Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Letter

I am very proud to announce that the very last (I hope) of the Christmas cards made it into the mailbox today.  Hey - I got them out before Christmas, so I consider myself having mastered the near-impossible! I did not include a letter this year, feeling as if there was really nothing worth retelling this year.  2009 will come to a welcome close in a few days and I hope that 2010 holds better things for the Jensen family.  Not that 2009 has been bad, but it could have been better on many accounts.

The economy took its toll on everyone around here.  Arizona had seen a meteoric rise in all things financial a few years back and was kicked in the teeth pretty hard as a result.  The good news for us is that we are both still employed, thank goodness, but it has made for some frustrating times in both our jobs.  Fewer sales and larger class sizes come immediately to mind.

This spring, Parker played baseball again, and is getting really good!  It warms a parent's heart to hear folks in the stands wonder when they will put Parker in to pitch, because he is good!  He loves every moment of the game, and was even invited to play Fall Ball this year - a first for him, and a very fun honor.  Even with a fall sport, he managed to get all As and Bs for the first 2 quarters of school!

Matthew continues to amaze us with his love of science, and space, and you can now add architecture to the list.  Legos have replaced Thomas the Tank Engine as his addiction, (given his age, this is a good thing) and there are more Legos around this house than one can imagine.  He builds what he is supposed to build with whatever kit he has, then he takes it apart and builds something totally unique. 

Christopher left the care of Nada this fall to venture into the big world of Preschool.  He goes to Laguna with his two older brothers, and loves every minute of it.  His only complaint is that he is not old enough to ride the bus!!  He is reading (way too well - we can no longer spell things we don't want him to know about because he can figure the words out!) and doing math and making new friends. 

We had one big, rather unpleasant surprise this fall.  As we were planning our trip to Disneyland over October break, Matthew seemed "off".  We decided to take him, one weekend, to the MinuteClinic at CVS.  We have the nurse his symptoms, and she said she wanted to test his blood sugar as his symptoms sounded like Diabetes.  His glucose levels were 474.  In a very calm voice, she looked at me and said,  "I think you are going to be going to the emergency room now...".  Matthew was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  He is, so far, doing great with the whole thing... we still have the occasional "Whoops - forgot to test before I ate" but overall he has adjusted to this new way of living better than I would have, that is for sure. 

We delayed our trip to Disney, and plan to visit the Land of the Mouse between Christmas and New Years.

May the blessings of the season be with you and your family this Christmas, and follow you into the New Year!!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

If you give a man a mission...

A Jensen Ode to "If you give a mouse a muffin..."

If you give a man a mission
of putting up the Christmas tree
First he will have to move furniture
and will see dust on the ground.
Then he will have to vaccuum,
and will see the window is not closed
Then he will have to take window out
and will see the screw stopping the window from closing.
Then he will have to get his toolkit out
and try to dislodge the screw.
Then he will have to find a way
to replace blinds without the screw that held them in place.
Then he will have to replace the window
only to find it still won't close......

Anyone want to guess whether or not we get the tree up today??

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another excerpt

My book has a tentative title:  An Unexpected Life.

Here is another installment.  I am bout 42000 words into it.  We're only about 3/4 of the way through the story, if even that far.

Please keep in mind, I am NOT EDITING ANYTHING until at least December.  November is for writing.  December is for fixing any messes I may have left behind.

They reached the oxen, who had been, thankfully, left where Anna and Issy parked them the day before.  They had been watered and fed by the local tavern owner, for a nominal fee.  Bryce looked them over, and over again.  He took each one out, watched it move to check for signs of lameness, tested it to see how well it would respond to commands.  He must have taken at least an hour looking over the oxen.  Victoria had had enough after about ten minutes and went to the tavern to sit and wait.  Anna and Issy stayed behind as if their presence would make the oxen perform better.
    "Ok, I like them.  I will offer you one-hundred-fifty for the pair, and the yokes."
    "No deal," Issy responded, to the shock and amazement of Bryce, Anna and even herself.  "No, these are young oxen, they are healthy, and as you can see for yourself, they are responsive.  We paid dearly for them, and will not accept anything less than two hundred fifty for the pair. I believe you would agree that is a fair price for this pair, plus the yokes."
    Anna stood, speechless, at the boldness with which her friend took on this adversary.  She would have been delighted with the one-fifty, but clearly Issy had other plans.
    "I am sure you are not the only person in this city to have use of a team of oxen.  If that is the best you can do, sir, we will gladly take our business elsewhere."
    Bryce was likewise stunned, but also exhilarated.  It was the chase of the deal that excited him most, and the thought that he could help out this woman made him more likely to relent to her demands than he would have otherwise.  He would negotiate with her, but knew in the end he would give her nearly all she asked for.  There had to be a little 'win' on his end, he thought.
    "Well, now, let's not be hasty.  I'll make it one-seventy-five."
    "Two twenty five."
    "Two hundred even, and not a penny more."
    "Deal."  Issy extended her hand to shake on the deal, as she had seen Thomas to on so many occasions.  Mr. Milner took her hand in his, and was shocked at what a firm grasp she had, especially for such a small and smooth hand.  He held on to her hand for perhaps a moment longer than was necessary, and forced himself to look her straight in the eye, despite the fluttering he felt under his own skin as her hand rested in his.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A sample of the novel. Be kind with your critques!

This feels sort of like putting out a photo without being able to retouch it first.  As you read this, if you are so inclined to do so, remember I am NOT EDITING until DECEMBER!  November is about WRITING, regardless of whether the writing is SOLID or not... So bear with me...

  She made her makeshift bed in the middle of the wagon.  Thomas had said something about needing to keep everything balanced in the wagon while it was moving, so there were things packed in the front as well as the back, leaving a space nicely nestled in the middle where she and Thomas could sleep.  As she lay there, hoping for sleep to come, she thought about her own bed back home, and how soft it was.  She had never before gotten a splinter from her mattress, and she missed little things like being able to allow her foot to dangle off the edge of her bed.  But then she forced herself to think forward, to begin daydreaming about her new life.
    She still had the idea and hope that she and Thomas would be able to go into some sort of business together.  Without children to raise, she felt as if she had little purpose in her life and this thought bothered her tremendously.  She wanted to do something, something for the betterment of society or at least for her own little corner of the world, wherever that turned out to be.  Free of the societal confines of Philadelphia, Elizabeth felt as if a whole new world would open up for her. She could finally do something with the mind that God had graced her with, and not feel like she was just wasting her life away.  She fell asleep with dreams of owning a very successful business, being a full partner for her husband, flowing through her head.
     At day break, Issy got a very welcomed surprise; there, laying next to her, was Thomas! He and the other scouts had come back in the dark of night, and evidently he had snuck in without waking her.  Wanting to return the favor, and not wake her sleeping husband, Elizabeth gingerly kissed him on the cheek, and tiptoed as carefully as she could out of the wagon.

A drive by group of observations

None of them necessarily related. Welcome to Stream Of Consciousness ala Sam.

1) I've noticed that my boys all have their own unique talent when it comes to dealing with each other. Parker can out-run, Matthew can out-smart. I was worried about how Christopher will learn to hold his own with these two, the athlete and the brainaic. But I needn't worry.... Christopher just out-screams them when he needs to be heard. Brilliant. Pass the Advil, please.

2) This week, I read The Lottery by Shirley Jackson to my class to teach them about Irony. If you have not read the story, or it has been a while and you need a refresher, here you go: It takes place in a small farming village. Every year, they hold the Lottery - "Lottery in June, Corn be heavy Soon" is the addage. However, the irony comes in when the "winner" of the lottery is stoned to death by her family and friends. It got me thinking... in their infinate wisdom, our Legislature here in Arizona has done away with the current practice of culling teachers when the need arises - for years it has been by seniority. But that method is now illegal. Guess Arizona teachers will be living our own slightly more humane (but questionable on that front) version of The Lottery. Excellent.

3) After years and years of diligently applying conditioner to my hair, one day a few weeks ago I got lazy and skipped that part. Not only did the world NOT EXPLODE by my omission, but my hair has never looked better. I finally am having consistent 'good hair days'. Who knew??

4) I have surpassed 32000 words for NaNoWriMo, and it is funny how my experiences and my character's experiences are paralleling each other. I was getting really sick and tired of writing about her on the California Trail, and behold... SHE was getting sick and tired of BEING in the trail. 32000 words is roughly 160 pages, give or take a bit, and my goal for this project is 50000 words, or a novel that will be about 200 'book' pages. Then, to EDIT!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Under way

I have over 4200 words written toward my novel right now, but what I lack is a title. I have absolutely no idea what to call this project other than "the project" or "the novel". Here's hoping that something will come to me as I get further into the process.

The goal for NaNoWriMo is to complete 50K words by Nov 30th. That averages to just over 1660 words per day, which means that I am already behind the 8-ball by 800 words, and here I was, thinking I was doing so well so far!

At least I am getting started. That's more than I have gotten accomplished for nearly 15 years.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I've committed myself...

And come December, that commitment may be to the local funny farm!

I am going to participate in NaNoWriMo 2009. National Novel Writing Month. Me. My novel.

It's ON, babe!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I love fall!

Maybe it is because of my upbringing, as one raised as a Yankee in Connecticut, that fall became part of my DNA. My bones and my cells look forward to the crisp air and my legs cry out for long pants. Even living here in this vast wasteland of a desert, when the calendar changes to October, I turn off the air conditioning (and relcutantly turn it back on when our house reaches a miserable 85* inside) and being to scan my sweaters with longing anticipation.

I love the colors of fall. Granted, I don't get many glorious colors in Arizona, but my mind's eye remembers the vivid oranges and reds and yellows of the trees and our less-natural world of decorations reflect this change in hue as well. Covers of magazines show cornucopias and wreaths made from preserved leaves, and pumpkins abound.

