Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Peek Behind the Playdough Curtain

The end of the school year is coming. The school year for my pre - school ends at the end of May. School teachers know that after Christmas, the school year flies by you. This year is no different for me.

This year however, I am moving. My attention and time is directed in many different directions. I would not say this makes me a bad teacher. This makes me, in my mind anyway, less of an excellent teacher and I enjoy teaching children. I love teaching 4and 5 year olds. It pains me to think my class as suffered in anyway, due to my life distractions.

When I first graduated from college, I could not wait to teach. I went on many interviews. I remember an interview that I loved. I called my dad. I told him how wonderful the job was for me. I could teach Kindergarten!(at a childcare center) It was close to where we lived! My father asked, "How much money do they want to pay you?". I told him the numbers, this much per hour. There was a pause, as my dad did calculations in his head. "You do realize, you would be living below the poverty level don't you?" says my dad.

This statement brought home the problem of my chosen profession. I LOVE children. I enjoy the creativity and enthusiasm of young children. The problem is, there is no money in it. I was lucky as time progressed in my time living with my parents in Ohio, I landed a job in which I used my special education degree. I love working with children who may not be "typical" as much as others. This job paid more (although not much) than a childcare provider.

I do not regret my choice as teacher. I loved every minute of it before I had children. (even when my husband told me his starting salary was equal to my salary after working 6 years IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS!) The joy of working with young children is their creativity and enthusiasm.

I know as a teacher, I have special powers. When I taught and did not have children, my husband would ask, "so, who did you make cry today?" He was referring to my rather strict nature. I do not put up with much nonsense. As I returned to teaching this year, my children would ask me, "Did anyone get in yellow today mom?" In my classroom, green means good, yellow means trouble, and red means BIG trouble. They know I mean business. (at least at school)

Even now, my husband still reminds me that I have much power, and it needs to be used for good not evil. If I went outside and said, "The sky is purple." I could do much damage, by my sheer, giddiness of power I could create a small group of trouble. Children of Pre - K level usually hold a teacher's statements as LAW.

This year I returned to teaching after many years at home. I was eager and ready to be in the classroom. This year in particular presented it's own challenges due to my family having to relocate due to the job change of my husband. The challenges and changes have created much stress for me. Teaching in a way has created stress because I continue to want to be great, and even better than I was before. I will for certain admit that I do not regret having taught these wonderful children.

As the end of the year approaches, so does "Graduation" for them. My assistant and I wanted to ask what the children would be when they grow up. The answers are why I love 4 year olds, and also why I realize I am a jaded parent.

In one conversation I speak with a lovely girl in my room at snack time. She LOVES animals. I know she loves animals, she acts like animals, she TELLS me right there how much she loves them. I ask her what she will be when she grows up. I am thinking, veterinarian. She looks at me, smiles, and says, "I am going to be a Ballerina."

OK, I missed the mark on that one.

I ask another boy. This boy loves music, movement and singing. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I ask. He looks at me as if I have three heads and he is not which one to address his answer, "a scuba diver" he says.

The parent in my cries out. A SCUBA DIVER!. How is he going to make money as a scuba diver? My parents and husband reassure me later that he could be a rescue diver or salvage diver. They make good money.

Ok, I think, always worried about my charges. I ask one more, what do want to be when you grow up? This is one of my favorite children, ( I know you should not have favorites, but I can't help it), he puts one hand on his hip, looks me in the eye, and says, "I am going to be Superman, so I can fly."

What do you say to that? I remind him that these are things we want to do when we are GROWN UP and that he can't try flying until at LEAST age 18.

He agrees, and I hope I have spared him some great injury. I love him, as I love all the kids I teach, and all the kids I have taught. I am glad I was and most likely will be a teacher again. I am only really sorry this year was so crazy, I could not enjoy it more.

Monday, April 26, 2010

What the %@&* are we thinking!

Sunday was not a great day for me. I had a Judy Moody kind of day. Judy Moody is a character in my daughter's books. The line often goes, "Judy Moody was in a mood, and it wasn't a good mood, it was a bad mood."

