Thursday, May 24, 2012

Clearly, he is kin to Amy.

My name is John. I am a
blak widow. One day I spon
a web that was so stiky, that
I cot 10 flys befor you
could say chimy changa.
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1st grade, down. Bring on the future, he says.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Have I already posted this one? Does it matter?

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This is what happens when they send you a color catalog from the seed company.

 What, pray tell, does one do with Chioggia beets?

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A Cousin Story

Since it's the end of the school year, John has been coming home with loads of written work and art projects. This is one of my favorites, which he had drafted and revised several times.

So proud of my budding writer and artist!
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I think this is what they mean about "making the difference in the life of a child."

Brian came home with this letter the other day.  He had biked home in the rain, so it got a bit damp.  It is written by one of his former 4th grade students, Caleb.  The student had mailed it to Brian's current school. 
A couple of fun tidbits:
  • This student's father was the minister of the church where there is a preschool into which Sam is hoping to be accepted. 
  • Both the former student and his mother (and me and all others who know & love Brian) were concerned about his refusal to wear a helmet.  So at the end of the year as a teacher gift, Caleb and his family gave Brian a helmet.  He wears it now, but only with the strap UNbuckled.  Argh. 
Anyway, I think this is such a classic Brian letter ... he gets this sort of thing occasionally, but they're usually not this well written.  Hello Metro Public Schools?  This is hands-down better proof of his efficacy than any test scores or teacher evaluations:
Dear Mr. Becker,

This is Teacher Appreciation Week, and it made me think of you.  It's been several years since I have seen you.  I ended up going to Head Middle Magnet in downtown Nashville after being in your fourth grade class.

I loved being in your class.  You always made it fun.  It was great when you let us play soccer and played with us.

After my fifth grade year at Head, we moved to Tullahoma, a small town in the southern part of Tennessee.  I attend West Middle and made the middle school soccer team here.  We enjoy the town.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for being my teacher.  You were the best.  Thanks a lot!

Your former student,
Caleb T. Purdue

p.s.  My mom wants to know if you're using that bike helment we got you.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012


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What John is WRITING

 It is currently 4 pages long, but I'm not allowed to share the rest yet.
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How I Cooked Dinner Tonight

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Replace the half-bald guy with me. Please.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

We went to a gala.

Who'd've thunk it?  11 years.  (and p.s., Who'd have thunk a triple contraction?)
On Cinco de Mayo, there was a gala benefit & auction for John's school.  Because they offer a Spanish immersion curriculum, they need more money (the state does not pay for Spanish versions of math & science textbooks).  So every year they have a big party and everyone dresses up.  We couldn't go last year due to a baseball game.  This year I really wanted to go and Brian really didn't, so I texted him one day with this simple message: GOING TO GALA.  WOULD U LIKE 2 B DATE OR SITTER?

And that was the end of that.
This year the party was held at the Children's Theater, and it was fabulous.  Very festive and well organized.  But walking into that room felt like entering a senior prom when you're in 9th grade. There was everything from long, flowy, chiffon (possibly recycled bridesmaid) dresses to pajama bottoms and a sportcoat. 
(Side note:  If something is underlined or in a different color, or BOTH (like "Children's Theater" above), you can click on it, and it will take you to an explanation.  This has come up via email a couple times lately regarding the words "slacks" and "earbug" in previous posts).

Unhappy with my own dress-up options (which included too tight, too wintery, or too eggplantish), I borrowed a dress from my friend (thanks Lauren!).   Actually, I borrowed several dresses from several friends and let Brian choose (thanks Elizabeth, Susan, Vanessa & Leda!).

I wish I could tell you that Brian chose the one that Lauren wore when her daddy was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame last year (see pic below), but alas, the color of that one made my skin look autopsy-ish.

Below is Lauren and her father, Bobby Braddock ("He Stopped Loving Her Today" (George Jones), "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" (Tammy Wynette), and most recently "People are Crazy" (Billy Currington).
Here is my friend. She does not look like death. She never does. She writes books and songs and acts and mommies a first grader and teaches water zumba in addition to being cute.

(I want to, but just cannot bear to get going about how my friend's dad was inducted with Reba, or how my friend got to meet Reba while wearing a dress that is hanging in my closet but which I couldn't wear on account of already spending nearly $200 on gala tickets and a babysitter and thus not being able to afford a spray tan.  You see, I am a recovering Rebaddict.  There was a period in my life when I essentially lived under the bottom shelf in my walk-in- loset, with nothing but a mirror, a bag of make-up, and some Reba tapes.  Fancy was MY name (except the part where Fancy becomes a prostitute due to her mother's encouragement and poverty).

But I digress ...

