Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas ode to my people

When I was double checking my Christmas card list (No, I'm not Santa!), I started thinking about the columns I designed in hopes of not leaving anyone out.  Friends, work, school, neighbor, family. 

I'm very blessed to have a long list of names in each of these columns.  So blessed, I can't figure out where to put people.  What if they are my neighbor and dear friend?  Friends for a reason, a season, or life... should I make columns for this?  If I work with you, are you strictly a work friend?

Clearly, through the holiday season and the whole year through, I am loved by friends.  For this, I am truly blessed.

So for all of my friends...
BFF, confidant, co-worker, co-worker I can drink and swear with, old friend, new friend, old friend made new again, timeless friend, neighbor, soul mate, smart girl, mom friend, family friend, party friend, co-conspirator, wonderwall, intellectual friend, can act stupid with friend...

Mistletoe kisses and hugs to you all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Everything old is new again

Our school district doesn't teach from text books and handouts.  The classrooms are full of teacher driven mini-lessons, lots of journaling, and a variety of learning methods.  Hard to follow sometimes as a sub, but worth it for the quality of education.

Today I was working with fourth graders on their Washington state studies.  There actually is a text book for that.  Makes sense... they are learning the slower changing facts about our state:  land regions, agriculture, climate etc...

This book seemed familiar.  I started flipping through the pages and was sure I had seen this book before.  I remember using this book to teach Washington state studies to fifth graders, as a substitute teacher, at Marshall elementary.  Before I became a full time teacher.  Before I got married and had kids.

Could this be right?  Clearly this was an updated version.  Then I came to the page that shocked me.

Washington state governor Booth Gardner.

Seriously?  Checking the publication date of this educational textbook, it was dated 1992... one year after I graduated high school.

Yikes.  Hope things haven't changed much, or these kids will have some sad reports.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas past, Christmas present

Drumroll please...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ode to my week

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Flat tires, trading cars, buying new tires
Merry Christmas, Chris... that's all you get!
Broken braces for Dominic,
Not once, but twice...
Next time I'm using twist ties to fix it myself
Doctors appointments
Working the full week
Extra guest at our house
Writer's celebration for second grade
Ordered our Christmas cards
Printing the labels
Grocery shopping by moonlight
Student council meetings
Sleepless nights
Zoo lights and eating dinner in the car
Husband packing for a trip
Forgot my coffee at home
Field trips
I'm too tired to write.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dominic has always been a math whiz!  From the early age of second grade, he has declared his future is in engineering. 

No shock.  At three he was telling me directions in the car.  Spacial math.

At four he was building room covering wooden train designs more intricate than any railway I've witnessed.  Design.

At ten, he is being pushed to compete in higher math levels in middle school. He speaks math like a second language.

His ultimate goal is to attend a good engineering college.  He has already researched many options.  This boy cracks me up.

When reviewing the top engineering schools, we help him set his heart on big names... if we can save to afford it, and he can get the grades, he'll be able to go anywhere.  Why not shoot for the stars.

Berkeley is an obvious choice.  Most reasonably priced of the big name engineering schools.  Shocking sticker price, but half the price of the big name techs. 

He also reasons that staying in state would clearly be a wise choice.  Therefore, his local pick is University of Washington.  Good price.  Not far from home.  Far enough away to have the full college experience.  PAC 12 school, so he can attend lots of good games.  Great engineering program.

Settled.  Good goals.  I support them.

Hmmm... but I was a WSU Cougar.  Ouch.

So now I have my daughter to carry on the Coug legacy.


Oh, and don't forget this...

At least they have goals.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The trouble with fifth grade

Answer:  Fifth grade.

Question:  When do kids start becoming petty, mean, clique-y, emotional, hormonal, and ruthless?

Listening in on a conversation, I was pained to hear how judgemental and dismissive the kids were about their classmates. 

I tried to remember their maturity level is not that of an adult.  Hah- half the adults I know can't reach this goal!

