Category Archives: motherhood

Trials, tribulations and WTF of parenting

Teaching Tuesday: The open house blues

I’m a parent who always goes to open house. Even when open house falls on the first teacher work day and I’ve spent 8 hours at my own school, rushed to meet my husband for a quick dinner and then had to come all the way back to the elementary school my kids go to (which is next door to my school and 45 minutes from our house) and we don’t even make it home until nearly 8 pm, I go.

This year the teachers hadn’t even met my kids and I went to open house so I could meet them and see their classrooms. I wanted to hear about their teaching philosophies and learn what the year has in store for my kiddos, one of whom was a little more excited to go back to school than the other.

My enthusiasm for open house at my school, however, is not nearly as strong. It’s not because I don’t love my job. I truly do. I cannot really imagine being anything other than a teacher (well, except rock star, famous author or movie star, but I’m not sure my real-life self will be as good at these jobs as my dream life self is).

The reason I dread open house night at my school is because of the 120 students I currently have enrolled in all of my classes, I met parents of about 30 of my students. Unlike the classrooms at the elementary school where each room was packed so full many parents were standing, my classroom  had a sea of open desks.

When I asked my students why their parents didn’t show up, the reply I got most was something along the lines of, “I’m almost out of school and my parents don’t think they need to come.” Basically, since my students are juniors and seniors, most of their parents don’t feel the need to come and meet their teachers, find out what their kids will be learning or get involved beyond signing a course expectation sheet and maybe (and this is a BIG maybe) dropping me an email if their kid’s grade dips down below a C.

What floors me is that the majority of my students are Advanced Placement English kids, who are all college bound. I would think these would be some of the most supportive and enthusiastic parents. My guess is that many of the parents feel like they don’t need to come to open house because their kids are advanced and probably will not struggle much in school.

But really, what kind of a message does this send to the kids? School is very important at the elementary level. Or at least important enough for their parents to give up an evening to come and meet their teachers. Even in middle school open house attendance rates are pretty high in my district. But for each birthday kids celebrate, fewer parents show up to school events like open house.

To me it sends a message that school isn’t a priority anymore. Their kids are almost out, so they don’t need to care as much. This may not be entirely harmful to the parents, but the kids see this message and that’s where I think the real issue lies. If kids don’t see their parents interested enough to go to the school and meet their teachers and hear about their classes, are they as likely to be interested?

I really feel that as parents, we need to make it clear to our kids that their education, no matter what level they are at, is important. It is important enough for us to give up our free time and come in to learn about what they will be learning. Even at 18, most children still really care what their parents think and they pick up on the messages, even the subtle ones, they send out.

I know that when my kids are in high school, I am going to make my husband come to open house. He will go around and meet all of their teachers (they’ll be going to my high school, so I’ll already know them). I want my kids to know that their education is important to both their parents, not just their geeky ol’ school lovin’ mom.

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Throwback Thursday: stuffed animals

delia's bed.jpgWhen I was a kid, one of the many things that drove my mother crazy was the fact that I was, well, kind of a messy kid. Like most kids, it’s not like I was trying to be messy, I just had a TON of toys and didn’t really like to clean them up. I used to make up elaborate stories for all of my dolls and I was convinced that if I put my toys away, I would forget the stories I’d created and have to start all over again. Never mind that I have a crazy good memory and could easily recall all the very, very, very intricate details of the fantasy worlds I created for my toys. Or that I loved creating new stories. I didn’t want anything, or anyone messing with my narratives.

It did not help matters that I had about a million toys. While this is slight hyperbole, like many children of divorce, in order to help make up for the devastation of not having my family together anymore, my parents and my extended family bought me things. Since I only got to see my dad and his side of the family for 6-8 weeks out of the year, and never on my birthday, every holiday was accompanied by truckloads of presents. Within reason, if I wanted it, I got it.

I am not trying to brag here, I’m just trying to paint a picture of just how many toys I had. Among these toys were a heck of a lot of dolls and stuffed animals. I don’t know exactly how many I had, but I know I had 13 Cabbage Patch Kids, a CPK horse, Koosa, Furskin bear, Rainbow Bright, and at least two dozen other small stuffed animals. And they all slept with me…every night.

My mom would get so frustrated, in part because there was barely enough room for me on my bed. However, I always managed to find a perfectly comfy, tiny bit of my bed to sleep on, usually while cuddling at least three of my stuffed toys. I was actually pretty good about arranging them so that I could get in and out of my bed with relative ease.

