Friday, December 30, 2011


The best thing about Facebook, in my humble opinion, is catching up with people you really want to know about, but haven't a clue as to where they might be. Carol is one of those people. Last year, I happened to look her up on Facebook and to my delight, there she was. It has taken almost a year to see her, but with our trip to Michigan, she and I finally caught up.

Carol was one of just a handful of people that actually spoke to me on my first day of ninth grade. I was a newcomer to the city, and a poorly dressed one at that. What I mean to say is that, just like now, I was fashion challenged. To this day I remember the blue skirt and shirt, and white cotton sweater I wore. I felt uncomfortable in it, which probably made the whole ensemble even worse. If you feel awkward in what you are wearing, there is absolutely no way that you can pull it off, you know? Well, that first morning, when I walked into the cafetorium (Cafeteria and auditorium all in one? What the heck is that?) Carol was the bright spot in an otherwise dull group of people. She had a 1000 watt smile, as they say, and the nerve to say hello to the new girl. Thank goodness she did.

High school was a bad time for me. I never felt as though I fit in. Part of that was being a newcomer with the wrong name. Someone at that school already had our last name, and it wasn't a very common one. For whatever reason, a new group of people having that same name just didn't sit well with anyone. Neither did a freshman taking Biology or French II (this was a small town high school after all, for those of you that don't know). But Carol (and in turn another friendly yet more hesitant soul named Tasha) didn't care about any of that. They both allowed me to be me, and liked me for it (or, in spite of it!).

Carol was my saving grace. The four years of high school stretched interminably for me, but spending time with Carol and calling her my friend kept me sane. I despised walking in the doors of that school, but knowing that Carol was there helped me do so every day. We had classes together, joined some of the same clubs, and hung out on the weekends. We talked about classes, jobs, boys, dreams, and colleges. We ate fast food (probably too much), drove around the city, and saw movies. We did other more irreverent things, too, and to this day, some of them are unbeknownst to my parents. Ah, the memories.

One of the best things about Carol was that she called the shots as she saw them. She wasn't hurtful, but she was honest. If you didn't know that about her, it might surprise you. But for the most part, that characteristic just made me laugh. Oh how I wanted to be like her! I had trouble expressing myself, except in writing, but writing didn't help with making friends and influencing people. And unlike myself, most people liked Carol. Funny thing, though...she didn't care if you did or didn't. Carol was a one of a kind, a diamond in the rough, a real gem, someone we should all have tried to emulate. I know I never told her any of this, and I bet no one else did, either.

Well, I could go on, but I won't. Carol and I played a bit of phone tag 2 days before Christmas, but we managed to set up a time to meet. Some of the descriptions and tidbits I was telling Tim about Carol made him say, "She really doesn't sound at all like you." When I thought about it, though, I realized he was wrong. I just couldn't do Carol justice in the few seconds I had before I ran out the door, so I didn't even try. I just hoped that Carol was still Carol. And if so, we'd have a great time.

When she opened the door, I swear I could have been in a time warp looking at a high school version of Carol, save for the big hair (she has long, sleek, straight hair now). Pink cheeks and her 1000 watt smile greeted me, along with a big hug. We sat for the next couple of hours and shot the breeze, much like we did so long ago. Along with drinking two diet Cokes (hair might change but apparently, favorite beverages do not) she told me that she had lost her mother 2 years ago, and that her father is having trouble adjusting. She told me that her relationship with her brother isn't as tight as it was in high school, that she loves her job, her kids and her husband. She isn't thrilled with living where they do, but her Dad depends on her and the kids. And the kids now depend on her Dad. She just can't see changing things right now. Overall, Carol is happy. I was thrilled to hear it -- who could ask for anything more?

On the drive back to my parents, I thanked the good Lord for Carol. I thanked him for allowing me to meet her back in 1987, and I thanked him for helping me find the time to meet up with her. So many times these days I think, "I am too busy to do X." I could have been too busy, but in my heart, I wanted to see Carol. I reflected on the ways in which we are different, but also on the many things we have in common. Most importantly, our morals and values and the way we are raising our children are so inline, you can tell why we were such great friends in high school.

Thinking of my relationship with Carol has made me think of other relationships I've had in my life, some of which remain strong, others that seem connected by simply a thread. These relationships will likely be discussed here, as I walk down memory lane. I'll try to be discreet, but if you find yourself among any of my next posts and you don't like being there, please let me know!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

How Hot Are You?

That isn't meant the way it looks.

