Thursday, December 20, 2012

My 12 Days of Christmas



            Oh December!  What you mean to me?  Report card rally, kids with coughs and the beginning of the holiday hustle!  Makes it awful hard for a girl like me to get a blog done!   Last week, my students wrote their own version of the 12 Days of Christmas.  I decided to write my own version.  And in light of what happened on Friday, I found even more special to note even the tiniest ways the boys bring a smile upon my face.  
            On the first day of Christmas, my two boys gave to me
            A huge smile all across my face
On the second day of Christmas, my two boys gave to me
Two bear hugs
On the third day of Christmas, my two boys gave to me
Three sloppy kisses
On the fourth day of Christmas, my two boys gave to me
Four runny noses
On the fifth day of Christmas, my two boys gave to me
Five sticky fingers
On the sixth day of Christmas, my two boys gave to me
Six boo-boos a-kissing
On the seventh day of Christmas, my two boys gave to me
Seven loads of laundry
On the eighth day of Christmas, my two boys gave to me
Eight clay balls squishing
On the ninth day of Christmas, my two boys gave to me
Nine giant giggles
On the tenth day of Christmas, my two boys gave to me
Ten questions asking
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my two boys gave to me
Eleven dirty dishes
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my two boys gave to me
Twelve baths a-bubbling
*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
            Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanks and Giving


          First, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and were able to spend time with family and friends.  I had the wonderful opportunity to take a moment and reflect on all I am thankful for throughout this month.  It was a chance to stop the whirlwind of my day and bring a smile to my face and heart.  Too often we go through our days focusing on the negative moments. Did you know it takes more facial muscles to frown than smile?  And I don’t know anyone who enjoys the crinkles caused by frowning!  So, I am going to continue this practice.  More importantly, I am going to share my thankfulness with those who are the direct result of my happiness.
Now that the holiday season is upon us, it is time to think about spreading joy to those we care about.  It also is a time to think about those who are not as blessed as we are.  Therefore, I am using this blog post as my Public Service Announcement.
For the past few years, the students in my class have donated to Project Linus http://www.projectlinus.org/.  This is a non-profit organization started in 1998.  Handmade blankets are made by “blanketeers” and distributed locally to children in hospitals, shelters, social service agencies, or anywhere that a child might be in need of a big hug.  In order to make this a true, service learning project, our class discussed ways we could raise money to help pay for materials.  It was decided they would make a one week chore chart to help out at home.  Each chore has a designated amount.  The goal is to raise 5 dollars in one week.  The students know, they must do chores to earn the money. 
This year, I will be telling the class about two other worthy causes we could donate to.  A Connecticut author friend of mine, Lynda Mullaly Hunt (http://lyndamullalyhunt.com/) has organized an initiative to bring books to children in foster care.  It’s called the Book Train: http://booktrainforkids.wordpress.com/.  Lynda has written a lovely middle grade book about a young girl’s experience in a foster family entitled One for the Murphy’s.
Another organization I read about is the Santa Anonymous Winter Boot Project sponsored by the Thames Valley Council for Community Action’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program: http://newlondon.patch.com/announcements/santa-anonymous-winter-boot-program.
My Christmas wish this year is that everyone will take a little time to donate/support a group or organization that is less fortunate.  It will make you feel fantastic!  I promise!
I hope you all have a fabulous holiday season!    

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Did I Just Step in Pee?


