Sunday, December 27, 2009

resolution season

A year ago I made some New Year's Resolutions. I think, for the first time in my life, I stuck to most of those goals. There were a handful of days this year that I did not drink my entire nalgene bottle of water, and I am way past the point where it's a chore to consume it. Until I got sick a month ago, I've done pretty well with regular exercise too. Cutting back on portions is fairly easy for me, but I totally fell down on the not snacking at night thing. Totally. However, the purpose was for my clothes to fit better, and I think they do. I have a hard time keeping my pants up without belts, which is a vast improvement over last year's inability to button some of them. Last year's resolutions are this year's habits, and they are continuing for 2010. And I need to add regular stretching to the list. My back is killing me now that the floor is 10 degrees colder and I don't want to lie down there to stretch. But I must. My other new resolution is to try to write more. For no reason other than I enjoy it. And it's good for me.

How about you? What are you hoping to change or improve this year? In keeping with last year's photo giveaway, two random commenters will win a picture. Be sure to state your preference, if you care.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"It's good to know someone out there cares"

And it's good to have a bunch of sunshines for whom to care. (Even if they don't care that, though the previous sentences sounds wrong, it is grammatically correct.)

A good last day before Christmas vacation. I won't be as hokey as to say 'every time a bell rings...' but we shared some moments, and I think those who came in for the half day left more prepared for the joy(?) the rest of the week brings.

I do love my job, and am thankful every day that I found where I belong. Merry Christmas to all: I hope you are all where you belong, too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

the magic of Christmas

Today some graduated sunshines stopped by with a gift certificate to the local store. "We know you guys like to get pizza sometimes, so here you go..." It was a kind, thoughtful, very generous gift. They had never contributed to the class parties when they were students, so it was even more shocking. And wonderful. Long term impact... you never know when you will see the effects.

Right after that, another friend who works in the building brought her extra beads in and let the kids make necklaces and bracelets. They were appreciative, and made some pretty cool looking gifts.

I do love what this time of year brings out in many people. It helps the ones hurt by this season cope better.

Monday, December 21, 2009

just survive, baby

It's the theme of the week. A valuable skill, surviving. Most of the sunshines know how to physically, but they don't always know how to survive emotionally. Knowing how to take care of yourself while still honoring your commitments is key.

Friday, December 18, 2009

it's beginning to feel like Christmas

Today my teacher friend made pancakes for her class, and had leftovers. She called our class in to enjoy the leftovers... but it wasn't just leftovers. She'd set the table for us, and we sat around and talked. Enjoyed each other's company. It was a really nice start to the end of a long week.

What is significant about this is the willingness of my class to play along. They sat, and talked to her about their lives. She got them to write down their resolutions. They were comfortable--welcomed-- and I could tell they liked it.

People often tell me it takes a special person to do what I do. Honestly, it really doesn't, but it does take a willingness to let go of control. To be seen as vulnerable as well as powerful. The magic happens in the vulnerable moments, and it was just so very cool that my neighbor got them to that magical place.

The holidays are not always easy for my sunshines. But today was. Nice.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

paying it forward

It was not a fun drive home from Gramma and Grandpa's tonight. We left about 5 minutes after the last bite of pie was had, thrown out by my dad who knew a storm was comin'. It was raining at 3, and the car told us it was 36 degrees. I don't think we went over the speed limit on the whole drive up the turnpike, and just as WB was about to pull in for a fresh cup of joe, the rain changed over and the temp dipped to 32... so he kept on driving. Luckily, the change-over was quick, and it went straight to snow. We got almost home-- about 10 miles away-- when a deer ran across the road about 3 cars in front of us. Unfortunately, said cars stopped in the middle of the road, checking to see the damage to the lead vehicle, and almost causing an accident with those behind them. But that's not the story here: we were a quarter of a mile from home when we came upon a young driver burried in a snow bank. We stopped and asked if he was ok, and he was pretty confident he could get it out... but us, not so much. We hopped out and helped push him out. Disaster averted.

If I'd been thinking clearly, my parting advice (in addition to the "be careful!" I threw his way) would have been to pay it forward. For those of you not familiar with the movie, you won't regret a rental. I've talked about this concept with my Sunshines a lot, and my own kids get it without thinking. Instead of paying someone back when they help you out of a jam, pay it forward and help the next person you see in need of help. If everyone helped 3 people, and those people helped 3 people, we'd have a lot more helping going around. It was nice to have an opportunity to practice what I preach.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

doin' something right

Yesterday I got another letter from a graduated sunshine. He's spending some time in the neighboring county's hotel, and got my address from another sunshine who is in with him. (They were both involved in the same foolish act, and this mini vacation helps them realize that there are consequences to our actions.) Anyhow, Sunshine 1 doesn't visit me as much as Sunshine 2, so I was surprised to get a letter from him. It was pretty short-- I'm in here, just wanted to say hi, I'll come visit when I'm out, and oh yea, I know I messed up to get here in the first place. But he wrote it.

I know that I am not pushing the envelope academically. If the second teaching position survives the budget process, that will change some; but I don't think academics will ever be my overall focus. I want them to know there's someone out here who wants to hear from them, even if they're writing from the county hotel. I choose to spend huge chunks of our day talking about unintended consequences and how the choices they make directly determine what comes next. When we're talking about reputations and choices, we're not talking about how to figure out the area of a circle, and I'm ok with that. If you can get yourself to the point where you can hold down a job, and if keeping that job requires your use of pi, then you'll figure it. But if you can't hold down a job, how much does it matter?

I'll admit, we're not doing so hot on the job front. I want to put more of a focus on volunteering, which will get them some work experience to build on. But that first goal-- that there's someone out here who wants to know what you're doing, whatever you're doing, because I care about you-- well, we've accomplished that one, big time.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

callin' it

I do not possess Weather Boy's mad skillz, which should be obvious in his very name, but I'm calling it for tomorrow. I've never done this before, but I'm doing it now. (It helps that I saw the Doctor today and he indicated tomorrow was looking troubling.)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

holiday cheer

I know this is shocking, but I'm not a big decorator. It's where the realist in me comes out (and one of the few times she ever comes out): why would I go through all the trouble of setting all kinds of things up to just have to take them back down again? (It's why I also hate bulletin boards, but those are worse because you waste paper doing it.) So, for the most part, what is up in January is what is up in June. December, obviously, has a slight exception. Slight.

We don't usually put our tree up until sometime in the late teens. This is partly because we will only get a real tree, which means you have a limited window of safety. And it's partly because we're rather busy, and doing the tree doesn't get priority scheduling during the early part of December. Because I don't like decorating the tree. Which is the whole point.

Today I started wrapping. This is pretty early for me, but we're doing Christmas with my parents and brother in a week, and if I'm going to wrap their stuff, I might as well wrap other gifts while I'm at it. I'm mostly done shopping, just need a few little fillers here and there. (And a good present for my bro-- what I had gotten was for mailing, but it turns out we'll be seeing him, so now I'm looking for a better open-in-front-of-us idea.) But it's not the wrapping that is getting me into the spirit; it's my old, contact papered Christmas Cards.

Today we hung my Boynton Christmas Cards all over my kitchen cabinets. It is that action-- completely frivolous and so unlike me-- that turns the corner for me during the holidays. I love Sandra Boynton. I've only bought Boynton Christmas Cards since I started buying cards. Sadly for me, she no longer creates cards, which puts me in a bit of a pickle in terms on sending cards, but luckily for me, I loved her cards so much that I saved one every year and covered it in contact paper. And hung it up around my dorm room... and now my kitchen. I think I've gotten all I that's out there from eBay, which is probably good since the kitchen is overwhelmed as it is. But she's just so funny, and her ideas make me giggle... that even I go through the trouble of hanging them for 1 month every year.

say it ain't so

I learned on Friday that a friend of mine passed away. I consider myself lucky to have known Joe, and I am deeply saddened by his passing. He was one of the kindest, sweetest, most gentle people I've ever known. Although I did not see him everyday, bumping into him in the grocery store was always a treat. This year's fantasy baseball season is going to be a hard one: the draft has always been in his basement, and I can't imagine any of the guys getting through it, wherever they are, without a few tears being shed.

At the start of this week, our community lost another long time, beloved teacher. Many people had both these people as teachers, and we are no where near healed from the loss of the first giant to have the second follow so quickly. Death is a part of life, but it is never easy. My heart goes out to the family and friends of both Linda and Joe, and I hope our combined grieving helps everyone heal. But it's been a hard week, and I am heartbroken.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

my life in the movies

There's been a lot going on around here. Besides the regular craziness that is my life, I had 2 fundraisers from 2 different schools end before break. For all you leaders of varied groups out there, here's some free advice: do NOT run two fundraisers simultaneously. It'll make your head spin.

