Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Back to basics in 5th grade and pink elephants in the Middle School Auditorium

My son has to experience 5 hours without electricity. Luckily I don't have to follow the same rules for here I sit, laptop open and typing away while he reads by candlelight. I forgot how tired I feel after just a few hours without electric lights. I'm not sure he learned much from this journey into the past, except how much he LOVES all things electric. What did he miss the most? Light! What did he learn? "That I like electricity and it's no fun without it." No fun??? He and his friend played games all evening, we ate by candlelight and I thought it was kind of an adventure. I thought he would have learned the opposite - that you can still have fun in the dark. Backfired!

My daughter had an assembly (again, missing 2 periods of classes) on Columbine. While she is a fairly intelligent girl, she seemed to have missed the main point. What did she take from it? That one of the girls who died had written in her diary that same week that she thought she would die that year. What else? That some person far away contacted the family because of a vision he'd had - he described the vision, and it described something she drew that same morning.

I am hoping the point of the assembly was non-violence - which I assume was the goal. My husband walked into the conversation after we'd been talking for a while. From C's description, he didn't even know it had anything to do with Columbine - he thought the school was having something spiritual! When I asked if anyone mentioned that incident at Bridgewater High School from last year, C said no. Really?! It must have been very strange that they never even mentioned that someone planned what was dubbed as a "Columbine" here and when the Middle School has an assembly no one mentions it?  An elephant in the auditorium, indeed! (I am so surprised by this that I wonder if C spent the entire time passing notes with friends and maybe missed the most important thing - that this could happen anywhere, and nearly did here in Bridgewater).

Time for me to go to bed. It's only 9:37 and my "work" isn't close to done. I missed two very important deadlines, but that is the way it goes. Sometimes even when the school is doing its best to teach a positive message, I guess your kids don't get what you expect out of it. And sometimes I don't get what I expect out of my day either. Time to regroup for another day with new messages and new challenges.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Anxious Advent

Dear Santa - for Christmas I need those Guatemalan Trouble Dolls.  You know, those dolls you tell your worries to before you go to bed, you put them under your pillow and the dolls worry while you sleep. At least in theory.

It's the first Sunday in Advent - and although it's still November, I feel behind before I've even started. It makes me wonder: why all the pressure? No one is forcing it on me - I'm putting it on myself!

So, maybe some of it is understandable: my husband is leaving for his home country in 2 days and I haven't finished the gift I knit my sister-in-law (although I bought, wrapped and delivered nearly all of our other Christmas gifts for my in-laws in July). I am making gifts for various other family and nothing is even close to done. I want the sweater I started Tore to be finished (at least the knitting) so my mother-in-law can help me put it together. And I'm knitting a gift from my father-in-law, which I started in July, and that's only 1/2 way done too. Can I finish all these gifts in this short period of time? I would have thought July would have been enough time to finish a scarf!!!

Then there is my $200 secret screw up. I bought tickets to the WRONG show! I got 4 tickets to A Christmas Carol in Princeton for 12/9... when I meant to get tickets to A Christmas Story in Hillsborough (those tickets are under $20) for sometime around 12/11. Leave it to me make such a colossal f' up! I haven't dared to say anything to T - the longer I wait, the worse it gets. And I haven't got the money set aside anymore to buy the tickets I was supposed to get.....

Then there is question of Christmas lights. We have already purchased 2 sets of lights (a third we are keeping) that I need to return - who returns Christmas stuff before December 1st?

Then there is the general angst - at Christmas everything gets faster, more hectic and every once in a while there is unexpected snow to put a wrench in the plans.

My Dad is here, my in-laws are coming (change of bedroom for dad and cleaning beyond belief), my Dad has to be driven to my sister... groceries, figuring out dinners when no one eats even remotely the same thing.... (kids want pasta, in-laws want potatoes, I want vegetables).

We do an advent calendar for the kids (we? What we? *I* do an advent calendar for the kids). 24 gifties. It used to be I could get away with a small piece of candy or a lollipop. Not no more... I am supposed to have the whole thing wrapped and ready by Wednesday. 24x2 gifts. We also do "stuff" (ice-cream, sleep over, movie night...) but with all their activities I can't figure out when we can fit it all in. ARGH.

And finally, it's that nagging question, what to get, make or do for people when the economy is collapsing and how do I keep it in budget - see note on $200 mess up before.

There's more - but my readers, I don't want to stress you out with the worries from my little world. You clearly have your own!

