Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dolphin


My son has a treasured stuffed animal dolphin named . . . Dolphin. He has slept with Dolphin for about a year now, but just recently Dolphin has begun to play a larger role in his, and our, lives.


What started as a comfort object while Joey slept has now become a permanent part of my day-to-day activities. Much like my daughter's treasured lovey (a yellow blanket that I'll save for another post), Dolphin now goes everywhere Joey goes.


Last week, I took Joey to the doctor because he had developed a nasty cough. Initially, he refused to let the doctor touch him until she had examined Dolphin, who, coincidentally, had also developed a cough. Joey finally allowed her to examine him when she explained that he needed to show Dolphin what to do, but as soon as the doctor was finished, she was forced to listen to Dolphin's heart.


Dolphin came to church with us on Saturday. He boldly swam down the aisle to the pew (with my son making "swim, swim, swim" sound effects) and splashed onto the seat (with Joey loudly saying, "SPLASH!") as he hit the wood. Later, during the priests' homily, Dolphin showcased his repertoire of tricks. I like to think Dolphin swam into the hearts of all the parishioners that evening.


Perhaps the most challenging part of getting to know Dolphin is learning his language. It is made up mostly of high-pitched mumblings and non-sensical phrases, coupled with grand gestures from his shiny blue fin. I asked my son to translate, but he logically explained that Dolphin doesn't like it when Joey speaks for him, and that he prefers to speak to us directly. Yesterday, it took me twenty minutes of interpretation to determine that Dolphin wanted a pretend cup of hot chocolate. Over the course of our interaction, Dolphin's tone became that of desperation tinged with annoyance.


I love that my son is finally using his imagination, however, so usually give in when he asks if Dolphin can do things like set the table or give me a kiss.


I had to scold Dolphin, however, when he spanked my bottom as I was emerging from the shower. That's just inappropriate.


Beth - 1 (I laid down the LAW)

Dolphin - 2 (The spank earned him extra points)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Losing my mind


This afternoon, I was convinced I was losing my mind.

The students were presenting their research projects to the class, which consisted of an online Glogster poster as their final product. I've seen about forty of them in the past two days, which is bad for two reasons.

1. I should have seen close to seventy by now, indicating that approximately 40% of the students didn't bother to complete their project.
2. After a while, one project begins to melt into the other and by the end of the second day, my mind is screaming for some other form of entertainment.

Late in the afternoon, about fifteen minutes before the end of the day, two students got up to present their Glogster research project to the class. In front of me, I saw a blue background of a snowy, starry night. There were no pictures or text from what I could see.

The students stood in front of us, and one began to read from the screen.

Let me take this moment to remind you that I could see nothing but a blue, snowy, starry night background.

He wasn't using note cards, or notes of any kind, and my mind struggled to figure out how he was magically producing the scholarly words that fell from his mouth. This is it, I thought. I'm losing it. I've actually gone so insane that I can no longer see what others see. I blinked. I rubbed my eyes. I panicked.

And as I stared at the screen in confusion, wondering how in the world I was going to grade this project that everyone but me could see, my co-teacher leaned over and whispered in my ear.

"What the hell is he reading?" she asked, staring at the beautiful, blank background devoid of words.

Had I been in my right mind, I might have shrugged, or happily understood that I was not as crazy as I thought. Instead, I burst into laughter.

Rude? Yes.
Inappropriate? Of course.

But I couldn't help it. Here were two students reading from a magic screen that had words only students could see. As I gasped for breath, I managed to ask the perplexed student what he was reading, which is when I discovered that there were words on the project, but due to the coloring and lighting in the room, we simply couldn't see them.

Beth - 0
Students - 1 (They made their teacher insane!)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Research

Teaching fourteen-year-olds how to successfully complete a research project is the equivalent of asking a two year old to eat all of the broccoli on his plate.

Actually, I don't like broccoli either so I'm beginning to understand how my students feel.

Regardless, as the end of the three week research project unit comes to an end, I find I'm reflecting on the successes and failures of the past couples of weeks.

Success: 99% of the students seemed to understand how to find reliable sources.

