Friday, July 31, 2009

My First Friday Fill-In!

1. It's time for getting dressed.

2. Chick Fil A; it's not a bad place for eating delicious fried food while chatting with my friend.

3. I must be crazy to think I could get through a sleepover without someone throwing a major fit (Mr. Blue is in the midst of one as I type this).

4. Motherhood is the best thing I have ever known.

5. My house is simply messy.

6. The last time I laughed really loudly was Wednesday when my son yelled, "I love the Big Balls!". (Check out this post if you don't know what I'm referring to.)

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to chilling with my family, tomorrow my plans include going to a friends' house to have Justin's special French toast with them and Sunday, I want to have lunch with my parents at Pei Wei!

It's sad how many of these involve eating--I suppose because it's one of the few indulgences that I can still do even when my children are interrupting!

Check out other Friday Fill-Ins here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What Stage Are You In?

Recently I was contacted by the founder of Stage of Life, a cool web site that has sections on every stage of adult life from high school to retirement. Eric recruits bloggers to write posts for the sections that are relevant to that writer's life--for me, of course, that would be "Home Ownership" and "Raising a Family." Members can read and comment on posts and also ask and answer questions separate from the featured posts. It's so cool to be a resource to other people who would like input on making decisions!

I wrote my first post on "Post-Partum Depression Can Be Sneaky." I'd be honored if you'd check it out. If you want to comment, it's free to join and I have not received any spam since joining, so you don't have to worry about that. I'd like to see the site take off because I think Eric has done a really good job. See what you think!


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Author of Anne of Green Gables

I have been reading the selected journals of L.M. Montgomery, the woman who wrote all the Anne of Green Gables books (as well as many others), and have enjoyed the journals very much. I don't usually read the journals and letters of even my favorite authors, but I'm glad I have made her acquaintance because they make such fascinating reading material.

Maud (as she preferred to be called) did not have an easy life. Her mother died when she was very young and her father went to Western Canada and remarried, leaving her to be raised by her maternal grandparents, who meant well but had no idea how to handle such an imaginative, high-spirited young girl. The first volume of the journals shows how much Anne resembles her creator. Maud's account of her girlhood shows her to be fun-loving and popular, yet intelligent and sensitive. She was more boy-crazy than Anne, but that just adds to the interest of her life story. The first volume records many young men who fell in love with her, but she only cared for a few--and married none of them because she had high standards and none of these men came up to the mark.

After graduating from teacher's college and a special course at a university (she longed to get a B.A. but could not afford it), Maud taught school for several years and spent some time as a newspaper journalist. The whole time she was writing stories and poems, and soon began to publish them. When her grandfather died, she was obligated to return to her childhood home and live with her grandmother. It was a hard time for her--I will leave out the details to keep this short and to leave some surprises should you want to read her life story--but also fruitful, because Anne of Green Gables was written during this time. Before her grandmother died, Maud became engaged to Rev. Ewan Macdonald, but they could not be married until she was free to move away.

The second book, which I have just finished, recounts her marriage and the birth of her three sons (one was stillborn), and the Great War which affected a whole generation. She used her journal to supply the material for Rilla of Ingleside, a novel about Anne's youngest daughter. Maud did not have an easy time even as a married woman, although she adored her sons, because as a minister's wife she was forced to behave with perfect propriety. Worse, she could not confide in any of the women who lived nearby and her best friends lived far away. Therefore, she used her journal as a confidant in which to pour out all her feelings. Yet even as a young girl, her writing talent is such that I enjoyed reading every entry as much as if I were reading a revised and polished novel. The same could definitely not be said of my teenage diaries, I promise you!

Maud was more judgmental and sharp-tongued than her books might suggest (at least in the privacy of her journal.) She probably skewered annoying people with words in her journal because she couldn't allow herself to offend them in person. Yet even when she was being catty, she was very funny and with a few words can capture the person she was describing to a T. The tone of the journals is like listening to a good friend sharing her inmost thoughts with you as her confidant.

Finally, I've been interested in the struggles Maud and her husband had with his chronic depression. As a Presbyterian minister who believed in the idea of predestination, he periodically became obsessed with the idea that he was eternally lost. This would throw him into such despair that he was unable to sleep or be any use to his family. This caused his wife much worry and many sleepless nights, although she remained rational and was able to function and to keep writing whereas many women would have broken down completely. Still, I kept wishing that BOTH of them could have had access to the medications and therapy we have available today. Such suffering people endured even 50 years ago that today can usually be controlled or at least alleviated. I certainly am thankful that I live now and not 100 years ago!

