Archive for January 2009

Mom Hint #3672

January 31, 2009

When planning to introduce something detestable in activity or in food (such as matching your own socks or much hated corn bread on top of a new ‘Tamale Pie’ recipe) launch yourself into a 24 hour hormonally induced maniacal rage – involving much teeth gnashing, slammed doors and silent treatment  –  thereby retiring to bed.  Early.

No one – not even the highly food opinionated almost fifteen year old – will challenge your demands.  Heh.

Doesn’t need to be planned ahead…….

The Gold Star

January 29, 2009

     It was one of those interviews where you knew a line was being walked.  I had been laid off for two years and now recalled to an elementary school teaching position.  I was being interviewed by an unfamiliar principal.  A principal that I had been warned was not always up front with her feelings and views.  A principal who had been around for a good long while.  A principal who was very hung up on the fact that I have a hearing impairment.

     How did I feel that I could be a good role model in teaching Kindergarteners about letter sounds when I had a speech impediment?  Speech impediment?  And she asked it with a very pronounced lisp herself.  I remember being told by the personnel director that I would be working for her and telling him that she very nearly crossed the line with regard to handicap harassment by an employer.  It wasn’t something that I generally had concerns about but this one threw up a red flag.  He said not to worry but to make sure I keep in close contact with him in regards to the matter.  

    And so I began my Kindergarten Teaching career.  I was a nervous wreck….but not for long.   Once she saw how I taught and I saw how she appreciated creative approaches, everything was fine.  She would come into your classroom, unannounced, sit in the back and watch, leaving a handwritten note on some kind of interesting note paper and then quietly leave.  When it came time to read your professional evaluation, bits and pieces of those observations were always included.  And I still have all of those notes. 

She would bring total strangers, prospective  parents etc. into your classroom unannounced as well.  I remember once I had reeled out a long piece of butcher paper and my Kindys were stepping in paint and walking the length of it as part of a Language Arts project.  I was mortified at the mess we were making and flustered and blustered my way through the conversation.  She thought it was hilarious and sang my praises to the people she was with.  One time – on ‘W’ day – I had real worms, rubber worms and gummy worms in various activities around the room.   She stuck around for most of the morning on that day just to see what the heck else I was going to do with a worm.  Her note said that my ‘W Day’ activities were ‘Wierd’ and ‘Wonderful.’

She never failed to make me feel like I was being given a big gold star for my work.  At least that was true if she liked you.  There were lots that couldn’t deal with her.  But I, fortunately, had become one of her favorite teachers.  She said so…all the time.

She was only my administrator for two and a half years.  She retired mid year and moved out of state.  She never really tried to keep in touch much.  And for some odd reason she had given me a small metal frog before she left.  Not sure why.  I still have it.  Kept it on my desk for years and years.  And today I thought about it alot.

     Julie Sajo died this week….somewhere in Kansas after a lengthy illness.  She gave me a priceless gift when I needed it the most.  She gave me acceptance and pride and permission to be ‘wierd’ and ‘wonderful’ in my classroom…something I hope I have never lost.

25 Things

January 29, 2009

I am not exactly a ‘fan’ of these things.  I would much rather make a list of my favorites…what color socks I have on….what’s under my bed…or what I have in my glove compartment.  Twenty five interesting things about me?  I would be kind of hard pressed.  But, since I have been tagged like four times for this, I thought I would give it a whirl.  It’s taken a week but turns out I’m kind of interesting after all! 

1. I attended the very same elementary school that my Mom went to for a period of time.
2. I was taught how to read lips when I was four years old and can generally follow several conversations at once….which is why I tend to be very, very quiet in social situations.

3. I once won a CKLW radio contest in which the prize was to meet Bobby Sherman. (Oh be still my thudding thirteen year old heart!)

4. I won a college scholarship for winning a writing contest when I was a high school senior. Didn‘t use it though. WHAT was I thinking??

5. I did my student teaching in a Kindergarten class with a cast on my broken arm and taught myself how to tie tennis shoes with one hand. Can’t do it any more though.

6. I have lived through three car accidents and one of them was a rollover.

7. I don’t drink alcoholic beverages. Well….maybe a cold beer once every eight years or so. I think I am due this summer!