           
            You know that expression, “look before you leap”?  Well, in my home, I need to look before I step, sit and, if I’m smart, before I walk out of the house.  Let’s start with step.  Hazards in my household fall into two categories: liquids and solids.  It is quite unpleasant to be merrily walking along, when, “Oh” a sudden chilly spot appears underfoot, as the material of you sock begins to absorb the mysterious liquid.  Now, if I am in the kitchen, there’s little to worry; chances are it is a drinkable liquid. I tip my head to the side in order to locate said spot, (if it hasn’t already been completely wiped away by my sock), grab a paper towel and move on.  Occasionally the spot will have a chance to dry, thus leaving a sticky spot.  These can be identified when walking along, and your foot momentarily gets stuck.  These spots require a bit of spray cleaner - a bit more work.  I then have to decide; do I continue to wear the sock or change into another pair. 
But when this occurs in the bathroom, the reaction and clean up take on a tiny HazMat reaction.   The first time this happened, I froze.  At first my brain went into liquid spot mode but then I quickly looked down.  My foot was closer to the base of the toilet than the base of the vanity, therefore making it less chance the liquid was water.  After I cleaned up, there was no question what to do with that sock!
My boys are pretty good about cleaning up their toys.  Even though, there always manages to be one or two leftovers.  Of course they are strategically positioned where my grownup foot will land.  They are usually around a corner or at the edge of the couch.  Perfect places since I am rarely looking down when I walk.  It is also the hard toys with sharp edges or wheels that are in harm’s way. It’s amazing how the tiny wing of airplane can send such shooting pain through my foot.
The couches in our home are multipurpose furniture.  The boys used them to watch TV, have snack and play.  I approach the couch cushions with caution.  I do a quick scan with my eyes, brush off crumbs, and push aside toys before sitting down.  This method has proven to be 99% effective.  There is the occasional moment when I sit and “Oh,” just like the kitchen floor, I feel a certain sensation on my behind or back of the leg.  The “spill-proof” and “leak-proof” cups have found a way to seep out onto the couch.  Luckily, I invested in a mini carpet cleaner for doggie messes years back, and now it is my go-to appliance when the couch needs some TLC.
            The last place I find random spots is my clothing.  I really thought this would end once the baby spit up phase ended.  Who knew there were additional joys such as snot, toothpaste, blueberry juice and peanut butter to add a little flair to my work outfit?  Who needs jewelry?  If I am a fortunate to spy these spots before I head out the door, (in the midst of all the craziness that is the boys and I getting out of the house), I consider it a small victory for the day!  But, chances are, I will discover these spots when I first head to the staff bathroom.  The blaze of the florescent lights and long mirror hide nothing!  I am then torn.  Do I just leave it? Maybe I’ll try to scrape it off a bit to make it less noticeable?  I know that any attempt to wash it off will leave a large wet spot which is surely to be noticed.  (If it is snot, it’s a no-brainer!)
            I quickly learned that having kids is an adventure.  I just never knew the variety of adventures I’d encounter!  So for now, I will take each spot with a smile, a quick clean and move on.  What other options do I have?  J

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween Hurricane












A thump, a bump, a screech, a scratch,
Outside my window last night.
I pulled the covers up over my head,
It gave me such a fright!

A whoosh, a howl, a creak, a crack,
On the roof an awful sound.
I slipped out of bed onto tip toes
And decided to look around!

A shadow, a shape, a dash, a flash,
Along my bedroom wall.
I reached for the switch – it went click
Blackness down the hall!

A patter, a smatter, a splish, a splosh,
Against the window pain.
I looked for ghosts and goblins
And saw a Halloween Hurricane!

Thursday, October 11, 2012


autumn beauty trees leaves picture and wallpaper
          Summer is my favorite season, but lately, fall has been making a pretty strong case. 
          In fall, the humidity disappears. (Need I say more?)  You can be outside without the worry you will sweat by merely standing there or be attacked by a swarm of hungry mosquitoes.  When you style your hair and go outside, it stays styled.  It doesn't morph into a cotton candy-like mound on top of your head.
          Exercising outdoors is more pleasant as well.  You welcome to opportunity to warm up against the chill of the air.  Sweat is something you earn, not something that happens while you just stand there.
          Living behind an orchard makes easy access to all things apple.  We can easily spend an hour combing the rows in search of just ripe fruit.  Add the bonus of a hayride to get to the furthest point of the orchard and it’s a winning activity for the boys.     
          And of course there is the scenery.  In the beginning of the season you can tell where the sun first hits a treat by the bright spots of yellow or red against the field of green.  Every fall I choose a tree and follow its progression of color change.  Walking along trails as leaves cascade to the ground is beyond relaxing.
True, summer brings a long vacation and trips to the beach, but I think I am becoming a fall fan.  Goodbye ice cream truck and frozen margaritas.  Hello apple crisp and Octoberfest beers!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

