Tuesday, May 31, 2016


As always, first things first - the girls.  (I should just start every post with "FTF" since that's pretty much how I start.)  Actually, today's FTF is "the kids." 

1.  The Elder is a brand spankin' new 7-year old, and don't all gasp loudly now, but that doesn't make me one bit sad.  Nope.  I'm a big fan for being happy with whatever stage of life you're in, and that means that I've no trouble being thankful for our spunky little kid as she is right now rather than the squishy little squish'um that she was.  Plus, our siblings are still popping out their own babies off & on, which mean I love on 'em and hand 'em back with diapers fully loaded.  Case in point: This weekend...1 game of chase with toddler nephew and 1 cuddle to sleep time with baby nephew.  I lurve it being the aunt.
2.  The Younger did what 3-year olds do and tripped on her own puppy feet while walking from point A to point B on the sidewalk, which resulted in some well-and-good skinned knees.  After the first 5 minutes of the tears, I tried to pass her off to the boy so that I could continue doing what I needed to do, seeing as how she was going to live and all.  And with sobby gasps, she wailed "NOOO!  My legs will fall off!"  Props to the boy who had to keep a straight face since she was looking at him.
3.  While I'm sitting here, I'm watching a mama starling feed her two baby starlings some regurgitated what-have-you's.  Those babies look happy, and I don't care how brown a bird you are, when you're all cuddling up with your mommy bird to slurp up some sludgy worminess, it's a pretty sweet moment to spy on.

***Wrap-up and transition to my main point today (I have nothing clever to take us there, so this'll do).***

I love memoirs.  I love them.  I have a couple of degrees in literature, and frankly, I don't really get into reading the never ending drivel and bad writing that gets published today.  Snobbery, perhaps.  But I'll stay within the parameters of the classical literature canon any day.  Many a time, I have started [insert name of best seller book] only to slog through 20 pages and groan when I see there are 382 left.  What the what, modern day authors?  Do we no longer have any grace or art?  Must we resort to never ending spare allusions?  To saccharine and cloying description that is less clever than horrid in its attempt to be different?  [Irony here?  Should I take a closer look at my own writings here?  Nah.  I'm not trying to get you buy in on my rambling.  And, no one's clambering to publish it.  I shall carry on.]

I'm just not a fan of modern writing.  Occasionally, I'll find a nugget that I happily mined out, and those I'm quite happy to pass along to anyone who wants to know what I've been enjoying lately.  But it's been so long since that's happened that a few months ago, while scanning the stacks at ye olde library, I realized I had no desire to read any of it.  But a good memoir sounded just right, and it has been a mainstay on my nightstand ever since.

Looking back, I see how I have leaned toward memoir-fiction writing through classes and papers and final thesis writing.  And since I've started reading memoir exclusively, I have
1.  read several memoirs about topics of which I have no knowledge (dogs, a botanist, and living in Tuscany/Italy/Provence).
2.  not been unsatisfied even once.
3.  re-visited ideas that began when I was an undergraduate about the connection between memoir and healing.
4.  pondered writing an article for publication. 
5.  considered how it relates to educational theory as well as practical applications for the classroom.

In the meantime, I've jotted some notes down, started exploring some databases, and considered how I'm going to integrate more of this approach in my upcoming classes.  If you have any thoughts on memoir, please share!  That's why we memoir-ize seemingly everything.

But right now, I'm turning this off to attack a 550-piece puzzle because this may be the summer-of-the memoir for me, but I'm declaring this to be the summer-of-the-puzzle for all of us.  And it starts today.  First up - Lucky the cat canoodling with Coco the cockatoo.  It's a lovely way to spend some downtime with the girls, no sugar or devices involved.   

However, the light of reading still shines bright in my early inevitably, memoir has interest and (almost certainly) a lack of lame dialogue. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

These kids...

As I often seem to do, here's something of an aside before I get to the heart of things.  Junie.  B.  Jones.  Is amazing.  And the person who put this together deserves some extra credit, and I mean it!  (That was a direct quote.  If you didn't know that, please do yourself the favor and go read those books pronto.  That means super quick.)