8. I have never had perfect attendance…in anything.

9. I walked on the wild side this fall and took myself on a trip to NYC, stayed in a hotel with someone I met online and saw my favorite actress in an off Broadway play…twice!

10. I can read a book a day.

11. I can paint just about anything but can’t draw worth anything.

12. I see ‘things’ as the shapes that make them. Does that make sense?

13. I have appeared on stage as the housekeeper in ‘The Sound of Music.’

14. I directed a production of ‘Annie’ 20 years ago for a community theater group with a record in ticket sales for that group that still stands today.

15. I would rather write or direct plays than be in them.

16. I interviewed William Milliken, then the governor of Michigan, for a 9th grade school project. I wrote and asked and he obliged, inviting my partner and I to his office in Lansing. We talked for 30 minutes. Heady stuff!

17. My favorite job – ever – was running a school age care program at a community center. I did it for two years 25 years ago and I still miss it.

18. I once stayed out past curfew – on purpose – at my Christian college in order to accrue the ’punishment minutes’ needed so I would be confined to the dorm for the weekend with my friends. I was such a rabble rouser!

19. I am amazed at how quickly I can come up with WAY former student names when I run into them at the grocery store….or the Dairy Queen…or at the Chinese restaurant.

20. I write and produce a television series for my school district’s cable network.  I seriously channel JIm Henson, Mr. Rogers and Captain Kangaroo on a regular basis.

21. I have met some of my very best friends on the internet.

22. I am a fierce advocate of international adoption.

23. I hate 7th grade…..back then and right NOW!

24. I never ever wanted to be in the medical profession but find it supremely interesting.

25. Pathetically, I have been to Disney World ten times at various times in my life.




January 28, 2009

Almost February and we are survivin’.  Made it safely through our first Final Exam week in high school and the Prince is rolling in A’s and B’s.  He is working out in the fitness room three nights a week and actually has real, honest to goodness, grown up muscles! 

Made it through a particularly testy 7th grade Science unit.  I hate going through seventh grade again.  It wasn’t fun the first time.  Didn’t improve the second time either…but this time??  Grrr.  I know more about energy than any normal adult should HAVE to know. 

Made it through our first basketball game last night.  They lost – 28 to 8.  The Princess had four fouls called on her.  FOUR!  That’s not good.  Kinda of understandable though – if you play basketball like you have played soccer for the past 6 years.  LOL  Poor Dad just shook his head.  I think we are going to paint a sweatshirt…with a crown on a basketball…and add a star for each foul the ‘Foul Queen’ achieves in her first season as a basketball player.  Expect it to be covered by the end of March. : )

It’s going to snow tonight.  Nothing big as we are on the top of the current storm system moving through the midwest and east coast.  One to three tonight and a little more tomorrow. Should be a nice addition to the slopes on Thursday.  Springing for snowboarding with the ski club.  Should be fun to watch.

Just survivin’


January 22, 2009


  “For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.  We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers.  We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace. ”    Barack Obama

I loved that quote from his speech.  A ‘Patchwork Heritage.’  I never thought about it that way but I guess we are.  I was born and raised in the same small community in south east Michigan.  I went to school, took driver’s training and worked at a local K-Mart.  My parents – in the interest of having us ‘see the world’ – took us on trips throughout Michigan, to California and Florida.  I have seen the Golden Gate Bridge, the Grand Canyon, bears at Yellowstone Park, the race track in Daytona, Disneyland AND Disney World as well as collected sea shells from both coasts of Florida.  I lived on campus while attending a small liberal arts college about 40 minutes away from that home for two years and then spent two years in the wide open spaces of Edmond, Oklahoma.  I returned home and lived with my parents until I got married.

My husband, on the other hand, was the son of a career Marine.  He was born in South Carolina and lived in Minnesota and California before coming home to roost in a bustling small town not far from where I grew up.  His  childhood ‘vacation’ experiences basically entailed moving a large family from one military base to another.  He would also spend time at a lake cottage belonging to his grandparents as a teenager.  He got a job, married young, had two daughters and was divorced….’til he met me.

