Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Challenge--or the Perfectionist's Math Test

Today's word is Challenge.

Just as a follow up to my last post, I did have the surgery to remove the skin cancer today, and so far, I feel pretty good.  I suspect there will be some pain tomorrow, but the doctor assures me that this will probably be the end of the skin cancer.  Now I just have to be hyper-vigilant in making sure I don't get any more. There's a challenge, no?

So on to today's challenge....T2 is a bright second grader whose teacher talks about her glowingly at our conferences.  "She's always working hard and trying to learn as much as she can."  She loves school and is completely challenged by every single opportunity, however mundane it may seem.  She finds a challenge in every boring homework worksheet and creates curriculum for fantasy classes that she teaches to her stuffed animals, always simultaneously reinforcing her own learning.

Today, she came home crestfallen with a timed math paper on which she received a 2 out of 15.  Apparently, she "got stuck" on a problem, she says, and did not finish the test.  T1, of course, was announcing this all over the house, soliciting glances of ire from T2's eyes.  If she could have "Superman-heat-vision-ed" him, she would have.  The problem she got stuck on was this word problem:

"Mrs. Tan has 23 stickers.  She will give 5 children an equal numbers of stickers.  How many stickers will each child get?  5? 4? 3? or 6?" 

T2 took the problem to mean that there was an even number of stickers overall, not just an even number to each child.  On her paper, she grouped the stickers into 5s and couldn't for the life of her figure out what to do with the other 3 stickers.  She never moved on.  In her note, the teacher said, "remember--don't spend all of your time on one problem--move on!"

Here is the challenge.  Clearly T2 is a perfectionist.  In this age of high achieving children in a "Race to Nowhere," T2 is starting from a very young age to see herself as exceptional.  She is perpetually the highest scorer in the class.  When frustrations like this trip her up, she is working with what psychologist Carol Dweck calls in her book "Mindset," a "fixed mindset" that if she can't figure out what frustrates her, she is no longer smart.  How can I let my highly self-critical daughter know that mistakes are part of the learning process?  And that messing up this timed math test is exactly what she needed to do in this moment to learn how to be a test taker?  And how can I assure her that tests are not a measure of her intelligence or ability to solve the problems?

What DG and I did do was reflect back her feelings of disappointment in her paper.  Not a judgment of her work, but rather a comforting, "Yeah, that probably felt extremely frustrating when you couldn't get that answer" kind of  way.  Then DG asked her the rest of the questions on the test, to show her that she did know the material.  He explained "remainder," so that she would have a logical explanation for why there were extra in the problem.  Her self deprecation was assuaged for the time being.

But what about the next time?  I praised her effort, not her intelligence, like Dweck says, and crossed my fingers that this will be what she takes with her to the next test. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Today's word is: Biopsy

As in, the kind your doctor takes when she suspects you may have cancer.  CANCER.  And cancer definitely sucks.  I say f*you to cancer on a regular basis when anyone I know or a loved one of someone I know has to deal with its insidious nature in their life.

My step father died of cancer when he was in his early 60s.  That was 25 years ago.  Every single time I hear of someone dying of cancer, or dealing with someone being treated for cancer, I feel that pain of losing my parent all over again. It never becomes something that I hear and just go, "Oh yeah. It's cancer, but it's that totally treatable kind like non-Hodgkins lymphoma, prostate cancer, early-detected breast cancer, basal cell melanoma skin cancer." I have a fear that no matter how treatable it is, once you have it, you always have it.  They say you're in remission but not always cured (although I think that sometimes people are cured of cancer).  Once you have it, you have to resign your life to whatever it takes to manage it.

This is what I now have to do as the biopsy did come back as skin cancer.  Yes, thankfully, it is the totally treatable basal cell melanoma.  I'll be having surgery next Tuesday to remove all of it.  They assure me that this will take care of it.  No more melanoma after surgery, but I will need to see the plastic surgeon since it's on my shoulder in a conspicuous place.  And I trust that I'm in good hands, and the my extremely reputable, highfalutin Santa Monica plastic surgeon will have me walking out of that doctor's office lookin' better than when I went in.

It's scary to think that this could have been much worse.  The only reason I went to have the mole checked out is because I had some cancer insurance that was going to expire.  If I didn't have this, I would have waited.  Waiting is the worst thing you can do when there's a potential for cancer.  But waiting is my first instinct because I come at the end of a long list of people and things that need taking care of. 

