Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Too busy for blogging

I have a new part time job. It's unpaid but rewarding. It's stressful but fun. And it has kept me away from the computer.

The day after this gig ends, I am going to be hostess for my MIL. Might be hard to get time then either.

Had interesting conversations about the LAL and Math programs. Has anyone tried to use the new programs website to help kids with homework? I didn't find it helpful. Did you?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday

It was a Saturday. Mostly hectic, but some rest. I felt a little dizzy and spent a couple of hours watching TV (the first time this whole week!). It was a treat to be lazy!

Am pondering my next step. I do this a lot - it may be a new project, daydreaming about opening a knitting store (wish I had funds to rent that new space in Somerville...), or wondering what I'm going to be when I grow up.

Thinking about the next step always brings back memories of previous steps. I was thinking about two or three of my most wonderful teachers. Mrs. White (jeez, was that her name???) who taught us the importance of Supreme Court cases during my senior year of high school. I tried to teach N about Brown v. Board of Ed this week and thought of her. Not sure he got it completely. I remembered Mrs. Mix, my favorite teacher who made Latin seem completely relevant. I also remembered Mrs. Hoffman. She's still alive and kicking in my home town. I should look her up!! She was my loving fifth grade teacher. She did the most important thing of all. She made me feel special!

But now isn't the time for pondering. It's the time for sleeping. Good night friends and readers.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Spending time at the kids' schools

I want to plug volunteering at the kids' schools.
I was at N's school the entire day and I learned a lot of things:
  • Even kindergartners know what they want - and don't want - and they articulate it clearly!
  • Teachers are part parent, part sergeant, part diplomat, part friend
  • Always stay on the good side of the janitorial and the administrative staff (we're lucky to have ours)
  • You never know what you'll find happening in the nurse's office
  • Don't go back for your purse in a fire drill
  • STAY AWAY FROM THE EXIT AT RECESS OR AT THE END OF THE DAY, IT'S VERY LOUDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD
  • Large fundraisers take a LOT of people to run, more than you would expect. The majority of parents don't offer to help (less than 10% of households are volunteering at this event, even though we need people in the evening, too), and those who do usually help more than once.
It was a very rewarding day. Much more personally rewarding than my last job, and certainly more rewarding than if I had stayed home and cleaned the house. I am already looking forward to helping on Tuesday.... but first I need to get my hearing tested. Dismissal was louder than a rock concert! 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Job opening...

This was in my e-mail this afternoon:


Dear Key Communicators,
The Board of Education and I would like you to know that Christine Schneider has resigned from her position on the Board due to personal reasons.  Christine served on the Board for over 3 years and made many outstanding contributions - her insights and leadership will be missed.
The Board is now seeking candidates to fill out Christine's position through April, 2010.  Please see the attachment for the application and process.  The Board will interview all qualified candidates at a Special Session open to the public on Tuesday, October 20, 2009, 8:00 PM, at the Wade Building.  Applications are due by 4:00 PM on Wednesday, October 14, 2010.
Sincerely,
Mike Schilder
Superintendent



I smell a story? Who quits the BOE mid-year??!!! Better question: WHY?


Just back from back to school night at C's school. Was NOT impressed by the Social Studies teacher who had success spelled in big capital letters as "SUCESS" on the board!!!!! Do I tell the principal? The math teacher apparently had a misspelled word on her board as well, but I didn't see it. Finally the LAL teacher (who otherwise made a very good impression) never mentioned grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. I asked her at the end of the presentation, and she said she did all of those things throughout the year, so I'll have to have a little faith. 



After hearing about the e-math program I feel like going to the BOE to ask "WTF" - it's kids teaching themselves with no explicit instruction whatsoever. The teacher reads the directions for the classwork and then has the student groups figure it out themselves with minimal help. I came out of there feeling very disillusioned.  C said, "Well, I can go during the last period of the day to ask for help, but you just can't ask her questions all the time." C said she doesn't teach, at all. She just mills around the room while the kids work it out but without being taught any lessons.



