Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A new project for a New Year

I'm really excited to start a new joint-venture project, with my friend Terri, at the start of 2009. The idea came from a post Terri had seen about two friends who lived at opposite ends of the country and shared a photo blog. You can see the book that resulted from their efforts HERE. Its a very cool idea, and both Terri and I have a love of photography so we thought it might be an interesting project for us as well. You can see our blog here. We hope to upload a photo (each of us, so 2 pictures per day) of something we see in our lives. I hope to refrain from the urge to photograph things like a messy sink or the dust bunnies that are larger than life, but no promises. Terri and I share so many commonalities, and yet our worlds are so different. This will be quite interesting... stay tuned!!

Christmas has come and gone, and the hours of 2008 are dwindling. I'm finally feeling better, thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, and can fully partake in enjoying the last week of vacation with the family. The house is still buried under Ghosts of Christmas Presents, but I think we have a much better handle on it all than we did a few days ago.

We have lots to look forward to in the start of 2009. First, is the visit of one of my oldest friends, Angie. The last time she was in Scottsdale, she and her husband were here for a potentially life-saving operation for their son, Evan. This time.. its all for fun!!! I'm an only child, but am blessed to have two women in my life that I consider to be my un-biological sisters.. and Angie is one of them.

Then, Steve's parents will hopefully arrive shortly after that. Warren is on full time oxygen now, after a nasty case of pneumonia compromised his lung function. They are still planning to drive and sound as though very little will stand in their way of coming out here!

And.... my own calendar turns with the annual one. When the door closes on 2008, it will also close on a decade for me. I turn 40 with the new year, and will honestly say that I am extremely excited about it. I can't put my finger on why, exactly - most women dread turning the big FOUR-OH... but I think it will be a blast.

I hope that you and yours have a most wonderful new year... that 2009 brings prosperity, health, laughter and love to us all ... in abundance.

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

I got tagged... so here you go...

Directions: You have to write a note with 16 random things, shortcomings, facts, habits or goals about you. At the end choose 16 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you.

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, leave me comments & choose 16 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you and/or I thought you might actually respond to this silly waste of time.

1. My favorite thing to do currently, is play on Facebook. Perhaps this makes me shallow or silly, but so be it!.
2. I am a political moderate with social tendencies toward the democrats and fiscial tendencies toward the republicans. Basically, I will never be politically happy.
3. I always wanted to be a something.. it changed too much as a kid for there to be one defining thread.
4. I watch more football than any other sport, but its GOT to be college football, or forget it.
5. TV commercials make me look frantically for the fast forward button.
6. I'm dreading my next dental visit.
7. I have a terrible fear of snakes, falling, and vomiting children.
8. I haven't seen any of the 2008 Best Picture nominees - even to date!
9. I used to love red wine but now it hates me and makes me feel miserable. I miss it.
10. I finally stopped biting my nails when I was 35.
11. I could spend all year in the water, assuming its a beach and an ocean at the other end. Sorry - a lake just won't do.
12. I'm afraid I'll get sick and not be able to see my kids grow up.
13. Sometimes I wish I had all the money I needed. That never seems to happen tho - even for those who make 10x what I make...
14. I can read an entire book in one evening. Even big ones..
15. I have a terrible fear of something happening to me or my kids.
16. My life has turned out more or less how I expected it to - only on a very different time table.

From this, I tag Meredith, Nancy, Terri, Brenda, Karyn (yes.. this means you need to blog!), Angie, Brandon, Derek, Tammi, Garfield, Jenn, Robyn, Chrissy, Fred, Kathy, Rachel, and Beth.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Please enjoy the Twitter-feeds while Sam's brain takes a vacation...

Thank goodness for Twitter, or both of you who check out my blog would have had nothing to look at in nearly a month!! Sorry about that everyone...its always crazy between Thanksgiving and New Years. 2008 is no exception!

In the last month, the headlines have included: getting the official notification that I passed the Language Arts test, meaning I can now legally teach a Language Arts class, attending 2 musical concerts, both with Parker in performance, receiving the nod from the admin at my school to teach an 8th grade Language Arts class starting when we get back (taking over a class 1/2 way thru the year.. this could be interesting!), and then there was word that came thru email and Facebook notices that my high school was being sued for harassment and discrimination.

I sort of went off on a tirade for a bit about that last part, and when the holidays are over and I have time to think, I will share with you my thoughts, far removed from the situation as they are, about the whole mess.

There has been lots happening, but it has also been a crazy-buys time. I promise to update the world of the Arizona Jensens very soon!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

An athlete, I am not...

But, I'm trying. Someone, a friend of mine, made a comment about how my daily "runs" have turned into "walks" and questioned what was up with that. (yeah.. I'm talking to YOU.. YOU know who you are.... Uh Huh... that's right!! See where any off-handed remark can lead?? You are now responsible for a blog post - hope you are happy with yourself!)

I try to be somewhat athletic. I try because I know if I don't that I will be overcome by the Battle of the Midlife Bulge, and I will loose. So, I continue to get up at the crack of O'mygoditsearly and do something. Admittedly, I have lagged a bit from trying to regain my stamina from earlier this summer. But I am just one of those people for whom no good deed goes unpunished... the more I try to do for myself, exercise wise, the more I get hurt! Last year it was my foot and a nasty case of Plantar Faciatis, and now it is my shins. Shin splints are not fun and I seem to get them with relative ease. So, when the shins started to sting a bit, I knew it was time to do 2 things... 1) slow it down and 2) buy new shoes. You'd think the second one, with me being of the female persuasion and all, would be a delight. Pumps are a delight - cute, sexy little slingbacks are a delight. Running shoes are NOT a delight... they are a necessity like groceries.

But - today, before the delight of 165 minutes of Hugh Jackman on a larger than life screen before my eyes, I went to the local running store and bought a new pair of running shoes. And a flashy-thingy for my arm so I can be seen in the darkness of O'mygoditsearly since clearly I cannot be seen and was nearly hit a week or two ago by some idiot. And I got some gloves because finally, after months and months of waiting, its getting cold.

So, today, I stepped it up a bit and ran out, walked back home. Tomorrow - no excuses - new shoes, running.... See - take that "walking"!!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I'm not ready for the Christmas music yet!!

The turkey is done, a big pot of chili is cooking on the stove as I type, and everywhere I go I am hearing Christmas music. From the moment we don the Halloween costumes, it is full steam ahead to the new year... so I suppose that whooshing sound I hear is time passing me by.

We had a very nice Thanksgiving... hope all you reading this (all 5 of you!) did as well. For those who were concerned that perhaps I had killed a member of the administration for the horrible class list they gave me for sex-ed can rest assured that I made it through. And, if truth be told, it was not all that bad... but SHHH - don't tell anyone I work with - I still have a huge sympathy card to play out! The kids were decent and I survived to teach it another year. Yipee...

I was at the grocery store today buying all the necessities for a good pot of home made chili and the music being piped into the store was Christmas carols. Neighbors are putting up lights. Some have the whole scene ready to go... even my mom has her tree up. Me? I'm SO not ready.. I realize Thanksgiving was late this year and time's a-wasting but ACK - I'm not ready for it to be Christmas yet. That means only like 13 days of teaching left - and that means all my kids have to endure another round of benchmark testing and I'm not ready yet!! How does this happen? I've had 9 weeks to plan out my quarter and now I am scrambling... feels like college end of semester all over again!! I guess old habits do die hard!

So, its been a nice break, this Thanksgiving holiday... 4 days off. Ahhhh - it was needed! I've been able to even get a nap in nearly each day so far, and can see it happening again tomorrow!! However, I have also walked 12 miles so far, done 6 loads of laundry, shampooed the carpets throughout the house, steam cleaned the floors, scrubbed the bathrooms (eeewwww), windexed all the mirrors, changed the sheets on the beds, washed all the sheets and made a pot of chili.

And someone called this a 'vacation'?? Really??

Friday, November 21, 2008

Are they TRYING to get me to quit??? One wonders...

I didn't protest (much) when the admin made me teach elementary kids. I didn't protest (again, much) when forced to teach 4 preps a day. I actually welcomed taking on the regular education math class. I know it is totally messed up, but over all I am OK with teaching 3 subjects to 4th graders, a self-contained Language Arts class, an LRC support class where I support all 4 subjects, and Math for 6th grade. Its a lot - but its fine.

THIS - however, is NOT fine. This is not, in any way, shape or form, OK. How on earth I got saddled with this is beyond me. I want to ask what I did to really make someone angry or should I just take the hint that they want me to quit???

Every year, as a district, we have to teach Human Growth & Development. Sex-ed to you and me... Its an abstinence based program, pretty mild but still... its difficult material and it makes the kids all goofy and giggly and hormone-crazed for days. In short, we try, whenever possible, to make sure HG&D coincides with either a weekend or a vacation.