That's kinda sorta leading into what I was going to jabber about anyway, which is to say K-I-D-S.  Namely, all of the kids that my 6-year old rubs shoulders with.  I have this thing where I find myself agreeing to all sorts of hoopla and shenanigans without really processing what I'm doing first.  This led me to spending 1 1/2 hours with hilarious little nutballs once a week during this thing called "centers." 

What are "centers?"  Apparently, over the last 25 years, teacher people have all banded together and thought "How can we test the ever living patience of parents even more than helping them learn to read?" (which is and of itself a trying, trying time when your child would OH SO MUCH rather listen to you read in your fabulous character voices...frankly, I agree with her - my voices are sa-weet).  The solution to this conundrum was to shanghai a handful of well-intentioned motherly souls ('cause there just aren't enough fatherly souls hanging around their houses with their feet propped up while sipping perfect mugs of coffee and binging on Netflix, it seems) to come into the classroom to work with groups of 3-4 students on various reading and math skills. 

It turns out that this is the very reason why I believe in public education.  Not everyone has the sheer audacity to be perky and positive for hours, every single weekday.  Bless the souls who give it their all for childs everywhere. 

(In all truthiness, the boy and I are both licensed, sometimes practicing, public school teachers.  When considering schooling and homeing and everything in between for The Elder, we ultimately decided that we need to stick with what we believe in, namely public school.  Never once have we regretted that.  Plus, one of us - either The Elder or me - would no doubt be weeping and yelling vindictive things at the other every single day if we duked it out at home over elementary math and writing, and I try not to do that with my kids.  Homeschooling parents - I adore you.  Public school teachers - I adore you, too.  You're all pretty fabulous to me.)

So we just wrapped up the last centers time of the year yesterday, and (I kid you not), one kid looked at me in the middle of our activity and said "You're A's mom, right?"  I mean.  What?!?  I've only known you for 35 weeks; let's not get too hasty in getting to know each other.

(Sidenote: The Younger's rest time has been over for 15 minutes, and she has come out of her room about 3 times to say random things like "Mom, why were you just standing up?" [I wasn't] and "I love you," and "Dinosaur!!!"  Not once during that time has she thought to check the clock apparently.  Sucker.)

Back to the elementary set.  They seem to function as one 20-armed amoeba creature, either all UP UP UP or all rellllaxxxx and chilllllll.  There's no in between.  ("Amoeba" is a fun word, especially if you pronounce it as am-O-E-ba as I want to do.)  But here's the most obvious truth that I've uncovered from this heart-on-their-sleeves lot of ragamuffins. 

(Sidenote again:  The Younger must have heard me thinking about her.  I think she broke out now.)

These kids.  You can predict all sorts of predictions about them already.  You can pretty much identify the ones that are likely to always skate by in general English classes, content to be mediocre.  You can pick out the ones that are going to be bored in Chemistry, which will mean that they play games on their phones instead.  You can even figure out which ones are going to be the mean kids someday, not that they are now but you see the tendencies already.

But, likewise, you identify the ones that you dearly, dearly hope your kid understands will be a true friend for the long-haul.  You determine the ones that will be coming over to your house on weekends and to drive your child to band practice.  You see natural aptitudes already apparent for math, science and English. 

Truly, it will be fascinating to sit at their high school graduation someday and do some remembering about what they were like when they were just yay-high and always waved "hello" and "good-bye" to you when they saw you.  This is very likely the only year that I will engage in such concentrated one-on-one time with my daughters' classmates, so in some respects, it's been a special time.  But on the other hand, if I never have to remind two boys to stop throwing dice against the wall and then to stop falling off of their chairs to chase it, it will be too soon. 

Cheers to a good year, to all those who find yourselves in an educator's role and to all of those who have accidentally or otherwise found yourself even a wee bit more educated.  I love this whole process.

Monday, May 9, 2016

An absolutely professional quiz [shrugs shoulders]

Every once in a while, I see a list of questions floating around to ask your children, you know, if you really want to hear what they think about you.  (It basically reminds me of when I was student teaching and my cooperating teacher suggested that I consider ending my last day with 100 freshman by asking them to evaluate me.  Answer:  I will never do that again.)  So the Younger and I went through a list of 23 questions that has apparently been circulating around the U.K.  But then I got rid of the list of questions.  So I'll just make up some of my own questions here to correspond with these answers.  Perhaps this will be more enjoyable.

