Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ah, hell(ve) no! She's twelve, yo.

Dear N,

Twelve is a really sucky number to try to rhyme for an annual birthday blog post so that is as good a title as you're gonna get.

I would say I can't believe you are turning 12 tomorrow, but since you have been counting down and reminding me every morning that your birthday is 26.... I mean 15....I mean 8 days.....I mean 1 day away, I can totally believe that the day has finally arrived.

Today, as you will likely forget by next week, you sang "Tomorrow!  Tomorrow!  My birthday's tomorrow!  It's only a DAY AWAAAAAAAAAY" from Annie to me repeatedly before I had had enough coffee.  I will remind you of this episode should you ever have a child who speaks to you before coffee has had its full effect.

You are a really awesome kid.  Goofy as can be and definitely nerdy but you let your nerd flag fly proudly.  You seem to feel ok in your own skin, and while I know that may change as the next couple years come and go, I'm really glad that, at least for now, you are happy to be you and don't change for others.

Sure, I wish you'd read more books, and I wish you'd bring your viola home more often to play, but those are just small things that don't amount to a hill of beans.  You do your homework and are responsible with your school work.  You made a smooth adjustment to middle school and have a band of new friends who you really seem to get along with.

I love that you are so sweet to your brothers and that you give them goodnight kisses and hugs every night before you brush your teeth.
I love that you send me pins of goofy cat photos and jokes.
I love that we have our new ritual of watching Sherlock on Netflix on weekends.
I love that you are all smoopy over the kitties.
I'm a little concerned by how many duck-face photos you take of yourself, but I think that will be a short-lived phenomena.

Sometimes when I look at you, it is nearly impossible for me to find the little girl face I used to know.  While this makes me 10% sad that the years have gone by so fast, it makes me 90% happy that I get to see your beautiful, smiling 12-year-old face (as of TOMORROW).

I love you sweetest girl,


Sunday, February 21, 2016

The problem with being an English teacher.....

is that it often makes listening to music so incredibly painful.  I am certainly not perfect with my grammar and language manipulation at all times, but gah.....

Like this lyric:

My head's spinning around I can't see clear no more.

What bothers me the most is that clear isn't clearly.  The double-negative doesn't help.  Needs some punctuation.

And then there is this doozy:

Let me photograph you in this light
In case it is the last time
That we might be exactly like we were before we realized we were sad of getting old.

What the freck?  

World's longest run-on sentence.  I don't care if she makes a gazillion dollars a day, this lyric has "poorly written" all over it.  

But the Grand Poobah of Terrible Lyrics has to go to this Paula Cole song:

So open up your morning light
And say a little prayer for I
You know that if we are to stay alive
Then see the peace in every I

That song was released in 1996, and it STILL plagues me.  

The meant-to-be-a-conference-sheet-thingie that just ticked me off

I didn't attend N's parent/teacher conferences in the fall because, much to my dismay, there hasn't yet been a Star Trek-like teleportation device invented yet that will allow me to be at two different schools at the same time (or within minutes).

N's grades have been fine.  When I say fine, I mean she has gotten all As this entire year.

However, some of the work that she has received grades on is stuff like taking notes, which tells me that she is a good note-taker.  It doesn't tell me whether she understands the notes she takes, whether she has deep questions about what she is learning and whether she can create or analyze anything based off these notes.  These grades are an effort to make parents who think grades are VERY IMPORTANT STUFF happy and content.  "My child is an excellent student" is sometimes code for "My child can sit still and do exactly what the teacher says to do but may or may not have very much going on upstairs."  Or "My child can do busy work very well."

The mom in me thinks my child is bright, but the realistic critic in me knows that mostly she is average (although I was average at her age, too.)  Like awesomeness, there is no rule that says a person's intelligence can't grow immensely larger as they develop and mature.

The district also changed the grading scale so that 90-100 is an A, but if I see a 92.4 I will read that as a B even if the report card says A.  Again, it doesn't really matter, especially if the grade is on note-taking, but a rose isn't a rose isn't a rose in public education.

Today, N handed me 2 manilla folders with a series of assessment reports inside them.  According to the paper, this is supposed to be a student-led conference to engage families and increase student responsibility for their learning.

Here is my written response to the sheet:

I understand, given how many students are taught on middle school teams, the need to do this, but I'm not sure how helpful it is for me and N without actually seeing any of the work and where her mistakes are on the proficiency assessments.  She isn't certain what the problem is without looking at the test.  I regularly check the Parent Portal so I don't need a grades update.  I'm not even sure what the "Learning Conferences--Reflecting on Progress" sheet is since nothing here is labeled as such.  Is THIS SHEET the "Learning Conferences" sheet?

That probably sounds bitchy, but that accurately sums up how I feel about trying to decipher this.  My problem is less that they asked me to do it than that it isn't user-friendly.  How can I accurately assess and reflect with my child if all pertinent information isn't provided?  How can I encourage my child to do "better" on a proficiency assessment when it might be asking her to regurgitate information instead of thinking?

Like so many things education-related, this "conference" seems like a well-intentioned but rather off-the-mark activity.  

