Monthly Archives: August 2007

Death comes for my family

Last night my phone rang at 10:15. Now even before I had a baby this was an unacceptable time to call me. I have to be up insanely early because school starts before 8 and I live a good 45 minutes away. Plus I always need time to get myself ready for the day. 10:15 is usually my bedtime or just past it. Everyone who knows me, knows this. This rule is respected by everyone except my brother-in-law who ocassionally forgets how annoying ringing phones can be to small children trying to sleep and dials us anyway.

The call was from my sister. She has two small kids and understands my rule. When I saw it was her, I knew it was important. It turns out my second cousin was killed in a car accident yesterday. Actually it was more of a semi vs. kind of small piece of farming equipment. You can guess which vehicle my cousin was driving. He was driving on the shoulder with his very slow moving vehicle when a semi veered off the four lane highway and sent him flying. He died instantly.

My second cousin and I weren’t incredibly close, so this is not a “I want sympathy” kind of post. He was only a few years younger than my mother and his kids are 10-15 years younger than me, so we don’t have too much in common. I knew him though. We saw each other at family gatherings. He lived in the same town he was born in (and most of my family lives/was born in) . He spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house. She’s in her late 80’s and while she’s pretty with it mentally, her physical health hasn’t been great the last few years, so he’s been a real help to her. It’s been a great comfort to me knowing he is five minutes away and willing to help her with anything, even if it’s the fourth call that day. Since he was a farmer, he had a fairly flexible schedule.

My grandmother is taking his death really hard. I called her today during my prep period and she cried almost the entire time. She could barely compose herself. I’ve never heard her like this before and it made me sad. I may not have been close to my cousin, but I love her very much and her pain made me shed more than a few tears. Then I started thinking of my aunt and uncle who have just lost their only son. I cried for them. The thought of losing my son is so horrifying that I cried again. I thought of his sister, his wife and his children and imagined what I would feel like if I was suddenly to have one of these people ripped from my life and I cried again. It might seem overly dramatic, but I couldn’t stop myself. I cried for all the people in my life I love who are now feeling lost and empty without my cousin.

I spent the afternoon trying to coordinate my family affairs. My grandmother is so upset no one thinks it’s good for her to be left on her own, so my mother is flying in from DC. Since everyone in the family is either inconsolable or too old to make the trip to the nearest airport, I’m picking her up and driving her the two hours to my grandma’s house. Her visiting the state twice in one decade is a major shock to me. I’m not sure how we will pass the long drive, but I’m hoping it will go a bit better than our visit last month.

I have to miss a day of work as I can’t make a four hour round trip, visit with my family and get back home in time to make it to work. I don’t mind taking the day off, but having to drive so much with a small baby is not something I look forward to. Rearranging my lesson plans, making up sub plans and being gone for a day is something else I dread doing. I almost never take time off work because it’s so hard to catch back up.

I don’t know how much comfort my mother will be as her last visit left her and my grandmother bickering at each other for nearly 72 hours, but I’m hoping this tragedy will bring them closer. I’m not sure what I hope for my mom and me. All I know is my grandmother needs someone right now. I wish I could be there for her but I live too far away, have too few sick days and a baby. It’s times like this when she will feel the loss of my cousin the most. I wish there was something I could do for her, but I feel pretty helpless. All things considered if a two hour car ride alone with my mom will help my grandmother, I’m willing to do it. I hope she likes my music.

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A day of minor annoyances

Today started off ok. The baby actually slept the entire way to the sitter’s. I left for work a few minutes earlier than normal, got into a nice traffic flow and made it to work nearly 10 minutes faster than usual. All signs pointed to a great Monday.

I should have known there is no such thing as a great Monday.

I tried to get copies made before school for my first period class. With twenty five minutes until the start of classes there was a line of five teachers, one of whom was down on  his hands and knees trying to find the mysterious paper clogging one of the machines which would not let it start again.  Realizing I needed the copies but there was no way to get them, I decided to modify my day. Now, I’ve been doing this whole teaching thing long enough to be pretty good at improv, but it was 1st block, I was tired and despite having marked up my copy of the Canterbury Tales with all sorts of great notes to teach from, I couldn’t find the quotes I wanted to share. With my sophomores this would have been no problem, but my AP kids noticed and the end of class bored them, a lot. Not that I really care about boring them, but I felt a little stupid for bumbling so much during my lecture.

