Friday, December 31, 2010

Manifest it, "The Secret"-like

I figure since we're just minutes into a new year, (and decade, for that matter), I should exploit the opportunity to gloss over my lack of blogging in recent months. But mainly I wanted to list a few things here. We don't have to call them resolutions; they're just some things I'd like to happen, and only I can make them happen, so maybe listing them publicly will shame me into working on that. (This is often a good tactic for me.) So, when this time rolls around again at the end of 2011, I would like to be able to say that I

*became physically stronger, healthier, and okay, thinner
*spent some time doing outdoorsy things I enjoy, like camping and canoeing (at least once)
*wrote a lot more
*left the country for the first but not the last time, and possibly more or less permanently
*found a job that doesn't make a stay in the mental ward sound like a tempting vacation
*put my last child in free (sing it with a little trill) public school and washed my hands of daycare forevah
*ended 13 years of non-stop-baby-and-toddlerhood with grace rather than a well-deserved nervous breakdown
*can look at pictures of myself without crying or wanting to stab someone (see also, entering Victoria's Secret)
*devoted some energy to rejuvenating a lot of my relationships with people I love and therefore take totally for granted
*was fearlessly honest even though that was a lot harder than you might now think it should be

Stay tuned.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Up to speed

In blogging, as in all relationships, there can come a point where you haven't had a decent conversation for so long that you just don't know where to begin. My posting tends to be light in the summer anyway, when I take a break from work and from spending much time at a desk or computer. This summer was no exception, and then when I went back to work I was busy and the thought of going back to fill you in on my summer activities felt too...something. Overwhelming is too strong a word, but a minor version of that.

So anyway, I did some stuff over the summer. It was nice and not particularly newsworthy: beach, family reunion, hanging out with the kids, swimming, etc. Then in August I came back to work and have been pretty much running ever since. For the first time in my twelve years of teaching, I teach six 48-minute classes, one after the other, with only a 30-minute break for lunch until last period, when I have planning. This is in stark contrast to the 90-minute blocks we did last year, four per day. I now see 90 kids by 10:00 am. My total for the day is 163 kids in six hours, then a 48-minute planning period. It's not awful, but it's pretty hectic. So there's that. I'm teaching mostly juniors this year, too, which it turns out I like. American lit is really more to my tatse. So are juniors. Who knew?

My own kids are good. School is going well for all of them. Genevieve only channels Satan occasionally now instead of five times a day, which is nice. Somerset and Miss M both celebrated birthdays in the past few weeks, which we celebrated by throwing them an awesome (if I do say so myself) carnival-themed birthday party in the yard this past weekend. I even had a craft table, people. I ordered balloons and cakes in advance. This is huge! I was proud of myself and SAM for pulling it all together so well. Somerset turned 8 (Miss M is now 7) and got her ears pierced as her gift, per her request. I really never had a set age in mind for this particular milestone; I was just waiting for her to want it and be able to take care of them as they heal. So far so good.

On a personal note, I'm a little off my game lately. A period of chronic exhaustion that seemed untouched by any amount of sleep has pushed me back into the arms of my demon lover, caffeine. My emotions are running a little flat except when they spike into anger. I've been struggling with some hormonal imbalance for months now (one indicator being the fact that at least half my hair fell out over the summer so I'm going to have to cut it), and I don't know how to fix that. I do know that I need to find something that will recharge me both mentally and physically. I'm thinking maybe something like this. Because I am not in any way spiritual, (which I'm totally okay with, really!), I forget that most people do some sort of mental maintenance on a regular basis. Sometimes I'm good about that whole being in the moment and finding joy in the details thing, but sometimes that wears thin and I find myself where I am now: Depletionville. Flatland. Maybe writing here again will be a stop on the way back.

Friday, August 13, 2010

All I have to do is dream

I can still remember the happiest dream I ever had. I was about 16, and I dreamed that Richard and I (before he was BD, he was just Richard) were shoving off in a small sailboat. Somehow within the context of the dream I knew that this wasn't just a three-hour tour; we were sailing away into a whole life together. It wasn't the boat that made the dream so wonderful, or the blue water or cloudless sky. It was this delicious, soaring, heart-swelling feeling I had. It was the absolute certainty that our life together was going to be such an incredible journey if we could just ever, ever get to start having it. When I woke up, one hand was pressing down on my stomach so hard it was falling asleep, as if I were trying to hold myself down under the surface of sleep so I wouldn't have to leave that boat.