Remember the thermometer I bought Tim for Christmas? It is an infrared one, and it has a laser. The laser can be turned on and off, and is really only there to show you what you are aiming the thermometer at. (I just ended that sentence with a preposition, AND I will not correct it.) This week, we've pretty much measured the temperature of everything (all in degrees Fahrenheit).

The inside of Tim's mouth? 94 degrees.
The backsplash in the kitchen? 65 degrees.
The tile floor in the kitchen? 68 degrees.
Zoe's forehead? 97 degrees.
Aaron's eyeball? 88 degrees.
The scrambled eggs? 87 degrees (and cooling quickly).
The ice cream in the freezer? Zero degrees.
The metal back of the oven (preheated to 300): 313 degrees.

I could go on. The kids have had a blast, although both Tim and I have had to remind them that it isn't a toy. (Isn't it, though?) And, this thing is so handy. This evening, I was making Naan and needed to make sure the milk was heated to a certain temperature. I quickly grabbed the thermometer and found out that the milk was 167 degrees, and in need of cooling.

I plan on sending these thermometers out to the people I love. Nerd or not, I think everyone will love them.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Growing Up

We received pictures of the kids in the mail the other day from the orthodontist. The orthodontist documents everything, and uses many pictures and x-rays in their quest to help our kids get the best mouths possible. I know I already posted about the girls getting their braces off. This one isn't about braces. It is about the pre-teen children I now have living in my house! I about fell over when I looked at the pictures.

Here are the before pictures, the ones in which my girls look (to me) still like babies.

And here are the after pictures.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Presents

We're back.

You might not have known we were gone, and that is as it should be. I often wonder about the people that broadcast via blog, Facebook, or any other social media that they have vacated the premises for a week. Isn't that just an invitation to the malicious to come over?

Anyway, we made it to Michigan and back with very little fanfare. In between those driving days, there was very little fanfare. And with 6 young cousins all mixed in, little fanfare is a very good thing. In short, we all had a good time, and it was nice to see both of my sisters and their families.

Tim and I don't usually exchange very large presents. This year, is no exception, considering we will likely be giving each other a kitchen makeover next year. Or a new computer. Or any number of things that will likely go wrong with our house in the next couple of months. He got me a set of cookie cutters shaped like laboratory equipment, and I got him a thermometer. It is a pretty cool one, considering it uses a laser to read the temperature of anything and everything. It is somewhat difficult to get past being a nerd in this house.

Santa had the foresight, again, to leave presents here at home. He is always so thoughtful! With the load the kids got this year, it was great to have many of them left here. We didn't have to leave any of the children back in Michigan with my parents!

The kids tore into what was hidden around our house. The gifts are always placed under something, so that the cats can't rip into the paper or try to ingest the bows. One year, Tim found Lucy eating some of the thin ribbon from a package. Tim started to pull the ribbon out of Lucy's mouth, and found himself pulling, and pulling, and pulling. Tim was literally pulling the ribbon back out of the stomach of the cat. I kid you not!

I personally think that Tim should have just left that ribbon where it was. Lucy isn't in to giving very good presents, and he should be taught a lesson. When I went upstairs to put something in Melina's room, I found the present he left his year. A large smattering of feces, right on Melina's comforter.

So much for a White Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wednesday In A Nutshell

Yesterday was the kids first day off for the Winter Break. They woke up late, played a bit together, and watched a movie with lunch. We didn't have too much to do until the afternoon, when we needed to get to an orthodontist appointment. So, we waited to do our errands until then.

The girls each were fitted with their new retainers. Zoe's is a dark bluish/purple color, while Talia's is clear with sparkles. And I can say that we are all grateful for the girls choosing two completely different colors for their retainers. The alternative, and what can happen, kind of gives me the shivers.

On the way back from the orthodontist, and en route to the gas station, the kids were talking about Santa. I think just about everything was said with respect to the jolly man in Red. The Belief is strong here, and I'd like to cultivate that just a bit longer, if possible. The funny thing is, kids notice things, you know?

Melina's school had a Christmas party on Tuesday. (Yes, it was a Christmas party. She attends a preschool that has a religious affiliation, so we can go ahead and call it what it was.) After they spoke about the religious significance of the holiday, they had a visit from Santa. I remember the girls and Aaron absolutely loving the visit from Santa! They had been so happy to see him and I clearly remember the girls arguing over whether or not it had been the real Santa. Melina was very excited, but our conversation was much different.