It wasn't just mental suffering that people endured, either--I became aware of how much we owe to the discovery of antibiotics, as Montgomery describes episodes of various ailments that could be cured with a week's worth of medicine today. Montgomery's journals provide a fascinating look into a world very different from our own, while her perception of human nature shows that people haven't changed very much at all.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What I Learned This Week

Hmm...I think I have learned a few things in the past week.

1. I need to have people over more often because that's the only real motivation I have to clean the house. (I've realized this before but apparently needed a reminder because I hadn't dusted in at least a month...but then Justin invited people over this weekend and voila!)

2. Contrary to my apprehensions, Mr. Blue is old enough to go to the movies. We went with our playgroup last week. I had to take him to the bathroom twice and he spilled his popcorn, but didn't cry because I let him have mine. Anytime there is no crying, I count an outing as a success, so today we are going with some other friends invited us to another movie (G-Force, for only $2.50 a person! Extra popcorn not included, though.)

3. My children have a busy social life. Although we did stay home all day yesterday. It was a rainy day and they made a "house" with three chairs, a stepstool, and multiple blankets. They played with it all of three minutes before filling up three big cooking pots with water. The pots were a water park for the Littlest Pet Shop pets, if you're wondering (I was).

4. By accident, I was able to wear my hair with beachy waves in it. My hair is an annoying texture: it has a little wave in it when wet, but it dries neither straight nor wavy enough to look good. It normally looks frizzy with stringy ends when it air dries. Which doesn't prevent me from letting it air dry, because I'm lazy (see #1 above) but we had a get-together Friday night and I do have some pride.

Anyway, that day I went to the pool, but washed my hair and put it up first. It was so dirty I couldn't stand it anymore, and I knew I wouldn't get it wet at the pool. When I took it down, hours later, it was still a little damp and had a nice wave so I applied John Frieda Dream Curls spray and wore it like that, and it fit the casual look I was going for.

5. Last but certainly not least, I have finally learned how to be as smart as a monkey. You can too, just by watching this short video.

That's all, folks! Check out other people who are at LEAST as smart as a monkey at Musings of a Housewife's "What I Learned This Week" blog carnival.


Monday, July 20, 2009

What I Learned Last Week #I Don't Even Know Anymore

You may have noticed I haven't been participating in the "What I Learned This Week" blog carnival. This is because I haven't learned much, being so focused on trying to figure out what life is going to look like after August 24 (the day school starts). But it turns out I did learn a couple of things last week.
  • If you are a non-crafty mom like me, don't buy pipe cleaners and yarn when your daughter asks you for them because you imagine making crafts together--instead, your kids will cut them up with their scissors while you doze on the couch do housework and there will be unusable short fuzzy pieces all over the house.
  • If your three-year-old son loves to watch the TV show "Wipeout," don't be surprised if he starts making frequent references to "the Big Balls." In public. It's probably a matter of time before he says, "I love the Big Balls!" in front of total strangers.


The More Things Change

The week before last (was it really that long ago?) we visited my extended family in Arkansas. My dad and his brother grew up in a small town in the Ozarks, but when they were teenagers, my grandfather took another church in a larger town. However, my grandparents retired to their hometown, and a few years after that, my uncle decided to open an optometry practice where he'd been raised. So for a while all of our family on my dad's side were conveniently located in one place (so much easier for the holidays!), although now as we"kids" get older, some scattering has occurred.

One of my cousins (I have four on this side) just finished optometry school and has become a partner in his dad's practice. He and his wife also decided to buy and renovate my late grandparents' house. This is not the house my dad and uncle grew up in--that was sold when they moved away as teenagers--but the house my grandparents bought when they moved back to retire. I have a few memories of the house they lived in before this one, but the bulk of the memories, the house I associate with visiting my grandparents, is the cream-colored brick house that sits solidly on the square that surrounds the town park.

While my husband worked on staining the new cabinets he'd built, I walked through the house, noticing all the things that are different and the ones that can't be changed. Like the layout of the house: it is all length, one room after another, across the wide lot. I used to think it was the biggest house in the world because it took a while to get through every room, even when we were running. When I ran through the living room, I always jumped to brush my hand against the crystal on the chandelier. So I remembered the layout perfectly, remembered what used to be in each room. That wasn't too hard to do because my grandmother hardly ever changed anything. I never remember them getting a new piece of furniture, for example. When I visited before Mamaw died, the guest bathroom even had the same peach-colored, plastic-wrapped cake of soap from the '80s on the back of the toilet.

