disapproving kitty

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Excuse me ma'am, but I think there's a spider in your hair

Mommy, I'm all done sleeping....  (an hour and a half earlier than usual)
Mommy, I don't want that cereal.  I want the other cereal!
Mommy, I don't want to wash my hands after the potty!  AAAHHHHHH (thrash thrash)
Mooommeee, I want to watch a different show!
Mommeeeeeeee, I waaaaannnnttt thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat
Mooooooooommmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeee I want my paci!  I want my paci!  IwantmypaciIwantmypaciIwantmypaciIwantmypaciIwantmypaciIwantmypaciIwantmypaci!!!!
Mooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee she hit me!
Moooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee why aren't you helping me!
Moooooooooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee he won't let me play with thaaaaattt!


Then DS crying because I scared him.  DD looked at me angelically and said "I'm not crying, Mommy."  Sigh.

We actually made it to the gym for morning childwatch hours (sanity move on my part -- let someone else listen to them whine for a couple hours) except that 30 minutes in DD was sobbing uncontrollably that she was  hungry and as soon as she finished eating DS wanted to eat and then it was 12:30 and the daycare was closed.  So, no exercise for me.

Swimming went well, except that the lifeguard lectured me twice on not being near enough to my children.  Apparently there's been a crackdown on this as they've never bugged me before.  Sigh.

There was no hot water for showers.  They've had signs up for two weeks now that they're having problems with their hot water heaters.  How long does it take to fix a hot water heater?

The last straw for this glorious outing was when we got to the car,  and it was covered with hundreds of tiny spiders.  Let me say that again.  MY CAR WAS COVERED IN HUNDREDS OF TINY SPIDERS AND I COULDN'T FREAK OUT OR WANTONLY SQUISH THEM AS MY IMPRESSIONABLE CHILDREN WERE WITH ME.

It's been that kind of day.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Go small squirrel, stop thunder turtle

I'm debating whether to even write anything today, as I just don't have much to say and I feel like going to bed.  Could I get away with just a haiku or something?  I used to have refrigerator magnet haiku, before I had small children. Now I have alphabet refrigerator magnets and a little toy that pronounces all the letters and sings the alphabet song when you push a button.  Should I accidentally push it while getting something from the back of the freezer it scares the bejeezus out of me.

When I did have the haiku magnets, I got really frustrated with searching for words, not even sure if the word was even there, so I wound up grouping them all alphabetically by letter.  They weren't alphabetical within the letter groupings, though -- I'm not that obsessive.  No, really, I'm not.  I just hated looking and looking for a word, not knowing if it was worth the effort of looking.  I hate solving puzzles or math problems like that, too, where the teacher would say "Maybe there's no answer!  Keep trying!"  Unless I know the thing I'm searching for is actually there, I don't want to bother with looking.  I would make a very poor archaeologist.

But the haiku magnets are all put away now, and my refrigerator is covered with alphabet magnets and kids drawings and various papers of things-I-must-not-forget-about-or-lose.  So no haiku for tonight.  Instead, maybe just the poem J wrote with my haiku magnets, part of which is still there, because I liked it: "Go small squirrel/Stop thunder turtle"  He thought it seemed like something that would be said in an anime kids' cartoon.  Now it's just another one of those odd little bits of us for guests to wonder at when they visit.

And it makes me smile.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fatherly Wisdom

     It's well past Father's Day, I know, but I read a story today written by a woman whose father had taught her to bunt a baseball when she was a kid.  It was a nice little story that the writer tried to stretch into a metaphor about how her father had taught her to live a decent life and so on and so forth, and it didn't really work for me.  I mean, I take her point about how it's reasonable to aim for just advancing a guy on base, and not always shoot for the fences, but it still just seemed a bit of a stretch, and a little depressing at that.

   It did, however, start me thinking about nuggets of wisdom from my own father, who never taught me to hit bunts or homeruns or anything, which is probably a good thing, since I most likely would have wound up concussing someone with a badly swung bat.  I'm just not that coordinated.  The few times I did play ball, what I remember most is my teammates yelling at me to stop throwing the bat whenever I got a hit and ran towards first.  If there's a life lesson there, it's that some of us aren't meant to play organized sports.
    No, the metaphors for life my father passed down to me tended to be of a more poetic nature.  For instance, when someone has done something extraordinarily dumb, he might be described as "So stupid he couldn't pour piss out of a boot with instructions on the heel."  This isn't so much a philosophy of course, as way to avoid being.  The reason I enjoy this phrase so much is that the first time I heard it, it came with a mimed visual provided by my younger brother that made me laugh so hard I had to sit down.  Plus, it helps to meditate on such an image when dealing with the type of individual it describes.  Try it sometime.

