Friday, April 30, 2010

Label

I subscribe pretty strongly to the labeling theory in psychology. The basic premise of the theory is that human beings in general, and children specifically, will, with enough time and repetition, take on the character attributes that other people assign to them. If you call a child a bad boy or a bad girl long enough, they will become one. If you call someone shy, you make them more so. If you treat a child as though they are smart, they will think they are, and work to live up to the label. And vice versa. If you call a child slow or say they are behind or "low achieving", that's a label that will stick.

Of course labeling theory doesn't explain all human behavior. There are certainly examples that people could cite as proof that it fails. People who defied the labels they were given, in either direction. Becoming wildly successful after being labeled a problem child. Or failing miserably in school after being labeled a genius. But, in all honesty, I'd argue that those examples are more exceptions to the rule, not basis for the lack of general applicability of it.

The labeling theory, and my fairly strong belief that it is real, is the root of my problem with the most recent decision by the administrators at the school the kids go to. They are evaluating the children, from first grade on, determining where they fall in a range of achievement, and placing them in classes next year according to that evaluation. One of the main arguments for doing this is that it is too hard for the teachers to teach a wide range of ability levels. Sorry, I don't buy that as a legitimate reason for what they are doing here.

They say the classes will be mixed by ability levels to some degree. But, the high achieving children will not be placed with the low achieving ones. It's not going to be hard to figure out which class is which. And it isn't just the parents that will be able to figure it out. The kids will too.

I don't have any problems what so ever with stratifying instruction, tailoring it to the needs and abilities of the children. I don't even have issues with full time gifted and talented programs. I was a product of a district wide full time GT program. I don't have any problems with the children who are behind having more assistance to get them to grade level. I do have a problem, though, with grouping children as young as 5 and 6 year olds according to some ability measure, particularly when that ability level is being determined by what is most assuredly a flawed evaluation instrument. Not to mention the fact that some children, sometimes highly intelligent children, don't "click" with reading until near the end of first grade. Before even giving them a chance to excel though, the school seeks to categorize them.

And I have even more trouble with putting those children into classes on the basis of those evaluations when the teachers being assigned to the classes aren't necessarily being given any additional training for GT children, or below grade level children. I have issues with the "what to do with all the special needs/English language learners/behavior problems". Are those children all going to be grouped into the lower achieving class? By conventional assessments, that is where they would go for the most part. Is that fair to them? To their classmates? To the kids in the other classes, who will miss out on all the interactions with those children? I'd argue that it is not.

I also take fault in the manner the kids will be assessed. If you have a child who is exceptional in some subjects, but only average in others, which wins out? Where does that child go? What about the kids who have no attention span for standardized testing, but can blow you away by their grasp of concepts? Where do they go?

None of the concerns I have mentioned above come even close though to my main concern. My biggest fear is that the kids will figure this all out. That they will know that there are people out there seeking to pigeonhole them in elementary school. Categorize them. Label them. Make judgements about who is more intelligent. And who is not.

This isn't high school or middle school even. This is not a college preparatory academy. This is not a private school. This is not a magnet school. This isn't even among the highest achieving schools in the district anymore, though it used to be. This is an elementary school. These are children, young children. They are there to be taught and to learn. Not to be judged and grouped and labeled.

Ideally, of course, the teachers would be given the training and resources, and have the ability to teach to a wide range of kids. In my perfect world, the kids would be grouped at higher grade levels (3-5th) by subject, to allow for kids to learn at an appropriate pace for them. But it would be subject specific, not generalized. If there is truly enough need at the school for a full time GT class, then there should be one, taught by someone with expertise in the area.

What they are doing, and how they are doing it, though, is nothing like that. But then again, they didn't ask me.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Law

There is this thing called Murphy's Law. Essentially it boils down to this: whatever can go wrong, will. Sometimes I feel like my life is an experiment with this theory.

Take for instance, the day we got married. Lots of things went right that day, for sure. And most of the things that went wrong weren't noticed by anyone else. But a lot went wrong.

The florist made one too few bridesmaid's bouquets, so one of them had to carry the throw away bouquet. And of course, the last bridesmaid to arrive at the church, and by default the one obligated to carry the throw away - therefore essentially surrendering her flowers to be thrown in the air, was the bridesmaid I had several heated arguments with in the days leading up to the wedding.