Today Richard turns 40, and he is still, ever and always, the man of my dreams. Happy birthday, BD. I'm all for you, body and soul.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Comission on Missing and Exploited Children

The COMEC Treasure Hunt is this weekend at the Pink Palace from 1:00 to 5:00. This is one of their major fundraisers, and they need to sell some tickets! Treat the kids to a good time while supporting a very important organization. For some reason I can't display the flyer, but you can learn more about the important work that COMEC does as well as this fun event here. Pirate Attractions include Kids' Fun Fair & Treasure Hunt of Clues in the Museum,
Special Guests, Prizes, Grub & MORE!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Four for Four

Yesterday marked a pretty big milestone in my life as a mother: my youngest child turned four. Four is my promised land. It is when I officially mark the end of toddlerhood and rest easy in the knowledge that we are cruising toward five, which in my book is pretty much the beginning of personhood.

I planned to sit down and write a birthday post for my girl, but between birthday breakfast wish granting, present opening, surprise swimming, and cake baking, I never got the chance. I will say that in true Genevieve style, she walked in to see the platter of perfectly roasted chicken legs she had requested and said "That's not the chicken I wanted for my birthday dinner!" Apparently what she wanted was one of the frozen breaded chicken patties SAM likes to keep around for workday lunches. Okay, easy enough to remedy. She ate all of her patty and about five helpings of the buttered curly noodles she'd actually picked out at the grocery store and then, at dessert, asked me extra sweetly "Mommy, is it okay if I just eat the ice cream?" Never mind that I made the world's most freakishly uniform chocolate layer cake with homemade fudgy icing.

So instead of a birthday post, this post is where I officially walk off the boat with shaky sea legs, bow down, and kiss the ground. I made it. My fourth child is now four. I thought I would have four children, then that I wouldn't, then I did. I thought I would never get to hold that baby, but I did. There were times when I thought I would not live through her being three, but I did. And on all counts, I'm so glad.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bag Duty Addendum

Best thing seen today and, really, any day: an elasticized headband made of braided artificial hair.

Best failed attempt at hiding a cell phone: outer pocket of fitted, matching pink calculator pouch, under a maxi pad.

Worst excuse for not being able to walk through the metal detector: "I'm pregnant"

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bag Duty

A compendium of items I came across while checking students' bags during morning metal detection today:

1. enough lotion, baby oil, body spray, makeup, and deodorant to open a drugstore
2. denim-look leggings, a black satin dress, pajamas, slippers, a lined satin shower cap, many pairs of jeans, full outfit changes, gladiator sandals, stilettos, and jackets
3. a Krystal pancake scrambler that had spilled all inside the backpack (it was already a mess when I unzipped the bag, as I hastened to point out to the owner)
4. many chargers for mysteriously absent phones and electronics
5. piles of unbound paper mixed in with with markers, colored pencils, dog-eared workbooks, and empty folders
6. a pint of fresh strawberries in a sandwich bag, every kind of chip imaginable, bottles and pouches of "juice" and sports drinks, and one can of Hawaiian punch

And, most surprisingly
7. Novels! Unassigned! Some of them not involving titles such as Thong On Fire!

Monday, May 17, 2010

On Failure

Another graduation has come and gone. Those of us who teach senior classes spent last week giving and grading exams, tallying up averages, taking late work amidst much scolding, and retallying those same averages for the tardy. And then we had to submit a failure list.

Four seniors failed my class for the year, which meant they did not walk across the stage Saturday or celebrate with their classmates. I have to tell you that the prospect of failing a senior is something that weighs more heavily on me than any other decision I have to make all year. I'd love to be able to say that there's really no decision, that it's cleanly objective, but of course that would be a lie. I could have had at least five more failures if that were true, but I had to ask myself, can I justify keeping a diploma out of someone's hand over a point, or three? Not only to myself, but can I justify it to my superiors, who have let it be known that we need to think long and hard about senior failures? Let's just say I had to employ some of that new math to get some of those kids in a mortarboard.

Two of the kids who did fail were virtual dropouts. Their attendance was sporadic all year, tapering off in the end to solid weeks of absence. The third was expelled to alternative school for a portion of the year and although he brought back a C from there, it wasn't enough to bring up his other grades. He did not seemed surprised. The fourth was an enigma. He came to class every single day, and he sat. Maybe he was high, I don't know. I suspect he has undiagnosed learning disabilities, but he was so incommunicative that I can't really even make an educated guess. In the third quarter, he knew he'd failed first semester and, more importantly, his mama knew it, so he came to me at progress report time and asked how he was doing. "Well, let's look," I said, opening my grade book, "You have six zeroes, W." "But! We haven't done any work except bellwork." This child actually said this to me. "Honey," I said, "where do you think all your classmates got these six grades, then? Do you not notice all the reading aloud and the discussions about stories and the writing assignments that I stand up there explaining and writing on the board every day?" He looked at me blankly. His mother came and I related this story to her. She shook her head in dismay. "I don't understand what he's doing," she said. Between the two of us, we stayed on him until he passed that quarter with a D. Fourth quarter, he knew he needed at least a B to pass for the year. He turned in some things. What happens with kids who do no work is that when they decide to give it a last ditch effort, they turn in four assignments and think they've done so much. I had to put 50s in place of his zeroes just to make his grade average out to the 58 that is our district-mandated rock bottom. He also failed his math class, so he could not have graduated anyway. But I still feel bad about it.

