Thursday, September 30, 2010

Change of Plans

This is the time of week that I was going to write about a fun craft/game idea I had and implemented with my older daughter's Brownie troop but instead of having time to write that I spent the week tending to my feverish son, keeping him home from school Monday-Thursday with little hope that he will be able to attend on Friday, which incidentally is the end of the quarter. My boy needs more help with his schoolwork than my daughter does, so when he misses school it is more detrimental than it might be otherwise.

But I can't change it. He needs to stay home if he is sick. I don't appreciate when other parents send their sick kids to school so that mine might catch their illness, so I won't do it to others. It is frustrating though. I don't like seeing my kids sick and his sickness is one of those borderline sicknesses where his fever is just hovering at the low-grade end and disappears while the ibuprofen is working, returning like clockwork every 5-6 hours. So he feels great and fine for 4-5 hours at a time then crashes hard again.

His little sister doesn't understand that her usually boisterous all the time big brother doesn't feel well and that's why he is home. She wrestles him and picks at him until he's shouting at her to stop. Then she cries, confused at why he doesn't want to play. Then, an hour later he wants to play because the medicine is working. When it's nap time I know that my son is not feeling well because he consents to, and actually takes a nap. His little sister is again confused. This is a novelty that her brother is home and napping with her. She fights sleep in favor of trying to illicit her brother's giggles at her antics. Nap time has taken longer this week.

Despite the disruption to the routine we have managed to get some good cuddle time, I made some homemade soup, my two little kids have played together more than they have before (which was still quite often). My older daughter has been jealous that her brother gets to stay home and she has to go to school but I remind her that the break is coming. I also told her she could stay home if she took a nap. That clinched her desire to go to school!

I'm taking the Boy to the doctor today to see if perhaps he has an ear infection or something of the sort that would garner him some antibiotics and a prompter recovery. I almost hope that is the case just so he doesn't keep relapsing.

Besides, I bribed my kids to be good in school this quarter with a trip to the indoor water park in Owatonna, MN, and I want him to be healthy so he can enjoy his reward next week!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Helping Jar

Lately my kids (yes, all of them...even the 2-year-old) have spent a lot of time fighting just for the sport of it. I know a certain amount of disagreement and disharmony is normal with siblings but this has been reaching the point of being nearly unbearable. I hear "he/she hit me" "he/she looked at me" "he/she touched me/kicked me/stepped on me/pinched me/whateverelseakidcandotoanotherkid." I told my big kids a few times to just get it over with and hit one another until they bled. They refused of course and probably not the best thing to say to your kids but sometimes I think they need to be shocked into realizing what they are doing. "Go ahead and stand up and hit one another! Don't stop until you're both bleeding! Come on! Do it! You don't like one another anyway!"

"We like each other Mommy!" Doesn't seem like it to me.

I read something last week that sparked an idea. One woman made a "Brothers" bank. For us, it will be a "Family" bank or something like that. The idea is that whenever we catch the kids doing something nice for one another we put some money in a jar. The jar is banked for a long time and when the kids turn in their money they decide on something TOGETHER that we will do with the money.

My kids decided we needed a HUGE jar. It's a gigantic plastic jar that held 2 1/2 lbs of pretzels. I told the kids it would take a very long time to fill that jar if they didn't work extra hard to be helpful and nice to one another but they weren't swayed. I also told them that the jar, when filled, could potentially hold $1000 and could get us a nice vacation, membership at the Y, or any number of fun and exciting rewards.

My son immediately was willing to help his big sister. Whenever she asked him for help, he did it. My oldest, Miss M, will be more of a challenge. I hope she will come around. It will be fun to pay a few coins (I didn't set any amount...just coins...any coins) for my kids to be helpful to one another.

Fingers crossed that it works.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Earlier and Earlier

It seems that rites of passage arrive earlier and earlier with each generation, though I know kids used to get married much younger than we do now. I'm dealing with an 8-year-old who seems more like a 13-year-old with her attitude and moodiness and if you tell me that oh no that's totally normal and it's going to get 80 times worse I may just have to hang myself. I know for certain that my daughter is more physically advanced (shall we say?) than I was at eight. I know that kids are going through puberty earlier than we did. Is it because of the hormones given to the animals we eat?

