all read about your respective randomnessess (is that a word?)

Rule #5: Let each person know they have been tagged. Since I am way too lazy to send out emails, I'll just hope that somebody eventually reads this and sees that they should be continuing this exercise. I'm starting to wonder if this is like the chain letters that were going around in the eighties (before the chain emails started a few decades later) and great curses will come on me for not following the rules. I was always the person who broke the chain. Always. Hmmm...maybe that's why my portfolio is down this year.

Rule #6: Let the tagger know when your entry is up. Hey, Brig, I did it (kind of). Aren't you impressed?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Mathematical Impossibility

This morning, Michael decided to have some apple juice. On the counter were a few of the boxes that I put in the kids' school lunches, so he took one and poked the straw through and started to drink. Putting the straw in the box was so much fun, that he decided to pull it out and do it again and again and again. Each time he did this, a drop or two made its way to my wood floors. By the time I discovered that he had the box of apple juice, most of the box was still left and he had obviously had some to drink as well. So, at the most, I am thinking maybe a tablespoon or two actually made it onto the floor.

So, this is where I get confused. Within the hour, every surface of my kitchen floor was sticky. The bottom of my shoes were sticky. J's socks were sticky. No one could even walk in the room without sticking to the floor. Our kitchen and breakfast area is at about 200 square feet and I just can't make the math work. How can a few drops of apple juice make the entire floor sticky? This has got to be a mathematical impossibility.

I also want to know how a few minutes of fun for a two year old always turns into a few hours of work for me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Two Years Old

Today is Michael's second birthday I went out to Walmart this morning (Walmart in Kentuky is a whole other post - trust me) and I bought him a tricycle, which he fondly refers to as "bi". He doesn't actually know how to ride the tricycle. I'm sure that will come eventually, but in the meantime, he has found other uses for his "bi."

First off, the "bi" has a little trunk that holds stuff. He has placed in it some of his favorite things, such as his fishy bath toy, a half-eaten Oreo and the lego with the eye sticker on it, which is superior to the other legos in every way. Then there is the much needed boost that his "bi" gives him. When he stands on the seat, he can reach the counter top and all kinds of good food stuffs, which is how he acquired the Oreo in the first place.

After I placed the cookies out of reach (even with a "bi" boost), he decided that the tricycle must have other uses. So, he tried to ride it. The problem was that those completely useless pedals were in the way. Everytime he tried to push himself, his stride was cut short. I could see he was getting frustrated. But, never fear, my little darling is a genius (no matter how speech delayed he may be). He turned the bike around and can now go at close to full speed by driving it backwards. Plus, he can reach his trunk without having to turn around in case he gets hungry or needs a lego with an eye sticker on it. Genius I tell you.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Twists and Turns

Some of the greatest books of all time are children's books. I always steal away my kid's book orders and happily read or reread books that are meant to entertain an 8 year old. One of my favorite series is the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She has a quote in one of her books that I have had chance to reference many times in my life. I believe that she was quoting her own mother when she said, "There's no great loss without some small gain."

So, when life happens, as it does quite often at our house, I try to find the small gain and sometimes I have to have faith that that gain may just be an eventuallity. I hope that someday I will look back and think, "Wow, if that hadn't happened, this other thing wouldn't have happened, and now look where we are."

One example that comes to mind is the convoluted way in which my husband and I were even allowed to meet. My husband was in a boy's choir when he was little. Because it conflicted with his church time, he ended up on changing to a different congregation and there he met his best childhood friend, Rob. Rob and him are still friends. When my husband was a teenager, his father passed away. His family moved to Utah to be closer to his sister and there he met back up with his friend Rob. Rob was friends with Julie, who eventually became my roommate. And, well, the rest is history. I am so sorry that my husband lost his father at such a tender age, but I sometimes wonder if there is anyway we would have or could have met if this hadn't happened.

I've wondered about each of our moves and what gain has come from them. Some gains have been more obvious than others. I miss where I grew up and I miss my family, but I know that even with these great losses, there have been small gains. Even if it just means that we have been forced into our independence and reliance on each other.

I've especially been trying to keep this in mind with my sister's passing. As I talk to her husband and think about her small son, I wonder what eventual small gains might come from what seems like such a tragedy. I know that, for myself, I feel a sense of empathy towards others that I don't think I could have without going through this experience. Beyond that, I have yet to understand why things happened the way they did.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Quiet House

Tonight is the cub scout camp out and so Michael and I are home alone. He went down at 6:00 and now I'm not really sure what to do with myself. I am so used to chaos and craziness that when a quiet night comes, it feels wrong.