There's my family--my children, my husband, the cats, the fish

There's my job--colleagues and students who are depending on me

The household obligations--those groceries are going to buy themselves, you know.

So taking care of myself is increasingly harder and harder to do.  But after the surgery, I must come first.  As cliche as it sounds, if I'm not healthy, I won't be here for my children.  So pictures you see of me this summer will be of the woman with the long sleeved tunic, sitting in the shade, protecting herself so she can beat the bastard cancer.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Home is Where You Let Your Guard Down

Today's word is:  Appreciation.

I have a tremendous appreciation for my life these days.  I have a job that I love that allows me unbelievable flexibility and rewarding work.  I have children who, most of the time, are cooperative and fun to be around.  And I have a husband who loves me unconditionally, picks up where I am lacking, and shares my desire to jam pack our life with experiences, for better or worse, everyday.

So imagine my giddiness this morning as I looked forward to his coming home after a 5-day business trip.  Lots of husbands leave for long periods of time, their wives experiencing single parenthood first hand, but this was the first time DG has gone away for more than a night or two.

I was as organized as the highest paid office manager in a Fortune500 company.  I made lunches, got kids to school, went to work, remembered to put gas in the car....  I knew exactly who needed to be where and how long it would take to negotiate that fine dance of organization that makes a family with multiple children run smoothly.  I had it down.  Never once during the 5 days did I forget anything, overlook a task, or lose my patience with a child.

DG has been home since about 3 pm.  Since then, I've found myself neglecting to turn off a stove burner, glued to the couch, light headed with exhaustion, and unwilling to do any of the things that made the days go so smoothly while he was gone.  Maybe I'm finally letting my guard down.  Maybe I was afraid to stop the intensity of extreme home/life management because to do so would mean, I'd lose my focus and spin out of control.  Or maybe DG grounds me so imperceptibly that just his presence alleviates the pressure of having to do it all, because I know now I don't have to.  Reinforcements are here, and they're welcomed with open arms.

Welcome home, DG.  We missed you.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tasty Morsels

Tonight I went to a belated St. Patrick's day party where kids could jump in the Inflated Bounce House, and parents could sit in the late afternoon sun and sip Guinness--if you're into such a thing--the sipping Guinness, I mean.  The talking parents is always good.

No, I sipped no Guinness; instead I had a couple of these:

photo courtesy of cocoa-heaven.com

 Trader Joe's Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Pretzels. Mmm, mmm, mmm.  Crunchy, peanutty, and just the right amount of chocolate.  There's a review of them at Cocoa Heaven.  Tasty.

If you ever find yourself in Trader Joe's, be sure to pick up a bag.  But seriously, take it to a party, 'cause it would be a no-brainer to eat the whole bag.

Hope your weekend is "tasty."

Friday, March 18, 2011


Today's word is:  Community

I live in a small town, and since my kids have been attending the elementary school, I am starting to create a community of moms whose kids all go to the school, and whom I am happy to call my friends.  This is a feat that is not very easy to accomplish.  I find as I get older, it is harder and harder to make friends.  I just don't have a lot of time to invest in getting to know someone.  I know that sounds so selfish and weird, but it's just logistics.  I mean, I have a hard time scheduling a date night with my husband, and I live with him!

Anyway, today was one of the those wonderful community days when all the neighborhood moms I like we just put into my path.  First I took my friend's son to his preschool.  She's torn her Achille's tendon and is in a cast, unable to drive, for 3 months.  She was in the car while I delivered her son to the preschool, where I have never been, and I ran into two other moms.  We all decided to go for coffee.  We talked about our kids lying (that's a post for another day, but a doozy it is for sure), and they we were on to the next thing.  We went shopping at Nordstrom Rack (super bargains), and then, we picked up the children and went to the park.

We spent 4 1/2 hours in the park this afternoon.  Our kids ran into friends from school again and again as the afternoon wore on.  I sat on our blanket, knitting, and got to visit with one friend after another.  The sun was warming my face and the filtered light through the spring foliage dancing on my blanket had such a familiar spring-like quality that reminds me of how wonderful it is to be outside, communing.