In the afternoon on Sunday, I had my mood. It was not actually a bad mood, it was more of a panic attack. Not the kind of thing to keep you from functioning, just a generalized sense of fear. I was on my way to the food store to buy eggs. (what kind of mother am I if there are no eggs!) I got a tightness in my chest, the tears came to my eyes, and I felt fear about the changes in my life to come.

During this process I have been positive, I see the wonderful things to come from this move. I am excited (mostly) about the chance to learn new things and meet new challenges. I will admit though, at the moment, I feel as if my life is a giant puzzle. I have the pieces but can't see the whole picture. I am unable to even assemble the frame, when is the closing?, will the money situation work out?, and when exactly do we move? The panic wells up and I want to call a friend.

Which friend? I have friends who are having difficulty with our leaving. Do I call them to share my fear and get empathy? I have a sister and friends who are having less trouble with our change in location.(location is just a place right?)Do I call them so they will buck me up? Who I call will have to wait. Afterall, I NEED eggs.

The really confusing part of this story is that I got so busy I never got to call anyone. The craziness of getting ready to move, help friends, take care of myself, and get Jack to the airport left me no time for phone calls. I was teary when I left Jack at the airport. He texted later to see if I would be bored in Tennesse when I was not so busy.

I told him I would be fine. In truth, my panic was ebbing away. I know myself well enough to know that in Tennessee, I will end up just as busy as I am now. The only real question is, how long will it take to get to that point again. And more importantly, when it happens, and I am stressed and pulling my hair out, I will think to myself, "What the %@&* was I thinking?"

Friday, April 23, 2010


You would have not believed the state of my kitchen.

When you walked in there was chip bags open, some open wine, special popcorn cups (which were now empty), a sink full of dishes, and of course some empty bowls of ice cream. I will admit, the house looked like I was recovering from a bad break up. I was reminded of the song, "Shopping Cart of Love" by Christine Lavin. Her boyfriend leaves her and she ends up at the food store "in a blinding rage craving foods she had not had since she was 12 years of age" She picked foods based solely on their carbohydrate and calorie count. Which one of us has not done something like that?

Thankfully my kitchen was not in this state due to sadness. I considered it to be more a celebration of sisterhood. My sister was visiting and my children had disappeared to sleepovers. My sister and I had dissolved into a giddy uninterrupted session of girlness. We ate snacks for dinner, had wine, and sweets. We rented romantic comedies and watched them. I got to be a girl and a grown up. It rocked!

I consider myself very lucky. My family is very close. We are a family with one brother and three sisters. I love all of my family. For the purposes of this story though. I am focusing on my one sister closest in age to me. I could write many stories of how my older siblings get along with me and how I love them. That is not the story for today.

As I was saying, my sister was here and we get along well. That is not to say we have not had our disagreements. When we were young, my mom would banish my sister and I to our rooms sometimes when we fought. We were not supposed to speak to each other. We could however, draw pictures and write notes illustrating our anger at each other. These notes would end up shoved under each others doors at times. (I am not sure my mom ever knew about that.)

This weekend my sister and I were laughing about those arguments. We could not recall what we fought about or how fights started. (although I think I remember one about which was the better way to store records, standing up or laying flat) My sister was right but I will never admit it.

My sister comes to see us almost every month. She comes, we talk, we eat, and sometimes we shop. (although we try to be good about saving money) The girls get to play games with her. Jack and she talk about work and sports. I like the way she doesn't mind the commotion of our house and will sit and read as I am busy getting my stuff done. I do not mean it to sound like she sits around eating bon bons doing nothing. She just lets me get done the stuff I need to and helps with the stuff she can. I don't feel pressure to entertain her, just spend time as we want.

I am going to miss her monthly visits when we move to Tennessee. She will still come regularly, but will be unable to come as often. It is ok, when she comes she and I will have new adventures discovering new places and things to do. We will talk, eat, and perhaps shop. Thankfully, I am sure we will have love and laughter.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's Different for Grown Ups

We are moving. There is no way around it. In a few weeks, I will be packed up and no longer be a Delaware resident. The idea fills me with excitement, and fear. My children continue to share their thoughts on this change, and it often breaks my heart.

