Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Tribute to Fallen Teachers

In the horrific aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings, I hugged my children, crying for all of the lost children and the grief their parents must feel.

But, I also wept for the teachers who gave their lives to protect their students.

Any teacher worth their salt knows that our students are our other "children". We see them every day. We celebrate their accomplishments and help them through their failures. We have the opportunity to touch lives.

But for some, that privilege does not come without its costs. I've often considered what I would do if there were a shooter in my school. I wish that was a lie, but after Columbine, I had to consider the possibility. Crazy people exist in the world, and there is always a chance that one of those crazies might make their way into my school, threatening the lives of my kids. I've run the scenario through my mind many times, but the reality is that you can't plan for such a tragedy.

I prayed last night in church that God would bring them all to heaven and give them peace. Then, I asked God to give me the strength to be as brave as those teachers were I ever in the same situation. I am so inspired by their strength during such a frightening time.

I still believe that teaching is the most challenging and rewarding profession out there. I give a sincere thank-you to the teachers who lost their lives performing courageous acts that shouldn't have been part of the job description.

I never met you, but I will never forget you.

Beth - 0
Courageous Sandy Hook Teachers - 1

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tis the Season to Give - To Me!!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Beth Revis is holding a contest.  The prize is 50 signed books by a myriad of authors.  You can find the link here.

There is really only one word that comes to mind when I think about this:  Gimmie!!!

However, based on the instructions I must discuss why I love YA (Young Adult for those unfamiliar) Literature.  So, in the spirit of giving, I figured I'd briefly discuss what YA Lit has given to me over the years. 

Hopefully this will help me win the 50 books for my ninth grade classroom (Shameless Promotional Plug Alert!).

To put is as simply as possible, YA Lit started my love affair with books.  But it wasn't until I was an adult that I truly understood how important they were.  I've always had a "sixth sense" when it comes to finding the deepest messages in literature, and I've found some of the most important lessons in YA Lit.

Top Five Lessons Learned Courtesy of YA Lit

1.  Beautiful girls with perfect blond hair can't be trusted
2.  Not all vampires are bad
3.  When bad things happen, avoid telling your parents
4.  I want to live in an urban fantasy novel
5.  High School is just a backdrop for a more important story

But in all seriousness, YA Lit helps me examine myself as a human being, as a friend, as a woman.  It reminds me of the most basic needs a person possesses.  It addresses the deepest problems of our society (Hello!?  The Giver!) in a way that both tears at my heart and leaves me awestruck.  YA Lit is for adults AND young adults because, in reality, most of us never grew up all the way anyway.

Good YA Lit doesn't just touch the reader; it profoundly affects them for the rest of their lives, snags their souls and leaves them with important life questions, wondering where to turn next.  For me, the next logical step was always another book as I still pondered the questions from the last, puzzling over how those questions fit into my own life.  That cycle continues today.

I've also never read a YA book that I didn't finish in less than two days.   

I teach young adults now.  I introduce them to all kinds of literature and ask them to open their minds to it.  I try my best to litter my room with young adult literature, hoping against hope that they will pick up a book, read it, and become hooked the way I did.   

And personally, I still read more young adult literature than anything else.  It has more heart than any other literature, in my opinion.  I write it as well, on the side of course.  My writing is not yet worthy of a publisher.

Anyhoo, those are my thoughts.  YA Lit has given me so much.  Maybe it will give me 50 free books!!  (Please?  Pretty, pretty please?)

Beth - 1
YA Lit - 1
Suckers Who Don't Read YA Lit - 0

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Harar Birthday Season Comes to a Close

Between the months of October through November, the Harar Birthday Season commences.  If it were a reality TV show, it might be comparable to The Hunger Games, where the only thing I win is a chance to survive and do it all again next year.

24 Days, 3 Birthdays, 1 Surviving Mother.

Every year I have a conversation with myself that goes something like this:

Older, Wiser Beth:  "This is such a stressful time of year.  What were you thinking?  Why didn't you plan this better?"

Younger Naive, Un-Stressed Beth:  "We didn't plan this, remember?  Remember Superbowl Night 2003?Remember when the doctor shocked the hell out of you by saying you were pregnant five weeks later?  And then around the exact same time three years later you found out you were preggers again?  Hu?"

Older, Wiser Beth:  "Oh, yeah.  Oops."

Anyhoo, Jillian's birthday is October 23rd.  Seven days later is Mike's on November 1st.  Joey's is fifteen days later on November 16th.  It turns into one big money-spending, cake eating frenzy where I'm stuck in the middle sending out invitations, planning parties, gathering goodie bags, completing harried last-minute house cleaning and wrapping presents. 

And there is never just one party.  The whole family is never able to get together on the same day, so each birthday extends to two or three parties, sometimes over the course of a week.  Or two. 

This year I put up a happy birthday sign in the living room and left it up for 24 days until Joey's birthday party was over on Sunday. 

As I mentioned on Twitter the other day, I've escaped with only a small shred of sanity and an extra two pounds.  And though the Harar birthday season has ended, the Masone-Harar season continues in two weeks when my sister has her birthday.  My dad's is thirteen days after my sister's.  Christmas follows a week later.

At least my birthday is in July.