Melina: Mom, we got to see Santa today!
Me: Oh, that is so great! Did you have fun?
Melina: Yes, he had a sack. He gave us a gingerbread man.
Me: Wow! I love it.
Melina: But he was the pretend Santa.
Me: How do you know?
Melina: Because it was Mr. Glenn in there.
Me: (Curious) How do you know?
Melina: Because it was. Mr. Glenn was Santa.
Me: Did someone tell you that?
Melina: Nope.

Melina repeated this conversation with every adult with whom she came into contact. To her, it was just an observation, but to me, I can see that stringing out the Belief might be a bit difficult with my last born. Of course, every adult (including myself) told her that the real Santa always needs help, especially when it gets close to Christmas. And in reality, Santa does need all the help he can get, right? Many of us have taken on that role to help spread Christmas love and cheer, and whether I've been on the receiving or the giving end, the feeling I get is the same: that fullness of heart that reminds me of that scene in "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" when his heart grows back.

After the gas station, we stopped into the Italian store to get some frozen ravioli. I have never been in this store, which you might think is a horrible thing for an Italian to say. But, we cook at our house. So, if we want Italian, we usually to it ourselves. I don't make homemade ravioli (at least not yet), though, so we needed to go there.

The place smelled delicious, but I got a couple of looks from the people inside. A dark-haired family was waiting for their deli food to be brought to the table, and they looked at us. The little old man in the hat, he looked at us. I can't decide if it was the fact that I had 4 kids by myself (again, we've gone over isn't even a large brood in this neck of the woods), or if it was the fact that I had 3 blondes and a red head in a store where most people had dark hair. I wanted to shout out: "My last name is *blank* and I am 75% Italian! My kids, although they don't look it, are 5/8 Italian!" I refrained from doing so, as I am sure that they would have escorted the crazy lady and her camouflaged Diego children out of the store.

And now, it is Thursday. Let's see what sorts of trouble we can get into today! Have a great day!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Au Secours!

The first part in fixing a problem is admitting you need help, right?

I helped with Aaron's holiday party yesterday. Unlike last year, Aaron's class this year is almost begging for help! While we had an abundance of parents at the kindergarten parties, this year, that is not the case. Therefore, the homeroom mom had asked me to bring in some pretzels, juice, and chocolate chips, and then to also be a helper while the party was happening. Melina and I had planned on attending anyway, so it wasn't any trouble.

Luckily, Mrs. H (the homeroom mom) had decided to make the party very low-key. Instead of a craft and a snack, she made the craft the snack. The kids each had a sugar cookie, some frosting, a few chocolate coated candies and some chocolate chips. We bravely gave each child a plastic knife, and let him or her go to town decorating. While that was going on, we passed out pretzels and juice.

At some point, Mrs. H asked that I help pass out bananas. The "Wellness Committee" at the school really wants the holiday parties to be more healthy, we try to bring in something nutritious at each party. Last time, it was grapes and cheese, this time, bananas. We figured that each child only need 1/2 of a banana, and we'd ask if a banana was wanted so as to cut down on waste. I went around to each child and asked him or her if a banana was needed. And that is when I got in trouble.

I made it to Edward and this is what happened:
Me: Would you like 1/2 of a banana, Edward?
E: Yes, please, but I will share it with my dad (who was there to help).
Me: Well, if you share it with your dad, what part of the banana will you each get?
E: We will each get a small part.
Me: Yes, but if I split 1/2 of a banana into 2 pieces, what part of the banana do you and your dad get?
E: Hmmm.
Me: That is okay, Edward! Fractions are hard!

I split the banana and went on asking other kids if they wanted any. In the background, I heard Edward's dad explaining the problem to the kids at the table. Just so you know, I only asked Edward because I have worked with him at math stations before. I really thought he would have known the answer, based on how well he works at those centers!

So, I have admitted that I have a problem. Now, what to do about it?!?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Projects

We just had the electrician here to install fluorescent lighting in the basement. Our basement was old and dark, and while we will probably never have it finished, the kids like to play there sometimes, and we have a desk there for the kids to do their homework. Up until now, it really has been too dark for the kids to do their homework (what homework, right?), and with my eyes, I have always complained about not being able to see down there. Hence, the call to the electrician.

I just went down there to put away some boxes, and my first thought was, "Wow!" I really am not a fan of fluorescent lighting in stores or elsewhere in the home, but these lights really lit everything up! I can now see anything I want: the top of the box at the top of the shelf, the crevice behind the air hockey table, and the corner shelf that houses the cat litter. If the kids are looking for something in the toy bins, they should now be able to find things without my assistance.