After loading both the dishwasher and the washing machine, I decided to work on my last two weeks of College Algebra handouts. But, I'll admit, my heart just isn't in it tonight. I've had a hard week at school and I'm not feeling as motivated as usual. So, I thought I might feel better if I wrote a blog entry and got some of it off of my chest. Maybe after writing it all out I can dive back into school preparation and stop worrying about it.

My Tuesday evening class is, well, spirited. There are 28 students in the class, which is over capacity, and they all have very good attendance. 3 of the students are female, the rest are male. Usually my classes go quite smoothly, but this last Tuesday went all wrong. My students were more on edge than normal and many were yelling out and trying to entertain themselves and others with their comments. One of the less socially aware students finally yelled out a comment that crossed the line of anyone's definition of appropriateness. I wasn't sure if the comment was necessarily directed towards me, but under any condition, it was not something that was acceptable or even repeatable for the curious among you.

Some of my other students, the ones that actually like me, felt offended by the comment as well and chose to use some colorful, but not appropriate, language to let the first student know that his comment was not welcome. It went downhill from there and I actually had 4 or 5 students catch me after class to break the news that their learning had been disrupted that day. Good thing they told me, huh?

So, for the first time in my teaching career, I actually went up a level to deal with a student. I went right to that student's department chair and asked him to please speak to him. Immediately after doing this, I regretted it. I usually like to deal with student problems in house rather than getting others involved. But then, when I thought of what was said, I realized this was not a situation that should be handled by me.

His chair talked to him and I just got an email telling me that the student admitted that he had used profanity and made inappropriate comments directed towards me. He says that he is acting out because he is frustrated and doesn't understand the class very well. He missed an important week and hasn't been able to catch up. I think the email bothered me because, though I am all about helping every student, him feeling lost in the class does not excuse his behavior. I understand that some of my students don't have the best communication skills, but this seemed like a really rotten way to ask for extra help in the class. I told his chair I would do what I could to help him, but he needed to make sure to emphasize to him what was appropriate and what was not in a classroom setting.

So, that's it. That's the story. I'm still not sure what class is going to be like on Tuesday and part of me wonders if the student will even show up. And a lot of me feels guilty for even making a big deal out of it in the first place. Then, there is the part of me that knows that I can not allow myself to be treated like that even if it is under the guise of a pathetic cry for help. Of course, the silver lining to this all is that I am now fully aware that there are people out there with even less in the way of social skills than myself.

Now, back to my class handouts.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Working Mom

Last night, I was in the car with Spencer. I am fairly sure that this particular child of mine has nothing better to do then sit up at night and think up random questions to ask me in rapid succession anytime we have car time together.

Last night he decided to ask me about my job. "Mom, why do we have two parents that work in our family?" The way he worded the question kind of put me on the defensive. You see, I have been raised in a culture where we moms are encouraged to stay home with our children and, though I consider myself a good parent, it is true that I do work outside the home.

So, I took a deep breath and started to explain to him about my job. I explained that my boys are the most important thing to me in the world and that Mom only works outside of the home for just 7 hours a week because she really likes to be a Math teacher and she feels that it probably makes her a better Mom to be able to get some time away as well. Then, I stupidly added that Mom really doesn't bring in much money anyway and she works more for fun than money. I don't know why I added this last tidbit. It really wasn't information that a six year old needed to know, but it was too late. The next round of questions was already on their way.

"So, Mom, how much money do you make?"

"Um, just not a lot. Dad makes most of the money in our family."

"How much money does Dad make?"

"He makes enough to take care of our family."

After several similar questions in which I gave similarly vague answers, he finally settled down into deep thought. I thought maybe the subject had died down and we could move on to more important things like who had pulled a ticket in class that day and who had chased who at recess. I even broke the silence myself by asking him about his book order from class.

He answered with, "Mom, I just have one more question about your job. Why do you work a job where you don't make very much money?"

"Well, because I like to be a teacher."

"Mom. I think you ought to get a better job. You're a pretty smart Mom and I bet you get a job where you could make a lot of money......and then you could buy me more stuff."


Monday, September 22, 2008

The Princess and the Pea

I am convinced that I have some royal blood in me somewhere. I must secretly be a princess. You see, it all goes back to the princess and the pea. If I've got my fairy tale correctly, royal heritage can be determined by an inability to handle even the slightest discomfort, such as a pea under 20 or 100 or some odd mattresses depending on what version you are reading.

This morning, as I lay in bed, praying that Michael would please just keep 5 more minutes without plunging himself over the side of the crib or removing all of his clothes, I felt uncomfortable and itchy and scratchy. I turned and I fidgeted and then finally I just got out of bed and discovered a fraction of a Cheerio on my royal red 600 thread count sheets. Even with all of the cries from the other room, it was actually this morsel of breakfast cereal that forced me out of my bed. Only a true princess could feel something like that, right?