As we lined up to walk down the aisle, Tom's brother, Tim, a groomsman, bent over to tie his shoes. And just like in all those cartoons, we heard an audible riiiiiiiiiiip noise as the seam in the back of his pants split wide open. With every step he took down the aisle, it ripped more.

My maid of honor tripped and fell on her way down the aisle, though she somehow managed to catch herself before she hit the ground and recovered nicely. If there is such a thing as gracefully falling, she mastered it.

During the ceremony, my bouquet fell apart. Once we got to the reception, the cake was atrocious. It looked absolutely nothing like it was supposed to, and the colors were insanely bright. The DJ did everything out of order. One of the bathrooms was destroyed by a guest. We are pretty sure which one...but he still won't admit it to this day.

Then there is the matter of the butterflies. I danced with my Dad to the song Butterfly Kisses, and he had apparently ordered tiny little butterflies for the guests to release during the dance. Except they all died the day before the wedding. It took years for my parents to tell me about that one. It was supposed to be a surprise.

We look back on the day and laugh now. But at the time it wasn't funny.

I'm sure that someday I will do the same about this week. Look back and laugh. Tell funny stories about bad timing and Murphy's Law. About how when our main floor bathroom was ripped to pieces the worst stomach virus in years worked it's way through the house. Sending people clenching and running and praying they'd make it up the stairs in time. Someday it will be funny. Someday.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fairies

My husband believes in fairies. Really, it's true. There isn't any other explanation.

He's been stuck in an annoying phase for some time now, and it's past the point of grating on my nerves. It's not really anything new, this phase of his. But for whatever reason, it goes through peaks and valleys of annoyance. Right now, he'd better be nearing the peak. Because I've about had enough.

I love my husband. But there are times that I want to kick him in the teeth too. Like recently, at least since he's been climbing towards the peak of most recent annoyance.

He has a job. One that requires him to be away from home a lot. Up until a few weeks ago, he was gone almost constantly. Tax season. Ah, the joys of living with someone in the public accounting field. I cut him some slack during tax season. He isn't here hardly at all, I have to do literally everything. Literally. It's funny to me that people on the outside of the industry always express sympathy for him, and how hard it must be for him to work all those long hours. Interesting. It doesn't occur to most people that all that extra time he is gone means that I have to do everything he should be doing at home on top of everything else I already have to do.

But tax season is over. I'd like a break, please.

That just doesn't happen though. Because now that tax season is over, he joined a tennis league. He needs to go practice or play games or hit the gym on the way home from work. I can just go to the gym anytime, he thinks. Well, anytime that all the kids are healthy, don't need picked up or dropped off from anywhere and are willing participants in the daycare room. Those three things hardly ever happen. But in his eyes, they do. His eyes need checked.

I have gift certificates for massages and pedicures that are unused. Because I can't make an appointment for anything I need to do and keep it. Something more important for him inevitably comes up. I've needed a haircut for a while now. The last two times I got my hair cut, I took the kids with me. He goes alone every time he needs his done, why can't I? I literally never, ever have time to myself.

Yes, he works. And he works hard. I'm not contesting that. But his day is easier than mine is on most days, I guarantee it. And, honestly, I just want him to recognize that. His day involves going to the bathroom alone. Eating his own lunch without having to feed someone else. He isn't in constant negotiations with whining preschoolers and chasing a twenty pound wrecking ball.

Instead of recognizing it, he mocks it. Tells me that I have no room to complain about all the things I have to do, much of which is cleaning up after him, a perfectly capable adult, because I don't have a job. This is my job.

I don't have an issue with being a stay at home mom. Really, I made my peace with it a while ago. I have to admit being a little envious of the friends I have that have managed to perfectly balance work with home, who developed home based work environments in the fields they are trained in. I never had the chance to do that. My kids came sooner than planned. Part of me wishes that I could be like them. But a bigger part of me stopped asking what if a long time ago. There isn't much benefit to wondering what if.

What bothers me, angers me even, is the fact that my husband seems to have little appreciation for all the things I do around here. He acts like my contributions to our family are meaningless because I don't get a paycheck at the end of the week.

He couldn't do what I do. He wouldn't last a week.

I've had "real" jobs. They are far easier than what I am doing now. Far easier.