I’m sharing this story because now that I am a mom, I finally understand my mom’s absolute wonder and disbelief with how I managed to sleep each night. My son, who is 10, has always had a few favorite stuffed animals. They reside on his bed, but his monkey George, who he has had since birth, is the only one he really cares about having on his bed. My daughter, on the other hand, is truly my child. The picture at the top of this post is of part of her bed. I have lost count of how many animals and dolls she sleeps with, but I think she surpassed my number a long time ago–and she’s only 7.

While the majority of her stuffies are tiny (many of them she’s won from the claw game at our local bowling alley/arcade), even tiny stuffed animals can create quite a pile. She has so many animals and dolls on her bed that I do not understand how she can sleep on it. And yet, just like I did, she does.

It’s amazing how with no prompting from me whatsoever, she has picked up the same habit I had in my childhood.

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Chocolate Monday: World Market Dark Chocolate with Fig Pistachio Filling

fig and pistachio whole barOne of the many reasons I love when my best friend comes to town is that she gives me a good excuse to go to stores that I love, but don’t often go to. World Market is a perfect example. Although there is a store located about 20 minutes from my house, it’s in another town and about the only time I go up there is when my kids have swimming. Since swimming nights are always such a rush, we really don’t have time to just pop into World Market to browse. Especially not when my kids love it and always ask for, well, just about everything. Trying to convince my daughter that she does not, in fact, need a bottle opener, even if it is shaped like a monkey, can be difficult.

But when my best friend wanted to go, it was the perfect chance to get out of the house and visit a favorite store.

Although I love the fun furniture and housewares at WM, my favorite part of going is always checking out the food aisles. I love all the international offerings as well as the funky, fun snacks they always have.

And I simply adore their chocolate selection. No visit to World Market is complete unless my basket has at least half a dozen different types of chocolate in it. On this particular trip I found a few tasty looking new treats to try.

fig and pistachio wrapperThe first one I grabbed was a World Market brand dark chocolate bar with fig pistachio filling. Although I am not a huge dark chocolate fan, I am trying to expand my horizons and find more dark chocolate I enjoy. Buying dark chocolate is always a risk for me. If it is paired with something super tart, like raspberry or lemon, I generally enjoy it. However, when it is paired with merely sweet or nutty flavors, I am often not a huge fan. Although neither figs nor pistachios are particularly tart, I love them both, so I figured this might be a risk worth taking.

The chocolate itself has the usual bitterness of dark chocolate. It is not so dark that I cannot eat it, but it is dark enough that I wouldn’t want to eat more than a small square of it on its own. The filling, which is supposed to be a mix of figs and pistachio has a very slight sweetness to it, which does offset the dark chocolate, but only very mildly. The filling has the grittiness of figs, but I had real trouble tasting any pistachio in it. There is a very slight creaminess to it that reminds me a teeny tiny bit of pistachios, but I’m not sure if that’s really there or if I’m trying to make some sort of connection.

fig and pistachio close upI gave my husband a square of the bar as well. He is the biggest pistachio fan I’ve ever met (he once even owned a pet chameleon named Pistachio). Without even a word from me, he commented, “Well, I can kind of taste the fig, but I don’t taste any pistachio.” My husband is not really a chocoholic, but he does like dark chocolate more than I do. He liked the piece but said he couldn’t eat an entire bar. Neither could I.

My kids both really liked it, but they also go gaga over plain ol’ Hershey bars and those cheap gold coins Santa leaves them in their stockings each year. My son has also eaten chocolate covered insects, so I’m not sure his love of it is quite the ringing endorsement it may initially seem.

Overall:

Taste: 4/10 (the flavors were too subtle for me)
Appearance: 6/10 (the packaging was very pretty and the bar was appetizing)
Value: 4/10 (the bar is about $4 for two servings, but I know I won’t eat any more of it)

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Wildcard Wednesday: Dieting update

popcornersI’ve been doing this whole eating better and exercising bit for 18 days now. I know that isn’t long, but considering the last few times I’ve tried to start I’ve quit before I even made it a full week, I’m feeling pretty good about my chances this time.

Not only have I kept my calories below 1600 every day for the past 18 (usually below 1400), I’ve been to the gym for 16 of the last 18 days. Each day I did 30 minutes of exercise on either the Arc Trainer, the elliptical, the treadmill or the stationary bike. I alternated each day so I never did the same activity twice in a row.

