Saturday, January 31, 2009

resolution season

For the first time in many, many years, I appear to be sticking to my resolutions. My chip consumption is way down. I haven't had a Coke since Christmas. I'm conscious of eating more fruit and veggies and less crap. I pay attention to portions. I'm moving more regularly, although sometimes life gets in the way of my workouts. And the biggest one is I am drinking a nalgene bottle of water daily.

Never in my life have I drank enough water. For a long time water alone would make me throw up-- partly because I used that technique to get through morning sickness: throwing up water is easier than crackers or apples or dry heaving. Now I actually find myself wanting my water bottle instead of forcing it down. That is growth.

I'm no where near as focused as Mike is. I don't chart my food, count calories, or have a full fledged workout routine. I'm trying to slowly encorporate healthy changes in a way that is sustainable. For now, it seems to be working. We do not have a working scale, so I don't know if I've lost weight, but my jeans don't feel as tight as they did at Christmas. I'm taking that as a good sign.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

to explain

no, that would take to long.
To sum up:

oven ignitor
van windshield
broken water pipe underground
dead truck battery
2 kids referred for orthodonture
flat van tire, requiring 4 new tires to complete the fix

By my count that's 3 vehicle related incidents, 2 home related (which I am counting as 3 as it's the quick fix and then the real fix in the spring) and 2 kid related future expenses. So ... I guess the waiting continues.


I need our luck to change. Today started with a flat tire. Thanks to the generosity of my autobody shop owning neighbors, they changed my tire with their power tools and I was on my way again after only an hour. Had they not been there I think I would have had to call in the favors I've built up in my classroom. Anyway, I need this luck to change. I'm not sure the message the greater Cosmos is trying to send me, but I know you're telling me something.

Or maybe I just need to take a page from Katie's book and let it go and trust that this is all happening for a reason and it'll all work out, somehow, in the end.

4 new tires later, the van is ready for the coming snow.

I know it could be worse, but really, I just need a break.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy New Year!

Because we love to cook, I guess, we try to honor other culture's special holidays. Today is the Chinese New Year, I think the Year of the Ox. So, we set to cooking. I made Wonton Soup and WB made dumplings, using the same meat mixture he made last night for both. I also made a Long Life Noodles from Cooking Light (yes, I modified it by what I had in the fridge. Still authentic, but also using what's here.) And, just because I had splurged on Wonton wrappers, I made up a Crab Rangoon recipe. I'll need to work on that-- I think more cream cheese and some more flavor of some sort. Garlic? Ginger? Onion? We'll need to keep playing.

I do enjoy these cooking adventures. Trying something new is always fun, and it usually comes out well. And while school does Diversity and Cultural Awareness Day once a year (which coincidentally was today), I think it's nice to expose the kids to other cooking cultures in the comfort of their own home. Yea, they're on track to grow into culturally accepting kids, but it doesn't hurt to know that other peoples make your belly happy :)

Next up: Mardi Gras. Perhaps WB's favorite of the year! Come on down Feb 24 if anyone is in the mood for some Cajun cookin'!

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Girly went shopping on her Birthday Girls Overnight. She came home with this funky hat, a shirt with blingy buttons, and these high heeled flip flops. In this shot, she's wearing the sweatshirt she bought on last year's outing. She is certainly developing a sense of style... and one that is hers and not her mother's!!

great shot

Boy has really taken to cross country skiing. He went out yesterday and plowed through the powder and made himself some trails, and then WB went out on the snowshoes and joined him. Boy went out again today and I followed behind on my snowshoes snapping pics. Catching moments like this is why I take so many at a time... I don't always have a vision of what picture I'm looking for, but I know it when I see it. I have to say, I'm pretty proud of this one.