Last Friday I counted money and finalized the order for fundraiser 1. I had Friday DT duty, so why not use that time to my benefit, right? I ended up asking the kids why they were in Friday-- what did you do to get here? I'm not kidding when one kid looked at me and said "I didn't have anywhere better to be." And there he sat, for 2 hours, working on his essay for English. I've had kids show up for a Friday a week early not realizing they had the date wrong (and I NEVER turn them away-- if you come, you must know something that I don't), but never did I think I would live out this John Hughes moment.

Yesterday we had our student Thanksgiving. We got to a local church and made the full meal, and then delivered to local elderly and administrators who couldn't join us. And then we went around the table and highlighted one thing for which we were thankful. One of my seniors summed it up well: "I am thankful to be a senior but also thankful to know that even though it's my last year at school it's not my last year here." I am just as thankful for that as she is.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Both kids are sick. Girly came down with it first, a little head cold to just annoy her. She mentioned a sore throat, but it didn't act like strep, and she didn't have a fever. She is a trooper when she's sick, always has been, so it's hard to tell just how severe anything is with her. And, since she loves school and never wants to stay home, she'll keep it quiet if she's not feeling well. She got through Friday, and was set up to have a couch filled weekend. Boy, on the other hand, is much more of a hypochondriac. So when he told me yesterday his throat was feeling scratchy, I sort of rolled my eyes and prepared for the misery.

Today, however, it's obvious he really is sick. He left the couch long enough to get some soup... and when he got up after having it he said he couldn't see. WB replied that he could, and Boy said again that he couldn't. He tried to describe that change in vision that comes right before passing out... but couldn't get it out before his knees buckled. Luckily WB was right behind him and dragged him to the couch while I dialed the ER. He came to after a scary 10 seconds, and then threw up all over the floor. The on-call doc confirmed our suspicions that his vagus nerve got a little excited and that he is fine. Freaked out, but fine. We dug out the mercury thermometer (broken digital ones abound) and look at that-- 102.5. No doubt he'll be staying home tomorrow.

Nobody every promised parenting was easy, nor was it advertised for the weak of heart. But having Girly in the danger zone with her peak flows as her head cold moves south and a feeverish Boy in bed having passed out and thrown up... well, we've had happier family Sundays. I guess the only good news is that if we'd taken them to get vaccinated yesterday we'd have been turned away at the door, and if it is H1N1, the vaccine wouldn't have taken because they were already sick. So now we wait and see what happens. And hope they didn't miss the last best day of the year sick on the couch.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

if X then....

There's been a lot going on in the lands of my sunshines. Fights with each other, fights with parents, fights with administration, fights with the courts... stuff way bigger than physics and geometry and grammar. It's sort of getting me down. Not out, but down. I know you can't undo in six hours what is done in eighteen, but it still is sad watching from the sidelines.

One thing I struggle with in those six hours is natural consequences to actions. I've had a lot of people ask me why don't I give detentions, and my short answer is because they don't work. If they worked, kids probably would have changed their behavior back in middle school or elementary school and never crossed my threshold. The threat of detention works for certain types of kids, but not usually for the ones who actually get the detention. I feel the same way about suspension: I want them here in school, learning, rather than running around town. Suspension works for those kids whose parents would make the days off miserable, but I've had many students tell me they did X so they could get a few days off. Yup. Great.

I'm not saying I don't believe in consequences-- I'm a firm believer in them. I just want them to be natural, and meaningful. So what is the natural consequence to lying to me? I lose respect for you, sure, but how do I translate that into something tangible so you really understand why I'm so hurt by your actions? No wonder we settled on detention and suspension-- it's an easy consequence.

One of my sunshines who earned a suspension for saying rude things to an administrator came in to get make up work today and asked if a letter of apology could cut the suspension in half. I was thrilled that the student initiated this idea, and I hope it works out. Time away to cool down is important, but being able to apologize, sincerely, for your inappropriate actions is massive. Like I said, I'm down but nowhere near out.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

getting along

Yesterday we had an issue bring people to the polls in droves usually reserved for election years. I heard 60% of the registered Maine voters came out to the polls... incredible for having no candidates, but still sad that we're jumping up and down over 40% off the people staying home. Regardless, I think it's pretty universally accepted that people came to vote their hearts on the gay marriage law.

I've not once hidden my support for the rights for gays-- and everyone, really, who wants to-- to marry. I have a lot of personal reasons for this, including a gay uncle whom I adore. I have lesbian friends in committed relationships who don't get to refer to their significant other in the same way I get to refer to mine, just because 'she' is not a 'he'. I also believe that God created some people to fall in love with people of the same sex. I know what the Bible says, and what the conventional teachings are, but I also distinctly remember being in high school and learning that Martin Luther believed retarded children should be left to die. What I took away from that is that God has His Word, but humans are the ones to write it down, and could very well have left something out in translation. I don't pretend to know why God does all He does, and I don't pretend to understand why some people are homosexual. I also don't understand why some people hate them for that, or how that is part of His plan either. I do know that no one would choose to be isolated, despised, threatened, attacked, disowned or killed because of who they love.

Now, I also do not believe that everyone voting Yes on One is homophobic or ready to go out and lynch someone: that would be as ridiculous as saying that everyone who voted No is a homosexual themselves. Many of my dear friends voted Yes, and did so because they believed it was the right thing to do. I respect that. Truly. I may not agree with it, but I respect anyone who thinks through an issue and comes to a decision based on what they think is right, and then responsibly acts on that decision.

I do sincerely hope that someday homosexuals can marry in the same way that blacks and whites now can. (Well, can anywhere except Louisanna...) In my eyes, when the church allowed the state to sanction civil unions (heterosexual couples not getting married in a church) as marriages, it became a legal term and not an exclusively religious one. Should a church choose not to marry a couple, gay or straight, I have no problems with that. But the state cannot say the same thing. We stand for equality among all, even when we all don't agree. But I also want my friends to know, who feel as strongly as I do in the opposite direction, that I respect your position and hope you can respect mine. We don't have to agree, but we do have to get along. I like getting along. Getting along is what is best for all of us, no matter what we feel about any of it.

finishing feels pretty fine

This has been a big week around the yard. Yesterday, my go-to family for fixing the structural damage in our homes finished the sill project. I don't have a bill... yet... but I'm looking forward to paying it off and resting easily through the winter knowing my house isn't going to collapse as the snow melts away. This has been on my mind for 2 winters, so ya, this is a pretty exciting development.

Today, my CLP certified wood harvesting graduate finished cutting the 9(.1) cord of tree length wood. Well, the 5 cross pieces that kept the majority of logs out of the dirt need to dry off and be cleaned by rain to not ruin the chainsaw, but the pile is gone. Cut and stacked. Ready for winter and snow and cold. I cannot adequately express the relief that gives. Such a relief, actually, that I am planning on ordering another truckload to start seasoning for next winter... but that pile won't bother me all winter. That pile will be my Boy Scout Be Prepared pile. I feel a little like Frederick's industrious family, while also feeling as giddy as Frederick himself.

Monday the indoor wood stove arrives, and we'll need to get seasoned pieces to fit it. We need to get the chimney cleaned. But tonight I feel like this winter isn't going to kill my body, shivering away as the temperature drops. It's a really nice feeling.

Monday, November 02, 2009


So last night I was doing dishes. Which I do a lot, because the dishwasher died a while ago. WB comes in from the living room, having just figured out what is wrong with my feet and my back: dishes. By standing at the sink and constantly doing dishes, I'm putting extra stress on my already weakened feet, which then impacts my back. Which he knows because doing dishes is even harder on his back than it is on mine.

But I just convinced him to allow us to buy a new wood stove, for about twice as much as we can afford. How can I justify buying a new dishwasher? Especially since we need to fix the problem that caused the original dishwasher to be unusable? The look in his eyes, though, told me the cost of not fixing it is greater, and in fact, more expensive.

It just might be a good week to play the Megabucks.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

It's possible that this is the last year of the Fearsome Foursome (ok, we don't really call them that but it sounded good tonight) theme-ing their costumes together. They've been doing this since the beginning, but there is discussion of breaking it up over gender lines. Either way, I love what this tradition has meant for our little family of friends. We've gone through 2 cycles of taking turns on who picks, and when it's your year to pick, you have to pick something that makes everyone happy. It's not always been easy, but they've done it. It's been fun charting their progress down the Street as they've grown up. The first year they got as far as the house on the corner before deciding they were done: tonight they did the whole walk and then some. In the end, it's still more about the costumes and the theme than it is about the candy. I hope that is what they remember when they are ready to take their own kids out.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

surgery foot, round 2

In August, 2004, I had surgery on my right foot. I have bunyons, which I guess my whole family does, but mine were causing me to walk funny, which was putting my back out and was not a pretty scene. For the record, surgery isn't either.