If I had to pick one thing, I'd have to say my favorite thing about this time of year is pumpkin! I could happily graze on all things pumpkin for the entirity of fall. (I've not yet ventured into the land of the Pumpkin Spiced Latte as Starbucks because I do fear it is a land from which I might not escape!) For those who have not yet tried this, I cannot recommend highly enough the Pumpkin Bisque from Costco. I even tried to make some myself, but Costco does such a bang up job of it, my efforts pale in comparison!

As a child, fall meant that Christmas was not far behind. It meant a new school year and new friends, and the mandatory new school wardrobe. As an adult, fall meant that soon I would be driving through treterous storms and across ice-lined streets, but as a Desert Dweller, fall now means a thankful end to the relentless and oppressive heat that has enveloped Scottsdale for the last, well, since April. The blanket of heat has been lifted, and we can finally enjoy the outdoors.

Oh, if only fall were more lasting. If only Fall really stayed put for the full 90 days that the calendar deems as AUTUMN. If only the crisp morning air and warm afternoons could last more than just a few weeks. But perhaps this is exactly WHY I love fall so much. Its sort of a "Blink and you'll miss it" time of year, and when you do have those perfect fall days, where you need that sweater and the air smells of apples and the first fires of the season, you know you have taken part in something special, and precious. Fall is our gift, our token of delight before a long, hard winter, or after a long, hard summer.

Don't blink. Its not something you will want to miss.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why I love Taco Bell...

It may not be exactly Haute Cuisine, but Taco Bell has placed itself on my list of options when I simply refuse to cook for one (Ok,2) simple reason... They have a nutritional guide available right there, and it includes EVERYTHING on the menu!

Having a diabetic in the family has changed the way we eat out. We've never been the family who eats out often, but now that I am so cautious over every carb, I find myself getting downright twerked off if the establishment of choice does NOT offer the information I need to keep my son safe.


A couple of weeks ago, Parker had a baseball game and we decided it would be easier, and quicker, to just go grab some fast food after the game. The general census was for WhatABurger, which is a local, family owned chain here in AZ. (I'm sure they have other locations, but I'd never seen them before coming here).

We were STARVING. We began to order, and I asked the guy behind the counter if there was a nutritional guide we could reference in order to count the carbs for Matthew. His reply was that we could go online to find that information. Wrong Answer!

How can I possibly wait upwards of 30 to 45 minutes to get home, search the internet and THEN figure out Matt's insulin needs? Did they have WiFi access I could use to check this information right then and there? Nope.

Our stomachs growling, Matthew and I walked OUT of that place and across the street to Taco Bell, where they graciously pointed us to their nutritional brochure that had every single item, down to the sodas and sauce packets, there to see. This information also convinced me that the Fresco menu was, without question, the way to go for me! (And its tasty... I do miss the cheese, but my waist doesn't!)

The same sort of thing happened to us when we went to Applebees with my mother. Now, luckily this time I had my handy-dandy all-things-carb book with me and we were able to find Applebees in there, but the items Matthew wanted to order were too new and had not been placed in this book. The waitress said she could get the recipe from the chef, but its not like I have the carb count for white flower memorized yet.

I know we are new at this, and as we get better and better at knowing carbs and such, life will get easier, but it really did open my eyes to just how illinformed we are about the foods we eat when we are not either cooking for ourselves, or using packages with that information readily available on the packages.

I've thought about writing to WhatABurger or Applebees to complain, but decided that slightly slamming them in a semi-public arena was more my style!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Well, I didn't see that one coming...

I've been quiet lately, not for lack of something to say, but for lack of time to get words down.

Matthew and I spent 3 days at Scottsdale Healthcare hospital this week. He has been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Up until last week or so, he was asymptomatic, so we had no idea. Then, everything started to more or less fall apart for him.

It's funny, though, how you respond to what, looking back, are glaring changes in your child. Matthew has always been our bright, cheerful boy who has a twinkle in his eye and won't sit still unless he is building something. For the last week or 10 days, the twinkle was gone. But we didn't really see it.

He had also been drinking water like a fish. This was more noticeable to Steve than it was to me, because Matthew would hijack Steve's water in the middle of the night, after he'd gotten up to use the bathroom. I never keep water by my bedside, so I didn't notice that it was mysteriously gone by morning.

We had noticed that Matthew was losing weight, but again, it didn't alarm us. He had gotten to be a little chunky last year, topping his brother on the scale by about 11 pounds. But then he started slimming down. His shoulders got broader. We thought he was growing and shifting in his shape from a little boy to a young man. Then he got on the scale. 9 pounds in 3 weeks. That scared me.

When he didn't want to go play in the park, that got our attention. Matthew is always looking for an excuse to play in the park... always!! He wanted to go to Parker's baseball game, but just sat with us, his head on either my shoulder or on Steve's. He was no longer talkative.

The thought crossed Steve's mind.. do we take him to the ER? "And tell them what... he's tired??" But clearly something was wrong. Emergency-room wrong?? No.. but maybe MinuteClinic wrong.

We went to CVS on Sunday after Parker's baseball game. We didn't bring him home until Tuesday afternoon. His blood glucose level was 474. The nurse practitioner looked at me and said "I think you are going to go to the ER now.." and we went. He was a trooper with the IV, and the emergency room, and the poking of his finger 1000 times a day, and the shots and the knowledge that this is for life.

In fact, Matthew has handled this whole transition better than I could have imagined. I expect he may have a fit sometime down the road, but for now, as we learn about carb counting and how to successfully draw insulin into a needle withOUT bending the poor needle.. Matthew is almost looking at this as a science project. He enjoys seeing his glucose numbers, and figuring out how many units of insulin he gets depending on what he eats. "So, I have to make some changes, but this is so much better than some of the other things that could have been wrong with me."

Amen, Matthew... Amen!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Best Pasta Ever!!

Oh, this was a good one. Even Parker liked it, and he is hard to please!! If you have an aversion to lemon, pass this one by!!

And a note must go out because this recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa from her book AT HOME.

First, you need some sort of curly pasta, Fusilli or Campenilli or something. Cook in boiling water till àl dente.

In a separate sauce pan, heat a Tbls of 'good olive oil" and 2 minced garlic cloves for 1 minute. Then add 2 cups of HEAVY CREAM. Do Not use milk!!

Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the zest and juice of 2 lemons. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for about 15 minutes.

By the way - does any BLOGGER user know what they did with the spell check feature?? Mine has vanished!

Meanwhile, you now have a sauce pan simmering and your pasta pot boiling. Cut up 1 pint of cherry tomatoes (or grape ones, if you prefer) and about 1/2 lb of arugula.

When the pasta is done, and the sauce has thickened a bit, toss the sauce into the drained pasta, then toss in the arugula & tomatoes, add to taste salt & pepper, serve warm with fresh Parmesan cheese. YUM!!!

By the way - does any BLOGGER user know where they put the spell check feature? Mine is missing!

Monday, September 28, 2009

And it begins...

I have started the research process for my book. I am having a BLAST so far!! My head is swimming with dates, and ideas and names. I had an idea for a scene last night while brushing my teeth, so I sat down at the computer and cranked out over 700 words in a matter of a few minutes. Seeing as how I need to multiply that by a power of 100, well.. that makes it daunting.

I am anxious to get in touch with the few, distant relatives I have and see what they may be able to add to the factual data that will go into the 'sweeping family epic" my book may become. Its hard to know where to stop.

I could stop with me. I'm the only female in the family to NOT have a daughter. Think about that.. we're talking 8 generations of female producing mothers, and I have only boys. It would seem logical that the story would end with me, but who wants to read a novel that encompasses 8 generations?? I think two is enough to swallow. Maybe touch on the 3rd and call it a day.

Oh, how I wish my grandmother were alive. For many reasons, clearly, as she was a wonderfully persnickety woman who both infuriated me and cracked me up in her later years. In keeping with the 'tradition', ours has been a family of strong, will-full, and yet tremendously devoted women. My grandmother would both revel in the idea that I am going to put our family stories down on paper for once and for all, and be such an important player in my gathering of facts and names that her absence is felt physically even after 11 years.

At the dinner table tonight, the conversation veered toward "the project" as I am sure it will be called. Steve suggested that his mother would be a good resource for some of the questions I have (And Greta, prepare yourself for a phone call!!) and we started talking about what a great story HER family has, too. Parker has it all worked out... 2 books, maybe 3 in the series about MY family, then the next series could be about the Bredvold/Jensen group.

And really.. could I leave my children any better legacy to show them who they are and where they came from than to put their history down on paper?

Now.. anyone know how I can apply for a grant so I can quit teaching and start writing full time?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I want to write a book.

There. It is out in the open. I've made it public so now I will be forced out of hiding to actually DO something about it. I've outted myself and there is no putting the genie back into the bottle.

I want to write a book. I have been telling myself for a long time (years!) that I want to try to write a book, and look how far that line of thinking has gotten me? The same story line rolling around in my head, taking up much needed space! I just am not sure where to begin...

Ok, yes.. AT THE BEGINNING... Thanks!

My grandmother used to tell the old family stories when I was a kid, and I was completely enthralled by them. They have grown larger than life at times in my own head, and I've wanted to put them down on paper since I was a little girl. Now that my grandmother is gone, as are most of the other people in this world who would have any memory of these stories, it is down to just me and my mom to find a way to keep them alive. Parts are very hazy, details shaky... but just enough 'truth' to make for a decent laying of groundwork for a historical fiction novel.

I've started listening to podcasts aimed at helping aspiring writers, and I will say I have gotten some good information from them. But looking at the idea of writing at least 80K words, (80,000!!!!!) is more than a little daunting, and from what this acclaimed author of 38 books says, you need at least that many to tell a story well. Holy cow! Then, if I do manage that Herculean feat, will anyone want to read it?