Failure: One student discovered how to manipulate Wikipedia so that he made his name appear as the superintendent of our school system.

Success: I helped them develop their own works cited page.

Failure: I actually had two students ask me what a works cited page was after we'd finished the lesson. I left the room for a moment to collect myself before returning to re-explain what I'd taught them just moments before.

Success: I paired two students together who are usually shy and often choose to work alone.

Failure: I saw them making out in the hallway Friday afternoon.

Overall, I find the research unit exhausting, which is why, perhaps, I chose to do it right before Winter Break. This way I can gather my strength and face the remaining six months of teaching during Christmas vacation.

Then again, I'll be alone with my four-year-old and seven-year-old children every day for seven days during said break.

Suddenly, research doesn't seem so bad.

Beth - 0 (my successes and failures even out)
Life - 1

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Famous

Lately, I've felt dissatisfied, and today I discovered the reason why.

I want to be famous.

I don't need to be a movie star who makes millions of dollars, or a pop-star who shakes it Latin-fusion style on MTV while lip-syncing to songs she couldn't sing worth a damn in real life. But a little bit of notoriety would be nice.

Alright, I'm going to put myself out there and say it. I want to have talent like the girl whose blog I posted earlier today.

I want to be able to sing well enough so that people say, "Hey! She's pretty good. She should sing alone at church."

Maybe I become the "perfect" mom at my daughter's school. "Look at Beth," they would all say. "She really has it together. Did you see how she baked two dozen cookies and still managed to make it to the field trip today? And, she was strutting around in red high heels through the mud without tripping once."

Or maybe, just maybe, I actually write a good novel and a publisher picks it up on the first day. Also, I get a movie deal and they turn my book into a musical, in which I star because my singing makes them faint due to its awesomeness.

I'm not the only one to feel this way. My husband has a reoccurring dream in which he is at Redskins training camp, and an errant ball flies his way. He catches said ball, then throws it back to the coach, who is subsequently so impressed by my husband's throwing arm that he immediately offers him a multi-million dollar contract.

It's not too much to ask. Is it?

Famous dream - 0
Beth - 0
Inability for Beth to reach said dream - 1

I Shouldn't Say This

But someone has a blog that is much funnier than mine. You should check it out. It has brought me hours of enjoyment, to the point where I'm sitting alone and laughing all by myself.

http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com


I think the posts about her simple dog are the funniest.

Enjoy!

Beth - 0
Blog funnier than mine - 1

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Wish

Today, my mom and I dared to take my children shopping with us on Black Friday. All things considered, they behaved very well, and we got some GREAT deals. However, my son put me to shame.

At the fountain area in the mall, the children asked for a coin to throw so that they could make a wish. Jillian kept her wish silent, so it would come true, she said. Joey, who is too young to understand the "silent" wish, (or anything involving silence, to be honest), said his wish aloud.

"I wish I could cuddle with my Mommy all day," he said, giving me his sweetest, most sincere smile.

How many times have I wished for a fantastic vacation, or for a bigger house? Money, and what it can bring to my family, is so often on my mind. But my sweet little boy wished for something much more important - family love. I've learned so much from my children, and continue to be amazed at how much they can teach me about the really important things in life.

That being said, we watched Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special today, and I heard the funniest lines.
Dad: "I'm sorry I made you feel so guilty." (to his son)
Po: Aw, it's OK. That's what the holidays are all about."

Well done, Joey. Well done.

Beth - 0
Joey - 1

Monday, August 30, 2010

Conflict of Interest

I've been MIA for a while due to a busy summer filled with family activities. However, today I went back to work which, as you all know, makes for many interesting blogging topics. I'll run through my day to give you an overview.

The morning meeting opened with an invigorating speech from our superintendent of schools. We watched with rapt interest as he described, in detail, the county's goals for the year. People were so excited that they talked through his entire "movie". No doubt, of course, discussing how to implement his ideas.

All we need is become a slave to the school system.

Simple really. And then he apologized for not giving us a raise in three years. I'm sure every teacher in the room sensed his sincerity and planned on sending him a Christmas card this year.