The worst moment, though, was Thursday when we were in the gym handing out caps and gowns to our homerooms. A girl, an honors student I do not teach except for homeroom, which meets only for a few minutes about 15 or 20 times all year, had failed two classes but somehow did not know it yet. She came up to the table to get her cap and gown and I said "K, you need to go to the library." She saw it in my face and her eyes went wide. I could imagine so precisely how the pit of her stomach felt at that moment that tears sprang to my eyes. I'm sure it was one of the worst days of her life.

Failing a senior in the kind of schools I've always worked in is made even more difficult because of the possible outcomes for those who fail. Will this child attend summer school, come back next year, or, more likely, drop out? I had a principal at what was widely considered to be the worst school in the city who told us "We are not in the business of slamming doors in children's faces." I think that's true. But the flip side of that is that road to hell we're always hearing about. The one that is paved with good intentions. So that's where I find myself at the end of every year: standing with my hand on the door, trying to figure out if I have to slam it or step out onto the road to hell.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

You Are Here

A quick rundown of things that have been going on with me:
(Blogging will be conspicuously absent.)

1. I have lost seven pounds and five inches off my waist since Easter. Makes me wonder what I could do if I worked a little harder. Clearly all the sugar I gave up was going straight to my gut, because everything else looks the same.

2. I have my second stress fracture in three months in my stupid left foot. Makes it hard for me to work harder at losing the aforementioned weight. I am going to have to spend money on good shoes. Anathema!

3. My seniors finish their last exams today and graduate Saturday. Work has been busy and I have to have all of their grades done and a failure list turned in by tomorrow. Right now all of my juniors are taking end of course tests somewhere else and I am waiting for the infernally slow online gradebook to come up, hence this little interlude.

4. I met Lee Smith, author of my number one all-time favorite book, and she thanked me profusely for making a Facebook fan page for her, and asked me for my address and sent me a very nice email afterward! It was very exciting.

5. I read my first Neil Gaiman book finally. I liked it a lot. Any suggestions for which of his adult books to read? (I'm not really into graphic novels.)

6. Our early, warm spring has turned somewhat cool and rainy, which has put my vegetable garden in sort of a holding pattern. I'm trying to foucs on being glad we didn't get completely submerged by floodwaters like Nashville or Millington, just up the road from us.

Nothing much, in other words. And now the gradebook has finally popped up, so it's nose to the grindstone for me.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Suck on that, fat pants

Some evil person left their old bathroom scale in the teachers' lounge. It usually tells me I weigh 3 lbs more than what the Wii Fit says.

It just told me I've lost five pounds. I guess I forgive it.

That's what cutting 2,500 liquid calories a week out of your diet will do for you.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Good Day Sunshine

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that this was a looong winter. Here in the mid-south, we just don't know how to cope with weeks and months of freezing temperatures without a few days in the 50s and even 60s mixed in. I see blogs from Utah talking about how it's still snowing and think that I would be throwing myself under a bus right about now if I lived there.

We are having a much warmer, faster spring than we have the past few years, thus all the early gardening activity. All of us at the compound have been spending hours outside soaking up the sun, playing and digging in the dirt and dreaming of green leaves as we toss tiny seeds into the soft black earth. All that fresh air and sunshine has been invigorating and soul saving in ways I didn't even realize I needed so badly.

So, a whirlwind cleaning spree involving a lot of bending and squatting led into hours of turning over garden beds with a shovel and haluing dirt and leaves. I was moving and it felt great. Then SAM bought Jillian Michaels's (yes, I promise that is right) 30 Day Shred plus a book and DVD to help me use my hoop more. Long story short, SAM, BD, and I have all gotten into the idea of eating better and exercising more. We didn't plan it that way, but it helps to all be on the same page. We're all working on limiting our portions at dinner and finding ways to make our staple meals healthier. We're all trying to do some form of exercise every day. SAM is doing great with the daily shred and has only missed a day since it came over a week ago. I've done some hooping (can't get the tricks!), some shredding (twice), some walking, and some heavy gardening that I consider a workout when it involves half an hour of heavy breathing and sweating as I turn over a whole bed without a break.