So, which part will win?? Will the ambition and drive and determination side of me take over and allow me to plow through this process, first developing characters and conflicts and story arcs, or will the monster of self-doubt or laziness keep me from seeing this 'little project' through to the end?

This narrator of the podcast I referenced above says one of the things a good writer needs to do is read a whole heck of a lot. CHECK. A good writer also needs to devote time... ok, that may be a problem with a full time job and a full time family, but I am one who writes fast, and types faster, so maybe that will help. He also suggested setting a deadline for yourself so you are not working on The Great American Novel for the next 20 years. Again, potential problem because, in the words of Douglass Adams, "Deadlines amuse me.. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."

But maybe, just maybe, I can do this. Now, to get of my arse and find a place to start.

Oh, yeah... That's right.. start at the beginning...

Friday, September 25, 2009

General Whining

Please take the title of this blog post to be your warning that the contents of this particular post contain the general complaints of a woman who, truth be told, has very little to complain about and yet seems to still find SOMETHING that pisses her off.

And yes, I just ended a very long winded sentence with a preposition. Balls to that.

On the upside, Parker won his game tonight (2-3 is the standing record), Christopher's tooth no longer hurts, we have a three day weekend which delights me beyond comprehension, and Matthew qualified for the gifted program at school, which delights HIM beyond comprehension.

Yet, (You KNEW there was a YET, or a HOWEVER in it's way) I need more than the well-timed day off. I need a week. The honeymoon is over!! While the environment in which I 'teach' is better, the kids are the same. More or less, anyway.

We are nearly 8 weeks into the school year and all the good behavior stuff we saw at the start of school has pretty much been left at home and the true, inner beasts of my students are coming through.

I nearly strangled 3 of my students just today. (alright - no one alert the authorities, for I would not so much as even move toward a student in a menacing manner, however, the urge to kill that which bothers us {think.. mosquito} is embedded into our DNA. And, yes, I have evolved enough to resist such urges)

I get it that they are learning disabled, or otherwise impaired in some way. I get that - been teaching them for 7 years now, I get it! But there are differences even among my LD kids. I had 4 in with me taking a science test this week. Now, I will grant you that the test was 5 pages long and holycrapola it was hard, but I modified the test so that even Christopher could muddle through. Here's what I got at the end of 2 days...

1 student who finished the whole test
1 who went home sick after page #1
1 who finally realized I would not let him get away with just scribbling nonsense on the page and attempted 1/2 the questions, leaving the rest blank.
1 who completed 12 of 15 matching questions and left the rest of the test blank.

TWO DAYS, mind you.... I practically said "This answer goes HERE" and they still didn't even TRY. Ok... 1/4 of the group tried.

I've got other kids who I swear, if they are taking their meds, perhaps a trip to the doctor is in order to adjust the dose because they are climbing the walls. All I do is redirect and redirect and "Stop talking to her, sit down, you have a test in front of you, stop bothering him, pick that up, do not throw things in my classroom, get down off the desk, stop swiveling in that chair, get out of my chair, leave my computer alone, PICK THAT UP!!!" Please remember, my students are not 5. Well, at least not chronologically!

Then, to add insult to injury, I have had 2 different teachers email me and the whole phone book of the 85250 area, and tell me how to do my job. "Don't let this one use a calculator, we can't use that book on tape, there's no other option for him and why don't you just keep him in your room all day".

Oiy. Gimme a week. And maybe a gallon of wine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Taking time to smell the Chardonnay

I am, at this moment, sitting outside. This is noteworthy due to the pervasive, oppressive heat that IS Arizona during nearly 6 months of the year. Common lore would have it that we are not yet to the 'nice' part, so the fact that all of us can be out of our climate-controlled dwelling and into the more or less fresh air is quite something.

The days are, thankfully, getting shorter. I realize that I live in one of the sunniest places on earth, but that is not necessarily a good thing, and we welcome with delighted abandon the end of long, unrelentingly sunny days.

So I sit out here, sun setting behind me, boys playing catch or floaty-tube wars, with a nice glass of Chardonnay that I got from Sprouts the other day. And, forgive me all you wine-connoisseurs out there, it is from a BOX!! A box, with a resealable screw top! And it is yummy... yummy and cheap. Can't beat that! And something about it reminds me of basil. Is it possible for wine to taste like basil? I've had wine that tastes like fruit, or even wood, but never an Italian herb.

And the joyful sounds of playtime have morphed into wails of displeasure. Oh well; I suppose my time enjoying the subtleties of my wine are over. Best chug the rest of it and ensure there is no bodily harm, or spillage of blood.

It was nice while it lasted!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Righteous Frustration

I expect I will receive a few calls from parents tomorrow, or the next day. Admittedly, I sort of 'lost it' with my students today. Let me explain...

There may be a few readers who are unaware of this, but I am a special education teacher. I teach LRC kids, or Learning Resource. I also teach 2 specialty reading classes for kids who cannot decode words or cannot really understand what they read. My tirade was not aimed at them... not specifically at least.

No, I unleashed my inner "Bad Witch" on my 7th hour Resource kids. The purpose of Resource Class in middle school, at least as I see it, is to have time to get your homework done, catch up if you need to, or get extra help from the teacher. With 5 or 6 kids, it can be really more like a glorified tutoring session, but with 10 kids in the class, I get to the kids I can, and they take turns. The older ones often are willing to help out the younger ones, or they help where they are strong... It can work quite well.

Except when it doesn't. And in this case, it is not working because the majority of my students this year, or in this class specifically seem to not care a rats' tooshie about their grades. I have 5 kids who, amazingly enough, never seem to have any homework to do, except that they are FAILING their classes. F.A.I.L.I.N.G. And in this case, they do not care.

I have one kid who is, while cute enough, seemingly hell bent on doing NOTHING in my room at any and all costs. He is a master at procrastination, coming up daily with yet more excuses to be totally and completely devoid of effort or work. I have another one who gives me the same look that my dog does when I get mad at her; the total blank stare with the mouth hanging slightly ajar as if to either catch a fly or at risk of drooling.

It makes me wonder what their educators were like in their elementary schools. What DID these people do FOR these kids? Because as far as I can tell it was neither instilling a strong work ethic or teaching them coping skills for their deficits. I know one teacher spent every single afternoon and every lunch working with two students so they could pass. And while this is admirable on one hand, from a practical perspective, what she did in no way prepared them for middle school, or for high school, or for LIFE. I understand they have disabilities, but in the big, bad world, no one is going to stand over them and hold their hand while telling them what to do to be successful.

So I lost it. I told them that I did not want to hear from any of their parents (*which I know invites the calls... I know!!) when they get Fs on their report cards. It is not for lack of making accomodations or modifications to the curriculum. Having an IEP or being a special education student still earns you the right to FAIL if you do not participate in your learning.

Going around expecting other people to do everything for you is NOT the way to become a self-sufficient adult. The sooner people adopt the motto "If it is to be, it is up to me" the better off they will be.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What has gotten into me?

I'd call it a bug if I thought it would pass rather quickly, but this cooking thing... geesh!

Wanna know how I spent my morning? That all-too-brief time between getting out of bed, and having the rest of the family get out of bed? Sometimes I get 30 minutes, sometimes I get lucky and have an hour or so on a day like today (meaning, a No School day) or sometimes its about 30 seconds, as the sound of my feet on the stairs magically awakens all other breathing members of my family, with the notable exception of my husband. These are precious, quiet moments. I pour myself some coffee and when the weather promises to not melt me within 2 minutes, I go outside to enjoy the admittedly lovely desert morning.

Today, I poured my coffee, grabbed an armload of cookbooks, a pad, and a pen and then proceeded to pour myself all over their pages. Some are just OK. My favorite today is The Barefoot Contessa's book on entertaining simply. I must have marked 15 pages, at least.

Some notable favorites were versions of sweet potato fries, something called Confetti Corn, a fantastic looking rolled-turkey breast, some mustard cream sauce slathered fish recipes... I got inspired and motivated!! *(Ok, and HUNGRY, too!)

Now I want to start cooking for Thanksgiving. Yes.. I realize Thanksgiving is nearly 8 weeks away. Which then lends to my question "What has gotten into me?" There is something extremely gratifying in the idea, and then in the execution, of making from scratch Thanksgiving dinner, and heck, just your basic every-night dinner, too. This is unlike me. I've been utterly content to just toss something edible on the table for YEARS now. Hmmm...

I quelled my desire to MAKE something from that book by cooking up a nice big batch of French Toast for the family. I even enjoyed a near-perfect batter-to-bread ratio!!

Now off to watch Parker hopefully win his baseball game, and then to cheer for the Trojans as they make dog-food out of Washington.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Foolin' Myself

Chicken Divan tonight; Mom's was certainly better, but I think mine fared decently, and was unquestioningly kinder to the hips!! A few tweaks for the next go-round that may negate any of the health benefits of MY version, but oh well.

This is bringing the 2nd week of My Triumphant Return To The Kitchen to a close. I am starting to get into a routine, and one that is admittedly far more family-friendly than my prior habits. I had myself convinced that I didn't really have TIME to cook. I work all day, and need to play Mommy at night, and I'm too flipping tired to plan and shop and prepare and cooking takes WAY too long anyway....

Except, I do have time. It doesn't take nearly as long as I thought it would. It does take effort and forethought, a bit of planning and researching, but the TIME is not too bad, really. I'm getting into a routine, too.

It used to be this way: Leave work, pick up Squirt, arrive home, scream about homework to the zombies masquerading as my children, grab a snack for myself and one for Squirt, clean dishes from the feast the Zombies had when they got home, and then mercifully retreat to my room and hop on the computer for an hour or two a few minutes. I'd emerge somewhere close to 6pm with a mild sense of panic, knowing there were 4 hungry male mouths that needed to be fed with something that resembles healthy food.