Having people who make your life special is a wonderful gift.  And as I take the time to have days like this, the more I will be able to bring in people to make the perfect community.  And for that I am wonderfully grateful.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bad Imagination

There's this new 21st Century animal called a "procrastaoverwhelmanine." The female of the species is the dominant gender, practicing the fine art of waiting and putting off tasks until ultimately reaching a critical turning point of stress that manifests in the female running around making every other member of the tribe responsible for her wrath. Commonly heard among the females is the refrain, "If only they would do what I say and maybe help out around here a little more and maybe READ MY MIND, for God's sake...etc, etc.

The procrastaoverwhelanine is growing. More and more of these creatures are showing up in cities and towns all over the country. Families had best beware...beware.

What do you think today's word should be?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Heaven and Hell -- In A Drink

I can't decide if today's word should be:  Heaven or Hell.  You decide.

This is a post I probably shouldn't write.  I mean, DG reads this blog, and he HATES the product that is the subject of this post.  He hates it almost as much as I love it.  I mean I hate it.  No, I love it.  You see--it's complicated.  This product is revered around the world, and loathed by just as many.  People either love it or hate it, and if they can't feel all one way about it, they vacillate about it--like me, to the point where it sometimes feels like heaven in a bottle, and others like the hell that it probably is.

I'm talking about Coca-Cola, people.  Good old Coke, the real thing.  Awesome in its spicy, fizzy, throat-burning way. 

I used to drink LOADS of Diet Coke, and I mean loads.  I was upwards of 96 ounces a day what with all the Super Big Gulps and drive through Super Sizes.  Then I got really sick.  Gasritis.  The Coke was literally eating away at my stomach lining.  Ewwwww.  I quit cold turkey.  The foggy brain coming off of the stuff was like withdrawal.  No, wait--it was withdrawal!  I did not touch Diet Coke.  I was seriously scared of it.  Every once in a while, I'd have a regular Coke,  (I know, what's the rationale in that, but that's what I did) and only very rarely.

I switched to the drink that Mother Nature intended us to have.  Really, humans don't need any other drink than this:

Water is good for your skin, body, metabolism, and I've heard tell that it can make you June Cleaver when you want to be Mommie Dearest.  I love water.  There really is nothing better when you finish a marathon or when you're in the desert.

But, water's a little plain.  I find myself lately toying around with the Coke Zero.  Have you had this?  Tastes much more like real Coke, and much less like the chemicals that make up Diet Coke.  It's sweet and spicy, just like I love a soft drink.

But it's got me in a Heaven and Hell grip.  So, what do you think?  One teensy Coke Zero every once in a while?  Or cold turkey--No Coke? 

What would you choose?  Is it Heaven or Hell for you?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Today's word is:  Progress

I'm currently reading Jane Eyre again.  I love the drama of this book and the down-trodden character of Jane.  She's so persecuted and abused, and when she finds Mr. Rochester falling in love with her, she's amazed.  How could she be blessed with such good fortune?  Oh, because it can't really be real.  Of course there's the crazy first wife locked in the attic room.  Naturally.  Her love for Rochester is all for naught as she knows, because of what she believes her lot in life to be, that she's not worthy.  Until, of course, the happy ending where true love trumps tragedy.

I imagine the Bronte sisters sitting around a table with candlelight, spinning these love stories while the wind whipped over the foggy moors outside--moors, of course figuring prominently in both Charlotte's Jane Eyre and Emily's Wuthering Heights.  The sisters published their novels with male pseudonyms.  As women, they were expected to sit at the table after dinner sewing or knitting or some other household past time, not writing and, God forbid, publishing, but they shared their stories, and they wrote.

I'm grateful for the Brontes, the suffragettes, Gloria Steinem, and all the other feminists who've paved the way for my own daughter.  For her, growing up in the 21st century, I'm thinking more and more that there is no limit to what she can do, and I am particularly in tune with this as she navigates school. 

We had her parent-teacher conference this week.  We're told she gets 100% on pretty much every test.  She's reading 4 grade levels above her own.  The teacher says, "I never worry about her."  Learning, at least the public school 2nd grade standards, comes very naturally to her.  She'll have to learn, as Carol Dweck says in her book, Mindset, that it's her effort that contributes to her success--not some innate intelligence.  Armed with that knowledge, she'll amaze even herself, I presume.

This Christmas, when we went to see Santa, T2 asked him for a secret present.  Not wanting her to wake up on Christmas morning and there be no "secret" present because "Santa" didn't let "Mommy and Daddy" know what it was, I confronted her, asking what the secret present was.  She said she wanted Santa to give her the ability to fly.  She whispered this in his ear, very clandestinely, and stood back waiting for his response. 

