Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The posting of the grades

I don't post my kids' grades on Facebook.
I don't respond to people who post their kids' grades on Facebook, although I think I click "like."
Nah, nevermind.  I don't.
But I do like it that kids work hard and get good grades.
The parents who post are proud of their kids, and I don't want to take that away from them.
That's why I post my misgivings here and not bust all up in someone's parade.

I just think grades are a really sucky measure of anything.
I'm not sure they tell us what we think they tell us.
They might tell us more about a kid's organizational skills than anything about a kid's ability or knowledge.
I don't think they tell us about a kid's motivation.
(I say this as a person with a child who is pretty unmotivated and not really goal-oriented, at least in my opinion.  You wouldn't know this from the grades, though.  The grades would suggest there is much going on in the way of motivation and goal-setting.)

So grades can make it seem like someone who doesn't have to work very hard works hard.
Or they can make it seem like someone who busts their ass doesn't work very hard.
Or they can make someone who is really bright but woefully disorganized look dumb.
Or they can make someone who isn't really bright but just well organized look smart.
Or they can make someone who fell through the cracks look like they don't care when they really do.

My children's grades tell me very little.
I learn more about my kids from reading their writing, from going in the classroom, working with other kids and seeing how they act and what they know.
I learn from listening to my kids read to me.
I learn from seeing how they handle their homework (or not handle their homework).
I learn from what the teachers say juxtaposed with what I see and know about my kid.  The teachers see the "on" version of my kids, for which I'm thankful.  I see the "off" version, so I have to mix these versions together to get a sense of my real child.

I'm never sure what to make when I see all the grade postings.
It just confuses me, mostly.
Like sports.
I don't get the hype.  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The kid who likes to debate and aggravate is 8 (and, yes, he's pretty great)

Dear G,

Today you turn 8 years old.  

As I was looking through photographs of you as a baby and small child, it gave me such happiness to think about how you were then.  How you lurved Lightning McQueen (Keen!) with an intensity that has been rivaled only by your love of sweet treats.  How you mumbled and bumbled your words so that it was difficult for anyone but me to understand you (until you began speech therapy).  How your favorite thing in the world, besides McQueen and playing with Matchbox cars, was snuggling up with me on the couch to watch cartoons.  

As a boy, you are consistently aggravating and mind-blowing.  You are a delightful combination of tenacious and sensitive, eager to argue with me to have your way and the person who will shed a tear in a movie before anyone else in the household.  

One day driving home from occupational therapy, you said, "I don't know what I would do if anything ever happened to M.  I love my family more than anything."  You were worried about how M would navigate the bus ride home without you by his side, and out of your mouth came a sentiment probably more appropriate to a full-grown adult.  

At night, you read to us from Geronimo Stilton books (your favorite series at the moment) and follow it up with funnies from your joke book.  Daddy and I get tickled because you get so tickled reading the jokes.  We love the faces you make when you are surprised or find something unexpectedly funny.  Your eyebrows go up and a twinkle lights up your eyes as they crinkle in the corners.  Your mouth either grins widely or opens into an O, and your hand flies up to cover it, as if you have just heard something you weren't supposed to.  

You hate surprises, and insist on going with me, Nana and Mamaw to purchase your birthday gifts.  You know exactly what you want, and you get it.  There is no hemming or hawing about it.  And you are still excited upon opening the items, not because you are surprised but because you are so happy to know that you now have them.   

You are a pretty good armpit fart musician; you and M could start a band since he has mastered the behind the knee fart sound.  

You are very proud of having gotten through kindergarten and first grade without an "unsmiley" face in the agenda, and you are going for that again in second grade.  One day when a substitute teacher brought you to me at dismissal, I thought for sure you were in trouble.  When I told you this, you said to me, "I would never get in trouble at school," as if you couldn't imagine I would even think such a thing.

As much as you sometimes drive me nuts because you are so persistent and headstrong, I hope you know that I cherish your sensitivity, your unexpected kindness to others, and your belief that all people have the capacity for good.  The other day you said to me after explaining a playground discussion with your friends about the devil, "Even the devil is good way deep down in his heart."  I was proud of you for being such a young kid but sensing the complexity of even the most villainous.
I am so grateful to be your mother.  I have learned much more from you than I could have ever imagined.