There is never a good time to have foot surgery. I knew I didn't want to be on crutches in winter; if we lived in outside of the snow belt, maybe, but no way did I want to deal with ice and crutches. Spring meant not doing the dance recital that year, which was clearly not an option. Summer, well, who wants to be bannished from the beach because you can't get sand in your wound? That left fall. Not a good time either since WB was still coaching soccer, but what choice did I have? I would not be able to drive for at least a month, and was looking at 6 weeks of crutches. Can you say suck?

We got through it. I do not like being dependent on anyone, and if nothing else, it was a lesson in humility. Friends came to our rescue and picked up kids and drove me around. My mom was a rock star a couple of times, driving 2 hours to get me, 1 hour back down the road she had just come to take me to my weekly appointment, and then reversed the trip. The only comfort the whole time was that the next foot (!) would have me out of the driver's seat for less time. Well, that and my stubborness that said I was doing the May recital, no matter what.

Five years later, my right foot is doing ok. But my left is starting to scream at me regularly, and last night I noticed the skin is damaged where it rubs against my shoes. It's time. But the question again is when to do it? I love, love, love my tap dance, so no way I'm sitting this recital out. The Monday after sounds great... except it's smack dab in the middle of track season. Do I take a chance on June being as rainy and yucky as it's been? Or do I wait for August, before school starts up again, but give up the last few precious days of freedom? Complicating matters is the knowledge that I may be moving rooms again, and will most likely have a new teaching partner. Being on crutches (and pain killers) is not a great start to any new relationship.

Today my vote is sometime during the week of June 14, which is Snow Day Make Up Week. If I need to use sick days, I'd rather they come at the end of the year when my seniors have all graduated and I only have a handful of kids sticking around. That means I'll be driving by the end of June... but I also won't need to as much since WB will also be home. I'd be crutches free by mid July, meaning I could still visit WB's Auntie on the Cape, and limp my way onto the beach (I'm too cold-blooded to go in the ocean anymore anyhow, so no loss there). But tomorrow I could vote for August 23, the week before school starts, and just deal with moving and the new partner as it comes. I say again, no time is a good time to be on crutches.

If you were me, what would you do? Seriously people, I'm really asking for input on this one.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Last night we helped out with the rec department's haunted house. In no way, shape, or form am I attempting to take credit for what happened; we came in the afternoon with a plate of cookies, helped take money and did a little acting, and cleaned up a little after it was over. Other people had been there all week organizing, planning, decorating... and they returned today to finish cleaning. We were a small part of the night, but the night was absolutely amazing.

There's a long history of the rec department in our small town. Most of the focus is on sports teams, but the current group is working really hard to make it equally about community. One of the neighboring towns had been doing a haunted house event for the last few years, but for some reason they weren't able to do it this year. Our rec department decided we should, and so they did. There was an afternoon session, rated G for all ages, that had some families in attendance for over an hour, talking, laughing, and spending time together. The R showing (for violence, not language or sexual content!) in the evening had many guests screaming-- and coming back for more. More than one person said it was well executed and they hoped to see it again next year.

Seeing all these people-- from our town and neighboring communities-- come together around a non sports related event was magical. It was nice to see people talking to each other, and really nice to see so many young people volunteering their time to help pull off this event. Kids and adults of all ages working together for a common (non sports related) goal... it warmed this educator's heart. This is why I do what I do.

So thanks, rec department, for trying something new, for pulling it off, and for getting all these people together. I'm looking forward to the next one.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I hope tomorrow you find better things

Today was not my best day ever. I didn't do anything wrong, really. Just living my life the only way I know how... and a bunch of things happened around me leaving me feeling defeated. I don't like that feeling.

It started with a nightmare. Both my boys were murdered. The only good news of the nightmare was that I awoke knowing it was only a dream, but it left me with a sick feeling all day. School was what it sometimes is-- an uphill battle to help everyone get what they need. But the draining part of my day came about because I am incapable of not speaking up when I see inequity. Part of me knows I should just leave it alone and move on: the system is what it is and one voice does not make a difference. But I don't believe that, and therefore can't pretend I do. I really do believe it takes a village to raise a child, and I am part of that village. Even if it's not my child being treated unfairly, as a citizen it's my moral responsibility to speak up. And so I tilt at the windmills... and wonder if living, working, and parenting in the same district is really the best approach. That's a lot of hats to juggle, and a lot of lines that get blurred; it seems I'm finding the blurry spaces with shocking frequency this year.

For reasons I do not understand, I then made the choice to read a book suggested to me by Little Big Sis. Fist Stick Knife Gun, by Geoffrey Canada, tells the story of inner city violence and children. He survived the Bronx, got out, and re-entered as an adult trying to make things better. His assessment in 1995 (when the book was published) that if society didn't act now-- if we didn't act-- we might lose all hope. I'd like to find out how he feels now, but my heart just couldn't take the google search tonight.

Now I am up way past my bedtime, knowing my mind is racing too fast to even contemplate sleep. I am hoping the Ben and Jerry's will help. It's awfully late to go for a walk, but that's really what I want to do. Either that or dance my way through this feeling... but that's not realistic either. Tomorrow is another day... and I could really use a day filled with better things.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

cooking up a storm

I'm not quite sure what came over me tonight, but after dinner I prepped 2 meals and planned out the rest of the week. I am typically a pretty spontaneous cook, and I blushing-ly say I do pretty well using most of our food and wasting very little. For example, last week we had boiled dinner with ham on Sunday, followed by mac and cheese with ham and broccoli and then pea soup with the ham veggies, and stock. I love doing things like that.

Today as I was getting a beef roast (from a mile up the road) and squash (from 2 miles down the road) ready for dinner, I stumbled on 2 sad peppers. This knowledge floated around my brain, and while at the grocery store I decided to saute them up with an onion and make fajitas tomorrow. Well, fajitas have become burritos, and we'll have them on Tuesday instead: I'll put them together after my meeting and they can bake while I'm dancing. Half the onions/peppers, hamburg, refrieds, and the last of a bottle of salsa; all that's left is to put them in wraps and add cheese. Boy has his last soccer game tomorrow, so potato pancakes will be quick and easy, especially since the applesauce is already made. Wenesday is spaghetti day, so I think the sauce I made with the other half of the onions/peppers/hamburg will be perfect. (It'll also use up the leftover spaghetti with garlic butter from Girly's Brian's Bistro meal.) Thursday, well, WB is at a conference and I'm scheduled to scrapbook, so I think we'll end up ordering something. Not bad for 45 minutes of work, huh?

Some weeks are a struggle to put meals together, so I'm going to enjoy the inspiration while it lasts. I think my family will, too :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

That's the way (uh huh uh huh)

I don't know why I'm singing disco. I like pop, I like soul, I like rock, but I've never liked disco. Ever. Anyhow, sitting here on the couch thinking about the weekend and all I can do is sing this stupid song from 35ish years ago...

But it was a great weekend. Got 2 loads of laundry on the line, watched the final episode of Dexter as well as this week's Runway, drove all over the state looking for (but not finding) an inflatable boat, picked 60 lbs of apples with Bestfriends, baked apple desserts, had a potluck in Dickvale, got Boy to archery and his ortho consult, moved some wood after WB cut it, and still managed to get a walk in with my wonderful neighbor. Didn't get any scrapping or stampin' done, but that's ok. Looks like the weather is about to have us working on indoor projects very, very soon.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

riddle me this?

*Why do the good days leave you almost exhausted as the bad ones?

*What is it about musicals-- their spoofs-- that makes me so happy?

*What is it about having your mom nearby (and sometimes your nanny) that makes everything less scary?

*How can someone walk 10k every other day for 3 months and have some clothes feel tighter than when she spent most afternoons sitting on the couch?

*Why does using a different keyboard make such a big difference?

*How is it that I am the only person on the planet who is deeply troubled by Wild Things becoming a movie with extra dialogue... and no longer just a treasured childhood book?

Monday, October 05, 2009

I see you!

One of the little joys of my life is waving to people while driving. I take pride in recognizing other people as they approach, even though many of my friends don't recognize me. The best part of this game is reckoning time. I see one friend on her way to work as I am heading to school; where I see her helps me realize how early or late I am. Today, I was at the stop light in town when I saw her. I think it was she who was running late, not me. Phew.

When we took our field trip to the fair, I watched our bus driver wave to every other bus driver who passed. There's a slight chance that he knew them all, but it's highly unlikely. I think it's like biker culture or trucker culture: you wave because you're part of the same club.