And then, later on, when I had to drive across town to pick up J from school and then drive him to his orthodontist appointment and then stop by McDonald's to feed my royal heir and his very fussy baby brother, I was once again uncomfortable. My eye was watering and itching and it was almost unbearable. As soon as I got home, I ran upstairs and pulled out my contact to discover a single eyelash. My poor eye was reddened and watering. Only someone with real royal blood would have such a reaction to an eyelash, right?

So, now that I am fairly sure that I am a princess, I believe that I probably have some entitlements that I am not taking advantage of. I better get on that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Toddler Roams Among Us

Things have gone missing in our house lately. Yes, a lot of things are gone. Remotes, phones, bananas, legos - they are all missing. I clearly remember this stage with J. He took the can opener and we went a full week without being able to open a can before I finally replaced it. I remember carefully planning our meals around non-can items. Of course, as soon as I bought a new one, the other one was found - on the window sill behind the rocking love seat. I don't know why I didn't think to look there earlier. It seems so obvious now.

Spencer was not near as precocious, but Michael has decided to take after J in this area. Last week Brigham must have been in a hurry as he left to work. I noticed that morning that he had left his Palm Pilot at home and so I quickly picked it up off of the floor and shelved it. The problem was that Michael had noticed it first and had discretely pulled the Palm out of the case and made off with it before I even saw the case. I probably should have noticed that the case was lighter than usual, but I didn't and when Brigham came home, we had another mini-crisis on our hands while we searched all of his usual hiding places. It finally turned up somewhere amongst the toys in his room and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

So, tonight I teach. Last week, on the first day of class, I gave one of my teacher lectures on always bringing your book, pencil and calculator to class each week. I really made a big deal out of it, probably much more than was actually warranted. So, um, my calculator is missing. My big TI-eighty something graphing calculator is gone. I had it last night. I've torn the house apart. I've got to have some kind of calculator before I teach tonight. After all, my pride is on the line.

Oh, please Michael, baby, show mommy where her calculator is.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Retail Therapy

In general, I am not a retail therapy girl. In fact, I dare say I get more joy from stashing money away in a retirement account than I would ever get from spending it. But, sometimes, even I, cheap as I am, need some new clothes. Today was that day. Brigham got a babysitter and we hit the clothing stores. The goal was to find some new teacher clothes. Which meant professional and conservative, but breathable and comfortable. Oh, and they needed to be cute. Because being cute and really good at math is my shtick.

We started at New York & Co. because I had a coupon. And, even though I needed new clothes, I can only repress my cheap side so much. After searching out a stack of math teacher looking clothes, Brigham and I ambled towards the dressing room. I was pleased to see that our friendly store associate was unlocking the largest dressing room, so that Brigham would have a comfortable place to sit while I changed. But, apparently I was premature in my display of pleasure, because he was not allowed in the dressing rooms due to his maleness. It seemed a little ridiculous to both of us, but Brigham was banned to lean against the belt rack outside the door with the other dressing room widowers.

After the initial disappointment of having to dress in solitude wore off, I found two pair of dress pants that fit the bill. The shirts weren't quite as easy. You see, the divas of the fashion world have decided that the plunging neckline is in season this year. Which wouldn't be a problem so much except I am, well, um, how do I say this....amply endowed. So, putting on one of these shirts transformed me from a "cute college Algebra instructor" persona to more like one of a different profession. I finally found two with higher necklines and a few pair of dangling earrings and we made our way onto other stores that weren't so prejudice against supportive husbands.

Old Navy was next on our list, because, um, I had a coupon. Are you seeing a trend here? I found a few shirts on the clearance rack and Brigham even exercised a little retail therapy with a new pair of jeans and some work pants. This time, our friendly associate led us towards what must have been the smallest dressing room in the place and we happily both jammed into it because we could. With elbows knocking heads, we selected our apparel. Then we paid and left.

So, I have new clothes. I am going to be the cutest math teacher ever come Tuesday. I am also exhausted. Shopping is hard work. I don't know how those other girls do it more than twice a year.

Friday, September 12, 2008

My Mailman

So, I have a theory about our local neighborhood mailman. I think he takes most of the day on Fridays off. Obviously this is not condoned USPS behavior, but I believe he has a system. He quickly drives up and down his route to make sure that he hits the boxes with standing red flags and then he delivers anything that has a "next day" on it and calls it a day.

Let me give you the evidence and you decide.

First off, I have not received any mail the last three Fridays (and maybe longer - it has only been the last couple of weeks that I have been aware). And, my Saturday mail load has been unusually large as of late.