    For times when absolutely nothing is going right, and every thing you've tried that day has ended in epic failure:  "Some days you buy a duck, and it drowns."  Why the image of a drowned duck, one that I paid good money for no less, makes me feel a little more philosophical about my situation, I don't know.  I think it's on the order of Alexander's mom telling him that "Some days are like that.  Even in Australia." at the end of Judith Viorist's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  (This, by the way, is also an excellent thing to read on epic failure days.)

    The last nugget, any possibly my favorite, is the saying that "It's tough to remember that your original objective was do drain the swamp when you're up to your ass in alligators."  This one is just golden.  I think he has it on a plaque in his office.  So much of life is like that.  Sometimes I like to imagine all the petty rules, red tape, small minds and other obstacles that are standing in the way of what I want to do as alligators.  Then I can imagine them as really nice luggage.  But really, it's just a way of remembering that there is a bigger goal out there, and if I can just get to that, the rest of the details will fall into place.

   And it's funny.  They all are.  Never underestimate the power of making somebody laugh, even yourself.  So maybe that's the real life lesson -- to not take things so seriously.  Or maybe I'm just stretching things into more than they are.  Such, as they say, is life.

Monday, June 27, 2011

nothing much

Some days, like yesterday, there's just no down time for writing anything of worth.  Even though it was beautiful out, yesterday was pretty much devoted to sleeping at our house.  The kids had been low on sleep for several days and took marathon naps in the afternoon.  J had been at Origins for three days straight and took a long nap, too.  I'm taking some new medication that the doc said might might have the side effect of giving me more energy.  If she meant humming like a live, ungrounded electric wire, then she was right.  I feel like my skin should be glowing iridescently like some Star Trek alien in gold make up, and I should have the power to charge my electronics just by holding them in my hands.  This, unfortunately, is not true, but it is a strange feeling.
This drug also makes me not sleep.  For two nights now I've just sort of laid in bed and felt my brain humming.  You know that sound that florescent lights make when they need to be changed?  I feel like that sound.  I have to say that whatever benefits this new med is supposed to be conveying are not outweighing the side effects at the moment, so we'll see.
At any rate, I didn't sleep.  I made dinner.  Then cleaned the kitchen and then dithered about because my brain, though full of energy, is so unfocused that I'm not able to concentrate on anything other than rote activities for very long.
We took the kids for mini-golf, which we had never done, and J wisely went for the 9-hole kid course.  I wanted the 18 holes.  I love mini-golf.  I let J make the decision, though, because I'm rather fuzzy headed at the moment and not making good decisions.  (Just ask J about the barbecued ribs on the sidewalk outside of Origins incident.  I was clearly insane.)
So we played 9 holes, which, as it turns out, was still about 4 too many.  DD played by throwing her ball towards the hole each time it was her turn to putt.  The end result was scores that were somewhat competitive, but I have to say she had a tendency to just walk up to the hole after the 2nd or 3rd throw and just drop the ball in.  DS tried to putt, but eventually took on DD's method.  They were both done after about 5 holes, but we made it through all nine with a fair amount of cajoling and a promise to play some of the video games inside if they would just get off the green while Daddy is putting for crying out loud.
We played a couple rounds of skee ball inside (I love skee ball, too.) got some prizes with the tickets we won, and headed home.
Not bad for our first time, especially what with me shooting sparks out of my fingers and all.
By the time we got home, it was realllly late, and once we got hyped-up, overtired children washed and into bed it was realllllyyyy later, so there was no writing yesterday.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thought for the Day

R's Rule for Distance Visits (i.e. driving 2 hours to see relatives) to or with Small Children:  If anyone on either side of the visit, be it adult, child, visitor or visitee is feeling even mildly ill,  DO NOT GO.  Just take a rain check and do it later.  If later is not possible, then the one non-sick adult who can travel may go if absolutely necessary, but leave kids out of it entirely.