The biggest dragon I had to slay in order to even think about getting in shape and shedding some of the unhealthy poundage I'm carrying was, you already know, sweet tea. I was already feeling fat and sluggish from all the winter blahs and heavy, warming food, so slipping back into a gallon of tea every three or four days (but not every day, where I have been before) didn't seem like a big deal. Add that to my morning travel mug of hot tea with honey each day, and that was about 2500 calories a week I was drinking. So, it's gone. I've been drinking nothing but water for over a week now, and lots of it. The caffeine withdrawal was not bad at all, really. The first two days, I eased the late afternoon headache with two Excedrin Migraine (but the Kroger generic version), which have 65 mg of caffeine each. the next two days I had only one. Sunday I had one cup of Constant Comment with breakfast, and that's it. Since my goal was really to break the daily habit for the sake of cutting calories, I still plan to allow myself the occasional cup of hot tea, or maybe a glass of iced tea when I'm out, once in a while.

And really, that's why I feel like this can work for me. I'm not setting any lofty, outrageous goals or swearing I'll never touch pasta or ice cream again. Life is too short for that kind of nonsense. I just want to eat reasonably, add more fresh produce and grain-based meals to my diet, and feel healthy and fit. If I can get comfortably into a size 8 and feel good, that's really all I'm looking for. I think that's doable.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Springtime at The Compound

Letting some pictures speak thousands of words:

The girls and my mostly disastrous hammock-making attempt.

Clearing up after dinner tonight.

The pergola insane with wisteria. It smells divine.

Okay, just a couple more garden shots. The carrot/potato/onion/cucumber bed. Cukes will vine over this old iron headboard we found.

If you look closely (click on the picture to make it bigger), you can see little tomato plants next to all those big stakes and inside the cages. BD saw this for the first time and said "That's optimism."

Easter business.

Last but certainly not least, Somerset on the zipline. That's my nephew standing on the new "treehouse" platform and my Dad walking underneath.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Stuff I did over spring break

I'm too lazy to size a bunch of pictures, so just click on them to make them look better.

Watched and participated minimally in the building of a tree platform for zip line access.

Start seeds in the new window shelf BD built just for that purpose. He painted it a pretty blue, but this picture is too dark to tell.

Start work on a garden that the kids thought was some sort of mud foot bath.

Put my kids to work. (No way could they lift that dirt.)

Fill up all three of these beds, plus another big round one we made. Pictures soon to come. I dug two more beds after work today because we need more planting space! There are no more pine logs that will work for borders though. We drug (dragged?) these from the wooded area behind the house. We also hauled bags upon bags and buckets upon buckets of decomposing leaves to mulch all those beds.

I also decided that I'm ready to get healthy again. I'll write another post about that soon. Like, soon soon, not Sassy soon. I swear!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Three-Minute Fiction

A few weeks ago, my oldest friend Amy encouraged me to enter NPR's three-minute fiction contest. Back in the day, when I wrote more frequently and more than blog posts, I was more of a poet(ess?) than a fiction writer. But I gave it a shot anyway. Today I saw that All Adither had posted her entry, so I decided to make like a blogger and steal her idea, and then I encouraged BD and SAM to do the same. The story had to be somehow based on this photograph:


I can’t make myself see, anymore, the way her eyes turned slightly downward at the corners or hear the hidden music I know that her voice contained. I can’t smell her clean cotton smell or feel the tangles of her hair as they felt to my grasping hands. A world of memory, the million moments of my life’s small years, vanished. Impossible that it could be so, undeniable that it is.

Clearest are the last times that I saw her. In her kitchen, seeming suddenly shrunken and breakable, reaching up to a high shelf. At my apartment, carefully keeping a neutral expression, her eyes taking in the fact that it was no bigger or nicer than the last three places I’d lived, that it contained no husband or expectant cradle, but refusing to send out any sign of disappointment. And her birthday, the one that maybe she knew would be her last, when I took her to lunch.

Who can say that everything I did that day was the wrong thing? What perfect daughter dares to judge me? I was the spoiled youngest child, the only girl. That day, her birthday, I took her to a small sandwich shop near my apartment where I ate three times a week.

“Let’s sit here,” I said, settling her at the orange postage stamp of a table. I went up to the counter in search of a menu and came back to find her with her coat still on, purse perched on her knees, staring with determination out the big plate glass window beside her. A familiar splinter of irritation shot through me.