Secondly, I did see the mailman zipping through our neighborhood today as I left my house to go volunteer at the school (oh, I am so very helpful), but he was only stopping at about every fourth house and in my quick observation of the situation seemed to be only pausing at those houses that needed to have mail picked up. During a normal day, he stops at every house.

Thirdly, our mailman seems to have some competence issues in general. Since, at least once a week, we receive someone else's mail. In fact, when we first moved here, we became friendly with many of our neighbors during mail swaps. Maybe I should be thanking him for giving us that opportunity.

Anyway, those are the facts. What do you think? Not that it matters, because I am entirely too much of an introvert and way too busy to actually do anything about it even if he is skipping out on Fridays. But, I'd be curious to hear your opinions anyway.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The First Week of School...

No, not the kids, they started up a month ago. It was my first week of school. I taught one class last night and another class this morning. Of course, I get new students every twelve weeks, so I get a lot more first weeks of schools than my kids do.

So, I think it is going to be a good quarter. At least, I hope. It was a good start. All of my students appeared sober during our first meeting which is always a good sign. I only had two absent from each class and most of the ones who were present showed up within the first ten minutes.

I teach at a non-traditional technical college which shall not be named. This quarter, my students range in age from 18 to 58. Last Fall, I had a student that was 64. Some of them had Calculus last year during high school and others got their GED 30 years ago after dropping out of school in the 7th grade. They don't even know what Algebra is.

So, I feel that I can appropriately liken my job to that of a kindergarten teacher. I have to somehow teach ABC's to one group of students while keeping those who came in reading Charles Dickens interested, stimulated and learning as well. At least I don't have to worry about getting bored at work, right?

I do love to teach, though, and I am grateful to be doing it again after a two week break. There is just something great about watching people learn. I love seeing the light bulbs turn on and I love hearing students talk about "exponential expressions" and "the law of Cosines" when just moments before they could be heard talking in language that my Cybernanny won't even let me type.

So, there you have it. I am back in my element and I am happy. I was even nicer to my kids today.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Woman Cave

So, today was not the greatest day I have ever had. I don't even think it came in as a close second. In fact, as Office Space so eloquently put it, I think I had a "case of the Mondays". By the way, don't anybody tell mom I saw that show.

Since I don't really want to relive the day, I'll just summarize by saying it included carpooling the "gifted/talented" kids, a trip to the dentist, playgroup in 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity and more than 2 phone calls before 8 a.m. So, to remedy the day, I turned to what my best friend refers to as my woman cave. It is not a place, but rather a state of being: sweet, blissful isolation with only analytical, logical (and quiet) things surrounding me.

One of my favorite woman cave activities is Spider Solitaire. An advantage of being really good at Math is that I have practically perfected this game. I just played ten games in a row (yes, the day has been that bad) on four suits and I won every time. And yet, about every twenty games or so, I will still run into a game I have to play twice to win. So, the challenge is still there, unlike Free Cell, which lost its appeal about 5 years ago. I once went 36 games on four suits without a loss, but that's my record.

Now, I am going to go take a bubble bath and read some mindless (but realistic) fiction, both woman cave activities. Because tomorrow, teaching starts up again, and I must be completely over my case of the Mondays, so that I can display the spellbinding enthusiasm that is expected of all College Algebra instructors.

Friday, September 5, 2008

My Three-Fold Mission

So, I volunteered at Spencer's elementary school today. This was actually a three-fold mission, though only one aspect was revealed to the general non-blog-reading public. For teachers and students alike, I was there solely as a helpful parent. I smiled. I helped students with their math and then I smiled some more. I was so very, very helpful. The teacher asked me to come back every Friday. Mission #1 accomplished.

Now, for the not-so-obvious missions. The second was to make sure that it was evident to all instructors of my son that I am "that" parent and that my son really is that smart and that they better put him in the top everything or they will have me to deal with. After casual questioining of all of those who seemed to have any authority in the classroom, I was assured that my son was very bright, attending the primary talent pool and being appropriately challenged in every way. The teacher also brought to my attention that sweet Spencer had received a star for every day of school thus far - which means that he has never had a ticket pulled for misbehaving. So, apparently all is well on the academic front. Mission #2 accomplished.

And now for the really top secret mission. The one that I will only admit to myself and those diligent enough to still be reading my long-winded blog. I came to stare down the bully. The kid who has intimidated my son into trying not to wear his glasses. The boy who thinks he can use the word "sissy" anytime he wants. Yes, I wanted to look him in the eye and make sure he knows that I know what he has been doing. I had to be casual about it, since I don't think it is generally acceptable for a parent to confront a first-grader. I walked up behind him and said, "Hi. I am Spencer's mom. I hear that you ride the bus with him." There was pure terror in his face. Then I continued, "I also heard that you met with the Princpal and that you are not going to bother him anymore." He nodded still too petrified to talk. "Good. I just wanted to make sure. Now, do you have any questions with your Math?" And then I looked over his paper and took a moment of guilty pleasure in the fact that the math he was working on, my son had finished early in his kindergarten year. Mission completed.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lamaze for the Left Brain

My baby sister, Christina, is pregnant. This is still weird for me on several levels since she will forever be 13 in my mind. But, I guess she does have a husband and a college degree now, so, by society's standards, she is not really jumping the gun. (For the record, she isn't 13 anymore either).