The other day my eldest daughter and I discussed our dry erase board. The girls each have a dry erase board hanging in the hallway downstairs. At first I had one board, there was to much fighting so now I have 2 boards. If you do not ask permission before writing/drawing on someone's board, you suffer great wrath.

I told my eldest child, I did not think about where to hang your boards in the new house. She suggested a place less distracting so she would get ready for school etc. more readily. (these board are often a distraction, she stops and draws on instead of staying on task) I admired her admisssion and plan. This was a small step toward her accepting our move. She did not cry or fuss, she camly provided a solution.

My younger daughter has been having a harder time this week. In the car (why is it always in the car?)She starts to cry about the move. I relate to her how it will be ok, she will make new friends. New kids are always popular. She keeps crying, and tells me she knows that new kids are always popular because everyone is curious.(although apparently children who come in mid school year are even MORE popular, who knew?)

My daughter continues, it will be alright, she knows she will have friends. She is sad about LEAVING her friends here. It is hard. I tell her mommy has to leave her friends too. This creates a louder sob, "IT'S DIFFERENT FOR GROWN UPS". Grown ups don't see their friends everyday like she does. Oh, I think. She has a point.

I think some more and then remind her she does not see her friends everyday in the summer. I also tell her how I am looking forward to no one having any friends for a little while. It means we will have to be friends for each other. I tell her, I won't have a job or any friends.(doesn't that sound depressing?) But, I say, I won't have any excuses either to not play Wii, basketball, ride bikes, or play chess. I sense my daughter mulling this over. "Can we cook together?" she asks. "Sure," I say, "I have been wanting to try more spinach and eggplant recipes." She sticks her tongue out at me and we get home.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Like a Good Neighbor

We lost power. Just like that click, whoosh, and darkness.(or in this case dimness) I could not believe it. We were on our way to Tennessee to buy a house, or rather getting ready to leave to go to Tennessee to buy a house. Suddenly the house was dark and quiet.

The children hollered from downstairs, "MOM, we lost power!"

No kidding, I think. I look outside, Jack is cleaning out the car to prepare for travel. I go outside and report our power loss. He is not pleased but does what we need. He gets the generator ready and the extension cord ready. Jack and I listen for the inevitable "BEEP" of battery back up sump pumps. How long will they last?, How long will we be without power?

Those of you without sump pumps may not understand the stress it brings. If that pump does not run, you have a problem. I did not realize the exact weight of this on me until we shopped for houses in Tennessee. We looked at a house we liked, but when we found out it had a sump pump in the crawl space, we RAN away. When this house was mine, I could deal with it. Now that the house "belongs" to someone else. The thought of water in the basement makes my stomach churn.

On this day, I sit, frustrated at not being able to leave. (However, I also find time to say a thankful prayer that this has happened when Jack is home, and not during a snowstorm) Jack and I continue to do our best to get ready to leave.

Jack as an engineer figures out how often the pumps are running and how long he thinks the battery back up may last. I call the power company to report our outage. I see one neighbor who is also without power. I see another who has power. I see yet another neighbor who reports what she finds out after she calls in her loss of power. I keep Jack informed from all sources.

We WAIT. We get in contact with Jack's parents who offer to come and monitor the sump pumps so we can leave on our trip.

Jack and I continue to load the car. A different neighbor walks by, I share words with him and he goes on his way. Jack asks who he was, I explain his name, where he lives up the street and how Melissa and his grandson share the same piano teacher.

Next, a neighbor drives by and stops, I speak to him. He drives on and Jack asks who he that was, I say where he lives and explain how when the power went out he was in the shower. Jack just smiles and shakes his head. "How can you be worried about moving?", he says. "You will know everyone in no time!"

I know he is right. I do seem to have my mother's knack for getting to know people. I am not as good as she, but I do ok. My sister in law said to me, "You will have friends in 6 months!" She said, "Me, it would take 6 years, you I give 6 months."