Beth - 0
Birthdays - 1

Monday, November 5, 2012

Boomer the Wonder Dog

Our dog Boomer has escaped death about five times.  By escaping death, I mean we think he is going to die, prepare ourselves for the inevitable outcome and then discover that he has miraculously recovered. 

Boomer the Wonder Dog!!

Escape From Death #1:  Boomer developed some serious tumors on his back.  The doctor suspected that they were cancer and, being only four years old, we decided to have the surgery to save his life. 
Outcome #1:  Turns out the tumors were just fatty and of no danger to his life.

Escape From Death #2:  At age 8, Boomer became very ill.  He lost weight, wouldn't eat, and we discovered that he wasn't producing red blood cells any longer.  We tried many methods to help him (ie:  lots of money spent), but his condition didn't improve.  As a last ditch effort, about a week before we were going to put him out of his misery, the vets tried steroids. 
Outcome #2:  Boomer bounced back and has been happily on steroids ever since.

Escape from Death #3:  At age 11, we brought him in because he lost a toenail, but they were concerned with something they felt in his stomach.  An x-ray later, and the vet thought Boomer had cancer of the spleen.  We prepared for the worst yet again. 
Outcome #3:  Turns out he was fine and just seems to have an enlarged spleen.

Escape from Death #4:  At age 12, he had a seizure.  The doctors feared the worst, convinced that it was cancer.  We braced ourselves for the worst, and paid for blood work and tests.  
Outcome #4:  The vets didn't find anything.  It wasn't cancer, and he recovered.

Escape from Death #5:  One month ago, at age 13, he had another seizure.  They tested his blood and his white blood cell count was high.  He had also developed kidney disease, the vet said.  We started him on heavy antibiotics, but were sure this was it.
Today, we took him in because he hadn't eaten in three days, was vomiting and had another seizure.  They tested his white blood cell count and kidney levels, convinced that he was dying, but gave him some anti-nausea medicine and fluids to help a bit. 
Outcome #5:  Three hours later, Boomer was ravenous and ate a huge dinner.  The vet called and said his white blood cells and kidneys were now normal.  He is sleeping heavily in a food coma as I write. 

Bottom Line:  He's fine and will never die. 

The greatest irony here is that we were so excited eleven years ago because we got Boomer for free.

Beth - 0
Boomer - 1
Vet Rolling in Our Money - 1

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Yearly Shaming of the Parent

Today, I brought Jillian for her yearly check-up at the doctor, which is really code for the yearly parental shaming ritual in which I firmly believe doctors delight.

The visit is pretty much the same every year.  First, the nurse asks the child to get undressed to ensure that parents can't grab their child and bolt from the room in pure embarrassment. 

Once the clothes are off, they begin asking questions.  This is the part that parents dread the most.  You see, the questions are always addressed to the child.  The doctor speaks directly to the child, and in no way shows desire to involve the parent in the discussion.  This is bad, because the parent can only sit back helplessly and pray that the child answers correctly.  God forbid they don't, because a raised eyebrow from the doctor ensues and the non-verbal shaming begins.

Based on my daughter's answers, the doctors
probably think this is my idea of parenting.
I'll write some of the questions below, and let you imagine the possible responses as you read.

Do you eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day?   -   Doctors love to start with this question, because it makes parents squirm.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I have yet to meet a child that actually eats five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  I'm lucky if I can shove one green bean in my daughter's mouth before she fights back and makes a break for it.

Do you get cavities?   -  This was unfair because yes, there was one visit when she had three, but the rest of our visits have been uneventful and cavity free.  But of course, Jillian perks up and can't wait to tell the doctor all about her three cavities, leaving out the fact that it only happened once and that the dentist already shamed me for the incident. 

Do you exercise?   -   Jillian says no.  But that isn't true because going to the park and running around the house after her brother like a crazy person totally counts as exercise.  She doesn't bring that up though, so I look like a shitty parent. 

What do you do when a stranger asks you to come with them?    -  Jillian says, "Say no."  Really?  I've hammered that into their heads from day one and all she can say is "say no?"  Ug.

Do you ride a bike?   -  The answer she gave was no, but this is not for lack of trying on our part.  She is a cautious child who is still too afraid to do it on her own.  Again, however, the questions are not directed towards me and I can't supplement why she can't ride a bike.  I just have to put up with the disapproving glance.

It wouldn't surprise me if doctors start giving parents report cards based on their yearly questioning.  All I know is today, I came across as a big fat failure. 

At least it only happens once a year.

Beth - 0
Jillian - 1

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Open Letter to High School Students

Dear Students,

I'd like to start by saying that between the ages of 14 to 18 a certain sense of impenetrable intelligence descends upon you, and you feel as though anyone over the age of, say, 24, has no freaking clue what they are talking about.  I know the feeling, because I was your age once too.  (Alert!  Alert!  She said a familiar "old person saying"  Shut eyes immediately!) 

No secrets with Twitter.  Good for teachers. 
Bad for students.

Anyway, I should get to my point, which is that teenagers (namely you) seem to feel that they know everything, and that old fuddy-duddy teachers, like myself, have very little knowledge which they can impart upon their already all-knowing minds.  However, at my old age of 34, I'm aware of how little I actually know.  This scares me.  So, on occasion, I try to give you important lessons that will help you succeed in the world. 

Lesson of the Day:  If you don't make your Twitter account completely private, anyone can see what you wrote, including disparaging remarks about teachers. 