No One Said it Would be Easy


         
          …but no one said it would be so hard either.  I am talking about parenting.  I've written before of my attempts to find magic answers in books but the written word and the living, breathing – or should I say whining and crying – child that stands before you can be night and day.
          I've been an elementary teacher for fifteen years.  Surely, that experience should account for something?  Right?!  Unfortunately, my preschool stint was a mere six months and once I’ve never “taught” any younger ages.  I should be all set when the boys hit eight, though!  J
          Many times I have said to Jim, “What little chip in their brain tells them to say _____  or act _____?  It’s not like they see us do it.”  Sure, I could blame it on the kids at daycare but they have been together for three years and are a really nice bunch. 
          The biggest issue in our house is control.  Who wants it and who gets it.  Mix this with a couple quick tempers and easily frustrated individuals, and it makes for some major meltdowns. 
          Andrew doesn't understand why things can’t be his way.  I vacillate between reasoning with him and telling him, “Because I gave you a direction.”   (I thought I was so clever with this twist on ‘because I said so.’)  Yeah, right.  He’s in the midst of a bossy stage; that I really hope is a stage.  He’s like a miniature Archie Bunker.  I would like to know who passed him the memo declaring him the boss!
          Alex thinks he’s three and a half and is on a mission to mimic everything his bog brother does.  Unfortunately, that doesn't always work out so well for him and he reacts with throwing, hitting, screaming and head banging.  Good times!  He laughs when you put him in time out.  So we are trying to give him the words to express his frustration.  For example, “I know you are made the train came off the track, but we don’t throw the train when we are mad.”  Sounds very academic, doesn’t it.  I’ll let you know how it goes.
          I have become a broken record of parenting mantras:  It’s just a phase…This, too shall pass…Things will get better…Enjoy this while it lasts, because they grow up so fast.  Some days it helps, some days it seems just ridiculous.  But, this is the life I have chosen and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, really.  And, when I stop and think about it, over the course of a day, 90% is really fantastic.  Manners are flowing, brotherly love is in the air, and  smiles are on all our faces.  But, when we are in the middle of that 10%, it can feel completely overwhelming and you watch all your parenting skills fly out the window. 
          But, we persevere!  I bought a new book:  Smart Parenting, Smarter Kids by Dr. David Walsh.  I’m always open to new ideas and methods.  I think any wise parent would be.  Parenting is an adventure!  Our days would be so dull and boring without Andrew and Alex.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Little White Lies


          We've all been there.  We find our self in a particular situation:  a few minutes late to an appointment; an invite from friends when you’d rather stay home in your jammies; or that little person tugging on our pant leg for a treat.  And before we know, it just slips out – a white lie.  Everyone does it, so there can’t really be any harm to it, right?
          I’ve compiled a small list of white lies I have used and (believe) have been used on me.  Any sound familiar?

          Lies We Tell Others:
·         I just got your message/text.
·         My e-mail has been down for a day (or few days).
·         My alarm didn’t go off.
·         I can’t get a sitter.
·         I was just about to call/text/e-mail you.
·         I was stuck in traffic.

Lies We Tell Our Self

·         I’m not too young to wear that.
·         There’s nothing wrong with my driving.
·         I can get that done in ten minutes.
·         I’m fine.
·         I don’t need help.

        Lies We Tell Our Children
(Note – these work best with small children J)

·         We’re out of ice cream/popsicles/chocolate.
·         The (insert store) is closed.
·         Mommy didn’t bring enough money.
·         It’s past your bedtime.
·         If you eat ______  it will make you bigger/stronger. 
           