I've always taken 'one for the team' so to speak, and have volunteered to teach the boys. I have 3 boys, I will never have to give the "period" talk to a daughter - seemed fitting. I'm also a 6th grade teacher, so I have, typically, worked with the 6th graders. And, as a team, we have always tried to even out the pile - group some of the more 'challenging' kids with some quieter kids rather than dump all the rabble-rousers into one room.

So, I take today off. It was a well deserved and much needed day off. I check, against my better judgement, my work email to find "the list" of kids for HG&D. I suspected that I would be forced to have 8th graders - I had put my protest about this down in writing yesterday and heard nothing back from the administration, so I could only assume they pretended to not see it... BUT THIS??

Not only do I have 35 8th grade boys, which is hell on earth enough by itself, but they gave me every single delinquent in the 8th grade. EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM!!! These are kids who, everyone knows, cannot be in SCIENCE or ART together because of their behavior, but they think it is OK to put them in a room with ME when we are talking about puberty and sex glands and such????? REALLY?? And what, you may ask, did they do to the teacher who gets the other group of boys?? Yeah - the MALE teacher teaching 8th grade HG&D gets the gifted, National Junior Honor Society boys.

I'm seeing red, I tell you... I sent a very carefully worded email to the admin. If they do not change this roster, I will exercise my right to refuse to teach the class. Am I seriously not dumped on ENOUGH already??? GEESH! There's got to be an easier way to make a buck these days!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In the absence of Fall...

The desert is never about middle ground. We have some of the tallest mountains in the Southwest right next to some land ridiculously below sea level. We seem to be all about the extremes here... from our landscape to our weather to the conspicuous consumption I see all around this town, even in the current turmoil of economic uncertainty. I marvel every year at how we go from having the AC on one day, to needing the heat on the next.

Its happened again... welcome to Winter in the desert. Sure, it will get colder, wetter and may even grace us with a flake to two (which brings Scottsdale to a comical HALT) than it is now, but we have turned the corner... and I, for one, can breathe a sigh of relief.

But there is something nice about those two beautiful transition seasons - fall and spring. They prepare us, the tease us just a bit, and they lay the ground work for us to say good bye to one season and get ready for the next. Sure, there's a misstep every now and then, like the day I remember coming home from school before Halloween, and seeing my neighbor DeeDee Boyle dashing to a car, covering herself to protect her from the VERY wet snow that was falling... Or the time my friend from middle school and I were taking pictures of each other in sundresses and sandals in January, when the temperature reached a balmy 61*. But usually, the seasons beckon us, gradually, allowing us to get used to the change and accept it.

Not here... one day, its 98*, the next, its 88*, and the next, its 68*. BLAMO - just like that. From flip flops to cashmere sweaters within a week. Kind of makes your head spin, just a bit!

Monday, November 10, 2008

And the world keeps on spinning

The velocity of the earth must be getting faster... the passage of time can certainly NOT have anything to do with my age, right? We blew through Halloween and are staring Thanksgiving down the barrel. Holy smokes - Christmas is right around the corner, then its 2009.... WOAH.. gotta slow it down a bit and enjoy the passage of time (rather than hear it whizzing by my head!)

The boys had originally told me, back in September, that they did not really want to go trick or treating this year. Huh?? The all-American holiday that pays homage to sugar and trans-fats? And they don't want to participate? I knew they would eventually change their minds, so I went along with a simple "Ok, if this is what you want, just realize that you can't change your mind last minute". I got a "We won't" in response.

Guess what they did about 10 days before Halloween?? Yup - changed their minds and wanted to go out. So, quick thinking and a phone call to my own personal Martha Stewart (Thanks Libbet!) we had some good ideas for home-made costumes. Admittedly, I found something simply adorable and irresistible for Christopher, so I had already stocked that one away.

We were originally going to get together with a friend from swim lessons, Asher, and his family to watch the USC v. Washington game, but the day was going to be crazy, so we decided to do Halloween instead... everyone had a delightful time, the older boys took to escorting Asher and Christopher around while the moms tagged behind for safe measure... it was probably one of the best Halloweens on record.. at least, for us!

Now we are headlong into November. I had my big, huge State test on Saturday so I can breathe a big sigh of relief, unless I didn't pass it in which case I get to try again. Hopefully by mid-December, I will have my results.

The air has started to cool, but I still hear the air conditioning click on occasionally. I refuse to turn on the heat while we still need the AC, so mornings in the house are becoming a tad chilly. Its amazing how, over the course of 3 days, we cam move from summer to winter.

I'm not feeling particularly poetic or verbose tonight - just wanted to give a quick update and share the following... how cute were our little monsters??

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Musings from a homesick Yankee

One of the aspects of Facebook that I enjoy is that there are folks from all over the world who come to chat with friends, play games, and widen their little corner of the world. Kinda cool... we all speak the same language - makes talking with each other easier (except for a few terms that are country-specific!)

Some were asking what things are like here either in the USA or specifically Arizona. Many can wax poetic verses about the beauty they find in their corner of the world, and I find it discouraging that I can't do the same. I must be honest; I find little beauty in the desert. Maybe that is one reason I feel such a strong pull to leave.

Sure - there are areas that are lovely, yes there are areas where, at sunset, you simply cannot deny the existence of God for all the brilliant colors that flood your sight. But for the most part, what I see is dry, brown, lifeless. These pictures off to the side are about the only colorful flora we have around here! (the furry-looking one? I must admit that one is my favorite. When the sun hits it just right, it is really quite something to see!) Now, yes, Spring is another story, with all the desert plants in bloom but really, for most of the year - this is about how it looks.

What I miss is color. Really vivid color. Fall is, to me, all about the crispness of the air, the rustle of leaves loosing their color and vibrancy and falling gracefully to the ground. It is the smell of those first few fall nights, when folks put logs in the long-neglected fire places and the aroma of burning wood is carried across rooftops and through neighborhoods.

Fall is about the color of the trees, changing from an emerald green to brilliant jewel tones, the landscape transforming before your eyes. It is the crunch under your feet of leaves, or even perhaps an early frost. It is long pants, and long sleeved shirts and layering clothing to accommodate very chilly mornings and Indian Summer afternoons. It is about the Head of the Charles boat races in Boston, and McIntosh apples and honey-butter corn that is available for only a few short weeks. It is the home made apple cider and pumpkin patches that are really pumpkin patches, not lots like we have here, with all the pumpkins trucked in from elsewhere.

Fall, to me.... is this....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Righteous Indignation, Part Deux

My rant of the week needs a bit of back story for it to be fully understood. In short, No Child Left Behind has asked schools to assess the begeezus out of students. We test them, and then our schools are ranked according to how well our students do on these tests. Our schools base their "label", also require by NCLB, on these test scores. So, in order to be an "Excellent" school, you have to meet certain criteria for a certain percentage of your students meeting and exceeding the standards and watch things like enrollment. This in itself is problematic and troublesome, but wait, it gets better.

Teachers make squat for pay; this is a well documented fact. Most other professionals with equal amounts of education make generally at least 1/2 again as much as teachers. For example, if a teacher makes $40K and has a Masters' Degree, most other professionals with a Masters' Degree would make $60K. Ok, fine, we don't get into teaching to get rich.

But someone thought we should reward good teachers for their performance, and the disaster called Pay-For-Performance was born. In Arizona, it is tied to Proposition 301. We get some of this money in our paychecks and we are supposed to 'earn' the rest by participating in what we call our SIP, or our Site Improvement Plan. Participate, and you get the extra money. Mind you, you don't get it until the start of the new school year, so you have to be sure to return to your school, or at least stay in your district.

So, each school has to devise their SIP yearly. As a school, they look at the data presented to them from last year's scores and they make decisions on academic focus in order to keep moving toward the goal of having every child at grade level in all areas (a goal, by the way, that is virtually impossible to attain, but I digress)

I will admit that I have been a bit out of the SIP loop this year. I have not attended the meetings I was supposed to attend, whatever, so called another teacher today for clarification as to this year's SIP goal and what part I needed to play.

This year, we are hand picking specific kids to use as a sort of research project, for lack of a better term. Our SIP goal will focus on working with a specific group of kids in Expository Text, meaning helping them master non-fiction works; newspaper articles, biographies, reports and so forth. Fine - not the most exciting thing about reading to teach, but alright - I can get on board with that.

What I cannot tolerate, however is WHO we are choosing as our subjects. The AIMS is tiered out into 4 grading levels: Falls Below, Approaches, Meets and Exceeds standards. Meets means you have mastered the grade level material. Approaches means, well, that you approach grade level. Exceeds, then by default, means you are above grade level. It is hard to get a student who falls below to meet, but it is really not too much of a stretch to get a student who approaches to actually meet standards.

But, in order for us to maintain our "EXCELLING" label, we need to move MORE kids from Meets to Exceeds. We are not going to spend our time and resources helping the struggling kids make it to grade level... nope... we will hand pick students who are on the cusp of exceeding standards and develop specific plans to help them make that move.

Does anyone else see a problem with this?