Corollary:  On days where the children just will not nap, it is best to punt any evening plans that include children.  It would be less stressful for all involved to stay home, sit on the couch and order in pizza.  Any disappointment that ensues on the part of any party pales in comparison to the massive headaches that will ensue should you try to go ahead anyway.

Friday, June 24, 2011

I'm not distracted, it's just that all processing channels are busy right now.

My mother sometimes talks about walking into a room and forgetting why she went in there.  I do the same, of course, and I think everybody does from time to time, but I wonder if moms do it more than most. I feel like I'm very ditzy sometimes, and can't concentrate on the simplest of things, or remember things for longer than your average goldfish.

I think, though, that maybe, just maybe it has to do with the brain of a mom, which is constantly running on dozens, even scores of trains of thought, all the time.  Like:  what's in my fridge that needs to be thrown away, what bills need to be paid by tomorrow, I need to check my bank balance, ask daycare if I gave them a check for this week, find out if DD had an accident yesterday or just got wet, see if we have enough Pull-Ups to get through the weekend, someone needs to stop at Target to get the prescriptions, I need to check the calendar to see if I have all my Dr. appts covered by daycare, do I have enough food to pack a picnic for tomorrow, is that smell in the house just one bad litterbox, or does Gracie have a bladder infection and need to go back to the vet, has she lost weight? How many loads of laundry are there left to do, do the kids have underwear and shorts for tomorrow, I want to check the weather for Comfest, if I take apart one of my old, broken watches could I use the bits to fix a piece of Steampunk jewelry I have?  Is there any epoxy left in my crafting kit or do I need more, can I even use epoxy for that, do I have a spare power cord for my computer or should I order I new one now, what do I want for my birthday, will we be going up to the Lake for the 4th, and if so have I/should I invite people, I need to call and make that appointment for the cleaning lady, and one for my chiropractor, did I take all my various pills today, am I drinking too much caffeine, did I drink any water today or eat a single unsauced vegetable, how many points did I eat today? Did I do any/enough PT exercises? Did I pack everything I need into my gym bag for tomorrow, what's the best way to keep toys put away but not so hidden that they never get played with, what should we do with all the nicer toys -- sell or give away?  Where did I put the papers for the roof contractors I need to call and should we refinance the mortgage?
Seriously.  All of it.  All the time.  And there's more.  If I sat for another five minutes there'd be a list twice as long, all of it different things I'm trying to keep track of.  I sometimes make lists to cross off, but they get overwhelming, and I never remember to go back and cross things off.  Or, worse, I spend the day doing a great deal only to come back and realize that, while important, none of it was on my list.  So, it's better to have it all running in the back of my brain.   I suspect there is a similar string of computation chugging along in the back of every mom's brain.  Maybe in dads, too, but I don't know.
One of my favorite lines from The Chronicles of Narnia was when one of the boys insulted the girls for not being able to keep a map in their heads.  Lucy, I think, retorted "That's because our heads have something in them."

I think she was on to something.

mental energy

Writing fiction takes a lot more mental energy for me than cataloging my day or detailing something of my past.  So, the story is going to have to be a weekly serial.  Think of it as a very chic, retro move on my part.

Speaking of mental energy, mine is at low ebb at the moment, given that it's nearly midnight.  The plan was that J would take the kids to daycare, I'd go get a steroid shot in my elbow (I'm just now icing it as the Dr. ordered.) and join J at Origins.  I stopped to get gas and took advantage of the temperate day and free vacuum at the station as my car had become more of a rolling garbage can than a vehicle.  (True story:  Upon entering the car this evening, my four year old looked about and said "Mommy, this is a CLEAN car!"  Really.)
I finally joined J, had some lunch and played a couple games with friends.  Even won one, which is always nice.  Then off to get the kids and follow the official Evening Plan that I'd let the kids in on earlier.  (Mistake on my part.  They don't adjust well to changes in the Plan and it gets difficult to adapt it as needed.)
Step one:  Get dinner.
Step two:  Go to the gym where they would play and I'd exercise.
Step three:  Go home and get into jammies.
Step four:  Watch 30 minutes of something on tv, in our jammies, while eating a bedtime snack of popcorn.
Step five:  Everyone happily goes to bed.

We pretty much derailed from the get go, as everything takes longer than anticipated, but woe betide the mommy who says, "We really need to skip popcorn and movies because it is soooo late and you should really just go to bed."  I could have an hour of howling, screaming, crying protests, time outs and removal of sticker privileges, or I could just let the kids go to bed really late, but happy.

