Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quick Update

VERY quick update before I head to bed and collapse: I haven't posted because I've been subbing for a 3rd grade teacher--and tomorrow I'm going back for the other 3rd grade language arts teacher. It's fun actually teaching--the teacher who will be out tomorrow and I planned lessons I could do with the kids--but after two days, I'm tired. Especially since I didn't get enough sleep last night. It was after midnight when I went to sleep, and then Miss Pink came in our room at 5:40. Guess what time the alarm was set for? Yeah, 6:00.

Anyway, please keep my MIL in your prayers. Remember, she has stage 3 lymphoma and had her first round of chemotherapy three weeks ago, but afterward she developed pneumonia and has been back in the hospital for the past week and a half. Despite antibiotics and breathing treatments, the CT scan shows her lungs are not clearing up, so today they put her under anesthesia and extracted some of the fluid for testing. She may have to stay in the hospital instead of going home as we had hoped. Either way, we will probably be visiting to try to cheer her up.

I will check in when I can. I hope you are all having a good week.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Let's Bop, Baby! Or, On Second Thought, Let's Not

Somehow we have reached the stage in which the kids get to dictate the music we listen to in the car. I thought that wouldn't happen for at least five more years. I mean, they're six and three, why wouldn't they want to listen to the greatest hits of the 80's, 90's, and today? I had absolutely no say in what I had to listen to until I started driving. Kids today! (Imagine me pounding my cane on the floor next to my wheelchair.)

It all started when McDonald's gave away KidzBop CD's with the Happy Meals. I should have known that a company who can't even spell "kids" correctly is bad news. And "bop"? Who the heck "bops" anymore? That sounds like something you do down at the sock hop in your poodle skirt before sharing an ice cream soda with two straws with your steady boyfriend.

And these songs weren't from that era (the greatest hits of the 50's...). In case you (luckily) were not aware, KidzBop produces versions of popular songs with kids singing them (usually the solos are sung by adults who are impersonating the original artists). These are songs you don't need to search for, too. Just turn the radio on and you'll hear them. They are the hottest hits of today, the one-hit wonders, the bubblegum pop so schmaltzy it makes your teeth hurt. You can't escape these songs, and now they are available on CD so your kids can listen to them over and over and OVER again until you feel like beating your head on the steering wheel. Just don't get stuck in traffic, is my advice.

I felt kind of strange listening to these songs with my Very Small Children. Most of the songs had been sanitized of lyrics that might be offensive (in "Photograph" by Nickelback, the words have been changed to "oh my gosh") but some of the concepts are age-inappropriate. It just seems wrong for a first-grader to memorize all these songs about hooking up and falling in love (although I have to be honest, my kids have heard their share of Love Songs with Delilah). I just don't necessarily want them at this age to be thinking about getting this party started and being hot and then cold and ending up bleeding love. And somehow it seems that having kids sing those songs is almost worse than occasionally hearing the originals in the mall or in someone's minivan. Having kids sing them makes it seem that the concepts belong to kids, and they really shouldn't.

Being inconsistent and also lazy enough to want to avoid a fuss, I let the kids listen to those Happy Meal CD's (which had only five songs each--and believe me, they were burned in my brain) until I could check out some other KidzBop CDs from the library. (Because that's how we roll--free music, at least until the due date.) I chose the 80's Gold and later the Country, thinking maybe they might be less inappropriate than the recent hits. Hahahaha not really. I didn't even know that the lyrics to "Hey Mickey" were so risque.