All of that was gone now, of course. The house has been rewired, re-sheetrocked, and the carpet and linoleum have been pulled up to reveal beautiful oak floors. (The man who built the house owned a lumberyard, and all the wood is gorgeous.) Twenty years ago, my grandmother had (reluctantly) decided to redo the carpet and when the installer pulled up the old carpet and revealed the hardwood, he asked if she wanted to put the new carpet in after all. But since she'd already paid for the carpet, and the hardwood floors would have to be refinished, she told him to cover them up. Now the floors will be appreciated once again. Along with the new cabinets and bathroom fixtures, and the walls painted a soft green instead of plain white or dark-paneled, the house already hardly resembled its former self.

The biggest change I noticed, however, was outside the house. In the spring, a tornado ripped through the town, cutting a three-mile-wide swath of destruction as it went. Thankfully for my family, the house was untouched, but all of the trees around it were knocked down. There is a hole in the front yard at least six feet wide where the largest maple was uprooted. Then other trees I knew well have left gaping holes in my memory. One of them had an outstretched branch that was perfect for hanging upside down by my knees. Another let me get up on top of the shed, and (no one ever found this out, or I wouldn't have been allowed to do it), if I put a milk carton as a bottom step to reach up to the dogwood's branches, I could get on top of the house and survey the town from the rooftop, queen of all I surveyed.

And now those trees are gone. As my grandparents are gone, and my childhood with them.

It was hard to be sad for long, though, when my aunt took us to the swimming hole where we'd often gone as children. It's fed by a mountain spring, so the water is icy cold and so clear you can see straight down to the bottom. My father learned to swim there, and my grandfather also swam there as a boy. Papaw usually built a fire on the bank to cook fried potatoes to go with our fried chicken or hot dogs. No food has ever tasted better. We didn't do that--although a blackened circle showed someone else had recently--but ate sandwiches, strawberries, and cookies before letting the kids get back in the water.

Big Fork was almost exactly like I remembered it. It's a little shallower--my dad and uncle used to dive off some tall rocks (a "cliff" to me, at the time) into the deepest part, but now it's been filled in a little--to discourage diving, my aunt thought, although a teenage boy did dive off a lower rock on the bank, and he was fine. We paddled around in the water and waded up the creek. Tennis shoes are helpful since many of the rocks are slick with moss (I remembered tennis shoes for the kids but forgot mine). The girls found a small dead fish and had to be strongly persuaded to let it go downstream. The three-year-old boys, not surprisingly, threw a lot of rocks in the water. It was so hot that the cold water felt delicious. I was amazed that so little had changed, that it had not become overcrowded, with a parking lot and trash all around. (A Port-a-Potty would have been nice, though.)

As we drove away, I promised that we would come back next summer. It's comforting to know that my children have experienced part of our family's past, and that some things haven't changed.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

And now, in an effort to stop myself from writing any more long, tortured, job-hunting posts, I present a few tidbits from my fevered brain.

  • You know it's hot when you look forward to a "cool front" that will bring the temps down to the 90s.
  • My inability to remember to take a closeup shot for my Facebook profile. It's FACEbook, not "Faraway shot of you with your whole family"book. Don't know why it bothers me, though. It's not like I'm so vain that I think everyone needs to see my face. In fact, that's why I don't have a suitable picture--I don't even think about having my picture taken. It's a vicious circle.
  • "Vicious" looks like it's spelled wrong to me. I'm a good speller, but sometimes a word just seems wrong even when it's not.
  • I can't get enough of Mr. Blue's tan little arms and legs. I diligently spray him with sunscreen and he still turns a beautiful toasted color. And his hair looks blonder. Like a little surfer boy. *swoon*
  • Miss Pink is into learning about space these days. The size of the universe just baffles me. I think about the billions of stars as big as our sun, just in our galaxy...and the myriad galaxies just as full of stars and their planets...and then I decide I am through with thinking about the vastness of space and eat some chocolate.
  • Our church is doing a series on Wednesday nights called "I Am Second." You may have seen the TV ads a while back. (There are some great videos of people's stories here.) I was watching Brian Welch, the former lead singer of Korn, talk about how his dream did come true: he was more successful, made more money, and sang to bigger crowds than he'd ever dreamed possible. And then he got addicted to drugs and hit bottom. Which makes me realize that when I think I'd be happier with more money or success, I'm looking at it the wrong way. If having lots of money and achieving your dreams would fulfill a person, then celebrities would be the happiest people in the world, and that's obviously false. When I think like that that, I'm putting the things that should be second first. When I put the eternal first and my desires second, everything works the way it should.
Wow, I just preached to myself there! I guess the Facebook shot isn't so important now!