I tried to remember what it was like being a kid.  The hurtful things you say, the grudges you always forget to hold five minutes later.  I know this is a necessary attribute of childhood.  These relationships teach us how to treat others, what to look for in a friend, and how to be a friend.  The pain and embarrassment is simply a
bi product of the process that lets us grow into confident adults.

I tried to remember that I don't shield my children from pain.  Then again, I can't tolerate them causing pain to others.

Gaining attention of the group, I pointedly said they were mean.  I explained that each and every kid has an entire life they know nothing about.  You may view a person as stupid, angry, trouble... but you don't know their story.  You don't know where that person comes from and what they are dealing with. 

These are exactly the children I reach out to.  Children that don't behave properly probably have a reason.  Sometimes they need support, or food, or just love.

My soapbox lecture fell on deaf ear.  They resumed their judgements almost immediately.  I kicked them out of my house.

However, I will reserve judgement.  I don't know their story either.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Christmas card list

This time every year, I begin checking our Christmas card list.  Without fail, there are always the newbies to add, the lost and forgotten to strike, and sadly, always one that has passed.

Let me first address the most frequent question:  Why would someone as "green" as me send Christmas cards?  Good question.  I don't send cards.  I send photo cards.  For much of my family and friends, this is their yearly glimpse at my children as they grow.  These are memories.  Every one of those photo cards I receive go into a keepsake box, to preserve the memories.  And my photo cards tell a story.  

Back to the topic... I'm good at math.  I remember in college when I would buy a box of twenty cards and have a few left over.  I remember that moment in time when I had to buy two boxes.  Ahh... so much love to share.

As our family grows, as does our friend list, the number of cards keeps multiplying.  My card list is reaching a growth that revels the Richter scale.

So where do you draw the line?  Family is a must.  Old friends are a treasure, and new friends require tending.  Neighbors are, well, always your neighbors.  Work friends... this is just good public relations.  The beloved staff members at our childrens' school... just want to show our appreciation.

We are planning and scheming our annual card.  The story of my impish kids and their quest to overtake Santa continues.  For the loved ones, old and new, stay tuned. 

This year I am ordering 125 cards.  Ahh... so much love to share.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wear red for general ed

Budgets are being discussed, as you read this, on general education for Washington state.  There is threat that they will cut the usual eight bajillion dollars. 

Does anyone else think there is a lot of chicken being played?  Every year we are braced for the worse case scenario.  Every year we wear the assigned color, post signs in our yard, and march on the steps of the capitol.  Every year, the worse case scenario does not happen, but we also don't get adequate funding for our educational system.

Does anyone else think they threaten the desperation so that we are happy with what we get?

How is education not a priority?  There is constant complaint that American children are not ready for the global market.  Their math scores are appalling.  They are not conditioned for the drive and expectations to succeed.

And if a child is pushed towards this, their parents complain.  Don't pick on my poor, helpless baby.  Do these parents realize their child's future is paying for their retirement, shaping the direction of the world?

Big concerns for the congressional decision makers... the I've-grown-so-tired-thinking-about-it I-5 bridge?  The general condition of our roads and buildings?  Earthquake preparedness?  The judicial system and our overcrowded prisons? 

Don't we need engineers, police officers, judges and lawyers?  Don't children need adequate educational funding to reach these goals?  Doesn't education itself deter a life of crime?

Put the money in education, people!  In time, we will all reap the rewards.

By the way, just in case, my son wore red to school today.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

10 Reasons not to like Thanksgiving

10.  The food is weird, Victorian English stuff.
9.  There is perfectly good football on tv.
8.  The food induced coma right before the biggest shopping day.
7.  Insanely busy travel, combined with unpredictable weather.
6.  Unless you're white, why would you like it?

5.  Biggest declaration between the have and have-nots.
4.  Too many volunteers on one day, not enough the other 364 days of the year.