Friday, February 12, 2016

Me and Marmee

I am teaching Little Women to a small group of 9th grade boys, which sounds a little weird, but I suspect they are enjoying the book more than they thought they might (and probably relate to it more than they expected).

In the first section of our reading, Marmee explains to Jo that she is angry nearly every day of her life and has to work very hard to manage this feeling.  Upon reading this, both the first and second time, I  wondered what Marmee had to be angry about.  Even when I discussed this passage with my students, nothing really smacked me with understanding.  I mean, I got that she is a woman and struggles under the limitations of her gender given the time of the novel, but I didn't feel it.

Until these past two weeks during which I, myself, have felt very angry.

Marmee is probably angry that her husband felt compelled to participate in the war and left her and the girls to find himself or act for social justice or soothe his conscience.  Maybe she resents a system where she doesn't get to do what inspires her soul?  Maybe there are things she would want to do but she can't because she is a woman and a mother?  Maybe she is mad at herself because even if she had the opportunity to do something, she might not act on it because she is a mother and would feel like she was neglecting her children and family?

I am not angry AT anyone.  I think I am angry at life, at the nature and structure of things, at the complications I didn't consider when I made decisions (like the slug of having to drive N to the middle school.  Three years didn't feel like a long time to do this until I'd spent half a year doing it.)

So what am I angry about?

I'm angry that it is SO EFFING HARD for a woman to find part-time work (not 30 hours a week part-time, either.  Like 15 hours a week during her kids' school hours) that uses her skills and intelligence and still allows her to live a life that doesn't feel hurried and rushed and overwhelmed.  I'm angry at the system.

I'm angry that because of my mom brain, or because of being a SAHM for so long, or because I am a ridonkulous control freak, I feel like I have to manage everything.  Why is it so hard to just turn it over to someone else and accept help without feeling like I'm shirking my duty as a mom?

I'm angry that I can't just be perfectly content shopping or staying inside my house and cleaning or doing laundry or cooking wholesome meals for my family.  I'm angry that I feel like I need more because wanting and doing more complicates everything.

Even though this is not my "someone hand me a perfect 1-2 morning a week scenario," I am going to apply to be a substitute teacher at my kids' schools.  I plan to sub one day a week.  Word has it I have to sub 5 days a month to stay on the preferred list.  I am nervous about the whole process because I've never been a sub before.

Every time I am at the boys' elementary school, and I see someone whom I know is not a certified teacher subbing, I think to myself, "Why am I NOT DOING THAT?"  I know I am a good teacher, and I know I would make a good substitute.  This is what I trained to do.

I love teaching at the cottage school, but that is one day a week.  Writing for the magazines takes maybe, and I'm stretching here, 5 hours a month.  That leaves a WHOLE lot of time for me to not do something productive.

With that being said, the idea of subbing at my daughter's middle school feels scary.  I haven't worked with public middle schoolers in over a decade.  My amygdala is yelling at me, "They are going to eat you alive," while my pre-frontal cortex says, "B*tch, please."  (I try to remember that I thought all of my homeschooled students were going to be more brilliant than me, and that has yet to materialize.  They are bright, but not smarter than their teacher.  Experience does count for a lot.)

And then there are the.....complications.  The picking N up from school if I sub at the elementary school.  Will D be able to leave work and get her?  Can I dial a friend to grab her for me?   How will mornings run if I sub at N's middle school?  Will it wear me out completely because I'm so unused to having to be and do and go with a functioning mind and in appropriate clothes?

It would be so much easier, both logistically and internally, if I could be 100% satisfied with what I have and what I'm doing.

But that would, I'm afraid, make me not of humankind.  

Monday, February 8, 2016

I didn't know what to title this post

It is 4:53 am.

I would still be sleeping, but the youngest woke me up (as soon as I get the middle to sleep through the night, M starts up this sh*t).

I didn't know what to title this blog post.

As I was lying in bed trying unsuccessfully to go back to sleep, I was running through possibles.  These were some of them:
Cause I'm (un)happy
I want the sesame seed bun, the meaty middle and ALL the toppings
A nebulous nugget of dissatisfaction

It is easy for me to "catch" other people's moods, and D has been dissatisfied at his job, so maybe I've just picked up on his funk.
Or maybe intentionally trying to scale back what I am doing (since I felt so overwhelmed with activity in the fall and December) has backfired, and I am bored.
Maybe I'm worrying about money (with working on taxes and all) and feel like I need to contribute more to the household budget.  Maybe knowing our oldest is 6 years from college is making me panic.
Maybe it is hormonal.
Maybe it is that these windows of empty time between schlepping kids in the car is sucking my soul.
Maybe I want to be more than a taxi-driver and errand-runner.
Maybe it is a little bit of all of the above.

I clearly remember scoring portfolios in the summer to earn extra money when I found out I was pregnant with N alongside a woman who was also newly pregnant and the mother of a toddler.  Talking with her made me realize that the old spiel about "being a teacher with kids is great because you are off when they are off" was bunk until the kids were in full-time school.  I'd never considered having to pay for daycare in the summer to hold your kid's spot even if you opted not to send the kid in the summer because you were off from teaching.