Thinking back, many of my favorite pictures are taken from behind. I have a great one of 18 month old Boy trudging up Coast Guard Beach, and one of 18month old Girly following her brother and father down Nauset Beach at a distance. I got some great ones of the cousins walking through the Redwood Forest, with only the baby looking back over his mother's shoulder. I'm mostly a mom-photographer, but I feel like I'm getting better at taking shots anyone would like, even if they didn't know my subjects.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

dance with the one that brung you

After the ceremony last night, WB and I had a date. Imagine that! Normally such an event brings us to Brian's Bistro or to the Sunday River Brew Pub, but neither of those felt right: Irving's Truck Stop, however, was the perfect. We arrived to a full house, forgetting it was the Friday Night All You Can Eat Fish Fry. Hanging in a truck stop eating fried fish and warmed toll house pie is exactly what you should do after putting on a Carthage based AltEd graduation.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My Opus

Tonight 2 of my sunshines graduated. One a semester late, which took a lot of courage to come back for a 5th year, and one at least a semester early, depending on when you start counting. Both of them worked hard to get here, and deserve the smiles you see before you. I am proud of them. So very proud.

As you all know, these are the kids who struggle through school. They hate it. It's torture. Usually their parents hated it too, and remember their own trips to the very same naughty kid bench. But these are the ones that it means something when they suck it up and finish. I cheer for them more than I imagine cheering for my own kids. These small, private ceremonies are so special-- I get to speak directly to them and for them, and to their extended friends and family. Anyone can come and there is no need for tickets. And the 'ceremony' is over in 30 minutes :)

One of these guys gave me the most sincere hug-- multiple times-- and thanked me for being his teacher. When I read his card (with an engraved gift from his family and chocolate for my tree hole from him) it said "Thank you for all your help. I wouldn't have graduated without you." How do you respond to that? I met him as an angry, impulsive 14 year old and he graduates as a respectful, caring, giving father. I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being a part of that transformation, but I'm under no delusions that he couldn't have done it without me. I just happened to be the right person at the right time. You all even know my secret, and it's really not even a secret. Treat them like you would like to be treated. Practice tough love when necessary. Listen. Be honest, and demand it in return. He grew up because he found a place (a place found him?) where he could be himself, but also be held accountable for his actions. We laughed, we cried, we planned, and we connected. And now he's ready to go get a job and be a grown up. That's a good day.

I'm sure most of you saw Mr. Holland's Opus, and WB jokingly made that reference to me tonight. It's not quite a match, because I in no way feel I'm wasting my life teaching. I know what I do everyday will pay off in dividends in weeks, months, and years. It paid off tonight, as all 50 people in that room thanked me for doing what I can't imagine not doing. As I looked into the crowd and saw my graduates from last year and the year before come back and support their friends. As kids I haven't taught let me give them grief for doing stupid things and then told me about their successes. There is no false modesty when I say I don't see a whole school assembly happening when I retire and my former students showing up with their own security detail. But I do think I'll have steady visits throughout the years with stories of successes and failures, and truly that is all I want. And as much as this feels like an 'it's all about me' post, it's not. I've stumbled upon my dream job, and it wouldn't exist if every kid was ready to access the regular high school curriculum. I'm as thankful to have these sunshines in my life as they are to have me in theirs. And on the days when they can express those feelings, I feel like they're all out there, playing my Opus.


Mid-terms and finals are a bigger pain than they're worth.

My humble opinion of course.

I am ready for today to be over and for life to get back to normal.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Since I've been tagged... twice!