I know teachers seem unfailingly nerdy, but we do know a thing or two about technology.  And yes, I twitter-stalk myself.  I want to know what my students (yes, you) are saying about me. 

Most recently, I had the pleasure of reading an entire conversation between two students about what a hard teacher I am.  (Yay!!)  What is amusing is how they discussed that they knew I had a Twitter account, and that it would be very awkward if I were to read their conversation.  (Too late, ladies)  However, they made no attempt to hide it, no attempt to make their accounts private, no attempt to remain anonymous. 

Sadly, I've read Twitter remarks about teachers which were very inappropriate.  I comment on them occasionally, just to scare the ever living daylights out of the kid, but I'm not sure it actually does any good. 

So, now we get to the whole point of this open letter.  I guess it is just to remind both of us that we have to be careful what we put out on the Internet.  Nothing shared in cyber-world is safe.  For example, if the two girls who did the Twitter posts about my class read this, the elephant would enter the room.  Do I care?  Of course not.  I already had a great time dropping heavy innuendo's during class that I'd seen their post.  If you are in my class and picked up on some tension, you know to what I refer.  The students probably already know, unless they let their minds wander, which is entirely possible. 

Still, students, you teach me new things every day.  As I mentioned before, there is much I don't know about the world.  Even you can remind me there is always something to learn.


Mrs. Harar

Beth - 1  (I learned!)
Twitter - 1  (Very informative!)
Unprotected Twitter Posts About Teachers - 1  (Poorly Planned, But Still Very Informative)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Flash Mob

I'd be a big fat liar if I didn't admit that I desperately want to be in a flash mob. 
(See below for an example)

Imagine the fun.  There I am, seemingly minding my own business, when suddenly I join in on a huge group dance.  You aren't expecting it.  No one is. 

I take you totally by surprise. 

Yup.  A flash mob is for me. 

I've considered organizing one, but the last time I tried it didn't work out, and I'm a bit deflated from the whole effort.  Plus, I don't think I have enough friends to even ask to participate in a flash mob, let alone enough friends who would actually participate.I mean, if you think about it, it takes a lot of guts to totally throw yourself out there unexpectedly. 

Since being in a flash mob is on my bucket list, I'm confident I could go through with it.  Plus, I make a complete fool of myself in front of high school students daily which, I believe, has properly prepared me for a flash mob.

This evening, as I watched recent flash mobs on You Tube and imagined that I was participating, I mused aloud:  "Why can't I be in a flash mob?"

"Maybe someone deemed you not good enough to be in a flash mob," Mike replied.  He was kidding, of course, but I have subsequently strengthened my resolve to be a flash mob participant. 

In the meantime, I'll just dance around in my kitchen.  If I feel really daring, I might leave the blinds open. 

Beth - 0
Flash Mobs - 1

Friday, September 28, 2012

Loves and Things Not Loved

Current Loves

Blaring music in the car (and dancing in the car)
A patient husband
Brother in law home from Afghanistan
American Horror Story re-runs
Good friends who care
MY kids
A-days at school
Visits from former students
Love from my puppy
Re-reading great short stories
Staff development meetings on Friday
Strength over pain (not physical - no worries)
Dancing with my kids in the kitchen
Appreciating good literature

Current Things Not Loved

My inability to self-discipline
Rude parents
People who disrespect teachers
The new host of Family Feud
Puppy accidents
Loud yelling
When kids say they hate English
Cleaning my house
Real staff development meetings
Pain over strength
Poorly written books

Beth's Loved Items - 1
Beth's Unloved Items - 0

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It Turns Out I'm Quite . . . . . Unique

While creating a getting-to-know-you activity for school, I had to come up with a list of facts about myself.  As my husband helped me, I realized I am, for lack of a better word, very unique. 

The List:

I took this picture of a stuffed
animal my son dropped in the toilet.
After creating this blog post, the photo just
seemed to fit.

I was born in Wisconsin

My favorite place in the world is Carmel, California.

I’ve written 2 ½ novels, but none are published

I grew up with two parrots

I hate spoons

When I was pregnant, I cried once when my husband didn’t buy the right flavor of Pringles

I hate donuts

I got a puppy three weeks ago

I love science fiction and fantasy

I love watching bad made-for-TV movies

I love socks

I’ll cry at the same scene even after watching a movie 20 times

I blog

My favorite movie is Pride and Prejudice

I used to hate yogurt, but since having kids I love it

I talk in my sleep every night, usually about school

I can’t watch when people drink from a bowl

I’m very competitive at board games

I have an extreme fear of heights and tight places

If I spill salt, I toss it over my left shoulder

I’ve been known to read an entire novel in one day

I hate taking scantron tests, but I give them anyway

I hate flying in airplanes and have several drinks before boarding ( I left the drinking part off for the students)

I have to sit in the front seat or I get motion sickness

I swam with dolphins

Hedgehogs are my favorite animal

I’m pretty much allergic to everything

I’m terrified of needles

My ears get red and hot at random times

My favorite color is red

My husband thinks I hate pie, but I don’t

    That's it.  Just felt like sharing my quirkiness.   Beth - 1 Quirky - 1 Students - 0 (Hopefully they think I'm super weird and don't act up)

Friday, June 15, 2012

It's the End of the Year . . . Again

The end of the school year finally came!