So come on and give it to me any way you can
Anyway you want to do it it, I'll treat you like a man

At this point I hoped it just went over Miss Pink's head (I know it went over Mr. Blue's.) So far we have not gotten a call from the school saying she's yelled across the playground to a boy that he's so fine he blows her mind. But the country disc was odd in a different way. Some of the choices were fine, like "Life Is a Highway" and "Jesus Take the Wheel" (hey, I just noticed both of those use car metaphors.) But then there were a couple of songs in which the subject matter was just not something kids would relate to: "Why" which asks, "Why does it always come down to you leaving before I say I love you?" Which on further reflection, heart-breakingly, may be something kids are more familiar with than they should be--and in which case, why remind them that grownups can be so bad at relationships? The other one is a song, originally made popular by Leann Rimes, I believe, that tells about a thirty-year-old woman who had "thought by now she'd have a man, two car seats in a minivan" and who now tells the world that "something's gotta give."

[Side note: Something's gotta give...or what? The song is saying something's gotta give you butterflies, and you're not going to settle until you get True Love, but I don't understand the ultimatum. "Universe, you better send me a man...or I SWEAR I'm going down to the sperm bank and starting a family all by myself!"

Judging by how much help I need to raise my children, I don't recommend starting out alone on purpose. And desperation is not all that attractive. I'm just sayin'.]

And my FINAL point in this diatribe is: why remake these songs anyway? Yes, I know the answer is "to get our greedy paws on the huge sums of money spent by preteens on useless crap" but really, wouldn't you rather listen to Bon Jovi rock out instead of a pretender? The way this is going, my kids aren't going to know the difference between songs that defined an era and the cheesy cover versions voiced by overly cheerful fluting-voiced teenyboppers (there's that word again, and again I sound like an old fart!) And FYI, the Michael Jackson impersonator does a particularly egregious version of "ABC"--he couldn't even touch Michael's high notes. FAIL. I noticed while researching this post that the latest KB album includes a remake of "The Climb." Really, KidzBop? Really? Has it come to this, that a song sung by a real-life pop princess who portrays a pop princess on a TV show--in other words, a song written expressly for an audience of preteens--is repackaged and sold to that same audience?

*sound of my head exploding*

Okay, it's late and I need to get to bed because we have church in the morning. Tune in next time for my solution to this perplexing problem, or, How I Saved My Forehead from Permanent Damage.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

For Once Something Good Happened to Me in Wal-Mart

Soooo...I know I said I was going to write about how the daycare dilemma was solved--but it's been a busy week, with two doctor's appointments (thankfully, no one's sick) and subbing and Justin going out of town to be with his mom.

By the way, please pray for my MIL. She had to be re-hospitalized after her first chemo treatment, because she got an infection. She was also very sick and got dehydrated. She is on intravenous antibiotics and her white blood cell count has started to climb, so that's a positive.

Where did I leave off? Oh, right--my friend was bailing on keeping Mr. Blue, and I didn't know what to do. I couldn't put him in a full-time daycare because a) I don't want to because he's mah bayyyybeee and b) it's too expensive when I'm not working every day. I thought, Maybe this is God's way of telling me I'm not supposed to work at all. Maybe I just barged ahead with my idea and now I have to back up and reconsider.

Justin said, "I'm not letting you quit so fast. If need be, I'll take care of him for two days a week. You need to do this so you can meet people for the future."

I said, "Okay. I will relax." (Easier said than done.)

The next day I took Mr. Blue to the Mart of Walls (because I live so close to it, it's impossible not to shop there. Believe me, I've tried to resist) and he asked if we could look at the fish. So we did, and soon a grandmother and a small boy came up for the same purpose. I immediately recognized the boy because we know his parents from church and were in a small group with them. So I knew I needed to say hi, but I was a little shy because I didn't know the grandmother.

After commenting on how well the boys were playing together, I took a deep breath and said, "Hi, I'm Alison. I know your daughter..." and explained how we knew each other. She said, "Oh, Grandson said he knew someone he saw here!"

We started talking, and she told me she was babysitting him because he liked it better than daycare, and her daughter pays her instead of strangers, so it's a win-win situation. She used to have a home daycare in California (four years ago) but the homeowner's association prohibits that in her house now. But she loves kids and had four of her own. It didn't take long for me to tell her our situation. She said, "Well, I would be willing to watch him for you. Look how well they are getting along!"