I've tried to force my husband to believe that fairies don't exist. But in his world, they do. I've tried. I let the laundry go for an entire week once, just to show him that it matters. I have gone on kitchen strike before too, refusing to do the 2-3 loads of dishes we generate a day. He doesn't care. He won't do it. It's like he doesn't see it. Eventually I give up the game, because it all drives me crazy long before he notices.

He really and truly believes, I think, that the stuff just magically gets done. That someone cleans the house, picks up his shoes, buys his deodorant, fills the fridge with food. Cause it can't be me. I don't have a job.

He'd better be near that peak and on the way down. I've had it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Served

I had to laugh today. Some people just make me do that from time to time.

I think that in this life you are either the kind of person who likes to do things yourself, or you want other people to do them for you. I am in the first category for sure. Almost too much. I have a hard time asking for help, delegating. I don't want to need other people.

I know lots of people who fall into the second category. We all do. Some of you out there reading this will probably put yourself into that group. There are lots of things in this world that are unpleasant to do. That people are more than happy to have others help with. To pay for other people to do for them.

I don't have an issue with that, really. If you are lucky enough to have people willing to do those things for you, more power to ya. If you have the financial resources to pay other people to do the unpleasant things so you don't have to, great. Happy for you. Really.

The times I am amused, like this morning, are for a different reason. When people, perfectly capable of completing basic, simple tasks themselves expect other people, sometimes strangers, to do it for them. That sense of expectation, that there are things beneath them. That other people are supposed to do for them. I think it's the sense of entitlement that gets to me.

I saw a mom, who I happen to know, in the parking lot at the grocery store this morning. Her cart, carrying her child (who is really too big to be sitting in the cart still), and two small bags of groceries, was being pushed by one of the store employees.

Really?

I have graciously accepted help out to the car with groceries only a handful of times. The only time I ever did, I was pregnant. Very pregnant. And wrangling toddlers at the same time. I tend to think that the grocery clerks are there to help for times like that. When someone actually needs it. Not just because they want it.

But then, I guess that is the difference between her and I.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Six

I've spent a lot of time working to get things together for today. And it went well. I will write about the party tomorrow. Today, though, I won't.

At some point, midway through sweeping my kitchen floor after all the guests had left, it hit me. What happened six months ago. When I was supposed to be happy, celebrating something that day and instead received very different news. When my world stopping spinning the way it was supposed to and time picked up and started to run faster than it ever had before.

Time frames. I think about them a lot these days. How much time has passed. And what that means.

I would give anything to go back to that day, six months ago and change it all. To take back the words that were said that day by others far away. To change what the future held. Change how much things would be different.

One of my favorite songs growing up was this one, by Jim Croce. It's always reminded me of my Dad. But now, it does even more so. I love you, Dad.

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day
Till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I'd save every day like a treasure and then
Again, I would spend them with you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I've looked around enough to know
You're the one I want to go through time with

If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
That box would be empty
Except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I've looked around enough to know
You're the one I want to go through time with

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ichO7gAeOGE

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Contained

I love boxes. Baskets. Drawers. Containers. Love them all. Almost in a weird way. I fully admit to being borderline OCD about it. Even worse than my outright love of containers is my need for symmetry. Balance. Yes, my containers have to be symmetrical. It's a sickness, I know.

I love organization, though you'd never believe it from looking at my house. Trouble is, I'm the only one that lives here who passionately loves organization. And it's not the kind of thing that can occur when only one of six people embrace it.

I was reminded yesterday of how much I adore organization. How things are supposed to have a place. And those things that have places are supposed to be put back where they belong.

I'm outnumbered. Clearly.

I decided to tackle the former office/future guest room/ current clutter magnet. It's hard to take one room, already small and multipurpose and force it to have more things and more purposes. But I'm working on it. Once I can get it organized, I tell myself, that it should cease to be the clutter magnet. Because if it's clean and the things inside it have a place, then no one can easily justify just throwing stuff in there randomly and closing the door. Right?

Okay, so I'm a bit delusional.

Clutter is my enemy. And really, most of the random stuff cluttering up the room has been moved to the basement, or as I like to refer to it, the black hole. I'm a little afraid of the basement, frankly. It's that bad. I need to get that organized too, but it's just too big, too daunting, too messy to even think about it.