"What did he tell you?" I asked her.

"He said I need to go to college and study physics, and maybe when I'm older, I'd be able to figure it out," she answered brightly, like this was as natural a thing in the world.  Well, I for one think there's a distinct possibility that she might just crack that code.

The progress made by women through the centuries makes this possible for her.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Evening is one of those words that is lost in 21st century vernacular.  Even 100 years ago, in the early 20th century, evening seemed to be the time when families moved to the parlor and took tea and smoked cigars to exchange news of the day.  These days, our kids are so scheduled with activities and homework and their own unique way of making sense of the 21st century (read--electronics), evening is not necessarily leisure time.  But sometimes it is.

This evening, as the warm day set into the cool night, I was reminded of how Southern California seasons change.  It's almost imperceptible.  Usually, around the middle of March, 70s are the norm and gone are those chilly mornings and nights.

Even though I am heralding the coming of spring (not nearly as much as those of my friends who've been shrouded in snow for MONTHS), I still want to savor a crisp, late winter evening.  I'm thinking a cup of tea and some warm candlelight are in my future.  Here's how we do it.

If you will excuse me, I'm going to retire to the parlor now and converse with my husband.  How deliciously novel.  Wishing you a very pleasant evening....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Safety or We're Not Ready for the Big One

Today's word is:  Safety.

I have been so humbled by the devastation left by the earthquake in Japan. To think of the amount of time that they had before the tsunami hit, something like a minute and a half, boggles my mind. There was no time. Everything was just gone. Japan has many earthquakes. I've got to imagine that they had disaster training and disaster plans in place, but when the largest earthquake in history hit, all that preparation was probably no match.

It scares me when I think about how, living in Southern California my whole life , I have an awareness of earthquakes, but I am woefully unprepared for dealing with one as a parent. DG and I have canned goods in the garage. We have large bottles of water, but none of this is portable. If a big earthquake hits, we may have to evacuate our home, or worse, try to find each other without the aid of modern technology.

I'm not ready for this.

I'm not ready to assure my children that everything will be okay when I know I'll be terrified myself. I'm scared to think that I'll have to comfort and assure the safety of our children in the most insecure of moments. I think about parents in Japan and I wonder how they're doing it.

At our school's last PTA meeting, the American Red Cross came to talk to us about disaster preparedness. I listened, but I smugly reacted as if I had it all together. Now I know how much I really don't. But like every resourceful mom, I know what I need to do now to get ready. The American Red Cross has a "checklist" that is very helpful to teach people know what to do and to prepare a disaster kit. 

If a quake as devestating as that in Japan hits, there may be nothing I can do. But, at least I can start putting together a plan. After that, it's kind of at the hands of fate. I hope I'll have the strength to carry the family through. At least, I can have hope.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Today's word is:  Lazy

When Mommy works outside the home, each day is a whirlwind.

Driving to work, driving to school, driving to this thing and that thing.

A Mommy can get tired.
Even rarer is the Saturday when no one needs her services.

But when it comes, the lazy Saturday afternoon is a magical respite.
My favorite "cave:"

My king-sized bed, warm light dappling the floor from the west windows.
A blanket that weighs just right on my tired limbs
A purring kitty at my feet, and
A good book in my hand.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Compensations and Comparisons

I read many "twin" pregnancy and childhood books when I first found out I was having twins.  All the books warned about comparing your twins.  Evidently twins are compared to each other more often than other siblings because they are both at the same developmental age. 

I think, though, that parents often compare their children even when they're different ages.  "Joey isn't talking as early as Sammy did." "Why can't Mary sleep through the night? Suzie did." I mean, obviously, these are exaggerations, but am I wrong?  Since my experience is only with twins, I wonder if and how other parents compare their kids.  Thoughts?


Rather than comparisons, lately from teachers, I've been hearing that T1 is compensating for being in a household with T2.  Even though T1 and T2 are in separate classes, all the second graders do activities together, so all their teachers know both kids.  They've told me that T1 often says he knows how to do something, or knows all about something when he really doesn't.  Someone will start to explain something to him, and he'll say, "Yeah, yeah, I've got it.  I know that...."  They think this is is way of defending himself against T2 who always knows the answer to most things without thinking about it.  When she does think carefully, she can decipher some pretty complicated stuff.  He's been trying to keep up with her his whole life.  The teachers speculate on this, and therefore, judge and/or compare him with T2. 

