Friday, February 27, 2009

Fairness Friday

Progress reports came home last week. That time in the quarter when students get to show their parents (while there is still something that can be done about it) how they are doing in school. My students have access to their grades daily, but somehow, when those papers are handed to them, moans, cries of joy, or low sighs of relief (depending on the student) are heard around the room.

It always hits me, again and again, that they are largely clueless about their grades. How can this be? I hand out grade sheets periodically, they have all of their work returned to them, and they can visit my web page and access their grades from there. So, why are they surprised?? Ahhh - it is not surprise, it is reality that has just hit them in the face.

Much the same as the reality my daughter faced after bringing home all B's on her progress report. It is not that we are unreasonable parents, it is simply, that we know she is not bringing anything home, and that she is quite honestly slacking. So, we talked (and took away the computer & friends on weekdays) about effort, commitment, & potential. She, being the concerned teen that she is, wanted to know why her brother doesn't have to live up to these standards. "Doesn't he have potential?" she called across the van. To which we replied, "Yes, he's been grounded for weeks!" See, it is all fair.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Giving it Up.

Lent begins today. A day I have been anticipating and dreading simultaneously. As it happens, a few weeks ago I was thinking how important it is to me to be around to watch my children grow. In layman's terms, this means I was thinking about quitting smoking. The key is, motivation and substitution. So, I put it off. Saying to myself that I would quit for Lent and use the rosary when the need struck. This would kill 2 birds with 1 stone so to speak. I would give something up, that I honestly enjoy, and add more reflection to my life at the same time. Perfect. It worked when I quit drinking Pepsi a few years ago because too much sugar is a bad thing. But, there was diet Coke, which I grew to accept and now to love. What is there to fill the void of smoking?

This morning hubby greeted me, wanting to know why I was grumbling at the dog. I informed him that it is Ash Wednesday. The look of sincere joy on his face (heathen nonsmoker that he is), was almost comical enough to make me laugh. He offered to do anything he could to help. I know that he is was trying to be helpful. But I couldn't help responding, unless you have cancerless cigarettes, there is nothing.

Why, oh, why can't they invent a cancerless cigarette? We put men in space and transplant organs. We can make houses out of recycled material and splice plant DNA, but we can't make cigarettes without a bazillion killer chemicals. It seems so unfair.

Ok, enough moaning. I feel much better. Well, a smidge better, but I am trying to be optimistic!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Manatee Monday

Boy's birthday was the excuse reason that my family of 5 was tugging, pulling, and yanking our wetsuits past our hips and into place. We are a warm climate people and there was just something very very wrong with putting on a bathing suit (even with a wetsuit) in 58 degree temps. Yes, it was that chilly! And we were going to swim! But, you have to make hay while the sun shines, and you have to swim with the manatees while they are in the comparatively warm waters of the springs.

Everyone was filled with excitement as they donned their snorkel gear. Teen is smiling on the inside - no really, I'm serious this time!

The water was a brisk 72, so after the initial shock to my system, I was happier to be in than out - youngest needed a few breaks though (mostly to ham it up).

Look mom, there are some manatee! See them over there!

Uhhh - wait a minute - they are right there! Let me hold on to you, for safety, mom.

As boy comes zooming in for the experience.

If you haven't been near manatee, let me explain. They are such a docile creature, it is amazing they have survived. They approach people, seeming to enjoy being stroked, moving off to their sanctuary area when they want to sleep. They are endangered, because they are slow and boats are fast (and often driven by inebriated captains).

Once we all settled into underwater mode, it was a relaxing and exulting experience.

The underwater pictures, sadly, had to be developed and were not available for this posting.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Double Digits!

My son turned 10 yesterday - yes he is now a double digit. In recognition of his birth, I offered to throw him a party. He responded that he would not like a party (something that many parents have never encountered and would probably appreciate). Just the 2 days spent discussing and deciding not to have a party made him nervous. So, no party. But what to do to make this big day a wonderful celebration for him? We would stick to the traditions of the family...