I know no matter how scary Tennessee will be, I am sure the Chatty Cathy in me will help me in the end. Those of you who do know me can say look out Sweet Briar Development here she comes!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Big Bed

I will assume many of you have seen the movie, "When Harry Met Sally". A scene from that movie came to my mind the other day. Harry and Sally are watching "Casablanca". There is a split screen and they talk on the phone as they watch together. Toward the end of the scene, Harry asks Sally if she is taking up the whole bed now, since her break up from her boyfriend. She tells him yes, she is pretty much taking up the whole bed now. He replies how if one of his legs creeps over to his exes side of the bed it feels strange.

In this instance I agree with Harry. I had 10 days with my husband. Ten busy, crazy, wonderful, days with him. No matter how long the drive or frustrating the task, he would look at me and say, "Of course I am having fun, I am with you." I truly love him for that.(especially considering how bad my PMS has been getting)

Over the past few months we have had 2 days, maybe 2 1/2, together at a time. This length of 10 days seemed glorious. We got to eat together, explore Tennessee, drive together, and sleep together. I don't mean in the "down and dirty" way.(necessarily) Jack and I were able to be in the same bed at the same time. He was there to cuddle with, hear breathing, keep me warm, deal with noisy neighbors, and poke awake when I had anxiety.

Now the 10 days are over, Jack is back in Tennessee. I went to bed that first night and it was like I was back to square one. It used to be when Jack traveled,(which wasn't much)I would stay up late. I did not like crawling into bed without him. When he left in January the same pattern emerged, but could not be kept up. After all, I had a house to run and get ready for sale. I got used to the cold bed, and the quiet bedroom. I still do not creep over to his side of the bed.

I will admit to inviting the dog onto the bed when Jack is not home. Sage, while a wonderful dog, is not the most snugly. She offers some weight though and the pretense of SOMETHING with me for company. She does not have Jack's comfortable breathing, instead she has puppy dreams with in which she twitches and yelps softly and wakes me up. It is the best I can get. Thankfully Sage is intelligent enough to know that when Jack arrives she it off on her own.

I am happy to have had my 10 days in a row with Jack. No matter how scared and sad I am to leave Delaware, I know I need those 10 days and more to be truly safe and secure no matter where I am.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tenessee and Oral Health

Gas: $160
Hotel Stay: $100
Food Shopping: $60
Dinners Out: $100
DS games for Car Trip: $60

Finding a house you love in Tennessee.


We did it. We drove the 10 and 1/2 hours to Tennessee. I won't lie. It was a long trip. I told Jack I would NEVER make him drive it alone again. It was a beautiful drive, open, not much traffic, wonderful views. It was just LONG. Having driven to Ohio for my parents, I thought this would not be so bad. It was not so bad, just 1 HOUR TOO long. Needless to say, Jack will fly home from now on.

We saw 13 houses on Tuesday in Maryville. You can't say "Mary"ville like Mary and Joseph, Mary. You have to sort of speed it up and mush it up in your mouth. We got pretty good by the end of the day.

Maryville was nice. Had some nice houses and was near a university. It was also a 1/2hour away from work for Jack. It felt a little to spaced out for me. I could not figure out where things were and how I would get things done. On Wednesday it was on to Farragut City!We saw 14 houses. My younger daughter was excited to break our record. Everyone, including Jack, was tired by the end of that day.

Thursday was second look day, it was down to the wire. My realtor kept asking everyone which was their number 1 and number 2 house. The girls got 2 houses but Jack and I got 4, after all, we were contributing more money. Jack kept telling my elder daughter that if she could cough up 10% she could have more say. Our realtor would give her opinion sometimes but then would quickly add, that it was her opinion and she had no intention of putting any money up for more of a say. (I really liked our realtor)

Thursday afternoon was one of the most important. Jack had work conference calls in the afternoon. The girls and I went out shopping. It was fun. We found some very important things: where I can buy Indian food (it wasn't in the supermarket!), the SUPER Target (think of our Target on steroids, it had everything ours has but MORE), a chocolate shop, a liquor store (I gotta have my wine), AND a really cool frozen yogurt shop. (you pay by the ounce!, it was awesome!) The girls and I returned to the apartment (the GPS is the best device ever ) and we went to a park for dinner. It ended up being a great day.

