Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Twenty-five years ago today my daughter was born. My life changed that day and I don't mean in the typical ways. I learned to pick my battles; I learned to accept her for who she is, not who I thought she should be; I learned that it is often the little moments and not the big events that a child remembers; I learned when to listen and when to keep my mouth shut--basically because I learned to ask if my role in the conversation is to listen or to advise. And I have learned that an adult child is, oh, so much fun!

We did not always get along. Mothers and daughters don't seem to do well living under the same roof. But, she went to college, matured, and I feel closer to her than I ever have. She has many qualities I wish I possessed. At 25 years old she has a self confidence it took me 40-some years to gain. She embraces her individualism and is pursuing her passion.

My heart hurts with how much I love her. I am, also, immensely proud of the young woman she has become. Happy Birthday, Princess Annabelle. You truly are "my sunshine....you make me happy when skies are gray. You'll never know, dear, how much I love you."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pre-Summer Teaser

Sunday morning, sun is shining, 80 degrees, slight breeze, birds chirping, sound of lawn mowers in the neighborhood, children's voices. Feeling content and happy just because of the weather.

Friday, May 21, 2010


D. is a 6th grade LD student whose mood fluctuates hourly. He can begin the day pleasantly and cheerfully but turn moody and work resistant for no apparent reason. His inability to shut his mouth when in the negative mood does not bode well for those of us attempting to work with him nor does it help him in any manner. He also has a mother who does not care about his work ethic.

By 7th hour on Monday he refused to do any work. I knew that in homeroom we were going to the computer lab to let students play computer games. Trying to "motivate" D., I stated that he would be allowed computer time only if he completed his assignment. No change in behavior.

As any parent knows, when carrying out a disciplinary threat, the adult suffers the consequences of the threat as much as the child. Banish a computer, cell phone, or TV and the parent endures a pouty, bored, snotty child. Teaching is no different. During computer lab time, D. continued to refuse to work, and I continued to strongly encourage him to change his mind. It would have been easier on both of us to just let him go on a computer. Since that didn't happen, neither of us left that lab happy with the other.

After the bell rang, and as drove home, I felt irritated at both D. and myself. Was it really worth the effort to try to get him to work when he clearly wasn't going to do it? Was I more involved in a power struggle rather than academic encouragement? Was it really my job as paraprofessional, rather than as the teacher, to consistently cajole (nag, threaten, bibe, harass) him into working? Or should I have washed my hands of him and let him sit unproductively? I concluded that the next day I would wash my hands of him and let him be.

Tuesday, 1st hour, D. cheerfully greets me and announces he is going to be better and willing to work. This will make it an easier day for both of us, so I am happy with this declaration. What I would love to know is whether D. woke up that morning and randomly decided to be positive or if my hassling him the previous day made an impact.

This is one of the basic educational unknowns....what actions taken by the teacher/parapro positively impact students. If I had ignored his unmotivated behavior would he have come to school Tuesday in that good mood or would he have continued bucking school work? I wish I knew......

(One old adage President Bush and Senator Kennedy forgot when promoting the "No Child Left Behind" bill is "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." We can provide educational experiences for children, but they must want an education and their parents must want it for them. Circumstances are vastly different for school children today than when we baby boomers were in school. Anyone not familiar with school children today may not understand the difficulty in educating students for no other reason than parental support is not behind the schools.)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Funny Bone

A lighter side of Mother's Day:

"I want my children to have all the things I couldn't afford. Then I want to move in with them." Phyllis Diller

"A suburban mother's role is to children obstretrically once, and by car forever after." Peter De Vries

"A mother is a person who seeing there are only 4 pieces of pie for 5 people, promptly announces she never did care for pie." Tenneva Jordan

"Working mothers are guinea pigs in a scientific experiment to show that sleep is not necessary to human life." Author unknown

"Mothers of teenagers know why animals eat their young." Author unknown

"There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it." Chinese proverb

While humorous, there is also truth to these quips. But as every mother knows, survival in the toughest job in the world depends on a fabulous sense of humor! Here's to all the mother's in the world who laugh at themselves and parenting.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Women with Power Tools

Except for the "cracks in the glass ceiling" attention when Hillary was running for President, women's rights is an issue rarely addressed any longer. Young women today do not carry the torch of feminism prevalent in the 60's and 70's, possibly because they grew up knowing more equal treatment. Women enjoy greater respect and broader employment opportunities today due to the strides made by Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem.