All my love, always.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Open houses, plumbing attempts, basement art, pottery=because I am trying to do it all

There was a time when the kids were small, when I felt like I would die, simply die, if I didn't get to leave the house.  Now, I long for days when I can get them on the bus (or even get up on the weekend) and not have to go anywhere.  

Being a SAHM, with a freelance writing gig and a 1-day-a-week teaching gig, with all 3 children in school full-time, is absolutely exhausting.  I appear to think, "Hey, I don't work full time, so I can clean my house AND work part-time AND volunteer a butt-load AND run errands AND still make time for me."  

I'm on my learning curve.
Here is what I've been up to.

The kids' open houses report:

N takes after me by referring to herself as "Awesome."  

G's contribution to a class poem.  
Same kid who said he was from "Mordor" when we played "Around the World" in piano class.  

M likes froyo. 

The STUPID powder room:
My two sons pulled the ring towel bar out of the wall twice, necessitating its removal and repair of the drywall.  I didn't have enough of the dark brown paint to recover the walls entirely, so I used the leftover yellow/tan paint from the basement and fauxed with brown, blue and a bit of lavendar.  

With it being so much lighter in there, I decided to repaint the light fixture bronze as well as the frame on the painting behind the toilet.  
And I bought new bronze towel holder and TP holder.  
AND got a new faucet.  

I was able to remove the old faucet and get the new one in, 
but I couldn't get the water lines run.  
Is there nothing standard?  

Well, crap.  
Local plumber to finish the job.
I was pretty proud I was even able to get the old one out at all. 

Home Decor:

I am trying to take advantage of having time to browse.  
I haven't browsed in stores for furnishings/decor in over a decade.  
Just as over 10 years ago, I am still very cheap.
I got this for $7.  
I don't love the colors, and I'm not 100% behind "loving with all you've got" simply because it doesn't sound like something I would do:  Carrie loves with all she's got.
Doesn't work.
But the other things in the plaque I can get behind.
And it was $7.

I bought some frames at a consignment shop and am going to do some art down the stairwell.  

I had these little boxes, but I don't want tchotchkes in them, so I wrapped fat quarter fabric on cardboard and glued them to the backs.  

I'm going to start working on a textile art thing on an old canvas. 
 I'm sure it will start out fun and quickly become torturous. 

Pottery class:
I'm taking a 6-week pottery class with a friend.  
Today I made 4 cups/bowls/thingies and meant to take a picture but forgot.  Only one looked like it was deformed, so I was pretty happy with my first go at ever sitting at a pottery wheel. 
  My parents and MIL gave me birthday money, and I decided to use it for this class.  
I hate clothes, and don't want to spend my money on crap for the house.  
Taking a class is just for me.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

A different kind of falling apart

William Butler Yeats' poem, The Second Coming, must really resonate with me because I started thinking about it and writing about it on this blog, and it seemed like deja vu.  It is.  From here.

But now I'm writing about a different kind of falling apart.  Not marriage, but my teeth.

This morning I had my first root canal.  The center is not holding.

I apparently had a weird reaction to the numbing agent, which I've never had for a regular filling.  My vision became blurry, my hands began to shake, and I had a weird out-of-body type experience.  It was troubling and oddly fascinating at the same time.  I could hear the music in the room, but my brain felt like it was asleep, so I was both aware and out-of-it simultaneously.

Nitrous oxide to the rescue.

My dentist said a whole bunch of gunk came out of my tooth, so I am hoping the infection is gone and if there is anything left of it, the antibiotic will knock the rest of it out.  The procedure began at 8:30; it is now 1:30, and I still don't have full feeling in my mouth.  She really had to load me up.  She anticipates I will feel much better, even with post-treatment soreness, because my mouth was throbbing so much prior to it.

In five years' time, I've gone from someone who didn't mind dental appointments to someone who loathes them.  Mere anarchy has been loosed upon my mouth.

I jest, of course.....a little bit.  Certainly a poem about war and civilization's destruction can't be related to my incisors.  But maybe it can to what seems to happen to me every fall, a cyclical motion of sadness that comes, a time of fretting that repeats itself.

It has happened every year at this time since 2004.  It almost feels like PTSD, but without nightmares or panic attacks.  It is a low-grade sadness that pervades me.  I am good at hiding it most of the time, except when my head has been messed with from numbing agents.