It always come back to belonging I guess. Even when driving.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

no no drama. you don't want no drama

Today was one of those days where I wonder if I am a lightening rod for drama. Do I thrive on it? I am certainly moved to action as a result of it. My day started simply enough-- I was even early for LAW (I know!)-- and the session was a good one. But when I arrived in my room, I discovered my partner had resigned, giving no notice. OK! Plan B! It was a scene for awhile, but it settled down before lunch... to have me return to some student drama, which has not yet been resolved. That required me to find a 'don't touch me corner', and a few phone calls which were cut short for various reasons. After that, the remaining sunshines lost their ability to hold it together-- the classroom dissolved into absolute silliness, and I realized it was better to just let the mood take hold and just survive.

After school was all about making non-stress bags for our grades 3-8 students starting state mandated testing tomorrow. (I enjoyed the irony of making stress kits with the other PTO moms while my day had been all about the stress; just sticking with the theme, I guess.) It took longer than I'd hoped, which meant switching vehicles with WB who had to take Girly to gym (again). But now all that's left in my day is getting some dishes done, getting Boy to his haircut, and getting dinner together. Silly me... I checked email. Turns out my Fabulous Uncle is MIA: my mother emailed asking when I'd last heard from him, as he hasn't answered her emails or those of another uncle. I'm not sure I even have a number to reach him in France. Great.

So do I invite the drama or does it just find me? I've gone quite a bit without it, so I'm hoping today was just my turn to be the epicenter. And, if you feel otherwise, please give me a few days to settle down before bursting my bubble.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I'm may not be here for a long time, but I am here for a good time. --JL

Yesterday we stopped in to visit with Mr. L. We've known him since college (I knew who he was, but didn't know him personally-- he was a bit on the wild side) but really got to know him when he took a teaching job at our school. He was never what one would call conventional, and that held true inside the classroom as well. Three years ago he ended up as our middle school alt ed teacher, and life was really good.

Fast forward to last summer, when he was diagnosed with cancer. He's taken a leave of absence this year, and while we found a great replacement, we still miss our wild and crazy friend. He looked ok yesterday-- tired and a bit skinny, but still himself. It was good to just hang with him for a few hours; we're planning on stopping in after archery more regularly. In fact, I think it's time for a PSD reunion: we talk about it all the time but have never been able to pull it together.

It's been 3 years since we lost another teacher friend to this horrible disease, and 6 years since Devon. Life isn't fair, and sometimes we get thrown these curve balls that really do a lot of damage. I don't pretend to understand why, nor do I really want to. I want my friend to get better, now, and not have to suffer through the healing process. But Mick and Keith are right, and sometimes you don't get asked for your opinion. I don't like thinking about other ways this might end, but Mr. L never did leave the pink elephant sitting in the room alone. His philosophy is hard to think about, but I respect the guy immensely for living it. There are no guarantees in life but you can choose how you react to whatever gets thrown at you. He's choosing the optimist's approach, to ride it out to whatever conclusion follows. I feel pretty honored to be there for part of the ride.

don't want to change a thing

Yesterday we took a field trip to the "hippy fair". I don't like to organize field trips, but I recognize their value. For me, they give me the chance to say 'I trust you. Meet me at XXX time. Be good.' At the fair, they were. Checked everything out and had a great time. Sure, their interests are a bit more varied than mine, but whatever. They were talking to groups in the political and social activism tent, and that's what counts. They saw a part of our state they might not ever have seen otherwise. That's a success.

I ended up getting off the bus 30 minutes early so I could head to Boy's soccer game-- which I did not think would happen. We left earlier than I'd thought, and WB later than I'd guessed... and my Eddie T. (ed. tech) offered to finish out the bus ride so I could see my son. How do I argue with that? I explained it to the sunshines... and not "5 minutes after you got off the bus" one of them decided to use his lighter on a bracelet they were making. There will be official consequences, but there will also be consequences with me. And people wonder why I hate field trips.

Boy's game was incredible. His grade, both boys and girls, are loving soccer and starting to think the game. I'm so glad I got to see it-- it was amazing to watch. They are going to be a fun group to follow through to graduation. Good kids, good skills, and good parents to hang with. Hope Girly's group proves as strong.

When we got home, I had a letter in my mailbox from a graduate. He was just writing to tell me how he was doing and asking me for an update of my family, too. If there was any question that I was succeeding at my connectedness goal, it's gone. His life may not look the way I hoped it would, but he's making the best of it, and telling someone about it. Pretty darned amazing.

So I guess these random field trips are worth it. You never know what it is that will pay dividends, but something is working.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Big Little Sis is teaching in a world very foreign to mine. I don't know how she does it. My sunshines aren't in gangs; their grouping is a positive identity, like I've got your back. It's not about instilling fear or performing random acts of violence. I say again: I don't know how she does it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

learned from the best.

Last week, we had the first PTO meeting at Boy's middle school. I don't mean 'first' like the first of this year, but 'first' like first time this decade, maybe first ever. I was hoping for 3 parents to be there with me and the principal. Dreaming of 5. What we got were 7 parents and 4 more who wanted to be there but couldn't. Um, yea, I left there feeling pretty psyched (I'll spare you the REM theme song running through my head).

I have no idea where this group is going, and right now I don't really care. What matters is that we're trying and we're moving forward. Doing something to make things better. There's been an athletic boosters around for awhile, and we're trying to add to the collective community volunteering. That's always a cool thing.

Since then, I've been thinking of my friend Devon. A lot. She was the Volunteer Coordinator in my little school where I first earned a paycheck. She was Super Volunteer. As late as 1992, we had 3 volunteers come in daily to help serve lunch. (Yes, one paid employee and 3 volunteers-- welcome to rural living. My first paychecks were hand written and not computer generated. I kid you not.) She called the willing participants and figured out who worked when. She filled in when someone was sick. She organized the training at the beginning of the year and the Volunteer Appreciation Banquet at the end of the year. And she did everything in between. What happened last week is nothing compared to what Devon pulled off in her sleep, but I have to say, it feels pretty amazing to be channeling her energy. I've been involved in our elementary PTO since Boy started kindergarten, and now working with 2 schools... I guess it's nice to know that she's still here beside me, helping me help our students.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

doin' my part

The vast numbers of RVBs have gone silent. It's ok: I'll keep posting and hopefully you'll all be back.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


We talk about different aspects of nurturing people, but Danielle's post about caring sums it all up. Damn, she's good. If I, or anyone I love dearly, is ever that sick, I want her to be the one on call.

(For you FB followers of my blog, here's the link. Read her. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

not myself?

I stepped a bit out of my dressing comfort zone today... mainly with a sweater that fits instead of one that might fit WB. All day I felt different, and it wasn't until I headed to Boy's school to get him after practice that it hit me: I felt a bit like I was channeling Ms. SJ.

What do you all think?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

photo booth

So some of the sunshines have their laptops. It took them 2.5 hours to find Photo Booth. I might never get them back.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Ever have one of those days that is crazy busy and leaves you exhausted at the end, but refreshed too? Convinced that you're doing what you're meant to be doing, where you're doing it?

Yea, me too.

Sunday, September 06, 2009


In the early 90s, my family vacationed on Martha's Vineyard with another family. We did this for 3 or 4 years, until more children needed summer jobs to pay for college and there wasn't a need to rent a big beach house. It was during one of those summers, when I discovered I didn't hate history.

We had taken a day trip to Chappaquiddick Island, and went to the bridge where Teddy Kennedy didn't make the corner and left Mary Jo Kopechene to die inside his car. It was at that point it hit me: history is just the story of what has happened, and why. And sometimes, if you understand the why, you can find patterns and and get a deeper undertanding of what happened.

It turns out he was not the first Kennedy to be part of my history readiness. When I first met Mike, who was a history major, we got talking about the Bay of Pigs incident and I just casually said something about the Cuban Missle Crisis saving Kennedy's presidency: had that turned out differently, JFK would be remembered for a failure and not for staring down the Ruskies and winning.

In the years since visiting Chappaquiddick, I've wondered if that incident changed Teddy into the Lion of the Senate; without it would he have remained the spoiled youngest child of American 'royalty'? The best assessment is Teddy was driving drunk, and why a married man would be on a deserted road with a young political groupie... well, ask Bill Clinton why that might happen. He made a bad choice that night and a young girl died. Chances are good that his family name kept him out of prision. From there, his life could have gone two ways: continuing to be a partying playboy or accepting responsibility and making changes.

I have no way of knowing how haunted he was by this incident, but I imagine it never quite went away. While I will never be able to assess Teddy's life without thinking about Mary Jo, I have to admire him for facing his history, and working tirelessly to not have that be the only way he was remembered. I don't think he pushed for universal healthcare for his own glory, but I do think he was prodded along by a ghost who would never quite leave his side. I don't believe she died for the betterment of our society or anything quite that trite, but I do believe it would have been worse had her death meant nothing to him.

