December 31, 2007

The Winter Cleanse

I'm in the mood for some spring cleaning! Er, uh. Winter cleaning! You know, purging my home of all that is unnecessary to ring in the new year!

Compared to others I know in my circle of family and friends, and compared to the person I was 10 years ago, I really do not have a lot of STUFF. How I compare to the rest of the world, I don't know. It is unlikely that I would not qualify for How Clean is Your House? or Clean Sweep, although when the clutter on the kitchen counter where my family drops things that don't have an assigned place in our home leaves me no room to prepare dinner, or when the coffee table starts to overflow onto the floor with books, papers, and computer things, I start to feel like I am living in a sty. Actually, those areas are pretty easy to deal with: "Hey family! Is this important? I'm going to throw it away!" People come running and miraculously they find places to put their belongings, which is often in the trash. (It irritates me to no end that those items--75% papers from school--had to marinate on my counter first.)

About once a year I sort out bigger stuff around the house. Do we need this broken toy? So, it's not broken, but when did you play with it last? How many coffee cups do we need? Have you worn that shirt in the last year? Considering we just moved in August, you know my need to purge cannot be that strong. Also, when we moved to Las Vegas four years ago, we sold, donated, gave away, and threw away a substantial chunk of our belongings in anticipation of not being able to afford a home large enough to hold all of it. The stuff I have is nothing compared to the stuff I once had, and I rather like it that way.

Still...clutter is there. Yesterday, I went through my son's toys and found a boxful to donate, plus I filled a kitchen trash bag with random bits. It wasn't too bad, though. Actually, many of the things I put in the donate box were things that another mom gave him when she was cleaning out her house. How sweet, right? Only, we ended up getting the type things we once owned but had gotten rid of ourselves! For example, we donated his LeapFrog last year when he hadn't used it in months (and he'd had it a few years), so why did we need to get another one? I hope I don't break his little boy heart, but I did try to leave a few treasures, like marbles and rocks as I sorted through his stuff.

My son is actually fairly organized and neat. My daughter, on the other hand, doesn't understand what cleaning her room means. There is that angel on one shoulder telling me that I should not go in and do a major cleaning in her room, as she's old enough to do it herself, and old enough to deserve some privacy. The devil says that I can always claim I'm an evil stepmother, and when the daily conversations and a weekend intervention don't work, it's time to take some action. (Earlier this month, I asked her to find five things she doesn't use that she could donate. She brought down some books and a game that I don't think were even hers to give. How 'bout one of those naked Barbies? Can you spare a few of those?) Apparently her dad threatened to move everything out, so a little cleaning might make a point. Not today, though. I'm going to need backup for that task. If my sweetie is making such big threats, surely he has interest in helping, right?

I'm by no means perfect. Right now I'm sitting in the middle of 50 paperbacks that I've dragged out of the garage to enter into PaperBackSwap. Don't say I'm not dealing with my own issues! (No, Dad, there's nothing for you to read here unless you like vampire romances. Oops! Did I just admit to reading romances? Uh, well...brain candy. Quick fix.) I've cut waaaaaay back on the number of books I buy, but what do I do with the books I own but don't need to keep, and I can't pass on to friends and family members? It just so happens there are plenty of people at PBS that want my books. As soon as I started posting this morning, I had requests come in. Of course someone wants my Christopher Moore and my Chuck Palahniuk, but it's the other stuff, too. Hooray!

Reduce, reuse, recycle, baby!

December 29, 2007

The 7 Wonders of 2007

I've been a break from reality for at least the last week, which is my excuse for neglecting this blog this month. In a meme I didn't even know was going on, I was tagged twice by Ms. Whatsit and Ms. Cornelius.

Here are the rules that Ms. Cornelius had but Ms. Whatsit didn't:

- Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
- Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
- Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
- Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on his or her blog.

Since I haven't checked my feeds lately, and I'm sure I'm probably the last kid on the block to do this, I'm leaving it open to any 7 people who want to join in. Tag yourself, yo!