Now this is more significant that ever because 2nd grade conferences are next week.  How well a student performs at the end of second grade is a pretty good indicator for what he or she can do in third grade.  I wonder, are our conferences going to be good snapshots of how our children are doing, individually, in school, or will there be some comparing or compensating?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Homework is Hell, or is it? How to Accommodate

Today's word is Accommodate.  It's one of those commonly misspelled words that once you learn it (AC*COM*MO*DATE), you never misspell it again.

I recently helped T1 have a better attitude about his homework.  For 7 months, he has been doing the same homework assignment every week.  Write the spelling words on Monday (5 times each), use each word in a sentence on Wednesday, and do the math and language arts sheets in between.  Turn in the homework on Friday.  Week after week after week after week.  Seven months--no wonder he finally rebelled.

Said rebellion occurred on a week when 25 spelling words came home.  Twenty-five words times 5 times each is 125 words.  Are you kiddin' me?!?  The school district has a policy that students should do 10 minutes of homework per grade level per night, so for second grade, that's 20 minutes.  I don't know about you, but I don't think even I could write fast enough to complete 125 words (legibly) in 20 minutes.  T1 was crestfallen.  Head hanging, lip quivering, he said, "That's going to take me so long, I won't have time to play."

Okay, no ridiculous, busy-work assignment is going to get in the way of my sensitive boy's need to PLAY.  He's 8 years old.  Eight-year-old boys NEED to play.

My solemn proclamations that he did NOT have to do this assignment were half-heartedly met with a strong desire to not have to do it, grappling with the need to fulfill his teachers' requirements (T1 has two part-time teachers who share the class.  I know. Don't even get me started on this one).  He was torn.  I find it so interesting that here's a boy who doesn't want to do the homework that he feels is useless, but one who also is either afraid of the consequences of not getting it done or compelled to be deemed worthy by doing what he's told.

I told him I'd okay a change with the teacher.  I wrote an email stating (not requesting) that we were changing the homework.  I referenced the district policy (figured they couldn't really argue with that) and let them know that from now on, T1 would be writing his spelling words only once and the ones he knew on the first day (seriously--words like "do" and "eat) he wouldn't have to write again.  Right?  If you know how to spell something, you know it; writing it five times will not help you know better something that you already know.  I would give him a spelling test every day, and those words that he didn't know, we would study.  And by study I mean study effectively looking at phonics and mnemonics to actually LEARN the nuances of the spelling.

Both teachers emailed a highly accommodating response.  No problem, they said.  You can modify homework in what ever way you think is appropriate to facilitate learning.  As long as he knows the concepts, how he gets there is okay by them.  Now T1 is challenged by the daily testing.  It feels like a game to see how many he can get right without studying them at all (answer is not very many) and how many he can learn as the week goes by (answer is all of them).  He's been getting 100% on his spelling tests ever since.  I even heard him say to another boy who was lamenting having to write the spelling words 5 times each, "Just do it my way.  It's tons more fun, and I learn the words too! Have your mom send an email!"

What this really brings up for me is the whole concept of homework in elementary school at all, but that's a post for another day.  Lord knows, as an educator who studies how the brain learns and effective pedagogical practices daily, I have a LOT to say on this topic.  Stay tuned for that, but for now, the message is that homework does not need to be the hassle that I hear parents complain about on the park bench or at the dance studio or karate studio.  It's a conversation that people are having constantly. 

While I'm not saying that teachers don't know what they're doing, and that you can make whatever homework assignment you want for your kids, you don't have to look at it as such a rigid, black and white task. I do believe that teachers have many legitimate reasons why they assign the homework they do, but in my experience, teachers are flexible, and what do they want really most of all?  They want their students to succeed--to walk out of their classes having learned something.  They're not homework pushers getting off on watching your kid suffer.  Talk to them.  Work out a solution that works for your family's quality of life and for your child's maximum learning.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Presence of Children

I was at a meeting tonight in a school classroom where several vocabulary words were written on the board.  I was struck by the word, Presence.

Presence is one of those words that, when altered into its other word forms, has multiple usages and meanings. There's the "presence" in the room. It can be a person, a feeling, or movement.  There's the "presence" of attendance, the act of paying attention.  And then there's being "present" in the here and now--a sense of all else before or after having no significance compared to this moment. 