Oh, that's right - this is coming from the district that repeatedly refers to things as the "First Annual"... Dingbat - you can't call something ANNUAL until it has happened at least ONCE already!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Just call me Macguiver...

When I decided to start running oh-so-many years ago *(like, what?? 2.5??) I thought that it would be simple. Me, a good pair of shoes, maybe some good tunes... I swear it takes me longer to get ready to go out for what passes for a run NOW than it would for me to actually get in my car and drive to the gym!!

There's the shoes, which is the easy part, except it is getting close to needing a new pair, and I hate shopping for shoes about as much as I hate shopping for bathing suits.

Then come all the THINGS I feel the need to take with me. Music is a necessity. I tried running once without it and the sound of my own heavy breathing convinced me it was time to turn around and go home. I think I had covered about 1/2 a mile...

I also have to take something to drink. My body is extremely finicky and if I manage to get too dehydrated (which is easy to do in the desert!) I get a migraine and we all know how much I love that!

Lately, since I lost my little iPod with the Nike+ thingy, I have been woefully unaware of the little things like exactly how far and how slow, um, I mean, fast I have been going.

Then, because the sun is getting lazy around here, I have to make sure I have something reflective on, so I rummage through my closet for my light weight reflective shirt and my hat with the reflective thingys in the back.

So picture is - I have the big ole' iPod strapped to one arm, my GPS thingy on my other arm, and a water bottle in my hand, OH - and we cannot forget GUM!! I cannot run without gum in my mouth for some reason I have yet to discover.... I can't chew gum at other times for more than about 2 minutes, but can't run without it....

So much for it being just me and the road.....

Friday, October 17, 2008

Eegads - another 2 weeks bite the dust

So much for my effort to keep posting each week. Sorry folks - please remember you can follow me on Twitter to catch my day to day ramblings!

Kids; doing well. Report cards came today. Parker got all A's and a B+. Matthew got all O's (which are the primary equivalent of As). Yes - we are pleased as punch! Parker has regressed a bit with the whole sleep-thing. Since this summer, he has suffered from insomnia and it freaks him out a bit when he cannot get to sleep. Guess I don't really blame him for being spooked, but it is hard to sympathize when he dashes in and wakes us up from a sound sleep. Clearly, my emphatic pleading that he who sleeps WINS have fallen on deaf ears. Matthew continues to grow like a very happy weed! We went through their winter clothes last week when the temperatures dipped below 80* for a few days and discovered neither boy had ANY PANTS to wear! None - zippo! Even the pants I purchased last year (too big, mind you) in hopes for the fall are too short. I don't have boys, I have giants!

Christopher - well, he continues to be cute and adorable and BIG. Last check, he could wear his brothers' shorts from last summer (size 6!!) and is busting out of his size 12 crocs. He has a toy on the fridge - Fridge Phonics - that has taught him how to spell several 3-letter words. Note to self - shameless product plug here... want to write a letter to the folks over at LeapFrog who produce Fridge Phonics. See, there are some 3-letter words in the english language that are really more like 4-letter words. This toy will, gleefully, announce the letters you used and then speak out loud the word you made. Except, when it stumbles upon these questionable words, it does NOT speak them out. It will tell you the sounds each letter make, but it will not, for example, speak out loud S-E-X or A-S-S. Kudos to LeapFrog!!

School is fine - I am completely insane and have taken on another 'pet project'. Last quarter, it was my goal to organize and inventory all the literature we had on the middle school campus. It took several weeks, but I got it done. Yeah Me! Now, I want to put together a literary magazine highlighting the works and efforts of our students. I've pitched the idea, and it has been widely received. Now, we just need to find a way to put it into action!!

Facebook continues to take up a tremendous amount of my time, and I am having a fabulous time finding and then reconnecting with old friends. I'm even making a few new ones along the way. It is nice to be able to communicate with folks when it is convenient for YOU, (such as in email) and to be able to read these quick Twitter-ish updates that make you feel connected. I wish more folks were on Facebook.... It would certainly allow me to ease up on the contents of the Christmas Letter!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Happy October!

The air is beginning to cool and remind us of why nearly 6million people choose to live in Arizona! We woke this morning to 66* and have been able to turn OFF the air conditioning, at least down stairs! On bended knee I thank the good Lord above for the strength to make it through another summer in Arizona. Of course, it is not totally over yet - we are supposed to be back up into the 90s again this week, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

We have had quite the interesting week around here. Weeks before vacation always seem to have more in store for you than your average week, at least when you are a teacher or a parent. Last week's entertainment began when I received a phone call, somewhat distressed, from the boys while I was on my way home from work. There was a "black worm" in the bathroom. Sorry guys - don't touch it - I will be home soon. Not much I can do from the comfort of the car! Long story short, it was not so much a worm, as a baby snake. Those of you who know me well can imagine how calm and rational I was at the thought of a snake in my bathroom. For those of you who may not be so intimately cognizant of my behavior around things without visible means of transport (read = legs) let's just say that this snake was in fact about 2 or 3" long, noodle thin and clearly in distress. And let's say that most normal mortal souls would be able to rid their house of such vermin with ease - NOT ME... No, I had to call the 17yr old neighbor boy to come get it out of the house, promising him that he was allowed to laugh at me for the remainder of time!

I've been spending altogether way too much time on Facebook again. It is really my new addiction. That, and the banana chocolate Vivanos at Starbucks!! One of the things I love about it (besides the cyber-horse-racing) is finding old friends. That's really the purpose of these social networking sites, in my opinion... and it has been really wonderful to find old friends from high school and college. I remember having conversations with my friends at SC; we'd look around and wonder - which of us will "make it big". One of my friends won an Emmy for directing (Shout out to Greg Yaitanes for directing the winning HOUSE episode)and another one received the Canadian equivalent for musical score (shout out to BRANDON WALKER!) Another group of talented Trojans!!!

We are on break for the next week. October break is a really wonderful psychological marker - it means we have made it through the first quarter of school. The first and the last quarters are the hardest. All things being equal, the next two quarters should be pretty smooth. It is only after our high-stakes testing is done that we have a hard time reigning the kids in.

Oh- and one more thought before I leave you all for the week... Some behaviors we think are learned. Mooning, for example. Someone must have to teach you to stick your tush in someone else's face, right? There is just no way that could come 'naturally' is there??

Well, ladies and gents - I give you CHRIS..... Yes, some things DO in fact come naturally!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Update from the desert

where it continues to remain over 100* despite the date on the calendar. Someone forgot to tell Mother Nature that FALL means is cools down. Or, maybe the rest of the civilized world knows it, and she just forgot about us.

Everyone here is well; the boy with the glass in his head is healing nicely. The scar is visible, but really not too bad. You have to look closely to see it unless he has been out in the sun too much.

Parker is Parker; other than the size of his shoes (which he seems to outgrow weekly) not much changes with him. His grades are really good, he seems to be enjoying playing the Bass and reports to having a 'girlfriend', although he cannot yet define what that means.

Christopher learns new words and phrases daily, and seems to keep the ones that make us laugh the most. He has taken to calling me "Samantha" and says it with such a twinkle in his eye that you just KNOW he is wanting to get a rise out of me. I think he has a bit of a clue just how cute he is, and that could mean hell for us all later on!!! (For example, right now he is sitting next to me singing Joe Jackson - no joke!)

Steve has been busier than usual lately with work, needing to head down to Tucson for a Saturday presentation and that sort of thing. The troubles with the economy have not been kind to school districts and local towns with regard to budget, so he is working harder to make fewer sales right now, but he is certainly not alone there!

School for me continues to be a source of constant turmoil. I was so excited at the start of the year that I had some really great kids and good schedule. I am now teaching a class I never anticipated teaching (6th grade Math) and have been told that I will also start servicing some 1st and 2nd graders. This means I will be "prepping" for (3) 1st grade subjects, (3) 2nd grade subjects, (2) 4th grade subjects, (4) 6th grade subjects, (1) 8th grade and (1) 7th grade subject. I've been told this is the way things go in special ed, to which I reply "Yes, so I see, and this is exactly why I want OUT of special ed!!"

Maybe someday.... maybe someday!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Rant du Jour

I wanted to have a really catchy title for this one. Unfortunately, I have been unable to make a really clean analogy; been unable to get across the exact point I wish to make. What I have so far is this:

NCLB and HQT have done for student for achievement what the Pinto (Gremlin, Crown Victoria, etc) did for passenger safety.

I like the overall analogy, but I am afraid my point will be lost on the majority.

There is nothing new in the notion that education in America is in a crisis situation. We have been here for years. In fact, if memory serves, we were in this crisis when I was in elementary school... and we all know how long ago that was. So, this "crisis" is nothing new.

What is new (thanks, George) is the preponderance of legislation and requirements put forth that are supposed to fix the problem, but in fact make several more layered upon each other.

Legislators seem to think that students are widgets. One blanket regulation, one standardized test will ensure success for all. Unfortunately, the truth is not that simple. Not by a long shot.