It is really hard on my husband who had no sisters growing up and has absolutely no frame of reference on the subject. I have to teach him to let many things slide or this will truly be a battle zone. I am not looking forward to my son's puberty years though I had a brother he is older than I am and I'm pretty sure I was oblivious of the puberty issues, especially since he is 4 years older than I am.

I have been unprepared to deal with issues that have come up already in my just-turned-eight-in-July-year-old's life. I didn't know things I dealt with in Junior High (now called Middle School here) would show up in elementary school.

Is it just me? Or are kids really maturing faster than ever?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kids, Candy, and Money Management

This summer I decided to handle the candy thing a little differently.  There’s an old-fashioned candy store in the town where we spend our summers, see?  And when kids can buy candy for $.10, they are relentless.  And when their friends come to visit?  Oh yes.  All relentless.

So instead of fighting the sugar God, I decided to hand out cash.  In June.

“This,” I proclaimed, “is your money for the summer.  Mini-golf, lemonade, so much candy your teeth fall out…whatever you can buy,  it’s yours.”

“All of it?!”  They grinned from ear to ear.  They couldn’t believe their luck.

“Yep, until it’s gone.  And then, it’s gone.”

They’re not foolish, those children of mine.  They measured their options, weighed their choices, and loved not having to ask whether they were allowed to buy some candy every time a friend came to visit.  No one ever came asking for more.

I’m definitely going this route next year.

What about during the school year?  Can you share any tips that helps kids figure out how to manage their money--and not spend all of ours?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Our Little Baby is Growing Up

Visit 5 Minutes for Mom or Wordless Wednesday for more fun photos!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Messy Closet

Once upon a blue moon, my son and I organized his closet.  It was neat and tidy.  Puzzles on shelves, clothes hanging up (the ones he doesn't wear often), a box for give-away clothes, and a stack of hand-me-downs he might wear soon enough.

But then his brothers outgrew more clothes, and I added those to the growing heap. 

Next, my son decided he didn't want his puzzles on his shelf.  He wanted them on his dresser, and so he spent hours shifting them from one place to the other.  I haven't had the heart to ask him to put them back.

Of course, we added a new puppy to the family, and the puppy is extremely fond my my son's stuffed animals.  They're hiding on the floor in the closet now, too, next to some toys he decided he'd rather keep in there than in his toy bins.

In short, it's a mess!  

How will we handle it?

We've decided, my son and I, to have a pretend "we're moving" day.  We'll sort and shuffle and decide what stays and what goes.  We'll take everything out, paint the walls, and put thing back into a new spot.  His "new" room will force me to get rid of the old stuff and help him to find the right place for the new spot.  That's the idea, anyway.

The day hasn't been chosen yet, but I can tell I'm going to need some energy for this one!

So, any tips?  Have you gone this route before?  Am I nuts?!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Outdoor Adventures

What I hope:  I hope that I never lament the "good old days" when kids played outside in the summer.


To me, a complaint like this is akin to wondering why our kids drink too much soda (from our fridge) or watch too much TV (in our living room).

Maybe the cold of our Midwestern winters is what makes me get my kids (and myself) outside during the other three seasons.  Because, Lord knows, I am completely content to sit in front of the TV with my Diet Pepsi during the unbearable season of frostbite.  And yes, my kids drink soda, and yes, they watch TV.  Sometimes too much or too often, because, hey, we're just doing our best here and what fun would life be without a movie, Sprite and some hot wings?

But summer?  No.  In the summer we explore the great outdoors.  And there's hardly a scene I like better than this:

How about you?  What outside "adventure" do you most enjoy with your kids?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fall football eats

As we charge into football season, here are a few easy things I throw together for a buffet on game day:

Bruschetta (a good way to use the basil and tomatoes in your garden)
5-7 tomatoes diced
2 C loose leave Basil
2-3 green onions diced
2-3 garlic cloves roughly chopped
1/4 C olive oil
1 t Kosher salt

place basil in a food processor and chop for 30 seconds. add the rest of the ingredients and chop for an additional 30 seconds. serve on toasted french bread

shredded chicken

place 3-4 frozen chicken breasts in a crockpot for 3-4 hours. once cooked, shred with a fork. serve with a variety of sauces and deli rounds

2-3 ripe avocados
2 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno pepper
1 t kosher salt
juice from 1/2 a lime
1/8 cup diced tomatoes (optional)

chop and blend until desired consistency is reached. serve with tortilla chips

Cheer for your favorite team! Here we cheer for the Vikings, Gophers, and Ducks!