37 Random Things About Me

1. Do you like blue cheese? I don't like the smell of it, so I haven't gone further than that.
2. Have you ever smoked? A short phase in college... and some days I still miss the feeling. Amazing how addictive the buggers are.
3. Do you own a gun? Nope.
4. What flavor Kool Aid is your favorite? It's all too watery for me... but as a kid I liked Tang. (Bet you can now figure out when I was a kid!)
5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? No, I'm usually going in with a purpose and need a problem solved. Plus I'm not afraid to speak up if I don't like what I'm hearing.
6. What do you think of hot dogs? I try not to think about them at all.
7. Favorite Christmas movie? A Christmas Carol. And the Gift of the Magi section of A Sesame Street Christmas
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Tea usually, but sometimes I need a comfort coffee.
9. Can you do push-ups? Yes. I used to be able to do a lot.
10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? My engagement ring with my grandmother's diamond and my mother's ring my hubby had made for me with my great, great grandmother's diamond.
11. Favorite hobby? Scrapbooking and cooking.
12. Do you have A.D.D? No, but I can get many things done at once.
13. Do you wear glasses/contacts? Glasses. Tried to make contacts work the summer of 93, but they never got comfortable so I dropped the idea. It wasn't really my idea anyway!
14. Middle name? Margaret (in honor of the line of Margaret's on my father's side... and the original owner of the said mother's ring diamond)
15. Thoughts at this moment. 207 is just not catching my attention tonight.
16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink? Tea, water, and whiskey
17. Current worry? Paying down our (accidentally increasing) debt.
18. Current hate right now? People who work with kids but don't seem to really like them.
19. Favorite place to be? In a friend's kitchen-- or they in mine.
20. How did you bring in the New Year? Pot luck music night at our house. We made it to midnight, but not long after. Kids, too.
21. Where would you like to go? South of France to visit my bucket list-ing uncle!
23. Do you own slippers? Yes, although I lost one of them this weekend. I swore it was tied up in the blanket, but now I can't find it. Knit Mary-Jane looking things that were a gift.
24 What color shirt are you wearing? Gray 2004 girls soccer MVC champions sweatshirt of WB's. They should have won states that year. Sometimes I think about that game and it upsets me all over again.
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? I had a blue satin pillow case as a child-- I think a gift from my grandmother (the engagement ring one) who went overseas. I remember it being very slippery, so I'm not sure sheets would be any fun. Never tried though.
26. Can you whistle? In an emergency.
27. Favorite Color? Turquoise and teal.
28. What songs do you sing in the shower? I rarely sing them outloud, but I often play my tap song in my head and visualize me doing the moves. I always sing with the radio, whether I like the song or not.
29. Would you be a pirate? No. No way I could cope with the violence.
30. Favorite Girl's Name? In my 20s I wanted a Jenna
31. Favorite boy's name? In my 20s I wanted a Dylan
32. What's in your pocket right now? chapstick
33. Last thing that made you laugh? probably WB. He always makes me laugh.
34. What vehicle do you drive? Toyota Sienna
35. Worst injury you've ever had? Broken bone.
36. Do you love where you live? yes
37. How many TVs do you have in your house? One. Brand new this summer, darn it all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Today is a good day to be an American. For the first time in 8 long, difficult years, I am not embarrassed by my president. More importantly, I now notice, he is MY president. I voted for him, I believe in him, and I claim him. He is also the first president of my adult life that I trust and respect-- I believed in the last democrat, but I did not trust him, and lost respect for him as a person (but not as a leader) by the end of his term. This man, Barack Obama, I trust to lead us out of this mess, and I respect his integrity, his honesty, and his leadership style. Yes, a good day all around.

The first inauguration I remember is 1980. I knew there was something hokey about the Hostage Crisis resolution: why were the Iranians waiting until Regan took office to release those hostages? What did it really matter? Now I understand the deep slap in the face that was to Carter, probably the most humanitarian leader the world has seen. I remember sitting in Mr. Spenard's fifth grade class, and Tammy Jo Macomber counting down to noon and cheering loudly. I knew that she was just repeating her parent's views-- I was for Anderson because my mom was. But I also remember feeling awkward at that moment, and knowing there was a bigger piece to the puzzle that I just didn't get yet, and that moment has stuck with me. I don't know what it says that it would be 29 years and 6 major elections before January 20 at noon would matter to me again.

Today all the schools in our district were encouraged (commanded?) to show the inauguration to all students. Boy was grateful to get to see the whole speech, even if most of the kids in his lunch didn't care about it. "My eyes got a bit watery after he said it." How many other kids will remember this moment 30 years from now and have been impacted by what they saw?