I'm weak.  And it will be very hard to get up in the morning.  But maybe, just maybe, they'll be reeallly tired tomorrow night and go to bed easy.

One can always hope.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Short Story Starter

J once told me of an idea he had for a short story, and even though I think someone else has written similar stories, I thought I'd give it a roll.  All of it is fiction, any resemblance to the living or dead is coincidental, etc. etc.

     G. Daniels shifted uncomfortably in the seat of his sedan.  It was an old Buick, and the springs in the cushions were long since shot, but it was dark and non-descript which is what he needed for this assignment.  He sighed.  "Stupid assignment." he muttered for not the first time. When he'd signed up at the Agency, this was not what he'd been hoping for.  In his mind he'd envisioned heart-pounding excitement, high-tech gadgetry, chases at high speeds through twisty streets, using computers and logic at the speed of light to nab dangerous criminals and turn them over to the system of Justice.  Instead it was....this.  Sitting in a broke-down sedan, drinking sludgy coffee and needing to take a pee while staring at what had to be the most boring house in the whole damn country.
    It was a standard two-story colonial, with aluminum beige siding and beige trim with the standard two-and-a-half car garage, driveway and walk to the front stoop complete with three bushes, one tree and some tired-looking flowers.   In it lived Daniels' subject.  One Davis E. Portmeyer, ostensibly a minor paper-pusher at some local company that made bricks or envelopes or some other mundane product Daniels couldn't recall at the moment, was of intense interest to the Agency.  According to Daniels' superiors, Portmeyer was leading a double life, and used his job, his house and even his wife as cover for covert terrorist operations.  Daniels' job was to watch him, 7 pm to 7 am, every night, document his movements, his phone calls, his contacts.  Wait for him to leave a trace of this other, mysterious life.                  
       It was Daniels first solo assignment, and it had gone on for a month now.  With nothing.  At all.
       Daniels could set his watch by Portmeyer's movements.  When Daniels arrived at his post, Portmeyer's wife, Grace, would already be home from her job at the local library.  She would be puttering about the house, listening to the radio, preparing dinner.  At 7:15 pm Portmeyer would roll into the garage, putting the door down before getting out of his car.  At 7:25,  they would sit down to dinner where they would eat and talk about the minutiae of their day.  This was usually excruciatingly boring.  At 7:45, they would clear the table together and sit down to watch whatever was on television at 8.  On Tuesdays they would head out together to catch a movie at the dollar theater, and on Thursdays, after their favorite show they would head up to bed early for a night of what Daniels' mother used to euphemistically call "grownup time."  Not having any children themselves, Daniels figured they didn't call it that.  They probably didn't call it anything, though the old seven-minutes-in-heaven moniker wouldn't have been far off.  Then it was off to sleep, up at 5:30, breakfasted, showered, dressed and rolling back down the drive by 6:45.  Every. Damn. Day.
     Daniels thought he would go crazy if it kept up much longer.  He read, and re-read the weekend reports, which were just as dull as his own tedious logs.  How could the Agency be so sure?  He'd asked one of the department heads if they were sure they had the right guy, but they were.  Portmeyer was dirty.  He was evil, and they just had to be patient.  There would be a payoff.  Now get back to work.

More later.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


        A few years ago I read a short story, non-fiction for once, about people who are linchpins of social groups. Only that wasn't the word the author used.  What he'd discovered was that there are individuals who bring together disparate groups of people.  Often they are connected to several different classes of society -- through work, volunteering, school, neighborhood, interests and they have a way of bringing together people who otherwise wouldn't interact.  They're sort of the Kevin Bacons of the real world.  I bring this up because I was thinking today about one of them who isn't with us anymore.

       Her name was Lisa.  She died, way too young, around 30, from a pulmonary embolism.  One moment here, walking into work, and the next moment, not.  It was one of those horrible, awful please-tell-me-you're-making-some-kind-of-tasteless-joke times in my life that has, gratefully, been a rare experience.  But it wasn't a joke.  It was just awful.