It's Advent - we are supposed to enjoy these special weeks before Christmas. How come it has turned into an unending, unrealistic to do list instead of a relaxing time where we light candles and sing carols?

I had the radio on in the background while I set out a few Christmas decorations today -- but I didn't even sing.
 
Tomorrow's another day! And it's not even December 1st. There's still time!!! Instead of Drummer Boy, maybe I should sing this:

"Slow down, you crazy child
you're so ambitious for a juvenile
but then if you're so smart,
tell me why are you still so afraid?
Where's the fire, what's the hurry about?
You better cool it off, before you burn it out
You've got so much to do and only so many hours in a day..."
(Billy Joel)

Friday, November 26, 2010

More pie please... what the hell was I thinking???

Thanksgiving was - as it has been in the past - like something out of a dream. The food was phenomenal - even my contribution was nearly up to par with the hostess' world-class faire - and the conversation nearly sinfully delightful. My cousins know how to get to the heart of the matter. We shared internet tips with one another and my kids are actually (sigh) old enough to play with their son. Who knew "COD" would be something they bond over? Their daughter is a college freshman and spent more time with us old folks than with the kids. I remember Thanksgiving after going off to college a pivotal moment in my own feeling of being an adult. (It was also terribly sad, since my Grandma died that year just a few weeks before Thanksgiving and her loss was palpable.) Hearing about K's classes, I was mesmerized. It was nothing like the 100-level survey courses of my days.

The ride home, however, was long for my bulging tummy. I paid for my gluttony. The food was THAT good. Seconds on turkey and trimmings and three different desserts were too much for me. This morning I couldn't even imagine breakfast as C and I dashed from store to store looking for hot bargains. JoAnn's Fabrics literally had a line across the store filled with people getting bolts of fabric. I knit but don't sew (much), and the 50% off full price did not apply to yarn, so I left without worrying about the lines. I treated myself to a red turtleneck sweater which was 50% off at the Gap and some fancy nail polish which were buy 2, get 2 free. C and I each picked two kinds.

It was a Thanksgiving treat to come home for a couple of nights. And I am glad that C could see that Black Friday exists here too!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

I know we are supposed to say we are grateful for the people in our lives on this Thanksgiving day, and of course I am, but I am would like to give an honorable mention to a house.

I'm grateful that my Dad still lives in our house on Pinewoods Circle. That he is 85 and well enough to live here on his own is a blessing, but I am also thrilled to have this museum to my life with this family. Books cover the surfaces in almost every room, and where there aren't books, you enjoy pictures of family, paintings my great-grandfather and other talented people painted and small trinkets collected through the years. Everything has a memory, yet like a person, sometimes things change. I'm writing this on my Dad's new laptop (that my husband helped him buy) on a modern leather chair that I'm not sure my mother would have liked. Somehow the two black chairs and white sofa somehow work perfectly in this room filled with well-worn hardcovers and a very tired Persian rug.

I love my life in Bridgewater, but I'm glad my roots are here in small-town, Western New York. I love that no matter where I lived, my room has always been here filled with old school binders, notes my friends and I passed in class and beaten up copies of the very-inappropriate Flowers in the Attic series.

I also know that as wonderful as our home is now, this is one gift I simply won't be giving my children. We will still fill anywhere we live with the larger-than-life pictures of their childhood, but they won't hang in our oversized house.  Luckily we have given my kids a childhood full of experiences I couldn't have imagined as I hiked the creek down the street. So even if my kids won't spend Christmas 2030 at our current house, they will have other things for which they should be grateful.

But today on Thanksgiving I love that when I say I'm going home for Thanksgiving, I really am....

... and I'm grateful that we are eating at my cousin's home, so I don't have to cook in this strange kitchen. :-)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Wherever you are today. Have a wonderful day.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vicarious cheering?

Many people who don't have children living with them look at today's stay-at-homers, or even those who work outside the home and think that all this over-parenting is a way to vicariously live through their children's accomplishments.

I may have been guilty of such things (as evidenced by years of over the top birthday celebrations), but I assure you this weekend is proof positive that I do not live through my daughter!

We were at a cheer competition in Wildwood, NJ and I hated pretty much every minute of it. Here is a Reader's Digest style rundown of the weekends low points.