Unfortunately, it is so light down there, I can see everything I don't want, too. The cat litter is much more apparent now, and the dirt on the old floor seems to stand out like a beacon. The dust bunnies that aggregate in the corners and the spot on the rug where Ferdinand or Lucy got sick seemed to jump out at me.

Which brought me to my decision for a nice, long, winter project. Since I won't be teaching, you will find me in the basement, cleaning, sorting, and making my newly enlightened rooms a bit more pleasing to the eye. If I give myself a timetable, I am betting that Melina and I can get it down before we start on identifying spring projects. One can hope, right?

Monday, December 19, 2011

If It's Not Nailed Down, We'll Dip It!

(These long titles as of late are getting to me! Whew!)

Anyway, as we do every year, the kids and I (well, Melina and I this time) have just finished dipping our pretzels into dark chocolate and white chocolate. The last batches are cooling as we speak, waiting to be used as filling for a couple more treat bags for the teachers. These pretzels will join homemade iced sugar cookies and chocolate drop cookies in a cute little holiday bag. We bought the teachers a small gift, and contributed to their wish lists, so I don't know why I feel the need to feed all the teachers junk. I think it is just that I like to make the junk. I might as well spread the love, you know?

As I said, we do this dipping each year. In the past we've thrown in the safe bets (for us anyway): peanuts, walnuts, cranberries, raisins, and granola. I've tried some other fruits, and even put lots of nuts and fruits together. I've tried different cereals, too. Each year, we get a little bit more bold when we dip our pretzels. Last year, we tried Cheezits dipped in chocolate -- the hot and spicy variety. Aaron loved those! He asked for them again this year. Our experiment this time was chili-spiced dried mango. I knew Tim would love it, because Trader Joe's used to carry chocolate covered chili-spiced mango. Alas, it has been discontinued, except in our house.

In essence, my strategy is this: get enough chocolate to cover everything, and then throw everything in. If we don't like it, we don't try it again the next year. Got anything you'd like for us to try?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Consequences Of Living With A Would-Be Mathematician

We took the girls to see a local professional production of The Nutcracker yesterday. Their good friend had two small parts in the ballet, and has for the last couple of years. Yet this is the first year I've been coordinated enough to get tickets early and make our way there. Aaron expressed zero interest in seeing the production, and we thought that Melina was a little young to come. So, Tim, the girls, and I made the short drive downtown.

Both Zoe and Talia are practicing pieces from The Nutcracker for their piano lessons, and they are really enjoying them. I have always loved the music, but I had never seen a live production of the ballet. Tim says he saw one so long ago, he really coudln't remember.

Our seats were awesome! Mrs. D picked them out for us, and she placed us right in the center part of the lower balcony. We could see everything at once, and no one tall was sitting in front of us. In fact, for most of the show, no one at all was sitting there. The girls were excited for the ballet to start, and once the lights dimmed, I could tell by the smiles on their faces that it was going to be a lovely afternoon.

In short, the production was nice. There were a few minor mishaps: one ballerina fell briefly, some of the movements were not completely coordinated, etc. But all the little children in the production were adorable, and of course, the big things all went well. There were no lighting issues or scene structure problems.

In fact, the only problem really had to do with me. I guess I am not really a fan of the ballet. I can truly appreciate the hard work and dedication that go into being a part of the dance and I could never purport to be able to do anything near that. (Why do I enjoy running? It is easy to put one foot in front of the other, and even then, I sometimes trip!) But I wasn't moved by the production. It could be the lack of story, as I mentioned to Tim; it could be that The Nutcracker is geared toward children. I don't really know how to explain it. But the part that really did me in came just before the intermission. And this problem is all of Tim's fault.

The last scene of Act I shows a smart little dance with the Snowflakes: 12 ballerinas dressed in light, fluffy, snowflake-like costumes. Melina would have loved to see these young ladies twirl. I saw the twirling, all right, but then I noticed something. The groups of 3. Four groups of 3 to be exact. Then, they were in groups of 4. Three groups of 4, of course. At some point, the girls lined up in two lines of 6. I think you can see where this is going. I could not get out of my head the factors of 12! It was like a scene from the old Sesame Street episodes where they would show a number of dancers and say things like, "Twelve." And just repeat that number, over and over and over. "Look boys and girls, how many ways can you come up with 12?"