Now, I have my menu for the week on the fridge, along with the page numbers of all that week's recipes. (I am having flashbacks to my MOPS meetings from years ago when we had a speaker come tout the benefits of meal planning a month in advance. I'm not quite yet THAT ambitious) I have already purchased everything I need for the week over the weekend, so I just need to gather ingredients, and have at it! And, if I start when I get home at around 4:30, small potential disasters akin to what happened today can be averted. (I went to gather the chicken I had in the back fridge only to smell long before I tried to OPEN the package that the contents had seen better days. Off to the store I went for fresh chicken!) I have the added benefit of spending the hours between walking through the door and sitting at the table actually IN the presence of my children. Which is sort of nice.. in its own way... when they are not trying to dismember each other.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I need another hit!!

The meals for this week have been "eh" at best. I made my pasta (angel hair, my favorite) with fresh tomato & basil on Monday. Note to self: When doubling the amount of pasta, you are also required to double the sauce ingredients! The flavor, when you got some, was good, but overall I felt it was dry. That said - the leftovers were really good!! So, either more sauce on the outset or just make it the day before you want to serve it! Everyone, including my mother, seemed to enjoy it, so perhaps I am judging myself too harshly.

Last night, it was my plan to make the Lemon & Basil Chicken, but I now tutor on Tuesday nights, and I think last night proved that whatever I make on Monday better darn well be enough to feed everyone on Tuesday, too. So, I made the Lemon & Basil Chicken tonight instead. It was decent. Good even. But not great. Possibly a "keeper" recipe because it was easy, but it won't stay at the front of the list.

I put off tonight's meal until tomorrow, so we will see how that goes. I was so excited by the reviews from my biggest fans/critics over last week's meals, that I'm now a "positive reaction" junkie.

I will say, it is fun, this cooking gig. I've also realized exactly what I need in my kitchen, so if ever I need to start from scratch, I will know exactly what to get. Historically, I've been known to amass a few (thousand) kitchen gadgets that look wicked cool in the demonstrations, only to let them fester and gather dust in my cabinets or drawers. I think I have whittled down what I really need to this:

~Several good wooden spoons. Like, maybe 5. Or 6. Different sizes.
~Good kitchen shears & Spatulas
~My 8qt sauce pan. Maybe its really a frying pan?? Anyway, it's HUGE, has a nice long handle, is non-non-stick, or STICK surface (what IS the right terminology for that?) and has a lid. I can make everything from braised beef to sauces in it.
~Spaghetti pot (with internal fitting colander)
~2qt sauce pan, again non-non-stick
~Whisks of various sizes.
~My Williams-Sonoma multi-chopper thingy that has a name I am sure. Several blade styles, make everything from cored apples to french fries. It works wonders on onions!
~Good knives.

I'd love to learn how to use cast-iron and have several pieces, or at least, one nice big Le Crueset dutch oven. (Christmas list, perhaps!!??)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Steak au Poivre (big hit #3)

Or, loosely translated, Pepper Steak. In a word?? YUM. And easy!! Ok, hit a few snags, like having tenderloins of different thicknesses, meaning they did not cook evenly, but on a scale from "I can boil water" to "I have a PHD in Culinary Arts", this dish certainly leaned more to the Boiling Water side!

And, another plus... there are leftovers!! Always a good thing! And.. the boys liked it! Parker did ask that the next time I make it I keep one steak aside for him that is NOT encrusted in pepper. (Note: they were not ENCRUSTED but certainly peppered!)

I, once again, donned my apron, and even timed the dishes more or less right. Had the pans all cleaned up before we sat down, making the after-party in the kitchen a much simpler affair.

It's very nice to hear compliments from the boys. Matthew's eyes light up when I make something he enjoys. Parker just doesn't make a sound because he is too busy eating! Chris nibbles regardless what is in front of him, so its hard to tell the degree to which he likes something.

My side dish was my only failure. I'd chosen a pre-bagged Roasted Potatoes & Veggis from Schwans (I can't cook EVERYTHING, you know!) but somehow either the oven was not working well or another near disaster fell upon my casserole dish, but they were ice cold still when we got to the table. Oh well.. Parker was smart; ate all his meat and then reheated the veggies.

So.. in case you want to try this at home, here's the recipe:

Tenderloins of beef, cut thin, coated with cracked pepper corn. Cook these in a skillet of hot butter until done. Anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes/side. Set on serving place and put in warming oven (or microwave, which I have found to be a good runner-up).

In the still hot skillet, add 2tbsp of Brandy, and scrape off the drippings from the meat. Add 1/3c heavy cream (Do not use milk!) and 1/3c beef broth. Stir... add 2T of dijon mustard and continue stirring over low heat until sauce is smooth and thick.

Pour over meat. ENJOY!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Honey!

Today is Steve's birthday. He's afraid that he is inching (rapidly) toward "being old", but I disagree... you're only as old as you feel, my dear!

Steve is a very difficult individual to celebrate for. He does not want parties in his honor, he's impossible to buy for because he wants for nothing, he's not up on the latest gadgets, so he is unimpressed by most of the things that make my eyes pop, and a dinner out, just he and I... well.... that idea works, so that's where we started with the planning.

However, what is the saying? The road to hell is paved with good intentions? Yeah.. sort of like that. We started off planning to get a sitter, and go see a movie then go out to dinner.

Until we saw the choices we'd have right now for movie choices. Nothing. ZIPPO. There are 2 movies I'd like to see, but truly they are chick-flicks and not of any interest to him.

Ok, scratch the movie.. how about a nice nite out, just the two of us?? Good idea, until we realize that is the USC/Ohio State game. How about just going to watch the game? The USC group gets together at a local hotel here in Scottsdale, that is, until THIS week, when they change the venue. Still, we could use the sitter and go, just US.

Until 2 of the 3 boys seem to be fighting some low-grade bug-thing and are grouchy and grumpy and lethargic.

Maybe we will wait for another weekend to go out and celebrate.

Steve has also decided that there is no time like the present to attack the yard. He's been digging and chopping and chipping all day, in the oppressive humid heat. Silly silly man! Not exactly the pampering, self-indulgent way I'd like to spend MY birthday, but who's to say which is the RIGHT way to spend one's birthday.

On another note: We are finishing up week 1 of my Culinary Adventures. Last night's Fritatta met with limited success. It could have been due to this low-grade bug-thing, or to the fact that eggs belong on the table for breakfast, or that certain things like sausage and corn do not belong with eggs at all. At any rate, it is about the only dish so far that did not meet with approval. Tomorrow is my last recipe - Steak Au Poivre. I have worked up and shopped for next week's menu, too! More "real" cooking coming this week! Our menu looks like this:

Monday: Pasta with Tomato & Basil Sauce
Tuesday: Lemon-Mustard Chicken
Wednesday: Chicken Divan Casserole
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Spaghetti Pie
Saturday: Veal (or Chicken) Parmesan
Sunday: Someone's takin' the cook out for dinner!

Friday, September 11, 2009


I was reading a story with one of my classes today, and we came across the word REVERED. None of the kids knew what it meant, so I pulled out Webster and we researched the exact description. I'd already told them that it is sort of "to look up to" but more so. The official definition is "To regard with awe, deference, and devotion."

This got me thinking, which, as you know, usually leads me straight to the top of my soap box. Certain things in life should be revered. Elders, for one. This particular story talks about the revered elders in the family. I agree... we should respect and even revere our elders.

But what else do we, as a country, revere? Other than money? It used to be that we revered the Office of the President. It used to be that we revered religion, or at least the institution in which one practiced religion. But we've lost all of that somehow. Over and over again, we are witness to just how debased we've become as a society.

I did not see the outburst during the Presidential address on Wednesday as I was driving the boys back from a lovely trip to the dentist (4 cavities, 1 crown, 4 sealants and a visit to the Ortho is in our future!) but I HEARD the scene when the Senator from South Carolina heckled the President. HECKLED THE PRESIDENT??? Pardon my language, but WTF?

Since when has a Presidential Address to Congress turned into an NFL game? Or worse? If we, and our Elected Political Heroes no longer have, or at least SHOW, respect for the Office of the President, what does that mean for us as a society? I know this may seem like a stretch, but can anarchy be far behind?

And when did this happen? When did it become not only OK, but expected for us to question the private lives of our leaders, or their financial history, or their choices from 30 years before? We didn't do it to Eisenhower. I doubt we did it to Kennedy while he was living... I bet even good ole Calvin Coolidge didn't have to live through a heckler within his own CONGRESS.

We wear our bra straps showing in church, or jeans with holes in them, and sneakers. We talk back to our leaders, screaming and name calling rather than engaging in honest debate and dialogue. We no longer hold doors open for those older, or heck, even the same age as us... we let it close in their faces...

Will we ever again be a society of individuals with both reverence and civility?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Product Recommendations

I have encountered/brought into my possession/stumbled upon some things lately that I love and felt the urge to spew/crow about said things.

iPod Touch. I've had my Touch for about 3 months now. We've passed the learning-curve and have progressed on to a blissfully symbiotic relationship. I plug it in frequently, and fill it with podcasts, music, news and other applications, and it keeps me delightfully entertained. It also keeps my 4yr old delightfully entertained at restaurants, waiting for doctors, waiting in line, in the car or any other time I need him to be distracted. It works like a charm!!

LoseIt: Application for said iPod Touch. I have done Weight Watchers, I've counted calories, I've tracked heart rate and caloric expenditures to try to lose or maintain my weight. This application is clear, easy to use and because my iPod has become my appendage, always accessible. Which means I use it. Constantly! This is good... if it goes in my mouth, it gets logged into LoseIt. So far? Down 12 pounds. More than I care to mention, to go!