I knew it was coming, because before this week the atmosphere in the school changed - a subtle shift that hid within the school walls.  It seemed quieter, though the students were louder than ever.  Everyone still entered the building each morning, but the halls were emptier than usual.  Even students who usually came by to visit, tapered off.  They were eager, perhaps, to veer from the normal routine, or just wanted to get the hell out of the school.

This expresses my happiness through a cliched symbol.

It probably didn't help that I started cleaning out my room three weeks ago, or that I stripped the walls bare making the gray school brick seem like the inside of a torture chamber .  I couldn't help it, however.  I was just ready for the end of the year.
Most amusing, perhaps, was the amnesia that settled in.  I asked some students to share some of their favorite parts English, as well as their least favorite, to gain some insight for next year.  The majority actually told me they couldn't think of anything bad.  I know for a fact this is not true.  The warm nights had already muddled their impressionable minds.  They forgot that I asked them the same thing mid-year and their list of dislikes was lengthy.

The vacant stares increased, the laughter was louder and my annoyance had taken the form of blatant eye-rolling.

But the weeks passed quickly and today, my last class took their final exam.  I stacked the chairs and desks along the side of the wall, threw away the remaining exams and uncollected papers, and put a lock on my closet. 

Then, I went to happy hour starting at 12:30 with my favorite English department.  Summer is indeed here.

Beth - 0
School Year 2011-2012 - 1

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Jillian's Big Day

Today was Jillian's BIG day.  This was the day she was going to recieve her First Holy Communion.  It was also the day of her very first overnight Girl Scout camping trip.

And she woke up with a fever. 

My beautiful daughter Jillian

Straight away, we knew there was no way she could go on the camping trip, which caused immediate tears and devastation.  She had been so excited to go.

However, after much thought and deliberation, we decided to load her up on Motrin and let her participate in Mass.  She'd worked to hard to get to this point, and it would only last two hours.  Mike gave her a special "signal" so if she felt too sick, she could let us know without yelling across the pews and we would take her out.

Joey and Me
When I dropped her off, things were looking up.  The Motrin had kicked in, and she was feeling better.  As you can see from the picture, she looked just beautiful. 

While she took pictures with her class, I fiercely defended a pew near the front so my family could all sit together and see.  You would think a church-full of Catholics would be understanding and respect the fact that I'd been sitting there for 45 minutes, but you'd be mistaken.  Around 9:30, I began sending desperate SOS text message pleading with everyone to come early so the evil glares would stop.  It's quite lonely sitting in a pew all by yourself, not to mention awkward.

Eventually everyone arrived, and mass began.  It was beautiful, and Father Kelly gave a nice sermon to the children.  As they were preparing gifts, my sister nudged me and pointed to the aisle, where a seeing eye-dog was laying spread eagle in the aisle.  (See picture) 

While we chuckled about the dog, I suddenly heard Mike say, "She needs to go!"

This was the best picture
of the dog we could get.

I turned to see Jillian pushing her way out of the pew and into Mike's arms.  I followed, and we hustled her down the aisle as she began making gagging noises.  We shoved her into the closest bathroom and made it into the stall just in time for her to yack into the toilet.  A confused 13 year old boy came out of the other stall and looked at me with wide eyes.  We were in the men's bathroom.  Oddly enough, this didn't stop another gentelmen from entering the remaining empty stall and using the facilities, despite the fact that two females were present.

My poor baby looked green.  She held it together long enough for the director to help her down the aisle to recieve her communion, and we hustled her out to the car and brought her home.

So, Jillian's big day was full of big surprises.  She is on the couch, with a higher fever, resting.  However, God saw fit to allow her to make it through communion, and as I watch the dark clouds roll across the sky, I think perhaps he was protecting her from a bad storm while camping. 

And I pray to God now that our favorite priest, Father Kelly, has the good sense to wash his hands thorougly so he doesn't catch Jillian's bug.

Jillian - 1 (What a trooper)
Beth - .5
Ill-timed sickness - 1

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ten Years Ago

I was thinking about how much my life has changed in ten years. 

Marital Status:
Best decision ever
2002 - Newlywed
2012 - Married for over a decade

2002 - None
2012 - Two

2002 - Small Apartment in Richmond
2012 - Townhouse in Centreville (with an actual, real house in-between.  Damn the prices in Northern Virginia)

Typical Weekend:
2002 - Sleep in, hang out with friends, get some chores done, go out, stay out late, party hard, repeat.
2012 - Wake up to find the kids in bed with me, chase kids out of the bed and attempt to sleep in another half hour, usher kids to sports activities, entertain kids, complete errands that absolutely cannot be put off until later, ignore the laundry that needs to be done, go to bed early.

Typical Day After Work:
2002 - Drink, rest, TV Time, time alone with Mike, read.
2012 - Pick up kids, feed kids, take kids to activities, feed kids again, try and squeeze in all the chores I can't get done over the weekend, fall asleep at the same time as the kids.

Stress Level:
2002 - Low, although I don't realize it at the time. 
2012 - Super duper high.  And I know it.

Feelings on Dogs as Pets:
2002 - Dogs are the greatest animal ever.  Stupidly convince husband to let me get one.
2012 - Will never get another dog once Boomer is gone.  Never.  Ever.