Later today I had a meeting to talk about the future of AltEd in our new RSU. I left that meeting with hope: administrators believe in our programs and are committed to keeping them, and to making them better. I left feeling secure in my future, but also valued as an important piece of the success story. We even talked about how it's not only the AltEducators responsibility to connect with kids, but all teachers. How do we fall back on connections made in elementary school to help disconnected middle or high schoolers? How do we help transitions between grade levels? We left the AltEd world for a bit and talked about impacting all students. Saying I left that meeting hopeful is an understatement.

So I have hope: hope for the future success of this RSU transition (even though I still think our governor lost his mind), hope for my sunshines, and all the other sunshines out there needing a connection, hope for Boy and Girly's future, and hope for America. It sounds hokey, but today the promise of America doesn't sound so crazy. Hope. Such a breath of fresh air. The first step to getting something done is to believe it can be. My sunshines start earning credits and moving towards graduation when they believe they can do it. The same holds true for countries on the brink of disaster: I believe that this person is what our country needs to generate enough hope for us to make a change. That his background is what it is only adds to the story: he did not grow up easy, he was not expected to ever become president, but he believed, and here we are. Hope.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Today has turned into a very satisfying day.

Our Saturday AM trip to JOAD had Boy scoring a 202, beating his personal best by about 50 points. Instead of going out for lunch and spending lots of money, we got breakfast before at Dunkin Donuts. If we ever get a DD in Dixfield, I will have to take a second job to pay for that habit: I won't get up early enough to drive to Rumford for a coffee before work, but if I pass one, I have a hard time resisting the urge. We stopped in at Play It Again Sports and got some store credit for trading in some old skates and skis, although I know they'll sell them for more than we traded, but whatever. They're out of my shed, which completes the summer cleanout project.

While WB went to do grocery shopping, I wanted to get outside in the 'heat' of the day. I decided to be a Useful Engine and finish cutting up the tree that WB felled last weekend. It was still on the side of the house, but had been overshadowed by the cold and the water issues. I spent probably 90 minutes getting the usable bits free and dragging them over to the Woodmaster. WB has probably half a dozen branches to chainsaw into smaller pieces-- either that or teaching me how to, because I can't use our handsaw to save my life.

After I cleaned up from that project, I started dinner. Cooking Light had an oven fried chicken recipe I've wanted to make all week. In my typical fashion, the recipe was a guide rather than a bible, but I think switching panko breadcrumbs for cracker crumbs was a brilliant decision. I then toasted the homemade bread I'd made last weekend with an olive oil garlic dressing and had Boy make up a simple cole slaw. Super yummy! I got all the dishes done while it was all cooking, so the kitchen is even clean now. Yea me!

Tomorrow the kids will come sleep over before their mother goes to work, and we'll hook up somehow with Bestfriends on Monday to return them. All 4 of the kiddos are anxiously awaiting that.

Right now the living room temp is up over 70 (we started the day at 55) and my belly is happy and full. My muscles are tired from doing some work, and my brain is satisfied with accomplishing so many things. So this, SJ, is my favorite kind of Saturday!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

and now for our regular programming

You Are Basil

You are quite popular and loved by post people.

You have a mild temperament, but your style is definitely distinctive.

You are sweet, attractive, and you often smell good.

now what?

The truck is dead. Started this morning, WB stopped for coffee, and came back out to a dead vehicle.

I need this week to end.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


So the water situation is as bad as it can be: the pipe from the well to the house is broken. We need an excavator, and new pipe laid down. I am not kidding when I say I have no idea how we're going to pay for this. Well, I do, I guess. It's called credit, which I am desperately working our way out of needing. But I guess not now.

Darn it. I'm so sad... and mad at myself for letting us get into this financial mess. Darn it, darn it, darn it.

Update: The glorious plumbers got us water in the house again. A heat wrapped pipe, buried in the snow, leading from the well and across the lawn into the basement. The plan is to do this until spring, when we can get the excavation part done. They also suggested calling the homeowners policy-- which I'd never have thought of myself-- so I'm crossing everything that it's covered. A deductible is much nicer to deal with than the whole thing!