The Senate is a lonlier place with Teddy's passing. I hope he was able to apologize to Mary Jo's ghost, and that his soul is now at peace.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

happy new (school) year

So far the year has been fun. I mean yea, I know it's only been a couple of days, but those two days went well. It was good to see my old sunshines again, and I think the new sunshines will fit right in. I've made some changes to our room which seem to be improvements that everyone can live with. I do love my job, which makes summers ending so much easier to take.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

all good things...

Tomorrow we rejoin the working world. It's bittersweet, really: I love my job, but it's never easy for summer to end and the real world to be, well, reality. I mean, it's a pretty sweet gig-- 10 weeks of absolute freedom, steady paychecks coming in, giving us the ability to do what we want when we want. In fact, we'd be crazy to look forward to that ending.

I have never had a job that required me to work summers. Sure, I had summer jobs while I was in school, but once I was hired as a full time teacher, summers were as free as when I was 10. When we became parents, summer took on new meaning: it meant the end to schedules and routines and time to relax and play. Now that the kids are in school and involved in all sorts of activities, that free time is even more precious. We know we're spoiled-- not many families have both parents home all summer able to enjoy their children unencumbered by limited vacation time. We don't teach to become rich, but I have to say this fringe benefit is a pretty big deal, and worth the frustrations that come with the overall financial picture.

We've come to the end of another year. (Since I started kindergarten, my years have started in September rather than January. I've never really known it any other way.) We go back to workshops, the kids spending the next 2 days with bestfriends. Bedtimes, lunch boxes, homework, and after school activities will fill our evenings. Days of the week will matter again. Boy starts school sports this year, which brings a new level of involvement. They're in separate schools, too-- another new change to the routine. But as I write this, I'm in a fleece and contemplating closing the windows. Leaves are falling, and it's time to return to the real world. In a week, I'll be back in the swing, happily hanging with my Sunshines during the days and my own kids at night. But if you think for one minute that I'm glad to see summer go, you're insane. I know how lucky I am, and I'm going to enjoy every last minute.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

the single life

It is well documented that I do not enjoy being alone. Before kids, a 10 minute shower was enough alone time in a day... now I think somewhere around 45 minutes is perfect. Anyhow, 12 hours is far too long. Auntie gave me what for this summer, saying I need to get used to being alone. Well, thanks for your perspective, but I don't see that happening. She never married nor had kids, so obviously she likes the solitude of an empty house. Me... I did marry and still fill my house with kids at any opportunity. I like people and am and off the charts E, so... yea, people. I like 'em.

Yesterday we went shopping with my mom. Today I have a meeting until 3, so I asked if Gramma and Grandpa would like some visitors for an overnight. This means the kids get spoiled before heading back to the grind and I spend the night alone. Bestfriends saved me for dinner-- they made delicious grilled pizza and filled me with conversation. But let's just say I am looking forward to my meeting way more than is healthy: a room filled with 9 people is just what I need, no matter what we're discussing!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I heart Ms. Mimi!

Probably the best thing about BTS (at least for me, in this moment) is the return of Ms. Mimi posts. I don't read many blogs outside the RVBs (these days that means I'm barely reading anything!) but she is such a Rock Star that every post is guaranteed to score at least one giggle, if not a head shaking 'you go girl'. If you're a teacher, and you don't read her, you should at least check her out. She's got mad blogging skills.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

15s from FB

Books That Stay With You
Here are the rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. They don't have to be the greatest books you've ever read, just the ones that stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.
2. The View From Saturday, E. L. Konigsburg
3. Wrinkle in Time series, Madeline L'Engle
4. Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay
5. The Fionavar Tapestry, GGK
6. A Song of Ice and Fire series, George R. R. Martin
7. Skinny Legs and All, Tom Robbins
8. I Like It When, Mary Murphy
9. Junie B. Jones, Barbara Park
10. Ramona the Pest, Beverly Cleary
11. The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien
12. Hope Was Here, Joan Bauer
13. HP and the Half Blood Prince, J. K. Rowling
14. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
15. Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

15 films
Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen movies you've seen that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.
1. When Harry Met Sally
2. She's Having a Baby
3. The Breakfast Club
4. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
5. LOTR trilogy
6. The Princess Bride
7. Star Wars (the original, before it was retitled A New Hope)
8. Little Miss Sunshine
9. 4 Weddings and a Funeral
10. Finding Nemo
11. March of the Penguins ("And they will never see their parents again.")
12. Moulin Rouge
13. It's A Wonderful Life
14. The Wizard of Oz
15. Chicago

Thursday, August 13, 2009


We had a lovely little trip to the Cape. WB's sister and her 2 youngest boys were there as well, and for 4 days we did nothing but laze around and go to the beach and enjoy good food. You have to be independently wealthy to live on the Cape anymore-- all the locals have basically been driven out by the rich folks. Our ability to go every summer will most likely end when Auntie leaves this world: she told me once (during happy hour, when she let down her guard) that all the remaining family wouldn't be able to pay the taxes. She never married nor had any children, so after her parents died she could afford to keep the house and property they had bought in the late 50s, before it was the hot place to retire.

It's a weird place to be emotionally-- knowing you're enjoying something that most people can't, just because you married someone who has a wealthy relative. It's kind of like trying on a new life and seeing that it still doesn't fit. We'll never be wealthy, and that is completely ok with me. (Gods willing, we'll never be poor either.) I will enjoy our annual trips until they come to their natural end, and know the kids and their cousins will have shared memories of Nauset Beach and marathon Monopoly games and keeping the whiffle balls out of the gardens, and it will be a part of what defines their childhood. If that isn't magic, I don't know what is.

While we were there, Eunice Kennedy Shriver passed. All the local news (which is Boston news) talked about her accomplishments, most famously starting the Special Olympics. The Kennedy's have a huge presence on the Cape, although not near Auntie's house. You got the sense that it wasn't just about a famous person dying, but about a great woman leaving the world better for her having been in it. We were struck by someone coming from such a powerful family using that influence for good. Rest in peace, Mrs. Shriver. You deserve it.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

enjoying a day of sandwiches

We visited with WB's high school friend this week. I'm embarrassed to admit it had been 7 years since we'd all gotten together. Sure, they moved a couple of times, and often we'd be gone when they'd come home to visit, but that's just too long to go without seeing great friends.

The kids all got along well, which is something since none of them remembered each other. We sat on the dock (the new one, with 11,000 lbs of flotation) and caught up while the kids jumped in the lake and began to build their own relationships with each other. It was quickly obvious to all that Girly and A could become very good friends.

It's wonderful to see old friends again. Within seconds everyone is back in the swing, and it's like we're neighbors who see each other regularly. Having seen my friend with my sister and now his friend at her parent's camp, it reminds you how vital friendships are. New friends are important-- don't get me wrong-- but being with people who grew up with you and stuck with you over the years is magical. I feel thankful to have these friends who we still love to see (even when we don't do it enough) as well as my friends here, old and new.

Last night we learned that a friend and fellow teacher has cancer. We don't know anymore than that, and that he's had to take a leave of absence from school. I must admit I'd gotten used to not having a sick coworker, and am quite saddened to learn of his illness. It also reminds me of all our mortality, and to enjoy every sandwich. I'm glad we got to see so many people that matter to us this summer-- and we're off to the Cape to visit more family this weekend. It's not like I'm planning on something going wrong or anything, but I guess just aware that life is too short to not spend it with people you love. So don't be surprised to see me knocking on your door anytime soon...

Saturday, August 01, 2009

I'm not looking

WB doesn't like July 1: to him it means summer is fleeting. For me, it's August 1. School starts in August. School means routines and schedules and commitments. It's not that I don't want to go back to work-- I love my job. It's just that I love the freedom of summer. Because we're both teachers, we get 10 weeks as a family to do whatever we want. How can you want that to end?

Last night we had dinner with Mike and Katie and celebrated summer. Great food, great margaritas, great company-- everything that is great about summer. We still have a month of summer left, and have no fear that we'll enjoy it. But school planing will start to creep in and before I know it I'll be waking to an alarm clock. Maybe I'll wait a few more days before flipping that page...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

school of rock

Music has always been a central part of our marriage: I knew he was the right guy when he also knew Fairy Tale of New York that first Christmas. We've gone to lots of shows.. and now that the kids are older, they come along. (Hey-- it's sometimes cheaper than paying a sitter!) Actually, they've been coming along for a few years. Their first show was Guster, Ben Folds, and Rufus Wainwright on our way to Palm Springs in 2004. Since then they've seen BNL, Great Big Sea, and John Eddie. Who the Hell is John Eddie? you ask? Think country Bruce Springsteen and that's pretty close. He puts on a fun show, and seeing him on 207 last night made us realize it'd been awhile since we'd seen him.