Birthday Dinner: boy, "I decided what to have for my birthday dinner."
me, "Oh-yeah, what will it be sir?" (fully expecting homemade spaghetti & meatballs)
boy, "I want lobster. And ice cream cake for dessert."
me, "I don't even know how to cook a lobster! Ok...we'll (meaning me) figure it out."
It is a tradition...why do I do this to myself? So, we had surf & turf. Grilled lobster tails and steak along with accompaniments. (Plus extra for friend next-door to have dinner with boy)

Treats for school: This is arguably the high point of birthdays for boy. He gets to show the class that indeed, it is his day and share a treat. He needed extra for music & art teachers as well as kids on the bus. Almost 2 full pans of brownies to create his special day.

Presents: This area was proving tricky. Boy had not mentioned a single item on his birthday wish list - he was completely mum on the subject. Yesterday morning (there is nothing like the last minute) I asked if there were any hints he would like to give for a gift idea.
boy, "Just get me something I would like."
me, "Yeah, but what might that be?"
boy, "You've known me my whole life, you know what I like."
Ahhh - the pressure! So we went simple...

Books, because that's how we roll (& I've always wanted the set). Balanced nicely by a new (uneaten by dogs) soccer ball.

Sham-wow, because, well it was just fun! Now he won't have to announce to the house every time he sees the commercial on TV!

And, in place of a party he would need a mask and fins for our snorkeling with the manatees trip this weekend.

This was a grueling decision, as I had to research charters/prices/times. This was the ONE thing boy had been talking about for a few weeks.

But, somehow the best surprise wasn't. He seemed to know that we would be snorkeling this weekend - why, I have no idea - it is freezing out (in the 40's at night). Teen was present, but not enthusiastic, it seems the snorkeling trip will interfere with her carnival plans - oh well. We will drag her into the car at 6 on Saturday - she won't even know what hit her! And then she can go to the carnival on Sunday - if we don't all die from frostbite! BRRRRRR - it'll be cold!

Monday, February 16, 2009


In the land by the shore, there are many changes taking place. Changes, I have to remind myself, are great signs of independence and NOT signs that I am getting old.

Teen is a huge music fan. She has been since she was in elementary school. This has led hubby and me to bring her (alone at first & now with friends) to concerts. Not Disney band concerts that are a fav. among many, but concerts such as Warped Tour, Bowling for Soup, & Paramore. So, in a sense, as nonna so blithely pointed out, we have no one to blame but ourselves. But when she went last night with 2 girlfriends to a benefit concert, one that I had researched and went in briefly to check out, I still had to call for moral support to leave the parking lot. It isn't that I worry about her choices, she is far more level-headed than I was at 14. It is that she is so independent! Ughh - I don't feel older, but it must be happening!

Boy, who is as unpredictable as he is sweet, has recently made dinner for the family. He cooked! He looked at me one eve and said, "Mom, I'll cook." Awwww! Mac & Cheese and green beans - not the most nutritious dinner - but a meal non-the-less. The strutting as he announced to everyone that dinner was done and he had cooked (w/just a little help), was a priceless moment. And a reminder that he too is becoming independent.

Youngest is learning to write, and we can now identify 2 out of 3 pictures as objects. A sure sign that she too is growing-up.

All these milestones, while necessary and glorious, are sure reminders that time is precious and ever-passing. "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may" is resonating in my head. So, I will do what any parent would, I will go tuck-in my children and revel in the moment, while being thankful for quiet time at the end of a busy day!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday's Safari post

It has been a crazy week. To culminate the study of chocolate. Latin America (thanks for the cacao tree), and essay writing my classes shared their essays while enjoying chocolate fondue and hot chocolates. It was a crazy Friday. Serving chocolate with various dipping items to 93 students is a daunting task. But, judging from their moans of "I'm so full" and "I can't eat another bite" as well as the unsolicited thank you's made it worth the effort!

Needless to say, I did not want to work - at all - on Saturday. So, I did what any practical adult would do... I ran away! Not alone - we all jumped into the car and headed out to safari - well the Bush Gardens' version of safari anyway. We decided this would be a nice "treat" for Valentine's Day - of course teen thought staying home in her pj's was a nice treat - so we let her. (we are members - so we visit throughout the year & teen likes to bring troop members with her - they travel in packs)

The love was in the air as we entered to feed the birds. (Unless that is lice they are picking off each other! - Nah go with the love thing)

Watching boy help youngest was sweetness in itself. (watch out for excrement! Boy dodged 3 separate incidents before proclaiming they were out to get his shoes!)