The only thing I have not been able to find for us is Dental Tape. Jack and I have specific dental needs. He has not had success tracking down our type. I must admit I usually get it at Shoprite so THINK CARE PACKAGE PEOPLE! (well that and Tastycake)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Little Pit Stop Shop of Horrors

Along our travel to Tennessee some stops had to be made. On our highways there were rest areas and visitor centers. All of them nice and clean. They did not have gas and only had vending machines for food.

We made it far along and then we had to get off the highway to get gas. Jack was familiar with this stop. The gas station had a "Pit Stop Shop" where you could use the bathroom and get some food. I told the girls I would get them ice cream and sent them to stand on line for the bathroom.

Ahead of us in line were two girls about the same age as mine. All of the sudden the younger of these girls in line got ill. A lot of ill, poor child. I ran to the front and told them, hoping they might hand me a bag or trash can. They did not. They did come and let this child and her mom into the utility room to clean up. The mens and ladies room were still being used.

About this time, one of those kind women you hear about from the south came up and reamed out her son who was waiting in line for the mens room. She was also unhappy with her daughter when she emerged from the ladies room. Hearing someone scold and be unhappy with that southern twang was unusual to say the least.

I really did feel bad for the little girl who did not feel well. I wanted to share my own proud parenting moment from long ago with my eldest daughter. We had left our dentist appointment, and my treat as reward turned into a nightmare.

My one daughter does NOT like going to the dentist. I have struggled with this issue from her very first visits. She has extreme anxiety about it. I attempted to make going to the dentist a positive thing. "When we are done.", I said,"We will all go to 7 Eleven for a slurpee!"

My daughter was still a disaster at the dentist but off we went. As we enter the store, my daughter says, "my stomach hurts." I pooh pooh her and say she is still upset from the dentist. We get to the slurpee machine. "my stomach hurts." she says again. I say she will feel better after she gets something to drink.

Then it happens, that unmistakable shudder from a child that means trouble. The lurching and lunging behavior that makes a parent panic. We race to get out of the store. We only made it to the cash register where my daughter got ill in all her glory for all the customers to see.

I don't think I set foot in that 7 Eleven for months. I am hoping for better luck a the Pit Stop next time.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Looking Back and Laughing

The other day I was checking in on my Dad. I had been phoning my parents regularly to check on them after mom's surgery. A part of our conversation often rested on mom getting better and coming home. This is after all, a very difficult time for them. Ever a cheerleader I reminded Dad of how rough some of the past years had been, shingles, back pain, back shots, back surgery and heart surgery. I said,"You got through it and you will get through this. We will look back and laugh."

"I guess so." says Dad. I reply,"You know Dad, like, remember that time mom came home with an open gaping wound in her abdomen?, that was just the funniest thing."

Then we both laughed. We WILL be able to look back and sigh with relief, chuckle at mom sleeping in her new recliner, and the horror of surgery, hospitals, and conquering diabetes will be distant memory.

I thought of other horrors in my life that involve injuries and tried to find the humor. There was the time my eldest daughter was admitted to the hospital as an infant for dehydration. The nurse asked, "Has she projectile vomited?" We were not sure. She replied, "Believe me if it happened, you would know." She was right when we got home she threw up and vomit shot like a cannon from the center of the pack n play and hit the edge. I got to stay up all night long and give her a 1/2 tsp. of liquid every 15 min. and make sure she kept it down.

There was the one Christmas Eve my younger daughter needed stitches and we ended up in the ER. She was only about 3 or so at the time. As we left the hospital, tired and bedraggled my daughter said,"mom, the next time we come here" I cut her off, "I want this loud and clear, Mom NEVER wants to come back here again."