I knew I was going to have to ease myself back into this routine, which is why I started off at 1600 calories. If the last 30 so years of dieting and exercise have taught me anything, it’s that I don’t really like dieting or exercising, so if I am going to commit, I have to trick myself into doing it. Rather than jump back in all the way, slashing my calories by, well…let’s just say a large percentage, I have to dip my toes in and slowly warm up to this diet.

Right now I feel like not only are my toes in, but starting yesterday, I took my first step toward submerging myself in this diet. I dropped my calories to 1500 per day and upped my exercise to 35 minutes.

Image1In my 18 days, I’ve lost 3 pounds, which is really helping to motivate me. I’ve also cleaned out a lot of the junk food in my house and replaced it with healthier choices. I am CRAZY about chips and salsa. I know that while salsa is a great diet option, chips are a big no no. I know myself too well…one serving of tortilla chips is never enough.

As it happens, I was at World Market the other day and happened upon some fun, low calories snacks. One of the bags I grabbed was Salt of the Earth Popcorners by Our Little Rebellion. Not only are these delicious on their own, but dipped in salsa they taste a lot like tortilla chips. However, one ounce, which is a HUGE serving, has only 110 calories. I can heap them with salsa and get away with a snack that has about 150 calories. Tasty, satisfying and surprisingly filling. I also tried the same company’s Spicy Salsa Bean Crisps and fell in love. They have some nice heat to them and are also great dipped in salsa.

I did have a bit of a set back today though. I was craving a cheeseburger. I wanted one so badly. We’d been stuck in traffic on the way home from school for over an hour and I caved. I stopped at the McDonald’s drive-thru and got a burger and fries. However, thanks to my calorie conscious breakfast and lunch, I still have 130 calories left for the day–not that I plan to use them. A burger and fries were a big enough treat.

My ultimate goal is to lose 50 pounds. However, I think that might be more than a bit ambitious. I did it once before, but I was an awful lot younger back then. And I didn’t have children, so I could be more flexible with my diet and my workouts.

Still, I think I can at least lose 20, which would make all of my clothes fit better. I might even be able to drop 30, which would be my pre-second baby weight.

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Teaching Tuesday: Back to School

It’s official, we are back to school. While I was completely ready for my children to go back–they were extremely argumentative that last week–I was not ready to go back.

Ok, technically I was ready. My lesson plans were done. My courses were set up in Canvas, our classroom management system. My room was clean, in order and even had new posters and bulletin boards up. I had student books ready for distribution and class lists printed. My new grade book was sitting on my desk (although I can’t put names in it until the end of the second week as students are still dropping and adding classes now).

Anyone looking into my room on Monday morning at 8:00 am, would have seen a very prepared teacher.

Except, of course, I wasn’t. Not mentally anyway. My daughter woke up in the early hours of Monday morning. At 3:45 am to be exact. She had a nightmare about a zombie apocalypse. Despite not watching any shows/movies with zombies or playing any games with zombies, she has seen her older brother’s Plants vs. Zombies books and so bad dreams ensued. Even as I tried to console her and tell her zombies were not real, all she could do was cry, “but what if they are?!?!?!” There was no reasoning with her. So, I made the mistake of letting her spread her sleeping bag on our bedroom floor to finish out the night.

Not that either of us slept. I dozed off for just long enough to have not one, not two, but three dreams about sending her back to her room to sleep. Each one was interrupted by her making lots of noise. First she was “whispering” to the cat to come down and play with her. Then, she woke me up to tell me she heard some kind of buzzing noise in my room. Next, she woke me up again to tell me about the mysterious buzzing noise. She had a string of coughs that sounded decidedly fake. There was also general tossing and turning…all of which my husband slept through.

Finally, five minutes before my alarm clock was set to go off, she shouted out “YES!” so loud I almost fell out of bed. It seems it was close enough to wake up time, so she thought we should all just get up and get ready for our first day of school.

I did, but boy was I unhappy about it.

It doesn’t help that I don’t drink coffee and all my school teas are herbal, so there was not even an artificial pick me up for me.

I made it through the day though. My students all seemed fairly alert and as I looked out over my classroom to gauge how well they were handing the first day back, I got several enthusiastic head nods, a ton of smiles and even some laughter.

Although I was exhausted by the end of the day, I made it. And, when I picked my daughter up after school, even though we still had to get through some pretty major traffic and swim lessons, I liked her a lot more that afternoon than I had in the morning. At 4:00 her enthusiasm about her good day was endearing.

Despite a rocky start, I think it may be a good year.