I was thinking of this tonight as I went in and checked on the children after they were asleep.  I want to capture each moment and live it exactly as it's supposed to be.  I know for most working moms (hell, for moms in general), the running and scheduling and sheer magic of keeping it all going everyday disallows for finding the beauty in any moment.  And for me, this means in all the taking care of my children, I forget to notice them.  They will only be 8 years, 3 months, and 18 days old once, and for this one moment, they are perfect.

I'm honing in on their presence.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Crunchity, crunch, crunch

Today's word is:  Crunch

I love the word crunch.  It's one of my favorite onomatopoeias. Crunch, crunch, crunch.

It's the sound my neck makes when I twist it just so.  Caramel corn crackles and crunches loudly in my ears when I'm at the movies.  Packed snow has a very distinctive crunch when it comes in contact with my boots.

Sometimes, though, crunch has a different meaning.  It's "crunch" time.  Oh, you know, that critical time when you cannot put "it" off any longer--whatever "it" is.  And I've only got myself to blame.  I get myself into this situation every semester.  I delude myself into thinking I have all the time in the world to finish something, but what I'm really doing is procrastinating, thus leading to crunch time.

And it's not just at work with grading papers or planning lessons, but it happens at home with the kids too.  Have you ever told your kids, "We're leaving in 5 minutes!" but then you go back and begin that bathroom scrubbing project that you've been putting off?  Then all of a sudden, "CRUNCH TIME." 

"Let's go, let's go, let's go.....!" you exclaim as if you'd been waiting all along and they were procrastinating.  I guess it's a learned behavior.

Or maybe crunch time is when your son comes out wearing the ratty, old underwear that he had when he was 3, that you can't for the life of you figure out why it's still in his drawer.  Then you run off to do the laundry.

Or maybe crunch time is the 15 minutes before bedtime that you try to squeeze in piano practice.  "If only she'd focus."

For me, I think I'm craving down time so badly that I tend to repress any actual work I have to do.  Maybe if I stop thinking about it, it will go away.....

How does crunch time manifest itself in your house?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Growing Up--The Anticipation Version

Today's word is:  Anticipation

I wonder what my kids will be like when they're grown?

My brother has two grown children--a 20-year-old who is a sophomore at the University of Washington, studying English (a girl after my own heart), and an 18-year-old who's kicking ass and taking names in the high school music world playing bass.  He's won awards all over the state of Washington and now is looking to pursue his musical aspirations in college.  I listen to my brother over the phone, and I can practically see his face beaming as he talks about them.  I can feel his proud parent moment, and I wonder if mine will be the same.

I was thinking about this today as I drove home from work during my 30 minute commute.  This is prime time, by the way, for feeding all my neuroses regarding how successful I am at raising my children.  Will my kids be as humble, as driven, as polite, as accomplished as my niece and nephew?  I don't know.  My husband and I are much different than my brother and sister-in-law.  She stayed home with them growing up.  My brother never missed a little league game.  They're conservative and not as permissive as DG and I are.  They live in the forest in the middle of nowhere, WA while we're in and out of Los Angeles on a regular basis.  Is this bad?  No.  Does our different experience mean that our children won't grow up equally as composed and mature as his?  I don't think so.  It's just different.  But I don't know for sure.

So I practice modeling my brother.  I try to offer my children the same kind of life that (forest living and no video games notwithstanding) their cousins have been afforded.

And I wait.

There are two dictionary definitions of anticipation:

1. previous notion; slight previous impression; realization in advance

2. expectation or hope

The latter is the common way I think about the word--I have a hopeful expectation that my children will turn out to be respectful and respected adults, pursuing their passions with a sense of confidence that comes from knowing that their parents support them emotionally forever.  The former is harder to pinpoint, but it's there.  There's an excitement in the not knowing that stems from the knowing.  I have seen these young people, my niece and nephew, whose upbringing I had a small part in by virtue of being related to their parents, and I know based on their histories, that my own children will follow their lead.  At least that's the way I'm anticipating it.  My children have their cousins to look up to, to aspire to emulate.

And I can't wait.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Inspired by Today's Word: Time -- or lack thereof

Oh sweet weekend, why do you have to be so fickle?

You tease me on Thursday night with the promise of hours and hours 
and hours and hours.

I can sleep in.  I can wake up early.  We're running, jumping, playing.
I am free, unencumbered by the meetings,
classes and responsibilities of work and family life.