       Lisa wasn't a simple person, or an easy person to really know.  She was complex and opinionated, loud and presented the world with an I-don't-give-a-damn-what-you-think attitude.    I met her through my brother, who'd been a friend of hers at school.  At first, we didn't get along.  I'm not 100% sure why.  She didn't like the movie Clerks.  I thought it was hilarious.  She called my brother a lot at inconvenient (for me) times and it irritated me.  We rubbed each other the wrong way for no particular reason.  And then, well, we got over it.  We got together a few more times, in a large group -- usually of people who wouldn't have met otherwise -- and I enjoyed her company so much that we just forgave each other for whatever it was that had been bad and that was that.  She was like that.

          She was dramatic, and she was smart, and stubborn and funny as hell.  I don't remember the things we laughed about, but I do remember laughing so hard with her once that she started to gasp "Stop!  I can't see the road!"  not because of tears, but some physiology of her face made her close her eyes when she started laughing that hard and she became a driving hazard.  She would desperately take her thumb and forefinger and use them to pry her eye open so she could at least have some vision, which, of course, made us laugh even harder till I think she just pulled off the road.   This happened more than once.  Sometimes it happened because we started talking about a previous time that it had happened.  It loses a great deal in translation, and I know that, but there it is.

        Lisa was immensely frustrating sometimes.  She was so smart, and so capable, but did things her way or not at all.  I think it took a decade for her to finish a bachelor's degree.  She held just about every kind of job imaginable, and would work at them with a passion until someone pissed her off enough that she would quit.  She was against every kind of -ism you could name, and god help the person who made the careless racist remark in front of her.  She went once to see something like Big Momma's House or Friday or some other movie like that, and sat through cat calls, and even one rather threatening "Look at the white girl, sittin' in the wrong the-a-ter!"  But she stayed, and still would have decked anyone who implied that one race was better than any other.  I admired that.

       Once she hit her late 20s, her life kind of jelled, and she seemed to find her footing at last.  She met the love of her life, and they married.  She found a job doing social work, and every single bit of everything she'd ever done or learned just funneled right into what she did -- helping people put their lives back together and keep them that way -- and she was marvelous at it.  She went back to school to get her Master's in Social Work.  She was talking about starting a family.

And now she's gone.

She was the person I called after midnight after something stupid and rotten had happened to me, and she picked up and listened and was righteously indignant on my behalf and then said funny things till I laughed.

She wasn't my best friend, or my closest friend, and I often went months without seeing her, but she was the central connection to a lot of people who I really liked, and am now connected to only tangentially.  A few are Facebook friends, but we never quite connect any more.  The linchpin that held us is gone.  I miss them.

I miss her.  I think about her, if not every day, then at least every other day or so.  More often than I think about most anyone else in my life I have lost.

So I decided to write about her today.  When someone has that kind of impact on your life, she is worth writing about.  I think she would approve.

Monday, June 20, 2011

it's supposed to make life better

A friend of mine posted something today about people revealing spoilers to currently-airing shows.   Currently airing what-now?  See, we have this miraculous device that I made fun of not too many years ago.  Who the heck needs to pause TV?  Sheesh.  Who needs that kind of luxury, really?  Now I am utterly in love with the fact that I never, ever have to see a commercial again.  (Except the Christmas one by Hershey Kisses where the kisses are a little handbell choir playing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."  I love that commercial.  But that's it.)
So what we have is a TiVo knockoff and it will record, and pause and fast-forward and make lunch (but only if you know how to program it correctly, which I don't) so that you can save all your favorite shows to watch at your convenience.  It is almost always "Nearly Full!" Red-letter status.  I'm not sure "when my convenience" is, but I think it's limited to about 20 minutes a day, and I'll be damned if I'm going to waste that precious free time watching TV.  (I've got solitaire to play, you know.) Somehow we managed to program it to record every "The Office" ever shown and save them till the Second Coming.  We never watch them.  So there they sit, taking up ever more recording space, taunting us.
You see, we can't erase them.  They might be funny!  We can't watch them separately since we both sorta like the show, which doesn't happen that often, and J found a really funny one once that I had to see, only it didn't save right and it's gone.  So we wait till it's convenient for both of us to be sitting down at the same time, ready to watch this show and don't have anything better to do.  There's always something better to do.  (Have I mentioned my kitchen?) And we can't erase them because... because.... well, we did the work of recording them in the first place.  Or, the computer did the work.  Someone did something and it seems impolite or wasteful or something to not watch them now.
Now that we have this technology that I never actually needed in the first place, it's not good enough.  If two things are recording at once, we can't watch something else.  But, I hear you say, why not just watch one of the things you're recording?  Because one of them is an episode of Backyardigans I've seen 57 times and the other is an episode of Dora the Explorer.  Or Team Umizoomi.  Or Sesame Street.  Or Curious George.  Or Max and Ruby (where the hell are Max and Ruby's parents?)  And if we tell it to stop recording, the machine takes that to mean "stop recording this forever and ever and don't come asking again" and we wind up with no saved episodes of Dora the Explorer which causes our children's heads to explode.
This is the real reason we don't ever watch any grownup television that we've recorded.  It's because we're always watching kid's shows.  This is not a new phenomenon.  Just ask Bill Cosby about Frufie the Dog.
When I was younger, my mother used to put a note on the TV saying it was "broken."  I knew then that she wanted us to quit watching TV and go outside and play already, but I couldn't figure out why.  TV was the greatest, bestest thing ever!  I'm inching ever closer to wanting to just pitch the whole thing all together.
But then I'd never find out what happened on "The Office."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Only In My Dreams