At my elementary school boys and girls had separate playgrounds. During high school, 1968 - 1972, we did not have Title IX, had to wear dresses to school until my sophomore year, my mother told me to let boys win at games, and we did not have co-ed gym classes. When I graduated from high school in 1972, females became nurses, teachers, or secretaries. Approximately 10 females out of my graduating class of 224 went to college.

Flash forward to 2010. Appearing at my door to clean up my flooded basement were three women. Three women who wielded power tools and hauled heavy industrial fans and dehumidifiers. After all these years I still rarely see women in such roles so was gratified and impressed to meet these three.

They explained to me that the restoration business is huge and there are many job opportunities. The young man who was coordinating the clean up efforts told me he preferred working with the women rather than the men. He explained that men often become cocky once they got used to the job, but the women always want to learn more. However, there is still progress to be made in some attitudes. The women told me about driving an hour to a job only to be told by the male homeowner to turn around because "no woman could do this job."

These women and all those people (males, too) in non-traditional gender roles give me hope. This is still a sensitive issue to me because I have too often been patted on the head, patronized, had my suggestions ignored only to have a male's same idea accepted. I have heard men say, "Women are taking men's jobs" or question a females sexual orientation because they choose a traditionally male profession. So, it is gratifiying to know that women are still pushing the boundaries and not letting gender limit their job opportunities.

Thank you Maria, Heather, and Carla for being the Paul Davis Restoration employees to show up at my door. Besides being extremely efficient, enlightening, and fun, you are role models for others.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


"The years had nibbled away the clear-cut contours and it was a high-risk strategy to get straight out of bed and count on looking fine. No, more than that: it was impossible."

Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman by Elizabeth Buchan

Fortunately, as we age we no longer care as much about looking fine right out of bed!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wisconsin Spring

Spring doesn't come easily to central Wisconsin. We have had a few days in the high 70's and even an 80 degree day. After surviving 5 months of winter, residents are panting for green grass, flowering trees, sunny daffodils, and blazing tulips.

This branch is from an ornamental tree in my backyard. It is always exciting to see buds sprout out of dead looking branches.

One woman's weeds are another woman's flowers. I enjoy seeing dandelions in April -- they are little dots of sunshine in the lawn and a true sign of the season.

Most annuals cannot be safely planted outside until after Mother's Day. However, pansies are hearty cold weather plants, and I've taken advantage of that and have 3 pots of various pansies on the front porch. An early taste of annuals to come.

Watson accompanied me outside and is sunning himself while I take pictures.
He likes spring because he gets more frequents walks.

I've always contended I wouldn't miss seasons if I could live in a warm climate year 'round.....this spring had me questioning that. While I would sacrifice winter in a heartbeat, spring is THE breath of fresh air after arctic weather and truly a sign of rebirth.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

31 More Days

31 days of school left until summer vacation. Until then, a few more middleschool tales:

Have I told you lately how thrilled I am to know I can do 6th grade math? The other day we started learning mixed numbers and improper fractions. One boy was trying to explain how to figure out how many whole numbers are in mixed numbers (how many quarters in 5 1/4) and he said you need to do "backward multiplication." So now the class has a new term for division: "bacward multiplication."

Two boys want to come over to my house to pick up dog poop. They will only charge me $5.00 but would like me to make supper. When I informed them that about the only thing I have in the freezer to make for supper was frozen pizza they said that was even better. Now, I live in a different town then these boys, I'd need written parental consent, and I'm not sure I want them knowing where I live -- other than those three factors I'd love to have them over!