And now I must talk myself into doing a little work around my much-neglected house before we're off to go swimming to cool off.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Trying to Find My Way

I WAS going to post about some of the memories that surfaced in my mind while we were on our trip, but I just can't write about that today. I need to think some things through and I hope you don't mind me sharing my thoughts with you. Flannery O'Connor credited an old lady with this idea that described how she (Flannery) wrote: "I don't know what I think till I see what I say." That is me exactly. And I hope that posting this will keep me from being too self-indulgent and self-pitying and any other unpleasant attitudes that begin with the prefix "self."

It is getting close to one month before teachers are due to be present at their schools and I haven't gotten any more interviews. Even though I know I started late, this has surprised me. I thought I would at least get a chance, and so far I haven't. The job I was most interested in and had the most experience for (9th grade English) has been filled--and it went fast, in about three days, so maybe they had an internal candidate, I don't know. The other few jobs are for things like 4th grade, 6th grade, and a high school job that has been posted for a while. I am trying to find out if that one has been filled. (Some of the districts let you know when a position has been filled, and some apparently don't.) I don't really have any classroom experience with the other grade levels, so unless they are impressed with my ability to pass that test, my chances seem slim.

So at this point I don't have much hope of getting a job offer. Maybe I'm being premature, but that's how I'm looking at it. Obviously I'll feel silly if I get an interview, but today I am having a hard time.

Partly, it's an blow to my ego. I've always been an overachiever whom bosses wanted to hire. But I've been out of the job market for 6 years, and I didn't have a solid 5 years teaching before that--I taught for a year at a private school, a year in public, then 2 years at a tutoring center (I became an Assistant Director, though!) while going to grad school. All very worthy things and explainable, I think--but apparently not that marketable in a tight economy when districts are hiring less and (I'm guessing) fewer teachers are giving up their jobs.

Another part of why I'm being emotional about this: since we decided to have children, Justin and I wanted me to stay home with them. Which I have done, and I DON'T regret it. I know that it's been best for me and the kids because I would have been a terrible teacher while I was missing my babies and feeling guilty for missing them and resentful for having to be away from them. I was not in a good place with teaching back then--I'd had a hard year with 8th graders and I wasn't sure I ever wanted to go back.

Now that I've been at home with my kids, I know that (whenever I go back), I'll be a better teacher. I'm WAY more patient, take kid drama much less personally, am more tolerant of appropriate noise levels, and can deal with multiple people needing my immediate attention all at the same time. But I can't prove it unless I'm given a chance.

Which is where subbing comes into the picture, I suppose. It's just that at this point--right now, today--I'm wondering if that's going to make a huge difference, either.

Oh, of course it will. Current experience, references, contacts with people in the district, long-term subbing that turns into a full-time job--all of that will matter in the long run. But it feels like I'm having to settle. And I have to juggle all the logistics of getting called at o'dark thirty and getting the kids ready and dropped off, and finding someone to keep Miss Pink until I can get her after school and having to deal with figuring out a different class and their schedule and rules--all for about $80 a day and not even every day. I'd rather just become a full-time working mom and start that adjustment process. Because when Justin gave me the green light to start looking for a job, I made that mental leap...and now I have to un-make it. I guess I leaped too soon, but what can I say--I thought the door was opening, for now, for me to seize the opportunity. I always make the mistake of getting my mind fixed on the way I think things are supposed to happen, when in fact they very rarely do.

I know I need to think about the positives if I don't go back to work full-time yet: more time with the kids, especially Mr. Blue, who is still not yet four; time to do some more things for myself while I can, like blogging and hanging out wasting time on the Internet.

I don't know how to end this, except to say that I will just keep waiting and trying to remember something I really do believe even if it's hard to remember: that things happen for a reason.


Friday, July 10, 2009

The Best Part Is That I Got to Sleep Until 10 This Morning

Twitter is just not helping my blogging life, because I post updates on there and forget I haven't updated here. Then I'm kind of tired about thinking about it because I have been thinking about it so often...but I did want to update here because this blog is now the official written record of my life and how else am I going to remember something if I don't blog about it?

First, I did pass my elementary certification test. Not to brag (well, actually, I am bragging, but please don't hold it against me) but I scored a 284 out of 300 (that's something I didn't put on Twitter or Facebook). Most of the questions I missed were Math (big shock there). But I thought that was a good score considering that I only had three days to study and haven't been paid to teach for 6 1/2 years. Proof that once a teacher, always a teacher, I guess.