I'm thinking about 7 random things in 2007:

  1. This year marked the 5-year anniversary for me and my sweetie. I like to ask him 20 questions about the first time he saw me because he claims it was love at first sight. I don't believe in such things. I do remember the first time I saw him, but I didn't think anything of it at the time. I do remember the day I met him I was hardly looking to make a first impression on any future husbands. I was goofing with my girlfriends at a pool match the day before Easter (and a spring break cruise vacation), thus I was wearing bunny ears with my league shirt, and uh...probably indulging in copious amounts of rum. Classy.
  2. This has been the year of the babies for people around me. In January, I became a honorary great-auntie when my best friend became a grandma. I became I real auntie--not just an honorary one--in May. To top it off, I became step-granny in October. It is a great thrill when we finally get to see new pictures of our little girls!
  3. I love Edward, too! I was totally sucked into Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series just like many of my students were. In fact, I was just as excited to read the third book in the series as I was to read the last Harry Potter. Seriously! Now it's torture waiting for the next book. (I know two other teachers at my school who are shamelessly waiting, too. Nothing like acting like a twitterpated teen girl over a book character for crying out loud!)
  4. For my birthday, I had my hair permed for the first time in about 6 years. I really liked it until about a week ago. Now I'm wondering how short I have to cut my hair to cut the curls off.
  5. I was overcome by guilt last Christmas when my stepchildren came back from their maternal grandmother's house with photo albums of their lives since birth. Obviously I haven't been in their lives since birth, but since their parents weren't together very long into their lives, I've been around long enough that I could have maybe made some photo albums of their lives with us. (The books are all skimpy on time with their dad. I think there's a picture of his car to signify weekend visits with their dad.) Okay, so I have the scrapbook albums and papers, but I have yet to choose and send off for actual photos. The joy of digital cameras...
  6. When we moved into our new place in August, I made it a priority to hang things up right away, rather than wait months and months like I normally do. I put up every painting I own, except a print that I recently received that needs framing, and the walls still look sparse. (My bedroom has nothing on the walls, but it's quite peaceful, actually.)
  7. This is the year I decided to alphabetize my teacher files. Hilarious, isn't it? The system works pretty well, but sometimes I can't remember the name of the folder where I put the thing for which I'm looking. I'm might be spoiled by the options of Internet folksonomy.

December 24, 2007

The Gift Psychic

My dad has this uncanny--and irritating-- ability to guess his gifts before he opens them. Sometimes his abilities aren't so impressive when the gift is obviously a book or the socks he wanted. (He is a practical man, afterall.) For those reasons, we often go to great lengths to disguise his gifts. For future reference, many things can be wrapped in a coffee can, and then the container can be used in the garage!

There have been times where his abilities are quite impressive. Back in 1990, I bought my Dad an stylish digital alarm clock radio that was shaped like a cube. I didn't tell anyone he was getting it, and he didn't need it. I was simply desperate, and a clock is always practical. When I arrived home from college on Christmas Eve, I showed my dad his gift, and he guessed what it was. I was so irritated with him! How could he know?

Yesterday morning, while we were waiting for the rest of the household to wake up, my dad and my stepson where poking and guessing at the presents under the tree. Dad tested out his skills on a few obvious gifts, like books, so my son attempted to stump him by giving him the gift from him. My dad asked him if he made the gift, and my son told him that he had painted it. After some dramatics that included smelly it, gently poking it (breaking the paper is absolutely taboo), and finally holding it to his forehead with his eyes closed in concentration, my dad annouced, "It's a birdhouse!"

You should have seen my son's face. Completely dejected! Poor kid! In another truly miraculous event, Dad guessed the most obscure and unwanted gift. How could he have known he was getting a homemade birdhouse? He didn't need one, and he didn't ask for one. I also was impressed with my Dad's amazing gift. I had to laugh--I couldn't help it. I know exactly how my son feels, but I'm still awestruck on how my Dad does it. After my poor son recovered from his disappointed, he too was impressed and entertained by my Dad's talent.

December 19, 2007

Why I Make a Bad Soccer Mom

Education comes first.

And I obviously cannot plan a logical timeline.

Yesterday after school I needed to go to the post office, and I wanted to go redeem my 25% coupon at Barnes and Noble for an audio book for our trip home, and I wanted to the office supply store to exchange binder I bought for a larger size. I also needed to meet my sweetie on the other side of town when he got off work so we could drop one of our cars off for repairs by the time the shop closed by 6:00 p.m. And, all of this had to be accomplished between 3:15 p.m., when the kids were out of school, and 7:30 p.m., when I needed to leave for night school.

(That is much more than I ever attempt to do on a week night, but this going-out-of-town-for-Christmas business throws the whole schedule off.)

Before I could accomplish anything, I thought it was important that we run home for bathroom breaks, snacks, and homework time, which is typically about 30 minutes.

Big mistake.

That put us in a line at the post office at 4:00 p.m. Apparently everyone in front of me was trying to mail bombs to Guam or something because I was in that line for 45 minutes, and I was only about 10th in line when I started.

