Saturday, December 29, 2012

All About Me 2012

As I look back through this blog, I realize that it has been less of a chronicle of my girls life than a chronicle of my life as a working mother. I keep a one line a day five year journal (highly recommend one, it is so cool to see what you did on the same day over the course of years). At the beginning of the journal I have written " When they are younger (20's) my girls will read this and laugh. When they are older (30"s, 40"s), they will be shocked at the parallels. Amazing how the circle goes on and on."  I like to think the same thing about this blog. I can envision the girls looking back at this later and seeing parallels. This is also why I worry about violating their privacy and why the blog has become less about them and more about me. In case, case 20 years from now they wonder what I am like, here is another/updated things about me list, in no certain order.

1. I love a good cup of hot tea. I like black tea with milk and Truvia ( I quit using Splenda 3 years ago). I carry a huge thermos full of hot or iced green tea to work everyday. I have a cute little tea pot the I use to brew loose tea as well.

2. I read as often as I can. I usually read books that Caroline has recommended or chick lit. Right now I am on a historical fiction kick. I love classic novels, but haven't been able to convince Caroline of their value. I love bitter sweet novels the best.

3. I am slightly obsessed with Spider Solitaire, don't ask me why.

4. I have been able to cross stitch more lately.

5. I love sci fy, fantasy, and dark comedies. This Caroline and I have in common.  It has been a main bonding experience for us. I also like period films and coming of age dramas. I like old films and anything with quirky characters (same goes for T.V. shows). I also really like things that make me laugh.

6. I still and will always love gum. Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of cracking it.

7. I love children! I love working with kids. Once, I am finished teaching, I have a feeling that I will continue to work with children, either through special recreations, counseling, or even volunteering to read to kids at the library.

8. I am passionate about being a mother. I have raised two quirky and independent girls. I will move heaven and earth to get them what they need.

9. I am very much in love with my husband. He is my very best friend and the person that I most want to be with everyday.

10. I have a very corny sense of humor and love puns.

11. I am a smart ass with a real potty mouth.

12. I am a non practicing Unitarian-Universalist. The non practicing part is mostly due to being too shy to find a congregation near my house and not wanting to give up 1/2 Sunday when I could be with Rob. I miss church, though. 

13. I am deeply spiritual and give thanks for my blessings everyday. I am also pretty superstitious. I tend to believe in magic and fate.

14. Deep down inside I am very child like.

15. I am really shy (having children  has diminished this to some degree). I am also afraid of lots of things. I can be very anxious and try really hard to hide it.

16. I am empathetic and compassionate (especially for children, those with special needs, and animals).

17. I am sentimental and love my family above everything. I am a story teller and love to hear family stories. I have lost too many people from my family and miss them terribly.

18. I am terrified of loosing the ones that I love. I live in constant worry about someone dying.

19. I can be forgetful and repeat myself. I don't hear very well and it takes me awhile to process things. This makes me seem aloof or ditsy. I am neither. Children never seem to mind these things about me, which is one of the reasons that I feel comfortable around children.

20. I can get very lonely.

21. I tend to blend into the wood work. I am one of those "work horse" people who is always there to do something, but never seeks the spotlight.

22. I love to write.

23. I doubt my self and rarely give myself enough credit.

24. I love to go to yoga class, but hate to exercise.

25. I have a crazy sweet tooth and eat too much junk. I love cookies, toffee, dark chocolate....

26. I really should exercise more.

27. I like to make people feel comfortable. Seriously, the best that I can give you is too make you feel at home in my house. I really enjoy taking care of people.

28. Once I get to know you, I talk too much.

29. I am intrigued by abnormal psychology.

30. I am not very good at saying "no." I volunteer for too many things and this makes my life complicated. I don't know what I would give up, though. I like to be involved.

I am sure that I have forgotten somethings. I'll update after "tech free" day.

Tech Free

These days I seem to see the top of my oldest daughter's head more than her face. This has prompted Rob's idea of a "tech free" day tomorrow. We'll see how long this lasts. Caroline texts 24-7 it will be nice to talk to her, although I suspect there will be more snarling than talking. All of us are included in this which means no Facebook for me or Spider Solitaire. It also means no Angry Birds for Lily or ebay for Rob (well he has a pass to check on his sales, I need money for a new coat).

I'd like to think that I'll report back on Monday with tales of board games, baking, hikes, and other sorts of family harmony. Truthfully, we'll find a way to proceed doing our own thing in our own little universes with timeouts for witty remarks. I predict Rob will watch History channel (he couldn't include T.V. in tech free), I will read or cross stitch, Lily will play with her dolls, and Caroline, when not accusing us of abuse, will read. It will also give Caroline and I time to start school work that we need to complete by Wednesday.

There are also errands to be run. We need groceries (I have agreed to host 6 teens for New Years Eve). I also need that aforementioned coat. I have spent an insane amount of time standing outside in wet freezing weather waiting for Buffy to go to the bathroom. I even made a joke about it on Facebook ("For those of you who know the joke book for parents Go the @#$% to Sleep!, I am writing a version for dog owners called Hurry the @#$% Up and Pee!. I am thinking that I might have just as much trouble going tech free as the girls!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


The good thing about being under a lot of stress is that the littlest bit of relaxation feels like bliss. It took me half a day to relax and then I was good to go. I cleaned the house top to middle (I'll get to the basement later this week). I even tackled Lily's room and the playroom. I took the girls to see Rise of the Guardians. It was just my kind of movie, sweet and full of wonder. I needed to do something that taped into my inner child. I guess Mother Nature agreed because we left the movie and walked out into snow! Lily has been questioning the whole Santa concept. Between this movie and  Miracle on 34th Street, I think that I bought us another year.