                    Now, this list certainly isn’t complete, and you could add a few of your own.  I’m sure you (and I) could easily justify using these in any given situation.  Unfortunately, because white lies are so common and viewed as benign, many of us don’t think twice before they do it.
          It’s also easier to lie when you don’t have an audience.  Andrew now knows what traffic is.  Dare I use that lie in his presence and he calls me out on it?  That would be a bit embarrassing, don’t you think?
          But lies have consequences too.  We have to decide how it will affect our image.  (And, if we really care.)  I am always 10 minutes late to social events.  (Even before I had children to blame!)  So, what’s better?   I claim there was traffic, or just admit to my friends, “I’ll be ten minutes late.”  Honesty is the best policy, right?  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pet Peeves


          
          I’ve been finding myself a bit short on patience lately and getting (even more) easily annoyed.  I’ve noticed my peeves keep cropping up as well, as if to tempt me during my time of stress.  This got me wondering about the origin of pet peeves.  Who was peeve and why didn’t people like his pets?  So I consulted Wikipedia, my go-to resource for the people by the people.  Here’s what I found…
          The phrase was first used around 1919.   “The term is a back-formation from the 14th-century word peevish, meaning "ornery or ill-tempered.  Pet peeves often involve specific behaviors of someone close, such as a spouse or significant other.  These behaviors may involve disrespect, manners, personal hygiene, relationships, and family issues.”  
          Hehe – the personal hygiene got me.  Most of my pet peeves happen to involve complete strangers.  Perhaps I feel more secure firing frustrating glances at people I don’t know.  Perhaps my husband is just extra clean ;).  Here are the top five.  Enjoy!
1.    Blinkers – use them when you are turning, turn them off when you are not.
2.   Speed limit – feel free to use this as a suggested minimum – not a mere suggestion.
3.   Early people – I am never one of you – no need to remind me.
4.   Whiny adults – Stop it!  Do what you’re supposed to do.
5.   Toilet paper – No, that last square and the shreds attached to the roll are not enough!

        <Sigh>  That was cathartic.  I can now go about the rest of my day!



Thursday, September 6, 2012

Focus


         
         My blog went on vacation so the teacher in me could focus on getting back to work.  The week before school begins has always been a bit whacky for me.  I try to make a plan and stay the course so I can get as much done in as little time as possible, so I can also squeeze the last bit of summer out for myself.  The addition of children has added another layer to this oh-so-exciting week.  Here's what happened this year...
          The nanny started Monday plus they were going to daycare Tuesday.  I had planned three days at school, one day for me…perfect…until Andrew got sick.  Focus shift.
          Monday was still alright.  I went to school with a plan.  Unpack supplies and organize the room.  I know how easily distracted I can get in my classroom, so a plan seemed reasonable – as long as I stuck to it.  A handful of other teachers were also there so we chatted about our summers.  Not exactly a focus shift, but a nice social distraction from the real task at hand.  I didn’t do everything I had planned, but it was OK, I had all day Tuesday.
          Andrew was still sick.  But I could take Alex and hopefully Andrew would last two hours in my classroom.  Armed with snacks, trains and DVDs we headed in.  I was really going to need to stick to my plan today because I had a constant distraction accompanying me.  Andrew can focus on a task for about fifteen minutes which gave me a few decent chunks of time to make headway on my plan.  All the while I was juggling my focus.  Doing my thing while entertaining questions, fetching art supplies and two trips to the bathroom.  I probably got an hour’s worth of work in the two hours we were there, but I still had Wednesday & Friday.
          I had an appointment at 8:30 which I expected would last 30 minutes, then I was going to stop at WalMart to get plastic bins, then arrive to school at 9:30.  That was my plan.  I was still in the waiting room at 9:00.  I know, how often do doctor’s run on time?  But the office opened at 8:30, I thought I was golden!  No worries, I’ll just run in and out of WalMart.  Have I written about being alone, in a store, with no time constraints, yet?  Moms, you know what I’m talking about right? 
          I got to school at 10:30.  I had three hours before I had to leave for another appointment.  I still had Friday.  My “me day” would have to be postponed until Monday.  I was trying to stay focused, really I was.
          By Thursday, I was worried Andrew still hadn’t gotten any better.  The poor kid was living on every possible bread product, bananas and watered down Gatorade.  His year-round olive face was gray.  The Mom in me said I should take him to the doctor. 
          I went to school Friday morning.  Sometimes worry won’t let you focus.  I got a few things done.  I sped off to Andrew’s appointment where I received my favorite “it’s just a virus” diagnosis.  (He did at least give me a lab slip if he didn’t get better in another day or two.)  After lunch at home I went back to school.  We had planned on going to Vermont but, again, the Mom in me said, “No.”  Gotta focus on getting Andrew better.
          So, what’s the point of this blog?  (Other than to hear about a crazy Jess week!)  When I sat down I was first thinking about the word “focus” and how it can be the easiest and hardest thing to do at the same time.  Being a Mom, I alternate between short-term focus, focus shifting and focus juggling.  These three also happen when I am being a teacher.  Things get a bit trickier when I am doing them at the same time.
          The lesson I learned by the end of last week was this.  It is definitely helpful to have a plan.  But you have to allow for some flexibility.  You don’t want to feel overwhelmed and disappointed.  Being focused is important too, but so is focus flexibility.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