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Throwback Thursdays: Doll Houses

dollhouse boxWhen I was a kid, one of my good friends had the most amazing dollhouse I’d ever seen. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was something straight out of a museum really. It actually reminds quite a bit of the dollhouse at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, although it might have been a tad bit smaller. I know the house had 8 rooms in it and was almost as long as we were if we laid down beside it. Not only was her dollhouse huge, but it was fully furnished with the tiniest and most detailed furniture and accessories I could imagine. The kitchen had tiny little fruits on the table. The baby’s room had a tiny cradle, and even tinier blankets and rattles. The laundry room actually had infinitesimally small boxes of laundry soap that we could actually read the names of.

While it was not behind glass, she was never really allowed to play with it. Or at least not when she had friends over. I’m not really sure if she got to play with it when she was alone. Not that it mattered to me. I was perfectly happy to spend hours just staring at all of the tiny fixtures in that amazing house. I am not sure I have ever envied anything the way I envied Tiffany’s doll house.

Well, maybe the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle dollhouse at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, but that was in an actual museum and had a weeping willow try that “wept” real water. Even though I got to see the Moore castle at least once a year when I visited my dad, to me that doll house was a true fairy tale, whereas Tiffany’s doll house, which I saw every couple of weeks, was a reality.

I had a few dollhouse-like toys. I had a Little People A frame dollhouse when I was really young. One year I got the Barbie Dream House for my birthday. That was amazing and I loved it greatly, but it didn’t quite fit the niche of the dollhouse I always wanted. Everything in it was plastic and for giant Barbies. There was nothing small and delicate and artistic about it.

I knew my parents couldn’t afford a dollhouse like the one Tiffany had, but it didn’t stop me from wanting one.

old dollhouseWhen I was in my late teens, my great-aunt, who knew how much I’d always loved dollhouses, gave me this one. It only has one room and after some recent research, I’ve learned it was sold in catalogs between 1910-1920 for about $1.25. When I was a kid, I remember it had some metal furniture that looked very old-fashioned (there was an ice box). While I don’t have any of the furniture, it looked just like the furniture found on this dollhouse history website that was manufactured between 1920-1930. This makes sense as my great-aunt was born around 1915 (there is some debate about what year she was actually born).

It was very sweet of my great aunt to give me this treasure of hers, but I was not only afraid of breaking it, but also a bit disappointed that there was only one room to decorate.

Even as an adult, I still wanted a dollhouse. There was a store, about two hours from my house in a crafty little town that sold doll house kits and all that perfect little, tiny furniture and whenever I visited, I used to spend forever in it. There was a hardware/crafty store I used to go into when I’d visit with my parents and they always had these amazing dollhouse kits. I knew I could never build one, but I would just stare wistfully. I remember telling my dad that when I had a daughter of my own, she was getting an amazing dollhouse.

Seven years ago, I finally had a daughter of my own and one of my first thoughts was: this little girl is getting a dollhouse. For her first birthday, my aunt got her her very first dollhouse: another Little People one. She definitely loved it. So did my son. It was perfect for her because at 1 most of her toys went straight into her mouth. It also got me dreaming about her “one day” dollhouse.

daddy doll houseFor Christmas that year, my dad surprised both my daughter and me by refurbishing a dollhouse that had belonged to the daughter of a friend of his. He didn’t tell me about his project because he wanted to surprise both of us. Even though he put all that time and effort into painting it and finding new carpet for the my daughter, as soon as I saw the house, I knew that he’d really done it for me. He knew how much the dollhouse meant to me and that while my daughter would eventually love it, she wasn’t even two yet, so she couldn’t appreciate it the way I did.

Little did I know that it would be my dad’s last Christmas with us. His beautiful gift, to both of us, is still something we both cherish, although my daughter is still a bit too young to realize the full importance of it.

Since he fixed up the dollhouse over 5 years ago, my daughter has added a couple of additional “dollhouses” to her room. Two Christmas’s ago, my aunt got my daughter Elsa’s Frozen palace. Although it’s a dollhouse the same way Barbie’s Dream House was (at least in my eyes), my daughter still calls it her dollhouse and loves it.

doll house backAnd earlier this week my daughter spent her very own money on a 3-D dollhouse puzzle by Melissa and Doug. Of course while my daughter spent her money on the dollhouse puzzle, it was really my son and I who put it together. My daughter has never been a huge fan of puzzles, however my son is obsessed. The newest dollhouse is pretty cute and actually has movable furniture, two dolls, a cat and a dog to play with. Unlike her Elsa castle it did not come pre-assembled, but the hour and a half we spent putting it together was considerably less than my dad spent on her first one. She loves it and it appears her room is now turning into a small village.