Feelings on Jobs:
2002 - My job sucks.  I hate bankruptcy attorneys.
2012 - My job is awesome.  Being a teacher is perfect.  I'm in charge.  Bankruptcy attorneys can kiss my grits.

Feelings on Parents:
2002 - I'm an independent woman living two hours away from my parents.  I can do this.
2012 - My parents live five minutes down the road.  I couldn't do without them.

My, how times  have changed.  And when I look at both years, I think 2012 blows 2002 out of the water. 

2002 Beth - 0
2012 Beth - 1

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Auntie Beth

No, I'm not a real aunt . . . yet.  But I did watch my doggie niece and nephew this weekend. 

Princess Luna:  A Chihuahua/Italian Greyhound combo, Luna does not know she is a dog.  She is a dainty bad-ass who suffers from separation anxiety when my sister is gone.

Oscar:  Being a pure bred Min Pin, Oscar is extremely handsome.  Unlike Luna, Oscar is all dog.  His "trademark" move is to hug your leg with his paws while you pet him, though he will attack anyone who comes within a 50 yard radius of his (or my) house.

My sister dropped off the dogs on Saturday.  After an initial quiet period while they got used to the fact that she was not immediately coming back, the dogs ran around and explored.  And then, they plastered themselves against my leg and didn't move until Tuesday when I brought them home. 

They prefer to burrow underneath the covers while sleeping.  Oscar nestled himself in my crotch while Luna shared a pillow with me.  As my husband and children can attest, I do not like to cuddle while I sleep, so this forced all-night touching took some getting used to.

Didn't even leave my side when I was folding clothes. 
Despite the new sleeping arrangements, however, the weekend was fairly uneventful.  Walking all three dogs by myself was a challenge as I juggled three leashes and three poop bags.  I swear they all decided to do their big business at the same time just to mess with me.

While we were on a walk, there was one man who thought it would be funny to pet Boomer while Luna and Oscar attempted to decapitate him.  Apparently he didn't feel that their frenzied barking, foaming at the mouth, snarling and lunging was anything to be concerned about. 

I thought that would be the only story I had to tell, but just before they left, Oscar took my underwear and hid it under a blanket on the sofa.  Naughty Doggie.

Beth - 1 (I'm an awesome Aunt!!!)
Luna and Oscar - 1

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Zoo

In fine Spring Break tradition, my mom and I took the kids to the zoo. 

It started as most trips do for me:  with angst and panic.  I couldn't find the kids jackets, searched the house high and low, became sweaty and cranky from running up and down the two flights of stairs ten times, and finally left in a huff because the jackets could not be found, yelling at the kids for not putting their things away.  Jillian reminded me once we were in the car that we had probably left them at the gym yesterday.  She was right.

Anyhoo, the trip to the zoo was uneventful while I apologized to the kids over and over again for yelling at them over jackets that weren't really in the house. 

We got to see almost all of the animals, and many were up and about, eating and playing.  For the first time, I got to see a panda up close, for it was eating in the inside enclosure.

Tie-dye Panda, made with gimp
Imagine the tie die on people instead.
The kids asked for food about every five minutes or so.  My mom spoiled them and bought them popcorn and cotton candy.  One minute after lunch Joey asked for another snack.  He also sat down on the ground a few times when he was tired and I let him.  My husband will, no doubt, be cringing has he reads this.  (If you know him, you know he hates germs)

In addition to the animals, I saw a family wearing matching tie-dye outfits.  The mother and daughter were in purple and white tie-dye dresses, while the father and son sported matching tie-dye shirts.  I'm not sure why I was so taken with this family, but I think it was because I saw a perfect moment and was upset that it was passing me by.

Overall, I deem the zoo trip a success.  However, as soon as we got home, my son informed me that I was boring because I never do anything with him.  I reminded Joey that we were at the zoo from 9:30 to 2:30, and that I was pretty sure that was "doing something with him."

He shook his head and said, "That doesn't count."

Beth - 0
Joey - 1
Zoo - 1
Tie-Dye People - 1

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Beth and Her Offspring's Participation in Competitive Sports

Today I was reminded why I never participated in competitive sports. They make me nervous. 

Turns out, watching my kids compete isn't easy for me either.

Joey is going to be on a flag football team this spring, and today were the "assessments".  I thought that meant the kids would do a bit of practicing while the coaches watched them.  Instead, the kids were participating in a draft, which will officially take place tomorrow.
Future Football Star

Although this knowledge stressed me out beyond belief, to the point where my
heart pounded every time they handed him the football and told him to run, Joey was blissfully unaware of the situation.  Some of the kids took these assessments VERY seriously.  My sweet boy didn't.

In usual Joey fashion, he hopped around in excitement the second he got onto the field.  As soon as he realized that high-fives were happily given with enthusiasm, he eagerly participated.  Every chance he had, Joey was giving a coach a high-five.  I even saw him pull a "Down-Low-Too-Slow" on one coach.  Nice one, son.

When they practiced throwing the ball, he was paired against a child who was a football prodigy.  The kid  threw many perfect spirals, and one perfect spiral into Joey's chest, but to his credit, he apologized for hurting him.  I cursed prodigy child in my head the entire time, coming up with other ways I could match them where my son would reign supreme.  I decided that Joey would be a MUCH better reader, and that in a wrestling match, Joey would, without a doubt, kick his ass.