why? Why? WHY??!!


face with question mark
         “Why do I see rain clouds but it’s not raining?”  Andrew asks.  “Why?”  Who would ever have thought that three little letters could become a painful ringing in my ear?  Wait, that may be too harsh.  I could liken them to nails on a chalkboard, but that never bothered me and we have whiteboards now.  Honestly, it’s the anticipation of that third of fourth “Why?” (after I feel I have done a really good job of explaining), that quickens my heartbeat.  This is when I resort to silence and the occasional topic change or a (slightly) exasperated, “I don’t know.” 
          Two of my favorite go to answers were “Because it was born that way” and “Because it was made that way.” Those worked for quite a long time.  He had no comeback.  Well, he now asks, “Why were the born/made that way?”  I do have to admit, though, he was some very interesting questions.  Most recently he has been focused on the size of animals.  “Why are crocodiles so big?  Why are ducks bigger than chickens?”   
          Then of course, there are the whys that come after a direction has been given.  I tried for a very long to avoid the “because I sad so” response.  I thought I was so savvy with the “because I gave you a direction” response.  It was direct, didn’t sound too rude, or authoritative.  Well, it has now begun to squeak out.  If you’ve been there, you know. 
          During the course of questioning, I put on my patience hat.  This is obviously a sign of his intelligence.  I am so lucky to have an inquisitive child who wants to learn more about the world around him.  This track is on auto rewind in my head. 
          Ask yourself, “Where would we be without the word why?”  What if Sir Isaac Newton had never asked, ‘Why did that apple fall from the tree?’  Or Elizabeth Cady Stanton hadn’t ever asked, ‘Why can’t women vote?’  Or if Steve Jobs had not asked, ‘Why do I need a separate cell phone, video camera, music player and computer?’
          Whys, what ifs, and how comes have shaped our history.  I’m sure not a day goes by without you asking yourself “why” at least once.  It can’t be helped.  It’s part of us.  So, I will continue my duties of expert question-answerer and when all else fails, I think I’m going to add a new response…”Go ask your father!”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ah...August



