Category Archives: motherhood

Trials, tribulations and WTF of parenting

Teaching Tuesday: Thanksgiving break

My first teaching gig definitely spoiled me when it came to Thanksgiving. Since I worked at a university laboratory school, things worked just a little bit differently.

For those who aren’t in the know, let me explain what I mean by a laboratory school. No, we didn’t have the students penned up like lab animals, but yes, we did experiments on them. Sort of. Laboratory schools, which are few and far between these days, are linked to universities with particularly strong teacher’s colleges. They exist in part to help train would be teachers. They also exist to try out new ideas in education. It’s because of experiments in laboratory schools that different types of scheduling like block 4, block 8, trimesters, balanced calendar, etc exist. Laboratory schools also exist for professors and student to conduct educational research on a wide variety of educational topics.

Don’t worry, everyone who sends their children to laboratory schools does so voluntarily (in fact there is usually a high demand and limited space in them) and with complete knowledge of the experiments, research, etc that goes on in them.

There are tons of perks to both teaching at and attending a lab school. My students were easily able to audit college classes (at almost no cost to them, but only for high school credit), take college classes for credit (at a cost to them, but some of my students graduated from high school with enough credits to be college sophomores), they were able to attend lectures from experts in a variety of fields (I got to take my high school freshmen to hear Elie Wiesel speak before we read his book Night) and, we got extra vacation days.

While we did not get every day off that the university did, we got many off that our city school corporation kids did not. When there were snow days, if the university wasn’t in session or the university closed, we didn’t have to make them up. Also, unlike every other school corporation I’ve ever worked at, we got Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving week off.

Although it may not seem like much, that one extra day off was so important. My husband’s family lives in North Carolina and instead of having to set off for a 9 hour drive after working a full work day (which put us in NC between 2-3 am), we could sleep in on Wed if we wanted and still be at his parent’s house by dinner time. Plus, we got to spend three full days visiting with both his family and friends. If we decided to visit my folks, who only lived 2 hours away, I had a full day to make sure all of my grading was done so that I could actually have four restful days off.

For the past 14 years I’ve taught in regular ol’ public schools and we’ve only gotten Thursday and Friday off. When our son was born 10 years ago, we made one final trip to visit my husband’s family for Thanksgiving. Despite leaving as soon as my work day was over, we rolled in way too late with a very cranky baby who had major trouble getting back on his schedule and vowed we’d never do it again. That was our last holiday visit to North Carolina.

My in-laws are both semi-retired (my MiL is self-employed), so when we couldn’t make the travel to them work, they decided to travel to us instead. While it is a lot easier when they come here, working a full day on Wednesday still makes the prep work for house guests and Thanksgiving dinner for 11 stressful and the “break” not much of a break.

Luckily this year my in-laws decided to stay at a hotel and take the entire family out for dinner, so I got a bit more of a break.

Still, I was thrilled to learn that my school just released our 2018-2019 calendar and for the first time, we will be getting Wed-Fri off. I’m not quite sure what this will mean, but it may mean a trip to NC to see my in-laws for the holiday, something my son doesn’t remember and my daughter has never experienced.

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Throwback Thursday: Cabbage Patch Kids

CPKI was a child of the Cabbage Patch generation. I still actually remember getting my very first one when I was 8, only months after they started appearing in stores. For those of you not alive during this time, they were nearly impossible to get. Stores sold out within minutes. My step-dad heard a rumor that a local department store was getting a shipment in and my mom made him drive immediately over. I don’t remember how long he was there for, but he came home with two dolls, one for me and one for my little sister (who was not even two at the time). Apparently when he went in to buy the dolls, he was directed to the back of the store in the layaway department. They hadn’t even bothered to put the dolls on the shelves in the aisle. Everyone got in a line and when you got to the front, you could get two dolls. The only choice the employees allowed customers to make was skin color, which at the time was either Caucasian or African American. No choice of gender, hair color, eye color…nothing.