My son was born in Seoul, Korea and spent the first month of his life in a hospital and the next three months with a Korean foster family.  He had a passport and international travel under his belt before I did.  He made the journey from Seoul to Tokyo and Tokyo to Detroit when he was four months old.  He traveled with a baby girl on her way to New York and a professor from the University of Seoul who was a regular ‘escort’ for his Korean adoption agency.  We were told that he wouldn’t take a bottle during the trip but was fed yogurt.  He was dressed in four layers of clothing when he arrived in late June….and a huge smile that made his eyes totally disappear.

My daughter was born in Tuva, a region of Russia that juts into the country of Mongolia.  We are not exactly sure of when or where but we know that someone was looking out for her relative safety.  She entered a Russian baby home at the approximate age of twenty one months.  She was moved to a children’s home in the same town (Kyzyl) when she was four.  She had just turned five when she took her first plane trip from Abakan to Moscow.  We shopped, ate McDonald’s french fries, obtained her visa and flew from Moscow to home .

The four of us live in a home in a community about 30 minutes from the house where I grew up.  It’s only 15 minutes from the home  where my husband’s family lived.  There are small towns and rapidly disappearing farm lands all around us.  Our ‘big’ city is Detroit…and it’s nearly an hour’s drive away….unless the traffic is light and the freeway is free of ice.   We rarely travel those roads.

I think it’s interesting…..miraculous… people from – literally – four corners of the earth can be brought together to become a family.  Factor in the two stepdaughters, one son in law and three grandchildren and the ‘quilt’ becomes even more vivid.  Add the silken border of extended family that ribbons from South Carolina to Florida to Maryland to Taiwan to Indonesia…and you have OUR quilt.  We are Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Agnostic and maybe Buddhist.  Just another of your average American families.

Of guns and things….

January 20, 2009

cowboy-dan-copy     Awww.   And you better look at it quick before he sees that I have posted it  and tells me to take it off.  Almost fifteen year olds can be unreasonable sometimes….like when they give you 5 seconds to take a picture of them….Heh

We were getting this picture taken at this hoighty photo studio with the hand me down cowboy boots he’d gotten from his cousins.  The photographer clapped the cowboy hat on his head and handed him the gun.  My heart did a little squeeze when I saw that.   A gun?  In MY kid’s hand?   Not possible.  And, from that very point on he was obsessed with guns.  And I mean OBSESSED.     But that’s a guy thing right?   Everybody said so.  Still, the  obsession kind of worried me.  Really worried me.  I fought him tooth and nail about it too.  I wouldn’t let him touch anything that remotely resembled a gun for a good long while.  Even the bubble blowing space gun toy was off limits.   And then a wise and wonderful colleague that I have a tremendous respect for said one day, “You know, he is just going to make his own guns out of everything he can find.”  So I relaxed and relented….and my parents bought him his own cowboy hat, holsters and two six shooters.  The kid was in heaven.   Absolute heaven.  However he was only allowed to ‘shoot’  rattlesnakes. dingos and buffalo.   And he was a diligent hunter.  He took aim at rattlesnakes on the side of the road every day.  Dinged a dingo or two on the playground now and then.  But it was the buffalo that confounded him.  He just couldn’t picture what the heck a buffalo was. 

One day – when he was four – we were on an ‘up north’ camping trip and driving around looking for a restaurant someone had told us about.  He asked me what a buffalo was…..again.  I went into my usual tirade about how they were an huge animal whose pounding hooves were enough to shake buildings when they ran.  I told him how Native Americans would hunt them and use everything on the body…the hide for a blanket, the meat to eat and even the bones for utensils and decoration.  I told him how white hunters killed them for their hides alone and left rotting carcasses across the prairie.  That’s why there aren’t many buffalo any more.  He was very involved in the story and grew concerned that such big animal still even existed.  I assured him that buffalo were much more suited to the open prairie land than the woods of Michigan.   I told him they were too big to maneuver through the trees.  Satisfied and feeling safer, he was watching out the window when – only minutes later – we passed by a ranch and saw two of these fellas watching cars go by with their big heads hanging over a wire fence.buffalo-herd-1-1024x76811 

So much for ‘mom wisdom.’  Heh.




Our new ‘Black Hole’

January 19, 2009

Having fun costs big bucks these days.  So add ‘snowboarding’ to the list of ‘Black Holes’ we keep pitching $$$ into.  Dang but they are cute to watch though!