        
       August.  I did a little research to find some interesting tidbits.  Here’s what I found:
* It is the seasonal equivalent of February in the Southern Hemisphere
* In a leap year, August ends on the same day of the week as November
* It was originally named Sextilis (Latin) because it was the sixth month under the original Roman 10 month calendar
* In 8 BC it was renamed in honor of Augustus, founder and first Emperor of the Roman Empire
* It is one of the seven months with 31 days
* It’s the start of the school year
        It’s these last two facts that bring me to the computer today. 
        The month of August has taken on three distinct roles as I moved from childhood to adulthood to motherhood.  When I was a child, school began after Labor Day.  August was like the last ripe berries on the bush.  You didn’t want to rush eating them.  You wanted to wait as long as possible because you knew they’d be super sweet in the end.  As the hot and hazy days of August rolled along, we didn’t want them to rush by either.  Gone would be our neighborhood games of hide and seek, group bike rides to the pool and visits from the ice cream truck.  Those moments would be replaced by hours inside a classroom, with structure and without socializing.  No, we didn’t want August to end.
        When I became a teacher, I found my feelings about August conflicted.  My first few summers I worked summer school and took Master’s classes, so August became my only month “off.”  I’d hit the beach, stay up late watching bad TV and spend time with my friends.  However, I did not get to enjoy all 31 days because by the middle of August, I began to prepare for the upcoming year.  I did (and still do) this with great excitement and anticipation.  I love being a teacher.  The trepidation I feel right before the beginning of each school year is awesome.  Teaching is a job where no two days are exactly the same.  Also, I can have the best lessons and activities planned only to encounter one tiny hiccup in the day that requires me to stop and switch gears.  It is not a profession for the inflexible!
        When conversing with parents about upcoming vacations, some would lament about what to do with all that extra time with their children.  Inside, I would be absolutely giddy about my upcoming break from their cherubs! But, I had to suppress these feelings as I saw looks of panic flash across their faces!
        A few years ago, I entered their world.  Vacations for me are breaks from teaching but not from working.  I look forward to spending extra time with the boys (and in my jammies!)  I also get anxious about how we will adjust to our new schedule.  Summer vacation allows us more time to adjust.  Then August comes, and again, I am conflicted.  The teacher in me is calling.  “You have to get into your classroom and see what supplies have been delivered.  It’s time to do some research for new lessons.”  The mother in me gives her a gigantic “SHHHH!”  She says, “These are the last weeks with your boys.  Make play dates.  Have fun!”   Out loud I say, “UGH!  How can I do both?”
        Ah, August.  I will take you one day at a time.  Hope for more sunny days than rain.  And wish you were just a few days longer. J

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

You Are What You Write

  

                So you want to write, but what should you write about?  According to Harold Underdown’s book, Publishing Children’s Books, (http://www.underdown.org/ ) he suggests exploring what genres you like to read.  “Rule one is to write what you want to write, not what you think you should write,” he says.  This is pretty good advice.  But what if you have very eclectic reading tastes?  You’d just as easily read a murder mystery as a whimsical rhyming picture book?  How do you focus your writing energy?
            You could read Regina Brooks guide entitled Writing Great Books for Young Adults (http://www.serendipitylit.com/ ) .  She believes the universe gives us stories, and it is our job as writers to accept these gifts to create our own masterpiece.  “Once your ear is attuned, and if you keep an open mind, story ideas will rush to you.”  Doesn’t this sound too good to be true?  However, I have been in group conversations, listening to stories and thinking, ‘that would make a great character’ or ‘what an interesting plot line that could be.’  She also has several lovely writing exercises to keep you writing, (but I didn’t find them useful.)
            I like to revert to the lyrics of a Beck song and, what I think, is the single most important piece of advice I have been giving students for 15 years:  “You can’t write if you can’t relate.”  Bottom line, if it doesn’t mean anything to you, you will have a heck of a time trying to force it into a story or poem or article.  It just doesn’t work.
            So you want to write?  Then do it.  Make a list of things of interest, people of importance to you, places you want to (or have) visited and/or problems you want solved.  You have the ability to write about anything at all as long as it matters to you.  This writing from the heart - this is true writing.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Life is Full of Weeds


            ‘Tis the season when friends are posting photos of their garden’s first harvest and dinner items created from their bounty.  A few fellow bloggers have even written how their garden mirrors their life.  I, too, could write a beautiful piece on how tending to the garden is so much like tending to my own children or cultivating the young minds in my classroom.  But, alas, I am not in charge of our vegetable garden.  I was, however, allowed to tie up the peppers and eggplants this past weekend before heading to my charge – the front yard flower garden.  Let’s take a look shall we…