The same thing happened in Act II, when the Flowers came out to dance. It didn't happen during the scene with the German children, so there must have been something in the choreography of the Flowers and Snowflakes that just lent itself to math.

At some point during the production, I whispered to the girls, "Did you see that? Four groups of 3s. Twelve. Math is just about everywhere."

It was really dark, but I am sure I heard them both roll their eyes.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Time For A Tea Party

Melina and I enjoy drinking tea and having little parties. Usually, we brew the tea in one of my cups, and then we pour the tea into some of Melina's little plastic tea cups, once the liquid has cooled down quite a bit. Most of the time, Melina and I are the only ones drinking tea, but sometimes, Melina brings a stuffed animal to the table.

A couple of weeks ago, Melina expressed interest in having other people at our tea party. I thought maybe she'd ask about inviting her friend up the street, who is four. She did ask about having a friend of the street, but it was Mrs. S, who is clearly not four! Melina then added that she wanted to also invite Mrs. D. I think her wanting to have these ladies over is because she encounters them often. Melina sees Mrs. Sherick five times a week at the bus stop, and Melina sees Mrs. D often because the girls are good friends with her daughter. I am friends with both Mrs. S and Mrs. D, so I was happy to try to plan a little tea party.

I don't own a tea set, but I did purchase a tea kettle that sings so that we could really achieve the best effect for our tea party. We planned a light menu of sandwiches and salad, and then had some treats for when we drank our tea. We even set the table, using a complete set of dishes and cutlery.

Don't you love the plastic tea bag holder?!? We had to settle for folded napkins, because neither Melina nor I could do origami.

I stepped back for the next one, just so we could see the whole thing. Obviously, we cleaned the place up for this occasion!

Mrs. S and Mrs. D did not dress up for the tea party, although both admitted to thinking about it. I didn't, either, but Melina (in usual Melina form) took out all stops! She had a great time wearing the flower girl dress she used for Aunt Teresa's wedding and a new headband. As you can see, a great time was had by all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Braces Off!

When I speak to people on the phone, particularly those with whom I haven't spoken to in a long time, I usually say that not much is happening around here. I equate uneventful with doing well; sometimes, I am just fine with status quo, you know? But on Monday, there was quite the celebration going on! Finally, after long last, the girls have passed through Phase I of their orthodontic adventure, and the braces came off! They are thrilled: They can chew gum, eat popcorn with abandon, and bite into apples! I am thrilled: I don't have to pick them up and cart them over to Dr. M's office every 6 weeks.

I don't have very many good before pictures. I took a few that were early on in their Phase I adventure. If you look closely, you can see the space and crookedness of their mouths.


But I did capture two pretty nice pictures for the after shots.

At the orthodontists office on this momentous occasion (Zoe is on the left):

And with their new nicknames, Teeth 1 and Teeth 2:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

He's All Right

Back in September, Ferdinand was diagnosed as having diabetes. Since that time, we have been giving him insulin shots twice a day, and going in periodically to have his blood glucose levels checked.

The vet started him on 1/2 of a unit of insulin. Apparently, they always start with that level in cats, and then see how the cat responds. You'd rather underdose than overdose on insulin. Bad things can happen if you have too much insulin.

After Ferdie had been on 1/2 of a unit for probably a week, we had his blood checked. No change was detected in the glucose levels, so the vet ordered us to go up to 1 unit twice a day, and then come back for a blood check. Well, we went from 1 unit, to 1.5 units, to 2 units, to 2.5 units, to 3, then 3.5, and we are now at 4 units. I love the vet's office, but I am truly tired of seeing the lovely ladies that work the reception desk! In fact yesterday, when I took Ferdinand in, he whined (loudly) the entire car ride. He whined (loudly) in the waiting area, AND he whined (loudly) throughout the blood draw (I could hear him from the waiting area). It is obvious to me that he is a bit tired of seeing the vet's office as well.

At one point in this whole ordeal, and because Ferdinand's glucose levels weren't dropping sufficiently, the vet opted to do periodic blood draws throughout the day. This was in an effort to more accurately get a count of his blood glucose. When I went to pick Ferdinand up that day, the vet simply said, "Cats are special. Your cat in particular is very special." Well yeah, to us, he is! That isn't what she meant. Usually, in healthy animals, blood glucose levels increase slightly after eating, but for the most part, the level should stay pretty level. In diabetic animals, there isn't as much stability in the levels, so the vet should see some crests and troughs in the curve. Not in Ferdinand. His level was stable, but unhealthily stable. A level of 381 mg/dL isn't what they wanted to see at all!