(Of note:  I found this list again because aww...Mother's Day.  Except that I'm very much in the "Who cares?" mode for pretty much every holiday, especially "holidays."  Still.  I like my daughter, so why not?)

1.  What do I say a lot?  I love you.
2.  What makes me happy?  hugs & kisses
3.  What was the name of my sixth grade teacher?  [shrugs shoulders]
4.  How do I make you laugh?  by saying funny things
5.  What was I like when I was your age?  a little bean [This was the actual question/answer for this one.  I like it.]
6.  How old am I?  33
7.  What was the first movie that I saw in a movie theater when I was about three years old?  [shrugs shoulders]
8.  What is my favorite thing to do?  read books to me...I mean cuddle with me
9.  What do I do when you're not around?  go to class
10.  What is the name of one of my most influential theorists who helped shape my graduate work?  [shrugs shoulders]  
11.  What is something something something having to do with what I enjoy to do?  reading
12.  What is something about how I try to be like you?  making my funny smiles because I make them like this [demonstrates] and you don't
13.  What do I do for a job?  go to work
14.  What is my favorite food?  soup
15.  What is another question about one of my favorite things to do with you?  reading to me
16.  If I were a character from a story, who would I be?  Elsa
17.  What is another question about something relating to my hobbies?  read
18.  How are we similar?  [makes her special silly face]
19.  How are we different?  [looking me over] You have black pants and I don't.
20.  What makes me happy [or some variation of that]?  hugging and kisses
21.  What do I like best about Daddy?  He helps you out sometimes.
22.  Where do I like to go the most?  to get coffee 'cause you really like coffee, right?
23.  How old was I when I had you?  [first restates the question] umm...3

Thursday, May 5, 2016


I bite at making real life decisions. 

I go through all the grief stages over things like job-ing and child bear-ing.  And I'm not even joke-ing here. 

Of late, I've spent a precious many hours on a scouting mission to replace my eyesore of an oven that decided 615F is an admirable temp to bake a pan or two of cookies.  To which I say "Nay, tis not."  So we could go through the laborious process of having a tech come out to diagnose what we already know is the problem, which is likely to involve someone tromping throughout my house while wearing shoes before pulling the guts of the oven out on a price per minute basis.  Or, we could just chuck its 18-year old almond-and-black colored bum self to the curb and start over again, which likewise ends in hours = lotsadollas spent.  So, I've been working in minutes here and there to swing by the few appliance joints that we have around here as well as surf various retail and outlet sites in the hopes of saving $40 somewhere. 

It took a solid seven days for me/us to even figure out what kind of stovetop I/we want.  The answer - neither.  Thanks but not thanks, I'll just take a gas line plumbed to my kitchen for a cringe-worthy amount of cash and we'll go from there.  What...that's not a feasible option?  Fine.  I still want neither. 

And now I'm on the suck-it-up-and-just-pick-something search for an appliance that I'm not at all excited about, which is frustrating given the amount of time I spend dancing with it.  It's like going to the prom because you love dressing up, going out to eat and socializing, but then not really wanting to dance with anyone when you're there.  But you do, 'cause you spent a lot of money on that prom dress, hair do and limo.  Plus, you really like the outcome of it, which is to say glorious pictures of you looking your best. 

So I'm planning on marching into one of those stores, credit card in hand tonight with the intent to sign on the line for a brand new, shiny piece of metal that I'm already feeling anxiety about lest I break its shiny glass top. 

The whole thing came about when I had my absolute favorite chocolate chip cookies in the oven last week after the boy sent me one of those "Sixth period was rough today" messages (rarely happens that he sends me an SOS in the middle of the day).  This, of course, makes me want to sympathy stress eat with him, and if his favorite is chocolate chip cookies, then by all means, let's mix up a batch.  I was 2 pans in before the oven went nutsy on me.  Good news: Some of the cookies were salvaged.  Bad news: It was like the set of a horror movie...chocolate chip briquettes everywhere.  Eight days later, on the day when I'm going to say "Yes, I want that one, and it can't come soon enough," the boy just sent me another message saying "Extra cookies in the break room...bringing some home."

Lesson learned:  When the oven goes down, it's BYOCCC (bring your own chocolate chip cookies) if 6th period has been an arduous adventure in teenage wrangling.