In the 20 yard sprint, Joey's first time was so-so.  While some of the kids set their jaws and ran like they were being chased by green vegetables, Joey ran like he was at the end of a marathon, smiling and waving to Mike and me.  Just before he ran, he yelled, "I love you Mommy!"  I had to admit he seemed like the happiest kid on the field.  However, my competitive streak set in, and I sent my husband over to give him a message.  His second time was much better.  The message?  Run like Sonic the Hedgehog.  Don't judge.  It worked.

During the last trial, however, we discovered our son's strong point.  When they had to run within the cones and pull the flags off the other players, Joey was king.  He moved quickly and with purpose, and was down to the last three kids every time.  Once, he even tackled another kid to get his flag.  Though against the rules, I swelled with pride. 

My little linebacker. 

Beth - 1
Joey - 1
Linebackers - 1
Perfect Football Kid - 0  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wandering Minds

 Lately, I've noticed my mind wandering.

This doesn't mean my mind is wandering more than usual.  It just means I've actually paid attention to my wandering mind. 

For example, the other day, my friend was describing his job. 

"Basically," he said, "I have to put together a year-end statement for the FC . . . " 

A puppet to my thoughts

To be honest, he lost me at year-end statement.  My mind wandered to other things, like what I was going to cook for dinner that night, and whether or not I would use sherry and salt in the green beans.  As he continued, I decided my socks were particularly comfortable at that very moment and that my feet were unusually cute-looking when wearing them.  When I re-focused on what he was saying, I found that nodding and looking appropriately-concerned was sufficient to make it look like I'd payed attention, and that he no longer felt the need to discuss his (super boring) job.  I can say this because I know for a fact he doesn't read this blog.  And because he has a super important job.  And because what I do doesn't interest him either.

Last night, my mom and I went to see a performance by the Cedar Lake Dance Company, which is particularly known for its fusion between ballet and contemporary dance.  While I enjoyed the majority of the performance, I again found my mind wandering during the slower points. 

For some reason, I had a problem with the costumes.  As a result, I focused on what the dancers were wearing rather than their performance.  One of the male performers appeared to be wearing shorts that were very similar to the skirt of his female counterpart.  I imagined more appropriate costumes, alternating colors and styles between the different performers  I'm sure there were more important things to focus upon, but I just couldn't help myself. 

In many ways, this reminds me of my students.  If I had this much trouble paying attention to something I had voluntarily attended, imagine how much trouble they must have attending classes they don't care about.  The answer there is NONE.  They have ZERO attention towards my class.  My guess is that even if I put on my husband's boxer's and pranced about in a tutu I would have very little impression on their lives. 

If my friend had used terminology with which I was familiar, I might have been more attentive.  I've I'd understood the logic behind the costumes, perhaps I'd focused more on the dancing.  But either way, something was preventing me from providing my full attention.  I could have done my best to re-focus, but it was harder than I imagined. 

Teachers, I hope you've learned as much as I have from this post.

Beth  0
Beth's attention span - 0
Average attention span of the teenage student - 0 


Monday, March 5, 2012

A Teaching Analogy

Recently, in the same week, I had a student tell me she wanted to "marry" my teaching (this was a compliment, by the way, because she really likes the way I teach) and another student cuss me out as he stormed out of the room.

And I've come to the conclusion that teaching is the equivalent of horse-back riding.  Sometimes I'm riding bareback in a pristine white cotton dress along a deserted stretch of beach in Fiji.  Other days, the horse uses a tree branch to blind-side me, knocking me off his back into a big pile of dirt.

I just don't know what kind of day I'm going to get when I arrive at work.  Being an English teacher, I couldn't begin to tell you what the odds might be of me landing in the dirt; all I know is that it takes one of the 90 children I see each day to start bucking (still sticking with the horse analogy here) to turn my day upside down. 

Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't have it any other way, but sometimes I wish I were dealing with loyal dogs instead of willful horses.

I just realized that I'm essentially comparing my students to horses and dogs.  I think I'll stop now.

Beth - 0
Hor . . , um, Students - 1

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Joeyism # 3?

As an "allowance" of sorts, we are letting the kids pick one game/movie a week from Gamefly/Netflix.  They have to complete certain chores, of course, but are still very excited.

Joey was entranced, looking at the website with rapt interest, as my husband read the different game descriptions to him. 

As Mike was describing a Sonic game, Joey said, "That'll blow my head!" 

Mike said, "You mean blow your mind?"

"Yeah," said Joey.  "Yeah."

Joey - 1
Sonic Game - 1

Friday, February 10, 2012


Since I seem to be on a "confession" kick, I thought it might be time to share something that is of fundamental importance in my life. 

I hate spoons.

A bold statement, I know, but the fact of the matter is that I believe spoons to be the black sheep of the utensil family.  It isn't the size or shape of the spoon, but more what one can do WITH and TO the spoon that really bothers me.  (OK, gutter minds, keep it clean)

Beth Proudly Presents:  Things I Hate Involving Spoons

1.  I generally dislike the consistency of things eaten with a spoon.  These include, but are not limited to: yogurt, pudding, tapioca, and cottage cheese.

2.  People know how to put food on a spoon, but don't really understand the importance of taking it OFF the spoon.  They put the spoon with the undesirable substance in their mouths, and when they remove it, half of it still remains.  Ick.  Ug.  Yuck.