Staying at home was what I wanted to do and what seemed to make the most financial sense.  I willingly gave up years of my professional life, and I don't regret it at all.

Still, it did set a precedent that feels nearly impossible to get out of:  mom handles everything kid-related.  This is one of the downsides of stay-at-home mothering that no one really talks about.  Not that things can't be changed, but it is hard to undo 12 years of something without struggle.   If mom's "job" is to handle the kids, then she handles the kids until they are out of the house forever.  Or at least that is how it feels in my house.

It isn't fair, really, for me to want just a little bit more.... another 1-2 mornings a week of using my skills and love of teaching.  That is having the cake, eating it, and licking every shred of icing from the plate.

I know this.

But it is what I want anyway.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

I do a lot of "oops, sorry....wait....oh....I forgot"

One day D asked me how I keep track of own life and the kids' appointment and school pick-up times and whatnot.

It isn't rocket science.  I have my paper calendar and my iPhone calendar that links to my computer calendar.  I write myself Post-it notes in my paper calendar.

I also very regularly commit to things only to have to go back and cancel or reschedule.  It is not unusual for me to look at my calendar and comment, "Well, shit" because I have double-booked myself or completely forgotten something that is a fairly routine event.

I have to write down stupid stuff that should be fairly ingrained in my head, like "Husband gets paid today" or "Take out recycling."

Sadly, I have even considered writing myself notes to remind myself to pee.

My weeks are chunks of somewhat unusable time.

Next week looks like this:

Monday--drive middles to school, 7(ish); volunteer at middle school bookstore, 9(ish)-12(ish); pick up from middle, 2:30(ish); pick up from elementary, 4(ish).

Tuesday--drive middles to school, 7(ish); piano lesson, 10(ish); occupational therapy for G, 2(ish); pick up from middle, 2:30(ish); pick up from elementary, 4(ish).

Wednesday--drive middles to school, 7(ish); volunteer at middle school, 10(ish)-12(ish); pick up from middle, 2:30(ish); pick up from elementary, 4(ish); Girl Scout meeting, 6(ish)

Thursday--drive middles to school, 7(ish); ; pick up from middle, 2:30(ish); volunteer in 2nd grade class, 3(ish); music class, 4(ish).

Friday--drive middles to school, 7(ish); teach at cottage school, 9(ish)-1(ish); elementary school valentine parties, 2(ish).

(One of the reasons I sorta love Fridays is because for 4+ hours, I am in the same place, doing the same general thing and not having to be in my car.)

I thought I would have oodles of time when all 3 kids were in full-time school, but I do not.  Even if I don't volunteer at the school, I still have errands to run.  Two-hour windows of "free" time throughout my day are the norm.  I fill those with article writing, prepping for my class and cleaning or cooking.

And, really, those two-hour windows aren't even two full hours.  Like the two hours between driving the middles to school and volunteering on Monday are actually filled with haranguing the boys to get dressed, brush teeth, making lunches and waiting for the bus.  Oh, and getting myself ready.  That always comes last.  

Every other week, I get the boys to the clinic by 8 am for allergy shots.

Whenever I think about subbing at the boys' elementary school or trying to find some kind of part-time public school-related position, I get very excited until I remember all of these drive-people-here-and-there responsibilities.

Still, at some point, I will need to go back to more than just very, very part-part time work to help pay for college and the general costs of raising older children (cars, insurance, all 3 in orthodontia), and I have a hard time seeing how that will work.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

I can't think of 47 reasons why I love my husband

This week D turns 47.

Every year, I compose a letter to my kids on their birthdays, but that would be too hokey for the husband, so I thought I'd do a "Things I Love About My Husband" list.

I briefly considered "47 Things I Love About My Husband" but that is far too mentally taxing.  (There also might not be 47 things.)

What I do love about my husband is that he makes me laugh.

One of my habits that drives him batty is that I start a sentence and fail to finish it.  I suspect this is because I'm usually juggling 20 balls in the air at once (mine, N's, G's and M's).

He told me I'm like Darth Vader.

I guess some wives would find this insulting, but I thought it was really funny.

I love his weird dreams, too, which he can't really help, so maybe I shouldn't give him too much credit for them.  The other night he had a dream that he was putting a diaper on one of the kittens, but the only thing sticking out of the diaper was the kitten's head.  At the end of the dream he got so frustrated he went "Aghhhhhh!" and woke himself up.

I love it that my husband leaves me alone.
I probably would not have written this when I was in the "newlywed expect-to-be-up-in-each-others-faces-all-the-time" stage, but I really appreciate that he isn't clingy and doesn't call or text me unnecessarily (ever).  He just sorta lets me do my own thing.

I appreciate that he realizes when the Netflix queue has been too dude-heavy.
After a run of What We Do in the Shadows, Ant-Man and Chappie, he suggested I check the queue to pick some things I wanted to see.  I didn't dislike any of those films (and actually really dig Marvel films), but it was nice of him to remind me to pick some more literary fare for our viewing pleasure.  This past weekend was Terminator: Genisys, so I've got like 3 lined up.

So what is that?  Four things.

I'd say that is pretty good for a Monday and 18 years of marriage.