3.  Someone always gets too drunk.
2.  Someone always gets too bitchy.

1.  The gluttony of Americans.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Visions of sugar plums

My darling daughter has been wishing for an American Girl doll for over a year now.  They cost $100, before accessories and clothes.  Seriously??

I came to a realization recently:  this is the Cabbage Patch Kid of this generation. 

Ahhh... remember the sweet, squished face dolls?  Trying to find a doll that looked like you?  Well, at least the same basic hair and eye color.  I wished for one for so long.  Pleaded with my mom, negotiated with Santa...

My parents firmly declared they would not spend $40 on a doll and wait in line with other crazy parents just to get one.  My heart was deflated. 

When the novelty wore off, my parents finally got me one.  I was nine years old.  So many years lost of enjoying that doll.

I get the ideals my parents were instilling-  same ones I hope to instill in my own children.  Often, I've wondered, how to balance my children behaving grateful with spoiling them.  I worry that my children won't feel grateful unless they do without, and my whole experience as a parent is to provide more to my children than I had.  I think we all struggle with this.

I remember my best friend had a coke shirt.  Not a coca-cola shirt, a coke shirt.  I had a bright yellow, couldn't sell that color, esprit bag.  I had a plastic'ish flight jacket.  Oh the humility.

The good news is there is hope in the world.  My children can feel grateful while I spoil them.  My children can decipher between love and materials.  My children can understand the difference between brand name and generic, and appreciate the decision process that comes with it.

My daughter saw the "just like" American Girl dolls at Michael's.  They are $22.  She decided, completely on her own, it would make more sense to ask for one of those instead.  They look the same, and cost less.  She reasoned she would probably get more accessories and outfits at the reduced price.

My heart smiled. 

Guess what the dear daughter is getting for Christmas...

Friday, November 18, 2011


I always have a hard time digesting the vast amount of thankfulness that comes in November.  Maybe it's my quest to be different.  Maybe it's my un-American way of disliking Thanksgiving.  Maybe it's because while the world is saying they're thankful, the stores are preparing for the onslaught of materialistic capitalism.

Most of the time, I feel thankful.  Not just in November, but in my daily life.  I know my life is blessed.  Perhaps too many blessings to fit in a month.

But I will weigh in on the thankful-palooza...

Perhaps this is just my pragmatic side speaking, (yes... I'm not all dreams and rainbows) but I think the most important thing to be thankful for is good health.  You rarely hear this.  It is, of the many blessings, the most important.  If you don't have your health, how can you begin to enjoy the others?  So I am thankful for my good health.  I am thankful for the health of my family and friends.  This is the foundation for everything else.

While my life is rosy and good, I resent that I cannot socially complain because that makes me ungrateful.  Just because someone else has it worse, why can't I be unhappy with something?  Isn't this often the very power that forces us to change?  Improve?  Accept?  I am thankful that I don't always see my glass half full. 

Many circumstances in my life result from hard work and good choices.  What I am thankful for are the surprises.  The unexpected occurrences.  The serendipitous moments. 

I am thankful for many unexpected things:  children's laughter that leaks out at the wrong time, connecting with someone you didn't expect, warm feelings you get from others, loyal friends that stand by your side, and those oh so bittersweet moments.

Basically dreams and rainbows.

Friday, November 11, 2011

80s night

I’ve been working for the weekend, just to party it up with my friends at the Crystal Ballroom.

We need you tonight at Lola's for 80s night.

The Smart Girls, and other assorted friends, will be burning down the house.

It’s my prerogative that everybody have fun tonight.

We’ll bust a move and whip it… whip it real good.

Call me a wild thing, but girls just want to have fun.

How will I know we’re having fun and it’s not only in my dreams?

When I’m walking on sunshine and I just can't get enough.

When I see you smile, time after time.

If you’re feeling too shy, don’t worry- our lips are sealed.

Sorry this post went round and round.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Smart girls reunion

Excited to report a full reunion of the smart girls club is in the works.