So, as her pregnancy has progressed, I have got to play the older, wiser, big sister. I've shared all of my terrible labor stories and related the merits of sleep training. You know, all of the stuff that every expecting woman needs to know.

But, there is one thing I have failed to relate. My Lamaze class experience. So, I give it to her and you now. When I was pregnant with J, my husband and I took prenatal classes from a Lamaze instructor. There was one problem, though. My mind doesn't exactly work like everyone else's. It just doesn't. So, as the rest of the class was finding their focus point and pretending they were on a beach, I was calculating how many minutes were left in the class. I just couldn't put myself on a beach when we were sitting at least 500 miles from the nearest one. Maybe this is why I've never been able to enjoy reading science fiction. If I'm going to read fiction, it better be realistic fiction.

So, week after week, we attended the class. And, week after week, I became more convinced than ever that an epidural was going to be my only hope for making it through labor. In all fairness, there was one point of the class that I did get - the pushing phase. The plan was, that I was going to push while someone counted to ten, and then I could stop and breathe for a moment. I could do that. It was real. It was measurable. It was quantifiable. Check. Check. Check.

So, the night finally came. I went into labor. I timed contractions, and then I announced to my poor husband, who was preparing for a presentation for class the next day, that it was time to go to the hospital. When I arrived, the people in charge confirmed that I was, indeed, in labor. That is when I put my plan into action. I announced that I would please like my epidural now, pretty please, yes?

The epidural was administered and life was good. It didn't matter that I hadn't found a focus object or even been able to envision the shores of Utah Lake. I was happy and comfortable and playing pinochle with the aforementioned little sister. Then, hours later, something bad happened. The epidural stopped working and I could feel pain and it hurt. Yes, it hurt very bad. But, the midwife assured me that the baby was almost here and it was probably best that I just push it out and call it a day rather than trying to find other solutions for the suddenly non-working epidural. But, you see, it hurt really bad. Not just a little bit, but really, really bad.

So, I tried to think back to my Lamaze class. I couldn't remember anything. Wasn't I suppose to concentrate on something? But who could concentrate when everything hurt so bad? What was wrong with these people? Couldn't they see I was in pain? Am I not in a hospital? Okay, let's see, Lamaze. Um, I'm suppose to push while someone counts to ten. I remember that part. But, it wasn't time to push quite yet. Then I started to hyperventilate and the nurse freaked out and told me that I had to slow down my breathing. So, my husband started counting with me. He counted 1-2-3 as I breathed in and 4-5-6 as I breathed out. As each contraction hit, and they were pretty constant at this point, he counted to six and I breathed in and out and somehow I delivered that baby.

That simple method of counting to six has helped me several times since. When marathon training, I used the same breathing pattern and it carried me through miles. I counted to six over and over and over and 26.2 miles later I would manage to cross the finish line. My older sister and my husband have both claimed that I rhythmically breathe in my sleep sometimes too. When I received the call that my sister passed away this summer, I pulled myself back from a couple of sessions of hysterical crying using this same method.

So, for the left-brained among you, I am offering you my own prenatal advice (free of charge - how generous of me). When you go into labor. Just count to six.

Monday, September 1, 2008

After Ever After

One of my favorite plays of all time is "Into the Woods". I played in the pit for it on two different occasions and I have parts of it memorized. The first act is just a convoluted mix of traditional and other fairy tales. When my high school did the production and the elementary kids came to watch as a field trip, we ended things there. After all, the first act ends with "happily ever after" - why bother continuing?

The reality of the matter is, of course, that rarely does life cruise along in a holding pattern, especially one of happily ever after. The second act of the play explores what happens when the story is allowed to continue. This was always my favorite part. Not that I necessarily enjoyed watching Little Red Riding Hood walk around with a machete, but I was always a little disappointed with fairy tales as a child. I think it has something to do with my propensity towards realism. Even from a young age, I knew that though happy moments come and go, people don't just live that way forever without further ado.

So, (and I really do have a point here) in all of my vast experience, I have garnered a new theory about happiness. In college, I used to say that the key to happiness is low expectations - which I still believe has some merit to it. But, I have expanded on this. I believe that we can let certain aspects of our life represent happiness. We just need one or two small things that we can look forward to in life and it will be enough to get us through. I'm sure those few things should be church or seeing our children smile, but sometimes it just isn't.