A 6th grader was busted for possession of pot. He had showed a few kids the stash, those kids narced, the police liason officer searched his locker, and he is now suspended pending expulsion. He is not the brightest kid plus is a bully whom I contend is a sociopath. The kids who turned him in hang out with him half heartedly but know he is bad news and often report him for bullying. They were awed at how stupid he was to have the drugs. A typical day for him was to sit in class and never do any work. The mother contends he is smart (none of us has seen one indication of this and believe all the swagger is to cover his lack of intelligence) but doesn't seem sure of what to do with him. He has no use for school (yes, a child who wants to be left behind), but I worry about what happens after suspension. The idea that he will be home schooled stretches the imagination. These are situations when I think vocational schools even at 6th grade would be more productive all around.
The LD teachers have arranged a fieldtrip to Miller Stadium for the 6 - 8th grade learning disabled students to watch a Brewer's game. Cost: $10.00. If a child cannot afford the $10 there will be money made available. One child is not going because the parent thinks Milwaukee is too far away (2 hour drive). Another cannot go because the mother doesn't want him getting home so late (5:00 p.m.) Another girl announced it would be boring so she isn't going -- we are all relieved by her disinterest! A father wanted to chaperone but staff assured him the bus was full. It was later explained to me no one was sure that dad could pass a background check! This trip will be educational beyond description. So many of these kids do not get to do such things, don't know how to conduct themselves in public places, don't get to go far beyond their home cities. It should be fun and very interesting for all of us.

Science test on biomes. (How many know, without running to Google, what a biome is?) We have studied this endlessly, yet a few items just escaped the little darlin's. Students were asked to name an animal that lives in the desert (same question regarding an animal in a tundra), describe an adaptation of that animal, and whether the adaptation is behavioral or physical. This was a pretty interesting unit and we watched videos from "Planet Earth" that repeatedly discusses such. Imagine, then, my amazement upon seeing students state that arctic foxes are desert creatures. Or that a humpback whale lives in the tundra.

School dress code states that shorts or skirts must be as long as your fingertips when arms are at your side. (That's kind of short although as someone who went to high school during the mini-skirt years and who is amazed I got through school with any modesty intact, the fingertip rule isn't all that unreasonable.) To get around the rule the girls have taken to wearing leggings under skirts and shorts. Leggings under shorts is one darn ugly fashion statement. I understand the "need" to subvert rules but please, leggings as a way to do it is a definite fashion don't. The ugliest so far was a girl in a white shirt, white shorts, and black leggings.

With the advent of nice weather the kids are outside more which means there are many 6th graders on crutches, with ace bandages, slings, and cuts and scrapes. It's easy to forget that not long ago sixth grade was considered elementary school and that this age group is still rough and tumble, play outside age. They certainly need to run off the energy whether it is after school or on the weekend. Each Monday brings another wounded child back into the school fold.

These students are still slightly in awe at hearing a swear word in a movie. "Hell" will bring a chorus of "that's a bad word" from the class. (Cracks me up because I'm pretty sure many of them could outswear me) In 7th hour yesterday D. returns from the bathroom, comes up to me and whispers, "In one of the stalls in the bathroom (boys) someone wrote 'b-i-t-c-h-e-s' (he spells this out) and drew pictures of balls and a dick." What cracked me up about this is how careful he was not to say "bitches" but had no problem saying "balls" and "dick."!! My preference would have been for the reverse!

Usually the end of the school year brings about squirrelier behavior than the months before -- from both students and teachers! So who knows what tales I'll have to tell in the coming days!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Apollo 13

Right now NBC is airing a show on the Apollo 13 mission, and I never tire of this story. The explosion was catastrophic, stranding the three astronauts in space, but the greater story is the problem solving involved in saving them. It is touched on in this program but best illustrated in the Tom Hanks movie.

I cannot forget my astonishment during that movie when the engineers pull out slide rules to do math! Men were sent into space and no calculators were used? Astronauts were to land on the moon, and we were watching the news on black and white televisions! A square filter needs to fit into a round filter and duct tape is a crucial tool......that challenge resolved without the use of a computer.