There will be drinking.  There will be dancing.  All five founding members will be there. 

Jen's mojito to go

Stephanie's oscar party
We have the moves.  We can shake it and bake it.  We can laugh at ourselves and get lost in the moment.  We can turn heads and demand attention.

Sassy smartness will be aplenty, outwitting your every move with our spunk.  You can't out talk us with your politics, current events, or philosophy.  We can spin a tale that is outrageous and enlightening.  We make history.

On our way to an adventure...

We are goddesses with our sex appeal and equally comfortable with our girl next doorness.  Whether in jeans or bedazzled shirts, we move the air as we travel.

Waiters, bartenders, band members- beware.  We are in the club, and Stephanie has taken the lead.  Lock up your boys before they go on the possible husband and boyfriend list.
And anything you say or do can and will be reported, blog style.

Watch out Portland, the smart girls are back.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How do you beat a liar?

As an adult, I've had my fair share of run ins with liars.  I've been accused, I've had conferences, I've tried to tell my side of the story to no avail.  What I've learned is that you just can't beat a liar.

The other thing I've learned is that karma is a bitch, and it will eventually prevail.  I can't stop the liar, but I have to stand with my head high, knowing they will get theirs in the end.

So how do you explain this to a kid?

My son is tangled in a messy situation with tattling and blame involved.  It's easy to dismiss that perhaps my child isn't telling me everything.  Perhaps he is doing bad things.  Enough time has passed, and enough stories conflict and lack any sense for me to know that it is not my child.  And for goodness sake... I hope he's smart enough not to commit the offences once he's under the microscope.

There seems to be a child that has it out for mine.  My child is being accused of being a bully.  Ironic, isn't it.

As an adult, I can sit back and wait for a person to eventually come to justice.  Maybe not in the situation with me, but eventually.  How can my poor ten year old comprehend this while his name is being dragged through the mud?  Where hormonal kids are emotional, hot and cold, and changing every single day?

How can I face my child's name being slandered and walk away?  His bright, clean record taking a blow.

I can take the high road.  I can take one for the team.  I can understand life isn't fair.  I can live with the knowledge that in the end, justice will triumph.

But now you're messing with my kid.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Baby talk

My best friend's daughter currently has a class assigned, high tech baby.  Don't even get me started on the debate about the cost of these high tech babies versus the expense through the welfare system of teenagers with babies.  Not from the same budget, people!

Anyway... I never took a child/family class in high school.  I actually don't remember them as an elective option.  But, we've come a long way since the egg or flour sack of yesteryears.

These babies cry and fuss and need to be fed around the clock.  The experience is to assimilate having a baby.  A difficult baby.  My question is... what is the purpose of this experiment, and does it actually work?

The baby has a scanner embedded to verify the student is actually doing all the work.  The "parent" wears a corresponding bracelet.  Myth number one:  new parents have to do all the work themselves.  Isn't it the first rule of parenting to enlist help?  Doesn't it take a village to raise a child?

This baby needs to be soothed in a variety of computer generated cause and effect situations.  Myth number two:  there is a correct way to soothe a baby.  Finding the solution to lull a baby is a two part process;  the trick, and the maternal instinct.  Neither the baby, nor the parent, have this maternal bond.

Is the theory that kids with these babies will have a light bulb above their head moment when they realize how much their lives would change if they got pregnant?  Myth number three:  a baby is, in itself, a form of birth control for teenagers.  I haven't been a teenager for quite some time, but I don't remember my emotionally and hormonally charged self being swayed by that voice in my head when faced with a cute teenage boy. 

Independent, idealistic teens will balk at the idea of having someone depend on them.  Myth number four:  kids don't want a dependant.  There are girls out there so starved for love, they dream of the idea of having a baby, just so someone will unconditionally love them.  And who thinks having a "pretend marriage" with a guy will deter these longings?