3.  There is a larger surface area on a spoon where mouth germs can remain, as opposed to normal utensils like a fork or knife. 

4.  In keeping with #3, if someone else were to use my spoon, their icky germs and half-eaten food remains on my spoon.  There is only one solution, and that is to get a new spoon.

5.  I don't like watching people eat with a spoon.  It is just gross.

For years, I kept my spoon feelings quiet, secretly getting a new spoon if my dad or mom were to use mine.  In general, I avoided spoons entirely, choosing to eat ice cream with a fork if possible.  I ate soup very carefully.  I stared at the ceiling when people around me were eating yogurt. 

As I write this, I realize how very weird I am. 

Regardless, I finally "came out of the spoon closet" and admitted my extreme dislike for the harmless looking utensil.  To my surprise, after making fun of me for a while, my family and friends were very understanding.  They don't even ask to share spoons with me now, and just smile knowingly when I leave the room when ice cream is served. 

Except, of course, that incident at Awful Arthur's in The Outer Banks when my friends played a prank on me.  But we will not speak of it here.

The moral of this story is:  It's nice to have understanding people surround you when you have spoon issues. 

Beth - 1
Spoons - 0
Family and Friends - 1

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Update on the Stat Counter

This post will be quick.  I promise.

So, in just a few days, 142 people have been by to visit my blog.  To my credit, only about six of those visits were from me.

And yet, I still only have 18 followers. 

My follower number has been stalled at 18 for about a year now.  If so many people are reading my posts, why the heck aren't they becoming my followers? 

Obviously the Stat Counter obsession hasn't subsided yet.  I apologize right now for exposing you further to my obsessive tendencies.

Following my blog is cool, by the way.  Just saying.

Beth - 0
Stat Counter - ? (I'm having lukewarm feelings about it right now)
18 Followers - 1

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cold Cut Fear

I'm afraid of the people behind the deli counter at my Giant grocery store.

We used to have a decent relationship.  I would ask them for a pound of thinly sliced turkey, or 3/4 pound of honey ham.  Sure, they wouldn't actually smile at me, or overtly appear to enjoy their job in any way.  And really, who can blame them?  They slice meat for a living. 

But our somewhat harmonious acquaintanceship disappeared the day my husband complained about the ham I brought home.  It turns out, he likes his ham to be "shaved" or "chipped", which is the thinnest form of slicing possible.  Seeking to please him, I made my merry way to Giant, list in hand. 

This ham is mad, just like the
deli counter people. 

When I reached the deli counter that fateful day, however, everything changed. 

Apparently, asking for shaved ham is the equivalent of asking them to swing by their knees from the rafters in their underwear, for I was given the dirtiest look imaginable from a human being when I made the request. 

I was taken aback.  Had I said something wrong?  The deli person went extra slow that day, scowling first at the ham that was chipping onto the paper, then at me.  He slapped it on the scale, shoved it in the bag and walked away without asking if I wanted anything else. 

At first I thought maybe he was just having a bad day, so dismissed the odd behavior.  When I returned a week later, however, I received a similar reaction from a different deli person. 

In short, they really hate me. 

I can see it in their eyes when I approach.  "Shaved Ham Girl" they might call me behind my back.  Or something worse.  I don't know.  All I do know is that I am terrified of them now.  

When I ask for shaved ham now, I turn into a shadow of myself, often making the request quickly, then turning as if to examine the cheeses behind me, just so I won't see their evil stares.  

Call me a wimp if you want, but I dare you to try it.  You'd be afraid too.

Beth - 0
Deli Counter People - 1
Shaved Ham - 0 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Obsessions (Not Excluding My New Stat Counter)

Yeah, I obsess.  A lot.  I obsess a lot.

When I obsess over something, it often consumes my thoughts, creating an almost irresistible urge to look at it 24/7.  I sneak peaks when no one is looking, just so they won't realize I'm a complete obsessive freak that really likes new things.  I have a very difficult time controlling these obsessions, but do my darnedest to hide them from . . . well . . . you.

It feels good to get that out.  I thought I might share some of my obsessions with you today, because my newest obsession involves my blog.  In case you missed it (and you probably did), I have installed a Stat Counter at the bottom of the very blog which you are now perusing. 

Wait.  You think this is obsessive?
Like all of my obsessions, I've tried very hard to keep myself in check.  This entails not checking the stat counter forty times a day to see how many people have come to visit my fine writing.  But it is hard.  Very, very hard. 

Most my obsessions start this way.  I'm introduced to a new concept, app or web-thingy-majig of sorts, and am likewise fascinated by this item.  I must have it.  NOW.  So, I don't wait and immediately get my hands on it, so to speak, without considering the consequences. 
I prefer immediate gratification to sensible waiting.

However, this new "thing" in my life begins to take over my thoughts.  I get curiouser and curiouser about this item, wondering about the next time I can check it, find it or look at it. 

Usually, I somehow feel that this item in some way either confirms or molds or upholds my popularity (or lack thereof). 

Hence, if I feel better about myself after looking at it, I keep going back for more.  If I feel worse about myself after viewing it, I keep coming back to see if my status has changed.  I do recognize the ridiculousness of this statement, and would change my mind if possible, but 33 years have gone by and the outlook does not look good at this point.