After my 30 second transaction at the counter, where I felt a little cheated that I didn't get as much time with the postmaster as everyone else, that put me with the 5 0'clock traffic to cross to the opposite side of town. Freeway or surface streets? Either way, my life sucks.

(Reason #456 that being a teacher is awesome: no evening rush hour traffic!)

Every ten minutes my sweetie called: "Where are you now?" At a never ending light. On the freeway looking at brake lights. Behind 30 cars waiting at a stop light. Am I behind an accident and don't know it? So close, yet so far away.

We made it to the dealer service department in time to drop our keys off to a real person, rather than a drop box. (The appointment was in the morning.) The trip back across town wasn't as long, but there was no time for a book store or office supply store stop because kids needed to be fed and bathed before getting ready for bed.

Most days, those few hours between the end of the school day and bedtime are pretty short and hectic, without errands or activities. How do those soccer moms do it?

December 16, 2007

Spread a Little Christmas Meme

I'm dreaming of Christmas break...How about you? Just let me make it through the week...

Here's a Christmas meme, as seen at Mrs. T's. Join in if you like!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper. I'm quite adept at it, too. During my college years, I worked at an independent bookstore that offered free gift wrap. Some days I'd be at the back counter nearly all day. And then, I'd end up getting roped into wrapping every single present for my mother-in-law in those years, too. Now, just because I'm so good at it doesn't mean my gifts are beautiful. In recent years I'm all about just getting the thing wrapped and tagged. Does anyone really inspect the quality of my seams? Hardly!

2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial. I've never had a real tree in my own home, but when I was a kid we did. (But then, who had fake trees back then?) My tree is also super small, but I think it's just cute!

3. When do you put up the tree? No specific time. Thanksgiving is a little early for me, so I suppose I lean more toward the first or second weekend of December.

4. When do you take the tree down? Again, no specific time, but usually before New Year's Day.

5. Do you like eggnog? Yes! And eggnog-flavored things. Lately I've been indulging in eggnog-flavored Creamies.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? I think I enjoyed my roller skates a lot. Oh! And the tape recorder I received when I was around 9-years old.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes. My friend, Mary, gave one to me the first year my sweetie and I were together when the kids came to celebrate Christmas. It's actually a wooden puzzle intended for kids to play with. She and her husband made it, and apparently had made many over the years for various people.

8. Hardest person to buy for? My husband. He wants and needs nothing. Oh, and the things he might like I don't understand. His birthday is on Christmas Day, too, so it's a double whammy.

9. Easiest person to buy for? My sister-in-law is pretty easy to buy for, as is my brother. The hardest part is deciding what they might like the most each year.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever got? An etched glass sculpture of whales. It was nice, but just not my style. I think it was an afterthought gift from my boyfriend-of-the-time who was Jewish. I could not quite figure out what to do about the holiday. He did put a Christmas tree up every year, and gave gifts to his clients, but I don't think he really celebrated it himself. Of course, I didn't know that until after the holiday. So, when I gave him gifts, I think he scrambled to do something for me.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Neither consistently.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? None. I do enjoy watching Christmas movies, though. I've been having a good time watching all the cheesy holiday movies on television lately.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I'm always looking for things. Unfortunately, this year I did not have much in my gift closet, so I hit the stores the day after Thanksgiving. Crazy, I know.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I can't think of any specific time, but I'm not above it. You know I wanted to re-gift that glass whale thing.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Fudge. And pumpkin pie.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Colored!

17. Favorite Christmas song? I like the traditional Christmas songs we sing in church, but I'm not too particular. I just like to sing along whatever song it is!

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? It depends. This year I'm traveling.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Of course!

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? A crocheted angel that my mom made sits atop my tree.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning. Maybe one on Christmas Eve.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? The endless lines. Oh! And this year I've run across a lot of people who won't budge when you say, "Excuse me." Not my fault if you get knocked over by my bags or my hips because you won't move that 6 inches to let me pass by!

23. What I love most about Christmas? Spending time with my family, of course!

December 14, 2007

Brutal Honesty Lives On

Last week Ms. Whatsit posted an interesting link to a 60 Minutes report on how the workplace is changing to fit the Millennial generation. A few days later, she had a frustrating experience with a enabling parent and a cheatin' child in her class. This whole idea of how we have to change fit our clientèle is something I think about quite frequently, and I tend to fluctuate between being Ms. Understanding-the-Whole-Child to being Ms. Tough Love.