And they do. Mr. Blue loves having a slightly older boy to emulate (most of our friends have girls) and the other boy is the youngest child, so he likes being the older, experienced one.

I told her that I would talk it over with Justin, but I had a good feeling about it. What made me extra hopeful was that she offered to let me bring him over and have a playdate so I could see how she does things. That kind of openness is a Good Thing because it means she doesn't have anything to hide. And when we went over there, the boys continued to bond and so did she and I.

So Mr. Blue has been there two times (not counting the playdate) and everything is great. She is a wonderful, loving person, yet she maintains routines and habits that keep things running smoothly. Mr. Blue is LOVING it. And that means so am I!

After I went home that day in Wal-Mart, the thought popped in my head, See? God has a network of people you haven't even met yet.

It just goes to show that things can work out wonderfully, even if it's not the way you expected.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Haven't Done a Meme In a While

I saw this at Beck's blog.

1. The phone rings. Who will it to be? My husband.

2. When shopping at the grocery store, do you return your cart? Um. It depends on how far away from the return area I am (in my defense, the return areas are few and far between at the Mall-Wart. I do make sure my cart is not in the way of other cars.

3. In a social setting, are you more of a talker or a listener? Talk talk talk. I always RESOLVE to be a better listener, and then I forget because I have so much to SAY.

4. Do you take compliments well? No, I blush and stammer. I am trying to get better at this. A simple "thank you" seems to work in most situations.

5. Do you play Sudoku? No. It involves numbers.

6. If abandoned alone in the wilderness, would you survive? I'd die in a couple of days, if not sooner. I am completely hopeless in the Great Outdoors.

7. Did you ever go to camp as a kid? Yes, church camp, and I hated it. It was hot and rainy and there was nothing to do except go to church and (for the girls) watch the boys play softball. There were no athletic activities for the girls since we had to wear skirts anyway.

8. What was your favorite game as a kid? I'm going to say Clue. However, neither of my parents liked board or card games so we didn't own very many games at all.

9. If a sexy person was pursuing you, but you knew he was married, would you? No way in Hades. Even if I wasn't married.

10. Could you date someone with different religious beliefs than you? I think it would be a problem if we had VERY different beliefs. Fortunately, on all points where Justin and I differ, I have won him over to my way of thinking (they were minor things, anyway; we're both from the same denomination).

11. Do you like to pursue or be pursued? Be pursued.

12. Use three words to describe yourself? Conscientious, analytical, tender-hearted.

13. Do any songs make you cry? Not very many. A few from musicals, like "On My Own" from Les Miserables. However, I resent tearjerker songs that shamelessly try to manipulate me into crying, like that horrible song about the boy buying his dying mother shoes for Christmas. Songs like that ENRAGE me.

14. Are you continuing your education? Not now. I don't miss grad school, although in the future I might finally finish my master's. I don't need it to teach, though.

15. Do you know how to shoot a gun? No, but I plan to learn.

16. Have you ever taken pictures in a photo booth? Yes--the last time was at my brother's wedding.

17. How often do you read books? If I go a day without opening a book, it means I am REALLY sick.

18. Do you think more about the past, present or future? Hmmm. I try to live in the present, but all too often I find myself worrying about the future.

19. What is your favorite children’s book? There are too many to list. Lately I have been loving The Secret Garden. The Narnia books and the Anne of Green Gables series are all-time favorites, too.

20.What color are your eyes? Green--well, hazel, but when I wear green they look really green.

21. How tall are you? 5'2".

22. Where is your dream house located? Here, I guess. Where my extended family lives (and Justin's isn't too far away.)

23. If your house was on fire, what are the first things you grab? My kids, (Justin is responsible for himself), my purse (it'd be a pain to replace all the things in it), and my scrapbooks if I could get to them.

24. When was the last time you were at Olive Garden? Oh, it's been years. There is one in our suburb but it's always crowded and I like local places better than chains.