Unlike my friend Tiffany’s house, my daughter plays with all of her dollhouses. Right now two of them are full of large plastic doll furniture and dolls, but my daughter is only 7 and not quite ready to turn any of them into art pieces. She may never be. And that’s ok. As much as that perfect, beautiful dollhouse with the tiny oranges and paintings and delicate bedding was my dream, I love watching my daughter actually play with her dollhouse. I won’t lie and say that when all the furniture gets turned upside down, I don’t sneak in there and fix it. And it does pain me greatly when I see the mess she makes in the rooms. But, I take a deep breath and try to remember that my dreams are not her dreams. Just because I liked to play one way doesn’t mean she has to.

I may not have gotten to have the dollhouse I always dreamed of, but she gets to.

all three dollhouses

 

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Throwback Thursday: Strawberry Shortcake

Old School Strawbery SCWhen I was a child, there was not much I loved more than my collection of Strawberry Shortcake dolls. I can’t even count the number of hours I sat in my bedroom, Shortcake and friends spread all over my floor, creating elaborate stories of their lives. Although I saw all the 1980’s TV specials surrounding the Strawberry gang (Big Apple City being my favorite)* I preferred to have my dolls live out the adventures I came up with for them.

And I had to come up with a LOT of stories because I had a lot of dolls. With the exception of Peach Blush and Banana Twirl, I had every single member of the Shortcake collection. I even had both villains, the Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak (my mom loved to say his name) and Sour Grapes. My favorites were Mint Tulip (a world traveler from Holland) and every single one of the “baby” characters, but especially Lem & Ada because they not only smelled like lemonade, but came from England. Even in my early years I desperately wanted to be British!

I even had two of the large “blow a kiss” dolls, which really did live up to their names. Push on their tummies and they “blew” strawberry scented air at you. Plus, they were fairly cuddly, so I slept with mine.

I loved those dolls.

Sadly, when I moved in with my dad during high school, my mom decided to get rid of pretty much all of my toys. Out went my collection of Cabbage Patch Kids (including original preemies, astronauts, cornsilk hair, twins, and circus dolls). Out went all of my Barbies. Out went two first edition American Girl dolls and several of their accessories (Kirsten and Samantha). And out went my good friend Strawberry and all of her friends.

When I found out the fate of my beloved childhood toys, even though I was in college and married, the tears were real my friends.

Fast forward a few decades. I had a niece and while shopping for a present for her, I was delighted to see Strawberry Shortcake attempt a comeback. Sure, she wasn’t quite the same ol’ gal, but she still had a cute, if more modern dress and the delightful promise of a room filled with the light scent of artificial strawberry. Although my niece was a bit young for the dolls (she was born in 2003, same as the re-release), I was excited.

new strawberry shortcakeFast forward another decade later and I now had a daughter of my own. Not only that, she was just starting to hit the age I was when I got my first Strawberry Shortcake doll. I couldn’t resist. I had to get her one.

Even though Strawberry and her friends have been updated (their skirts are decidedly shorter I noticed), my daughter still loves them. She loves their brightly colored hair. She loves their yummy smells. She loves that I not only know the names of all of her dolls, but can tell her stories about playing with my own dolls…just like hers.

Strawberry classic in boxLast year when Kenner released the 35th edition Strawberry Shortcake, I thought I would lose my mind. Sure, she wasn’t the actual doll I played with as a child, but she looked just like her. She smelled just like her. With one click of a button, I was able to get a piece of my childhood back. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one nostalgic about her. My aunt, knowing how much of my life I devoted to the dolls, also bought me one. This meant that while I got to keep one, I could give the other to my daughter. Who loves her nearly as much as I did.

My happiness was increased while visiting Comic Con earlier this year. I came across a display of Pop! figures and found not just my beloved Strawberry Shortcake, but Lemon Meringue, Blueberry Muffin, Huckleberry Pie and even the nasty ol’ Pieman. I bought both Strawberry and Lemon (I’ve always been a sucker for lemon scented anything). They are both currently on display in my classroom. My students LOVE that the smell like fruit. That’s right, even the Pop! figures are scented.

I was even happier to find remakes of the original dolls on sale at Toys R’ Us. Although I haven’t bought them for my daughter yet, Christmas is coming and I think Santa might have to leave a pack (or two) in her stocking.

*I actually still can recall some of the lyrics to songs in several of the movies, specifically the movie song from Housewarming Surprise and the song Strawberry and Orange Blossom sing when they first meet each other in Big Apple City. My brain is a strange, strange place.

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