I think my new motto for BRRSD is "be careful what you wish for!" We finally got her into e-math and it's not at all what we wanted.


Dropped ball

I was planning to attend last night's BOE meeting. I wanted to voice my concern about the apparently lack of teacher training in advance of the school year's two new curricula implementations. I also was disappointed by the lack of constructive information on the writing program at the district-organized presentation last week.

Sigh.

I completely forgot the meeting yesterday evening.

Is it worth it to e-mail each BOE member?

Do they find it annoying when parents contact them? Do they care??? It's too late to change it, but they should know how parents feel, shouldn't they? *I* appreciate advice, but I have a feeling now that they are in their terms they don't want to hear from us. Especially if we are complaining about their "results."

I can't get the time back (and neither can the district). It wasn't a bad idea to go to bed at 9:45 last night, I guess. Hopefully the extra sleep has helped my brains to regenerate.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And then there was one...

Nonny was the oldest of seven children. Yesterday the baby of the family died. Aunt L was 89! When did I see her last? Was it in 1988 or 1994? Maybe in 1995? Who's funeral was it? She didn't go to my wedding or my sister's. So I'm guessing it had to be a funeral.

When I was a little girl we saw Aunt L regularly. Seeing "the family", meaning my Mom's family, was my Mom's biggest priority.

As I got older, things Aunt L said made less sense. She once accused me of stealing something from a bedroom. Although I was capable of theft, I didn't do it. I don't think she ever believed me. I cried for days and was afraid of her for a while. I still wonder about that.

She also was upset once about something I said. Growing up I slept in my Mom's 1930s canopy bed. While it was a beautiful antique, it was not very sturdy. L's daughter H and her husband borrowed it one Thanksgiving. I told my cousin H, "don't jump on it! It might break." I meant it - literally - and not the figurative way my Aunt took, making it sound like I was telling my much older, newly married cousin "don't have sex in my bed". I honest-to-God meant that if you jump on the bed it will break. I was probably 10, maybe 12.

The last time we visited Aunt L was tragic. It was Easter. I wore a beautiful periwinkle dress that I still have somewhere. My sister was in pink. It was a beautiful Spring weekend at Aunt L's gorgeous home. But after multiple phone calls, much had changed. Our dog had a number of seizures and died suddenly. My father broke the news by saying, "the dog is dead, but you have bigger things to worry about now." No sympathy whatsoever. The bigger things to worry about were that my brother was being rushed home from visiting Italy because he too was dying. (He lived about 9 more months, but we thought this was the end). I never went back to Canton, Ohio. And it was the last time I saw my brother.

I remember talking to Aunt L on the phone when my Mom died in 2001. Her husky voice in tears. I think she said, "She was like a sister to me." I knew the feeling was mutual. Although she was my Mom's aunt, they were pretty close in age. She loved my Mom dearly and passionately. And Aunt L adored my grandmother, her oldest sister. So did I!

Each year I sent her a card for Christmas with lots of pictures of my children whom she never met. She wrote back and said how much she loved them. I can hear her voice in her cursive writing.

Despite the fact that I hadn't seen her in years and years, I lost someone important to me. Someone who was part of a life that seems so far away from my busy suburbia. A piece of my simple childhood when I really loved having Grandma's sisters visit. Those were good times.

Nothing made Nonny happier than being with her sisters. If you believe in God then you believe they are finally back together again. Mom with Nonny, Aunt T, Aunt R and now Aunt L. The last women of their generation.

For me it's a loss I cannot explain. So I'll stop here and continue on with my day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

You know it's soccer season when...

...you spend the entire morning looking for a certain numbered jersey (which you eventually find), and spend hours lecturing your daughter on misplaced soccer paraphernalia.

You also know it is soccer season when you are 5 minutes from the away game (which is 1hr 15 minutes from your house) and your daughter announces, meekly, that she left her cleats in Bridgewater.