Of course, I am old enough to remember life before calculators and computers but it is looking at this remarkable event in hindsight that is even more awe inspiring to me. Society is so entrapped by devices, and we seem to "need" our electronics to solve the simplest problems. (Now, maybe slide rules were more high tech than I realized...I avoided them like the plague) To watch historical drama be resolved with such simple tools reminds me that ingenuity, problem solving, and inspiration are the makers of heroes. It is interesting to contemplate whethe all of our electronics make us lazy. I'd like to think that today a handful of people could solve a life and death situation with simple tools, but I'm not sure.

(The background music for the NBC Apollo 12 show was Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon." Loved it!)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Break

Spring break: April 2 - April 11. Hoorah!!! I have nothing special planned, and spent today as a slug/sloth/lazy bum....exactly what I wanted. There is cleaning to be done, a dryer to possibly buy, and various other chores to do but today was for laziness. Since I am not writing from an exotic place, this entry is about the small happenings of my spring break days thus far. No need to go get the popcorn and prepare to sit at the end of a chair while the suspense builds. Just a glimpse into a simple, stay-at-home vacation.

Received the tax information from the accountant today. 95% of me believes paying taxes is what I do to have good roads (Wisconsin has well kept roads and highways), good schools (Wisconsin has one of THE top ranked education systems), police/fire protection, etc. and I don't waste time complaining about it all. I pay quarterly estimated taxes and on those four days I take a deep breath and wish I wasn't paying in; today when I read the information from the accountant I was not thrilled with the amount I will pay in now and each quarter this year. And while I have the money to pay the taxes(not through any planning ahead mind you), I need to vow (swear, pledge) to budget better for taxes. Wish me luck as I am not a budget-er.

The dog didn't get out of bed until 11:30 this morning. Granted, his schedule is off since my schedule is changed this week. Typically we both get up at 5:30 a.m. although he goes back to bed by 6:00 and probably doesn't get up again until I come home at 3:00 p.m. or so. But I was up for hours and he was still in bed this morning. After a brief visit to the lawn, he napped in a chair for most of the afternoon. My dog has a good life.......as he should!

On Sunday my princess visited and we decorated Easter eggs. While it was on Easter that we did this, art has no time table, you know. We had gone to Michael's craft store on Friday to pick up supplies and bickered in the aisle about what we needed. It was a role reversal -- I was the Ann of her youth and she was me as mom. Painting on Sunday was relaxing and fun. I am always and forever in awe of her talent and decorating eggs allows me to see how she creates. Her eggs are artistic while mine are elementary school simple. We were both true to our creative selves.

Spring arrived in Wisconsin a few weeks ago and welcomed with open arms. Tonight it is raining and there is even some thunder and lightening. It smells rain fresh and slightly wormy outside. Lawns are greening up, daffodils are blooming, sparrows are remodeling the robin nest on the fireplace vent. Even the green weeds growing in the landscaping are a sign of warm weather. Winter is a harsh season here, and spring is embraced probably more than any other season.

When on vacation I watch morning TV. Absolutely worthless morning TV. "Frasier" reruns top the list. I have seen these episodes numerous times and still laugh at the humor. This is followed by "The View." As long as Elisabeth Hassleback doesn't comment on politics and Barbara Walters doesn't speak, I like the show. I have to confess to tuning into "Millionaire Matchmaker" today and that was fascinating! Millionaires who can't find dates go to this bitchy matchmaker, pay her something like $50,000 to find them a date, and then viewers get to watch the dates. Tacky, shallow, voyeuristic, and fun to see! It really does show that money can't buy you love.....it also shows how absurdly immature the millionaires are.
Ah, I warned you this was about nothing exciting! But it is my vacation and I'm lovin' it!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Middle School Mania

Life continues to be humorous/challenging/eye rolling/exasperating/fun at Maplewood Middle School. Survived last week's full moon but, as always, middle school life is always interesting.