The Prince in the backyard.  The ‘coolness’ factor of snowboarding went up when a friend mentioned seeing me at the ski lodge with his sister.  He’s going to try it this week.

The Princess on the slopes after one beginner lesson…….

And another one of her….she’s the peanut in blue.

I need another job………..


January 18, 2009

I, seriously, can’t wait until Tuesday.  Part of me really, really wants to be in Washington D.C.  Part of me wants to be all caught up in the madness, the crowds, the traffic jams, the parades, the excitement, the cold……  Well, okay, maybe not the cold.  Although, admittedly, I would brave the cold if I had a ticket to the Creative Coalition’s Ball.   The other part of me is SO very glad that I chose Tuesday as my weekly day off (I teach 8/10ths of the week).   Having Tuesday off means that I can take my kiddos to school, plop something in the crock pot for dinner, make a pitcher of hot cocoa, stack up some cookies and watch the whole event on the BIG screen in the family room.  With the cat and the dog for company.  I offered to let the kiddos stay home from school to watch with me.  Begged them, in fact.  HE has final exams and I will be picking him up early anyway.  SHE is working on perfect attendance and doesn’t want to miss basketball practice to watch a little ole thing like history happening.  Sheesh.  WHAT am I raising???

One of those days…..

January 16, 2009

It was -11 degrees this morning.  I TOLD her to wear a coat.  Did she do it??  NOooo.  Snuck out to the car in a sweathirt and jeans.  The highway was slippery with black ice.  The news station said it would be.  Took us longer than we had planned to get to the high school.  He got out , muttered something incomprehensible and shut the door.  Apparently almost fifteen is not able to speak in complete sentences any more.  I had to pump  gas…and then stop at the all night grocery for lunch stuff for her.  Brrr.  Minus 11 degrees.   She was late enough to have to run inside….or maybe it was because she wasn’t wearing a coat?   I trudged in on an icy snow path  from my car.  I left my purse behind and had to go back to get it.  In -11 degree weather.  I made a mistake with the Internet Safety assembly times so all the schedule finagling I had done to be able to see both the upper el and lower el assemblies was moot.  And all before lunch.  Butternut squash soup sounded better in the morning than it did AT lunch.  Thank God for m&ms!   Forgot about the staff power point I have been assembling for Monday’s Martin Luther King activities so I had to tweak that between classes.  Finished and uploaded it after school.  Sheesh.  Ran out the school door at 5 to pick up the Princess who has been trying out for the last 4 days for the 7th grade basketball team.  (She made the team. Remember when that was the MOST important thing in your 7th grade life??)  And worst of all….I made a handful of first graders cry today.   Indoor recess will do that to them.  And hearing ‘I neeeeed hELlllpppp” too many times will do that to ME.  Especially when it’s something they have been able to do since….October?  Do it yourself!  Figure it out….  Dinner was sweet and sour chicken from a can.  Good old LaChoy….not.   I splashed soy sauce on my new from Christmas peach shirt that goes so nice with my gray slacks.  Rats.  

How many more days until spring???

Five Questions…..