So, with all of this as a preface, I am ready to make a confession. I love the talent based reality shows. In fact, I sometimes feel like an episode of "American Idol" can carry me for a week and Brigham and I even have tickets to go see "So You Think You Can Dance?" live in October. As much as I hate to admit it, I am actually a happier person when these shows are on air. I can drive carpools and teach Math and make dinner and have a smile on my face because I know that I will get to watch "American Idol" or something similar that evening. I bet you didn't see that coming.

...So, there's no more fuss and there's no more scenes. And my garden thrives - you should see my nectarines. But, I'm telling you the same I tell Kings and Queens: Don't ever never ever mess around with my greens! Especially the beans!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Monkey See, Monkey Do

I have a head cold today, so Wendy's was on the menu for dinner. As I was clearing out my sinuses with a Spicy Chicken Fillet Sandwich, I saw J dip his french fry in his chocolate milk and then I turned to see Michael, who was watching carefully, try to drop a french fry into his milk. I explained to J how carefully Michael watches everything that he does and how he tries to mimic it, so he needs to watch his actions (and maybe one day his words, if the speech therapy works).

Now, I am going to back up some to earlier in the day. Spencer came home from school a little beside himself today. In general, Spencer is very sweet and smart in every way...and I'm not just saying that. Even people who are not his parents say that sometimes. He is tall for his age, but not one of the biggest kids in the class and he is quite skinny. He also wears bifocals, which hasn't been much of an issue for him socially until now. Apparently, a kid from his class has been taunting him on the bus. In fact, I dare say the word bullying. He has been calling him a "sissy" and other not nice words. So, I called the school. I'm not about to let my six year old son deal with this on his own. The vice-principal took my call and said she would leave a message for the teacher and also contact the department of transportation so that the bus aide is aware of the problem.

The teacher called me back this evening. When I described the "bullying" to her, she said, "that actually makes a lot of sense." A few days ago, she had read a book to the class about bullying. In the books there were two boys and one of them wore glasses and the other boy was calling him a sissy and using the same behavior that was used on Spencer. It was meant to open up the conversation about bullying, but instead it was apparently used as catalyst for bullying behavior. As we talked, she said that it sounded like his classmate was acting out the book she had read the class almost exactly. She will talk to him when they get back to class on Tuesday. I have every confidence that it will be taken care of, because Spencer also remembered the book and knew that if someone was treating him in that way that he should tell an adult.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Charlie, two words: Therapy

My baby has therapy this morning, speech therapy that is. It is true. We have retained the services of a professional to help my one year old to learn to say "ball". The therapist is confident that he is just a little speech delayed and has every expectation that he will catch up by kindergarten, but we see no reason not to get him any help that he might need - the earlier, the better.

In fact, I am a big believer in therapy. Sometimes, things that society believes are suppose to come naturally need to be helped along a little. Sometimes, we just can't figure things out on our own, even if we are, for instance, really good at math. So, here is where I tell you, that I, too, am in therapy. Not speech therapy (though, according to a few of my students, I could probably use that as well), but grief therapy. Last month my sister passed away. It wasn't one of those expected deaths that we were all prepared for. It was sudden and it was traumatic and I guess I needed some help figuring out exactly how I was suppose to grieve. So, believe it or not, there are experts out there on grieving. I'm not sure exactly what would inspire someone to go into that line of work, but the woman I see is one of the most compassionate and real people I know.

I'm not really aware of what I was expecting when I went in, but looking back, I think I wanted a list. Considering my left brain is quite dominate, I wanted it to be a logical process. As a side note, I've often pictured my right brain as a small shriveled walnut that was conquered during my early twenties and is now afraid to come out. But, anyway, back to the issue at hand. Apparently, there is not a list. There are stages, but depending on who you are, you may not even display some of the stages and others may exhibit themselves in non-traditional ways. And that is okay, according to my expert on grief. Which I guess is what I really needed to know. I needed an expert to tell me that I wasn't crazy and that what I was going through was normal for the circumstance. I needed to know that my form of broken was fixable and I needed to know that it was okay that I felt broken. And, as it turns out, even with all of my idiosyncrasies, and with professional help, I was able to grieve, and I am starting to move on.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Post a la Marianne

My sister, Marianne, has informed me that she will not read my blog because I am too long winded. So, in an attempt to increase my readership by one, and cater to her attention deficiencies, I am writing this post with out my usual flowery commentary. I will simply make two observations about my life since posting yesterday:

1) The book I picked up from the Lexington Public library last night smells like cigarette smoke. By the end of the evening, I was tearing up, but I wasn't sure if it was because the book was good or because my allergies were flaring up.