NCLB, with its offspring HQT, have, I would argue, NOT improved the quality of the classroom nor of the teacher in that classroom. Case in point: at my school, I have a fantastic math teacher. She is not only well respected by her peers and loved by her students, she has received accolades for her teaching from several organizations, both local and national. By all accounts, THIS woman is the gal you want teaching your child Algebra and Pre-algebra. In fact, for years, she taught the Algebra class in middle school, for high school credit. Heck, one year she even had a class of Trigonometry.

So, what did she need to be a HQT for this job? (And HQT stands for Highly Qualified Teacher, in case your cheat-sheet for educational jargon is on your office desk) Well, she needed to pass about 3 different State tests, have a degree in education and have 15 years of experience under her belt.

This is the kind of person we want in our math classes, is it not? Someone who is passionate, who is talented and who reaches the students? One who has proven herself time and time again that she gets kids to achieve in math...

Ladies and Gentleman of the blog - I'd like you to guess what she is teaching this year.... Go on.... Guess....

No, I am sorry - you guessed wrong... the most highly qualified Math teacher I have had the pleasure of knowing is NOT in fact teaching math this year, but rather Language Arts. No - she did not ask for the move...

Why the change? Because some suit somewhere decided to change the rules in the spirit of improving our classrooms. Some bureaucrat in an office, who has NEVER seen the inside of a public school, decided that we needed another test. One that we give to HIGH SCHOOL teachers. One that focuses on Geometry and Calculus in order for this teacher to teach a class for high school credit... an honor, by the way, we are not mandated to offer (or were not mandated to offer until this spring).

So who has taken charge of those students who were supposed to be in her class? Well, a teacher who passed the test for high school, but whose former school did not have a place for her to return this year (which speaks volumes given the ever-present teacher shortage) and who, by all accounts, is killing her students slowly with an overall lack of enthusiasm and understanding of the middle-schoolers mind.

So, Yes, ladies and gentlemen... Applaud the overabundance of regulations hitting today's teachers like a knife in the back and rest easy because tomorrow's leaders will be so much better prepared than was your generation, or mine....

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Christopher turns 3!!

Chris's actual birthday night was awash is mayhem, and the day had started out with Chris having Croup, so his celebration was put on hold for a week. Not that he knew any different...

We had a family over for cake; their son Asher and Christopher became buddies during the summer at swim lessons... and Chris is just a little bit in love with Asher's little sister, Zoe!!

Some things are better left to the imagination!

Quick update on Matthew; He's doing great! Surgery lasted about 40 minutes, they removed all the glass, he took the rest of that day off, but was back to school on Friday. He can't swim for 10 days and needs to stay out of PE for a week, but other than that, no restrictions. The doctors found not one, but THREE pieces still stuck under the skin. And, because this was a plastic surgeon we saw, she did her best to make sure the scar will be minimal; she removed the old scar tissue from the ER stitches so when all is said and done, we will probably barely see the scar at all!! Many thanks to everyone for their kind words and good wishes!! Even knowing he'd be totally fine, it is still scary when your child goes under anesthesia!

So, now for my daily EEEWWWW discovery! This goes right along with my black-light purchase which revealed just what a prolific marker my male dog really is...He is so good, infact, that I cannot keep up. Being blessed with the nose of a bloodhound, meaning I can smell a poopy diaper from 50yards, it was getting hard for me to walk through the upstairs hallway without holding my breath.

My first thought was to call Stanley Steamer to the rescue. It has only been since May that they were here last- a whole long summer indoors with all the kids has not been kind to my carpets. My second thought was the nearly $400 bill that would go with their visit.

Then it hit me: EUREKA!! My mom has a carpet cleaner!! A nice, loud, Bissel or something - I will borrow hers!!! YIPEE - Money saved, pee-stains soon history!

LOVE the carpet steamer - LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT - its NOT quite as good a professional cleaning, but it does a great job. I cleaned not only the upstairs where the dog's favorite hidden corner is, but the living room, dining room, Steve's office and then the family room rug.

And that is where I was so pleased to have a very strong stomach. OH MY STARS.... I though it was relatively clean because we vacuum the dang thing nearly every day.

MUD. What the cleaner was picking up was absolute mud. It took 4 tanks and several passes to make the gunk being picked up look more like river water than mud, and I was still picking up copious amounts of dirt...

We must be truly filthy people - if not by what we track in, by what we have been living with!! I could have gladly lived all my days and not seen what we pulled from that rug. YUCK!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Update on the boy with the glass head...

Matthew has been a trouper about the gash in his head. He took it easy from PE for a few days, he was brave as can be getting the stitches out, and has been great about letting me put both anti-scar-cream on it as well as copious amounts of sunscreen.

Well, last Monday, he flinched as I was putting the anti-scar-cream on his head. At that moment, I remembered that he had also complained a few times that he thought there was a cut well into his hair line. I'd search and search but found nothing. Except... there was a lump near the scar, above it, just under his hair line.

Oh geez - It couldn't be?? Could it?

Yup - a visit to the doc, plus one to the x-ray lab showed he StILL has a rather large piece of glass IN HIS HEAD!

This led to a meeting with a plastic surgeon (why his ped can't just go get it is beyond me, but he can't so off we go). He will have a short surgery on Thursday, under anesthesia, to remove what is left of the original fishbowl.

Hopefully, THIS will be the last time someone we have to cut into this kid's head!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Open House, take 1

In an effort to reduce crowding both on campus and in the parking lot, my sons' school has several open house nights. Tonight was Parker's night. I left the boys with Steve *despite Parker's pleas to go with me* and drove to school. Parking was (surprisingly) easy. We all gathered in the cafeteria for a welcome message from the Principal, who promised to keep it short, knowing there were parents who had children at other schools also holding open house, and she wanted to be respectful of every one's time (bonus point #1).

She went over the general rules and regulations. Evidently, this year the emergency alert system will text your cell phone (if the office has it on file) if there is a problem. I'm thinking - that's pretty high-tech and rather cool! She also wants to hold an emergency response night to help train the parents in what we are to do in case of an emergency. I'm guessing all of us dashing to the school in total panic and chaos demanding our children and being completely unreasonable and irrational is NOT what she wants to see.

She talked about programs at the school, advised us of the difference between making a donation to the school and taking advantage of Arizona's Tax Credit for Education regulations. She mentioned the possibility of our school becoming an IB school. (International Baccalaureate - which would be WICKED COOL)

And then she said this: "I wanted to find a nice way to put this, but there is not a nice way to put it. Your children need to be in school, on time, every day." She went on to explain how tardiness teaches the children that it is OK to be late, taking kids on vacation during the middle of school teaches them school is not important since missing 2 weeks is commonplace. She was completely direct, pulled no punches and made no apologies. She reminded parents that school has very generous vacation times built into the school year, and she ran the point home that our attendance directly impacts both the funding we receive from the government and the state. Our attendance also impacts our Arizona Grading system - of which we are proudly an EXCELLING school.

"But the best AIMS scores in the state won't make up for poor attendance. We need you to get your children here, every day, on time, with no excuses."

This woman is now my personal hero.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A birthday celebration we won't soon forget...

My 'baby' turned 3 on Friday!! Insert all the times I have said how quickly time flies, and how I cannot believe how big he is getting, and how proud I am to be this kid's mom, and double it.

So imagine the sadness in my heart when Chris woke up just after midnight (on his birthday) with croup. Poor little munchkin - crying, scared, exhausted and sick is not the way to start a birthday! We canceled his little get-together with a friend he made at swim lessons so his b-day would be quite low-key. Good thing he really won't remember it.

Of course, the rest of the family will probably never forget it.

The Reader's Digest version is that we ended up with a family room/kitchen area that looked somewhat like a war-zone and a boy in the ER with stitches.

The longer story goes like this: we were playing 20 questions at the dinner table (our centerpiece was Charley, the fish. This information plays an important role in the story in a bit). Steve was "it" and we were going around the table asking questions (yes, I guess that IS how you play the game) Parker wanted to give questions to Matthew, and we were stopping him (he always answers for his little brother, even when Matthew knows the answer). Matthew was refusing to ask a question.

I know, reading it now it sounds so simple and silly - getting so upset over questions - but for Matthew and Steve, it was getting really heated. Matthew got up from the table and stood by Parker (who was in front of the fish bowl) and then he started to cry. Matthew hates to cry - he tries his best to hide his face or hide his entire body when he cries.

This time he was out in front of ALL of us, which I am sure made him feel even more trapped and ashamed. He made a move as if to put his head down on the table forehead first.

Except his motion was intercepted by the fish bowl, which gave way under the weight of Matthew's rather hard and heavy head. And, as physics would dictate, Matthew's head kept moving even after the initial impact.

The next few moments were a blur, but the general scene included a lot of broken glass and blood, screaming from Matthew, screaming and running around from Parker, a fish flopping on the floor, birds flying everywhere, and the icing on the cake was Christopher who was walking around, screaming and throwing up. If you looked up MAYHAM or BEDLAM in the dictionary - well - you'd find my house.