That, my friends, is why basements have doors. To contain the chaos.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Brewing

It's Spring here, officially. I don't go by any calendar. I don't care what the date says. It doesn't matter when the temperature spikes or when the nights stop dipping below freezing with regularity. Spring is measured differently here. By the sky.

Spring began yesterday.

We had our first fully-fledged afternoon thunderstorm of the year. The first time we cleaned up all the backyard toys and made sure that the patio umbrella was closed completely and unplugged the computer. The first time the kids turned off all the lights in the house. Well, almost all of the lights. We can't sit completely in the dark and watch nature's light show. We must always have one light on, somewhere, just in case it gets too scary.

It always takes a few weeks to get the kids used to the weather around here once it starts. Aidan heard a plane flying overhead right after the sky darkened and immediately wondered if it was a siren. I humored the kid and stuck my head out the door, pointed to the sky and told him that it was just a plane. There would be no sirens today. Maybe another day. But not today.

It was the first time that AJ really saw lightning. Obviously, we had it last year and the year before, but this is the first time he's really seen it. Like, really seen it. The lightning wasn't so bad, but the thunder caught him a little off guard and he wasn't quite sure what to make of it. His sisters alternating between yelling "whoa!" and cowering under a blanket didn't help.

It took a while for them to settle last night. The storm got them all fired up. This is what draws people to chase storms. The adrenaline.

The powerful beauty of nature is overwhelming, and the first good thunderstorm of the year was a reminder. How it can amaze you and humble you all at the same time. Make you feel small and helpless, but awed simultaneously.

This storm gave me a gift last night.

It brought me all of my children sitting on my lap in a mostly darkened room, huddled beneath a window, asking questions and watching the skies above.

The storms are brewing. It is Spring.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Leap

You know that you are getting old when you start to be able to relate to something on just about any show on television. When you can remember going through something like what the characters went through. Feeling the same feelings. Worrying about the same things. Seeing it presented in moving pictures is different though. Makes the real memories come back vividly.

Last night we watched one of the shows we always watch. How I Met Your Mother. And one of the characters bought a house. An old house, with flaws and imperfections. It needed work. A lot of work. His friends were convinced he was crazy. This? He wants to buy this? But he saw something in it. Potential. Possibilities. His future. And I laughed a little. Because we've been him. Twice.

When we bought the condo, it just seemed to make more sense. At the time, I was pregnant, though that baby wasn't destined to make it. We didn't know that of course, and knew that we needed a bigger place if we were to become parents. Renting a bigger apartment started not to make sense when we realized it would be cheaper to buy something than rent. (This, clearly, was before the housing bubble grew and burst in Southern California.)

So we started looking. We found something fairly quickly, and I'm not quite sure what we saw to be honest. A three bedroom condo. It was big, yes. It was in a nice area, yes. It was further out than we lived and further than we really wanted to live, but it would work. Except it had some issues. No air conditioning, in inland east county. Luckily we bought it in January and the heat didn't scare us away. The prior owner had replaced all the carpet, which was nice, but had not installed things like screens and ceiling fans. The kitchen had been tiled at some point, but rather than move the appliances to tile it properly, whoever did it tiled around the appliance feet. Totally not kidding. The stove/microwave combo unit looked like had last been used in the mid 80's. And it took one glance at the the washer/dryer to know that it wasn't going to work either. To top it all off, there was a drawer completely missing in the kitchen. Gone.

We didn't see all those things. We knew we'd have to replace the appliances, fix the floor, and probably remodel the entire kitchen, but we didn't really see those things. We saw a home for our family. Possibilities. Potential. A future. By the time escrow closed, the baby was gone. And we no longer really needed, nor wanted that condo. But we lived there. We made it ours. We made it better. And eventually, we brought home a different baby.

Fast forward to the next home. Our first house. It made the condo look, well, glamorous. It was a fixer upper in the truest sense of the phrase. I remember the look on my Dad's face when we brought him in for the first time, proud to be showing off our new purchase. He tried so hard to be happy for us. But I could tell even then that he thought we'd lost our collective mind.