  • Hotel: so gross that my husband LITERALLY refused to sleep there! He surfed the net all night long.
  • Hotel: was paid for through the competition organization and was a complete rip off! I will NEVER book through them again!!! The hotel was $50 cheaper online, but because the coaches were decorating the girl's doors, I felt like we had to room there. Next year the three signs on our door are an honor C will have to forgo.
  • Hotel: besides gross room, pool was disappointing, the window opened all the way with a the view of the ocean but about 3 feet from the window were huge power lines. 
  • Hotel: rude staff
  • Hotel: room next to elevator. Glad I had Ambien.
  • Coaches: Rude on multiple occasions - who moves someone else's purse and then takes her seat while everyone is the buffet???
  • Coaches: Never mentioned the two girls who were left out of the party when giving out awards. 
  • Coaches: Clearly favor some girls when they described the girl
  • Coaches: Got so bombed that the first thing my daughter (13) said to me the next morning was "Ma, did you see how drunk Mrs. XYZ was last night!"
There were other things that turned me off: some of the girls were being rather catty (but what do you expect from 12 year olds?), others snuck out of the hotel and went to the boardwalk until they got caught.  One of the girls was practicing when she shouldn't have been and hurt her arm just a few minutes before they were supposed to go on. They didn't have a chance to change things around. Apparently this girl "cries injury" a fair amount, leaving the team in the lurch. The coaches didn't even consider having the left-out girls there as a plan B in case of such last minute needs. The absent girl caused a domino effect and the girl who she was supposed to be supporting fell during the routine.

After that all hell broke loose. One girl yelled at the injured girl. The injured girl's Mom yelled at the girl who yelled at her daughter. It was quite the mess (I didn't witness it, but this distracted the girls even more).

Desperately seeking good sportsmanship!

Glad this year's cheer season is over.  I do live vicariously through my kids (I also love to live through the stories my single friends tell about dating and my working friends tell about their jobs....). I'm not looking forward to next year's cheer season. Does time really heal all wounds?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rough draft rewritten....

I don't normally delete my posted blogs, but I did today. We should all have a chance to do a rewrite.  I bet there is a certain BRRSD teacher who wishes he could have that opportunity right about now - and I'm sure there is a 15 year old girl here in 08807 who is rethinking her actions as well...

I'm very conflicted about the latest news about a teacher sexting a picture of his junk to a student... I think it is awful. But I find myself wondering about the 15 year old girl too. Doesn't she know it's stupid to send pictures of herself to a teacher? Maybe I'm blaming the victim, much as a jury may hear the biased testimony about what a girl was wearing in a rape case... but maybe I'm blaming her parent for not instilling a sense that it is wrong to send pictures of yourself to a teacher.

In my original blog I compared a teacher whom I've known for many years, Mr. C with the BRRSD teacher.  Mr. C was fired about 15 years ago for writing poetry to a student. This came as a shock to me because I knew his family. I knew his wife and kids (who were older than the student and who had attended this high school) and I saw the humiliation they had to - and possibly still have to - live through after this very public event. The local newspaper had a field day! (And the Courier News has yet to publish anything on this week's incident - at least online).

I realize that I am essentially over my judgment of Mr. C's stupid mistake from many years ago, but I still judge this teacher. At the same time, I realize that despite quotes to the contrary, his family is also a victim of his stupidity. Don't shit where you eat!

Had this happened with my daughter would I punish her for sending pictures or would I sue the teacher's sorry ass? I can hear the whispers behind my back in Wegmans "oh, I just knew something like this would happen - you see how short her dresses are". This girl's parents are victims too! A 51 year old man sent pictures of his penis to their 15 year old daughter. There's only one word for this: disgusting.

You can't equate bad poetry and sexual imagery. They just aren't the same thing. So is the fact that I've stopped judging Mr. C indicative that I will someday do the same for the BRRSD teacher?

He didn't rape her. So what are the circumstances where judgment is warranted? I'm not perfect. So is it ever OK to judge from my high horse? And what restitution can be done for any of the involved parties? He lost his job and presumably the respect of his family and the Bridgewater community.

In my house the 15 year old would have lost cell phone privileges.... at least that is how I feel today.

It makes you think - there are so many sides to this story. What makes a 15 year old think it is OK to send a picture to a teacher? What makes her teacher think he could have any non-teacher/student relationship with her? What about his relationship with his wife? Does she pull a Hillary and stick with him or does she have a long, public divorce? If I thought it were less likely to happen at a different high school, I'd send my kids elsewhere - but this power trip between an older teacher and a younger girl ingrained in our culture. It's OK to portray relationships between older men and younger women in the media... and I can't make a cultural change so drastic that this suddenly becomes taboo...