            OK. It’s bad.  I know.  But I do need to throw out the disclaimer that we have been away two out of the past three weeks.  As I forged through the thick carpet of growth I thought of two things: 1. I hate this garden. 2. My life is full of weeds.
            I inherited this flower bed.  We moved in on Mother’s Day weekend 2010.  I looked curiously at the tiny sprouts of green poking through the soil.  I decided to wait a few weeks to see what actually grew to see what was actually a flower vs. a weed.  That summer was a scorcher, I was pregnant and chasing an eighteen-month old.  Needless to say, the weeds saw this as an opportunity to flourish!
            The following spring I was determined to make something of this garden.  I researched deer resistant plants, and decided to bring in some flowers and shrubs I had had success with in the past.  Well, apparently nothing truly is deer resistant, the moles dug up several of the new plants and my successful flowers expired mid July.
            Take three.  I attacked the garden with a vengeance one afternoon during nap.  I thinned out over grown areas, purchased four new plants and deer repellant spray.  Nap time ended and I was called away from my project.  Two of the new plants sat in the driveway for two weeks before getting planted and the deer repellant is collecting dust in the garage.
            In my BK (Before Kids) life, I had time to tend to flower beds.  Jim spent many weekends hauling Pennsylvania blue stone from the cabin and we created gorgeous flower beds around three quarters of our house.  Weeds were taken care of swiftly, plants were watered and our neighbors were impressed.  One neighbor told us, ‘My yard used to look a heck of a lot better before we had kids.’  I giggled at the thought.  How hard could it be to maintain?
            But now, my life is full of weeds.  There are so many little chores, projects and two little people that demand my attention, that flower bed falls way to the bottom of the list.  I do not think this is a bad thing though (except every day when I pull into the driveway and grumble at the site of it.)  Days can be planned, the to-do list can be just about completed when something else comes creeping in – just like a weed.  You don’t plan for it to happen.  It may or may not be a pleasant surprise but here it is and it has to be dealt with.   
            When I named my blog last year, I was thinking just this.  There is a lot of “et cetera” that goes into life.  It is up to us to decide how to manage our own weeds.  Because there is no escaping it: they will creep in.
            Once again I have big plans for the garden.  This time in August, after the summer heat has subsided a bit.  Of course, if I wait too late, I’ll be busy with preparing for the start of a new school year for me, Andrew’s start of preschool and the boys’ adjustment to a nanny.   More et cetera, more weeds, more of life!  Now that I think about it, maybe I’ll just turn the flower garden into a weed garden!  J

Thursday, July 19, 2012

There's Always A Choice


          There’s always a choice.  I know some of you might disagree (so you might want to stop reading!)  But I’m sticking to my guns.  There’s always a choice (leaving out life threatening situations.)
          As a parent, I narrow it down to two choices:  Play downstairs or outside? Blue shirt or red shirt? Thomas or Bob the Builder?  My mother calls me the “Great Negotiator.”  She sees it as a negative.  She thinks I offer a toddler too many choices.  But I am instilling a life lesson: there’s always a choice. 
          By allowing two selections, I simultaneously allow decision making to occur while carefully controlling the situation.  I call this “forced choice.”  A-HA! you say.  I still have ultimate control of the situation.  Well, yes, he IS only three!
          I also apply this principle in my classroom:  work at your desk or on the rug; choose between these three books; choose between these four centers.  Wait!  You are giving them more than two choices!  Of course I am.  They are eight and nine.
          Now to the adult world:  Should I work out or not? Watch the news or something in the DVR? Eat this or that? (Oops! Someone already wrote that book!)
          You get the point.  So why does this matter to me?  Some of you might be asking.  Others are laughing, saying, “He, he, I know Jess.  She can really get frustrated at times!”  You’re absolutely right.  Those feelings, too, are a choice.  I can get ticked off or count to ten…or better yet…I can write a blog post!   