Having the kids with us at shows makes me happy. We never played Barney or kids songs when they were little-- they listened to what we listened to, and liked it. And it shows. They can sing along with a lot of the bands we see, and in the right setting, they even jump up and down. Tonight's venue was like a movie theater with a stage, so there was way more sitting in the crowd than there should have been, but when in Rome, you don't anger the people behind you. The kids brought it at the end and did us proud.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I'm madly in love with you and it's not because of your brains or your personality.

Our last three weeks have been amazing. Not only did we successfully get ourselves 3/4 of the way across country and back again, but we had a good time doing it. Our time in MT was wonderful and I feel closer to my sister's family than ever before. Aside from a few horrible meals in SD, there's really nothing to complain about. In fact, the only complaints are travel-food related. Well, that and chlorinated water; the smell makes me gag, which makes tooth brushing interesting, but that happens however I go about traveling. Not bad for a 3 week (and 45 minute) journey.

The only time WB and I are not in sync is when we come to a town where we know someone. I, the capitol E Extrovert, would stop at everyone's house along the way-- and time our days to stay with friends instead of paying for a hotel room. He, however, a lowercase introvert but an I nonetheless, would rather not bother anyone and just stick to ourselves. Life isn't perfect, and as Mick reminds us you can't always get what you want-- but of all the fights and complaints we could have traveling together, this is a pretty minor one. Should this bike trip across country ever happen, rest assured that I'll visit with everyone along the way and he'll just pedal himself along, meeting up with me at the end of the day, ready for a shower, whomever owns it.

Our early relationship was built on driving-- he got a job in Bangor 1 week after our first date. We'd drive to see each other, and then because we had no money (and gas was cheap back then) we'd drive around for enjoyment. We both grew up away from grandparents, so days of driving were a part of the deal. Add his love of driving to my love of figuring out where we are and you have a match made in heaven. He makes me laugh, and I think I return the favor. We think alike most of the time, like wanting to flip the map before finding a hotel-- the goal we each silently set, not needing to say it out loud until Boy asked if we were stopping. When we're on a road trip somewhere-- even just in the state-- I know we were made for each other. I married the right man. And if 3 weeks on the road confirms that, well, I guess I'll need no further proof, ever.

There's something about having, everything you think you'll ever need, sitting in the seat next to you.

there's no place like home....

Sunday, July 19, 2009

all the little chicks with the crimson lips say...*

Again with the driving... but with our major rockin' stop early in the day. Actually, it was in the middle of the day. We got queen beds last night... so we all slept well in a relatively empty hotel... so we slept late. Well, late for traveling. We left western Ohio at about 10:15 and had an AWFUL breakfast at the rest stop. Moldy coffee is all I have to say about that. (WB stopped at the next service area and we dumped the bad stuff and tried again, with much better success.) We reached Cleveland around 12:30, and easily parked at the R&R Hall of Fame. It was an expensive ticket but a wonderful afternoon walking around (let me repeat that: walking around and not sitting at all!) and seeing some really cool things. Bruce Springsteen is the traveling exhibit currently, and they did this cool thing with the lyrics to Thunder Road written, in his script, on the walls going up the circular stairs. Well worth the 2.5 hours spent off the road.

We got back on I-90 and headed East. Through PA without even stopping once and into NY. We stopped for dinner outside Buffalo and both of us wanted to get to the 2nd map of upstate NY before stopping for the night. So here we are at a Comfort Inn outside Syracuse. They don't make it easy to get to this hotel, but maybe because of that it's also relatively empty and we got a non smoking room $20 cheaper than if we'd taken one on a lower floor. Whatever-- I'm young and can take an elavator up a few flights to save a few bucks.

Tomorrow, home. Boy has made it clear that when he gets out of the (mini) van he is not getting back in anytime soon. We'll be ready for visitors whenever you're ready to come by...

*Today's winners get this prize. I'm kinda sad this game is ending. I may have to just pull out a random contest when I get bored :)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Oh, there's nothing half way about the Iowa way to treat you*

Today was just about driving. We left Albert Lea, MN, after a "free" continental breakfast that gave new meaning to not having too high an expectation in such situations. Gas was cheap, though-- $2.37 or something-- and so we dumped the awful joe and filled up the van. ("You mean mini-van" Nanny.) In under an hour were in Iowa, and I started singing the above song (that was a hint, friends.) Iowa isn't bad-- a bit more topography and lots of farmland. Heck, any state that legalizes gay marriage before our state is ok with me! Miles clicked away, and before we knew it we were crossing the Mississippi. Now that came close to making me tear up: I take great pride in being someone who lives East of the Mississippi, so actually being East of that river made me happy. And, checking milage with Boy, we decided we were half way home. 2.5 more days. 2 more hotel rooms. 10 more meals. Within reach, for sure.

Crossing the Mississippi got us into Illinois, and about 65 miles later back into EDT. Our clock matches home! We stopped for dinner in South Bend and waved to Mr. Basketball from the road. The goal of today was to get into Ohio, and WB was determined to meet that goal. And so here we are, at the first EconoLodge we found inside the state line. Tomorrow gets us to Cleveland and a long stop at the Rock n Roll Musuem. Yea, we all really just want to be home, but 4 hours walking around while checking out something we'll all enjoy is probably just as important. Let me tell you, 3 days of basically sitting is not good for anyone's back or hips.

It feels pretty good to be past the half way point, and to be back East again. The hardest part of tomorrow for me will be actually stopping in New York and not pushing through to just get home. I guess it'll depend on how well we sleep tonight, and just how cool the museum is.

*Today's winners get this print from Excelsior Geyser at Yellowstone. It's my favorite thing we saw in the Park.

Friday, July 17, 2009

sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug*

Our day started heading to perhaps the most toursty-trap part of our trip: Mt. Rushmore. Viewing this monument was never on my Bucket List, but when you're within 50 miles of it, and you have your kids with you, it seems the wise choice to just go see it already. And so we did. And it was what we expected it to be: an impressive carving of 4 unifying Presidents in the side of a mountain. $10 for parking, and we spent maybe 30 minutes there, which included buying 4 postcards and then addressing and mailing them from there. (Dr. Sis, I think I transposed your zip code when I had to do it from memory, so it may take awhile to get to the boys...) It's quite something, but it is not the sort of place you spend a whole day at, which is good when your real goal is to log some eastward miles.

Once we'd retraced our steps back up Rt 16 to I-90, I made WB stop at Wall Drug. Again, it was quite a tourist trap, although I wasn't expecting it to be as bad as it was. I just like the story of this family opening their drug store in Wall, SD, in 1931 and noticing no one was stopping on their way through, still in 1936. So Ma had an idea to put up signs and give away free water... and the rest, they say, is history. (Or herstory, if you're feeling like a femist tonight.) Anyhow, we bought 2 postcards for us that have Native American founding fathers superimposed above Rushmore. Boy recognized Sitting Bull's picture, which made me quite proud. We'll need to do more with chief Joseph, Geronimo, and Red Cloud. I should put together a Native American History course for school, but that's a tangent for another post. Those 2 postcards totalling .75 earned me a free "Where in the Heck is Wall Drug?" sticker, which is what I went in for in the first place. Ah, advertising...

Now it was time for some miles. Here's the thing about "Great Faces. Great Places." slogan of South Dakota: I'm not so thrilled with the places. If you really want me to come visit your state and be a tourist, put in a sit down resteraunt on I-90. I had to eat a dog from the roller for lunch. I have NEVER done that before, and trust me, I never plan to again. I was happy to leave SD and cross into MN again. All was great until we stopped in Worthington. Here's my advice about stopping in Worthington: don't do it. There's nothing to eat there, either. We found a Chinese buffet where we had to pay before we were seated, and then seat ourselves and get our own drinks and silverware. Seriously.

So all I could think about all day was how "America Runs on Dunkin." America does not run on Dunkin-- the East Coast of America does, but the Midwest definitely does not. I cannot wait until I can get my first medium hazelnut with cream and sugar, just how I like it...

Yes, sometimes you're the windshield and sometimes the bug. We're driving the evidence home with us now.

*Today's winners get the above pic. Which I'm sure you figured out on your own.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

all around me, peaceful*

We left Bozeman at 9:30 this morning, after getting to spend some time covered up in nephews. As excited as I am to get home again, I am going to miss those boys and my sister and bro-in-law. It was a wonderful trip and so great to be with them. I know we will never live close enough to get together randomly, but there is the chace for a meeting in DC next summer: I really hope we're able to make that work. 2 years between visits is just too long.