It was a house, but it wasn't much bigger than the condo. It had a yard and a garage. The counter in the kitchen was broken. There were missing cabinets and no dishwasher. The living room was covered with wood paneling and popcorn ceilings were in most of the house. The carpet was so dirty there were tiny little puffs of dust when you walked on it. There were random holes in the walls. A wall air conditioner was there, but it didn't work. The heat smelled like smoke. The fence was collapsing in the backyard, half of which was occupied by a gigantic tree.

The configuration of the house was mind boggling. The prior owner decided that an 800 sq. ft., 2 bedroom house was too small, so they built an addition. In the dumbest way possible. The door to the "new" master bedroom was actually part of the wall. My brother jokingly called it the Batcave.

Every single part of that house needed work. And not little touch up work. Like major, strip it to nothing and start from scratch work. And we did most of it ourselves. We worked on that house from the day we moved in until the day we left. That house was adorable when we sold it. But it sure didn't start out that way. We really were crazy. I'm shocked no one told us just how crazy we were. I guess by then they figured we saw something in it they didn't. I suppose that we must have.

Like the character in the show tonight, we just took a leap one day. We didn't know how it would end up. We didn't know if it would work. We just knew that we saw some potential. Possibility. A future.

As crazy as it may sound, I miss that tiny little house. I poured my heart and soul, my sweat and tears, my hopes and dreams into it. We got new and shiny when we moved here. But new and shiny isn't all it's cracked up to be. Sometimes old and dusty and strange is better. Sometimes that feels more like home.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Out

I've had to work a bit harder than normal to find things that bring me joy lately. Life has just been so chaotic and sad for a while, that I needed what I got last night more than I could have ever known.

I needed to put my flip flops on a little too early and chuckle at the people bundled up at the soccer games. Me and my toes are willing it to be warm.

I needed to get fired up at the injustices in the world and laugh at the irony of the fact that those who make the most ridiculous rules for the kids at school are usually childless.

I needed my husband home on a Saturday.

I needed to dust sand off the toes of my babies as they came in from the yard.

I needed a nice, gentle rainstorm.

I needed to sit and snuggle with a little boy, one who demanded my undivided attention. right. now.

I needed to stand out in my front yard and drink beer with the neighbors and watch all the kids playing in the warm afternoon sun.

I needed to bake something from scratch. More than one something.

I needed a good old fashioned grilled hamburger for dinner.

It's Spring. Long nights sitting in driveways, laughing with our friends, boys throwing footballs, bike baskets and streamers, watching little girls skip holding hands await me. There is a little boy eager to keep up with the big kids this year.

Can't wait to be out there.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Old

I feel old today.

I know that I'm not. Not really, anyway. I'm still in that 18-35 demographic. But I feel a lot older than that right now. Physically, emotionally, I'm just not ready to feel as old as I do right now.

In the last few days, I've stressed my body more than it's used to. Moving lots and lots of mulch out of the kid's play area, and giving myself only a few hours to get it all done in. Moving lots and lots of sand around that same play area once it was dropped off in heaps by the wheelbarrow toting men in my life.

I had a hard time sleeping my back was so sore. My knees weren't happy to begin with since the weather changes constantly this time of year. My built in weather prediction center, those knees. I don't need a meteorologist. Add all the moving and bending and lifting and heaving, and they are not happy. My hands hurt from the blisters that I should know better than to have in the first place. Eventually, someday, I may realize that gloves are my friend and I should use them. Maybe.

I can remember when I could do things like this for days on end and barely ache. Those days are gone. But it's not just the fact that my body hurts and feels old right now. I see things I don't like in the mirror these days. The wrinkles, the fine lines, the crow's feet.

As I am sitting here typing right now, I am looking at my hands and I am seeing hands that must belong to someone else. Someone older than me. My skin doesn't look that way, does it? But those hands are mine. And yes, my skin does look that way. I can remember in college, my boss at the time always commented on how pretty my hands were. How young they were. I used to brush off her compliments, thinking she must have seen something else. But now I know what she meant. Because my hands don't look that way anymore.

I've graduated from oily skin light moisturizers to thick dry skin creams. I don't need to remove oil from my skin anymore, I need to replace it. I need to exfoliate. To scrub. I start to resemble an alligator if I forget to put lotion on for too many consecutive days.