We watched the true story of Rudy, which made many members of the English department cry. There was a correlation between our students and Rudy, but I was too busy crying to give it too much thought.

During the second meeting of the day, we examined out SOL scores (Standards of Learning - tests, for those not from Virginia) and were schooled (pardon my pun) on how to better serve the needs of our students. Just as I was feeling inadequate and under-prepared, the administration reminded us not to miss the mandatory luncheon tomorrow where we will go bowling for two hours. Nothing says "prepared for the school year" like a good game of mandatory bowling. I'm sure that team bowling will prepare me for next week . . . somehow.

Later in the afternoon I heard a brand new teacher spouting idealistic theory, confident that she will change the world. I still haven't figured out how to do that. One step at a time, honey.

I can't say that it was a bad day. I love teaching now as much as I did when I started five years ago. Sure, I'll have 32 students in my tiny room. Sure, I pray that all the students take a shower after gym, because Lord help us if they don't. But there is something about putting together a classroom, knowing students will learn something about a subject you love the most, that keeps me alive.

I'm ready school year 2010-2011. Bring it on.

Beth - 1
Obstacles - 0

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shaking It

I've discovered Latin Fusion.

Latin Fusion is a great new aerobics class at my gym. I hate working out, but I don't mind doing Latin Fusion, which is something I never thought I'd hear myself say. It is a great mix between aerobics and Latin dancing. I get to shake my hips, swirl my arms, bounce around and gyrate in all kinds of interesting and fun ways.

If this seems like an odd topic to post about, hang in there.

See, my students have also discovered that I've discovered Latin Fusion.

My students are my "other" children. I see them almost every day. I teach them about literature, about life and about morality. I care about them a great deal. That being said, I do not want them to see me during Latin Fusion class.

If you wonder why, please see the sentence above that begins with "I get to shake . . ."

Yet another reason most teachers do not live where they teach. It's the reason why animals don't s*#t where they sleep. Too messy. Too undesirable. Too embarrassing. Foolishly, I thought all my modesty was gone when I gave birth in front of a doctor and two nurses who were complete strangers. This brings exhibitionism to a whole new level.

Beth - 0
The show, courtesy of Beth - 1

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bathrooms Are For Suckers

My son has discovered a new use for nature. Why use a bathroom when you can pee outside?

Silly me. I went my entire life without realizing this while he learned it in three short years. I blame myself. About a month ago, we had a bathroom emergency on a road trip and pulled to the side of the road so he could go to the bathroom outside. Joseph found this fascinating. What a unique concept. Peeing outside was liberating!

Now, he wants to pull over whenever we are in the car to go on the side of the road.

Yesterday, we refused and insisted he wait till we reached our destination, which was Fairfax Corner. They have an interactive "water feature" where water shoots up from the ground. The kids love playing in the "fountain". When we arrived, Joey said he no longer had to go to the bathroom. I foolishly took him at his word.

While Mike went to pick up a pizza, I applied sunscreen to Jillian. I turned around in time to see that Joey had dropped his pants around his ankles and was peeing on the bricks.

Joey didn't understand why I was upset. He explained that he had to go, and we were outside. What was the problem? A man sitting nearby was laughing hysterically. A woman with a little girl gave me a dirty look. I grabbed Joey and hurried back to our table,hoping no one else had noticed. We had a long talk about public exposure, and how using the bathroom was polite because only animals went potty outside.

I thought my lecture did the trick, until we got home and I caught him peeing outside on the lawn.

Nature as a potty for my son - 1
My incredible lecturing abilities - 0

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mistakes With Good Intentions

My poor husband made a big mistake on Mother's Day.

Some husbands forget the day entirely. Some choose a terrible gift, such as dish washing gloves or a work-out video. My husband, however, made the most terrible mistake of all.

He bought me a manicure, pedicure,Swedish massage and European facial.

My life will never be the same. I always love to have a manicure and pedicure, but it was the first time I'd ever had a massage and a facial. How will I do without them? Already, my back is starting to feel tense and I crave the hands of an expert to put it right again.