Monday, January 12, 2009

livin' la vida Norlands

So I'm finding it slightly ironic that today, when the death of the founder of the Norlands Living History Center was announced in the local paper, we are carrying water in 5 gallon buckets and melting snow. I say, you haven't truly lived until you've melted snow on the stove to do dishes. One bowl with soapy water, one for rinsing. Granted, I was using my modern gas stove, with electric lights to help me, but still, it gives one a sense of gratitude for the wonders of indoor plumbing. I can't believe Devon didn't have indoor hot water until 1983. Further proof that she was an absolute saint.

As WB mentioned, we have lots of options on what may be wrong, but no clear solution. The guys will be back in the AM-- one a former student who is a great kid and loves his job-- to try to fix it. I trust them completely. I have rekindled respect for my friends at Community Energy. We'd hit a rough patch a few years back with budget payments for oil, but the service side of the business has always been rock solid. They are my official Go-To People. Rosemarie recognized me immediately, although it's been a couple of years since I'd called. Let's hope it's a bunch more years before we speak again!

A shout out belongs to the bestfriends, who harbored the kids after school and have offered meals and showers until the problem is solved. This, good people, is why you have friends. You people rock!

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Remember last month when the oven died and then the windshield cracked? I tried to convince myself that the third in the line was something silly like an exploded pen all over me. I should know better. Today, the water pump appears to be within hours of death.

I noticed our electric bill was a bit high last month-- higher than it should have been with Christmas lights and the electric bits of the external wood furnace working full time. Then WB noticed the pump was coming on a lot. I called someone, and they misunderstood the issue. Today, the pump is just not shutting off. So WB shut it off. Now every time we want to use water, he goes downstairs and turns it back on. One of these times, it just won't. I've called Our Guy, who happens to be the step dad to my longest running student. He's coming by one night this week. We probably need a new pump. The last time it died was 7 years ago. Saturday morning of Memorial Weekend. Boy was 4 and Girly 2. Running water was sort of important, so we paid the double time charge for the nice people to come. Still paying off that debt, as it got mixed into other random emergencies on the equity line. At least this time the kids are old enough to wait until a weekday. At least its working enough to not have to go lug water up from the stream. Luckily we have a Guy who likes to come work for us after his day job is done... which is great, except it means we have to wait. I don't like waiting. But he treats us well, and keeping this relationship happy is win/win for all of us.

So if you see one or all of us knocking on your door with shampoo and towels in hand, you'll know why. And please let us in!


This is my favorite kind of snow. Light and fluffy, easy to shovel, and a fresh layer of pristine white on top of all the dirty stuff. I also love seeing the evidence of kids playing outside. When the sun comes out and the last few flakes are falling, I can't imagine living in a place with no snow.

(Ask me again later in the week when the thermometer doesn't get above single digits how I feel about winter.)

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Snack Club

I'm living my own Breakfast Club moment right now. My poor girl is in a very bad place, and there's nothing I can do to help her. Except listen. Being 16 is not easy. Life is often not fair. And working toward making it better is a really hard choice to make. Because it's hard work. Brutal work. And I don't know if she's ready to make that choice.

Another friend of mine came in at the last minute. Needed to get his truck jumped so he was late. Me being me, of course he can come late. Still has to do the 2 hours. I may be soft, but I'm not a pushover. I hope he joins me next semester. I think this is where he belongs

And seriously, I even had a Ally Sheedy type kid show up. He wasn't even on my list! I could not make this stuff up even if I tried.

Dear Mr. Vernon: We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it is we did wrong, but we think you're crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.

Monday, January 05, 2009

step it up!

I didn't get home in time to go for a walk tonight-- a college girl stopped in to chat after school and then I had promised the cheerleaders I'd come critique practice. I had gotten home with just enough light to dig my old step aerobics step out of the shed. So, during Jeopardy! I walked up and down and all around, switching direction and movement every minute. All those steps we did in the basement of the Madison in the early 90s came rushing back... a few more sessions of low impact, old lady tempo and I should be hopping around like the old days.