I thought prep might make things better. I got everything I needed to do done in record time. I just needed to drop off some homework for a kid who has been absent for 10 days now and get those copies made. Homework got dropped off no problem. The copier was not so easy. The line was just as long now as it was this morning, only this time it was the home ec teacher who was bent over the copy machine searching for the lost piece of paper jamming the machine. Secretaries came in to try to remedy the situation. It didn’t work. I ended up spending almost half of my prep waiting to make 10 copies of a pretty short packet. I barely made it to my next class.

Since it was newspaper, it wasn’t a huge issue, but I really had to go to the bathroom and there just wasn’t any time. I spent the entire time fixing problems that my editors should have caught and trying to teach the new editors layout. A few were running late making last minute changes so I barely made it upstairs for my next class. I still had to go to the bathroom.

The rest of the teaching day was a bit better, but a conversation about a student with one of the new teachers kept me late at lunch and I had to return once again without stopping to relieve myself. By the end of last period I’d had to pee for four hours and I think I was dangeroulsy close to finding out if you can really blow a kidney by holding it in to long.

Newspaper after school went by quickly, but my contact at the printer’s decided to wait until today at 4:30 to send us our ads. This was, of course after almost every page had been laid out and there was no room for any of them. That means tomorrow we’ll have to reconfigure everything. Did I mention it has to be to the printers by 4:30 tomorrow and we only have 25 minutes in class to work on it? Ugh!

The ride back to the sitters went quicker than normal which made me happy. It was already late and I knew traffic would be bad once I hit the highway. I picked my smiling son up, popped him in the back and before I got too far down the block, he was asleep. All this would have made for a lovely drive home except I got stuck behind a mini-van going 10 miles under the speed limit through a no passing zone. Now, I’m not saying the driver needed to speed, but it was straight country roads. There are only two stop lights until the highway and there was no traffic in front of him for miles. Every time I inched it up to 42 or 43 miles, I almost came in contact with his bumper, so I backed back down to 40. He teased me a few times by speeding up a mile or two, but as soon as I picked up speed as well, he dropped right back down.

Thankfully this only lasted about 10 minutes, but it was a long, annoying 10 minutes. The rest of the drive was uneventful and fairly quick. I was at home and chowing down on spaghetti by 6 pm. Not too bad for a Monday, but now I have at least 50 essays to start grading, some of which are bound to still be horrible even after a second draft. I know, this is what I signed up for, but today was just full of small things that made life just a little more difficult to tolerate.

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Words

I’m really sleepy and have a nasty headache, so tonight I’m phoning it in and you are getting another story from my someday to be book.

Words

 

It’s amazing to me how a simple phrase can still send shivers down my spine, even after 8 years. I’m sure that after all this time you have forgotten your own words. I wrote them down. Repeated them to myself. Spent the next six months running over them in my head, sending myself into moments of unimaginable happiness. Eight years, and a thousand miles later, those same few words still have that power over me when I stumble over across them in my journal. I can’t help but wonder if you ever pause to think of that night. The two of us alone in your car, windows fogged, shirts unbuttoned, hair tousled, heavy panting and those few words. Can you picture it? Do you? I can tell you the exact shirt you unbuttoned so cautiously. Purple silk I kept three years longer than I should have, for memory’s sake. Do you see yourself reach for me, kiss my neck and say softly, I want to be in you. I want to feel you. I want to move with you.

We never did get that far then, my one regret. My do over moment in time. But sitting here, 8 years, 1000 miles and a million tears later, your words still hold me as firmly as your hands ever did. But more importantly, your words still give me goose bumps and I feel phantom kisses on my neck.

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I’ve got nothing on Pavlov’s dog

While Eee and I were at the mall last weekend I gave into temptation. It started out in a harmless enough manner. It was really hot outside. We were both severely parched and figured since we’d both only had tiny pieces of toast for breakfast, we could splurge and get a smoothie at Frulatti. Actually she got a smoothie and I got a strawberry peach chiller, but both are not much more than pure sugar conduits, even if most of the sugars are fructose based. Drinks in hand we headed toward the shops.

 

My stomach started to growl a bit about 5 minutes into our wanderings. The smoothie reminded me that it was after noon and my bread and water breakfast had been over four hours ago. The pretzel placed loomed ahead and my resolved weakened. There was no line so mere seconds later I was enjoying a gigantic buttery pretzel coated in salt and dipped in spicy cheddar cheese. It was tasty. We sat on benches, devoured our freshly baked lunches and talked. We haven’t seen each other too much since she started grad school, and a five day separation was far too much after seeing each other just about every day for the last 5 ½ months.