My Vera Bradley purse.
I've loved Vera Bradley bags for years. It's the New England prep in me. I've also come to the realization that I am particularly difficult to please. My purses are either too big, too small, the handles don't stay on my oddly-shaped shoulders, they are too difficult to get into, have too many pockets, or too few. So, back to Vera. I've LOVED her Daisy print since it came out this spring. I'm really a big fan of Daisies. They are so happy, so peaceful and happen to be the flower of my high school, Miss Porter's School. However I could not justify the cost of buying one of these bags. Until the other week! The spring patterns went on sale (More than 50% off!), so I treated myself to the mini-tote in Daisy. I LOVE IT. It is the perfect size (I did waiver for a bit if it would be too small.. NOPE!) Its bright, colorful, preppy.... Me-Likey!

Olay ReGenerist Microdermabrasion System: I'm of the age where my skin and I are not always seeing eye-to-eye. I do not feel as old as I sometimes look, and have passed the stage where a bar of soap or a jar of Noxzema will suffice. So, for about $22 I decided to give this a try. Oh! the difference! Not so harsh that I had to wear a mask but tough enough on the ole' face that I felt it! My skin was MUCH smoother! I've used it only once. I'll let you know how I look after a couple of weeks!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I'm battin' 1000

I promise that I will not report after every single home cooked meal I slave over in my kitchen, however, this one met with ENTHUSIASTIC reviews from my harshest critics so I felt I had to share!!

Tonight's entrè was Sausage & Beef Empanadas. Recipe from COME ON OVER cookbook, if you are interested. I was worried because: they didn't mention which KIND of sausage to use, I didn't use the proper amount of enchilada sauce and, well, let's face it, its ME doing the cooking... god knows what could go wrong!

Note to self, and anyone else curious... Homestyle ground sausage works great. I figured breakfast sausage was out of the running, and I can't stand the heat of Chorizo sausage, so my process of elimination worked.

The recipe also did not falter due to lack of enchilada sauce. It was supposed to take (1) 29oz can of sauce, but when I realized I got HOT sauce, I scaled it back to about 8oz. Perfect!!

Served with canned corn, and next time, will put corn IN the casserole.

The recipe said it served 20. We, meaning the 4 of us who ATE it, cleared easily 1/2 the dish. Plenty for tomorrow's dinner!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Dinner #1, a meal in review

I had no idea how long I would need to cook my first COOKED dinner in ages, and I started perhaps a bit too early. However, it all worked out fine. Even have dinner for tomorrow night prepared, and waiting in the fridge to be placed in the oven for the appropriate amount of time.

Tonight's dinner met with 4 Thumbs-Up, tho not enthusiastic ones. They didn't hate it is what that boils down to, which is good.

I also goofed and picked up dried basil rather than fresh basil, and I know there is a difference in flavor. If I make it again, I will know better next time. However, I have leftovers for lunch tomorrow, which means one less meal I have to think about, and this, too, is good.

Also made a cake, in a very pretty flowery bundt pan. AND freshly whipped cream on the side.

I even wore an APRON! ;-)

Week one of my Triumphant Return to the Kitchen

Getting ahead of myself? Possibly! However, an inspiration is an inspiration and I am going to go with it until we either go broke, there is a complete mutiny from my crew, or we get so fat we can no longer fit through the doors.

My menu is planned. My list for the store is complete, and I am going to spend this afternoon making dinner for the next two nights. Here's what I have planned:

Monday: Chicken in a creamy basil sauce, with rice and broccoli.
Tuesday: Sausage and beef empanadas with corn.
Wednesday: Dinner sausage with sauerkraut (Schwanns. No thinking involved!)
Thursday: Parker has baseball. Sandwiches for all...
Friday: Corn Fritatta with cheese
Saturday: Steve's Birthday... he and I are going out. Kids get Pizza
Sunday: Steak au Poivre.

Julia, while amazing and fabulous and brilliant, is a bit too rich for the likes of this family. So I am pulling my recipes from the Better Homes New Cook Book, and a little artsy one called Come On Over.

You will notice that, in reality, I am only COOKING 4 of the 7 nights. Yup... but that is still a HUGE increase over my standard percentage. My battle cry for a very long time has been "I don't cook. I fix".

Well, I am trying to "fix" that!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Long time, no blog

We're about to start the 5th week of school. So much for my promise earlier this summer that I would get back into the swing of blogging once school started. The best laid plans, right?

School has turned out to be a much better situation that I had feared. Isn't that usually the case?? One of the classes I have to teach will be, I am sure, only slightly less painful than poking myself repeatedly with something sharp, but the kids are good, I've settled into my classroom enough that it is feeling like HOME, and I have some wicked cool new gadgetry to use, so its all good. (if you are not following me on Twitter or following my updates, our SmartBoards and Doc. Cams were installed this last week. OH SO FLIPPING COOL!!!)

I spent the day today with my friend Nicole. We had a 'girls day' of shopping (got some make up and a new pair of silver hoop earrings) and then we saw Julie & Julia. I have the book on my bedside table and it is my next read. Movie then book... generally I don't like to do things in that order, but oh well.

In short - LOVED the movie!! It was cute, laugh-out-loud funny at times and certainly inspired me to go dig out the Julia Child cookbook my parents gave me back in 1992. (Yes.. it was VERY very dusty!) As with most aspects of life, the movie made cooking look SO easy and effortless. Ahhh - were it only so! One little highlight for me toward the end of the movie was a shot (cameo??) of my childhood-neighbor-turned-published-author-and-famed-NYTfoodie Frank Bruni! I'd heard he was in the film, but when I didn't see his name show up in the IMDB list, I thought perhaps an article of his was shown or something.

However, the movie DID inspire me a bit tonight. The plan was for my throw-it-together Mexican Salad - bagged salad, Tyson grilled chicken slices, corn, avocado, dressing. Toss it, call it dinner. The bagged salad comes with tortilla strips but tonight, in homage to Julia, I decided to make croutons. And I had a little helper in Christopher. We had the BEST time, chopping the stale French bread I had in the fridge, melting the copious amount of butter, and stirring until the magic happened. I wish I could replay the scenes for you - it was not just the butter melting during our team-work fest!

So.. I pledge to myself, and the 3 of you who READ this blog... I will do better both in the kitchen, and on my blog. Thanks Julie.. and Julia.. now I have a bit of inspiration! (and be warned, you may hear about my culinary disasters because you KNOW there will be a few!)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

A personal vendetta?

The trauma and drama that began 4 days ago played out to its end last night. In my never ending attempts to get BACK to the school that I have considered my home for the last 7 years (crazy, dysfunctional and such as it is.. it is home) I offered to cut my contract in order to take a part time sped position and a part time Language Arts position, knowing that SpEd will up the staffing by the 3rd week of school and soon I would be back at a full contract. I left this message with the administrator on voice mail. My call was never returned. Nor has anyone ever replied to the numerous emails I have sent.

And my whole rant about how this was NOT on the Principal's head, that this whole issue come down to the special ed department being woefully understaffe, well, THIS part falls solely on the administration. She had it within her power to fix 2 potentially very BIG problems and chose not to. According to a source, she "will not have me back on her campus". So this has nothing at all to do with my ability to teach (which I could assume from the start since in the 4 years of her being at this school, she has been in my room 3 times) or with doing what is best for special ed kids, but what is best for HER.

There will be staffing allocated for special ed after the 2nd week of school. I got THAT much done for my former students and team members... but it will not be me filling the position. As we all know, these are not easy positions to fill, so just because the staffing allocation will be there, it could be a long time before there is a person in that position. This is her personal vendetta against me being played out and it is the kids who will suffer for it.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Do-gooder thrown under bus. Story at 11.

I will preface this self-pitying rant with the acknowledgment that I do realize I should be thankful, in this economy, that I have a job.

That's about where my thankfulness ends.

I have said for years now that no good deed ever goes unpunished. I know that this is not a very Christian way of looking at the world, but I have seen it time and time again, and have been chanting this as a mantra for the last 6 years. Every time our school psychologist would qualify a kid for special ed just because it was to 'be nice' that family ended up biting us in the butt. I know that no good does from doing-good. And yet, I tried.

When our district cut staffing at my school, the least senior member of the team was the one to be reassigned. She had no say in where she would be reassigned. And I blogged before about how important it was for her to be able to stay at the school we taught at because her daughter goes there etc.

I also did not believe for a moment that, when I agreed to take her place as the person reassigned, our staffing numbers would remain dismally low. I mean... come ON??!! 9 grades (K-8) in a school that grew over the summer by 300 students?? No flipping way 2 Special Education teachers can handle THAT!!!

So - my good deed - offering to go to a different school so that my co-worker could do what is best for her family.. Yeah - now I am the one being bitten in the butt.

The school to which I have been reassigned... circa 1954. Fine. I can handle an old building. Ok, so my room smells bad. (really bad.. MOLD bad) Fine.. so there is NO WHERE for me to put my stuff.. Ok, so the new Principal didn't even know I was coming or that I was new to the campus and forgot to INTRODUCE ME TODAY during our first staff meeting. Fine.. I'm there to teach, right?

LRC right?? Learning RESOURCE Classroom. Not self-contained. Not Lifeskills, right?

Not so fast.

Yeah - it is called LRC but evidently my new caseload is just one step away from self-contained. This is not the population I either wanted to work with, or am good at. I won't be helping kids maneuver through their Social Studies text books... or helping them with their science or math.. I will be working with kids who do not know that "A" says "A". I will have kids who need paraprofessionals at age 13.

There are people in this world who are great at working with this population. There are folks with the patience to teach and reteach the same things for an entire year.

I am NOT one of those people.

Had I known... I would have let the other gal figure something out.

It is going to be a very unbearable 182 days.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A weekend of bliss...