“Mom, why don’t you take off your coat? Here, I’ll put it on the back of your chair. Let me have your purse, we’ll hang it right there under the coat. It’s fine.” I bustled around her, resenting for the thousandth time her age, her discomfort in my world, her utter inability to be like the younger mothers of my friends. I pushed the menu in front of her and waited. She stared at it, her expression growing increasingly bewildered.

“I’m not sure I…” she began and then laughed nervously. “What is…what do you like here?” she asked finally. Always composed but never at ease. I sighed and said I’d order for us. I got falafel for myself and a gyro for her, thick slices of spiced lamb wrapped in pita and foil, dripping tzatziki. While we waited for the sandwiches I looked for distractions, flipped through a magazine left on an empty table, checked my phone, looked around at the other patrons. Each time my eyes flitted over her face, they found her watching me.

“Little hummingbird,” she said softly. I rolled my eyes and shifted in my seat; she shook her head, almost imperceptibly. The man at the counter called our number and I couldn’t jump up fast enough to get our sandwiches. When I sat her gyro down she stared at it for a full minute, then looked up at me, brows lifted in amusement. The sandwich was almost as big as her head. I went back to the counter for a plastic knife and fork and she managed about a fourth of it that way before insisting that I take the rest home to eat later.

We were there for less than an hour. I gathered her up, bundled her out with her coat and lunch, so eager to move on that this reversal of our roles was lost on me. But she understood my hurry. It was too much her own not to recognize.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Scattered Pic-Tures

Yesterday in the process of cleaning/rearranging the boys' room to accomodate their new (to them, thanks Chockleys!) couch, BD came across an old picture of me with the boys. Calvin is 4 and Joshua is around 10 months old, balanced on my knee in terry footies looking a little wacky with his huge baby grin. I'm pregnant with Somerset, but you can't tell because of our positioning and my black top and jeans...and the fact that my face is thinner in the picture than it is now.

Pictures are hard for me. I've never photgraphed well, even when I was 17 and weighed 105 pounds. Sure, occasionally there's a good shot of me, but in most pictures I look swollen and chinless. I have actually cried over pictures of myself, because it's so much easier for me to believe the photographic evidence than what I think I see in the mirror each day or what anyone says.

But you know, when I look at a picture of myself with my two sons taken almost eight years ago, and "Shit, I'm fatter than I was pregnant for the second time in two years" outweighs "Aw, look how little and cute my boys were," I know that something is wrong. I know I have to do better, on several levels.

Like the lady sang:

It took me too long to realize
that I don't take good pictures
cuz I have the kind of beauty that moves

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Note to Self

Here's some advice:

Do not allow your small almost-four year old to consume two (three?) Fiber One granola bars over the course of the weekend. It will end badly. Who knew?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me

Here is a little snapshot of this moment:

I just heard about how, in the highrise building directly in front of my classroom window, a father threw his month-old baby down the trash chute from the eleventh floor apartment of its mother. The baby is miraculously unharmed, or I wouldn't have told you. No one needs a dead baby story smacking them unexpectedly in the face. Which happened to me the past two times I've read Katie Granju's blog, one of which was this morning. WTH, Katie?

I just listened to a boy ask a pregnant girl in my class this question: "When your baby is born, is that going to be its birthday or just its birth date?"

My speech class is supposed to be working up opening statements for a debate about the fact that a Mississippi high school has chosen to cancel prom rather than permit a lesbian student to bring her girlfriend as her date, because they know they have no legal grounds. So far the team arguing in favor of the school's decision has nothing. Which is good in a way, but also has more to do with the fact that they haven't bothered to do any research.

Out of the five classes that took a very simple, 25-question practice ACT as their quarter exam, five students passed it. Five. The test questions are identical to the warm-ups we do every. Single. Day. Five. 5.


Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Long, Long Time Ago and Apparently Awesome

Congratulations to Brigid Pasulka (see interview post below this one) on winning the Hemingway Foundation/PEN award!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True

I learned of this book through the innovative and amazing website of my friend, Chicago-based English teacher Joe Scotese, but didn’t realize until after I read it that Pasulka teaches English at the same magnet high school as Joe. Not one to let a single degree of separation stop me, I struck up a correspondence with the author, and she kindly agreed to let me interview her for The Shelf Life.

Here's part two of the interview.

Sassy: You get up early every morning to write for two hours before going to work as a high school English teacher, is that right? Have you always been that disciplined? What time do you go to bed? How does one form that kind of work habit?