Helped along by all the things going on in my life, my hair is changing too. Though it started turning long ago, when I was barely in my twenties, it is speeding towards gray faster and faster now. It used to be smooth and sleek, straight as an arrow without any effort on my part. It's become drier, more coarse with time. Wavy. It's no longer a matter of highlights or accents that I want, it's covering the gray roots that I need. And really, gray is a generous description of the hairs. More like white. Wild and crazy, they stick up and out and cannot be tamed. They refuse sometimes to be dyed at all, defying my wishes to make them appear younger.

I can color my hair. I can find thicker creams and moisturize. I can stretch and strengthen my body. But I can't stop the clock from running.

I can't stop aging.

Let's just hope I can do it gracefully.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Over

Another year down. Another season done. Another hangover. Not mine, but his.

When he starts to wonder why he keeps doing this, and I can't help but agree.

You'd think that by now he'd be old enough to have outgrown the need to drink in excess to celebrate the end of tax season. But no.

I learned a very long time ago not to let him get away with it though. He's got stuff to do today. Hang over or not, there is a play area that has his name all over it. I cleared all the existing mulch out of it yesterday, with the help of some little people. One of which who fell asleep, literally at the dinner table working on his homework, just after getting out of the shower. A little manual labor is good for them, right?

We worked pretty hard to get it ready for him. He has no excuse that the area isn't prepped. He won't be able to escape finishing it now as we very well can't leave it the way it currently is.

I'll have the coffee, the tylenol and a shovel waiting in the morning.

There's a honey-do list, and it starts April 16th.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Signs and Shade

In the past week, two things that strike me as very odd have happened at the school the kids attend. The kind of things that just make you want to bang your head on the wall. Wonder what has happened to the world we live in. How did things get to be this way?

The first is a sign. A couple of them, actually. What is a sign anyway? It's just a piece of sheet metal, perched upon a pole, really. It has no authority. No enforcement ability. No recourse if you disobey it. It's a scare tactic. A warning. A reminder of some rule or law that is supposed to be followed, presumably because it makes sense.

Some signs exist to point out the obvious to people too stupid, unaware or selfish to do the right thing without being reminded. The pull up lane outside school is a perfect example of this. Painting the curb red wasn't good enough, even though that pretty universally means it's a fire zone. Signs reminding people that it was a fire zone, and that they couldn't park there had to be installed. And there are a handful of people that still do it anyway. Apparently, they can't read.

While the school is in the mood to put up signs pointing out the obvious, maybe they should add a few more. Like "Don't leave children in unattended, running cars in the parking lot" and "Don't park in a handicapped space unless you are handicapped" and "No, this really isn't a parking space". But that would just be crazy. Or would it? Some people need the signs obviously.

The sign I am referring to isn't directed to the parents at school though. It's directed at the kids. In the very place that they are supposed to be able to release their pent up energy, to use their outside voices, to run and play and laugh, they are now supposed to obey the new signs. The ones that remind them to be courteous to their neighbors and respect their peace and quiet. One cranky person backing up to the school, who happens to work nights, took it upon his or herself to complain enough that they actually put up these signs. Sorry. Last time I checked, schools were full of children. Yes, they can be loud. If you don't want the potentially loud noises that come with children, don't live there. Period.

I heard a parent at school come to the defense of the homeowner. Something about how the house was built before the school. While this might be true, the property was in the hands of the district already and slated for development as a school. If you don't want to live by a school, then don't. If you choose to, deal with it. It's not the fault of 400 children that you work at night. Why is it their responsibility to be quiet for you?

Rather than defend the rights of the children to play and run and laugh, the district put up these signs. What is wrong with people?

The second stroke of genius at school made me laugh out loud, literally. It's that insane. The preschool and kindergarten playground is on the West side of the school, and the equipment gets very hot in the afternoon sun. For years, they have been asking for a shade structure of some kind to cover the equipment, so that the kids could actually play on it year round, regardless of how hot the sun was that day. The district didn't care. Until now. They were cited for not having a shade area in the playground. So they put in a shade structure. Good, right? Not so much.

The brand spanking new shade structure was installed over the tiny patch of grass, not over the play equipment. Apparently, the grass needs to be shaded. Because, well, shade is good for grass, right? Genius.