As a treat, Steve and I got away for a weekend this last weekend. The trip was a gift from my mom who is probably unbearably tired of me complaining about the heat so she said "off with you" and sent us to San Diego.

Steve and I stayed at the Marriott on Coronado. If you have never been, I recommend it. The hotel is lovely, the rooms are huge, and while it is NOT on the ocean side *you look at San Diego Harbor* the crowds are fewer and it is much quieter. There are three pools, and it is overall a lovely place to stay.

We went to the beach, and I reveled in having my feet in the sand, and ocean breezes blowing by... it was as close to heaven for this desert dweller as one can come!

The boys stayed with a sitter, for the first time EVER. And, I am thrilled to report there were no meltdowns, no tantrums, no panic attacks.. all went smoothly. Thank goodness!!

I have pictures posted on my Facebook page, or you can follow this link to see them. Coronado Photos.

Friday, July 17, 2009

It's Too Damn Hot

My apologizes to Cole Porter for using his lyrics.. but it is true.. right now, today, this summer, it is just too darn hot to even think. Let alone blog. Or, really, move in any way.

I should toughen up. I've been here 8 years. I should proudly proclaim the heat index as if it were a badge of courage. I just can't.

It's too damn hot...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

10 years ago, I became a mom...

Parker turned 10 on Monday. Such a monumental age... TEN. Both hands, all fingers. TEN. The Big Roman Numeral X.

Having a summer birthday in Arizona sucks monkey toes, so we will do something to celebrate this monumental age after school begins.

I am still holding out hope that he will change his mind, and we will end up going to DisneyLand this fall to celebrate both BIG birthdays - his, and mine!! More likely, however, will be either a pool party or baseball game.

We did go out to dinner to celebrate. I think Macaroni Grill was a hit!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

On the spectrum

No - not the SPECTRUM, as in the Autism Spectrum... that is one I am quite familiar with through my work and one that has received plenty of attention. Nope - I'm talking about the "little-s" spectrum. The "where are you between Free Range and Helicopter Parent" spectrum.

Let me explain...

I thought terms like "free range parents" and "helicopter parents" were universal at this point. I've been using these terms to describe parenting methods for the last couple of years, and I thought they had made their way across the nation (see, I am nothing if not in my own eyes, your 'average Jane').

That was, until my mother stopped me and exclaimed "I have no idea what you are talking about!!!"

So - A Free-Range parent raises their kids much like a free-range farmer.. very few boundaries, allowing them to have freedom. Riding bikes without adult supervision. Going to the bathroom alone at McDonalds. Walking to the school bus (or, dare I say it - even to SCHOOL) alone. Being able to walk out the door and not come home until dinner time - you know - how WE were raised. Too much freedom?? Maybe - depending on how entrenched in the Free-Range concept one becomes, I suppose.

A Helicopter-Parent hovers. There is little or no autonomy for the child of a Helicopter Parent. I've heard stories about HPs going on their child's college interviews.. actually IN THE ROOM... with them. These are the parents who call the school/Principal/teacher and complain about grades, because "Johnny is just NOT a B student.. he deserves his A and you will give him his A". All the while, the parent ignores the fact that Johnny has not turned in any homework in 3 months. This is the same parent who insists on going to the Pediatrician appointments with their child - even at 18.

So, that leaves me wondering, reflecting.. where am I on this spectrum? How does one find middle ground?? Because regardless of which way you lean, there will be hoards of well-intentioned parents telling you that you are doing it all wrong.

I suppose I lean more toward the Free-Range idea. I am OK with letting my boys walk to and from the bus stop. I trust them to GET ON THE BUS when it arrives, and to GET OFF THE BUS in the afternoon. These are not monumental tasks.. I am OK with my oldest saying "Mom, I am going to go ride my bike for a bit". I know he knows to wear his helmet. He knows to not cross a certain street. The likelihood of him being picked up off the street by a stranger are about as good as him being struck by lightening.

But then, I go and drop my middle child off at sleep away camp. In a different state. A five hour drive from home... and I fight the urge to call, to check up and see how he is doing. The camp even sent home a letter, aimed directly at parents like ME - that said, 'you need to trust us to take care of your child'. Yeah - I get that - in theory.

In practice, well, I feel my inner Helicopter Mom coming out! But I know that he IS ok.. that he IS having fun.. that he IS eating well, and remembering to take a shower and brush his teeth. I've done a good job with him so far. I need to trust myself that he will take what I have given him, and apply it.

And is not that exactly what we want for our kids? And if we don't ever give them a chance to try out their skills - will they ever really, truly, learn them??

See - testing boundaries can be a learning and growing experience for EVERYONE involved!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I've not blogged in ages!

At the end of the year, I was too busy to complete a coherent thought. Now that school is over, I am finding myself with less to say!!

We are all doing well in the Jensen house. The boys lasted a full 4 days of summer vacation before I was ready to let them kill each other or have a hand at the task myself. Luckily for everyone involved, we discovered the Boys & Girls Club camp and they've been going daily for 3 weeks. They are happy, the house is quiet and everyone is still breathing. Good sign, on all counts!

Christopher has proven to be the easiest-going little munchkin around. I drag him everywhere, and he goes willingly, never complaining... and we are even having a modicum of success with the whole potty-training concept. Of course, being allowed to run around the house naked seems to help that!

We had some windy days and lost 3 HUGE branches off the tree in the front yard so I have spent the better part of the last two days hacking away at said tree with every chopping gizmo I can find. Have not done a bad job, either.. we will see how she fares when the winds really pick up.. maybe I have a new career in front of me??

I usually complain fiercely about the heat in summer, and I am sure that will come, but I will say we have had the most lovely June weather and I am enjoying every minute of it, for I know what comes next! May was hotter than the holy hinges of hell, and as is typical fashion, things remain that way until about Halloween. However, the weather gods have smiled down upon me, and we've not been at or above 100* for over 2 weeks.

I promise I will try to find things to write about... I do.. just not promising I will actually FIND anything!!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Why I am considering listing the members of my family on Ebay

Setting: Parker's play off game.

Background: After a furious scramble yesterday to retrieve all parts of his uniform (at the 11th hour), Parker assured me he knew where all of his uniform was today.

Scene: The mother is at Target, frantically making necessary purchases of laundry soap and dishwasher tabs when her cell phone rings.

Steve (husband): "Do you know where Parker's cup is? He can't find it".
Me: "No, he said he had everything he needed"
Steve: "Well, we have looked everywhere, all over this house and we can't find it"
Me: "He had it last night. It didn't grow feet and walk away. It is there SOMEWHERE"

Cue screaming and wailing in background from distraught boy who cannot play without said cup.

Steve: "I guess we just can't go. No cup, no game"
Me: "I will be home in a minute. I will help you look"

Mom screaches tires getting car into driveway, and dashes in front door.

Mom:"Parker, did you check the bathroom??"


Parker:"Oh, here it is..."

Looked ALL OVER the house?? Really??

Thursday, May 07, 2009


I was struck by something tonight while attending Parker's strings concert at the boys' elementary school. The idea of roots came rushing at me as I sat in front of a family who we've known through schools of one sort or another for a while now. The Walshes were at the preschool we went to. Their daughter, Allie, and Parker have been in the same class a few times. I'm thinking this in a very general sense, without much pondering really, when BLAMO... it hits me..

Christopher is off behind the audience playing with Allie's little sister. Chris is pushing his way toward his 4th birthday, and Allie's sister is 4 1/2. Parker and Allie were in the same preschool class when they were the age their little siblings are NOW.. WOW.. here are these two preschoolers running around with their nearly 10 yr old siblings, which means that, for all intents and purposes, Allie has been part of Parker's life for as long as he can remember.

Matthew was running around the cafeteria during the performance, entrenched with other students he knew from school. At one point, he siddled up next to his Principal, who is aptly named Dr. Root, and had a quiet conversation. She thanked him for stopping by to say hello. She knows his name.

Steve and I waved and nodded at faces familiar to us either from preschool, or school events, or baseball, or really from anywhere. My initial feeling of "we don't know anyone" is clearly replaced by a sense of familiarity as I see face after face.

In a different setting, but on the same topic, I think about my work. I've been at my school for 7 years now. The school's doors have been open only for 8 years. I was a counselor at the school for my first 2 years there, and have been a teacher for the last 5. And for most of those 5 I've been threatening that I am going to leave. It's a crazy place to work; folks bicker and snipe at each other, our administration leaves a few things to be desired, the parents are their own breed of crazy... and yet, year after year, I stay.

Except for, perhaps, this coming year, it looks as though I will make good on my threat to leave. It's a long story, but I have myself slated at another middle school for next year. And now I have the arduous task of not only packing up my room, and saying goodbye to the people I work with day in and day out, but also then reestablishing roots somewhere else. For as crazy and insane and infuriating as my current school is (and it is all those things, and more, I know) the idea of leaving is suddenly not so attractive. Now that I know I am most likely jumping ship, perhaps the turbulence is not so bad.

I must admit, this has been an odd awakening for me. I don't feel grounded here in the desert. I have never felt grounded here, and quite frankly, am not sure I really WANT to be grounded here. I still feel quite strongly that my roots are back in Connecticut. I struggle with the pull and desire to get back there again, back to where I feel I have my footing and MY roots. And yet, somehow, without really meaning to, we have planted and nurtured roots here. My kids have them. Friends they have known nearly their whole lives surround them on a daily basis. Without meaning to, we, the adults, have become entrenched with those roots as well.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Feliz Cinco de Mayo

Life here is a flurry of frenetic activity trying to get ready for the end of school. Nearly every night between now and the end of May has some culminating activity for either a boy or for me.

Please pardon the lack of updates as we wind down this crazy year. Know we are all happy, healthy and hot as the temps here in AZ top 100*. More consistent blogging will resume once school is out.