2) If nutrition and calories were not factors, I believe that I could happily live on Chipotle burritos and Keebler Grasshopper cookies for a good long time.

That is all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

From Preschool to Harvard

When I was growing up, times were easier. You see, nobody really went to preschool. We all went to the neighborhood elementary school and then it was spelled out from there, depending on the location of your home, through high school. After that, there was probably a choice of college for some people, but, in my family, we all pretty much applied and went to the same college - which was located all of 15 minutes from the home I grew up in. Yes, times were easier.

Way back then, nobody knew or cared if their elementary school was the "good one" in the "good district". Schools weren't required to make their success (or lack thereof) a public record. There weren't magnet schools and performing arts programs and such. There was just the school. Everyone went there. Well, times have changed. I do think it is for the better, but it requires that choices be made and that parents remain diligent. But, since I get stressed out when presented with decisions, and I prefer lazy parenting, I do long for the old days (you know, way back in the eighties).

My oldest son, whom we call J, is at a gifted and talented magnet school this year. He is in the third grade and they work at least a year ahead in all subjects. It requires that we drive him back and forth to the school, which is located downtown. Luckily, we have a pretty nice carpooling system set up. This program doesn't start until the third grade, so he was required to change schools. He also has a strict dress code at his new school. In order to get into the program he had to score very high on both an IQ test and an achievement test. Then, we had to apply and present specific documentation of his "gifted characteristics". Nothing about this was easy or conducive to my lazy parenting style.

Then there is Spencer, my first grader. He is going to the local elementary school about a mile from our home. The problem is that we are not actually in the boundaries for this school due to some political situations that could only happen in Kentucky. So, I had to apply "out of area" for him to attend this school. This was also not an easy process, and required, once again, that I break out of my comfort zone of indolence. I am also in the process of trying to get him into the primary talent pool - which is the gifted, talented program for those younger than the third grade. You would think that naturally, since he is my child, that they would just see the last name and sign him up. But, no, they want me to fill out checklists and show specific documentation. In fact, after seeing the packet that was sent home with him for me to fill out, I am questioning whether or not he is gifted enough to justify the extra work on my part.

Lastly, there is my sweet little Michael. He doesn't even turn two until October 13th, so you would think that I would not have to worry about his long term academic pursuits at this point, but you would be wrong. Because, if I want any chance of getting him into a preschool that isn't glorified daycare, I have to sign up at least a year in advance. That's right folks. Not only is preschool now expected in our complex society, but the waiting lists are a year long. So, this morning, I went down to the Walnut Hill Day School and toured the grounds. The two year old curriculum includes music and Spanish along with the other more common preschool academics. When I informed the director that my son was still struggling with the English language, she laughed like I was obviously joking. Apparently she hadn't noticed that the kid, sweet as he is, doesn't speak. So, I wrote out my huge deposit check and guaranteed him the last slot for the 2009-2010 school year. After all, maybe Spanish will turn out to be his language. If I had been more diligent, I would have done this years ago, like the woman in there with the 7 day old child who didn't want to take any chances.

So, yes, I hate the complexity of it all, but I am still attempting to master the system. I'm sure my children will have plenty to talk about in therapy one day, but it won't be because I didn't try. Next time, tune into my primer on extra-curricular activities for the lazy parent. Subtitled: How to convince the piano teacher to come to your house for lessons.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Foible

So, um...yeah, I should probably not be allowed to leave the house anymore. You see, the problem with being really good at math is that, in order to have balance in this universe, there must exist an equivalent ineptness that is just as blatantly obvious as my phenomenal Calculus skills. It can not be helped.

As much as I try to hide my weaknesses, sometimes my diligence wavers and, well, I guess the best way to explain this is by describing my yesterday. So, yesterday...yes, yesterday....well, we were invited to go to a friend's farm. We didn't know these people well (or really at all), but they made it out to be a fun family day and they have a tree house and there will be food and the boys will love it and we should just definitely show up. I'm not usually one to go to people's houses if I don't know them, but since my proverbial job as the wet blanket of the family was being a little overplayed this week, I decided to just go and pamper myself later for the effort. After all, I had a cold Dr. Pepper and a night of Olympics waiting for me when I got home.

So, we arrived at the farm. It all looked a little chaotic. The kids let us in, but there didn't seem to be an adult in sight. There were no father-like people around, and the only female over age ten, was very quiet and appeared to be about sixteen. She hadn't said a word to us and I figured that she was playing the annoyed teenager role. After about ten minutes, it seemed that a parent of some sorts had been located, but was busy feeding the animals. So, since I was fairly sure that we, the company, had not been announced, we made our way outside.