We got Matthew to the ER - the bleeding had stopped by the time we got there (I left with Steve covered in Christopher's explosions, Chris crying in the tub and the kitchen looking like a battle ground - in dealing with the ER, I know I got the better end of that bargain!) The nurse cleaned the cuts (3 of them, all somewhat big, but it could have been MUCH worse!) and removed a sneaky piece of glass. He got 4 stitches and a copious amount of human-grade super glue to hold his head together.

I am the mom of 3 very active boys. We have gone just over 9 years with out a bloodied-mess drive to the ER until yesterday. All in all, I think we have been doing OK.

Here's my little trouper, shortly after getting all stitched back together. Even bloodied and stitched, he can still manage to smile!!

Oh, and amazingly enough, Charlie the fish - he survived the attack. As of today he is in a much more forehead-friendly bowl.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Why we can't keep good teachers in the classroom

This rant has very little to do with the abysmal pay most teachers receive, nor does it delve into things like class size/teaching load. Nope - those are all truly valid reasons for leaving the teaching profession but they have been covered adnausium by many more proficient at this sort of thing than I am.

This rant is a means to help those of you NOT in the current modern classroom understand just how difficult it is for those of us called to this profession to DO OUR JOBS. This is a rant about how government, in an attempt to improve our public education system, have in fact made it worse with all their rules and regulations. This is a rant that will, I hope, prove the fact that we need educators running education, not businessmen or bureaucrats.

I teach in one of the highest scoring schools in Scottsdale. According to all the media and government guidelines, this would translate to my school being one of the best schools in Scottsdale, and yet - somehow it just misses that distinction in all the areas that matter to teachers. Yes, our scores are good. Yes, we do a bang-up job of teaching to the test. Everyone goes away happy and content thinking that this is all we need to do.

What our numbers do not show, however, is the utter chaos with which our school is run, or how simply awful the regulations are that govern who is in charge of the classroom. My case-in-point: We have a wonderful, even beloved, teacher we shall call Sally. Sally has been teaching for 16 years. She has been teaching math at the middle school level for all of those 16 years. She has even taught Algebra 1 at the middle school level, not just once but for many years.

What you need to teach Math in the middle school level is: A teaching certificate and the designation of being a Highly Qualified Teacher, or HQT. In order to obtain HQT status, you either needed to take a certain number of college credit hours (regardless of how many years ago you took those classes) or you need to sit for a test. The test you need to take in middle school is, (this is so clever - how did they come up with the name) the Middle School Math Proficiency Test. Algebra is on this test. Sally passed this test.

Now - if you want to teach High School math, at any level, you need to take the High School Math Proficiency Test, which tests you in all subject you could teach in high school up to and including calculus. Just a reminder for those of you keeping score at home, Sally does NOT teach high school, nor does she ever want to teach high school.

Ok - With me so far??

So, my school wants to offer High School credit to students in Algebra 1. Note - they WANT to offer this. It is not required we offer this to students. Sally has taught this class before. But, there's a problem. Sally is not certified to teach in a high school. Even though she is NOT teaching IN a high school, she is required to take the calculus test in order to teach ONE Algebra class for a select few students that we do NOT have to offer for high school credit. So, for 20% of her caseload, she needs to take this test.

Well, guess what - she does not pass the test. By the slightest of margins, she did not pass. By the "spirit" of the law, she could be allowed to teach the class with the assurance she would take the test again.

Does that happen? Well, if it did I would not have much to rant about, now would I?

Nope - not only does she have the Algebra class taken away - She has ALL her math classes taken away - 80% of which she is perfectly qualified to teach.

So - what do they have her teaching this year? Not math... try Language Arts.

A subject she has NEVER taught in her life.

Yeah - that's HIGHLY QUALIFIED for you... and that's what is best for kids.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Weekend Update with your host...

Hey... days are flying by with dizzying speed and the road to hell is paved with good intentions - I've meant to update for the last 3 days and something has stopped me each time.

Let's see- we settled back into the routine of being home pretty well. Piles and piles of laundry threatened to overtake the house or bury our youngest, but I think I've managed to beat it back into submission. We continued with swim team and swimming lessons and then Parker had his final championship meet on Saturday. (Matthew decided to not participate, which was fine). So, it is of course, hot and muggy as all get out when we go to the meet at 8am. Also, as an "of course", the only thing I remembered to bring to drink was hot coffee. See - this is what happens when my brain is forced to work before its daily dose of caffeine has kicked in...

There was lots of milling around and waiting, but in all this event ran far more smoothly than the others have (because it was run by the Scottsdale Aquatic Club and this is all they do!) Another change for us was that Parker was not just racing against the kids in the pool with him - like a 'real' even, there were heats and each swim was timed. We didn't know this going in, so his first swim was not his best, but he still got 6th out of 21 swimmers in his age group.

His next two swims, however, were much better! He took first overall in Breaststroke (not his best stroke) and 3rd overall in Butterfly (a stroke I can't even DO, let alone compete in!!) We were all hot, sticky and sweaty but tremendously proud of him!

After that, it was off to the bookstore for the highly awaited BREAKING DAWN book. I finished it, all 756 pages, over the weekend.

So now up for us this week is last minute tying up of loose ends before school begins next week. I was So ready 3 weeks ago for school to start - and now - well, not so much!! Isn't that always how things go??

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig

Amazing how quickly 5 days can pass by... we had a wonderful time on our short vacation to Southern California. We spent 2 days in La Jolla, enjoying the beaches of San Diego and the Scripps Aquarium (a first for me). The weather was perfect - I got to run both mornings - we lounged and played and enjoyed.

I meant to blog from the road - really - I had posts lolling around in my head as I ran. Cute, witty snippets with observations of life in general and how ones perspective can change when you take the time to look around...

Good intentions. That never came to fruition... oh, if I had a dime for every time that has happened...

We drove from La Jolla to Santa Monica on Friday with a quick detour through Orange, CA so that the boys could meet their future wives, the Domer girls. Ken and his family opened their home for a nice mid-trip visit, and I marvel at the ease with which children interact with other children. Only little Lilly, the youngest of the bunch, was overcome with the chaos that is the Jensen boys. Parker cracked me up - evidently, he felt that Molly really liked him, but he liked Cassie. In fact, his words were "I mean, really, what's NOT to like about Cassie". Sorry Ken - you might just need to lock her up if we come visit again!!

On Saturday, we spent the morning at the beach. Santa Monica beach is very wide, and very long, and surprisingly clean. The seaweed must prefer the surf further south because it was all bunched up in La Jolla, and practically absent up north. We had lunch with Greg, my friend from SC. I got to meet his wife and his new little baby... and again, the boys made themselves right at home. I was quite impressed with Greg's ability to handle the noise from the movie playing in the background, the music playing in the kitchen, the screams and shreiks of my children and still carry on a conversation. He also had some very exciting news (something about being nominated for an EMMY!!) and I am just tickled for him!!

When we left there, we went to USC for the obligatory picture of the kids in front of Tommy and a trip to the bookstore. The boys were in heaven surrounded by all the SC stuff - shirts, balls, helmets, sweatshirts, bags.... I was impressed that we left with as few things as we did! Parker would have purchased the store if he could!

Dinner that night was with Carrie - my roomie of 2 years - and her family. We dined outside in Malibu while the kids (*all 6 of them!) played... her dad joined us, and that was a real treat for me... She and I shared the "somewhat older dad" connection and I just adore her father. He reminds me very much of my own dad. After dinner, we spent some time on the beach and its wonderful how easy it is to be with her and how beautifully the rest of the family gets along!

We had a wonderful time. Makes coming home harder when you are not ready to leave, but it also gives us motivation to get back out there again. It was a time away that we all needed, and I am going to make sure we do it again soon! Friendships are too important to see each other once every 10 years. Now that the car knows the way, we may just find ourselves heading back West sometime again soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

just a brief note

as my heart sloshes around inside my chest, currently soft as melted butter. We got 1 room with 2 queen beds. Right now, as I type this, all 3 of my children are snuggled down for the night. Chris is inbetween the older two, the are turned in, facing him, like 2 protective book ends. Could a mother's heart take any more??

It sure beats the yelling and screaming that occured periodically during the 7 hour drive from Scottsdale to La Jolla. (Where, it is currently a cool and foggy 71*)

Monday, July 21, 2008

21 days till school starts (repeat mantra as necessary)

Its not that it has been a bad summer - not at all. It is just that there is a bit too much of it, if you ask me. We've done the relaxing, we've done the swimming, we are about to do a bit of vacationing, and we are all ready to go back to school. I keep seeing the Staples ad in my head, where the dad is flying down the aisles on his shopping cart, his face full of glee, with the song "The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" blasting in the background.

I think everyone can agree - too much of a good thing can quickly become a bad thing. (unless its chocolate). We have hit that place - crossed the line between good and not-so-good-and-please-dear-lord-does-it-end-soon. The bickering, the messes, the same handfull of sentences coming from my mouth only to fall on the same deaf ears. Yes, my friends, it is time to put a fork in her and call Summer DONE.