Until then, keep reading my Tweets in the Twitter feed off to the right... at least if anything earth shattering happens, it will be posted there!

Or, come visit the photography blog if you are just dying for a daily dose of the Jensen clan.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pat's run and beyond

I ran in a 4.2 mile race last Saturday. Longest race so far, and I felt a bit nervous about it. I can consistently complete 3 miles, but would that extra 1.2 kill me?

Nah.. the distance was fine. It was the HILL in the middle of the race that nearly did me in!! I train on flat ground - Scottsdale is not known for being of hilly terrain, however, Tempe is, and Tempe was where we ran. So, that meant I had to walk mile 2. Because nearly ALL of mile 2 was uphill. And not a slight grade either, but UPhill. I assumed I would have to walk, so thought a 13min mile was a decent expectation, meaning I would finish in about 54 minutes. My chip time was 53:14, so I made my goal.

Then I ran the next day. Felt ok. Could barely walk on Monday, but hey..

Then I took 2 days off. And I think I caught a bit of a flu because I felt more or less like holy hell for much of the week.

Ran Wednesday. Realized about 1/2 the way through my run that running at all was a mistake. Was reminded all day that yes, running was a mistake. Bed before 9pm that night, slept through till after 6am the next day.

So, today was the first day I felt I had my Mojo back, and I ran a 5K. Felt good.. thought my time was better, but I will take what I get. And what I got was about 36 minutes to myself without someone asking me for something, screaming at someone else, or needing my input on anything. So, 5K in 36:20. Yeah.. certainly won't be breaking any land-speed records with that time, but what the heck, I am getting out there!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A not-so-good day

Yin and Yang, right?

It was not horrible or terrible, or even very bad... just not so good. I've been fighting what is either exhaustion or a mild stomach bug that has bogged me down for the last few days. Running was icky, painful and as if through mud. My overall outlook and likely my demeanor needed a bit of tweaking... and it was topped off by a not-clean-bill-of-health from the dr (tho, again, nothing terrible or horrible) and NOT getting the Language Arts job I not only wanted, but am also quite qualified for.

To assuage fears, the doc found a heart murmur that was not there before and I have some skin things that need to be looked at.. Guess after 40 it really IS patch, patch, patch!!

So now I need to decide what it is I want to do with myself next year. I've made the promise that I would NOT return to my current school year after year, and year after year, I show back up in August to the same frustrating situation I'd left the previous May. I do think it is time for a change. The change I wanted was to leave Special Education (Been here 5 years and am burned out) and move to the 'civilian sector' of education. Alas, that does not seem to be in the cards for me next year. (I'm starting to get good a living with disappointment) Now my question that requires an answer is.. WHERE TO GO. I know I cannot teach, do not want to teach, and would be horrible at teaching elementary school. I really enjoy middle school. I wonder if I would be any good at high school.

There are two openings at the high school that is practically in my back yard. I am going to leave my options open at this point and see what turns up.. plant a few seeds here, a few there.. see if anything grows. It's not like I am OUT of a job for next year, and for that I am grateful, but for my professional growth and my own personal sanity, I need to find something new... What lies beyond the bend in the road could be very interesting...

Thursday, April 09, 2009

A good day

Today was just one of those days when the planets align and everything seems to run smoothly. I finally got a good night's sleep (and that always starts the day off well) and then had a really good run! The weather was perfect - clear, about 55* with the sun starting to come up. Running was easy and I went further than I planned to and it felt GREAT. Coffee was good, caffeine worked like a charm, I had a good day of teaching, the kids and I both had fun (a rare thing indeed.. ok, maybe not, but it is nice when it happens) and by the time I got home, I was pleasantly exhausted. Took a nap, had take out for dinner, and the kids' fighting has been kept to a minimum.

Need to document days like this to remind myself that they DO happen. Perhaps not too frequently, but they DO happen!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

2 weeks gone...

Sorry folks. We had spring break wicked early and then it was back to the grindstone in serious fashion to get the kids ready for AIMS. This, for the uninitiated, is the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards test. In other words, for parents, students and teachers, it is known as Hell Week.

Teachers diligently, lovingly, forcefully or by some other measure, try to prepare their students for this test. What is sad is this; far more hangs in the balance for the schools and the teachers than for the students when it comes to this test. Unless that student is in high school and has any hopes of graduating; if that is the case, the poor kid really DOES need to pass AIMS. Without those passing marks, sorry dude - no diploma for you!

One of the problems we, as teachers, encounter, however, is the thoroughness with which we prepare our young, impressionable students. We do a bang up job of teaching them that everything they need, their complete and total Raison D'ètre, is to take AIMS and do well on AIMS. We do this so well, in fact, that as soon as the test is over, our classes turn to us, bewilderment and puzzlement on their faces, as if to say, "But we took the test. Certainly you have nothing left for us to DO this year??"

Oh, my deepest apologies, my dear, youthful mind... we still have 7 weeks of school left. We have scads and scads to teach you.

If only we'd not done quite so well making you believe the be-all and end-all for in your career in education *until you go off and find something that actually PAYS you well* is this stupid test.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What is this world coming to?

And, for once, I mean that in a good way!

Last night I had dinner with my friend Jill. We arranged it on Facebook. We enjoyed a fun night at Pei Wei for yummy Chinese food, a cold beer and tons of catching up chatter.

What made this night unusual and noteworthy is that Jill and I have not seen each other in 26 years. Without question, that is a lifetime!!! She and I were great friends in grade school; I have pictures of her at birthday parties and fond memories of antics from those tween years!

But, like many friendships from your 'formative youth', Jill and I drifted apart when we attended different high schools and more or less, no - completely - lost touch.

Until Facebook. A few clicks, and VOILA! All those people you shared your life with and promised to be Best Friends Forever are still there! As close as your keyboard with technology and social networking!

Yet another reason to, if you have not already, go sign up right away!! I have heard many folks say "well, we lost touch for a reason; perhaps I don't want to get back in touch with soandso...". Fair argument, but how do you know until it happens?

Last night, I think both Jill and I discovered, or realized, were friends back then for a reason! We laughed and giggled just like when we were kids. We spent an equal amount of time playing "do you remember...." as well as getting to know each other again, this time as adults.

Hopefully her job will bring her back to Arizona again soon. It was a delightful evening, and I look forward to having more time to visit the next time she comes out.

We both wondered, out loud last night, if our next reunions.. another mile stone one - 25 (Eeegads!!) will be different than the 20th because most of us have now joined some sort of networking site such as LinkedIn or MySpace or, my personal favorite, Facebook. Will attendance be better? Will there be less of the "tell me what you have been up to for the last howevermany years.."? I suppose so.. I think it will make it a lot more fun!

Remember the saying from when you were a kid?? Make new friends, but keep the old.. one is silver and the other is gold?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

"Not My Child!!!"

Why do these three words create in me such a full and complete sense of rage?

Let me explain...

I preface this by saying that, on some level, I hope this is a phenomenon that is localized rather than pervasive, and yet see the comfort that would come from knowing that we are not the only school, district, city or state to encounter "this" parent.

When my sons' school calls, the first words out of my mouth generally are "What did he do now?" I adore my boys more than words will ever express and I am so unbelievably proud of them that at times I fear I might burst, but I am also realistic and I know they do things.. things they wish I didn't know they did.. things I'm sure they pray their grandmother never learns of... They are young, they are boys, and they are sometimes foolish. They can, and will, do stupid things from time to time.

I expect that the school will alert me to these goings on, should they occur, and the the school and I will work out how to deal with any consequences for their foolish behavior. I get this; its a partnership. They cannot do their job as teachers if I will not do my job as a parent. And while protecting my children with my very last breath is the first, second and last thing on that "job description", so is giving them a good whack upside the head or on the bottom should they need it. (figurative or otherwise)

So who has been telling parents, perhaps a few years separated from my age, that it is never Ok to see/say/believe that your kid is/can be/was a jerk?

I've seen it more times than I can count. Parents call because Johnny got into trouble at school. They don't call to say, "Opps, sorry - he will know better next time" or "Thanks for letting me know.." or "Crap.. Again??" Nope - they call to say "You have it wrong, because Johnny is an angel and would never ever do what he is being accused of doing and you just don't see his brilliance or his heart and you certainly will not tell me how to raise my kid and your teacher who called him out on the carpet will certainly apologize to him or I will go to the district and make sure that teacher is reprimanded."

And - what is more disheartening than the fact that we have parents (lots of them - this is not isolated) who do this, but we have a school/administration/district that allows them to get away with it.

Want to stop the bullying problem in schools? One first step is to call the bully out for what he is, and to respond when we hear "Well that can't be MY child doing that" with "Oh dear mother, it not only can be your child.. it IS your child."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why we are at the bottom of the heap

Arizona has the distinct honor of being one of the worst states in the country in which to either be a teacher, or a student.

We are frighteningly close to being awarded The Dumbest State Award (2nd in line for those keeping track at home - the only time when being a Runner-Up is good), according to the National Academy on Something That Analyzes Testing. You can argue this is due to our large immigrant as well as migrant population, or the fact that outside of Scottsdale, the predominant language is NOT English, or the fact that our high school graduation rate teeters somewhere near the 60% mark. Whatever the reason, its resulted in an abhorrently intellectually inferior student population. If you require anecdotal evidence to prove my point, our best and brightest kids - you know the ones, the kids with the 4.4 GPAs who volunteer, and lead a gazillion groups on campus - those kids? They are denied access to the 'bigger names' in colleges regularly. While they shine here in the Grand Canyon State, they are barely even visible when compared to the rest of the applicant pool.