Not that my sister or I really cared. She was too little and I was just thrilled to have the doll. Jennifer Lynn (as I would rename her) was the first in a rather long line of CPKs. I actually didn’t end up keeping her, but gave her to my best friend when my grandmother sent me another CPK for Easter. However, counting her (and the one that I accidentally left in the courtyard of our apartment building that was stolen), I had 15 Cabbage Patch Kids. Yes, that’s right, 15. I also had a CPK horse,a  Koosa (a “pet” of sorts for CPKs–mine was a cat) and an original Furskin bear (Boone).

Not only that, I had 6 different CPK pin ups. And I don’t even know how many small, posable figures I had.

My collection included a preemie, a cornsilk, an astronaut, two circus, a World Traveler from Holland, a set of twins, a baby,  and one with a pacifier. Any variation of CPK they made from about 1983-1988, I had. I loved those dolls.

I wasn’t the only one in my family to get in on the craze. My aunt bought a few too. I’d like to say they were for my cousin and I to play with, but in truth, she just liked collecting valuable toys. She also had about a million Beanie Babies at the height of their craze. My step-mom also bought a few and kept them in boxes. Not long after I stopped playing with dolls, my step-mom took them out of their boxes and let my younger cousin play with them a bit. When I went off for college, her CPKs went into a box and were stored in my old bedroom closet.

When my daughter was born, my step-mom pulled her dolls out of storage and gave them to her darling granddaughter. She also bought her her very first CPK, which was designed specifically for toddlers as the only part of the doll that is plastic is her face. She doesn’t even have a full plastic CPK head, just a face. My mom later bought her a regular CPK with only a tuft of blond hair on her head.

So, by the time my daughter was 2, she had 5 Cabbage Patch Kids, which definitely broke my record. She still loves all 5 of them and plays with them. However, I can see a big difference in her dolls, which are pretty darn ratty, and the ones I got when I was a bit older. Mine were in pristine condition because while I played with them, I mothered them as if they were real children. I was never one to take their hair down or take their clothes off. My daughter currently has one of the 1980’s dolls on her bed. The poor thing is completely naked AND her red hair, which used to be in pig tails, is one giant mess.

Not that I care. I’m just happy to see her loving the same toy that brought me so much joy when I was a child.

 

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Wild Card Wednesday:My daughter the vegetarian

Yesterday when my daughter got in the car after school she informed me that she is now a vegetarian. Apparently her best friend at school is a vegetarian and as a result, my child is now convinced that eating meat is wrong and wants no part of it. Did I mention she’s 7?

As I see no harm in letting her try her hand at vegetarianism, I said, “ok, honey.” Then, I went on to explain how this decision will change her world. Considering that many of her favorite foods revolve around meat of some sort (pepperoni pizza, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, etc), I wanted to make sure she understood that all those things were, in fact, meat.

She quickly let me know that she’s very aware of this and that she can live without all of these items.

Of course she didn’t decide on this rather massive lifestyle change until after I’d gone to the grocery store for the week, so I didn’t have a host of veggie options for her lunches. Although I don’t load my kids up on meat, they do have ham sandwiches or turkey cubes and cheese at least twice a week. Plus, my daughter loves getting school lunch and at the elementary level, there is not much to pick from on the hot lunch line that does not have meat in it. At least not that she will eat.

Tonight we went out to eat as a celebration for my husband passing a national certification exam for his new job. Since it was his celebration, he got to pick where we went. He picked one of his favorite seafood joints: Kona Jack’s. My kids LOVE Kona Jack’s…mostly because they have simply amazing salt water fish tanks all over the restaurant.

As soon as we walked in, my daughter announced to the hostess that she can’t eat seafood because she’s a vegetarian. The hostess smiled and said, “so am I,” which my daughter got a huge kick out of. She was kind enough to point out the only veggie option on the kid’s menu: grilled cheese. Once we were seated, before we’d even place our drink orders, my daughter also told the waitress she was a vegetarian.

Everything was going along swimmingly until the calamari appetizer arrived. Both of my kids LOVE calamari and Kona Jack’s is particularly amazing. My son dove right into the plate. My daughter kept hovering near us, getting all sad eyed at the sight of her beloved calamari.