BP: The hard work and discipline definitely comes from my parents. I remember being allowed to watch one hour of television a week when we were young, and even then, we had to get up and clean or fold laundry on the commercials. My dad, especially, never seems to slow down, and I’ve happily inherited that from him. As for writing, I think I was writing here and there for about a year before I decided that I either had to commit to it or leave it alone. So I made a New Year’s resolution (in 1996, I think?) that I was going to write every day. I put a calendar on the wall and crossed off the days until I got into the habit. Now it’s like taking a shower or brushing my teeth—if I don’t write I just don’t feel right. And I’ve always had to work it in around my regular jobs. I am a high school teacher now, so on a normal day I try to go to bed at 10 or 10:30, get up at 5:30 and write until about 7:30. I can usually get to school by 8:15 or 8:30. If, on a rare day, I have to sleep in, I just pack up my computer and go straight from school to a coffee shop in the afternoon and bribe myself with cookies and coffee to put in a couple of hours of writing.

Sassy: I love that this book contains multiple models of femininity that are all portrayed in a non-judgmental way. Magda in her little black dress when everyone else is in jeans, Kinga dreaming of a bigger life and hiding her bad teeth, Baba Yaga thinking she is invisible, and Irena trying to sublimate her womanhood because of grief—they are all so real and so different, and all sympathetic characters. Did you spend time thinking about the way women would be portrayed in the book? Is that something you notice or ever have issues with in your own reading or in your life?

BP: Not at all. In the words of my friend, Joanne, I just followed the story. The characters appeared, and I just wrote down what they did.

Sassy: I also liked and appreciated the fact that although there are some bad men in the book, there are also several really good ones. It strikes me as somewhat unusual that you are able to have both male and female protagonists, and that there is balance in the way both men and women are portrayed. Did you make a conscious effort to do that?

BP: Sometimes I wish I had that much forethought, but no, it all just worked out that way.

Sassy: Did you find yourself thinking like an English teacher when you were writing? Did you think about things like symbolism or wonder if certain themes would go unnoticed, or be overemphasized?

BP: I think I was thinking like an English teacher, not in terms of content—themes and motifs and such—but more in terms of audience. Planning lessons and standing in front of the classroom, I’m constantly reshuffling to make things clearer, more interesting or more relevant for my students, which is a very similar process to what I’m doing when I’m writing. Teaching also helps to keep my sense of humor intact—my students keep me laughing all day long. And now when I do a reading, I just pretend I’m reading the Odyssey to a room full of fourteen-year-olds and trying to keep their attention. It really works.

Sassy: Has becoming a published author affected your identity as a teacher or the way people at work act toward you?

BP: Not that much, actually. The fact that I’m a professional writer registers with some of my students, but I try not to talk about it unless they ask because I want to keep the focus on them and their goals. My administration is very supportive in helping me balance teaching and writing, my colleagues are great, and a lot of them are or were professionals in their content areas. In our department alone, we have an education professor who has also recently published a book, a teacher who runs a very popular teaching web site, one who used to head a theater company, one who is a playwright…we tend to just celebrate the latest success, whosever it is.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ten SImple Things

As directed by SAM, here are my ten simple things that make me happy right now:

1. Seed packets and plans for our huge garden this summer.
2. That I entered the NPR Three-Minute Fiction contest, even though I have no expectation whatsoever of winning.
3.Time after the kids go to bed. (When I manage to stay awake.)
4. Beach house hunting for our family's vacation.
5. Weekend breakfasts.
6. That it's almost time for Spring Break and after that just 8 more weeks of school. More or less.
7. Watching BD scheme ways to get finches to hang out in the courtyard of our house.
8. Somerset's dance moves, particularly the tiny robot.
9. The way Genevieve calls out "I love you So Much Mommy!" as she runs by playing.
10. That I've written about two chapters of a YA novel. Maybe. Sort of.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Overheard in the minivan

Actual conversation BD and I had on the way to the bookstore today. And I use the term "conversation" loosely.

Me: What is that guy's license plate supposed to say? (It said "FLTRPMP")
BD: Filter pump.
Me: Really? Filter pump?
BD: Filter pump.
Me: Why would someone want their license plate to say "filter pump?"
BD: He makes filter pumps.
Me: Well I think it says "Floater Pimp."
BD: Yeah, that's what it says.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dogs are from Mars, Cats are from Venus

Yesterday morning, Genevieve and I were having a snuggle in my bed sometime mid-morning when she said out of nowhere, "Mommy, are cats girls and dogs are boys?" I had to stop and think whether she'd heard me say that, because this is exactly what I believed when I was little. But no, I hadn't mentioned it to anyone lately, she just thought of it. BD says all kids think that, but I don't know. It feels so bizarre when she demonstrates how much her mind works in the same way as mine. And when I explained that no, there are boy dogs and girl dogs, and boy cats and girl cats, she immediately, without having to pause and think it through, said "But why are there boy cats and girl dogs?"