Thursday, September 16, 2010


L.A. breathed around me, always a breath ahead. I loved it - the beach, the weather, the smell of fall air - even though it wasn't that much different from winter air. It was this book that helped me find my way when I left L.A. for Oregon.

Johnson's tale of education left me on the edge. It left me looking for the place to sign up. It showed me that there was a place for me in the workforce - because I wasn't quite sure. Up until this time I tended bar and guarded lives. Both important - one I helped people drown, the other I prevented it. Both involved people, both involved teaching or guiding, and both gave me a love for humanity. Johnson, however, tapped into my creative side that lifeguarding and slinging drinks just couldn't satisfy.

Every day is different and yet, the same.

People need to know they are valued and loved first and foremost, before they will fulfill any classroom parameter. And I teach with this at the forefront of my mind.

It is a great read about compassion, healing, love, and heartache. It is a read full of truth too big to swallow, so it can merely be observed. It is full of the fodder I needed to push into education and say, "Indeed. Here am I, send me."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

fall morning

A perfect fall, back to school, morning sky.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Teacher's kids

I feel for both the boys. They are teacher kids. Which means their mother has no problem correcting other kids at the park. Which also means their mother has a mean and nasty stern look that sometimes comes out on its own accord. Which means I have to watch my p's and q's because my soapbox about education is long, wide, and tall.

We are facing major cuts in our district. We have a referendum up for election, and our community has such little faith in the current leadership that it isn't a guaranteed pass. If it doesn't pass, we will be asking for double the supplies next year, because we won't have a supply budget. If it doesn't pass, we will face taking out our own garbage at the end of the day because our maintenance staff will be, yet again, cut. If it doesn't pass we are looking at major cuts - choice schools, activities - all the extras that make school well rounded and, well, fun.

I'm with the voting populous, I'd like more communication and transparency about where the funds will go. I would like to know more without digging through crazy comments on the local newspaper's articles. I would love to see a true community effort to come together for our kids - all of our kids - because your kids become my kids when they enter my classroom. They matter, they education matters, and I'm having a hard time keeping my stern look reigned in as I look around at the disconnectedness of all involved parties. It would be great if we could put down our pointer fingers and look at the crisis of education period. If we could find a way to work together to ensure our community and our kids were educated equally and prepared to be part of our voting populous no matter what their future holds (college, business, trade school, etc. ). If we could put our personal vendettas away and look at our students as our kids and recognize they all need an education. They all need markers, and they all need a teacher mom's look looking our for them.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Okay, fine,I like work

I do. I really, really love my job. I can say that because it is September, a new beginning, a new school year. And teaching is a lot like labor. After time, we forget the pain and sign up to do it all over again.

But the benefits of my job are so large and vast. The benefits of my job are never in the immediate, but always in the return. The benefits of my job are the human faces and smiles I get to greet and talk to every day...and no matter how those faces acted toward their mama that morning, or what those smiling mouths screamed down the hallway moments before entering my room, they are delightful to be with for the closetoanhour each day.


I can say that, because it is September. And teaching is a lot like fish it smells and tastes rank by the end of it's life. But that too is just right. I SHOULD want to throw out my students by the end of the year. It should be time for them to move on and put their skills and knowledge to the test.

Which they did this year.

They sent me emails telling me about all the new analyzing they were applying to their everyday world. They came back at the beginning of the year to say, "hey." which translates to, "I dig that you dug me and put up with me on my worst days and still thought I was worth your time."

And that is why I love my job.

The benefits are out of this world.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Parenting: I think I'm doing it right, actually.

Sometimes I really wonder how damaged my kids will be when they grow up because I lost my cool at how long it takes them to make faces in the bathroom mirror before they actually brush their teeth. I joke with my friends about "well, that's why you save for therapy, Amiright? Ha ha, hee hee!"
But sometimes I worry. Like at 2am, when insomnia has made me her bitch once again, and I can't seem to shut off my brain. Well, and also because my husband made me watch Inglorious Basterds right before bed, and who wants to fall asleep after that? Not me.