I'm one of those people with really vivid dreams that I often remember.  I like that.  I wake up feeling like I've been entertained all night.  Even when asleep, I'm not bored.  (This could account for my extraordinarily low boredom-tolerance levels while awake.  I hate being bored.)  I'll wake thinking "What a fascinating dream!  This would make a great movie!"  Upon a couple minutes of wakeful reflection, however, I realize that  there isn't actually any storyline at all, no continuity of characters, scenes or plot.  Not that this should stop it from becoming a major blockbuster, mind you.
After 30+ years of this kind of dreaming, I've also learned that these crazy fascinating nighttime adventures in my cranium are intensely boring for anyone else to hear about.  So I'm left waiting for they day when they invent the Star Trek dream-reader made out of a colander and some Christmas lights that will enable people to view my dreams as I do, full of awesomeness and adrenaline-pumping action.  Until then, let me just say that last night's Thelma-and-Louise-style women-on-the-lam-from-the-law flick was really cool.

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's 11:44, do you know where your children are?

It's been a good day, here at the Lake.  Perfect weather, children playing in the sand.  Good food.  Held a brand new baby. 

I'm watching Star Trek Rebooted (Or whatever they called it) which I remember enough to know I liked it but not much else.

So it's a good day.

Except...  my kids won't go to sleep.  The 2 year old is still going strong three hours after bedtime. 

If a good day won't end, does it stay a good day?

I'd ponder that, but my daughter just wandered in, wearing her brother's flip flops, and I'd better go get her.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Today's will just have to be short.  I have about an hour of time to myself today because DS never took a nap.  J, at my rather not-too-subtle-request, has taken the kids out for ice cream.  It's been a busy day, with not enough time to do all the things I wanted to do.  As it is, I still need to stretch and exercise, pack for our trip to the Lake, do two loads of laundry and clean the kitchen.  (I always have to clean the kitchen.  It is never clean.  Ever.)

My neighbor is from Gambia.  He said today that in his country, it is normal to spend a day sitting beneath a mango tree, relaxing.  When you get hungry, someone goes up, cuts down a mango, you wash it off, slice it up, and everybody eats.  Time is slow in Gambia, he says.  Everyone owns their own home and doesn't need to work and work to pay for it.  He misses that.  Time is slow.

In the summertime, I have two full months off, and some extra weeks besides.  I had to print up a special calendar for myself so I could write out everything on it that we had to do. Events.  Things-to-do.  Lists to complete.  The first thing on the list is to make a huge list of all the things I want to accomplish in this precious "free" time.

If I were to spend a day beneath a fruit tree with my friends, relaxing, eating, talking, doing whatever it is you do when time is slow, I would feel as though I had wasted a day.  It is so foreign to even think about a life not lived striving to make more money, do more things, put your kids through college so that they can join the life of working, doing, earning, saving, spending, running, running, running so fast that time is never slow.  Time is a thing with diamond wings, flying so fast, so precious that we shouldn't waste a moment.

Time is a thing with diamond wings...

How sweet would be to slow it for awhile.  Hold it in our hands and enjoy it.  Taste it like the flesh of a ripe mango, just picked from the tree.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The more things change...