* "If you mess with the bull, you'll feel the horns." Fransisco, 6th grade

* Dr. Suess books can make a 6th grader smile.

* The police liaison officer stated that bullying is reported 3 - 10 times before action is typically taken.

* Something is amiss when children are not afraid of being sent to the office. One student, when pressured to work, flounces off to the office. Okay.....why is he comfortable doing that?

*A boy who intentionally broke a 6th grade girl's finger received a 3/4 day suspension. Now, I am not privy to any police citations he may have received but less than a day of suspension seems lightweight to me.

*A student called a secretary a "fucking c--t". The secretary was informed that the student was really sorry. No punishment.

*A student spit in a paraprofessional's cup of coffee, unbeknown to her. He was suspended until he could be tested for any diseases -- the testing was at the insistence of the parapro. This boy is the brother of the above mentioned boy who likes to go to the office.

*Vince does not have a bedroom. He sleeps on the couch and often comes to school tired because he is awakened when people come home or kept awake by his brother playing Wii in the living room. The natural question asked -- the mom can afford Wii but not a bedroom for her son?

*D.K. is a follower. He has stated he acts up and doesn't do his work so he can be "cool" like a few other boys. His mother tells him he doesn't need to serve after school detentions and doesn't need to apologize for bad behavior. He has also told us him mom throws chairs at home. I don't want to meet this woman.

*L.B. hates school. She is an A student, well mannered/behaved, the kind of student I love. She hates school because in each class she must put up with immature, undisciplined, students who talk out, don't do their work, and are disruptive. She doesn't receive any positive reinforcement because too much time is spent reprimanding (ineffectively) the unruly students. The icing on the cake yesterday was the substitute in 1st hour allowing the behavior problems to work together but not allowing the good kids work together. I didn't get it either.....

*The middle schoolers raised $2000.00 in an African Benefit fundraiser last week. A worthy cause, indeed. It was mentioned, however, that the the general school population has a high poverty level, so why don't have a fundraiser for ourselves? We have students who have worn, torn, old clothing, not enough money for school supplies, etc. So....maybe a fundraiser for the locally disadvantaged would be a good idea.

I know that most of these paragraphs seem negative. But, this is a typical day with our typical students.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Endless Summer

"In the midst of winter, I found, within me, an endless summer." Albert Camus.

I have recently decided that seasons are as much a time of year as they are a frame of mind. I prefer summer and fall to winter (spring is the season that allows me to breathe a sigh of relief and know that hope is eternal) because both offer the sun's glow, warmth, fragrances, easy access to the outdoors.

While winter in Wisconsin can mean a continual struggle against cold, snow, winds, and ice, it is a person's outlook that can make or break a spirit. In years past I have struggled with the shorter days, the gloom of continually cloudy days, the ever present cold. But, I have now decided this winter is mine to embrace for whatever positives I may find in it.

The sun was shining today; snow sparkled, the sky was blue, and it is the beginning of a new year. Snow brings a newly cleansed landscape and a snowstorm brings the hope of a snow day. Gray clouds make a cup of hot coffee or tea taste even better. Winter is reading books, curling up under soft throws, lighting candles, and looking at photos. Snow and cold make an adventure out of going outside -- one can make that positive or negative but an adventure is still an adventure!

Winter should be a time of reflection and appreciation. I live in a warm home with running water and indoor plumbing; pioneers lived with neither. Medicines ward off winter illnesses so our children may survive into adulthood. Even in severe storms emergency services are available. If my furnace dies or electricity goes off I still will be more comfortable and have more options than those pioneers or those in third world countries today.

Winter is......accept the Zen-ness of it all, look for the brightness, and appreciate what we have....don't yearn for what isn't.

(I am playing with a new toy.....well, new to me. The sun in this post is a drawing I made in power point. Making it was easier than posting it on the blog....still not sure how I finally accomplished that but I'm hoping to play around with it all some more. Another plus of winter is I'm easily amused!)