A couple of months ago, as you maye have seen on BD's blog up in the "Quotable Quartet" section, we were in the car when she said to me in a slow, dreamy voice, "Mommy...when I'm sleepy, everything feels greasy. Like...chicken...on fingers." And you know, I knew exactly what she meant. I have a clear memory of waking up one morning after being sick when I was very young, probably no older than five, and telling someone "I slept like a tube of toothpaste." I had woken up feeling rested and great after a few days of feeling crappy, and that was what popped into my head as an appropriate comparison. I also have never liked ketchup on hotdogs because it tastes like too much red, in the way that a red shirt paired with pants in a slightly different shade of red would feel wrong.

She also has started talking a lot about her imaginary "Dremmy." Her friend and housemate Miss M has a "Grammy," so I think that's where she got that. She has filled me in on the back story of how she has a Dremmy, not Grandma but another Dremmy, and when Genevieve "used to be a grown up," she would go over to Dremmy's house and they would do things together. So each day, if someone mentions going somewhere or doing something fun, she will often tell me how she went there/did that with her Dremmy. Sometimes the stories are also scary or violent.

One way I can tell that G is approaching age four is that she is becoming increasingly morbid. Just as her oldest brother once told me, as a four year old, that "I was imagining being dead and all I could see was black dark," Genevieve has lately started telling me "I was thinking of something." Then she will go on to describe what sounds like a bad dream, but she will clarify "I didn't dream it, I just was thinking it." Recently she told me she was thinking about if Miss M came with her to Grandma's house and Deuce was there (her cousin's dog) and Miss M went to pet Deuce and Deuce ate her legs all up and then her arms all up and then just her head was left. Now, G loves Deuce, and has gotten over an initial fear of her that came from never really having spent time around dogs, and specifically not an American bulldog as tall as she is. She didn't even sound scared when she told me about her little vision, either. It was just something she thought of. This weekend she told me again that she was "thinking of something," and it turned out to be an elaborate montage of people falling down holes far too complicated for me to follow.

Oh! That also reminds me that she asked me about a week ago if "When people die, do they get sucked into the street and the sidewalk?" Thinking this sounded like something she saw on one of those weird cartoons her older siblings like to watch, (seriously, Chowder? WTH is that all about?), I asked if she saw that on a show. "No!" she exclaimed in irritation, "I'm just asking you! When people die, do they get sucked into the street and the sidewalk?" "No baby," I said, "people don't get sucked into the street or the sidewalk. Did someone tell you that?" "No!" she said, clearly exasperated that I was being thick, "I just thought of it and I'm just asking you!" Then she asked where people get sucked into when they die if it's not the street or the sidewalk. Um...? What am I supposed to say to that? I said "They don't get sucked into anywhere, honey. That's just not what happens" and then I distracted her by pointing out something happening beyond the window.

Freaky little kid.

Friday, February 12, 2010

My infinite coolness

My friend Chip and I recently had an IM conversation so SWPL-esque and also incredibly dorky that I could not resist posting it here. It started with a discussion of micheladas, which might seem moderately hip, but then it all went to hell. *Observe:

me: I've been looking at several recipes on line.
The Cholula sounds good. I could drink that stuff. I wonder if Rooster sauce would be good.
Chip: Old people type "on line" for "online," Kristy.
me: Sorry!
Chip: ;-)
me: It's just...not a word!
Chip: In 2010 it is.
But anyway, yes, I'd agree that Cholula would be better than Tobasco.
me: I guess. Online seems like an adjective, whereas on line seems like an adverbial phrase.
I'm sure my adherence to grammatical rules makes me much cooler.
Chip: Online is both an adjective and an adverb, I'd say.
"Online gaming" and "Researching online."
me: That's just not right, though! It defies all the conventions of how those things work.
See, no. Researching online is so inherently wrong.
Chip: I mean, the "on" is definitely not a preposition?
me: I think prepositions are prepositions no matter how they're used. Unless it's the infinitive form of a verb.
In some thing like "on line" used as an adverbial phrase, it's still sort of functioning as a preposition.
Chip: I say not a preposition because "online" has transcended being "on" something. The meaning has moved beyond the preposition.
Wait, but now you just typed "some thing." I'm thinking it's just your natural inclination to separate things that should be one word.
me: It hasn't really, though. Even when words combine and evolve, they retain some of their original meaning and form. (I missed that second part. He's probably right.)
Chip: True.
me: Dorkiest conversation ever!
Chip: I would only have this conversation with an English teacher.
me: I may have to post this conversation on my blog.
Chip: Only dorks read your blog.