Finally, as the last few pieces remained, she started crying about how she wanted to both be a vegetarian and have a bite of calamari. She asked me if she could still be a vegetarian if she had a bite of calamari. I felt so bad for her. She was fighting so hard against her insanely impulsive nature. I told her that vegetarians don’t eat any meat at all, but that if she really wanted one little bite, she could have one and then keep trying to be a vegetarian.

I left a small piece on my plate and after much hemming and hawing, she took it. I was proud of her for only taking that one small bite and not asking for more. She proceeded to eat part of my salad, all of her fruit cup, half of her grilled cheese and quite a bit of ice cream.

I’m not sure how successful she’ll be with her new found vegetarianism, but I think it’s great that she’s already found something to believe in and is trying to stand by it.

 

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Throwback Thursday: Rubik’s Cube

Yesterday I found a Rubik’s Cube in my daughter’s backpack. At first I thought she’d nicked it from her brother, but it turns out my husband got one for each of them and it was hers. I wasn’t really shocked to find it in her backpack as she has a bad habit of taking toys to school even though I’ve told her time and time again that she’s not allowed to. One of her other bad habits is “trading” toys with her friends at school. Of course, once she’s traded, one of the kids has trader’s remorse and wants the original toy back which just leads to way more headaches than it’s worth. Plus, she has been known to take the toy out and try to play with it in class.

Usually I’m pretty vigilant about checking her backpack, but every now and then she slips one by me. Like the Rubik’s Cube.

When I pulled it from her backpack, it was a jumbled mess. After staring at it for a few minutes, I decided to try to solve it. I don’t know what possessed me to do this. It’s not like I’ve ever been able to solve one before.

Being a child of the 80’s, I had my share of Rubik’s Cubes. Well, I actually only had one official Rubik’s Cube and about a dozen knock off versions my mom would buy me at the local flea market. My favorite one was the Rubik’s Snake, or at least it’s generic counterpart that a random flea market vendor sold. I liked it not because it was easier to “solve,” but rather, unlike it’s cousin the Cube, I could play with this one a bit more like a toy and actually accomplish something, even if it was just turning it into a snake to shake at my sister.

One of my knock off cubes actually had little stickers with colorful fruits on each side. Instead of yellow squares, there were lemons, cherries instead of red, blueberries for blue, watermelons for green, oranges for oranges and…well, I’m not sure what white was. Again, not that it mattered, I just liked the stickers. I also liked the fact that unlike the official Rubik’s Cube, the generic fruit one was so much easier for me to “solve” because when I got it all mixed up, I could carefully peel off the stickers and put them back on the appropriate sides. Sure, that only worked a few times until the stickers lost all actual stickiness, but at least I briefly felt a sense of accomplishment.

Recently I’d watched as someone (and I cannot for the life of me recall who) took hold of my son’s Rubik’s cube and started twisting the crazy mess he made until it came out perfect and solidly colored again. It seemed simply enough, so for some foolish reason, I thought I’d try it with my daughter’s Cube, which she’d left sitting next to the computer.

After about 10 minutes of painstakingly slow twisting and turning, I was no closer to solving the puzzle. In fact, I think I managed to destroy what little progress my daughter had made. Not that I could really tell. I may have picked cautiously at the corner of a colored block, but those are not stickers. They are definitely little colored plastic pieces and short of trying to break it open, I see no way to cheat this puzzle.

Clearly I was just not meant to unravel all of life’s mysteries.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Stuck in my routine

Every Sunday, between 11:15-11:30, I head off to the grocery store. As soon as I park my car, I slip my headphones on, turn up the volume on my audio book and spend a glorious 45 minutes or so going up and down each aisle to make sure I have everything we’ll need for the week. When I finish, I come home and my kids unload the groceries from the car. I spend about 10 minutes unpacking the bags and putting all the groceries away and then, around 1, we all have lunch.

It’s a pretty good system for us all. I get to shop uninterrupted so I can make sure everything on the list (and not too much not on it) ends up in the cart. Plus, I get a bit of a mommy break, which is always needed at the end of the week…which is really in the best interest of us all.