Part of me wishes I could go back, to when massages and facials were just things other people did. Then I wouldn't be tempted to spend the money. But that time is past. I am one of "those" people now.

Thanks, Honey. My gift was great!

Beth's body - 1
Mike's gift - 1
Excess funds saved - 0

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lock Down

A scary thing happened at school on Friday.

Just after third lunch, the principal came over the P.A. and told us we were in lockdown. If it is a drill, they warn us ahead of time. This was not a drill.

I'm proud to say I reacted calmly and rationally. I locked the door, covered the windows herded the students into a back corner against the wall and turned out the lights. They were understandably frightened, as was I.

The worst part, in my opinion, was that we had no idea what was going on. About ten minutes after lockdown occurred, my husband called. My mother was driving by and saw about twenty police cars outside the school. They had every entrance blocked. She freaked out and called Mike, who called me. I shared this knowledge with the students, who immediately ceased their whispering. Police with rifles ran by and banged on each door, testing it. To give them confidence, we came up with a game plan on what we would do should someone try to get in and hurt us. I readied my chair by the door to use as a weapon. The students unanimously agreed that playing dead was the best option.

We sat in the dark for forty minutes. It was hard to believe this was happening. Most teachers go their entire careers without a lockdown. It only took me four. Eventually, they lifted the lockdown. We found out that students saw someone acting suspiciously on the third floor, and that he may have had a weapon. The police found nothing during their search. Everyone was safe, for which I am so thankful.

This lockdown took place after the second lunch food-fight and before a bus driver was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

It was an eventful day at work.

And I drank a lot last night.

Beth and the rest of the high school - 1
Fear - 1

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Mother

I dedicate this entry to my mother.

There are so many things I love about her. I love how intelligent she is, and how she shares that love of knowledge with everyone around her. I know if I have a question about ANYTHING, I can ask her. If she doesn't know, she'll hurry to her home library to look it up. And I love how she turns to a book before the Internet.

I love what a good listener she is. She never makes me feel as though I'm boring her with my relentless work or family stories. She listens and gives advice when I ask it. She also knows when to give me sympathy instead of advice. It is instinctive, and perfect.

I love that she doesn't mind when I call her several times a day. I like to know what is going on in her life. I like sharing my life with her. Even if we talk for two minutes, it is comforting.

I love that my mother has read all of my novels. She makes notes and suggestions. She is honest with me about the failures and successes of each one.

I love the way my mother smells. She has that "mommy" smell that is perfect all of the time. I've tried her perfumes, but they never smell the same on me. Each hug is a breath of comfort.

I love the way she takes such an interest in my children. She plays with them. She takes them interesting places. She teaches them, she spoils them. She is the perfect combination between a parent and a grandparent. They know their limits in her house, but also know she'll give them a gumdrop if they ask.

I love how she treats my husband the same way she would one of her children. It shows me she feels he is part of the family.

Her house is my house. I haven't lived at home for nine years (minus 8 months about four years ago) but it still feels like home. She makes it familiar and loving.

My mother values family. She cries with me. She laughs with me. She parents me when I need it. She is a best friend to me.

I hope my mother knows how much I value her. How much I love her. For despite the lengthiness of this email, there really aren't words to tell her how wonderful she is.

Happy Mother's Day Mommy. I love you!


My Mom - 1
No comparison this time.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Little Klepto

My son is a kleptomaniac in the making.

It started when he was about 16 months old and many of our DVDs mysteriously disappeared. We suspect he found places to hide them, such as the slots over the fireplace and down air vents. But he is good. Very good. We've yet to find any of them after two years.

It seems, however, that he has moved on to better hunting ground. Items have been disappearing at my mother's house. They, by no apparent coincidence, coincide with our Thursday and Sunday visits.

First it was a flashlight. My dad discovered that item behind his tire. After he ran over it.

Later, they discovered one of their phones was missing. That item has yet to turn up after several months.

I found some "leprechaun coins" my mom was using as a decoration in Joey's overall pocket. He occasionally slips one of my mother's movies in my purse. A small rabbit with a straw hat, used as an Easter decoration, has also gone missing.