I went to step aerobics when I was new to the area and a newbie teacher. One of the veteran teachers was quite the exercise addict and brought me along. I figured it was a great way to meet people, get to know the area, and stay active at the same time. Once I met WB and started having someone I wanted to hang out with in the afternoons I stopped going. I have always liked aerobics-- the dancing/cheerleader/gymnast comes out loud and clear-- but I hate paying for it. Maybe this flashback will get me through the dark days of winter until I can get outside, walking the streets.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Girly is now reading Harry Potter to herself. I read her the first 2 books, but I'm really not a very good bedtime reader... half the time I'm coming home from a meeting, or needing a shower before morning, or just too tired to keep my eyes open. I've been bugging her to move beyond Junie B. for months now, and this was what she needed to do it. I think she's read 3 chapters today. Very nice indeed.

Boy is reading Harry #6 (for the second time, first time reading the whole series himself) while Girly is on #3. Now I have no excuse to not finish the series. I myself am only about 1/6 into #3, and can't believe I've shielded myself from most of the secrets. I heard about one, but it wasn't too terribly shocking considering the length of the series and the time it encompasses. Hopefully I finish reading before finding anything else out!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

I am not even kidding.

If you have not yet watched Little Miss Sunshine, go out and rent it tomorrow. Seriously. You will laugh until you cry, and cry until you laugh. I stumbled upon it on cable after The Muppet Movie, and WB and I are even more hooked than the first time we saw it. My face hurts from laughing. My next signature line ready to go. Man, this movie is amazing.

If I was made of money, you would all have a copy headed to your doorstep now. I'm not (and am actually working rather hard to eliminate our debt) so this will have to be a 'thought that counts' kind of moment. But really, watch this movie. You won't regret it. I promise.

winding down

Vacation is coming to an end. It's hard to think about waking up to an alarm again and getting back to running to dance and gymnastics (JOAD kept up over break). But, really, is there a better time schedule for parents? I feel quite blessed to get so much time with my family.

I am missing my sunshines, though. I wonder how their holidays were. No one has made the papers, so that's good news. No one has called, which probably means no tragedies beyond typical teenaged ones. But still, I look forward to their stories Monday morning. (Not to the alarm, though, even if it means them. I swear schools should run 10-4.)

Tonight we had fish and chips and onion rings (opened, unused beer from NYE means time for some batter!) and are watching The Muppet Movie. WB saw this in Rumford back in the day... I must have seen it at the Maine Mall Cinemas... both of which have been torn down. Somehow the kids have reached 9 and almost 11 and not seen this movie. Bad parents, I know, but easily rectified. Netflix is a great thing, no?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

New Year's Day means resolutions...

A combination of factors including age, hormones, meds, lack of time, and laziness have increased my waist size beyond where I consider to be acceptable for me. Today I resolve to start slowly, but to steadily work away at this so I do not need to purchase a whole new wardrobe. I got a new nalgene water bottle for Christmas, and I need to drink at least one per day. I've had success with paying attention to portion sizes in the past-- I never do well eliminating something I enjoy entirely, but limiting how much works well. I also really need to stop snacking after dinner... which could be the hardest change to make. Exercising 3 days a week, regardless of the schedule, is also important. No excuses! Maybe I'll find my old stepper and store it under the couch for those school nights where it gets dark before I get home...

That's a lot-- 4 major changes, really-- but all so important to my goal. I really need to lose about 10 lbs, but should be looking at 20 or 30 to get to the point where I feel my best. I guess 25 is a good, reasonable goal. My hope is if I do this gradually enough, the changes in habits will stick and I won't be posting this again next year.

If anyone is looking for a walking (or snowshoeing or anything else) buddy, let me know. I do better when I'm meeting someone to exercise-- I honor commitments to others more than those to myself :)