 

Pretzels finished, we headed toward the clothes shops. Eee wanted to get some professional looking clothes. While we both may have graduated from college longer ago than we’d like to admit, she definitely still looks like she could be shopping in the juniors’ section, so she wanted comfy dressy clothes to help ensure her students would take her seriously. Despite her wealth of knowledge, this is her first teaching experience and years of teaching has taught me if you don’t get the students’ respect pretty early on, classes can be miserable. My experience comes from teaching only middle and high school kids, so maybe it won’t be so bad for her. Then again, since her kids may feel more like they are her peers (due to all of them being students), they may be snottier and if she doesn’t look like a prof, they may give her hell.

 

We didn’t get too far down the road when I spotted the cookie place. As I have already acknowledged in several other blogs, I have a weakness for sweets. Mall cookies are no exception, even if they almost always dupe me. See, mall cookies always look really tasty. That day’s batch was no exception. There are always a plethora of cookies to tempt me. Filling the glass cases were snickerdoodles, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, M & M, triple fudge, chewy pecan, domino, and I’m pretty sure there may have been a chocolate chip or two in there. Mall cookies are deceptive because 99% of the time they look tasty and about 95% of the time they are adequate at best. This batch proved to be barely noteworthy. The one exception was the domino cookie. A chocolate cookie broken up only by some rather large white chocolate squares, it was super yummy. The oatmeal raisin was by far the biggest disappointment as it tasted barely better than the rock hard store brand ones of my childhood. No real flavor to it. I ate only a few bites of it and the snickerdoodle. The rest I packed in my husband’s lunch. He’s the anti-Mikey, he’ll eat anything.

 

The only exception I’ve found to the supreme mediocrity of mall cookies is Blondie’s, but even they have their limits. The oatmeal raisin cookies are phenomenal. Actually anything there containing oatmeal is pretty darn good, even the oatmeal chocolate chippers. The raisin ones are the best though. I’m pretty sure each cookie has about 500 calories thanks to the stick of butter that must go into the production of each and every cookie. I don’t care though, they are worth having to skip dinner for. Eee loves their frosted cookies. While I am not usually a huge fan of sugar topping my already sugar laden cookies, I make an exception for their cookies. Sadly for me (although my waistline is better off because of it), Blondie’s isn’t in the mall I frequent. The only time I step foot in the Blondie’s mall is to see an arty movie (rare since the baby) or to stop by Godiva for a special treat. And although I do love my sweets even I think buying truffles at Godiva and then rushing to the other side of the mall for a stack of cookies is crossing a line.

 

My mediocre cookies are gone as of tonight and I keep telling myself I won’t be tricked again, but I already know it isn’t true. I’ll be lured in by a glance at the giant decorated cookies next time Eee wants to go shopping. I’ll remember my quasi-good experience with the domino and though I’ll know I shouldn’t, I’ll branch out thinking maybe this time I’ll like the others. Unlike Pavlov’s dog, I never learn.

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If I keep it up I could be the next Donna Reed

Last night during a lull in the rather spectacular thunderstorm, my husband had to grab a ladder, run out and clean our gutters. As I was putting clean clothes away, I noticed the rain pounding on the window in our bedroom was much louder than the rain anywhere else in our house. I’m not master of physics or the speed at which sound travels, but I didn’t figure it should be louder in the bedroom than in the bathroom which is actually attached to the bedroom. When I opened the blinds I saw the problem: rain was not only beating against the window pain but was actually collecting between the glass and the screen. It was about two inches deep and slowly seeping through the window into our actual bedroom. Towels were yelled for and left to soak up the water leaking onto our hardwood floor.

 

During the brief pause between torrential gusts of wind and rain, he made a dash for it. He pulled two rather large wads of leaves out of the gutter above our bedroom and the pile up stopped. He had to run back out just as the rain was picking up because the stockpile of water wasn’t quite draining. He actually had to lift the screen up a bit to get that to happen. Just before he had to start gathering two of every animal he got to come back in. This was especially lucky for him as the only animals we have around are cats and even though they are each of a different gender, they are both fixed.