This past winter, my boss informed my team that we were being split up.  I would be at one school, one teacher at another and the third and fourth teachers at a different school.   In the 8 years I've taught in this program, I've never been by myself.  It's a far cry from ideal.  There's a lot of benefit in bringing all the gifted kids together to teach them, and to having the teachers in one place.  But we can't have it anymore, so c'est la vie.
We took solace in the fact that at least we'd still be teaching gifted kids.  We all took a deep breath, started to plan, and I started to think about packing.
Then, this past spring, my school district tried to pass a levy.  We tried pretty hard.  I even went door-to-door and talked to people to encourage them to vote for it.  This was not my idea of fun, but I really wanted it to pass.  It failed anyways, by a fairly wide margin.  Sigh.  On the chopping block were half the elementary librarians, middle school sports, 5th grade band and strings and the entire gifted program. Turns out, when you're threatening drastic cuts to your school system, cuts to these things do not inspire the  public to run out and vote for you.
After it failed I was informed that I'd be moving to a 5th grade classroom, along with one of my team mates. In truth, had I been allowed to pick where I went, I'd have opted for a 5th grade classroom.  And the school I was headed to was a fine one.  I knew some of the staff there already.  I'd be with one of my gifted ed colleagues.  Given the circumstances, I couldn't ask for better.
All of us were reassigned.  All of us had no say in where we were placed.  But in the end, we all took a deep breath, started to plan, and got serious about packing.  Or, at least, finding boxes.
We had all of our lasts.  Last field trip to Fallingwater.  Last Rube Goldberg Day.  Last day with kids.  Last day teaching in a gifted program.  Last gifts, last notes, last hugs, last waves goodbye.  We stacked and sorted through 20 years of supplies, books, manuals, folders, and files.  We each took from the multitude of piles what we thought would be most valuable, given where we were going.  Ancient things were boxed and labeled and sent to storage.  Probably never to return.
We had meetings, looked up our new curricula, found copies of teacher manuals, began scouring booksales for books to stock our shelves.  At least, that's what my team did.  I can only assume that the rest of the gifted staff did the same.  What else do you do?  Someone moved our cheese, and sitting around waiting for someone to bring it back was a waste of time.
It wasn't.
A few weeks before school ended all the staff members, fearing state legislation gutting unions come January of 2012, agreed to extend the current contract, adding in another pay freeze and bumping up the amount we pay for insurance.  Things that had been mighty sticking points in the past were now just big pills to swallow as we all took one for the team.
And while all this was going on, parents of middle school athletes banded together and bombarded the school board.  Someone made a passing remark that gifted parents hadn't said much.  Over the next few days, a couple hundred calls lit up the lines.
Parents had been talking to us, too, but we'd given up hope, really.  It wasn't going to happen.  And, in truth, I didn't want it to. If we were going to bring back a gifted program, I thought, it would be best to pass a levy--like they said we needed to--and take a year to plan.  Look at all the models out there.  Look at our district demographics and all the possibilities.  Decide what the priorities are and how best to meet them.  Survey all the stakeholders.  Do it right, not just slapdash, let's-get-through-this-year-with-what-we-have like we've been doing for, well, ever.
Wishful thinking.
Instead, we got a mass email, the last day of school.  Sports are back.  Seven out of eight of the k-5 gifted teachers are back.  And I get a phone call--would I come to central office for a meeting?  Instead of a yearlong thoughtful study, three of us got to look at the numbers and come up with a plan for next year.  A lets-just-get-through-it-best-we-can kind of year.  More kids, fewer teachers and a mandate to "keep it the same" as before.
We came up with two proposals.  One that looked more or less the same as last year, only with all of us doing a little more, and at different locations.  A second plan that would keep student services the same but even out the workloads more, and increase our presence at the schools.  It also seemed more economical.  We'd have to learn a new curriculum, but frankly, I was up for a change.  All of us liked this plan better and felt it had more long-term potential.  We said so.  The administration seemed to agree with us.  We took a deep breath, started to plan...
Today we were told they were going with Option 1.
I'm back to doing exactly what I was told I'd be doing last winter.  Same program.  New building.  By myself.  More kids.
All seven of us were packed.
But only two of us are going anywhere.
For now.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Still not feeling it