Of course, getting out of town will help - a change of scenery and routine to toss things around a bit. I am somewhat terrified of the car ride, but then families have been shoving themselves in the family trucksters for generations now and I feel somewhat confident that we will survive. Being away from the heat, even if only for a short while, will do me a tremendous amount of good. Seeing the beach, feeling the sand under my feet and hearing the waves of the ocean will, no doubt, do what hours upon hours of therapy would never be able to: Renew me.

And then we come home, and I will, no doubt, experience that adrenaline rush of "holy crap, we go back in 2 weeks and I have SO MUCH STUFF STILL TO DO!". Never fails...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Shameless bragging on all fronts

We all know I am biased, and think my kids are just the most fabulously amazing children on the planet (most of the time) But lately they have been doing things that are, empirically, impressive.

Parker had a swim meet (yes, another one - its a weekly occurrence) last week - this was focused on butterfly. This is one stroke I could never, in all my time swimming and working with the Bruni boys, ever master. 3 strokes was about all I could get. Never had the shoulders for it... So Parker had to swim in both a relay as well as individual meet, and again come home with a 1st (relay) and 2nd (individual) ribbon. Wow!

Matthew has mastered diving into the pool. May not seem quite as newsworthy as a 1st and 2nd place win, but he kicks his older brother in the tush when it comes to diving. We may have him do dive-team rather than swim team next year. He loves it. Called diving off the 5M springboard "exhilarating" - really... he did - he used that word!

Christopher has mastered something it took the older boys until Kindergarten to master - knowing our telephone number! So, you have probably seen the video, but add to that the fact that he also knows, by heart, both my cell phone and my mother's phone number. Steve can't even dial her number without double checking if he's got it right!!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

More videos to share....

The monsoon storms have hit. For those who don't know what a monsoon is - its the time of year in the desert (well, in AZ) when the winds shift from north/south to south/north. What this means for us is lower temperatures, high humidity (or actually, dew point temperatures) and unpredictable rain storms. Here's what we had today...

And this...

And finally, this little gem of cuteness...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Another week, another meaningless blog...

I am stunned at how quickly doing nothing makes time fly. Really - when we are up to our ears in stuff to do, I expect to loose track of time and go to bed on Monday, only to wake up on Thursday and realize the week has flown by. I don't expect the same phenomena to happen when I am doing, really, nothing much at all.

Its Friday. I had the Saturn in for a check up on Saturday and was told to bring it back in this week. Evidently there was a mini leak somewhere, so they put some die in something or another and wanted me to come back this week so they could see where it went. Sort of like a Barium enema for a car.


What I have done this week is get my sorry butt to the gym! Today it ended up with me flat down with a migraine for 3 hours, but hey - I'm out there, I'm doing it, right?

We are planning to head out to CA for few days at the end of the month. 2 days in San Diego, 2 days in LA... my only requirement is sand, surf and a noticeable lack of heat. Originally we entertained thoughts of going to Lego Land or the Big D, but when I looked at ticket prices?? Yeah - Balboa park and Scripps Aquarium will do just fine, thank you.

Really $300 just to walk in the door for a family of 4? And that is without having to pay for Chris (yet) or buy food. Makes me feel downright extravagant when I had my annual pass in college...

We have gotten some rain lately. Evidently, our storm make the National News, because my mother called me from VA to ask if we were ok. WE are OK. The house is not. Leaks. Big leaks. Many big leaks.

Are you thinking what I am thinking? Can you spell M-O-N-E-Y-P-I-T? Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen- its time for a new roof!!


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Checklist completed...

I love it when I am productive. It doesn't happen often; mostly I feel like I just spin my wheels, running around like a mad person, getting little accomplished. Much like running on the treadmill. (Which I am getting better at again).

Today, my list of errands grew at a rapid clip from "get nails done" to: Take car in for service, get nails done, go to fabric store, re-upholster kitchen chairs {a task, might I add, that I have been meaning to do for over a YEAR!), go to Hallmark, to go Target to return stuff, order cake for Birthday boy.

And - I did it all!
*Car? CHECK 7am appointment to which I was 15 minutes EARLY!!
*Nails? Check - and toes...
*Fabric store? Check - hemmed and hawed between 3 fabric choices, but in the end went with the cheapest one, that was also a lovely French Paisley on the thought that it will hide a multitude of sins...
*Hallmark store? Check - found cute cards AND the Webkin P wants...
*Target? Check - returned bathing suit and did NOT BUY ANYTHING ELSE!
*Cake? Check - baseball themed, chocolate cake with creme filling, baseball themed.
*Re-Upholster kitchen chairs???


It feels OH SO GOOD to get that list out of the way!

Because as we all know - tomorrow brings another list!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Monday, June 30, 2008

Wow - a week has gone by already?

I'd love to say that its been a whirlwind of activity around here, that we've been up to this and that and done so much, but it would be a big ole' lie... Swimming, tutoring, going to the gym *not as often as I should*, fighting heat-related headaches, trying to not melt into the pavement and trying to keep the boys from killing each other about sums it up. Oh, we also saw WALL-E yesterday. Very cute - highly recommend. Loved by all!

Last year we, as in the State of Arizona, broke a record. 33 days of heat in excess of 110*. It took us all summer to break that record.

This year, so far, we have already had 15 days over 110* and we have not reached the "hottest part of the year" yet. Oh, Goodie.

Hopefully, by the time many of you read this, I will have a new website up and running for my photography. It took nearly all weekend to create the site, most of that time being frustrated that my iMac and my iTunes wanted nothing whatsoever to do with the MP3 format the site needed for music. It was on Sunday morning that I was very thankful we were not an all-Mac family. Steve's PC saved the day!! Please - check to see if the link is live and then let me know what you think of the site.

The boys also had a swim meet on Saturday morning. If we could combine the talents of the two boys, Michael Phelps would have a good competitor... Parker is fast and sleek but his diving into the pool is comical at best. Matthew can dive in like a pro, but lacks the instinct to 'go for the gold' as it were, and struggles with the race itself.

It would be easier for the kid if he did not have to race against his brother. In more ways than one, its a killer for him. Ego-smashing, and all that...

You may have noticed a new 'feed' to the right of the blog. This is my new addiction - TWITTER. It's sort of like blogging-lite. So now, when I have neither the time nor the motivation for a full, no-holes-barred blog session, you can still follow what we are doing by reading the "tweets" I leave. Cool, huh?

You can also check out my marathon reading efforts of late. I rarely have time to read during the school year, so for the last three years or so, I keep a list of all the books I want to read, and then I plow through them in the summer. I have lost track of how many I have read so far this year, but Stephenie Meyer's books (all 4 of them) were fantastic and I anxiously await both the release of the latest in the TWILIGHT series as well as the movie version of TWILIGHT in December.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

two videos to share

In my world, brainwashing must begin early in order to be truly effective. Case in point: Christopher with his own rendition of the USC Fight Song. A SO CAL Spell Out is coming next...

And this next one is of the boys 1st swim meet. It was yesterday. Each boy swam in 2 races - one individual 25m freestyle race and one 100m freestyle medley. Parker came home with 2 blue ribbons. Matthew came home with a second place and a 4th place. Unfortunately for him, he had to race against his brother both times.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Open Wide!!

The boys all went to the dentist this morning. I made the appointment ages ago, and cannot for the life of me remember why, the hell, I would have scheduled 3 appointments at 7:30 in the morning when it is summer and we don't have to worry about missing school. But - I did. 7:30?? Ouch!

In very un-Jensen like fashion, we were out the door in plenty of time and made it to the dentist's office with even a few minutes to spare! (who are these boys and what have they done with my children?)

And all went swimmingly at the dentist's office. Well, except for Christopher who refused to let the doctor clean his teeth, and then he had to have x-rays which was, in his mind, torture to beat all other forms of torture, but hey - he got a bouncy ball out of it so all is right with the world.

Parker got to do the two-hands-in-the-air-touchdown-celebratory NO CAVITIES MA!! dance. But, I most certainly hope he has no cavities because he had SIX the last time we went to the dentist, and he has since had them all filled and had those protective sealents put on his teeth.

Matthew has one cavity. It's a contact variety cavity, meaning he needs to get better at flossing (he's not alone there - can't remember the last time I did that, but SHHHH don't tell anyone!) He, too, will have sealents put on the next time we go.

And that leaves Christopher. Poor bloke has a big ole, see-it-with-the-naked-eye cavity on a back molar. Which will need to be filled, obviously. Which was most likely caused by the "unusually deep grooves" in his back teeth. Which the dentist wants to file down and seal. Which is unusual in children so young.

Just what I want... an unusual dental patient!

So we have some sedation and a bit of nitrice-oxide in our future... They will try to get his teeth cleaned at the same time they fill the cavity.