My hope for the future is that my kids won't have kids until they are ready.  All I can do is parent them the best I can.  I believe these years of parenting will trump any mechanical baby.  Therefore, I don't believe kids that lack this parenting will find their purpose over a weekend with a baby doll.

The closest I ever got to having a pretend dependant was a spider Traci and I found at school.  We carried him around for several periods, until he was sadly lost.  I remember making a pencil drawing on a table in the media tech room that said:

Lost.  Richard the spider.  If found, please contact Sam. 

Followed, of course, by a crude sketch for identification purpose.

Never did find Richard, but I didn't have children until I was 27.  Hmmm...

Sunday, November 6, 2011


I apparently don't like November, either.

It's cold. 
Local football is over.
Childhood friends have passed.
Marriages are becoming separations.
Christmas decorations are already up.
My Pac-12 (ugh. still can't accept this) schools are faltering.
There is no NBA season...yet.

My November planning calendar is usually bedazzled in brown and orange.
May change it to blue for now.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I do... not understand

A man reserves his true and deepest love not for the species of woman in whose company he finds himself electrified and enkindled, but for that one in whose company he may feel tenderly drowsy.

George Jean Nathan

This quote has been on my mind lately. 

There was a time when every weekend I was at somebodies wedding.

Then there came the time when I was either attending a baby shower, or making dinner for someone with a newborn.

With a lapse of time, full of life's excitements, I've entered a new stage. 
I don't care for this stage.

Now instead of dressing up, playing baby shower games, or cooking, I am trying to help put my friends back together.

In your twenties, life is still so fresh and idealistic.  We all had beautiful weddings, and a lifetime of plans.  In our thirties and forties, that 50% marriage failure rate seems to be kicking in.

Each year, the amount of friends I watch pick up the pieces is closing in on that divorce statistic.

I have always been a little baffled about marriage and love.  The question is always in the back of my head:  Do you marry compatible love, or passionate love?  There doesn't seem to be a right answer.

In compatible love, you're safe.  You're with your best friend.  Eventually, you may get bored, fall out of love, or feel that you are missing something that may or may not exist.

Passion... ahh, who doesn't love and crave passion?  This also wears off eventually.  When the passion is gone, is there enough left to make it work?  Passion also brings the highs and lows of the heart.  When the tingling wears off, you may be left with a person you argue with, can't get along with.

So do you marry the safe, uneventful love that will provide a long stretch of road through life?  Do you marry the person that melts your heart into pieces, and hope, somehow, it never fades?

The people in comfortable marriages are getting restless.  The people with passionate marriages are slowly burning out.  And those individuals are seeking out the opposite love from their marriage.  And that love, like the one before, is doomed to fail for completely different reasons.

Sadly, I truly believe the answer is that human beings weren't meant to partner up forever.  Either that, or we are just living too darn long!  To borrow a phrase from a friend, we may have been meant to be monogam'ish.

But... that is unacceptable by our society, our values, and the very way we've been conditioned to feel.

So in conclusion, life is hard.  Marriage is hard.  There is no right answer, and I don't see us changing the marriage/divorce statistics in our lifetime.

Well that was depressing.

The end of the road

Do not let your fire go out, spark by
irreplaceable spark in the
hopeless swaps of the not-quite,
the not-yet, and the not-at-all.
Do not let the hero in your soul perish
in lonely frustration for the
life you deserved and have
never been able to reach.
The world you desire can be won.
 It exists.

Go get 'em Traci

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Find the area

Subbed in a great 5th grade class with kids that I've known for years.  No complaints, wonderful day.

Then... math time.  I love the change in curriculum over the recent years that expects kids to understand math, rather than just compute.  Highly useful, especially considering everything is done on computers today.  As a sub, however, I sometimes find it baffling.  There is no teacher book.  There often isn't an answer key.

I took math every year in school.  I took math in college.  I rock at math.  What these kids don't understand is... I don't remember all of it! 