We are #49 in "Per Pupil Spending". Translated into normal language: Arizona spends less than 48 other states on each child in the classroom. It is not only that our teachers are underpaid when compared to their colleagues in other states, but we spend less on Educational Assistants, infrastructure, learning materials such as books and necessary equipment such as desks. (Oh, but as an aside, our esteemed Co-Interim-Superintendents asked for, and received, a $750 a week stipend, retroactive to October 31st of 2008, for 'all their hard work' as well as a $600 a month car allowance.) If we could avoid problem #1, then problem #2 would be something to shout from the rooftops, but clearly, Arizona has not figured a way to do more with less.

Yet, that is exactly what we are going to have to do. Our Legislature, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to cut over 190 million dollars from the education budget.

I understand that times are tough. Believe me.. I get it. Cuts have to be made everywhere. But these elected officials, who, by the way, mostly either send their kids to private school or home school their children, have cut a greater percentage of its own education budget than any other state in the union.

Let me rephrase that: The state that spends less than 48 states on education cut more than any other state from their education budget.

In my district alone, we will lose 220 teachers for the 09/10 school year. If you were a first or a second year teacher in my district, you were unilaterally RIF'd. (Reduction In Force).

Other districts are taking similar drastic measures: cutting out librarians, art, music and other "specials", going to 4-day school weeks, increasing class sizes beyond mandated numbers.

The teachers stand up. We yell, we scream, we beg to be heard.

But our pleas fall on deaf ears.

Arizona's leaders have proven once again that Arizona is a state that does not respect, understand nor value its children.

Shame on them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A meme of Firsts


Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with these “firsts” about you. At the end, choose 25 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, YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE TAGGED TO DO THE LIST.

1. Who was your FIRST prom date?
Hmm... all-girls school. No prom...

2. Do you still talk to your FIRST love?
I'm still on contact with my first love. Does that count??

3. What was your 1st alcoholic drink?
Intentionally? A screwdriver. Unintentionally? Gulping down my mother's gin & tonic thinking it was my 7-up. THAT was a surprise!!

4. What was your FIRST job?
Retail; stock girl. Worked at my dad's store. Overworked and underpaid!!

5. What was your FIRST car?
Volkswagon Jetta in Arrest Me Red!

6. Who was the FIRST person to text you today?
Facebook texted me with an update.

7. Who is the FIRST person you thought of this morning?
Person? Don't remember. First thought? "Is it Saturday yet?"

8. Who was your FIRST grade teacher?
Ms. Peters at Renbrook School.

9. Where did you go on your FIRST ride on an airplane?
I believe it was from CT to San Francisco

10. Who was your FIRST best friend & do you still talk?
My first best friend (I was 2) was Lara Chin, and no we do not still talk. My oldest childhood (Met at 4 1/2) friend is Elizabeth and YES, we do still talk!

11. Where was your FIRST sleep over?
Non-family?? Most likely at Elizabeth's house.

12. Who was the FIRST person you talked to today?

13. Whose wedding did you go to the FIRST time?
hmmm.. Ann Cosby's wedding was the first one I went to. I was 3.5 and a flower girl. The first of my friends to get married was Kellee, and I was IN that one.

14. What was the FIRST thing you did this morning?
Switched computer on...

15. What was the FIRST concert you ever went to?
Hmmm... I think it was YES with Alan P.

16. FIRST tattoo?

17. First piercing?
ears at 14. Done the old fashioned way - with needles and ice!

18. First foreign country you've been to?
Canada does not count to a New Englander, so China.

19. FIRST movie you remember seeing?
Lassy Come Home.

20. When was your FIRST detention?
Hmmm... don't think I ever had one...

21. What was the first state you lived in?

22. First Pet?
Born into a house with dogs. My OWN first pet? A parakeet

23. If you had one wish?
To win the lottery... a big one.. not a "WOW - you won 472$" lottery...

24. What is something you would learn if you had the chance?
Speak another foreign language. German perhaps...

25. Who do you think will be the next person to post this?
Good question. Stacey perhaps?

26. Who was the first person you really kissed?
Alan P.

27. Who was your first sexual experience with?
See #26

28. What was the first occupation you aspired to be growing up?
I wanted to be a ballerina.. until I took ballet and realized I have 2 left feet

29. Who was your first heartbreak?
There was a guy in middle school who I secretly pined for who never returned my affections. His name escapes me..

30. Who was the first person to tell you they loved you?

31. If you won 25 million dollars, what would be the first thing you would buy?
a plane ticket to somewhere far away

32. If you won 25 million dollars, who would be the first person you'd tell?
Whoever was closest at the time.

33. What was the first book you ever read?
no idea... but I remember trying to re-write James & the Giant Peach in 2nd grade.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

3's about me.. by Samantha Jensen

Three Names I have been called
1. Sam
2. Sammi
3. Mrs. Jensen

Three Jobs I have had in my life
1. Retail sales at the Narraganset in Connecticut
2. Co-leader for a therapy group for juvenile sex offenders
3. Counselor who worked with welfare moms as mandated by the State of Massachusetts

Places I have lived
1. Avon, Connecticut
2. Mountain View, California
3. Scottsdale, Arizona

Three TV Shows that I watch
1. Grey's Anatomy
2. Brothers & Sisters
3. Private Practice

Three places I have been
1. Hawaii
2. Italy
3. China

People that e-mail me regularly
1. Angie
2. Terri
3. my FF July 99 group

Three of my favorite foods
1. Pasta
2. Pizza - good NY Pizza
3. Really good Chinese

Three friends I think will respond
1. Angie
2. Stacy
3. Terri

Three things I am looking forward to
1. An economic up-wing
2. Spring Break (tho we have no plans...)
3. Someday, moving back to Connecticut

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Delicate Balance

They are growing up. All of them. Despite my best efforts to find a way to thwart the process and keep them young forever, my boys are growing up. And with age, comes an ever decreasing need for Mom. Me. I'm slowly but surely becoming less and less needed. This is how things are supposed to be, but it is odd, and at times, just a bit painful.

Parker is starting to enter 'that world'. Moms of older boys know the world I speak of; the one where they begin to gravitate toward the "men". It is already a fine line to walk; when do I play Mom, and when do I let him figure it out for himself, resisting with every cell in my body the urge to rescue him?

I dropped him off at baseball practice this morning. He needed me to bring in some forms, and to meet the coach, and then he was ready for me to go. In fact, in some ways, I think he needed me to go. He's too old now for his mom to stick around and watch. He needs to be with the other boys, listening to the Coach. He needs to figure it all out for himself.

And this is good. This is how it is supposed to go in life; you give your child roots so that you can also give them wings.

I am just thankful I have 2 left at home who are willing to snuggle and cuddle, and not go join the man-pack just yet...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A strange and amazing thing just happened...

All thanks to Facebook.


And the J.E.P... (which stands for Joint Educational Program {or is it Project??})

And for those unaware of what JEP does - it is a volunteer program put on by USC in conjunction with Los Angeles Unified School District for students of Psychology and Education or any other kind souls who want to volunteer, to go into these socio-economically poor schools and work with kids considered to be "at risk". We acted as mentors or tutors, or both, for the course of the school year. It was fun and with my hope to become a counselor or therapist as an adult, I thought it was good practice as well!

While I was at work today, I used my cell phone to check my inbox on Facebook. Ok, yes, the fact that I am a Facebook addict has already been clearly established! Shushh to all you poo-poo-ers out there...

There was a message from a person who's name I did not recognize. I was hesitant, but I opened the message. Inside said "Were you a part of the JEP at USC from 1989 - 1990?"

I replied to him that I was but that his name did not sound familiar to me. To which he responded... he was not a student at USC - he was a student at the school around the corner and he had a counselor named Samantha. He wondered if I were she.... He mentioned that his JEP counselor had brought back a piece of the Berlin Wall for him (as it had just 'come down' a couple of years before) and had taken him one day to DisneyLand.

Oh. My. God.

YES - It took these pieces of information for the puzzle to begin to take form. I had a picture of this little boy on that day at DisneyLand and I could still see it clear as day! I remember giving him the piece of the wall. It took a bit of jarring of my poor old memory, but yes - I did in fact remember this person!!!

Then I asked - How on earth did you find me???

Evidently, according to him, he has been looking for me forever but never could remember my last name. He knew I went to USC, and when I graduated. A friend suggested that he check Facebook so he searched for me and found me!!

He wanted to tell me that our time together had changed his life; that I had showed him there were alternatives open to him. He thanked me for our time together.

In fact.. this is what he wrote...

"I've been trying to find you forever. I could only remember your first name and my best friend told me to try facebook. I just wanted to thank you for coming into my life and showing something different. You just don't know how you could change some one's life for the better. I live in Dallas, Texas now; I have three children. I'm a music promoter. Oh, I still have that piece of the Berlin Wall and, guess what, I take my kids to Disney world every spring. Thank you so much."

And I.. for once.. am rendered utterly speechless.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The iPod Shuffle Post - I want you back.

1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
4. Tag 10 friends.
5. Everyone tagged has to do the same thing.
6. Have Fun!

God put a smile upon your face (coldplay)

What were we thinking? (Joss Stone)

Just another name (Lifehouse)

Crash the Party (OK GO)

Playing in the Band (Grateful Dead)

Bedshaped (Keane)

This Love (Maroon 5)

Hit the Floor (Linkin Park)

Whole Day Off (Oingo Boingo - and ain't that the truth??!!)

WHAT IS 2 + 2?
Subdivisions (Rush)

Mr. Brightside (The Killers)

Don't Stay (Linkin Park)

Dangerous Type (Cars)

Can't Stop (Maroon 5)

Limelight (Rush)

Synchronicity 1 (Police)

Secret Separation (The Fixx)

Lying from You (Linkin Park)

Lovers in Japan (Coldplay)

Walking on the Moon (Police)

Get Over It (OK GO)

I Want You Back (hoodoo Gurus)