I know the ADA recommends that children start seeing the dentist as soon as they have teeth. We are, knowingly, a bit late, then, in getting Christopher in. But I really can't imagine how they DO anything with the younger kids - Chris knows how to follow directions like "Open your mouth BIG" and he was reluctant to go along with the whole gig. I simply cannot imagine using sharp instruments around a child even younger who is more likely to act erratically.

Guess that's just one of the reasons why I did not choose to become a dentist!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dry heat?


We had an unusually cold spring for us. In fact, we usually end school well into the triple digits but this year we were given a reprieve. It was a delightful change to be packing up boxes and moving them and not melting into the pavement. This nice trend lasted through the start of swim season.

Then came to an abrupt halt.

The last few days have been over 110*, and to say it is making life very uncomfortable would be an understatement. It also means that our most reliable way to staying cool (the pool) is even out of reach both because of the strength of the sun as well as the tub-like quality the water has developed. I think the pool temp is running around 98.6 or so.

I belabor this point about the heat each and every year. It never gets any better and complaining certainly changes nothing, and yet somehow it is inevitable that I find myself moaning and complaining. I know it is partly the whole 'living like a mole" thing that goes on - drapes are drawn, shutters closed up, everyone stays inside. Everyone simultaneously begins going stir crazy. My hardest job is keeping the two older boys from killing each other, and letting the littlest one sleep! Summer should be about 3 weeks long. That's about the time it takes for everyone to relax and then begin to grate on the very last good nerve of everyone else in the house. If anyone listened to me, I'd vote for year-round schools. Personally, I think 9-weeks on and 3-weeks off is just about a perfect schedule. Just as soon as we start to get sick of looking at each other, we go back to school! Of course, no one asked me.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I have a confession, and a request

Ok, Y'all... I have a confession. It is of the "cyber-stalking" variety. Do you see the counter at the bottom of the blog? Yeah - that one. It tracks how many folks have visited the blog on any given day, and statcounter.com can tell me, more or less, who is reading. That is, if I had an address book for every ISP out there. Which I don't.

So - you from San Jose?? Norwood Mass?? Please, do me the favor of leaving a comment so I know who you are. I am getting a somewhat creepy feeling not knowing who it is who is reading. I have made sure to check all the basic privacy settings so that I am not 'out there' too much.

So please - I am tracking you - please let me know who's out there reading.... Thanks folks!

(Grandma & Grandpa - don't worry, I can tell which one is you!)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

One more for good measure

Just to really make sure I can actually upload video to this thing.... Christopher, learning to bob....

Cutting the cord

Christopher has started swimming lessons. He has been in the pool with me for, well, ever is seems. He has always been the dare devil baby - not minding at all if he goes under the water, but certainly needed me close by.

Not any more. He is now in level 1 swimming lessons, and while day one was horrible (he screamed and refused to stay with the coach) each day since has been wonderful. He is having so much fun, and, I think, even learning something...

Thursday, June 12, 2008


The house my dad grew up in is for sale in West Hartford. We drove by the house many times as a kid. I remember him telling stories about the house, and being able to walk to school. He never said it was a particularly large house and with him being an only child, I presume the original house did not come with 6 bedrooms, so clearly folks have amended and added to it along the way.

There is a strange pull for me toward this house. I keep looking at the pictures and I have the strong urge to call Dad and tell him about it. Might be hard to place that call, but I am sure he knows.

What makes me sad is that there are only a small handful of folks who would even care that my dad's house is for sale. We don't have close contact with his relatives, and don't even know if all the cousins are still living. His son would probably find it interesting for a second or two, but I doubt would be somewhat haunted (in a good way) by the idea of living in the house where his father grew up. Scott was raised in California. I was raised 20 minutes from West Hartford.

I want to go back and see the house. I want to walk the halls and listen to see if I can hear my dad as a kid running down the halls or in the back yard. Maybe it is Father's Day coming up that is making me sentimental. At any rate - how cool would it be to live in the house in which your parent spent their childhood?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Better luck next year

After a lot of discussion, deliberation and debate, Steve and I have decided to take the house OFF the market. We could most certainly sell it if we decided to bottom out our price and basically give the house away, and I am not willing to do that. We are in a fortunate position of only wanting to move, not needing to. So, we will wait.

And while the idea of another summer makes me feel a bit panicky and trapped much like a caged animal, I think I had pretty much already accepted one more summer. One more I can do. 5 more? 10 more? HELL NO, but one more.... I can do this one more summer.

We will spend fall trying to complete the renovations that we can, both with money and time and lack of hard labor notwithstanding. Anyone want to come out and lend a hand? Room and board are free... You will pay in sweat-equity!

Of course, bathrooms and kitchens are where its at... all the HGTV shows you see and the Realtors you talk with agree that your best bet is to update a bathroom and the kitchen. So, I have plans. My plans always seem to out stretch our budget, but hey... if HGTV can make over an entire kitchen for under 2000$, well, there is possibly hope for me as well.

Our plan right now is to tidy up a bit more and then put the house back on the market around January. I still have my dreams of making back to the land of more-moderate-summers-and-to-heck-with-snow climates. I will sign up for ONE more summer... If I find myself in the same position NEXT year, well.... I doubt anyone wants to see THAT!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

So much for the wagon...

I spent the rest of Monday with a migraine, and most of Tuesday with a migraine, and a cold. (ie: no gym)

All of Wednesday with a cold, and Thursday with a cold and a pulled-out back. (ie: no gym)

Spent Friday with a cold, a pulled out back and the feeling of being really, really OLD. (ie: still no gym)

Both the back and the cold appear to be getting better. But still I have no plans until tomorrow to push my luck. The boys begin swim team, and Christopher and I start our mommy & me water classes. It should be interesting - I will let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Trying to get back on the wagon

For a brief moment in time, there, I was becoming a running addict. I know - ME?? RUNNING??? Surely, you jest!!

Well, I don't jest, and don't call me Shirely! () Yes. That was me - waddling down the street nearly every morning, clocking in 3 or 4 miles. I'm not fast, and I don't go tremendously far, but I was getting OUT THERE, MAN!!

Then it stopped. I don't know when, exactly, but I am sure my little Nike+ Gizmo could tell me when I logged my last run. Suffice it to say, it was a while ago. Allergies kicked my tush BIG time, and huffing & puffing in the wee hours of the morning is the WORST thing to do for allergies. I tried running at night - not the same.

Then I was plagued with a few annoying aches and pains that had me walking around like I was 90. Surely, you don't want to run when walking is proving to be dangerous.

So I made a commitment to myself.... I said, "Self, you HAVE to start DOING something". So I took my annoyed-at-myself self to the gym yesterday. I did 2.25 miles on the treadmill and lifted some weights in a futile attempt to rid myself of the flags I see waving at me whenever I try to wave at someone or erase the whiteboard at school.

And what was my reward for a job well done at the gym? If you follow my blog at all, you will probably see what is coming....

Yes - a migraine that not only left me incapacitated for the majority of the afternoon, but has managed to linger around until this morning.

I tell ya - My brain wants me to be healthy, but the dang body is fighting me every step of the way!!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Summertime, Summertime....

Our weather has been flirting with "normal" temperatures all week, meaning we have been dancing above and below the century mark with regard to temperature. I swear - I've said it before and I will say it again, Arizona is the ONLY place on earth where 90* is not really all that hot and 70* can be down right chilly! So in all, the weather has been lovely and just right for enjoying vacation. And enjoy it we will, because we all know it won't last!

My oldest friend in the world was out on Scottsdale this weekend for a birthday get-a-way. We were able to sneak in some time for lunch in between her pampering sessions at the Phoenician and it was delightful to see her and spend some time with her. We ate outside at the golf course - the 19th hole is a little patio grill. It was lovely, and the misters were on (Arizona is known for misters - an advantage of having 8% humidity is that the evaporation of water from the air actually cools things down nicely). We commented that the sun was quite warm, but none of us were uncomfortable sitting in the shade.

Where it was 98*.

And yet, get me to 110, 113, 118.... I am M-I-S-E-R-A-B-L-E! I guess I can equate it like this, for those of you who live where it gets cold. You can probably handle 30* in the winter... its not shorts and flip-flop weather, but you can get by. Drop it to 10*, however, and its a whole other ballgame. Same here - 100* I can handle. But kick it up even 10 degrees and all bets are off, and you will find me in a dark room with just enough clothes to not get arrested and the AC cranked.

I hate the heat. I just have to get to a place in my own head where I can enjoy TODAY when it is not ghastly hot rather than dread with ever fiber of my soul the oncoming, inescapable fire-pit that is Scottsdale in July...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Man, am I going to be in trouble

Take a gander at this fella and tell me I won't be beating the girls off with sticks.....

Yet another one for the books...

School years, that is. Over and out, another school year done. I am now the proud momma to a 4th and 2nd grader. Don't ask, I have no idea how that happened, either. 4th grade? My students are 4th graders, and for the most part, they are 'big kids'. Guess that means my gargantuanly tall kiddo is technically a big kid, too! Don't know when it happened, and sure as heck don't know if I am ready for it!