This week, however, a bit of a monkey wrench was thrown into our usually scheduled program.

About a month ago I bought tickets to a special screening of some Pokemon movie. Don’t ask me what it was called…even after seeing it I don’t really remember. It’s sort of a giant blur to me. Although I had no desire to go, my kids both LOVE Pokemon. My son was actually Ash Ketchum for Halloween. Even my daughter is obsessed with all things Pokemon. Between the two of them they have a plethora of merchandise. We have cards, tins, stuffed animals, Legos, erasers, stickers, pokeballs, figurines and clothing. My son actually has Pikachu footie pajamas.

So when a friend mentioned a special screening of this movie that she was taking her son to and another dear friend also got tickets for her two kids, I knew we had to go as well. We don’t go out to the movies that often (it is so darn expensive), so I figured this was a treat that would have them singing my praises for at least a day.

But, the movie started a bit before our usual lunch time and the theater was about 20 minutes away, so that meant everything had to be juggled to make it work. The only way to ensure I’d get my child-free shopping trip was to go on a Saturday.

Grocery shopping in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday is a completely different experience than it is on Sunday morning. It was a different crowd, different aisles were being restocked, they were out of completely different items (and way more of them). There were different clerks at the meat counter (my usual guy always says hi to me and asks how I’m doing). There were different cashiers, although the same bagger who always asks me strange questions bagged my groceries.

I don’t know what it was, but it just felt off. And it made the rest of my weekend feel a little off too. I never thought I was that much of a creature of habit, but this grocery experiment may have proven me wrong.

Luckily next week my in-laws will be in town and we have plans all day on Saturday, so I’ll have to go back to my usual Sunday shopping routine.

Wait, did I just write luckily before my in-laws being in town…this shopping change really has me off my game!

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Free Reading Friday: Girling Up

girling upIf I had read Girling Up by Mayim Bialik when I was 12 or 13 or 14, I think it would have made a much bigger impact on my life. Reading it in my early 40’s meant it wasn’t quite as illuminating. I saw this book in my school library and grabbed a copy for a couple of reasons. First off, I like Mayim Bialik. I think it is positively fantastic that she is using the platform she’s been given as an actress to help empower young women. I am one of those people who do no believe celebrities should just shut up and entertain us like some sort of dancing monkeys. Even when I don’t agree with their platforms (and I do not agree 100% with Bialik’s), I do believe celebrities have a right to use their fame to promote the causes they believe in.

Secondly, I am always on the lookout for non-fiction books which I might be able to use in my AP Language class. Since the course focuses on non-fiction and specifically looking for arguments non-fiction authors make as well as finding bias in non-fiction, I like to have a wide range of subjects for my students to pick from. Since Bialik has a PhD in neuroscience, I thought this book might really appeal to some of students who are really keen on science. I actually grabbed it because I have a specific student who is crazy about science and since I know that girls do not get nearly enough encouragement to explore different areas of STEM, I wanted to help meet her needs. I think students, especially female students, need more encouragement toward the sciences.

Finally, I picked up this book because she’s wearing a cape. Who doesn’t love a cape?

Although I am not the target audience for this book, I think that it will appeal to some of my students and I have every intention of adding it to my optional AP list. While it is geared a bit more toward students in 7-9th grade, even some of my seniors can benefit from the biological information she gives and the coping mechanisms she offers. I also plan on getting a copy for my daughter when she hits that horribly awful middle school period. I wish I would have had this book when I was in my early teens.

I have to admit there is something really satisfying about the idea of handing my daughter a book that may help her understand her period just a bit better written by Bailik, someone who helped me understand my own when I saw her dealing with it on her TV show Blossom.

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Throwback Thursday: Georgia with kids part 2

Rook and PawnOne of my top priorities when traveling with my kids is to get them to spend as much time as they can outside. Even though my kids always pack their backpacks and often a separate toy bag to the brim with some of their favorite ways to pass the time, when vacationing anywhere they will be forced to spend waking hours in either a hotel room or at a friend/family member’s house, inevitably they run out of ways to make those same toys fun to play with day after day after day.