There are almost no houses nearby when she states this, much less Target stores with size 9 cleats in stock.

I wish I were the type of mom who would shrug and say, "guess that's just part of soccer season". I'm not.

PS Only C is lucky enough that one of the coaches has a pair of worn out cleats in just her size in his gym bag. She got to play! They won 1-0. She played forward for a while and then goalie for the 2nd half.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Overwhelmed soccer mom

It's been a bit much this week. Back to school, major changes in the soccer situation and the information overload (underload?) at last night's presentation has my head spinning. I need to regroup before I can send my thoughts over cyberspace.

I had a very strong reaction to last night's meeting.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about the changes in soccer.

I am enjoying my online class, but doubt I will get to even half the reading by Tuesday.

I have guests which are wonderful, but am (as usual) wondering if I said something I shouldn't have. I think I asked one or two questions too many.

Very thought provoking meeting with N's teacher. She seems fantastic. Miss Fantastic might be a good name for her, but am I jinxing something if I baptize her with that pseudonym? With so little brain cells left to process, I wonder when I will actually be able to sit and think about these things.

There's a blog in here somewhere - or maybe there are five blogs? But for now I have to start dinner.

Have a good weekend, dear readers.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

side lines

When is it appropriate for a parent to address something somewhat inappropriate? Always? Never? If I do, why do I feel like it's always me making waves (and when I do, usually I get splashed the hardest)?

Would you tolerate it if a coach says that he's "almost ashamed" of his team after a 0-3 loss? Or would you give him the benefit of the doubt and say that the girls aren't working hard enough so he's trying to motivate them?

Maybe I'm just being the typical overprotective soccer mom. I am more verbally abusive with my kids.

Maybe I'm just expecting too much and since I wasn't there I should keep my hypocritical mouth shut.

I can't believe it's only the 1st week of school....................

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday

Today was the first Monday of the rest of the year. The day went by fine. I watched someone's 4 year old for most of the day, so it was pretty mellow.

Once school got out it was a whirlwind. Homework has started and activities are in full swing.

How am I going to manage to keep up the pace? I drove to and from TKD 3 times (drop C at TKD, on way home pick up N at school, start his homework, drive him to TKD, pick up C, run errands with her, back to TKD to pick up N), back home for dinner and to finish homework before reading and bed.

I'm frazzled. Exhausted. Mentally and physically!

I saw that C is wearing make-up when she thinks I don't know about it. I laid into her about that. I called her deceitful. Whatever happened to the nice, honest C? When did this get so hard??? Why does this make me feel like such a failure?! At least our little errand trip gave me a chance to discuss this alone with her. Is that the silver lining of all the driving?

Maybe the challenge of how to get a balanced meal on the table, timed precisely to our arrival, while not being home to make it, isn't the biggest issue I faced today.

One friend's Facebook status says: Mondays are tough...Tuesdays will be tougher...Wednesdays will be aahhhhhh I don't wanna think about it. Where did the life of leisure go?

I think my status should be "Ditto".

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Little green monster

There are several people in my life that I envy for different reasons. One friend of mine, whose physical beauty I've envied since the day we met, has again had a success that I haven't matched. When I should be happy for her, all I can do is take a deep breath and think, "why do all the good things happen to her?"

So the question is this: how can I teach my children not to be jealous, both of the attainable (for example, her recent success) and the unattainable (her immense beauty)?

The only answer I have is to be watchful of my own emotions, and remind myself of my own fortune, and the "beauty" in my life. Also, I can't be jealous of something I don't dare try myself.

I once showed this friend's picture to T, saying that all men swoon for her. He said that I was much prettier. Even though I didn't believe him at first, I now see that conversation differently. I shouldn't waste my emotions being jealous of her (or maybe my time blogging about it) because to the people in my life, I'm beautiful enough - inside/outside/whatever.