And hubby was busy playing the role of pirate - though I think he was worried about his ear!

Of course you can't go on safari without seeing the tigers.

Then, we had the delight of caging the children!

And mom remembered that she doesn't really trust engineers - but persevered anyway!

Then, upon heading toward home we really had to question where and what time period we had entered! Do they not know that the war ended over 100 years ago and that they lost?

A great day - so great in fact that the kids (even teen) didn't complain that they received stuffed animals from BG - a true treat - instead of candy this year. (we brought home a penguin for teen and 2 tigers for boy and youngest). There is still chocolate fondue - maybe for tonight?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Just a Thought

I really have no idea how many people actually read this, but I'm gonna try anyway - so comment and make me feel good!

In our schools we recently had the state writing test administered to 4, 8, & 10th grades. I do not teach those grades (but oldest and boy are each in one). Anyway, we were asked to keep our classes particularly quiet that day. With Valentine's Day coming and a story we've been reading, I chose to have my classes write as well.

I asked them to think of a wonderful family treat they have had and then to think about the times and memories that go with the treat. They then had to write a brief autobiographical essay about the memory. Well, as any teacher knows, you have to have examples...and boy do I have examples! There was the m&m cake when I turned 6, the ice cream cone clowns from Baskin Robbins, baking with my mom, baking with my kids, eating, etc etc. It dawns on me that many of my best memories involve great foods!

So, here is my question for you. What is the best dessert you have had? Does it contain a memory to share?

Let me know, I'm all ears!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Love is in the Air

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, the talk has turned to love. Not love as in "oh honey, you are the greatest and I am glad I married you." Love as it is viewed by preschoolers. Which is really far more interesting anyway.

Two things of note have happened on the amorous front for youngest.

1) Youngest innocently mentioned that she would give the hearts she was coloring to brother's friend next door. He is a nice boy who is not averse to playing role of knight or dragon killer to her princess for a few minutes at a time. Who could blame her for wanting to show her gratitude in the form of a picture? Well, apparently her dad can blame her. Upon hearing her utterance, he looked up from the computer, as a shark who has smelled blood, focused closely on youngest's words and went for the kill. "No valentines to boys, period. School friends and family only." A man who can so effectively tune out the chaos as to be virtually impenetrable while online, heard this tiny utterance, and reacted. Her social life is doomed.

2) Unbenounced to her father, youngest is getting married. We are keeping it hush-hush as we worry for prospective spouse's well-being. I first became aware of the impending wedding when youngest announced, "School is boring. D-- just follows me all day, and won't let me play with anyone else." I did the mom thing, saying he needed a friend, blah blah blah... She responded with, "He just loves me too much. I guess I will marry him one day." Ah, yes...stalking, love, and marriage. Preschool romance at its finest.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Our lives are a bit backwards, down here in sunny land. While many people complain about winter across this country, we praise it to the heavens! This is our time... to be outside without fear of: fluid loss through sweat, death by mosquito, or sun poisoning.

In my family this is "hit the woods time". I thought I would share some recent pics with you, especially you remind you that summer is coming, and if it is too far away, this is a great spring break destination. (the tourist bureau should pay me!)

Visiting a nearby state park over Christmas break. The kids were such hams, stopping to take "group pictures" every so often. The alligators were plentiful and on the way out, the deer were a-bounding next to the van!

Youngest face was too priceless not to freeze in time. (we did cajole her into tasting the lemon a 2nd time for the shot - missed the 1st) This is a very fun spot we finally visited, after living 2 miles from for 8 years. Live music, food, beer, and on the river - who could ask for more?

This is son, who is so into a new series of books that he brought it on our hike. This is a great preserve that we found last week and loved so well we brought the dogs back this week.

Just a great shot of the river as we hiked. I believe I had to climb halfway down the bank for the shot, nearly getting mud up to my knees. (not knowing there was a look-out around the next corner!)

Of course oldest went too. You thought we left her home, didn't you? She is there, she is just usually so far ahead, we can't get a shot!

So, while I sympathize with the misery you feel at being so cold and cooped-up, I am thrilled when winter comes. (now that our lives in the north are far behind us) It is our hiking and outing time, no insect repellent needed! But it is too chilly to swim....