Anyway. Parenting. I often worry I'm doing it totally wrong. And then every once in a while, I get a little brush with how I must be doing it pretty well, at least some of the time.
Like tonight, getting ready for bed. We spent a large portion of this holiday weekend cleaning up around the house, cutting back trees and bushes, overseeding the yard. I also spent some time indoors, doing laundry, excavating my way through to the playroom, sifting through size 6x T-shirts and shorts to be handed down or tossed, etc. The boys got into the swing of it, too, and took down old stuff from their bulletin boards in their bedrooms to make way for the piles of new stuff. Stuff I had brought from the towering stack of papers that had been living in my kitchen since school was out last May. My oldest, now ten, took down a Sports Illustrated for Kids centerfold of Alex Rodriguez and gently set it aside. He shares a birthday with ARod, but that's about the only thing they have in common. The kid doesn't even play baseball.

"Buddy," I said, "if you don't want that anymore just throw it away."
"Someone might want it. Lots of kids like Alex Rodriguez."
"I know, bud, but it's from last year, he doesn't even have those stats anymore, it's obsolete."
"Mom! I bet there are lots of poor kids who don't have any posters who look up to him and would love a poster like this. I can't just throw it away!"

Just when I think nobody is looking, they are getting it. When I stop and pick up someone else's empty cup on the ground and put it in the trash, even though they don't look up from their DS game, they make some kind of mental note in the back of their brains, back behind How To Reload A Nerf Gun Magazine On The Fly. When I take them to Harvesters to sort apples, or I mention that I am serving lunch at a food kitchen, they are absorbing. When I walk out my front door with an extra leash and try and capture the neighbor's dog who has broken through a weak spot in the fence, they see me. When I tell them, many months ago, that we are going to donate an entire bin of toys to kids who don't have any, start sorting what you want to keep and what you are willing to part with, they understand. And they kind of enjoy it.

When my kids are adults, they may have some memories of me screaming at them, exasperated, to please put on their shoes and get in the car so we can make it to soccer practice, maybe only a few minutes late. Do you have your shinguards? A ball? A water bottle? No I don't know where your cleates are, they aren't mine, you are old enoughtokeeptrackofyourownshoes maybeifyouputthemawaywheretheyaresupposedtogoyouwouldn'thavethisproblem ohmyGodgetinthedamncar.

But I'm hoping that if they think of these things, they will think of them in between the doing, the acting, the loving and supporting and volunteering and being responsible that I've tried to display myself. I'm hoping my actions will linger longer, and louder, than my words.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Homeschool or Public School? A book review.

Over the last 4-5 years I have wondered if I had the stuff to be a homeschooling mother. Most of the time my honest answer with myself is a resounding "no" but that doesn't make me stop toying with the idea. I miss my kids when they're gone at school. Homework is a frustratingly repetitive activity and I know it's only going to get worse. I can't for the life of me figure out why the kids have to do homework when they've just spent 6 hours at school working. Most of the homework is just busy work anyway.

My intrigue about homeschooling was peaked a bit more after I read a book about a mom who took one of her children out of public school for a single year and home schooled her for that year. Her daughter was in 5th grade when she interrupted her public education, and her daughter was extremely frustrated with homework. She was a free-spirited child who loved nature and dreaming...probably like most kids until they get beat down by homework.

I read Love in a Time of Homeschooling: A Mother and Daughter's Uncommon Year when the publisher sent it to me to review. So full disclosure: I got the book for free. But I really found the book fascinating, and can really see the benefits and drawbacks of both public education and homeschooling. The thing I found most comforting about this book is that this parent recognized what one of her children needed to be able to go on with her education. She needed a year of exploring her own interests in depth and in her own way. She also recognized that her other two children were perfectly happy and thriving in public school.

So that is what I really got out of this book. I know, for now, my kids are thriving and content where they are, but I now know that if that changes, I have options and I won't be afraid to use them.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back to School

My kids have been back to school since July 28. They attend a "year round" school. The early start back kind of stinks but I love the breaks during the school year. We take photos on the first day of the school year and on that last. They change so much! (M is in third grade this year and K is in first grade)