I have all weekend to:

work on kid's science project
fold laundry
grocery shop and cook meals
grade papers

But you're a jezebel, weekend.  You promise, but you don't deliver.
Sunday night creeps into sight, a dark cloud of an impending storm blanketing
the earlier sunshiney landscape, with it a chill of inevitable change.

And then....the time is gone. Work week is on the horizon, Monday hammering
on the door. 

So, I'm on to you, weekend.  You can't pull this over on me again next week.
Next week, I'm gettin' fortified.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Today's word is Pride.

Not pride in the, "I'm so awesome," boastful kind of way, but rather, pride as in the "I did something that was overcoming an obstacle and I'm so proud I did it" way.

T2's been dancing the hula with a group for almost a year now.  She's a natural.  Man, I can't believe how she can move her hips.  I am filled with pride every time I watch her dance.  When she started, I would sit during the class and bring a book to read while it was going on, but I could never focus on my reading. I found myself mesmerized by the women in the group.  The dance looked so fun, and the music was infectious.

In November, I started dancing with my daughter.  I asked her first, if she thought it would be fun to have me in the group.  That we could do the dances together, practicing in the evenings.  She was thrilled by this concept.  Better grab onto this now, I thought.  She's going to be a teenager soon enough, and she would be mortified if I wanted to dance with her.  Now or never.  I thought, I've been watching for months; I can do this.  No way, y'all.  It's way harder than it looks.  It took me a while to get the steps.  The hands, hips, and feet all do different things.  While I'm not very good at it, I have a great time doing it.  It makes me feel so alive to move my body like that, a body whose image I've struggled with all my life.  I'm not the dancer type, you see.  Big and stocky, not long and lean like my daughter.  But hula--hula I can do.

And today was the big test of my confidence.  I danced with the group today for the first time in front of an audience.  Once the music started, I hit my stride.  I found myself beaming both inside and out. I was so proud of myself for going for something that I don't look perfect doing, but about which I feel very passionate. 

In the first clip, T2's second from the right.  In the second clip, I'm the tall, stocky one, next to the man in the back, and T2's the little girl on the right.  I'm thinking that this experience, for however long it lasts until one of us loses interest (T2?), is making a life long memory for T2 and I to share. 

I am proud.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Sorrow of Doglessness

Twelve years ago, I lost my beloved German Shepherd mix, Scruffy, at 16 years old.

I stayed dogless for for a little while.  While I missed my sweet baby, I knew that getting another dog would be the cure for what ailed me.  I'm a dog person through and through, and I didn't feel right not having a dog.

I started researching breeds and fell in love with the herders.  Their quick brains and abilities were so intriguing to me, and I quickly became obsessed with getting one.  I started looking at Australian Shepherd rescues and breeders.  I knew I'd get an Aussie.  I went to the local Humane Society to let them know that I was looking for an Australian Shepherd, and if they were to hear of any coming in, would they call me first.  "We have one right now," they said, and before I knew it, I had my Aussie, a beautiful 3-year-old black tri that I named Jack.

We were inseparable.  I trained him and took him on long hikes in Griffith Park.  He needed extensive training and I was up for the challenge.  I took him to a party 10 days after I got him; there I met DG, who was immediately smitten with Jack, I think, much more than he was with me.  DG's love for Jack was part of what made me fall in love with him.  You know, love me, love my dog....  I knew DG would be a good father.

One day, when I was pregnant, we took Jack for a herding instinct test.  Put in a ring with Jack and a dozen sheep, it was truly a marvel to see him move them around, to do what he was bred to do.  I got choked up, just like I do now watching T1 master a complicated karate kata, or T2 on stage at any dance performance.  Jack was my first baby.

Things were pretty hard for Jack and me when the babies came home.  Have you ever seen that scene in "Marley and Me" where Jennifer Aniston, playing a mother with a newborn and a toddler, is home all day and her husband comes home and the dog goes nuts, knocking over the toddler, and she screams, with escalating intensity, "just get rid of the dog, GET RID OF THE DOG!!"?  We had a very similar beginning with Jack and the twins. 

On the night we brought T2 home from the hospital, Jack jumped in the crib with all four feet, all 60 pounds of him, dangerously close to the 5 pound twin.  It was more than I could manage; I was ready to call the Aussie rescue to find him a nice farm to run on forever.  DG was not ready to give him up.  We sent him doggie boot camp, and he came back a different dog, a dog that could be a part of our family, one that the babies could jump on and try to ride, and who would sleep outside their door while they were napping, and bark at any passing dogs, for fear they would try to get his "babies."  I'd strap him to the double stroller and trudge through the neighborhood.  One time, a driver stopped me and said, "Wow, if you can get out and walk with all that, what's my excuse?"  For me, Jack was the original recipient of my mothering.  He needed me just as much as I needed him.