I can even enjoy this balmy, blue sky day because I feel desert birds circling.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

What would my obituary say?

Yesterday, I listened to a bit of RadioLab, in which they discussed people who can lie to themselves, which sounds pretty terrible but actually has some positive aspects.  People who can't lie to themselves tend to be depressed and anxious; people who can lie to themselves tend to be more successful in terms of business and sports.  There is a protective effect of lying.

I think it is pretty clear where I land.

Since I wrote about the sudden death of DS, I've been thinking about what people will remember about me when I'm gone.  His obituary was lovely and so beautifully summed up his spirit.  If you'd never met him, you'd feel like you had after reading his obituary.

So I wonder what my obituary would say....and how I would feel about that.  If I could write it myself, what would I want included.

I think it would say or I'd want it to say:

  • I truly aspired to be kind, but I was just a little too judgmental and mean to make that work as well as I wanted it to.  
  • Somewhere along the line I found that to feel angry felt much less painful than feeling sad.  
  • My greatest wish was for my children to be empathetic people.  
  • I died being completely taken off-guard by what killed me;  I'm certain I was worried about something else causing my demise.
  • I really believed my greatest gift was walking the fine line between hilarity and solemnity.
  • I couldn't be any other way besides honest to myself because it physically hurt to be otherwise.
  • I aspired to be musical and sucked at it.  
  • I was pretty terrible at proactively savoring moments, but I was attentive enough to quiet when I noticed I was in the midst of one.  And I treasured it.
  • I always wished I was better at sitting down.  
  • Small things I loved:  pottery, falsetto singing, being read to by my children, hummingbirds, planning vacations, prints of placed I'd visited, native plants, unexpected wildlife sightings (including cows in fields despite their lack of wildness).
My family is not a set of writers.  My dad had me help him write a condolence note to a great aunt the other day, which made me feel extremely happy....that my dad had asked for my assistance as a writer, however small.  And D probably considers asking me what to write in the cards he gives me for anniversary and birthday.  So unless one of my children has a knack for writing, and I die at a much later date than anytime soon, my obituary will probably not say any of these things.  

But this is how I would hope my family and friends would know and/or learn about me.  

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Middle school: The Great Letting-Go

I, for one, am thrilled with middle school.

It has allowed me to do what is difficult to do in elementary school, which is LET GO.

In middle school, teachers aren't communicating with parents all the time.  A parent could look at this as being kept in the dark; I see it as being allowed blissful ignorance.  Having a chunk of responsibility taken off my shoulders.

In middle school, the tables have turned.  If I want information, I ask my child.
"Do you have any papers to give me?"
"What time does the club end?"
"Can you buy a sweatshirt during lunch?"

There is considerable grace in letting go.

I need to write that again:  There is considerable grace in letting go.

Usually when I think about letting go, it is in terms of dying.  I admire people who go through the dying process with grace, who come to a point when they realize fighting against it isn't working.

Life is an entire series of episodes of letting go.

Letting go of friends, jobs, schools, hobbies, toys, interests, preconceptions, beliefs....that is life.

There are some kids who, for whatever reason, really need more support in middle school.  But many of the kids I see whose parents are clinging to them, struggling against the Great Letting Go, are fine.  The kids are fine and need to be let go a bit.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

If you don't want to hear about how aging blows, avoid this post

I really, really, really, really want to be one of those women who grows old gracefully.  I want to accept that my body will change, will slow down, but can still be healthy and functional.  I don't want to start using night creams or age spot removers or cosmetic cover-ups or have surgery to make things higher or lower or tighter.

But daggonit, I would like to not feel like I'm completely falling the heck apart at 42 years old.

The past few years I've noticed some changes.  Like blowing out my knee from doing burpees post M's birth.  And having my first cavities (in multiple succession) starting at age 37 (after M's birth).  Then there have been the monthly cycle changes.....22 days now, 29 days next time.

And I won't go into gross detail, but any woman over 40 knows what I'm talking about when I say:

The cherry on top (for the moment) is the aching jaw, which started on August 5.  Nothing showed on x-ray on Aug 12, when I first went to the dentist.  I had to endure 3 weeks of increasing discomfort for a pus pocket to show up---an abscess that will require a root canal and crown on Monday.

I've never been a princess, and I don't want a dang crown!