It’s already hard enough for kids to be out of their usual environments for extended periods of time. But I’ve found that unless our vacations have the thrill factor of an amusement park vacation, my kids need a lot to do or boredom quickly sets in. At home, they are fine. They will play by themselves, or sometimes even together, for hours on end. However, even on our two yearly vacations to the beach, where there are cousins to play with and to Georgia, where my best friend always surprises them with fun crafting supplies, the sheer number of hours the adults would like to just hang out at the house and chat is too many for them.

Because I don’t want my kids to have to sit around a house that is not theirs for several hours every day of vacation, I always try look for lots of fun things to do outside. However, sometimes the weather just does not cooperate.

This year, during our bi-annual trip to Athens, Georgia, we had three days of rain. While only one day was a bit of a deluge, the other two were still fairly steady in their ickyness. After being trapped in doors the entirety of the first day, my kids needed out of the house.

Since my best friend was not on fall break and still had to teach classes, we decided our first activity that would get us out of her house, but also keep us out of the rain, was a trip to The Rook & Pawn. On our last three visits, we’ve had at least one rainy day and since my best friend and I both love board games, she has suggested we take the kids. It is a wonderful place to pass several hours with kids. Not only is the food pretty dang tasty (I highly recommend the grilled cheese with brie, tomato and spinach and the seasonal salad), but they have a wall of board games that stretches from floor to ceiling. Anyone who cannot find a game they want to play is just being a crab! Our trouble is not finding a board game we all want to play, but in limiting it to just a few so that we don’t spend the entire day there. For anyone who might need to take the edge off of another day spent indoors with whining kiddos, they also have a lovely drink menu. Since it was only day 2 and I had to drive back to the house, I just had a Diet Coke.

My best friend met us at the Rook & Pawn after her classes were done for the day and we spent several hours trying new games. Sushi Go! was my personal favorite this trip. My son really liked some Star Wars spaceship Wookie game he and his sister played while my BFF and I chatted. Last time we went we tried Settlers of Catan Junior, which was not only fun (my BFF and I are HUGE Catan fans), but was a great gateway to teach my son how to play the grown up version.

nature centerWhen it continued raining on Tuesday, I was more than a little disheartened. However, on our very first trip to Athens, we encountered similar rain storms and my best friend introduced us to the Sandy Creek Nature Center. Since I knew she was a bit burned out on it having just recently gone with another friend and her two young children, while she conducted classes, I packed up my munchkins and we headed over to the nature center.

The nature center is not a place you can spend hours at, at least not if it is raining and you are just exploring the educational center. With younger children you could probably kill two hours there without much trouble. However, since my kids are 7 and 10, an hour was pushing it for us. I kept having to redirect them to small pieces of the exhibits they hadn’t really looked at. I tried to get them involved in the scavenger hunt, but since they’d done it on our last visit, they weren’t having it. The educational center does have two classrooms and sometimes if they are open the staff will let kids go in and play in them, which provides even more entertainment. However, there were school groups at the center when we went, so we had to stick to the main exhibit room.

My hope is that one of these days it’ll be nice enough that we’ll actually get to go on the trail and look at the gardens as well.

Even though the rain had cleared on Wednesday, since it was my BFF’s last day of teaching for the week and she was going to be home by 2, I took the kids for a morning at the local Chuck E. Cheese. Even though they’ve been to our Chuck E. Cheese quite a few times, they actually managed to spend more time at this one, in part because there were so many different games and they had to really think about which ones they most wanted to play. My son managed to win the “jackpot” on some balloon game and walked away with enough tickets to buy an actual prize. He was thrilled!

We also found several really awesome programs at the library for the kids to attend. My son got to play chess while my BFF and my daughter found a nook to read books in. My son thought it was pretty great because even though he lost more games than he won, he was the youngest player (by 2 years) and actually beat a player who was 16. We also saw a magic show one morning at the library and both of my kids got to assist with different tricks.

Athens is a great town to visit with kids…even when the rain threatens to ruin the vacation.

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