I imagine that somewhere there is a secret stash of treasures, but he claims to be ignorant of their whereabouts. We might find it someday, but with his talents, I doubt it.

Joey - 1
Mommy's searching skills - 0

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Some People Need Their Space

We might get snow tomorrow, so the grocery stores were understandably crowded this afternoon. What if someone ran out of milk? An inch of snow on the ground could prevent a person from having their cereal that morning, which is unthinkable.

I, however, only needed two baking potatoes to make Shepherds Pie tonight, so I dragged the kids with me to the store. My urgency had nothing to do with milk. I swear.

An hour later we arrived at the check-out line with a cart full of groceries (milk included), approximately $100 worth, which forced me into a regular line. The woman ahead of me had ten items. Ten. That number might make you think that she was taking up less than a quarter of the conveyor belt. But you'd be wrong.

Somehow, she had spaced her items in a perfect line so that they took up the entire conveyor belt.

I approached, sweaty from shopping with two children, threatening to take away their donuts if they didn't behave, and I wanted to get my items paid for as quickly as possible. The kids, eager to help, kept trying to put our groceries on the conveyor belt. But the lady in front of us, with ten items, was still waiting for the woman in front of her to finish and had no intention of making room.

Surely, I thought, as I kept removing the items my children were placing in her "space", she would relent and make room.

No. She did not move them. Not even an inch.

I have yet to come up with an explanation for this oddity.

I'm happy to report that the kids were able to keep their donuts despite this roadblock. Joey only hurt himself five times during the check-out adventure, falling far below his record of fifteen times. Astonishingly, Jillian didn't ask for additional candy. Then again, we were in the "parent" aisle that only offered vegetable based products. And the lady in front of me only paid for her products.

Beth - 1 (I'm sane despite my children's best efforts to the contrary)

Lady in front of me - 0 (I question her sanity)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Interpreting Poetry

"Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening"
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


One of my students, in a recent poetry interpretation, decided this poem was about Santa Claus. I'll let you figure it out.

Frost - 1

Student - ?

Celebrities

Growing up, I idolized celebrities. They are beautiful and clever, and people adore them simply because they are famous. I wish my feelings hadn't changed, for life was so much simpler before I knew one.

To clarify, I used to know this celebrity, because we went to high school together. I guess you could say we were friends, but were never really close. We had mutual acquaintance, therefore hung out together on occasion.

She was beautiful. She was popular. She was class president, homecoming queen, prom queen, and voted "perfect person loved by all" in the senior superlatives. Alright, so I exaggerated on the superlative portion but I think you get the point. Of all those things, however, she was a nice person, which should have been the most important. But it isn't how most people remember her.

If you asked people what they remembered about me, they would probably say I was a theater nerd who wore her hair in a ponytail. The ponytail part hasn't changed. Actually, neither has the nerd portion and since I teach and virtually put on a "show" each day . . . nothing has changed.

High School was almost fourteen years ago. I like to think I've grown as a person, and have put the childish notions of high school popularity behind me, except that this beautiful, popular girl from my past has resurfaced. She went from a beloved high school student to a beloved local-going-national celebrity.

Now the men in my life (husband, friends, father) talk about her frequently. They ask me to invite her to parties.

No. I haven't talked to her in about 13 years.

They ask me to contact her to see if she will be in their short online films.

No. I haven't talked to her in about 13 years.

I realize how petty I sound, but shouldn't the little nerds who never spoke in class (not me, by the way) be the ones to blossom after high school and become famous? Don't they deserve it more than the person who was revered their entire life? Must the rest of us still be plagued by the high school greatness we never achieved?

It appears that way. It also appears that celebrities are only wonderful if you didn't know them as a kid.

Beth - 0

Popular high school student turned celebrity - 1

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Job With No Vacation

I haven't been to work in seven days due to the two mammoth snow storms that blew through Northern Virginia. My teaching work, that is.

What I have been doing is my other job. The one with no vacation, no breaks and no down time. I call it my Mommy work.

I'm not used to doing my Mommy work full time. I'm the type of person who loves my children desperately, but needs to teach in order to keep my sanity. Therefore, the last seven days have been . . . an experience. When two young children are cooped up in the house for seven days, it is only natural to have stories.