Our stop of today was at Little Big Horn Battlefield. For those of you who are not history buffs, this is where Custer made his Last Stand. In fairness, the visitor center did try to represent both sides equally, but my bias towards the Native Americans overwhelmed me. Custer doesn't deserve any respect! He came in and took thier lands and expected thanks and a ticker tape parade? Um, hello? What planet are you coming from? Oh, right Eastern European White Man Who Thinks He Deserves Everything. I remember now.

Finally, in 1991 (I was in college now, people, and the Battle had happened 115 years prior) a Native designed monument was erected. I think they did an amazing job with the design-- it is built into a hill, and barely visable from the road. It is built in a circle, which is very significant in Native religion. The walls are lined with quotes and thanks for the sacrifies made there. Sitting Bull summed it up perfectly in 1881: "They attacked out village and we killed them all. What would you do if your home was attacked? You would stand up like a brave man and defend it." Sorry, President Grant, but just because the only tool you possessed was a hammer doesn't mean it was the right tool for the job.

Later tonight, watching the kids swim in the pool Tom Bodett kept clean for us, I was struck by how much they enjoy each other. They were laughing and playing and generally enjoying each other's company. Juxtaposed with the stop-of-the-day, I again found myself thankful for my life. I get to live the way I choose, surrounded by so many wonderful people that I sometimes feel spoiled. If someone attacked us and said you have to give up your beliefs and religion and traditions and your home, well, I think I'd fight back to.

*today's winning picture is one of these. Let me know your preference... or if you want me to chose, it'll be the first one.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

so long, farewell...

Yesterday we took WB into Yellowstone. For those of you who have never been, I have 2 things to say: first, go. Find a way and just go. Second, if you try to do it all in a day, be prepared to be exhausted at the end. But a happy exhausted, because it is a very cool trip. My favorite is Excelsior Gyser, most likely for the brilliant teal and turquoise colors. Do it in a day, do it in a week, but just do it.

We had dinner in West Yellowstone. Now, it is important to note that West Yellowstone (the Montana town, not a part of the National Park) is only about 15 miles from Idaho. Spitting distance... so why did this sit down resturaunt serve me mashed potatoes FROM A BOX???? Seriously people, you should have more pride than that.

So what do good road warriors do in such a situation? They head to Idaho to buy a bag of chips. We stopped at the state line, right behind another family and before a third family doing the same. We, however, proceeded the 4 miles into Island Park, Idaho to buy our snacks and at least spend a bit of our traveling dollars in their state.

Today the kids and dad's floated the Madison while the mom's and baby did a bit of scrapbooking. We ended the day with a neighborhood retelling of The Tempest, adapted by Cousin O himself. It was a fun little evening and a nice chance to meet the neighbors before we head back east, to home, and the people with whom we share our lives. We'll be headed back to Bozeman in June of 2011 for WB's final class, and I'm sure we'll have as great a time then as we did this round, but man, am I ready for the East Coast again.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

(mostly) urelated to travel!

From Jess, via FB.

Three names I go by:
1. Mumma
2. Nanny
3. Buckaroo

Three jobs I have had in my life.
1. teacher
2. service clerk at Shop 'n Save
3. chambermaid

Three places I have lived
1. Biddeford
2. Farmington
3. Peru

Three favorite drinks
1. margarita
2. DD hazlenut coffee
3. JD

Three TV shows that I watch
1. Saving Grace
2. The Closer
3. Numbers

Three places I Have Been
1. New Mexico
2. California

Three of my favorite foods
1. salad made by someone else
2. Lays low salt potato chips
3. fajitas

Three things I'm looking forward to
1. visiting Little Big Horn
2. checking my mail/comments
3. coming home!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The mountains win again...

Today the kids and I knocked off another state that we've been in: Wyoming (Oh, yes!) is the home of Yellowstone National Park. It's only about 2 hours from Bozeman, and well worth the day we spent looking around.

Stop 1 was, naturally, Old Faithful. We saw it erupt twice-- the first time was just as we'd gotten in and the second took about 15 minutes longer than predicted, which caused me to wonder if I'd broken that bit of plumbing, too. We were treated to this cool inverted rainbow for our troubles.

From there we headed to the Canyon, which was a beautiful sight but a scary walk down to the lookout. Very skinny walkway, plunging over the side into nothingness. The mom in me can't handle such sights anymore... and maybe I'm getting a bit of mountain related anxiety. Notice how tightly I'm gripping them: that is not an accident. More on this later.

We crossed a few milestones the teacher in me enjoys-- the Continental Divide and the 45th parallel. I'm envisioning a "Where was Buckaroo and why should you care?" scavenger hunt to start the year.

Boy got to see his bison, and Girly her elk. We took the scenic route out of the park, right smack through the mountains, and I'm not kidding, I almost had a meltdown on the way down. The road was tiny-- enough room for 2 cars, 2 white lines, and 2 yellow lines. Outside the white line was nothing-- just the edge of the mountain. I pulled over to let the cars behind us pass and tried to get Uncle J to go ahead of me (he'd been behind us so we could pull over and look whenever we wanted) and he offered Dr. Sis to drive: it seemed smart to take them up on that offer. I'm not sure I'm going to be capable of driving the support vehicle on WB's cross country bike ride without therapy. Maybe I should start when we get home. Come to think of it, the Blue Ridge Parkway almost did me in post Atlanta Olympics.

(Yes, the irony of living in the Western Foothills is not lost on me. I can't explain why I'm losing it out here but have no issues at home. I keep telling Boy that traveling triggers my panic reflex. It might not be just a line I'm feeding him. I can cope going up, but coming down, well, it's not pretty.)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

M is for....

MSU and mountain! Today we hiked "The College M" which is in the Bridger Mountains. It was a simple little walk, although rougher for this old Nanny who is not in as great a shape as she'd like to be. Boy and Cousin O could have taken the hard way, but no way could the rest of us. We went up the longer, less severe way and then took a short cut, saving us about 3/4 of a mile but increasing the altitude by more than maybe I should have attempted. Or Girly, who should have had her puff in hand and not in the van. Anyhow, we all made it and had a fine, safe trip down.

should we stay or should we go?*

Today found us exploring again. It was cold and rainy (note that I have less guilt now!) so we decided it would be a good day to find Bozeman Hot Springs. I ventured out with map in hand and my two plus Cousin O in the back seats. I could get used to having a hot spring around-- it's a hot tub with water heated from the earth. It's perfect for my recycling nature-- no energy expended heating cold water-- just hot, soothing water ready for soaking at all times! Unfortunately, other people like these hot springs too.

And therein lies the rub: while I love my peeps of all kinds, I'm not such a fan of hanging out in pools with rude, oblivious people of all ages. I had to yell at one group of middle schoolers, trying to splash their buddies and repeatedly getting me. I let it go the first time... and then the famous Meanie came out. What's worse, though, is the adults supposedly watching their charges. They say nothing, ever. If I hadn't had 3 kids of my own to care for, I'd have just submerged myself in the steaming water and pretended no one else existed. Instead I convinced the 8,9, and 11 year olds that they, too, would rather sit and soak than play in the pool. Well, it worked for a little while...

Later in the evening, Cousin O had a pot luck for his baseball team so we took Cousin H to Columbo's pizza with us. I have to say, with all apologies to JOB, I had the BEST pizza of my life tonight. Crunchy crust with basil sauce and mozzarella, garlic, chicken, broccoli, and roasted red peppers. Heavenly. I am in love. They even have good local beer on tap. Again, there are a lot of reasons to stick around town... but the vast numbers of people would probably overrule pizza and hot springs love. Probably.

Oh, this last pic is a request of Wendy: kids in the sun at the town pool yesterday. Again with all the people! Give me a quiet riverbank that is hidden from the world anyday.

*Beaner and Nutty, I'm tossing this title out to you. Do you get the reference? Make your rockin' nanny proud...

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

update from Dino Camp

WB is settled into his week looking for dinosaur bones. He called last night, from the top of some mountain he had to hike up (I'm sure it's more like a hill, but you get the idea) to get cell coverage. He was able to slide into a vacated cabin and get himself a single. Other tidbits include the obvious lack of interwebs, the prevalence of rattlesnakes, and that the roads become impassible mud runs should it rain. (We are really, really hoping for a dry Friday and Saturday so he can return to us on time!) In short, just what he expected.

Tonight he called while we were at dinner. The reception kept cutting out, and I couldn't hear him through the disjointed call and the full room. He told Boy and Girly, though, that he'd found a dinosaur tooth and a backbone, possibly from a T-Rex. That's worth the price of admission right there, folks! I wonder if those artifacts will end up in the museusm next to the rest of the specimen they have on display. (The actual bones, not just replicas.)