In the end, it seems that the 4 units of insulin twice a day is (finally) working pretty well. He and Lucy are playing more, we see Ferdinand snuggling with the kids, and I actually SEE him more during the day. Ferdinand doesn't seem to be drinking as much, nor is he urinating as frequently or as copiously. I hope we are on the other side of this. I guess we'll see.

I should mention that cats really are special when it comes to diabetes. The vet also told me that in cats, sometimes diabetes just goes away after a couple of years!! Doesn't that just make you wonder? Is anyone doing research on that component of the cat? They very well should be!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Poetry By Tim

Tim and I both like to write. He admittedly doesn't get to do this that often, but he is good at it. In a former life, I believe he won an essay contest. And, if you read his dissertation, it reads like prose. Both of us try to impart our love of writing onto the kids, and so far, we haven't had any luck. But because the girls are in 4th grade, they have more writing to do. They've been working on friendly letters, business letters, and persuasive paragraphs, as well as trying to become a better writer overall by including more details and being aware of topic sentences.

One of the things Tim likes to write are poems, in particular, Haiku. He usually tries to write humorous ones, so that they interest the kids more. To be honest, I don't think these poems of his adhere to the strict Haiku guidelines, but for what its worth, we think they are nice.

I present to you Tim's latest.

How he describes his writing:
My prose is purple.
My nights are dark and stormy.
The butler did it.

Talking about Doctor Who, one of our favorite TV characters of all time:
The Doctor is stuck.
The angels have the phone box.
Sally Sparrow, help!

Putting a little math into it (of course) and I can't get my Greek font working:
(Edit by Tim: I put the right character in)
Richard Dedekind
was feeling sort of hungry.
He η function.

And for those who like Christmas poetry:
I want an iPod,
but Santa says I've been bad.
Guess it's coal this year.

Santa, we've been good,
but we don't need lots of junk.
Cash or check will do.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Card Pictures

Each year, we get lovely photos and photo cards from friends and family at Christmas time. Each year, I vow to get a great photo of our brood, and send it onto said friends and family. Each year, I forget how difficult it is to get a good picture of the kids.

I was going to use this one, which was actually taken not that long ago. But when you try to print it, Talia's head gets cut off. That was my fault, as I was the one taking the picture. So I guess in this instance, I can't really blame the kids.

We tried to take a nice picture with Santa. But of course, not all the kids cooperated. Times like this make me thank my lucky stars we don't have more children to add to the mix.

Take 1:

Take 12:

The one I'd really like to use has only one of our children, but so much potential for blackmail later on in life. If I send it out, Aaron will have a harder time of deleting it from our files!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Young Love

The girls are in 4th grade this year. If you don't know that already, then either you are new to the blog, or you just haven't been listening. Up until this time, boys have been relatively innocuous. The girls have had play dates with several of their boy friends, they've called the boy up the street to play, and they have complained about the rambunctiousness of some of their boy classmates.

This year, however, things have been different. The girls have been slightly distracted by boys, one in particular. I will call this boy Brandon, for the sake of clarity. From the beginning of this year, it has been Brandon this and Brandon that. I knew who Brandon was, for we all saw him at meet-the-teacher afternoon. Over the course of the year, though, I have gotten to know Brandon just a bit.

If the girls are going to like someone, I am glad that they picked someone like Brandon, and I can see why they have. He has long blond hair and warm brown eyes. He has two little brothers, I think, and seems to care about his siblings. He is intelligent and funny and more importantly, he is polite! At library time, when I check out his books, he always says "Thank you." What more can I ask for?

Well, yesterday we were talking about liking boys and the girls wanted to know who I liked in the fourth grade. Easy! I liked the same kid for three years in a row! He was tall, had dark hair, a cute space between his teeth, and dimples! Oh how those dimples came out when he smiled. I am sure there were quite a few of us 4th graders that swooned the day he walked into school. He was somewhat shy, but genuinely a kind fellow. The kids and teachers all liked him. His name was Bob. Okay, it wasn't really Bob. But he did have a very simple first name and we'll stop right there. I told the girls his name, but out of respect for everyone's privacy, I won't reveal it here.

Why? Because you can actually find this Bob on the internet. Turns out that the boy I went to school with for three years (he moved into the school and out again all within those 3 years) ended up doing some really good things over the years. He excelled in a sport in high school, such that a very good university offered him a scholarship. (That university, just so you know, is not one liked by a Wolverine fan, such as me.) Bob was, according to many accounts, a real student-athlete: very intelligent, hard-working, and gracious, both on and off the field, or court, or whatever. After college, he didn't make it in the big-leagues, but did play with some quasi-professional teams, and moved onto coaching. In that arena, he has done fantastic. This really is not a surprise, as his father coached several professional teams, as far as I know.