To the gala I wore a different Lauren dress: a black and white strapless floral number with red piping, accompanied by red patent flats & lipstick (sort of a 50s look) ... roughly this, but with more show-stopping lipstick:

Brian wore an all-black-Johnny-Cash-like outfit with a bolo tie.  It was his special theme for the night because part of the silent auction was a two-canvas painting his sister did of The Man in Black:

Prior to the event, there was an online auction.  Then the first activity of the night was the silent auction.  Finally, after dinner, the event culminated in a live auction with a real and not-as funny-as-he-thinks-he-is auctioneer.

We did not bid on anything.  (See previous note about inability to get spray tan; same logic applies.)

There were lots of supercool things up for grabs, including John's 1st grade class art project (Mrs. Torbert's class), which went for $450.  Mrs. Davenport's class art project yielded $600.  She either has an inordinate number of budding artists, or a bunch of kids whose parents are doctors. VIP tickets to Bonaroo went for nearly $2,000. Another big ticket item was dinner for 11 people from a popular local restaurant & entertainment from the Viktor Krauss Band (yes, Alison's brother -- her niece and nephew (Viktor's kids) go to school with John).  Et cetera ad nauseum.  They raised $60,000. 

Yes, an entire upper-middle class income.

I was pretty horrified by the live auction, considering that there are hungry children less than a block from where we were partying, but prior to that we had been served cream-cheese-stuffed jalapeno peppers wrapped in BACON, so I was tolerating it.  But I'd like to end this paragraph by saying that this is just one more example of why there is inequity in public schools. 

One of the worst moments of the night was when my friend Margie got up to give her PTO President Thank You speech.  (Margie was one of the members of the Wilson-Phillips trio that I headed up last fall at another fundraiser.)  The speech was fine, but one of the audience members -- who has a kid in John's class -- thought it would be really cute and funny to sing a verse of "Hold On for One More Day" at the beginning of the speech.  And the first verse was sort of humorous.  It was the second and third verses and all the choruses and bridges in between that somewhat dampened things. 

And all this time I am alternately thinking about local hungry children and reminiscing about the bacon-wrapped jalapenos. 

So anyway, we spent a lot of money and didn't bid on one thing.  But such is the life of two teachers.  At least we have time off to garden and listen to old Reba tapes from the tape deck of our 1995 Geo Prism (thanks Bruce!).


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Make LOVE, NOT War

I swear I'm not a hippy.  I was born way too late for that and besides I am functionally middle aged.  But during the last week I've been having to work extra hard at keeping my inner-hippy at bay because it seems that I am surrounded by wars, which I am, in general, against. 

In case you haven’t heard, there’s lots of warring amongst us: culture wars, political wars, wars against terror, religious wars, etc. I read about these wars and listen to people talking about them on NPR, but there’s only one war that I readily participate in everyday, and it’s commonly referred to as “The Mommy War.” There are various battles going on simultaneously in this war: staying home vs. working, breast vs. bottle, co-sleeping vs. cry-it-out, spanking vs. time-out, home vs. regular school, etc. There are lots of et ceteras when one is discussing war.

Unlike a barrage of people on talk shows and social media sites, I define my mommy war in a different way. My mommy war is not about choosing a side on the issues of staying home vs. working, breast vs. bottle, or spanking vs. time-out. I'm actually for all of the above, whatever works, anything that allows you to sleep and have sanity enough such that you do not find yourself daydreaming about the isolation of a mental institution.  The war I’m fighting is with myself. My enemies are many and all unseen (unless you’re in the foxhole of my head).  Am I fighting with the children?  Yes, but they are not the enemy.  Am I fighting with my husband?  Sometimes, but we are still on the same team.  Am I fighting against the voice in my head telling me to grab the dark chocolate almonds and hightail it to the beach?  Almost more than anything.

I started thinking about this several weeks ago, when I began reading the memoir Making Babies by Anne Enright. And then Time Magazine fanned the flames of the breastfeeding discussion amongst Americans of all types (mothers, of course, but also – according to my Facebook research – there are men and women who are not mothers involved in this particular battle of The Mommy Wars). I’m not one to lay down a whole lot of rules about things, but I believe that some entity somewhere (The Geneva Convention?) should at least have this one rule about fighting in the Mommy War:

YOU CANNOT FIGHT ON THE FRONT LINES IF YOU ARE A MALE OR A NON-MOTHER FEMALE (and by front lines, I mean, you are not entitled to SHARE your opinion publicly unless directly asked by a parent). This is the problem with Facebook, it allows for all sorts of uninvited public opining on everything from the most personal (e.g., breastfeeding) to the most banal of topics (e.g., appropriate attire for going to Wal-Mart).