Jillian and Joseph have devised some rather unique games to keep themselves busy. Jillian came downstairs after being unnaturally quiet upstairs and said, "Guess what we've been doing Mommy? We've been climbing something. It starts with M and ends with ountain." I figured out her little riddle, and asked what the mountain was made of. I instantly regretted that question she proudly showed me her creation. It was a mountain made out of clothes! She'd removed all the clothing from her dresser to make a mountain of clothing on her bed. Creative.

Today I walked into the kitchen and discovered another of their creative outlets. In this game, Joseph threw popcorn onto the floor and Jillian cleaned it up with a dust bin and broom. Creative? Yes. Messy? You betcha.

Joseph thought it would be fun to play "chase the monster" while riding his hobby horse. The dog was the monster.

They ask me for food every five minutes. They ask me for cookies every two minutes. That is my fault, however, because in my desperation to keep them busy we baked a huge batch of cookies. Twice. I've also made my grandmother's eggplant, a roast chicken, stew, and pretty much every other roast imaginable. I created my own cheese sauce for gourmet nachos.

I really need to go back to the job with vacations.

Beth - 0
Children during a snow storm - 1

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Church

There are many scenarios in life where I want my children to behave, but few compare to Saturday night mass. Church is quiet, reverent. People want to pay homage to God in a virtually silent room, where there is nothing to distract them from their prayers.

Therefore, I feel badly for the people who frequent my church.

The "holy" events this week started off eventfully. My daughter decided, on the way out to the car, that she wanted to wear a dress to church. Unfortunately, we were already late and did not have time to pick out a new outfit for her. So Jillian did what any six year old would do: she threw a massive, kicking, screaming, tearing at the leather seats temper-tantrum. We had the pleasure of listening to her screaming the entire drive. At one point, I glanced behind me at our house-guests who were following us to the church. They were smiling and calm. You know. The way I can only imagine the drive to church should be like.

While my husband calmed her down in the parking lot, I led our house-guests and my son into church. When my knees hit the kneeler, my son loudly announced that he needed to use the bathroom. Many people turned there heads to get a look at the people going to the bathroom after his declaration.

My husband and daughter were waiting for us when we returned. The other church-goers obviously felt our lively vibes and did not attempt to sit next to us. Many were standing in the back which was, apparently, preferable.

While my daughter sniffled, recovering from her tantrum, my son read books in a non-whisper, chomped on cheerios, "accidentally" dropped many hymnal books and said "I love you mommy!" every time one of the priests spoke.

To make matters worse, while I was scolding my son for the ump-teenth time for misbehaving, I glanced up at the balcony in time to see one of my students waving to me. Fantastic. Not only did I have to suffer from embarrassment in front of strangers, but one of my students had the privilege of seeing my suffering first-hand.

Every week I vow not to return to church with my children, but every week I conveniently forget the embarrassment and bring them anyway. I'm beginning to see why so many women qualify for sainthood.

Church - 0
My children - 2

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Loss of Inspiration

A good friend of mine mentioned that she was waiting for me to write on my blog again. It has been a long time. So this evening, I tried to figure out why I haven't been inspired to write.

It's been an hour and I still don't have the answer.

So instead I'll just tell you a funny story. When my daughter was four, we were eating at a restaurant. She needed to use the bathroom, so I took her while my husband stayed with Joey. Upon entering the bathroom, I noticed a rather unmistakable odor. Unfortunately, so did Jillian.

"Wow, Mommy!" she said loudly. "It smells like big business in here!"

My primal instinct was to throw her over my shoulder and flee not only from the bathroom, but from the very mall where the restaurant resided. But Jillian was doing "the dance" and I was forced to take one for the team. I shushed her as quietly as possible and led her to the other available stall. Then, I said a silent prayer that we would not see the woman in the stall next to us.

Luckily, my prayers were answered. I hustled her out of the stall, did a rapid wash of her hands and raced back to our table.

Kids say the darnedest things.

Jillian - 1 Lady in the stall next to us - 0