One of my closest friends dated a 35 year old when she was 15. He cooked her steak dinners and they listened to classical music... they also did a lot of drugs (so she could manage school all day, homework and then a double life with him all night long sans sleep), and I'm sure other things. She certainly did not feel victimized.  Had she had a cell phone, I'm quite sure she would not have thought twice about sending him a little something-something. I still don't see her as a victim, even though I probably should.

I was about 15 years old when this song was popular. What did I think then as a 15 year old? I actually lamented because we didn't have a single cute teacher in the entire high school!!! Was I an oppressed girl? I wouldn't have thought so...... but I bet my parents would have seen a potential incident very differently. "Dillusions of grandeur" my friend recently called it - a 15 year old girl who is convinced she is an equal with her 51 year old teacher.

So differently I see it now. It's wrong! Let's hope that this BRRSD 15 year old girl sees this "opportunity" as a rewrite. A clean slate and a new start and finds a more appropriately-aged boy friend next time. Let's hope this former teacher finds a job where he isn't teaching kids. At least HE should know better even if society has inundated him with images depicting otherwise.

Monday, November 15, 2010

13 years as a Mom

Thirteen years ago I took C home from the hospital. My dear, darling Mom took care of us for the first week. I think it was the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me - she stayed up all night with C did all the laundry and did most of the cooking so I could half-sleep. Since that first day when I left the hospital utterly terrified, literally crying, "how am I going to take care of this baby?" I have learned a lot of things and my confidence as a parent has grown exponentially with each passing year. In fact, it is the area of myself where I am most confident. I didn't totally ruin my kids - yet.

So here I will share with you 13 things I have learned about motherhood and child rearing. One for each year.

1) Breast is best. For you, for the baby. She literally sucks the fat right out of you. It's easy and nothing makes you feel quite as intimate with another human being. And, even for a long-term breast feeder, it's a short term commitment.

2) How do you pick the right day care situation (pre-school, center, babysitter)? If you fee like you could stay there the whole day, your child can. If you can't wait to leave, it's not the best environment for baby either. Money doesn't always equal quality. Let your gut guide your decisions. What is right for the neighbor's cherub might not make your kids happy - and vice versa. And working with babies in day care, contrary to popular opinion of at-homers, is not bad for your child! I've had a variety of situations, and I have to admit my child who had the most day-care is the most confident of my kids and the one who is most willing to try new things (except foods). Lots of her greatest attributes came from being in a kick-butt day care. My son who went through a pre-school that pushed academics (where my daughter went they didn't even teach the alphabet, but they did teach them to bake bread, to hike in the woods and to street safety) has had a much harder time in school despite having had several years of an "academic start".

3) The more your children are outdoors, the better. It isn't a bad idea for you to lead by example, either! Fresh air helps Mommy sleep better at night too.

4) Yes it is all a phase: Tellytubbies, refusing to wear pants, sleeping only on the top bunk (or bottom), demanding milk at 3am. I will let you know when the "no veggies" phase ends! I wish I had more patience when these things were driving me crazy.

5) Reading to your kids every day develops their brains and you may grow to love the stories just as much as they do.

6) Yes, if TV means safety in the kitchen while you chop up and cook dinner, TV is fine. TV is also an acceptable babysitter anytime before 8am. And letting your kids see things they shouldn't doesn't turn them into serial killers or sluts (at least, not mine, yet).

7) Other cultures have different ways of raising kids - if you are a little different it's OK! There are probably children in X country that only eat Z... In Norway people let their kids nap outside in the rain and snow (wrapped in down comforters). Guess what, babies don't die of pneumonia from this even though to me it seemed like child abuse! And when we get a cold, we close the windows and turn on the steam, they open the windows to give fresh air - even though you get colder. It's OK if your family does things differently from the norm - lax bedtime routines or feeding your kids unusual foods. What, do you think they save sushi for adults in Japan?

8) Take a day off to see their silly play. Watching kids perform The Three Billy Goats Gruff was better than any meeting I've ever attended. "I want to be the Troll this time!"