Needless to say that was not the last visit to the ER with HER or the other one.

Currently I am in Tennessee, we drove here yesterday. The travel was easy, the roads uncrowded, the views spectacular with rolling hills and lush greens. OK, now I am going overboard. It was a good trip, all 10 1/2 hours of it! We arrived threw our stuff into the apartment and went to eat.

While enjoying our meal, I laugh at something. My younger daughter is snuggled up next to her dad in the opposite side of the booth. She looks at me and says, "It is good to hear you laugh mom." The other daughter chimes in,"yeah, you don't laugh a lot when dad is not around." I look at Jack, who smiles and without missing a beat says,"that's because I am so funny." (I want to respond,you mean funny looking, and stick my tongue out, but refrain)

No, No, the girls protest, when dad is not home you work to hard. Dad gets you to take breaks they say. I say dad helps me so I have time for breaks. We continue our meal, stuff ourselves on good food, and even treat ourselves to dessert. I even laugh more, except now apparently, I am laughing to loud. My 11 year old, scolds me. "mom people are looking." I tell her loud laughing is a Strommen trait she needs to get over it. Jack says it is really his job to embarrass her not mine. I tell him he can have that job along with mowing grass and use of the power drill. There is more laughter.

This has been a challenging year. Jobs gained, jobs lost, other jobs gained, purging, cleaning, packing, surgery, and moving. I do know this. No matter what, as long as we are together we can look back on it and laugh.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Technology Today

No one can deny the progress of technology. In my lifetime the improvements in video games and cell phones could fill a book. My first cell phone was large. One day I took it out of my purse at the supermarket while searching for my checkbook.(remember life before Debit?)

The young store clerk looked at the phone and then at me. She said in a are you crazy voice,"You brought your cordless phone with you?" The phone was actually THAT big. I told her no, it was my cell phone. It was so large and heavy that I considered it a defense item. I could call 911 and then hit the person trying to hurt me with it. That got her quiet. I soon got a smaller phone, then a flip phone, and now I have my keypad phone. I MUST have a keypad for texting.

Texting technology is a necessity to me now. My sister pushed me over the edge on this matter. I will admit I love it. I now touch base with friends, family, and Jack via text. The biggest draw back is 160 characters. My Chatty Cathy persona has trouble keeping things concise. It is one of the reasons I started a blog. I need more room. Can you imagine me trying to Tweet? My brother sent a text with an abbreviation in it. I had to ask my sister what it meant.

Texting and cell phones require a signal. The ever elusive signal. The idea of signals and waves bouncing around is amusing to me. It brings to mind another ancient technology, ATARI. A game I used to play when young was called, "Breakout".
During the game you had a small rectangle (paddle) on the bottom of the screen. This paddle would slide from right to left. You would hit a ball up towards a wall and destroy bricks as your ball hit them. Eventually your ball would break through the wall to a gap at the top.

THEN the fun started, the ball would start flying up and down on the top of the wall, and crash down back toward your paddle. You would have to be quick and keep hitting the ball and destroying the wall.

To me this is how it can be with texting. The signals fly all over. In the hospital with my mom some signals would reach me but I could not respond. It was like my paddle in a game of breakout missed the ball and it was gone. In that same fashion, I would send out messages regarding my moms progress. When I got the hang of it I would send one message to all three of my siblings. Then it got to be like crazy, the ball had gone through the top of the wall and response texts came bouncing back fast and furious. Questions about what I had said and what did it mean?

The technology of the text was failing me. I could not be clear and my sibling responses were balls I could not hit back. I gave up and started calling them when I could talk at length. During my time in the hospital with my mom my phone stayed at my side constantly. I was using it so much I had to charge it every night.

Now I am home and my phone is more quiet. The texts are of my usual sort from Jack and other friends. My parents do not text so I am using the phone to check in. I don't keep my cell phone at my hip at all times now. I am missing a few timely messages but I think things will be ok. For the moment my texting phone use is back in the ATARI age. Slower and more clunky. One day perhaps it will move up in speed and agility to some form of a Wii game.