Jack was almost 15 when we had to put him to sleep four weeks ago.  The vet said, after Jack had had 6 seizures in 12 hours, that he probably had a brain tumor, and he was fading fast.  I wasn't ready, although I knew it was coming.  I held him on that table, cradling all the bigness of him, as if he were an infant I was holding in my lap.  I thanked him for all he'd given me, how he changed my life.

So today's word is "sorrow." 

I have days when I won't remember him, and I think that his memory will fade eventually, and this fills me with sadness.  The sorrow that comes from coming home to the house with no dog will probably be with me for a while.  Until the sorrow of doglessness passes.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Freedom from Myself

Today's word is Freedom:

I used to feel I was responsible for my own life.
It's how we're taught from a very young age.
"You're independent; do what you want to do."
If I work hard, I can have anything--do anything.

But what I want is not a solitary wish.
It does not exist in the realm of Me with no one else.
When I strive for a wish, dream, goal,
I must trounce over the others along the way. They're in the way.

But the path of my life does include others.
I have a special one who shares my life and to whom I am
I can't make some decisions about myself without thinking of the outcome--for him.

I have two little ones whose well beings depend on
choices I make for my life.
They're watching and learning how to be themselves
from my example.

When I'm so much in my head, reeling over how well I solved this problem
or how badly I did on that issue, I'm taking away from the others in my life.
The talk in my head over what I need to do to control the others around me
so that I can be calm, needs to be squelched.

In the context of belonging to others, I have freedom.
I let go of the control over everything, including them, and I can have peace.
Nothing I say or do can make the world exactly the way I want, to suit me.
Freedom from myself means a better me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Today's word is "persuasion."

I am often asking my children to change their minds about something, to convince them that their opinions (on say something like...what they want for dinner) are misguided and uninformed.  I provide them with evidence to the contrary, proving beyond a doubt, that mother really does know best.  Children need to be persuaded to:

-- brush their teeth effectively (or you'll get cavities).

-- clean up their rooms (that's how you earn screen time/allowance).

-- take a sweater (it's not cold now, but it might be later).

It's mother's prerogative to dispense with all kinds of wisdom given her wealth of experience in all things related to childhood.  If children could be convinced to listen to mother, all would be right with the world.


I've been thinking lately about the students I have in my classes.  I should not have to give them reasons why it's important for them to do the work required for the class.  Didn't they sign up for the class?  Didn't they invest the fees and purchase the books?  And while I muse about why I shouldn't have to do this, the fact remains that I am part cheerleader, convincing my students everyday about the value inherent in working for something.  If you do the work, you'll be rewarded with pride in the outcome.  If you slack off, your success is directly related to your effort.

I can only make my pitch, and then get out of the way of their actions.  They're outcome is not a reflection of my effort; it's theirs. (This rings true for the children, too, by the way.)


Sometimes, although not as much lately, I have to persuade myself to believe in myself.  I am extremely self-deprecating.  If you're even perused this blog a little bit, you can see that I have doubted myself at every turn.  This is the year, however, that I turn that around and start acting with integrity, standing up for what I believe in and not second guessing myself.  I'm thinking that I'm going to be hard to convince, but I'm hoping that I can give myself enough examples of how I'm doing the best I can do (see this, and this) and that what other moms, co-workers, friends, acquaintances are doing or feeling about me is none of my business.  That ought to do it--my life, my way.


How do you use persuasion?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In a word...31 days worth

So the theme at National Blog Posting Month for March is "In a Word."  Words are the very essence of what I do--at work, when teaching, while engaging with my children, in communication with anyone.  This March, I'm going to explore the presence of these words in my life and post about how they inspire, enrage, comfort, and perplex me.

I'm convinced that I can find a plethora of words to expound upon in the coming days, but I'm not at all under the illusion that I can cover the gamut of the diction related to raising children, working, or balancing a desire for individual fulfillment with the responsibilities of running a household and educating first-time college students.  That's why I want to know what words spring to your mind that describe your day-to-day experience.

Is it HAPPY?






I want to know--what's your word of the day?