9) If you are looking to move into a town because of the reputation of its schools take the time to go to a board of education meeting and a PTO meeting.  Go to any random soccer game and find a Mom - both the ones who look like they just left the office, and the ones who look like they help out at school (not necessarily mutually exclusive). It is important to hear what the issues are, so you don't get surprises. Test results aren't everything - but they are an indication of a school's strengths and weaknesses. Maybe your high school is known statewide for soccer, but you want a music program for Mr. Future Cellist. Maybe you want your kid to learn Japanese or Hebrew or French.... or maybe you don't know what you care about yet because your kids are a future thing (or a thing of the past). Go to a BOE meeting anyway. It's probably 80% of your tax dollars at work!

10) Get to know your kids' friends. Get to know their parents.

11) Kids do bad things. I tend to think my kids are worse than they really are. I tend to over-punish. You might not. Whatever you do, make the punishment linked to the crime. From the youngest age, make sure it teaches a relevant lesson, otherwise kids don't learn from their mistakes - and neither will you.

12) Give your kids the benefit of the doubt. Say yes when you can. Even if everyone else says no. Who knows they might get something out of the experience - whatever it is. As far as my husband is concerned there is no such thing as too much TV or video games. Maybe he's not wrong....

13) Never forget how lucky you are to have the children you have. When you are sick of the activities, the laundry, the whining, the...insert pet peeve... remember that many people want kids and don't have them.

People are going to give you tons of advice - from A to Z. It's OK to listen and just like here, you don't have to take all of it. In fact, you don't have to take any of this either.......13 years ago I knew NONE of this and so far my kids have survived me as their Mom. So far....

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Today's word

Is simple -if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

I have had a very busy week and haven't blogged much. Sometimes it's better to hold your tongue than to blog (or speak!). After incidents on Saturday and Tuesday, I think it is just as well that I took a week's hiatus because I might say something that isn't very nice, even if it's true.

Hope you are all well, dear readers. I'll be back in a day or two with another blog.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fresh air...

I went for a walk through the Sourland Mountain Preserve with Diego and MR. It was a perfect day for it. Not chilly, not warm and we almost had the entire place to ourselves. It was a clear day - so clear we could (just barely) see the Empire State Building! I broke the golden rule and let Diego run off-leash for most of the day as there really were neither people nor furry animals anywhere. In fact, MR and I both noticed, that it seems we have more wildlife scurrying through our back yards!

I was speaking to MR about a situation with some former colleagues (I'd heard from a third colleague who told me the latest office squabble) and I admitted that while I often say I miss that job and wish I could live closer so I could have kept my old position, I had forgotten how this "issue" had been difficult to maneuver when I worked there.

Having stayed home all these years has really made me wonder where I would be now. Seeing that these colleagues are still "fighting" (they aren't really, it's like two silent factions not verbalizing a pink elephant in the living room) makes me wonder if my career life would have been stagnant and except for additional years of service in my job, and maybe the occasional raise. What else could I show for the years in the office? What challenges would I be facing in my career had I not left the office? Would this (pink elephant) still be the issue du jour? It actually surprised me that these two gentlemen are still having the same decade-old pissing contest!

MR, as she often does, reminded me of the big picture. Lots of women (and men) grapple with the what if's. May of us who stay at home had rising careers that we left. Many, like me, hadn't really fully formed their career path, so the broken career path had never been a straight line.  

Sitting in my kitchen rethinking the 3 mile hike under an orange rainbow of lightly falling leaves on one of the most beautiful fall days in 2010, I see I idealized my former job. Even the best job I ever had didn't always make me happy.

It was kind of like staying at home: the work was varied, I had the freedom to take things in a new direction and I worked in largely nice conditions (except my first office was in a temporary structure that my friend called "Bulgaria"). The friends I made at work were similar to the friends I have now: they liked to mix responsibilities with pleasure.

Lesson of the day: don't waste a beautiful fall day worrying about things you can't change...  That goes for election results too.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Head in the sand

I know that the Democrats are going to get spanked tomorrow.

And I am actually voting for a Republican! (Did you see lightening? Is that the devil in a parka?) Christine Rose, the replacement for our councilman who was elected to a higher office last year, voted AGAINST cutting the BRRSD budget this spring. Since she supported the only issue important enough to get me to a Town Council Meeting last year, I am happy to give her my vote.

Otherwise I have a feeling not a single candidate of mine will win. Skeptical? Yes! But I've been in the reddest area of the bluest part of the Northeast to know that while the Dems need every vote, there simply aren't enough of us like-minded lefties to incite change.

I'm boycotting the news tomorrow. It just won't be pretty for pinko-liberals like me. Should something BIG, non-election related, happen tomorrow, please drop me a line!