Some Items That Became Worthy of My Obsession:
Text Messaging
My Blog (Beth's Bemusings)
The Clarity of Night Website when I entered a writing piece in a contest.  By far, this received my best obsessing efforts.  Ever.
Rate My
Words With Friends
Work Emails
Scramble with Friends
And the latest . . .Stat Counter

To my credit, I eventually get over the "newness" and stop the pathetic obsessing, but it sure can take a while.  I'll lose interest in the Stat Counter too.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go do . . . . something. 

Beth - 0
Obsessions - 1

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Teddy G

Today I'm going to talk about Teddy Geiger.

It is safe to share some "details" about Teddy G., since I feel an appropriate amount of time has passed since the incident occurred.  And believe me, I've been dying to write about this for months.

Maybe you are familiar with Teddy G.  He is a singer.  You can experience his famousness at the end of this post.

Anyway, I went to a wedding last summer and it just so happens that Teddy Geiger was a guest.  I had every intention of treating him as a normal person, and not as a celebrity, but his behavior forced me to stare at him.  I'm not kidding - it wasn't my fault.  It was all him.

To begin, Teddy G. sat two pews in front of us with his super cute girlfriend, which seemed normal at the time, until he began kissing her neck during the super conservative full Catholic mass.  I'm pretty certain that he didn't miss a single area of neck skin during the service, and even went in for a full mouth kiss on occasion.

Even better was his love of church hymns.  He loves them a LOT.  He likes to lip-sync them in a sexy way to his girlfriend.  He likes to sing them into her neck too.

I really got the feel for Teddy G.'s love of music during the service as well, because he "played" the piano on his girlfriend's back with his fingers.  He did this as he was sexily mouthing the church hymns.  Smooth moves.  Celebrity smooth.

He certainly kept our row entertained.  If laughing during a wedding ceremony wasn't taboo, I would have been rolling on the ground. 

Anyway, I thought of Teddy G. today when his song came on Pandora, and I figured it was time to share my experience.  I'll never get through one of his songs without thinking about his sexy church singing.  I may have even played piano fingers on the kitchen counter. 

Beth - 1
Teddy - 1

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Enemy, Thy Name is Essay

An enemy lurks in my school and rears its ugly head about once a month, towards the end of each of my English 9 units. It is sneaky, this foe of mine, for it uses students at its disposal and convinces them to give me a sense of calm serenity before it strikes.

I refer to the structured essay.

This evil entity plagues my existence and causes severe urges to bang my head against the nearest computer or run screaming from the room as I pull at my hair.

Based on previous experiences, I plan ahead when essay time is near. Each year, I revise my lessons and handouts to give the students more clarity and help. Each year I think that I've molded the lesson plans so well that it will be impossible for students to misunderstand not only the essay fundamentals, but the necessity of learning how to write an essay well.

Each year they prove me wrong.

This year I actually had them write out the essay ahead of time. I broke each paragraph down and had them write out what they would say, so when we went into the computer lab, all they would have to do is type it up, add a bit, and print it out. You'd think that sounds fool-proof, right? I mean, how in the world could they possible mess up something so easy??

Right? Right?! RIGHT?!

Maybe you're starting to understand my extreme urges to flee from the essay nightmare. It looked like my students understood when we were gathering the information and writing it out using the graphic organizer, but they fooled me. As soon as we set foot in the lab, it was as if everything I'd taught them flew out the door and they stared at me with their large confused eyes. Not ALL of them, mind you, but most of them.

Let me take this opportunity to say a few words in defense of the structured essay. I love writing, and can fully appreciate the art of a structured essay, for they aren't easy to write. But when one is well-written, it is a beautiful thing. Structured essays help students prepare for the SOL tests their junior year. They help students plan ahead, organized their ideas, and ultimately express themselves with the written word.

But that can't stop me from loathing those damned structured essays. Sure, I'll teach them, but don't expect me to be happy about it.

Beth - 0
Essay - 1

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Few Thoughts on The Walking Dead

I'm a big fan of the AMC show The Walking Dead.  In fact, I'm re-watching the first two seasons right now.  It is an excellent show, weaving zombie suspense with real human drama, although the show is more about the humans than with the zombies that want to eat them. 

I've gone back and watched the ending of the season two finale at least five times.  There is a scene that is so horrifying, and yet equally so poignant that I'm torn between which emotion I'd rather feel.  The creators have woven the characters together very well, and I feel as if I know them. 
They've created a world where there are no easy answers . . . much like ours I suppose.  In fact, it made me think a little bit about science fiction, fantasy, and post apocalyptic movies and books.  I think I like them so much because I'm able to relate to the emotions as an outsider.  They aren't like a tragic Nicholas Sparks novel where the scenarios are all to familiar or realistic that I don't even want to read about them. 

Science Fiction gives me the same emotions, but with the ability to apply it to my own life, for I don't plan on making the decision of shooting my zombie mother any time soon.  But, I can take the theme of tough decision making and apply it to myself in my own way.  I enjoy reading about things that are unrealistic, for it is easier to ignore the scenario, and instead focus on the message.

I'm not sure if I've made any sense here, but sometimes I just have to share my musings.  :)

Beth - 1
The Walking Dead - 1
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Post Apocalyptic Fiction - 1
Realistic Dramas - 0