25. Where was the furthest place you traveled today? To west Ft. Worth.

26. Do you like mustard? Yes, in moderation.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

First Day of Subbing Survived

So I had my first day of subbing and it was fine.

[Pause for everyone who had to listen to/read my agonizing over whether I would be all right when I got back in the classroom, or if I would snap like a Vietnam vet with PTSD*, to think, "I TOLD you so!" It's okay, I appreciate your encouragement when you probably wanted to snap, "JUST GIVE IT A REST ALREADY**!"]

*post-traumatic stress disorder

**My poor husband did say that or something similar but since he has to live with me, he heard my worrying WAY too often, and so I forgive him for snapping at me. He is awesomely supportive and you will see why I'm saying this when you read the rest of this post.

The day didn't start very well, though. First, the sub coordinator called me at 6:45 because it was a last-minute absence. When she called, I was still lying face-down on my daughter's bed waking my daughter up, so I had exactly an hour to get to the school. The kids start coming in the classroom at 7:50. So we got up and hustled around eating breakfast and getting dressed, while I texted the friend who was supposed to keep Mr. Blue.

She texted back and said she couldn't take him until 9. I really can't get into the whole story, but we had figured out she was not really wanting to keep him as she had earlier promised (before I had ever committed to subbing). She had said she was available that week, though, and I had specifically told her to tell me if she couldn't keep him on any day, because canceling after I've accepted a job at that late a time is a huge no-no. I cannot afford to get a reputation for being unreliable.

So my saintly husband stayed home with him until 9, and I headed to the school. I made it by 7:40 and they sent me to my classroom. Luckily the kindergarten teacher I was subbing for had some plans, and the teacher across the hall helped me figure everything out. I knew it would be a tiring day, because a) kindergartners are full of energy, and b) it is the beginning of the year, they barely know how to act in a classroom anyway, and I was their first sub. But I was delighted to learn that being a mom HELPS. When I was a fresh-out-of-college 22-year-old sub, little kids made me nervous with their messiness, inability to sit still, and most of all their LOUDNESS. Now, I kept the noise level to a dull roar but it didn't bother me much, and I really think my patience level is increased exponentially. I am used to being asked the same question 72 times in a row. And I already know that trying to take them anywhere is like herding cats! I mean, 20 kids is more than 2, but at least I have some perspective on normal kid behavior. And how to keep them interested.

So we did our writing and drawing and coloring and listening to stories, with periodic interruptions (helpful hint: unplug the pencil sharpener; it is too tempting). Except for one child, who never listened to me and would not sit down at all. So after he became too distracting, I sent a note to the other teacher asking if he could sit in her class. She came over, but he immediately insisted we were "not the boss of him" and he was LEAVING. Turns out he had been in her class last year and was repeating K. He kept running in circles. Since we can't grab the children and he wasn't responding to her stern commands, she called the assistant principal, who stood over him at his desk and kept repeating that he had two choices: to stay in class and do his work, or go with her to her office. He eventually did his work and didn't cause any other problems.

I don't LIKE to involve the administration, but when one child is choosing to make it impossible for the others to learn, sometimes you have to call for backup.

I was glad that I really didn't get upset about the child causing that kind of disturbance. I used to take that kind of thing WAY too personally, like worrying about whether the other teachers would think it was my fault somehow. (Neurotic much, Alison?)

It had been raining all week, but thankfully they were able to have recess outside, which probably explains why the afternoon was easier. One little girl threw her arms around my waist and declared me "the best teacher ever!" and another told me how pretty I am. Small children are tiring, but very sweet. (Still don't plan on being a K teacher, however.)

So all in all, it was a successful day. I also learned that my cheap flats (I buy most of my shoes from Target & Payless) are horrible for standing on my feet all day. My legs ached all the way up to my hips--I felt about 80. I have bought some Dr. Scholl's insoles to use until I can buy some shoes with better support. So technically I didn't earn any money that day since I'll spend all my profits on shoes.