It's not just me.  My best friend from high school has bursitis.  We used to joke about being old and hanging out in our muumuus, but it sometimes feel like that day is drawing nigh.  Now my husband just needs to develop gout, and then I'll feel like I've really made it to Dickensian old age.

I've long had the curmudgeonly attitude of the crotchety old, but I am going gangbusters on having the body to go with it.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

An unexpected tribute

Every morning I check Facebook while I wait for N to drag her sleepy self downstairs and "officially" begin our day.

This morning, I read news that a friend from college died in a fall.  I thought it was a joke at first, or that it was about someone else.  But it isn't a joke, and it isn't about someone else.

I feel like I've been hit in the gut.

On the way driving N and our neighbor to school, the horrible pop channel that the kids like was playing the Charlie Puth song, "When I See You Again," a song I would, under normal circumstances, ignore and abhor.  And even though it is smaltzy, I started to tear up.

DS and I were not close.  We never hung out.  I don't know his wife or parents.  I think he is a year or so older than me, but I'm not entirely sure.  I have no real reason to feel so saddened by the news of his passing.

And yet, I do.

I debated whether to post any kind of tribute to him on Facebook and tag him, for his family and friends to read.  But I felt compelled, and I feel compelled to write this.

Isn't that the power of someone remarkable, that I don't really know him, and yet he made such an impact on me, on my memories of my undergraduate college experience, that I feel deeply saddened to know he has left this Earth?

Isn't that what any of us would hope our child to be and do in this be so memorable in their kindness and gentleness that the small world in which they lived is devastated to hear of their tragic, accidental death?

Being an egotist (or at least fearful of being an egotist), I have asked myself whether this feeling of sadness is really  Has it rocked me because it has reminded me of my own mortality?  Has it knocked me for a loop because it has reminded me of how fragile my own life, and my husband's life, and my children's lives are?

Well, yes.  Of course.  Every death does that, I think.  Reminds us in a way we can forget in our normal goings-on.

But there are lots of people I know who might have passed suddenly that I wouldn't feel so sucker punched about.

DS was human, was fallible, was fragile, was sometimes mean or hurtful as we all are.  I never witnessed these, but all of us have our not-so-great traits.  But what I knew, and what I keep reading others say, is that he was helpful and quiet and friendly and all kinds of qualities that made anyone who knew him feel like he understood them.  He made me feel like I wasn't as weird or as alone as I might have felt (and, Lord knows, I felt weird and alone in the midst of college angst).

That is a tremendous way to be in life, and so a tremendous loss is felt.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Here is what being a SAHM of full-time school kids is like

Let me give you yesterday's schedule:

7:30 am--out the door with boys to go get allergy shot for me and M
8:00 am--in clinic, getting allergy shot
8:30 am--leaving clinic to take boys to school
8:45 am-dropping off boys
9:00 am--at Home Depot, buying mulch and flowers to plant at the school's Reading Garden
9:20 am--calling a former colleague for an interview for a magazine article I'm writing
10:00 am -- planting flowers
11:30 am-- finish planting flowers, laying liner and mulch
11:50 am--wiping off grit and dirt in my bathroom and changing clothes
12:30 pm--meeting friends for lunch
2:30 pm--picking up N and her friend from school
4:30 pm--getting boys off bus
5:30 pm--taking N to field hockey game
8:00 pm--coming home from field hockey game
9:30 pm--fell asleep

In those hour long breaks, I did things like plan lessons and write my articles and work on dinner and help people with homework and practice piano and read stories and take a shower.

Today's schedule:
7:00 am--take N and neighbor to school
8:25 am--get boys on bus
9:00 am--go to dr.
10:30 am--get gas and go to grocery
11:30 am--interview psychologist for magazine article
12:20 pm--drive to upholstery place
2:10 pm--get shampoo
2:30 pm--pick up N and friends from school
3:00 pm--eat lunch

Mercifully, tonight we are doing NOTHING.

I am looking forward to Friday when I will repaint the molding in the powder room and go through junk for the consignment sale.  I will be in my house for 5+ hours at a stretch and not be in REM sleep.

I am not complaining.  It is nice to be able to get a lot of things done that I want to get done.  It is delightful that I ran into Great Clips to get shampoo and it wasn't an hour-and-a-half production that involved begging and whining.

I know this pace will slow down, if for no other reason than because I collapse from exhaustion.