I'm not always as patient as I should be, and lately I find myself reading students the riot act on a regular basis. The thing with my students is that when I put them in their place, they stand there and take it. I don't know what they do with it when I'm done, but they take it. Even my more hard-core kids take it, but then they are used to reality kicking them in the rear end.

I just have so little patience for b.s. these days, and it seems like I am the only one doing the thinking. For example, I had seven students who did not finish the test I gave yesterday. Did those students say anything to me? No. Instead, they simply did not do a part of the test, so I was left to worry and wonder if they didn't understand the directions, or if they simply blew it off. I didn't think time should have been a issue, but I guess it was. So when I called the students to my desk to ask them about it, they acted like it was no big deal. They know me well enough, that they know I would give them the time needed to finish, but why didn't they advocate for themselves? I guess the 25% they missed wasn't important? Oy!

Lately, I think I've just been on a short fuse and irritable about everything. The nurturing part is whithering as the Cruella part flourishes. I've always been about tough love and have no qualms being honest with kids, but lately it feels like I'm constantly on one of them about something. (And then there are the kids who are daily needing tough love because don't think.) Over the years I've had many more students who reacted better to my keepin' it real than candy coating things for them, so it's kind of who I am. So, after watching the 60 Minutes video that Ms. Whatsit referenced, it really made me think about how the world is changing and how I really hate to coddle kids. Am I particularly ornery lately, or are there more kids in need of a good ass-chewin'?

And then I have to wonder if I am damaging some poor teenager. Or the whole generation of them.

Probably. I'm not the only one, though.

My team had three parents conferences this week. In every single conference it came down to the teachers and the counselor playing it straight with the student, "Yes, you are smart, but you are not working up to your potential. You need to do your homework and study for exams. At the rate you are going, you are going to be removed from the program. By the way, no magnet high school will even consider your application with grades like this." Traumatizing? Perhaps. Something that needed to be said? Of course. Yea, they were brutal meetings. How did the parents take all this raw honesty about their children? They took it. They knew it was coming. They're adults, so they know the realities of life. I'm sure it's so incredibly frightening to them to see their children doing so poorly and charging toward a less-than-desirable path in life.

On a more amusing note, I witnessed one of my former students being put in his place by a potential employer this week on television. Anybody indulge in the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency? She is a woman who speaks her mind and does not put up with any nonsense. Of course the beauty industry is a lot more brutal than life in a the classroom, but when I saw Janice Dickinson putting this former student of mine in his place, I couldn't help but think that I helped prepare him for that moment. I certainly had flashbacks to my interactions with him. (Don't get me wrong, he was a pretty good guy, but he needed a reality check from time to time.) Maybe some students never change--never gain more common sense--but at least he didn't wet himself or go running to his mom. Janice gave him brutal reality, and he took it like a man.

December 11, 2007


My community is in the national news tonight because kids solve problems with guns. There are so many questions in my head about the events that lead to the ambush. Of course there is a giant question in my head:


These kids make me so sad sometimes. The harm they do each other.... the harm done unto them...the environments in which they live.


One of my students told me he was going to be moving at the end the quarter. I've been trying to read between the lines with him, but he shelters me too much. Today he told me, "Miss, it was bad this weekend. You have no idea." I didn't understand what he's trying to communicate to me, so I drilled him with 20 questions based on what I know of his life. All I could squeeze out of him is that he will probably be moving to a different bad neighborhood in northern California, and his parents aren't moving with him. It's frustrating. I like this kid, but he's so hot and cold that I'm about the only teacher on his side these days. Okay, honestly, it's getting harder for me to stay in his corner. But then he hints to the hardships of his life, and what can I do but wonder and worry?

December 1, 2007

Blank Canvas

Mom and Dad e-mailed me this picture of their backyard after the first big snow storm of the year. (Reportedly 10-12 inches of heavy, wet snow.) My sweetie and I looked at each other and said, "Are you sure we want to go there for Christmas?"

They actually sent the picture for my stepson. Imagine being a snow-deprived little boy with that much fresh snow! I am sure it will still be there in a few weeks, and probably double or triple that amount--and it will probably still be as untouched as it is in the picture. You know he'll be trying on his snow boots every chance he gets and dreaming of snowmen, snowballs, and forts!

That is a pretty picture indeed, but looking at it makes my toes cold. And my poor parents! Shoveling the driveway and walks... Oh yeah, that's why snow isn't as exciting when you're an adult!