Jealousy is something we all face! The grass is ALWAYS greener somewhere. Maybe I shouldn't try to protect my children from it, but have them see that we all feel jealousy sometimes. We just don't always have to react to it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lunch in da hood


Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends. ~Virginia Woolf


Today I had a few people over for lunch. I invited one new friend when she said she felt like she didn't know many "normal" moms here. When she was recently around other Moms from our kids' school, she described the gathering as "like high school, and I'm not part of the popular clique. I guess I'm part of the geeky group."

I totally agree, especially about the women to whom she was referring.

I'm glad she's not part of this clique either! But I felt bad hearing this. I've been here six years, and met a ton of great people. I'm still meeting them.

I wanted her to see that not all BW moms are unwelcoming bitches! Mothering is not a competitive sport for all of us! We aren't all fixated on hair and nails! Nor are we all so overbearing that we smother our kids (even if it is meant with love). Yes, I LET MY DAUGHTER WALK TO SCHOOL! And I'm happy to say, my new friend lets her kids walk too, despite misunderstanding neighbors. My house is a mess (today the kitchen, living rooms/family room and entry were clean, the rest of the house? A disaster), but my door is always open if you don't mind my dirty dishes!

Not all the parents around our table agree with each others' parenting philosophy. Some are rather protective. Others extraordinarily permissive. Some are politically conservative. At least one is even more liberal than I am. There are differences in wealth, educational level, religions, race, marital status... even gender (one brave stay-at-home Dad joined us), and probably lots of other things as well!

But I hope that my friend learned that there ARE cool Moms in Bridgewater. Moms who don't judge one another, despite their differences. I'm fortunate enough to call them my friends.

One tip - I made this Cauliflower & Spinach Gratin from Wegman's Menu magazine. It was a big hit! If you make it, however, I'd use 1 1/2 times the amount of Cauliflower quoted in the recipe. I wanted to save a bit for T to taste (minus the spinach) but there was none left. I had tons of left overs of everything else...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's Thursday. The kids didn't like what I made for dinner. C said the meat was too pink. N said it was burned.

N has to be in TKD clothes, C needs to wear soccer gear, AND cheer stuff. She'll do an hour of both, just as she did last night.

While I try to NOT kill the children - they've only been home for a bit over an hour, it's hardly fair that I be this upset over an uneaten dinner - I got online and read the following two articles.

A story from one of my favorite writers (filling in for another that I love): http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2009/09/09/healthcare/index.html

This raises the bar TOO high! What perfect Moms serve their kids: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/09/dining/09bento.html?_r=1

Hope they keep you from worrying too much about whatever may be bothering you, too!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The most wonderful time of the year..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFsTPx5UrbA

It's my favorite night of the year... forget the night before Christmas, or my birthday.

Like a clean canvas, you never know what you will see at the end a new school year.

We're lucky in BRRSD to have so many great teachers. I love the feeling of positive anticipation, with new possibilities. Will N's teacher boost his low confidence? Will C manage to master e-math?

Not to mention: will I manage to do all the required reading for the class I'm taking? I never did before...

Time will show, won't it!

Monday, September 7, 2009

It all begins

Tonight is it - the last night of no plans until November. We are about to enter the most hectic fall of our six years in Bridgewater.

The worst part: the schedule isn't even 100% ready! We haven't heard a confirmed day or time for cheer practice and I don't know a single time for either soccer or football games!

Mondays - Taekwondo for both kids
Tuesdays - Taekwondo for both kids (optional for N)
Wednesdays - Soccer for C
Thursdays -* Cheer for C, Taekwondo for N
Fridays - Taekwondo for C (optional/make-up)
Saturday - Cheer (Football games) for C, Storming Robots for N
Sunday - Soccer Game for C

In addition - I am taking an online college class and have homework due Tuesdays and Fridays. There is 1 soccer tournament on the calendar and 2 taekwondo tournaments - but dates are TBD. We have guests scheduled to come for 4 nights in September and for 2 weeks in October, plus my father is planning for several week's here this fall. He is actually a huge help, especially with the dog but it is an extra person to keep tabs on.