Honestly, I think I would be better at this if I could just dictate my thoughts into the air and have them recorded for me, like the computer on Star Trek.  I love that computer.  I know that there have been a million nitpickers complaining: "How could the computer would actually know when it's being talked to and when it's not?" but I don't care.  I want a computer that can tease that out for me.  I want my technology to be that user-friendly.  So intuitive that it intuits what I want and just does it for me.  Like putting in all the little italics where I want to show emphasis, rather than me having to go back and highlight all those little parts I what emphasized.
I want this to be more than just a chronicle of what-I-did-today.  It should be thoughts on deeper things and the meaning of life, but I'm just not feeling it.  I'm still trying to get the hang of full-time mommying, and that includes, in my mind, being able to keep the house clean at the same time, and get all the "big projects" done like cleaning out the garage, sorting out all the stuff for Goodwill, organizing and cleaning out all the shelves and spare room, calling fixit people to come fix all the things that are broken, getting estimates for all the things we'd like to improve and so forth and so on.  That, and getting to the gym every day.  Seriously, every day.  I tell myself there's no reason not to do this - -they have childcare!  It's a couple hours to myself!  I love the feeling of having exercised! -- but I have failed to do this so far.  There's always something else to do with those two hours, and usually it involves me sleeping or cleaning the kitchen.
So, I don't have the hang of this yet.  I don't even have the hang of putting nifty little pictures on the blog and such.  I know it's really intuitive and everybody else figures it out in seconds, but until it has Majel Barrett answering the questions I pose out loud, it's going to take me awhile.

Day One

I took a very short professional development class today.  Well, yesterday, since it's now after midnight. It was on inspiring kids to write more in class, and much to my surprise it was actually quite good.  Nothing really new or earth-shattering, and at the end she wanted us to all state a goal for ourselves, and I wrote that I'd write something every day this summer.  We're supposed to tell our students to do that, to write every day.  So, here goes.
I didn't say I'd actually share it with anyone, but I might, so why not make it a blog?  If I feel like telling people to go read what I wrote, then I can, without too much effort.
Lately, I've barely had enough creative energy to think of something witty and relevant to post on Facebook, and that's what, 30 words?  All day long I make silent observations in my head that would sound amusing as a status, but when I finally sit down to type something, nothing surfaces.  I'm boring even to myself.
The thing is, I really like to write.  I'm good at it.  Not as good as a lot of people, but better than your average bear and I enjoy it.  I enjoy re-reading and editing what I wrote.  I'm pondering right now whether I should keep that bit about me being a better-than-average writer, or of that just sounds egotistical so I should edit it out.  The point is, though, that this is something I like to do, and I don't actually ever do it.  Just for fun, I mean.
J and I used to sometimes talk about story ideas that we had floating around in our heads.  So maybe I'll take one of them and write it out.  I'd like to write more drabbles.  I like drabbles.
One thing our teacher had us write today in the little class was called a "Feeling Poem."  Sounds more hokey than it is.  It's meant to be accessible to kids.  Came with an editing checklist and all.  The examples she gave were poems called "Fear" and "Joy."  The idea being that you write 10 - 24 lines that express what evokes those feelings in you, trying to create words that flow and sound good read aloud, and the last line(s) are a little summary of the meaning of the poem.
It's an impressive little bit of assignment for kids because it can work for almost any level of writer, and has a good bit of content in it for such a small piece of work.  I was in a sad state of mind, but didn't want to be, but didn't want to write some sappy-happy poem for no reason, so I decided on "Surprise."  'Cause that can go either way.  We had about 5 minutes.
Here it is:


Surprise is the feeling of a fresh hairball, oozing under your toes
Surprise is an hour long nap when you intended to lie down for only a minute
Surprise is a naked baby, butt in the air, fast asleep in a crib full of pulled-out-wipes
Surprise is a freshly cleaned kitchen when you come downstairs
Surprise is waking to find your four-year-old standing six inches from your face
Surprise is a startled cat, leaping off your lap with clawed hind legs
Surprise is the thrown-together meal that everyone in the family will eat
Surprise is a lovely spring day after weeks of cold rain and blistering heat
Surprise is a dinner date when you'd been expecting to make hot dogs
Surprise is a friend request from someone you'd long forgotten
Surprise is discovering how much you actually wanted a change, after being told you can't have one
Surprise is giggles, laughter, shock, groans, shrieks, and sometimes sadness
Surprise is just around the corner

Every day is filled with
its own everyday