The heat was blistering. I was very uncomfortable both physically and psychologically. So, I found a chair under a tree and watched as the kids taunted the cows and tripped through the watermelon patch. By this time, Brigham had successfully located the person who had invited us over and had started to make small talk. They do scouts together and our sons have had classes in school together. So, some of the tension in the air was starting to fade - for them, at least. I still didn't know anyone and I'm not exactly a blaring extrovert.

Finally, the "only female over age ten" that I spoke of before, came over and sat by me. She didn't say anything for a while...and I started to calculate exactly how long this afternoon was going to last since we had already accepted their invitation to dinner. When I realized that we still had, on the low side, another 3 hours before dinner would even be a reasonable proposition, I decided that my only chance at enjoying myself even a little was to try some small talk with this girl. After all, I'm pretty good with teenagers. Hey, I might have underestimated her. She might even be college age and I teach college kids and a lot of of them think that I am a pretty neat person. This could work. I could talk to this person.

So, I thought about small talk. Let's see. What do people say. Brigham was over there chatting away with the father of Conner, the boy who had invited us over. He looked like he easily had 10 to 15 years on Brigham and they seemed to be getting along like best friends. So, age shouldn't matter. I'm sure I'd have something in common with this girl. Maybe she was in school. We could talk about what subjects she liked. So, I turned to her. And this is when it happened. I never should have opened my mouth, but I did, and I said, "So, you must be Conner's older sister." Then she replied, "No, I'm his dad's girlfriend." And my jaw dropped. There was no recovery after that.

Yeah, it's true, I really shouldn't be allowed to leave the house.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Olympics

Last night, as I watched both our men's and our women's 4x100 relay team drop the baton, I started to wonder about my fascination with the Olympics. Upon further reflection, I believe it ties into my obsession with Mount Everest and ultramarathons and even the cannibalistic rugby team that hiked out of the Andes in the seventies. There is something to be said about enduring and doing something really hard and surviving.

I also love the "Olympic Stories." You know, the ones NBC puts on with inspriational music in the background and childhood pictures. I still tear up at the story of Wilma Rudolph who came out of the 1960 Olympic games in Rome with three gold medals after contracting polio as a child and being told she may never walk again. So there doctors. She not only walked, she ran, and she became the fastest woman in the world.

One of the reasons I love being a college Math teacher is because Math is not an easy subject for most people. So, I get to see people struggle and work and, in many cases, conquer a phobia that they've dealt with ever since they had that pre-Algebra teacher in junior high that spit when he talked and had a bad case of eyebrow dandruff. I do understand that passing College Algebra is not equivalent to doing the 100 meters in 9.69 for most people, but it can leave the same sense of accomplishment and the same high.

In fact, I think we all have those things in life that are set before us to conquer. For most of us, it is not a World Record. Nobody is going to take our picture by a time clock with a flag drapped around our shoulders and declare us a champion. It is more likely that we are just making it through another Monday at work or another ten minutes of carpool time with three boys from the "gifted and talented" school who don't seem to understand the concept of "don't touch each other".

Of course, the Olympics is also a reminder that we are all human and there will be days when we just don't have it in us. Even if we are the favorite, we just might be having a bad day, but our job isn't to always win, it is to finish the race. The most touching part, to me, of watching the Olympics last night was seeing Lauryn Williams drop the baton and then go back, pick it up, and cross the finish line.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Blog

Last night, as my husband and I were laying in bed, he turned to me and said, "You know, you really should start a blog." I told him that blogging wasn't really my thing. In fact, since entering motherhood and suburbia and the South and my thirties, I have discovered that there are a number of areas of life which I would classify as "not really my thing."

For instance, I don't like to answer the phone or call anyone. I can't exactly point back to a specific time when this phobia started. I do remember anxiously waiting by the phone as a teenager for someone or anyone to call, so it must be something I've acquired in my adult years. This used to be a major source of contention when my family decided that they wanted to order pizza for delivery. Because, you see, it used to be that you couldn't simply go on to and interact with just your computer (as it should be). You used to have to call and talk to someone - someone that you didn't know - and you had to tell them that you wanted pizza - and then you had to get all specific about toppings and sizes and such. It just seemed like such an invasion. So wrong.

And then there is my little problem with names. After teaching school for a decade plus and changing students every 3 months, I can no longer remember anyone's name. And when I do remember a name, I place it with the wrong last name. I can't even keep my kid's names straight and there are only three of them. Dale Carnegie would not be impressed.

But, as I thought of all of these things that "aren't really my thing", I realized that I do most of them anyway. Much to my chagrin, I still use the phone - probably even daily. I still attempt to address people by their name. I even partake in many of the social niceties of the South, though this part has become strictly academic for me. So, why not blog?