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Things Aren't Always What They Seem



           
          Sitting at the edge of the stream, my brother-in-law posed one of Andrew’s favorite questions, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
          “What are you thinking?” Andrew replied.
          ‘I was thinking how people start off really small, but as they grow older, they get bigger.  But rocks are the opposite.  They start off really big, but as they get older they get smaller.’
          “Like sand?”  Andrew said. 
          ‘Kind of,’ my brother-in-law said. ‘See this rock. It is small, so it’s really old.  And that rock over there is big so it’s young.’
          “Oh,”  Andrew said.
          Not exactly, I thought.  Nothing against my brother-in-law, he’s a very smart man.  I certainly didn’t expect him to delve into the rock cycle and explain weathering and erosion to a three year old.  But it did make me think about how quickly we make a judgement about something without really knowing the true story. Or worse yet, how susceptible we are to the opinions of others that we will agree with them without being fully informed.  What is it that keeps us from finding out the truth?  Fear?  Rejection?  The unwillingness to utter the words, “I was wrong?”
          Think about that the next time something (or someone) new crosses your path.  It might have experienced a bit more weathering than you, but take the time to get the full story.  Make your own judegment.  Form your own opinion.  Be an individual.
          

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Be a Tree


            We just returned from our annual camping trip to New Hampshire.  Being outdoors, free from many of life’s daily distractions, brings out the philosopher in me.  So enjoy a few ‘deep thoughts’ type posts!
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            Tuesday, Jim and I had some time without the boys so we took a hike.  A real hike:  fast paced, uphill, carrying no one in a backpack.  The setting was perfect.  Acres of pine, birch and beech trees as far as the eyes could see.  The rushing of a stream off to our left.  A constant chorus of birdsong and insect chirps.  A near cloudless sky dropped patches of sunlight onto the leaves and forest floor.  Stepping carefully along the root-riddled trail, it hit me – I am stepping on a living thing!  For the rest of the hike I was drawn to the trees.
            I noted the varying widths of their trunks and colors and textures of barks.  I felt a slight pang of sadness when I saw one lying on the ground.  And I thought. 
            Trees are adaptive.  They’ll grow over and around rocks and on sides of cliffs and mountains.

            Trees are fragile.  They can be destroyed by the smallest insect, succumb to disease or be uprooted and blown over by a strong gust of wind.

            Trees are assertive.  They don’t care if another tree has been standing there for 80 years.  They move right in.

            Trees are altruistic.  If they fall down, they become a bridge for people to cross.  Sometimes one tree catches another tree when it falls.

            Trees are resilient.  They dig their roots in deep and hold on tight.  When only a piece of them is left, they stand tall and proud.

            I thought a lot about how trees and people are alike.  If I was a tree, what qualities would I have?  What kind of person do I want to be while I am alive?  What memories do I want to leave behind?  
            I invite you to be a tree.  Stand tall and proud and reach for the sky!

           

Thursday, June 21, 2012


               
      “Possession is nine-tenths of the law is an expression meaning that ownership is easier to maintain if one has possession of something, and much more difficult to enforce if one does not.” (www.wikipedia.org.) I have decided to apply this principle to my parenting of Alex.  My version reads:  Possession of Alex 90% of the time, makes it easier to keep him safe and out of trouble.  You see, Alex is a runner, a dare devil, and a breaker of any and every rule.  He can be sure to get into a room, a plant and a predicament as soon as I leave the room.  Here’s a little sample of my day:
                We don’t throw food…Don’t spit out your milk…What did you just eat off the floor? …Get back here…The plant is not a toy…We don’t eat dirt…Get down…Sit down…Andrew, where is Alex?...Alex, where are you?...We don’t hit our brother with cars…The toy box is not for sitting…How did you get on the table?...Don’t bang the table…We don’t throw toys…Yuck! Don’t drink that!...Rocks are not for eating…Alex! Alex! Come back here!
                So you get the idea.  I do try to positively reinforce whenever possible.  And I know in his little mind, he is competing for my attention and trying to make his presence known. I am just so amazed how much he has learned and how much personality he has - in 16 months!
                There is another side of Alex too.  He is a cuddler and a snuggler.  He loves to give and receive hugs and kisses.  When he gets up in the morning he wants to sit on your lap and stay there.  The same is true right before bed.  These are moments I soak in.  (Plus they help me rest up f or the day ahead!)
                This will be the summer of running!  Good thing we live on a cul de sac!
*Note:  No Alexes or mommies were hurt during the writing or posting of this blog.  He’s asleep! :)