Tomorrow I am subbing for a Family/Consumer Science teacher at the high school. I think this is a fancy way to say "Home Ec." I sincerely hope I am not asked to thread a sewing machine. I took four years of Home Ec and I never learned how to thread my machine without help.

Next time I will tell you how the babysitting problem has been solved.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thoughts on Little Women

Hi, how have you been? Me...well, the less said the better about Friday through Monday. My hormones went completely nuts and hijacked my tear glands. I was such a JOY to live with.

There is no rational explanation for such behavior, but part of it is that I am in limbo with the whole decision to substitute teach. I haven't gotten any calls yet (it's only been three days since I was fully approved) and I feel like I'm not focused on teaching OR on staying home. I am the kind of person who likes to have A Plan, and until the Plan goes into effect, I am a mess. Especially when those special womanly hormones are involved.

Let's talk about something else. I'm rereading Little Women, which was one of my absolute favorite books when I was a child. I chose it because I needed something nice and old-fashioned and (mostly) funny. And I still like parts of it, but some of it is super annoying because it is so preachy in places. Not to mention how frustrating it is that Alcott had to tame Jo, forcing her to give up her tomboyish ways, and make her a conventional "little woman" who fit the "proper" societal roles.

The afterword mentions what "some readers consider the bitterest literary disappointment of their lives: Jo's refusal of Laurie." As a romantic young girl, I simply could not believe she wouldn't marry him. So of course I didn't like the rest of the book. Spoiler alert, if you've never read it: Laurie marries Amy, Jo's younger and more feminine sister. I never liked Amy. And it was impossible for me to view Professor Bhaer, whom Jo married, as a love interest, with his bushy beard and phonetically rendered German accent.

Now I learn that Alcott wasn't happy about having to marry her characters off. She wrote, "Publishers are very perverse, and won't let authors have their own way. So my little women must grow up and be married off in a very stupid style." I get the impression that Alcott would have rather let Jo remain a single writer, as she was herself. How interesting that women who lived a hundred and forty years ago were trying to create different roles for themselves than the ones society offered.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins #141

1. That's a perfectly fine way to be.

2. Look by the computer; I'm over here!

3. The possibilities include: starting to sub next week. We'll see.

4. Chili is one of my favorite cool day recipes.

5. How will you know if he really loves you? (Sorry, couldn't resist an old Whitney Houston lyric.)

6. Sleepy weather and a stormy sky.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to taking the kids to the playground at the mall, tomorrow my plans include getting the family to help me clean up the house and Sunday, I want to teach an adult Sunday School class!


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Very First Picture of Myself in the Mirror

I was nervous this morning because I went to get my hair done by a new stylist. Turns out I didn't need to worry. I'm having a good hair day. (Now if only I can approximately recreate the style when I fix my hair!)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What I Learned This Week

I finally have a Tuesday with enough time free to do a "What I Learned This Week" post. So here's what I learned.
  • The house is much quieter with only one child at home. No squabbles!
  • However, the squabbling is apparently normal. A news article about sibling rivalry tells it like it is:
"Sibling quarrels are a fact of family life. On average, young siblings argue or fight 3.5 times an hour, which adds up to ten minutes of every hour."

I was relieved to learn that playing together matters more than fighting in terms of how close the siblings end up later in life. In other words, siblings who fuss a lot but play together a lot tend to be closer later on than those who hardly ever fought or played together (via Suburban Correspondent).
  • I get more housework done when I am procrastinating about going to the gym.
  • I never thought Miss Pink could seem any cuter to me, but then she lost a front tooth last week and I can't stop smiling whenever I look at her. She also has an adorable lisp now. Precious!
  • We went to dinner last night to celebrate birthdays for Justin and my new sister-in-law, at a restaurant called Sweetie Pie's Ribeyes. I learned that if I eat two yeast rolls with butter, a salad with warm bacon vinaigrette, a 9-oz. ribeye, a baked potato, and red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, I WILL feel stuffed to the point of misery. At the time, however, it was impossible to stop eating!
For more lessons learned, visit the "What I Learned This Week" carnival.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins #140

1. I feel happy. Despite having to sleep in Miss Pink's twin bed with her for part of the night because she was scared of the thunderstorms.