And they wonder why our education system is failing. Perhaps these two events shed some light on the reason. There is no common sense left. The best interests of the kids aren't really the primary motivator for anything anymore. One whiny person can spoil the fun for everyone. And grass, apparently, needs shade.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Crisp

Today is one of those absolutely, indisputably, perfect Colorado days. The air is clear and crisp. It's just right. Not too hot, not too cold. Just the slightest hint of a breeze every now and again. One of the days when you can't help but be amazed just looking around. Like this is a postcard from somewhere beautiful, except I am lucky enough to live here.

The snow covered mountains frame the backdrop for every view. The puffy white clouds float effortlessly by. The new growth on plants reach for light, soaking up the rays. Hints of flowering bulbs emerging, the slightest pieces of color starting to show. Birds chirping.

The smell of a freshly cut lawn. Hoses and shovels and rakes. The noises of my children happily playing outside, free from heavy coats and boots. The clinking of the chain on the swing set. Sunflower seeds. Patio umbrellas.

Sandals and shorts and sunglasses. Cheeks rosy from the sun. Ponytails and baseball caps.

Spring. Isn't it magnificent?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Desert

Out in the desert
Where gamblers roam
A man and a woman
Glad not to be home

Sit by the river
Take in the sights
Win big on the slots
Walk under the lights

Just for a little
Forget what you can
Enjoy just being there

Again hand in hand

Live for the moment
Find joy in each hour
Smile just to do it
Harness the power

Of love and of life
Of having each other
Have a fabulous time
My father and mother

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Therapeutic

Writing is therapeutic for me. It often helps me work through the thoughts and feelings and events in my life in a unique way. There is just something inherently valuable in the written (or more correctly, the typed) word. Something about letting the words escape the confines of my brain, and putting them into a form for others to see.

There are times that composing even a long post here can take just minutes. It's as if my thinking shuts off and my hands are indirectly controlled by some remote force. The words spill out of my mind through my fingers quickly, sometimes almost too fast for me to keep up with them.

Then there are the times like now. When I have to think very intently about what I am writing. When I have to censor myself. When I hold back from saying exactly what I am feeling. When I have to bottle up those words that so desperately want to be free.

I always had a diary as a teenager, but this is no diary. I've opened it up for the world to see, and I can't just always write about what I would like to.

This isn't a diary.

There are times like today that I would write and write and write about what I really feel. About what my thoughts really are. About my fears. My struggles. The things in my life that I long for. But this isn't a diary.

I could do all of those things, it's true. I could write about them. But I won't. I can't without prying deep into the lives of others and releasing their secrets for the world to see. There are some who have asked that I leave them out of my writing. I try as best as I can to honor those requests. But there are times, like today, when all I can think of is them and their situations and how it all relates to me.

I could write today. But I won't.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Blades

I could sit all day and watch Spring snow melting. It's just about almost as beautiful disappearing as it is when it is falling. With every melted drop of clear pure water, a little bit of new is revealed beneath. We have rain here this time of year, but every so often we get a good snow too. It's a far better way to water the lawn, I think.

This time of the year, it almost never sticks to the roads. The snow stays well behaved, neatly tucked onto the plants and rocks and grass. Leaves the streets and the sidewalks clear. Decorative snow is what I call it. It's pretty without interfering much with life.

Is this the last snow of the year? Maybe, maybe not. The year before last, we awoke to a dusting the week before the kids got out of school in May. Snow can stick around that long in these parts. And it will be back before we know it.

I don't mind though. I love the snow. Especially this kind.

I needed it today. I needed to wake up and pour a cup of coffee and sit and watch the flakes fall from the heavens above. I needed to see everything fresh and clean and still and quiet.

Life has a way of throwing some curve balls at you. I feel like I've been up to bat for a while now. But at least for a little while today, I could just stand at my window and take in the beauty of freshly fallen snow, the tiniest blades of new green grass poking up from underneath.

There is hope. There is new. If those tiny little pieces of grass can find a way to fight through inches of heavy wet snow, I can too.

Just to feel the sunlight.

It's amazing the perspective a little bit of frozen water can provide, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Alone

Music has a way of reaching into the deepest parts of my soul, and there are times that I swear the radio is connected directly to my heart. I know that the songs on the radio are mostly just randomly chosen by some person. There are the popular ones in heavy rotation, the others requested, yes. But there are others too. The songs that I haven't heard in months or years. The songs that seem as though they are playing just for me. That person who selected them knows nothing about me or my life or my journey yet they choose that exact song at that exact time. It can't just be a coincidence, can it? Once or twice, perhaps. But it has happened far more often than to just chalk it up to chance.