Well, the girls were curious. "Can you find a picture of him, Mom?" they asked. We hopped on the computer and looked him up. There were a couple of easily identifiable pictures there. Bob looked like a grown-up version of himself. And yes, the dimples were still there. In my opinion, he has grown into a very nice-looking fellow. Apparently, the girls disagree. Their response? "Was he cuter in the 4th grade?"

Friday, December 9, 2011

God Bless Mrs. G!

Aaron was lucky enough to be assigned to Mrs. G's class this year. As I have said before, Zoe had Mrs. G back in first grade, and we loved her. She is organized, patient, and has the students' best interests at heart. We also found out that she adapts well, as some things in the curriculum have changed since Zoe was in first grade, and she still manages to be a first rate teacher.

Over the course of the year so far, I have been in to help Mrs. G with various activities. I usually try to get there to help with the Science Lab activities, and I've been around to help with parties and lunchtime. Just recently, I started coming in each week to help with the math centers.

It became apparent to me very early on in the year that Mrs. G's class was a little lopsided. She had been given mostly boys, and to be honest, some of the most difficult boys in the first grade. (I do wonder if this wasn't by design, as Mrs. G has a reputation for being a good disciplinarian; she is gentle, yet firm with the students, and from what I can tell, she gets results!) When I have been in the classroom, Mrs. G has had to deal with talking, crying, general malaise, and arguing. Half of the class wants to talk to the new person (me) at a time when Mrs. G would like to explain what we need to do. Mrs. G usually looks at me, and in an effort to not roll her eyes at the students' behavior, instead widens her big, brown eyes at me. Any parent would know what it means!

I just want to give Mrs. G a shout-out and a large pat on her back! She has been an educator for 30 years, and nothing seems to have phased her. I think I'd actually like to ask her for an interview, off the record of course. I'd like to understand why she became a teacher, specifically a first grade teacher, and ask her what the secret is for being so patient and understanding. For 30 years! I'd probably try to get at the heart of her philosophy and then spread the word. Many of us can learn quite a bit from a lady like Mrs. G.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sweet Success

Once my quarter was over, I told the teachers at the kids' school that I would be able to come into the classroom and help out a bit more. Since I like science and math, both the 1st grade and the 4th grade teachers jumped on that. I have been going in to help the first graders with math centers (I have 6 kids at a time for 15 minutes), and I have also been helping the 4th graders. Every Tuesday and Thursday, the same 4th graders and I head to a quiet spot in the school and spend 30-45 minutes on whatever the teacher needs us to do.

On Tuesday, Mrs. M requested that we go over some of the concepts that the kids will see on the standardized tests. She gave me a copy of the quiz (not graded) that is similar to ones that the students take every couple of weeks. Mrs. M's philosophy is this: the more they see it, the better they will do. Hmmm...sounds like practice to me. Perhaps that should carry over into homework. But, I digress.

Anyway, the students and I looked over what they had done, and tried to concentrate on the concepts that most of them hadn't been able to grasp. One concept: fractions. At this point in the public schools out here, the students have only a rudimentary understanding of fractions. They can identify what a fraction is, and how many parts are a part of the bigger whole, but many of the kids don't know how to add or subtract fractions yet. So, we went over that. We added and subtracted fractions like there was no tomorrow. By the end of the 45 minutes, we had it down. I said to them, "My job is done. Now, you need to remember it!"

Well, imagine my surprise and delight when I walked into school today. Sydney had a big smile on her face and burst out: "We took one of those tests and I got all the fractions correct!" She was so clearly proud, it made me want to cry just a bit. Once I got the other kids in the group, I asked how they did. And all of them said the same as Sydney. "Mrs. C, it was easy! We knew exactly what to do!"

I think I felt just as great as they did about their small success!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mid-Life Crisis

First a reddish-pink stripe in my hair, and now a pair of black leggings! I must be going through a mid-life crisis. I will, however, still hold onto the notion that a pair of jeggings will never be seen in my closet. If I go that far, then will one of you please call in the authorities? Thank you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Balancing Acts

It is that time of the year again. The time where I find it difficult to juggle everything: school, shopping, cleaning, laundry, list-making, volunteering, etc. Part of it is due to the weather. I cannot stand the gloominess that comes with rainy December days. I live for the sun, and right now, that big star is hard to come by. I hope we see it tomorrow.