And then there is the most important part of all: HOMEWORK. I have heard that both my daughter and son have teachers who pile it on.

Maybe the Fall will go as quickly as the Summer flew by and I'll blink my eyes and will be mailing off the Christmas cards.

Or maybe I will learn the lesson that I continually try to teach myself: savor every moment. Every lesson, every practice because in a blink of an eye your kids are in college and gone! It's not about rushing from activity to activity but about getting the most enjoyment and best experience out of each of them.

I feel like I am already 10 minutes late........

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The frugal blogger

Today I was in my own little nirvana...At a yard sale I bought 18 skeins of various yarns for $16.

New yarn in various textures and colors. Bright and fluffy, soft and subtle. Oh the possibilities! Maybe these skeins will become 10 scarves? What about hats for 16 friends? Maybe I will make things to sell? Maybe for a 40th birthday gift? A Christmas giftie? Maybe 10 gifties. I could combine them all for a very cool (albeit a bit strange) skirt. Teachers' gifts? Endless possibilities.

Some will stay in the recently organized "knitting section" of my closet until just the right moment when a certain friend calls me to say "I've got some good news!"

I love vast opportunities in 16 little balls of yarn. Such joy, such optimism!

What a great Saturday!

Friday, September 4, 2009

What color is my parachute...

I just plugged "What do I want to be?" into Google. It was amazing how slowly results emerged. (Not to mention how useless the results were - but c'mon, did I really think google would have the answer to that?) If I redo the search with "I feel lucky" it gives me this link.

I am realizing that I must go back to work. Every month I stay home we go more into debt. While I think my husband thinks I waste money every day, other than frequent restaurant lunches, I buy very little for myself. The vast majority of money spent goes to food and the kids (activities, clothes, supplies, toys, birthday gifts, etc.).

But I don't know WHAT to do. T is completely against me going back to school (mostly financial reasons, but he thinks it is wasteful since I already have an expensive education) but recently I have been considering teaching. When I was in college and should have gotten teaching certification, I thought I would hate it. My Mom was a teacher for 10 years and she really HATED it. While many of my blogs praise her spirit and wit, like many daughters, I am afraid of becoming my mother. What if I go back to school at significant expense (not to mention the possible peripheral damage to my marriage) and find it isn't for me?

Oh I don't know!

T wants me to stay home OR to bring in a six figure salary. At my best I haven't even earned half that.

Teaching wouldn't bring in that kind of money, especially at first. It would be a stressful job. No one says, "Oh, I'm a teacher and it's soooo easy!" Most of my friends who teach find it extraordinarily rewarding - I think they find it more rewarding than my friends with more financially fruitful jobs. And no one I know who works in any non-profit industry feels that their job makes a big difference. Was teaching the right color for this parachute??? Maybe it wasn't.

When I was a student the strategy was "study what you love and the money will follow".

Who knew that was such bad advice?! Better advice would have been "figure out what you want and then find a away to attain it."

Hopefully it's not too late to do just that!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New year, new worries

BRRSD's BOE has decided to implement both a new Language Arts curriculum and Math curriculum in the same year.

While I applaud their efforts to raise academic standards (although some people, including two teachers, have said they think the math is getting watered down instead of raised) I am deeply concerned that the teachers are starting a new year with major changes and insufficient advance training.

Some teachers attended programs this summer, but if I understand correctly NOT ALL teachers have been trained in the new curricula. They will be trained DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR. This means they will be pulled out during the school day in addition to the few in service days. Some were trained for a few days this summer. How much time should a teacher - even a seasoned one - be trained in a new curriculum? A week? A month? 10 hours? The truth is I don't have a clue to this answer!