I spent so much time lately in the mode of "and I need to do this, and this, and this, and this andthisandthisandthis.." that when I woke up yesterday morning, and it was all done, I didn't know what to do with myself. My paperwork is done, my room is not only packed up, but mostly moved, grades are in, goodbyes have been said.... what on earth am I to do with myself until Swim Team starts, and I have a few more "need to do this and this" to keep me busy? I am sure I will figure something out - give me a few days to get used to the idea of vacation, let alone the practice of it, and I'm sure I will be fine!

It was a strange couple of days, this last week. I've mentioned it before, but the group of 8th graders who just graduated have been with me since I started at my current school. They were 3rd graders when I started, and I have known a few of them rather well since they were in 5th grade. While certainly not as dramatic as the scene from "Grey's Anatomy" where Cristina and George have the conversation about not knowing how to exist in a world where their father is not,(this was part of the 2 parter from season 3 that had us all in tears) I feel a bit like that... It will be strange next year to not see J and N and L walking the halls. It will be odd to not field calls from all their parents, or teachers... I know there will be other kids to keep me busy (at last count, my case load for next year has 20 kids on it - which is HUGE for special ed) but still; those familiar faces will have moved on. I guess it is easier to leave than to be left. I know they will do fine (Ok, maybe not N because he will just think he can get by on his cute-ness, but will in fact be eaten alive in high school) and I know I will be fine, but it will be strange, that's all I'm saying...

The boys came home with glowing report cards. Scottsdale does not start using ABC's until 4th grade, but to translate, there was nothing lower than a B to be seen... Matthew basically had all A's and Parker had many A's and B+'s to show for all his hard work. There was a bit of a sticking point when Matthew had better grades (for 2 quarters in a row) than Parker, but I think it could be good motivation for P next year to step it up a bit as not to have his little bro show him up in the grade department.

So now, we relax. Or, we try to relax... I'll let you know how we do with that...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Holy freaking weird weather, batman!!

We broke a weather record on Monday (or was it Tuesday) for 110* in May. In fact we broke two records in a row - earliest 100* and earliest 110*, back to back. (So I think Monday was 100, and that meant 48 hours ago it was 110*) Today, the high was 68. WTF? We are not supposed to see highs out of the 70's through Memorial Day weekend, and then by Wednesday of next week we will be back above 100, where I am sure we will remain until it is time to don costumes and gorge on candy. It even r-a-i-n-e-d here today, breaking something like a 93 day dry-spell.

I am always amazed when the weather folks make such a big deal about how many days it has been since it rained. Really? Have they not figured out we live in a desert, which, by definition, means very-little-rainfall? Wasn't the fact that we get, on average, EIGHT measly inches of rain per year a good hint that we'd go for very long stretches between raindrops?

I guess not because our "unseasonal" rainfall today made the headlines on every evening news channel. Maybe it was an otherwise slow news day... we only have a president to elect, an economy to recover, global warming to reverse and a war to end, but let's start the news by spending 40% of the newscast talking about our .03" rainfall today, shall we? I get it - its WEIRD, but that's no longer newsworthy - everyone is having freaky weather. When everyone is doing it, it is no longer newsworthy, am I right?

Monday, May 19, 2008

When did this happen?

Or, more to the point, how did this happen? There must have been some HGH-fairies at work during the winter when Parker's legs were hidden underneath denim and fleece, because I KNOW they did not look this long last summer.

Anyone else want to take bets as to when he will officially be taller than I am?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Franken-baby strikes again!

There is something rotten in the state of Denmark Scottsdale. Something that feeds upon little children in the middle of the night when they are helpless to defend themselves.

Christopher was a feast for something-or-another on Friday night. He woke up with obvious bites all over; his face, arms, legs, feet... anything that was exposed. (which backs up the mosquito theory) But the bites were more like welts with what looked like a pin prick in the middle (which backs up the spider theory). He had about a dozen bites, the most concerning to me was the one just off the eyebrow that was slowly but surely making him look like Frankenstein.

Poor little dude lived on Benedryl yesterday, which seemed to keep him from itching too badly, but the eye kept getting worse. This morning, as I expected, his poor eye was swollen shut. Doing his best Rocky Balboa impression, he staggered around the family room, very unaccustomed to NOT having either peripheral vision nor depth perception!

I called Urgent Care. Closed on Sunday.

I called my friend Angie, who is an RN. No answer.

I called my other friend Heather, also an RN. Also, no answer.

(seriously - you are all not just sitting around, waiting for my obscure medical-quesion phone call? And you call yourselves friends.....)

I called the after-hours line and spoke to the triage nurse. She told me to call Poison Control and informed me she would call the on-call doc because she didn't like the idea of the eye swollen shut.

Admittedly, neither did I, but really, all I wanted to know what how much Benedryl I could pump into a toddler before he blew up.

I never got my answer - we were, instead, told to go to the ER to rule out cellulitis of the eye.

65 minutes (easy day in the Scottsdale ER) and $150 later, we walked out with a scrip for Keflex and my son's eye beginning to open. The Benedryl is doing its thing, evidently.

And for those who need to know - you can max out a 43 lb toddler in 1 1/2 teaspoons of Benedryl every 6 hours before he explodes.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I knew it would happen someday...

My son is in love. And, I mean, googley-eyed, can't speak, does nothing but smile at the sight of her, in love. I knew it was going to happen. I just didn't expect it yet!!

And now this concept puts me in a position I was not expecting to be in yet, either. I know as a kid how hard it can be to talk to your parents about "stuff", and that for most kids they'd rather be poked with something sharp than tell their parents about the inner workings of their heart. But I also have a better understanding of how badly parents DO want to know this stuff. To both help their child navigate the murky waters of relationships, or to help mend a broken heart.

And then I hope that, if it is not ME they can talk to, or Steve, that there is some good, caring adult they CAN talk to about all this. You know, the person who can be a good confidant, who can tell them things like don't not-call when you say you will call, or for Heaven's sake, put the toilet seat DOWN when at her house... little pieces of wisdom we all have gathered through out our own choppy courses of finding true love. Its important to have that kind of person. Vitally important. And the optimist in me wants to believe it WILL be us that our children turn to. The realist in me thinks we'd better start prepping the Godparents right-quick!!

Yes, I knew it would happen. There will be another women in the lives of all three of my boys eventually. I will be, if not replaced, then pushed back as the most important woman in their lives, and that is how it is supposed to go.

Just... not so soon.

And... Not Christopher first??!! Yes - it is my youngest who has fallen hard for a very beautiful younger woman. According to Nada, he dotes on her all day long. He brings her toys, talks to her constantly, and if she cries, he quickly goes to get Nada and takes her to his love so that Nada can make the sadness stop. He looks at her with pure love and adoration. He looks at her like he USED to look at Little Einsteins. Oh, my baby is growing up!!

Take a peek at him and his true love...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day to all my mommy-friends!

And, if you are NOT a mommy, and are blessed enough to have YOUR mother still living, close this browser right now, and either go find her or call her and wish her a happy mother's day and thank her for not only giving you life, but putting up with you and feeding and clothing you and taking care of you when you were sick... And anything else you can think of to throw into the mix.

Ok. Done that? Good - welcome back. I was greeted this morning at 6am (note to self, try to teach the boys the joy of sleeping in...) by Matthew, who rose quietly, went downstairs not-so-quietly, and returned with a cacophony of sounds as he brought me his Mother's Day gift. In wrapping he made himself, adorned with a card he made himself, I found a lovely, construction-paper-and-ribbon creation of poems, drawings, and writings. Gotta love elementary school teachers for making sure Mom gets something, because if left to most dads, mom would go away empty handed!

Of course, I loved each and every hand-made page. His handwriting surprises me because it is SO good... much better than his 3rd grade brother's! But what meant the most to me was this: Inside the book, secured in an envelope, was a note from his teacher thanking me for raising such a wonderful boy. It filled both sides of the card - and while I have known from nearly day one how much his teacher loves him, it was so amazing to read this card, with its glowing compliments about how he is a role model of respect and courtesy in the classroom. (I'm thinking my child? Really? The same kid whose antics prompted a call from the Principal for trying to make the toilet overflow? Respect? Ok - I'll take it!!)

In fact, it this simple act meant so much to me that 1) I am going to write her a note in return (truly, I could not have hand=picked a better match for Matthew) and 2)it is something I am going to find a way to do in my own classroom. Because while my students may drive me crazy, I also get to see what makes them wonderful. Sometimes it takes a lot of reminding myself that the wonderful is in there, because they do a good job of trying to hide it, but it is there. Just like the lesson from To Kill a Mockingbird, most folks are really pretty decent once you take a moment to really see them.

I am beyond delighted that Matthew's teacher really "gets" him. I can only hope that next year brings someone even close to Mrs. Jackson. Knowing he is understood, and loved, each and every day at school is the best gift a Mother can get (from someone who is not her own kid!!)