I also find it difficult to find the balance for what Christmas means to us. As Catholics, we primarily celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time. I try to imprint that onto my children when we speak about Christmas. At the same time, though, the magic of Santa is a huge draw, and rightfully so. Many of my fondest memories come from Christmas when I was a child, especially with respect to the man from the North Pole. The lights of the Christmas tree in the living room, the apprehension I felt when heading up the stairs (maybe I'd see Santa!), heading out to look for Rudolph's nose in the sky. All of those memories are to be cherished, and we try around here to replicate them in some way.

So, in our house, it just might be that the two sides (for lack of a better word) overlap. Celebrating a person's birthday is always (in our house) a happy occasion! Why shouldn't Jesus' birth also be that way? And the warm feelings that come with Santa? Those feelings can put smiles on most anyone's faces! Didn't the Grinch prove that? Either way, there are lessons to be learned. Giving presents, showering people with happiness, donating time and energy to those in need, and generally trying to spread Christmas cheer can be done whether you celebrate the birth of Jesus, or only talk about the man in red. I just need to remember to breathe, and it will all turn out okay.

Do you find it difficult to manage the two sides of Christmas? I'd like to know. [And don't get all righteous on me here. Some of you might say, there is only 1 side of Christmas, and that is the birth of Christ. That conversation can be for another time. As I said, lessons can be learned from either stance. So, we will continue to celebrate from both sides.]

Sunday, December 4, 2011

According to Melina...

Caterpillars, snakes, and worms are too slobbery to hold.

But, when she is a grown-up with blond hair, and if she calls herself Kita, then she might want to touch a caterpillar.

From the mouths of babes, you know?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Funnies

Melina likes to tell me all about her day at preschool. She attends school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so usually, Friday is a day where we can catch up on what happened.

Apparently, at school yesterday, they started singing Christmas songs. She recognized "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" on the radio.

Melina: We sang that at school yesterday!
Me: Oh really? Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?
Melina: No, Rudog, mommy. His name is Rudog, and he has a shiny nose.

Later on, when we were at the grocery store, we walked by the seafood counter. Melina pointed to the lobster tank.

Melina: Is that crab talking? (It was moving around in the tank.)
Me: That is a lobster and it is moving. It is alive.
Melina: Do people eat them?
Me: Yes, people eat lobsters, but you have to cook them first.
Melina: Do you cook them alive?
Me: Well, I think you put them in a boiling pot of water alive. I don't know, as I don't like to eat lobsters.
Melina: Well, mommy, I don't think I'd like to eat hamsters either.
Me: Lobsters, Melina, they are called lobsters.
Melina: Oh!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday Bits

Just for the record, I didn't understand what Tim meant in his post yesterday. Once I told him that I didn't, he explained it, in very easy terms. I guess Tim isn't always as clear as he'd like to be, either. If you need an explanation, feel free to ask him the next time you see him. Since Tim and Aaron share a brain, I do wonder if Aaron would understand exactly what he meant.

I picked up Melina from preschool today, and I realized that I am the old lady in line. I guess it makes sense, as Melina is the last of my children to be at the school, whereas some of the ladies are dropping off their first born children. Still, it hurts to think of it. My friend says, and rightly so, that the kids are closer to college than birth. Yikes.

I never did get around, in the month of November, to admitting one more deep dark secret. Of course, it isn't that deep or dark, considering Tim knows about it. What is it, you ask? Are you ready? I have a soft spot in my heart for Zachary Levi.

Way back when the TV show Chuck first came out, I'd be sitting at the computer doing school work while Tim watched the show. The music (which to this day I still really like) was the first thing that made me turn my head. Then, it was Chuck himself. At the inception of the show, the character really did look nerdy; the same can't be said for the more suave version of him on the show now. (In retrospect, I prefer the nerdier version.) I don't know exactly why, but something about a tall, dark, and handsome nerd just makes me giggly. This is in direct contrast to my penchant for bad boys, you know?

Anyway, not that it matters to me much or has any bearing on my liking of Zachary Levi, but the show has jumped the shark, as they say. I think this season is the last, and probably, it is for the best. I do hope that Zachary Levi does other shows, though. The only other thing I know him from is Tangled, which I loved, but because it was an animated film, I probably would have loved it even without his voice. Anyone know if there is a Zachary Levi Fan Club?