*Usage of "lol" has been removed to preserve the dignity of parties involved.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


I have been meaning to pop in and remind all my lady friends, particularly the ones who have had their bodies repeatedly harvested for nutrients like I have (by babies, not aliens) to take their vitamins. For a couple of months now I have been very consistently taking mine, specifically B12 and an additional B complex with C, vitamin E, vitamin D, and a Calcium, Magnesium, and Zinc combo. I've read that the last one especially is good for preventing run-downedness in women.

I can report that most signicficantly, some pretty serious and irritating hormonal imblanace, lady-business-cycle type issues have improved drastically. I did not even maim or kill anyone during ovulation this month! Also my skin did not go insane, my cycle did not get (another) two days shorter and generally the whole thing was barely notcible. This after several months of feeling like I was losing my mind on the Hormone Express to hell, and back, and back to hell, and back. You get the picture. Also, my nails are about five times harder and less bendy and splitty than they were.

Thus concludes my highly convincing scientific explanation of the benefits of taking cheap, BOGO Kroger vitamins. Go get you some.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I'm in a bit of a funk. The blahs. The doldrums, if you will. There's a restlessness that, if you could see it, would look like someone trying to Houdini their way out of a straightjacket under cover of a wet wool blanket. I want to ditch everything and go live in a tropical paradise with a hammock in the indoor/outdoor livingroom. I want to pull a Peter Gibbons and stop going to my job. Not quit, just not go anymore. Or show up just to do things my way and tell Mr. TPS Reports to suck it, with "Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta" playing in the background. (Too much?)

Maybe this is all just because it's January and I hate January because it's still winter. Maybe it's the fact that I am being strangled to mental death by layers and layers of bureaucracy and I feel like nothing I drag ass out of bed at 6:00 a.m. to do every day is in any way measurable or definable or tangible. I feel a tremendous need to do things my own way, but also a tremendous, suffocating exhaustion that makes it hard for me to act. Right now I feel like nothing I'm doing is allowing me to shine, and I am shiny, dammit! At least, I used to be.

I want to do something new. I want to create something or make something or at least just contribute in some recognizable way. I want to feel good at what I'm doing and know that I'm good at it because it is well suited to my abilities and to me as a person. Right now I would happily be a fabulous housewife or a really good waitress if it would mean that I had found my groove again.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I keep thinking of things I want to post about, and then when I get a chance to post, I can't remember what I was thinking about. But that's not conversation, is it?

We've been pretty housebound since Christmas, going out as we have to for school and work and then scurrying home again to the warm fire and layers of soft, comfy clothes. I've been making soup as often as I can get away with it in my soup-ambivalent household, crocheting and learning more about ways to use that new skill on the internet. Come the apocalypse, I will be keping everyone's heads warm. I am dying to unravel an old sweater or something so I can start building a reclaimed yarn stash. (What is happening to me?!) I have been sort of plodding through The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter off and on since Thanksgiving, but my new craftiness has seriously cut into my reading time. That's partly because I decided to make a bunch of Christmas gifts, and partly because the book is good but just not particularly compelling to me at the moment. I decided to go ahead and start reading the book I got for Christmas, A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True. I'm only a few chapters into it, but I like it. It reminds me of History of Love, which I adored. I've been listening to Regina Spektor's Far until the songs fill my head to the point that I have to not listen to it for a few days. In addition to just liking the songs, it always feels so...I don't know, life affirming? to find someone who is truly original in what she does.

I feel like I've turned a corner with Genevieve. I think it's partly that she's now closer to four than three and has passed through the worst of the horrible three-year-old-bipolarness, and partly that I've just had to stop and force myself to pull water from the stone in terms of my ability to be patient with her tantrums. The older kids are getting a little slap happy from spending so much time indoors, much of it in front of the television or the Wii. It's finally warmer today and BD has big plans to get them outside breaking in the new basketball hoop Santa brought, so we'll see how that goes.

Mostly right now I feel like I'm lying fallow, dreaming of Spring, letting thoughts and ideas ripen and swell.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

C is for Awesome

You made me believe that everything in my life had happened so that you could get here, and I was totally cool with that.

You gave me all my hardest work first, while I still had the energy for it, and then spoiled me with your ability to self direct.

You get sarcasm and know how to wield it, but you also know how to be kind. Or just plain silly.

Every time you ask if anyone wants the last roll/cookie/whatever before taking it for yourself, my heart swells with pride. You are the great and much-adored big brother.

And you always ask for mama's meatloaf for your birthday dinner. Happy birthday Calvin. You are my first and always baby.