I met my son's teacher today and had a good first impression. I have heard her described as organized and structured and nice. She is supposed to be very strong in teaching language arts, N's weakness. She agreed to meet with me during the second week of school, just to go over my concerns. I hope I didn't scare her (think: psycho over-protective Mom asking for a meeting even before school has started!). It's just I want N to start off the year on the right foot.

I wanted to ask her about what prep work she had received regarding the new curricula. I want to know what SHE thinks. Is she ready to teach the new methods or is she going to have to wing it during the first few months? You just can't ask that at a meet and greet. Even I'm not that forward!

Every year brings new challenges both for teachers and students. I just hope that it isn't a year where the teachers are out of the classroom for significant amounts of time being trained in things that they needed to be trained in months BEFORE the new programs are implemented.

In their haste to get their new programs passed, I'm afraid the BOE hasn't done right by the teachers or their students. It's a lot to ask teachers to be ready for both at once without significant advance training. I hope it's not too much to ask of the students! I hope I am wrong, and that N's teacher won't be out of the class more than she is in it. Time will show. I was excited that the BOE made these changes. Now that they are here, and I see little proof that the teachers are ready, I must admit, I'm pretty nervous!

Luckily it's beautiful outside, and I can shove my worries to the back burner for a few more days while I lie in the sun and listen to the kids playing in the pool!

****

Update - back from the pool where I spent most of my time discussing the upcoming school year. So much for shoving issues to the back burner. Full speed ahead!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Last weekend I saw Julie and Julia. I had been prepared for it - the reviews I heard said that Meryl Streep was a fantastic Julia Child, while Julie's character was pretty dull and mousy.

I come from a household of Julia Child fanatics. I remember often watching The French Chef on Saturday afternoons as a young child.

I can identify with Julie's character. Albeit, I am jealous that I didn't come up with this idea myself: cook all of Julia' Child's recipes in a year and then blog about it. But then again, who in this household would eat it? I live with people who don't eat even a tiny amount of onion in any recipe.

I loved the movie...

...and I hated the movie.

Hated it because it reminded me that the frustrated Julie is a lot like me - wondering where my destiny lies. And hated the "woe is me" of the 30-something with a great husband with a carefree life in New York City, who ODs on self-pity for no reason. I hate those feelings in myself. I kept wanting to yell at the camera, "If you want to be a writer, then write something - don't expect someone to write it for you!"

How do I describe myself? As a writer! No wishy washy "I'm not a real writer because I haven't published anything." As far as I am concerned, I am a writer because I write my original thoughts! (And, yes, I have had articles published in two newspaper, plus something I translated has been published in an anthology).

Writing a letter, a blog, an obituary, a mission statement, a grant application or a recipe. All of these make me a writer. I don't need a million hits on my blog to make me feel like my words mean something, and neither should wishy-washy Julie. If you read the Julia Child biography Appetite for Life you realize the keys to Julia's success were perseverance and hard work.

The key to Julie's fame? Some work, but mostly luck.

What would Julia Child have thought of the movie? I have a feeling she would have agonized about incorrect details, but otherwise would have enjoyed it. I once heard Julia Child say she thought the Saturday Night Live spoof was really funny. She could laugh fun at herself.

Luckily, that we have in common. I have a few other things in common with Julia.

I doubt I will ever be as famous as either of these women, but that isn't my goal. It's what separates us that makes me stay interested in all things Julia. I would never, could never, do what she did:

send a card to all my friends au naturel in the bathtub with my husband!

She had guts! She worked hard and she attained huge successes that I probably will never acclaim. It works both ways, I didn't have her fame, but I have things she didn't have, and seeing the movie was another reminder that I need to be grateful every day for what do I have, and not long for what I don't!

What lessons do I take from JC? Cook with BUTTER, HEAVY CREAM and WINE, literally and figuratively. Live your life and don't apologize for it.

Like Julia Child's biography this blog entry is too long (it's almost 600 pages, this blog is about 600 words)! If I read the whole biography, then my readers can get through this. Take this blog with a grain of salt and a cup of vermouth.