2. Going to my book club (which I did last night) is always fun.

3. Right now, I can hear these things: a garbage truck going by; Mr. Blue playing with his toy cars and talking to them.

4. I'm going to get my fingerprinting done in a few minutes and I'm glad the process will finally be over and I can start subbing.

5. The last time I had a date night with my husband was last Friday night. We did NOT go to the bookstore! But we didn't have time to go to the movies. We had a yummy Italian dinner and then went shopping and I got some new clothes for work. Gotta love a man who doesn't mind shopping with his wife.

6. My husband is going to start modifying Miss Pink's closet this Labor day weekend.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to spending time relaxing with my husband and kids, tomorrow my plans include getting the car washed since Mr. Blue keeps begging me to (and it's raining so I can't today) and Sunday, I want to rest & relax after church!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Flaunting My Failures

In Dr. Kevin Leman's excellent book (which I heartily recommend, by the way) The New Birth Order Book, he addresses the idea that most first-born children are perfectionists. Then he says that he gets a lot of first-borns who say, "You're WRONG! I'm a first-born and just LOOK at how messy my house/car/office is! I do a terrible job at everything I try. There's no way I'm a perfectionist."

In that case, Dr. Leman says, the person is usually a discouraged perfectionist. What he means by that term is that the person still has the all-or-nothing thinking of a perfectionist, and they've chosen "nothing." A discouraged perfectionist knows he or she can't do everything perfectly, so they decide not to try. (Often this happens because the parents are nit-pickers themselves, and the first-born tends to take the parents' criticisms more seriously. Plus, parents are more determined to be "perfect" when raising first-borns. The more children they have, the more they relax.)

Anyway, not to get into the birth-order psychology--although if anyone wants to discuss it further I would be happy to--but I am a discouraged perfectionist. Sort of. There are certain things (like proofreading) that I CAN control and make perfect so I do. Other things, like housework, I am still struggling to remember that "something is better than nothing" and that I am not a failure if I cleaned the bathrooms, did four loads of laundry and folded and put them away, read a lift-the-flap alphabet book 87 times, provided and cleaned up after every meal and snack, etc. etc. but I didn't get around to the vacuuming. Think how much worse it would look if I didn't do all those things! (In fact, I know how much worse it would look because on the weekends when I haven't done those things, it looks like a bomb went off in the house. So now I still do some of it on weekends.)

As a recovering perfectionist, I naturally wanted to know how NOT to parent my first-born. (It shocks me how many perfectionistic tendencies Miss Pink has, and that's with me SPECIFICALLY TRYING not to be too hard on her.) Dr. Leman's most important advice was, "Flaunt your failures. When you mess up, be open about it. Show your kids that nobody's perfect and that it's not the end of the world to fail." (That's in my words.)

So I try to do this, when it comes up. I mean, I don't bring up all the ways in which I fail as a parent daily. ("No, really, sweetheart, Mommy SUCKS!") But as Dr. Leman advised, when I fail, I try to own it.

The latest example: Yesterday my husband pointed out a deep scratch below our (new) car's trunk. "Honey? Do you remember how this happened?"

God bless the man. He's used to me ruining a car's paint job--oh, around every six months on average. We should probably make body work a regular part of the budget. I know the body shop owner is probably going to Hawaii this year because of me.

For a second I couldn't remember, then it came back to me. "Oh! The other day I didn't pull into the garage far enough and the garage door hit the car and went back up. Could that have caused it?"

Speechless, he just nodded slowly.

I remembered that the kids were listening. "I don't think the kids are going to have any problems thinking I'm perfect," I said. "Sometimes it's pretty obvious."

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go clean a bathroom imperfectly.