 

I felt sorry for my husband as he stood dripping in the doorway. I had been in a similar predicament when I left school. My umbrella was in the only logical place it could be on a day like yesterday, the car. From the start of the last block until the time the bell rang, rain pummeled my second story classroom. Even though I waited in the foyer hoping it would let up just a little, eventually I had to take the plunge (quite literally as large puddles sprung up between the sidewalk and my parking space) and get very, very wet. As I drove down the road I actually realized my arms were dripping onto my already soaked pants.

 

As I watched him by the back door though, I was dry and cozy. I couldn’t feel too bad for him though because this is what he signed up for. When we bought our house nearly two years ago, we sat down and redistributed all of the chores. Our likes and dislikes were only touched upon before we agreed that I would take care of everything indoors and he would handle everything outdoors. Some people might think I got the shaft considering indoor chores consist of washing and folding all laundry, vacuuming, dusting, Hi list of duties is relatively small: take out the trash (including the cat litter), take care of the lawn, clean the gutters and shovel the driveway, but considering I hate extreme temperatures and ladders of any kind, I’m happy with our little arrangement. To this day I have never mowed a lawn and if I can help it, I never will. I care far less about what our lawn looks like than he does, so if he ever gets a bee in his bonnet to leave it for me, it can sit for a really, really long time as far as I’m concerned. Plus if I don’t feel like cooking, my husband can always be convinced to go out. Heck, he loves going out to eat.

 

Some days when I’m really tired and just don’t feel like cleaning I too think I got a raw deal, but days like yesterday while I’m snuggled up with the baby watching the rain instead of getting soaked through standing on a ladder while pulling slimy leaves out of a gutter, I have to admit vacuuming looks pretty darn sweet.

 

*Even though we eat lunch at work, I still pack both of our lunches the night before and cook dinner every night except one night on the weekends when we go out. I am still getting maternity leave half paychecks and daycare has set in so money is too tight to go out much. Breakfasts get packed with lunches so I lump them together.

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More car repair nightmares

As unbelievable as it sounds, my car is broken again. It seems like only yesterday that I was stuck at the repair shop for hours and had to shell out nearly $500 to restore the ability to roll my back window up. While the date may be an exaggeration (it was actually one month ago yesterday), the cost certainly isn’t and the reality is that the exact same thing has happened. Only this time it’s the other back passenger window.

 

While we were returning home from a phenomenal dinner at Mudbugs*, my husband thought he heard a draft in my car. He began fiddling with the windows and rolled the back one down. It didn’t come back up. I immediately knew what was wrong. I’d struggled with the same button before, continually jabbing at it and muttering at the window to just roll up. No dice. He didn’t believe me though. Instead he chose to blame the baby shade which in no way could have caused the problem. As the window slipped further and further down, he assured me he would look at it when we got home. I tried to tell him it would be of no use as the window is definitely broken. I was right. It didn’t stop him from trying to fix it though.

 

He didn’t succeed in making my power windows miraculously work, but he did solve the problem, at least temporarily. Using some black electrical tape and his OCD as guides, he slowly pulled the window back into place and taped it to the window frame. I have to admit it is much more subtle than I thought it would be. I had flashes of plastic bags being duct taped to my window frame, announcing to the world that we are too poor to fix our car. This would look great in the teacher’s lot. I expected to open my door after the next rain to find small fish inhabiting the pond in my back seat. At first glance, I didn’t even realize what he’d done.

 

I’m still a little nervous it won’t hold out all the water because there is the tiniest of cracks between the window seal and the window itself. During the remainder of the summer and the early days of fall it won’t be a problem as the weather is still nice. We’ll have to get it in to the shop before winter though because even that small crack will make my car way colder than it needs to be. If it were just me I might be able to suck it up, but since I have to take my son to the babysitter, I’m not even going to risk it. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m a cold baby, I totally wouldn’t take it.

 

So it looks like I’ll have to shell out another $500 in the next month or so. I’m hoping it will hold out until fall break when I have some time to actually take it in. Otherwise I’ll have to switch cars with the boy and for all my complaining, I like driving my car more than I like driving his. I really hope it holds because this is three paycheck month and while that is always a lovely thing, the first two are still half paychecks left over from maternity leave, so this month is going to be more about catching up on bills than having any money to throw around on fun things like a movie date or the fancy brand of Ketchup. No, it’s still Yorktown goodies for us.