January 13, 2009
Ahhh….from my good friend, Mary, at The Eleventh.  There are a couple that really, really stumped me!  If YOU would like to be interviewed, add a comment to this blog and I will post five questions for YOU to answer .  It’s fun…..really!
1.  Working in education, what “old fashioned basics” do you wish were still taught, and what “new methods” do you find the most helpful? 
      I sincerely wish there was more emphasis on learning basic Math facts here.  Our district uses a Math program that focuses on ‘doing’ and children are taught a variety of ways to arrive at the answer.  It attempts to reach out to ALL learners and has proved successful in regards to state testing.   I find that my children are much more adventurous in regards to Math and not so intimidated by it…like I was(am!).  However, you can tout geometry and algebra in elementary school all you want but NOTHING beats knowing those add/sub/multiplication facts.  And I know this for a fact.  My 4th/5th grade Teacher was right out of college and had us using a Math program designed by his university.  Heavy on the geometry and pre-algrebra processes.  THEN I was placed in the 6th grade classroom of a very….ahem….experienced…..Teacher that took all of us right back to basic Math facts and basic spelling words.  I di well but still have to count on my fingers for some Math stuff today.
     I love LOVE love the new writing processes that encourage children to use  ‘sound spelling’ to become independent writers…in Kindergarten.  My kiddos LOVED their ‘Writers Workshop’ times.  I love that they are encourages to write about their own experiences.  I just hope that those writing experiences feed into fantasy and creative writing as well.   THAT was always my favorite thing to do as a kid. 
2.  What is your most arcane interest or obsession?
       Heh….’ER’…or maybe just Maura Tierney?  I have watched ‘ER’ steadily since it’s first rerun season.  My sister talked me into watching it so she would have someone to talk to about it.  The dialog was too fast for me but shazam!  Closed captioning became available!!    I used to watch it while giving the Prince his nightly bottle back then.  He’s almost 15 now.  I have watched actors come and go from the show and have had seasons when my interest has waned.  With the arrival of Maura Tierney’s ‘Abby Lockhart’ in season six , it became an obsession.  Well, maybe for two reasons.  I first took note of her when she was a member of that quirky comedy ‘NewsRadio’….which I loved.  She is an actress whose talent lends itself perfectly to someone who is hearing impaired.  Her acting becomes a physical thing and you can almost tell the temper of the story by the way she moves, her expressions, her hand motions and even the way she stands.  Kinda fun to watch her.  When I first read that she had been added to the ‘ER’ cast I was thoroughly disappointed.  I envisioned her as a comedic actress and never thought she would fit in a drama.  Have eaten my words many, many times since.  Heh.  One of the highlights of my past year was a trip to NYC to see her on stage and I got to meet her….twice!  But like an idiot obsessed fan, I couldn’t put together two coherent words to say to her.  Go figure.
     Secondly, Goran Visnjic was in a movie that I rented back in 98/99 – ‘Welcome to Sarajevo.’  It has adoption theme and takes place during the Bosnian conflict.    We were doing the paper chase for a Russian adoption at the time and I thought it would be interesting.  Hmmm.  Fell hook, line and sinker for the tall Croatian playing ‘Risto Bavic’ (love the way that name rolls over the tongue!).  Felt so very ultra cool in knowing who Goran Visnjic was when it was announced that he would be joining ‘ER” as ‘Luka Kovac.’  Sigh.  The fact that the two of them were paired romantically was just unbelievable.  And I have to say that their relationship on the show really got me writing again.
     I discovered a fan fiction site one night and started writing a story about Luka and Abby…..and posted it on Dec. 22, 2005…..just for kicks.  People posted reviews and I was totally bitten by the writing bug…again.  To date I have an 18 piece collection on that has garnered over 200,000 internet ‘hits.’  Not a week has gone by when I haven’t received a notification that someone has added me to their favorite author/story list or alert.  Kind of fun.  And I have been able to use those stories to practice some writing skills.  I tried writing stories from different character points of view.  Once, in an attempt to focus more on descriptive writing I wrote a piece in which the characters just utter one phrase all the way through – ‘Just looking.‘  And while I still write an occasional ‘ER’ story, I have also been focusing on writing other things as well.  I have a collection of novels in progress….always.  What was the question again???
3.  What food do you eat that your family or friends find disgusting?
   Oh, it HAS to be squash.  Zucchini, acorn, summer, butternut, spaghetti…I LOVE them all…and can’t get anyone else to eat it, no matter how deliciously I cook it.  Sigh.
4.  If you could go back in time, unobserved, to any three moments in history (personal or famous), what would they be and why?
     Do they have to be moments?  I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during the Continental Congress  prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  I would have loved to have been a member of JFK’s cabinet.  I would have loved to have been a journalist in China during the Tienanmen Square protests of 1989 .  In every instance it involved young, idealistic people with ideas that would merit change and a new beginning.  I love the fear, the optimism, the excitement, the thought process, the arguments and compromise procedures….and the hope  – even if an idea should fail.
5.  Look back on your memories.  You are six years old and surrounded by adults.  Which one did you try hardest to impress and why? 
       My grandmother because, I think, I knew I could never please her.  We were too much alike.  And I was bulky, mouthy, hard of hearing, big for my age and obnoxious.  The cousin above me was motherless via divorce, tiny, WAY too smart and classically pretty.  My sister was younger, tiny, good natured – always, and sweet.  Hard to fit in with a crowd like that……
Five Question Instructions:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. 
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.