Usually as a sub, I can even fake it.  My best trick is sending them to a resource or other student to find the answer.  I ask for volunteers that want to share their answer, and then start a discussion.  Sometimes, I give a wrong answer just so the kids can show me how to do the problem demonstrate their understanding. 
So today, we introduced the students to area.  NOT area that they did in 4th grade.  The 5th grade variety that challenges you, and makes you define the very math concept.  I was asked to correct the pre-assessment tests. 

Star. Star. Check. Star.  I've corrected a million times.  But then I came to number 5.  The area of a triangle.  Searching my brain for all previous knowledge, emptying the corners of my mind, I am completely convinced I have no memory of this.  I didn't know how to do the problem! 

I faked it as best I could.  You'll just have to wait and see...  Then I went next door to talk to another 5th grade teacher.  I started with my plea of "I swear I'm a good sub, and I went to college, and I'm really good at math, and I hope this doesn't sway your decision of using me for a sub in the future, but...  how the heck do you do number 5??"

Thankfully, she laughed.  Then she reminded me that it's half a square.  Right...  No worries, she gave me the correct answer.

When I share these stories with my son, I'm always trying to inspire him to remember we don't know everything.  Sometimes we forget things.  Education is about building on what we know and finding the resources to fill in the blanks.  He always looks at me and says "geez mom, you would think you should know that." 

My favorite thing he says... "maybe you aren't qualified to teach that grade."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Hallows Eve

While hanging with the other parents in the middle of the street, while our goblins ran house to house begging candy, I mentioned it reminded me of the movie E.T.  Sounds of laughter, porch lights illuminating the road, chill in the air. 

But... it wasn't like E.T.  It wasn't children running around in sheets and homemade costumes.  It was different.  Amplified. 

I remember all those times when our parents compared our cushy easy life to theirs.  I remember all the times my mom said "I wish we had that," or started a sentence with "when I was a kid..."

Now I'm that parent.   When we were kids, our store bought, fancy costumes were a decorated plastic apron with a molded mask that lacked breathability.  We trick or treated in our own neighborhoods and were happy to get a few handfuls of candy.  Halloween decorations were paper cats and ghosts.  Our jack-o-lanterns just had a face, with an actual *gasp* fiery candle inside them.

Now, there are entire stores dedicated to finding that way overpriced perfect costume that looks like it's off a Broadway stage.  People give out full size candy bars, gift certificates, and pinata prizes.  Children are no longer capable of carrying their own weight of candy.  And the decorations... it's like being in the haunted mansion at Disneyland-  with live, costumed performers to scare and/or greet you. 

And someday... my kids will be telling the story about how it was when they were kids...

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Great Pumpkin, and other Halloween myths

I was planning to write a spooky, carefully crafted Halloween monologue today, but the inspiration escapes me.  Halloween was always my favorite holiday.  One that embraces childhood and fun, without getting too commercial.  Sure, we buy costumes and candy, but it always seemed to be an equal opportunity fun holiday.

Long before I had kids, I would drag the husband to the pumpkin patch, carve pumpkins, and decorate the house.  Somehow this year, I forgot to do these things with my seven year old.  Bad mom, I know.

So what changed?  Too busy with football season?  Have I done all these things too many times?  Should I consult a therapist about the all too painful memory of the perfect jack-o-lantern that was smashed 12 years ago?

Halloween, like most things in life, is eventually jaded. 

Love taking the kids trick or treating... but they have school the next morning. 

The best costumes will usually leave your child complaining they are too cold, or they will destroy it in the first mud puddle they find.

Candy leads to the argument of how well teeth were actually brushed.

My daughter is allergic to peanuts, so 1/3 of her candy is a loss anyway.

Jack-o-lanterns get smashed.  Houses get egged.  Someone steals all the candy in your bowl.  Half the neighbors turn their lights off.  Some of your neighbors don't even celebrate, leaving you to explain how this holiday is super fun, but some people think it's evil.

And every year, without fail, Charlie Brown gets a rock... again.

Ugh.  Happy Halloween.