 

*Mudbugs, for those of you who have not tasted it yet is a fantastic little Cajun place in Carmelopia. I’m not usually one to sing the praises of anything in the town, but in this case, I’m willing to belt out the entire soundtrack. They are the makers of the amazing corn fritters I raved about in my fair blog and those fried balls of happiness come as a side to their equally tantalizing shrimp po’ boy. Not really a veggie friendly place so if you don’t eat any meat you may find yourself feasting on an extra order of hushpuppies (as they call them) and some of their potato salad (also really good). They don’t even have the standard veggie option of the iceburg lettuce salad. If you like seafood and spice though, this is the place!

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On being a working mom

I’ve survived my first full week as a working mom. It wasn’t easy. I’d left my son at the babysitters a couple of times this summer when I had to go in to work for partial days, but I never got there before 9 am and never picked him up later than 3 pm until last Monday. Monday I dropped him off at 7am, spent a few minutes updating his sitter on a few changes, including the addition of his first tooth and then after kissing him three times and standing at the door waving to him for several minutes, I got in my car and left.

 

The drive from the sitter’s to school is tedious. It’s a straight stretch, but 50% of it is farmland. This is not a shock in the Midwest, I know, but it is also peppered with small towns which require me to slow to the unheard of speed of 30 miles an hour. There are also three school zones which regardless of the fact there are no children anywhere around force me to slow to an even slower speed. I don’t believe for a second modern cars are actually designed to drive 25 mph. That’s more like coasting.

 

Once I got to work things should have been better. When I focus in on a task I can complete it to the exclusion of everything else. I had seating charts to make, books to organize, handouts to photocopy, lessons to double check and students to get to know. For awhile this made the day not only go pretty fast, but kept my mind from wondering what my baby was doing without me. Then I left my classroom. Every person I passed in the hallway asked me how I was adjusting to life without the baby at my hip. The barrage of well-meaning questions kept my mind wandering back to the fact that I couldn’t hear him laugh, or feed him his bottles or even kiss his tiny little toes, activities I’d done half a dozen times for the last five and a half months. This is when things got hard.

 

Even though I wanted to race out of the building as soon as the bell rang, there were things to do first. I had to clean my boards of the day’s writings and post new info up for the next day. I had to make sure all my lessons were in order. I had to make last minute copies. I had a teacher’s meeting one day. The earliest I got to pick him up was 3:45 and the latest was 4:45. When added to the 40 minute drive home where he generally fell asleep, I had 2 ½ – 3 ½ waking hours with him and that made me sad. I’ve vowed to spend all my free time with him, making up for the fact I have to drop him off for the majority of his day.

 

Since Monday was only a day of teacher’s meetings I got ambitious and actually made dinner. It was just tacos, which only took about 20 minutes, but even after that I was exhausted. Every other night saw a quick microwaving of leftovers or something pre-cooked from downstairs in the freezer. I spent less than 10 minutes cooking each meal. Instead I spent the time playing and cuddling with my baby.

 

While he was napping this weekend I planned next weeks meals, complete with taco leftovers, spaghetti pie leftovers (from tonight), crab cakes (from a box—15 minutes from frozen), and a soup block from the downstairs freezer. The crab cakes are the only thing I’ll even have to turn the oven on for.

 

My house is a bit of a wreck, but I figure that’s the least of my worries. It’s not actually dirty, just a little cluttered. Clutter I can live with, even if it drives my husbby nuts. He can clean it if it gets too bad for him.

 

I don’t know how most women do this, but my hats go off to them. While I think I’d get awful fidgety being a full-time stay at home mom (and we couldn’t afford it anyway), if I hadn’t made all those meals this summer, we’d be living off boxed mac and cheese, frozen pizzas and the occasional spaghetti from the jar, all of which are so full of fat, salt and who knows what other unhealthy things that I’d no doubt weight 300 pounds. Either that or we’d be stopping at Wendy’s or McDonald’s every night because cooking, even tacos, is exhausting and takes way too much time. I’m starting to understand why when I polled my journalism kids last year over 50% of the kids ate out at least five times a week. Luckily we can’t afford to do that or I might really be tempted.

 

I know I’ll get this whole working mom thing down, but man, I’m already struggling a little and it’s only been a week. Not to mention a week with next to no grading. I shudder to think what it’ll be like once research papers start rolling in. I don’t so much mind being tired. I’ve never been a picky eater, so the food issue doesn’t bother me either. It’s the 8-9 hours each day I’m not watching my baby smile up at me or jump in his jumparoo or even screeching for a bottle that are going to make this a really long year.

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