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!