Second, I haven't gotten any interviews yet, but it may still happen since there are a few jobs available in my area. Anyway, if I don't get hired, I'll sub and then I have a better chance of getting hired next year or even during the year if I take over for a teacher who had to quit unexpectedly.

Also: today is my birthday. I am 34. I think I now have to admit that I am in my mid-30s. It's okay, though. I like my 30s. I am more confident than I was in my 20s. And I will always be 7 years younger than my husband. I tell him I'm his trophy wife--he was just smart enough to marry a younger woman the first time around.

Yesterday we drove to Arkansas to visit my dad's brother and his family. Justin made some cabinets for my late grandparents' house, which one of my cousins and his wife bought. I'm glad that house is staying in the family; I have a lot of good memories of it. My oldest cousin's daughter is visiting her grandparents, and she and Miss Pink are having as much fun as her mama and I used to have. Another cousin is coming over tonight with her son, who is Mr. Blue's age. I'm enjoying spending time with the family since we usually only get to see each other once a year and it's usually for a funeral or a wedding. This is much more relaxed.

Oh, and I promise to blog and comment more often instead of obsessing about the job search! Other blog topic suggestions would be appreciated, though, since I'm having a hard time thinking about anything else.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

I'm back! Well, I never actually went anywhere but I was not on the Internet for a few days while I was studying to take a test to be certified to teach PreK--4th grade. Okay, that's not actually true either. I was on the Internet a little bit, but I only had the mental energy to skim the blogs I subscribe to and not enough to come up with any comments or to post an update. I really did study a lot from last Sunday to Wednesday. I haven't studied that much since college, 13 years ago (dear God, I'm old). My proven study method is to write down everything important in condensed form. Then read it back to myself, preferably out loud. Then if there's time, try to quiz myself. I did the first two with the 400-page book I bought to study. At one point my hand cramped up. But I just learn things better when I write them.

I did very little around the house while I was studying. The kids watched more TV than usual, the laundry piled up, and our meals were less nutritious than usual. Justin was a big help, though. He took a day off and took the kids to swimming lessons so that I could have some uninterrupted study time, and every night he took care of their needs while I studied.

And I'm pretty sure I passed--I'd be really surprised if I didn't. There were only about 3 questions that I had to blindly guess between two choices--and 50-50 is still pretty good odds. In a couple of days, I'll find out if I'm certified to teach elementary.

However, I didn't get the job at my daughter's school. Naturally, I was disappointed, but not shocked, because a lot of teachers in the district probably applied, and the woman who got the job is currently teaching at that grade level. The principal was nice enough to compliment me on my enthusiasm and skills, and said she'd be happy to consider me if anything else came up. Which was nice of her to say, but I doubt it will this year. This is the absolute last minute for teachers to resign, and if I get offered another job that seems like a good fit, I'm going to take it so I can start preparing. If it's a secondary (6-12) job, I probably won't ever teach elementary. So I felt bad for an hour or two, because I worked so hard taking this test I may not even need. And then I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I had decided to walk through the doors that open, not bang my head on the doors that stay closed. At least I have increased my options.

I have applications out at several nearby school districts, for quite a few different jobs. I am having a hard time not getting impatient, even though I just applied for some of them Thursday and it was a holiday weekend so...yeah, I wasn't going to hear anything. It's just that everything in this whole process has been so super-speedy that I guess I just expected to get calls right away.

Even if I don't get a full-time job, I can sub several days a week and get my foot in the door, maybe end up with a long-term subbing position. I've known subs to get permanent jobs that way. But there is a good chance I will get something in the next month since the schools are still looking for people. It's so funny to me that I'm applying for anything from 2nd grade to seniors.

In other news, the kids finished their swimming lessons. This is their third year taking lessons from these teachers, who are P.E. teachers during the year, so both women are very patient and good at giving feedback. Every year I'm amazed at how much the kids learn. Miss Pink is now swimming across the length of the pool, getting dive sticks off the bottom, swimming underwater, and has started to learn the backstroke. Mr. Blue (who has only done Mommy & Me before this year) spent the first four days screaming because he didn't like going underwater, but then he was fine and and can even swim a little on top of the water without being held, and can swim underwater to get a ring off the steps.

On the Fourth we got up early to participate in a neighborhood parade by my parents' house. Then we hung around, the kids and I made a cake decorated like a flag, and we grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch. We came back to our house and then watched the fireworks from the flat roof on top of our playroom. Today my brother and his fiancee came to church and went out to lunch with us. It's been a good weekend.