They are my songs. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't claim any ownership to them. Or really any level of sentimentality prior to hearing them at the precise moment they are played for me. But they find me at just the moment I need them.

And last night, it happened again.

At the end of a very long road home, it happened. After days of driving away from where I feel like I should be, that familiar interlude started. And instantly I knew that this was one of my songs. It told me that though my heart is torn and my wish to be in two places at once will never be fulfilled, it is okay. Because the person who I need to be there for knows that I am with him always in my heart and mind, and that I will drop just about anything to be there in person.

You are not alone
For I am here with you
Though you're far away
I am here to stay
You are not alone
I am here with you
Though we're far apart
You're always in my heart
- Michael Jackson, "You Are Not Alone"

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tired

It's late. And I'm tired. Like so far beyond tired that there aren't words to describe it properly. I'll write more tomorrow when things calm down a little.

In the last 10 days, I've driven over 2500 miles. To the coast and back again. Without even seeing the ocean.

I've spent way too much time in a confined space.

I've decided that the state of Arizona needs to find funding for their rest stops and road repairs.

I've been blown around by the crosswinds so much that my arms and my shoulders and my back are sore.

I've determined that there are many more areas of the country that I don't ever need to revisit.

But it was worth it.

It was worth it because it wasn't for me.

I love you Dad. And we all miss you already.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Almost

It's almost over. Another one bites the dust. Tax season.

You'd think that by now I would be used to it. That I would have adjusted to life without my husband around hardly at all for months on end. Nah.

The home stretch is always the hardest too. Again, you would think that it would get easier the closer you get to the end. Nope. It gets harder. The deadlines loom nearer. The pressure mounts. The stress peaks. The hours stretch longer and longer until it seems like he should just set up a cot at work. All he really does when he comes home is sleep anyway.

This year has been rougher than usual, for several reasons. Not the least of which is the fact that he's been sick. Usually, he has some bizarre tax season immunity. I think this is the first year that he's actually been ill during it. Almost every year, he gets really, really sick right after it ends. But his body didn't want to wait this year. So, he been even more tired and run down than usual. Add to that all the other things going on in our universe right now, and we're both just exhausted.

Trouble is, life keeps going on, regardless of tax season. The kids still need their father, even when he is tired and worn out and sick. The little time they get with him this time of year means everything to them.

He needs to able to sleep more. Worry less. Take care of him better.

It's almost over. Almost.

Friday, April 2, 2010

High

One of the best things about having kids is that you get to indulge in what would otherwise be strange and guilty pleasures. You just get to blame the kids. You get to listen to cheesy music. You get to play with toys. You get to go to amusement parks and ride the kid rides. You get to watch kid movies, and no one looks at you funny.

Ashley is obsessed with the High School Musical movies. She even had a HSM birthday party last year. I'm not quite sure why, but we had a break of at least a few months where she didn't mention it at all. We didn't listen to the CD. We didn't watch the movies. I started to miss Troy and Gabriella and Sharpay.

Then, as if she sensed my feelings, she asked if we could watch one of the movies. YES! Of course, I didn't show how excited I was. That would just be taking it too far.

The third movie in particular is good. I know I'm going out on a limb here, but I think they are pretty well done. The third one is the closest to my heart because so much of what happens in it happened in my life. The high school sweethearts. The decisions about where to go to school - near each other or away. To stay together or break up. Having everyone give you vastly different advice. Not knowing what you want to be when you grow up. Not knowing if you are ready to grow up.

The kids like it just because it has pretty people singing and dancing to catchy songs. But we (and when I say we, I mean Tom and I, seriously), like it because it takes us back to that time a little. And as much as it is a dramatic presentation of what high school life is like, and everything is exaggerated and accompanied by background music, it's pretty darn accurate as far as the basics of the story go. About the inner struggles of being at that point in your life. At least for us it is.

It's funny, because the kids know we were together in high school. Aidan has asked a few times if it was like that for us. And it was, to some degree. Ally is more concerned about knowing whether we sang and danced all the time in high school. Okay, so it wasn't exactly like that. But it was pretty close.

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