There is a chance that this will be the last year my family spends Christmas at our house. My brother and his wife are having a baby, and the deal was we'd switch to his house once they had kids. I wanted this to be a really good one this year. There were a few things that got left out, like Christmas crackers and homemade table favors (it took a looong time to clean Lily's room!), but I think I did a good job with the food. The best part was the potato gratin recipe from Catherine Newman (Potato-fennel gratin). This was one of the best things that I have ever eaten!

It was nice to hang out with my family. I gave my brother copies of all of the books that I read to him when he was little. The girls each gave him their favorite books. My mom and I each gave each other things that we noticed the other needed when we were in Florida. I gave her a travel pillow and new wallet. She gave me a new eye glass case and two new polka dot scarves. Lily got new Bitty baby twins and a Lego doll house. It took her 3 hours to put together a 695 piece house. When she focuses, she focuses. We got an iphone for Caroline. Now all her tech stuff is in one place. She also got a Hedwig owl necklace from my mother. Apparently complaining about the computer printer and lack of back porch light (not at the same time) got me a lightened dog leash and a new printer from Rob and the kids:)

Overall, it has been wonderful so far.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In My Opinion

OK, I was bound to weigh in on this. After I stopped crying last weekend, I got frustrated. I got angry at all the news coverage, making such a horrible thing glamorous to other fractured minds out there. I got angry at half truths and insensitive reporting. I got angry at those who hijacked a tragedy to support their own political views. But mostly, I got angry that this kid (20 is still a kid) got to the point of doing this.

I have not kept my beliefs about mental illness a secret. This year, I have become a champion. I have stood on my soapbox and yelled as loud as I could. We need better mental health services for individuals and their families. Sometimes, a condition is so bad that it does cause a fractured mind. I have compassion and empathy for those suffering from mental illness. I also know enough to know that without treatment there are those who are dangers to themselves and/or others.

When you look back at others shooting tragedies there are some commonalities. If you look back hard enough, you will find someone (a teacher, a doctor, a relative) who tried to say that there was something wrong. The individual in question needed help. The problem is there is so much red tape to go through. Once you get through the red tape, there is the expense and the timelines imposed by insurance. Our country seems to have moved away from believing in therapy to believing in medication. Yes, medication helps, but there is a need for therapy. Every interview with the neighbors of these shooters has the same quote "He was so quiet, he kept to himself." Of course he did. He was trying to cope in a world and with situations that he could not. The parents of these individuals cannot always be judged either. To be the caretaker of someone with a mental illness is very isolating. As a mother, you can't compare your experience to mothers of children without a mental illness. Often times when you are the caretaker of someone with a mental illness, you structure your life around that person. You loose sight of what a "normal" life is like.

Our country has to have a conversation about how to help those in need. There needs to be a better support system. There needs to be therapy to help those who are ill learn to cope and those who love them how to support them. I know that I will keep pushing this conversation whenever it is appropriate. I will be loud and forceful if need be. Above all, I will speak up when it is needed.

Time to Breathe and Time to Heal

I haven't forgotten this blog. Actually I have written some lovely posts in my head while in the trenches just trying to get through everyday. It has been a rough fall. Thank goodness it is winter. Maybe it will settle a bit.

To summarize: Lily ended up with bronchitis right after me. Rob was out of town, so I ended up taking off three days. I really never got into the swing of November after that. It took almost a month for me to recover. Add to that the fact that I have a class with some challenging students. I have a talent for helping children with behavior problems. Unfortunately, this talent comes from pouring my heart and soul into them. This year, more than ever, my students have consumed me.

Then came December. My grandfather passed away on the first. I did not know him very well, but I did admire him. Even though, he was distant from our family, he always remembered my girls and sent them Christmas and birthday cards. His relationship with our family was very complicated. He had a very difficult and challenging childhood. He was also very bright and very tough. He was a veteran of WWII and the Korean War. During WWII he was one of the medics in charge of going through the concentration camps and setting up triage. I also just found out that he'd been a prisoner of war. He was in the Special Forces. During the Vietnam War he worked in the refugee camps. He was an epidemiologist. He spent time in Papua New Guinea working to help teach better health conditions. He spent a great deal of time in Thailand. He was in the Peace Corp. He was also a distant and difficult father. I know that my mom and her siblings were frustrated by him. I never walked in his shoes or theirs, so I can't speak to any of their experiences. Just like I did after my father passed away, I choose to focus on the best and let the rest go. It's the best that I can do.

I went to Florida for his funeral with my mother. Like so many funerals in my family, this one was tense. My grandfather's wife was upset with my uncle. He was upset with her. The funeral was a mix of Buddhist and a Christian sermon from a Special Forces veteran. I enjoyed getting to visit with my uncle and listening to my mother and him reminisce about their childhood. As Army brats, they traveled all over the States and South East Asia. The best part was talking about my great grandparents farm in West Virginia. It was the grounding place for all of us. Having one common "best place on Earth" in a family in such an empowering and unifying thing.

I came back from Florida ready to get on with normal and then came December 14th. Before I even knew about the school shooting in Connecticut, I was having my own day of heart break. I had a very difficult day at school. Sometimes, I have students who need more than I can give them. I cried more that day than I have in years. I walked my children out to the bus, bruised inside and out, heartbroken, and then someone whispered to me about Connecticut. My co workers knew what a difficult day I was having. They waited until after. I work at the most amazing school with the most amazing teachers. I am so lucky. I went home that night and cried the entire time the girls watched Elf. I cried all day Saturday when I found out the children were in first grade. Then I went back on Monday and did what I do best, loved my students.