It sounds like he's having a good time. I hope he is. I'm sure Beaner and her fellow incoming 7th graders are going to have a good year filled with cool dinosaur stories. Lucky them!

life under a big sky

We're settling into a routine around here: lazy mornings give way to swimming lessons for their boys followed by some sort of activity. Yesterday we played in the park. ("It's cooler than our playground and ours is pretty cool!") Today we played in the city pool.* It's actually 2 pools, dividing shallow and deep by a cement walkway. I spied 6 life guards, I think-- 4 in chairs and 2 moving at all times, with positions being traded probably every 15 minutes. There is an elaborate water slide on one edge-- Boy tried one out, but didn't go back for more. He did it, though, which was pretty cool. The cousins are not as strong swimmers, being younger, and I was proud of mine for spending much of their time with them.

After that, Boy and Cousin O went to the chess club at the library, while Girly and Cousin H rode bikes and planned a play. For dinner we went to Ted Turner's Montana Grill. It's basically a fancy hamburger joint where you can get bison instead of burger. It was quite tasty, even if it didn't have beer on tap. I've gotten spoiled by brew pubs... turns out I'm a big fan of local beer on tap, where ever 'local' may be. We drove through downtown and saw the damage from a gas line explosion earlier this year. It's a cute little downtown, except for that.

What I enjoy most about traveling is seeing my people (I rarely travel anywhere I am not able to visit someone), seeing different things, and remembering why I choose to live where I do. Certainly, my friends who are more than friends at home are the main reason I stay, but I love small town America, where everyone knows your name and what car you drive and if something looks out of the ordinary, know someone they can call and ask. Girly loves biking through the neighborhood much more than she likes biking across our bridge on our dirt road, but I would not trade the isolation of our home for anything. Having a 12,500 student college 5 miles away would be fun, but I like knowing my neighbors are willing and able to come rescue me from any situation I may get myself into. I like my grocery store, even if I can't find my favorite salsa anymore. I like my home. And as much as I like visiting other areas, I can't wait to get back. Even if it is rainy and cold.

*I apologize for the reference to the lack of rain out here. I feel rather guilty about it all...

Sunday, July 05, 2009

couple of pics

Here is what you win, folks... Water Water, Go West, and No Sleep. Not sure yet about Middle of Nowhere...


The three of us have been friends since high school cross country. The two of them, since we moved into town when I was in 3rd grade and they in 2nd. MVP lived about 2 miles towards town from us, and we'd pick her up in Claude, our 1977 Oldsmobile my grandfather gave us instead of take the insulting trade in the dealer offered him, and go where ever it was we were going. We all ran cross country together, although saying I ran is being rather generous. (My senior year of high school, I was the girl the whole field clapped for as I was the final competitor stumbling across the finish line, looking rather pathetic. I ran because my favorite elementary school teacher was the coach and he asked me if I'd join the team so he could have 5 girls to make it an official team. A high school of 1200 kids and we had to beg someone to be the 5th member of a team. Have I mentioned I came of age in a football town?) Anyhow, I digress. We've been friends for a long time, and she is the only friend I have left from high school who I actually talk to and meet up with.

Unfortunately, we don't meet up enough. She lives in Western Mass, we in Western Maine. It's probably a 5 hour drive, which, compared to what we just did is peanuts, but when you're trying to fit visits in around the rest of your life, is just a bit too far. Her boys are 10, 8, and 15 months... and we hadn't seen them since before the baby was born. I feel bad about it, but it is what happens, I guess. (She's told me not to feel guilty, but I was baptized Catholic and I think guilt comes with the blessing.) We talk every few months or so, and do what women who have been friends since before we were women, and wives, and moms do-- help each other through aging parents and overwhelming sports schedules and what to do when the freezer and the stove die after a financially taxing winter and how we can't find a pair of shorts that fit us right. You know, the important stuff.

When we talked this winter, it came out that we were headed to Bozeman at the same time they were ending a trip to Yellowstone with her brother in law's family. You mean we're all going to be within 100 miles of each other? Seriously? She and I decided to invite them to Dr. Sister's house, and because sometimes Fate is a good friend to have, it all worked out. We spent the Fourth of July together-- 3 high school friends, 3 husbands who have become friends, and 8 kids (11, 10, 9, 8, 8, 15 mos and 9 mos), playing and laughing and talking and eating like we do this all the time. We visited the Museusm of the Rockies, a MSU museusm that houses actual dinosaur bones. We had a good old fashioned cook out and watched the fireworks outside the local Ho-Mart.

You, my loyal readers, know how important people are to me. I came out here to see our family, and sure, while we're here, let's see come of the cool things around too. But pictures of Wm. Clark's signature won't help you when your kid is witnessing bullying at school and is having nightmares. I am blessed to have lots of people in my corner, and to be in the corner of lots of people. And I take comfort in the knowledge that the Cookie Monster Fan Club has survived time and distance and all sorts of life changes, and when we do all get together (the last time was 8 years ago, in my parent's living room) it's like nothing at all has changed.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

No Sleep 'til BOZEMAN!*

I awoke to the awareness of WB not being squished beside me. One of the downsides to trying to sleep on the cheap is getting double bed rooms. WB and I enjoy our queen very much (hey, hey, this is a family show) but find doubles... squishy. But, for $50++ a night, what can I really expect? Anyhow, I hop up and get the day going. Only after we wake the kids and are heading out the door do I check my cell (another detail to cheap rooms-- no clocks!) and realize it's NOT EVEN 7 YET! Oy, today could kill me...

Drive through breakfast at the BK on the other side of the motel, and we're off. This is our first and only drive through meal of the trip, which is not as cheap as we could be, but a damn lot tastier. We drive across ND on I-94. 350 miles. Just under 5 hours, with one gas stop where (wait for it...) I WAS HANDED THE KEYS. Yes, folks, on our 3000-ish mile journey, I drove a whopping 150 miles. A few things about driving out here: the speed limit is 75. 75 is really bleeping fast. I guess that's really all I have to say about it. I was scared driving, and WB was scared riding (no slight on my abilities-- just he likes to be in control on the road and I don't). So when we crossed the boarder into Montana (!!!!!) and stopped for lunch in Glendive, he took the keys back as I happily passed them over.

At about 3:30 (mountain time--we'd crossed that line in ND) we stopped at Pompey's Pillar. It's a great National Monument with the only trail physical evidence of Lewis and Clark's incredible journey. We saw Clark's name carved in the sandstone, next to a bunch of other random Joe's and near native heiroglyphics. It was pretty amazing, actually. My students may see a Lewis and Clark unit next year...

Here is where the story gets a bit interesting. As we're leaving, we hear a crack of thunder behind us. "We're finished here just in time!" Back in the car, we leave the iPod off and search for NPR. We find a weather alert for Billings (where were we're going through to get here) announcing a serious storm that may have a funnel attached. Um, hello? See, as I was driving along earlier I announced that I don't think I'd ever like to be a storm chaser, because if the storm finds you, there's no place for you to hide. Right. Ok. Now what...

At this point the Boy in the backseat says "Are they talking about a tornado heading our way?" What followed was about 15 very stressful minutes where we pulled off in some town so small the left turn ended in a dirt road in 1/4 mile and the gas station didn't take cards. We got our last $20 in gas ($20.02 actually, because when it matters it's hard to hit it right on the head) and sat there for a few, trying to figure out what to do. We saw a storm chasing truck come to the intersection, drive a mile or so, and then pull over. "We could go ask him what he thinks...."

He had left by the time we got to him, but WB's assessment of the clouds said we should just push on and find an overpass to hide under if necessary. Not many of those around, but we'd think of something. The whole time we're trying to keep Boy calm in the back. WB is pointing to the trouble cloud-- a big C shaped bad boy that looked to be breaking apart. We get to the other side of Billings with no trouble, and Boy and I are audibly relieved. WB notes that he's pushing 80, just to be sure...

We land in Bozeman at 7, having tried to find dinner in Big Lumber but only saw what were probably great places that looked like you shouldn't bring young children in and expect them to be the same after. Dinner in a college town where they're used to people from away seemed the right plan for the day. Dinner at the local brewery was great (the wheat beer as good as the current one at SRBC) and we landed at my sister's a little past 8... to find them in a power outage. No showers or laundry, but the kids ran around outside and got re-aquainted. All is fine. As we were heading to bed, the power returned, and I jumped on the neighbors unlocked internet faster than you could say "good night!"

As I finish this, the box spring slid off it's boards and we went crashing. But we're ok! Bed fixed, WB asleep already, and I feel so much lighter for being able to share with you all. Thanks for caring enough to follow along. Sleep tight.

*again, who knows what print you'll get for this reference. But any and all of you who comment will get something. Many of you will end up with a mini-album by the time I'm done. Fine with me :)