Besides that one rule, I also think that some entity (Department of Homeland Security?) should define what it means to WIN the war. Below is my #1 suggestion, followed by some indications of what honorable mention might look like:

(1) Winners of the Mommy War make decisions every day based on what is best for the long-term, not the short.

(2) Winners do not condemn other parenting practices or decisions.

(3) Winners think before swatting little legs and criticizing small mistakes (remember that children’s church song, “Oh be careful little hands what you do … Oh be careful little mouth what you say … for the father up above is looking down with love …”). Winners are careful.

(4) Winners try to attentively listen to everything a child says even if it’s painful … because the inane conversation topics of today (e.g., “Look! An ant! I see that ant! Mom, see that ant? Watch mom! Watch me squish that ant!”) are just as important to them as the very serious future ones (e.g., “I can explain why I snuck out of the house.”) that are sure to come. To them, all of it is important.

(5) Winners take to heart the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all others doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

(I’m English major enough to claim that in his final line, the poet is likely using “a Man” to mean something like “dead” or, if you’re lucky, “a good parent.”)

So please, if we’re going to fight in something called a “Mommy War,” let it be a war against our own thoughtless parenting and not other parents.

And please Lord let me win my own Mommy War … because right now it feels like the off-season in Brigadoon. There is spaghetti sauce on the shoulder of my only good shirt, half the lawn is mowed, and the children aren’t old enough to understand sarcasm. Tonight, however, there was a little light at the end of a long John-John against Mom tunnel: He has decided to write &illustrate a book: It is called The Diary of a Dramadic [sic] Kid. While he was writing it tonight, I put away the laundry, mowed (half) the grass, made, and served dinner. Yes, he sat in one chair for that long. As I brought over his plate of food, he said, “No thanks. Tonight I think I’ll see what it feels like to be one of those kids you are always talking about … you know, the ones who don’t have food to eat sometimes. I want to know what that feels like.”

There was a good bit of silence, and then I noticed that Sam had successfully moved all of his spiral noodles into his milk. I said something profound in response, like, “Oh that’s really noble and makes me proud WHY DID YOU WASTE ALL THOSE NOODLES THIS IS NOT A CURIOSITY EXPERIMENT STATION.”

Not sure who won that battle, but I’d rather be fighting that kind of Mommy War than the stuff of Time Magazine any day.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dia de la Madre 2012

Translation: Happy Mother's Day!
love John

No, I'm not pregnant.

My Mother is the most wonderful mom in the world!
She is as pretty as a butterfly and smells like a rose.
She weighs 1,024 lbs and is 5 feet tall.
Her favorite food is coconut pie.
In the good old days when Mom was little, she used to play sofball.
I think Mom looks funny when she gets out of the shower.
I know she's really angry when she grades a paper wrong.
I wish Mom would play baseball with me every day.
I wouldn't trade my mother for 20 dimens.
Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why Bathtubs Can Determine Family Size

From L to R, T to B: worm, drain, crane; dirt clump, T-rex; locomotive, upside-down racecar ... all other brown spots are dirt, fyi.

The closer view.  Please note how much dirt & debris.
What does Kimmy want for Mother's Day?  A new jug of Clorox?  A housekeeper?  A girl?

Ixnay on the Irlgay.  We. Are. Done.

A  housekeeper would be nice, but there's all of that pre-cleaning work that stresses me out.

And we can buy our own Clorox, thank you very much.

How about diamond earrings or just Sleeping In?  And I do NOT mean sleeping in with pitter pat combined with Dadshushing in the background. 

Yes, maybe just straight up sleeping in and some sort of bacon-heavy breakfast would be nice.

Or diamond earrings. 

Whichever is easiest.
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Monday, May 07, 2012

Lawn Mowing: It's Serious Bidness

While Sam & I mowed, Brian took these pictures:
We might as well call this Clovermowing.
Sam gets the high part; I take the low.
There is nothing better than the monotony & row-making mesmerization of mowing grass. 
At one point, I started running on the long straight stretches.
Luckily, I'm not dramatic about it.
It's a BIG hill even if you go sideways.
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Recent Grandparent Visits

Last weekend we had a double header baseball game and a piano recital, so all the grandparents came to visit. These are the only pictures of the weekend, which is really not my fault. Jane was supposed to be the photographer, and she got some great shots, but then after the recital her camera came up missing. This is absolutely unheard of, as her cameras are essentially her 5th and 6th grandchildren. It's a mystery. 
Dear Nnny, thank you for being my grama, I hope you have a happy birthday eney way.

I even went so far as to contact the realtor of the piano teacher's next-door neighbor on the off chance that someone, somehow, had found it and given it to him.  Yes, I know.  I should apply for D-i-L of the Year, but I'm too modest and humble.

At any rate, it was a great visit ... I so wish they were all closer.
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