Archive for September 2011

I was born to do this

Friday, September 30, 2011

"I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up." How many times have we all heard this--and said it--during our adult lives?? I don't think I will be saying that again.

For the first few years post-college I dabbled in several different industries but never lasted at a job more than a year or so. I had family members who believed in staying with the same company for 20+ years who were constantly perplexed (and annoyed) by my inability to find something and stick to it. One family member (who shall remain nameless) once said to me "Volunteer. Don't volunteer. Sales. Marketing. PR. When are you going to make up your mind??" I was always envious of those who went the way of a solid degree. Accounting, Law, and Medicine were disciplines where the path was obvious--and limited. Communications? Too broad for this broad to make a permanent residence in a cubicle somewhere.

When I became a mother fourteen years ago and traded in my commute, fancy clothes and lunches out for the privilege of being able to spend my days with my newborn, I never doubted my decision for one moment. I knew since I was a little girl and toted my hairless, fingerless doll around that I was meant to bring life into this world. I remember that utter feeling of contentment that I had finally found my calling--it just happened to be at home and not in the corporate world--until now.

I have loved being a mom and still do but that season is taking on a different path. At 14, 13 and 10 I am needed in different ways which brought me to this place. This past week in my Intro to Middle Schools class, we played a getting to know you game where we had to go around the room and share why we wanted to be middle school teachers. I told my classmates how ever since I was a middle schooler 30 years ago that the desire has never left me. When my oldest entered sixth grade, and I walked through the halls of his school, I knew this was where I needed to be. I told them how I "get" these kids and connect with them and they connect with me. My professor seemed a little blown away by my response and said "everyone doesn't have to be as enthusiastic as Dana." I took that as a compliment.

In my Dynamics of Teaching class on Wednesday we had to do our baseline presentation in front of our class. We had three minutes to introduce ourselves and our subject matter to our "students." Our professor gave immediate feedback and asked three to four of our classmates to do the same. It was all a blur because of my frayed nerves but I do remember hearing "you really understand your students' sense of humor and play to that very well."

Yesterday we went to the middle school where we'll be volunteering in the classroom once a week for our orientation. It happens to be where my son is in 7th grade. Lucky for him I will be with the 6th grade team of teachers. Lucky for me I am with the lovely women who taught my older son during his first year of middle school. I can't wait! As I was speaking with them after everyone left, we heard a knock on the window only to see my son with his silly face plastered against the pane. Oh how I love middle schoolers--especially my own.

Maybe I have finally grown up.


Back To School, Round 2: Mom's Turn

Thursday, September 22, 2011

After a glorious three and a half month break, it is time for me to hit the books once again. Although this time around I am a "big girl" and stepping onto a university campus. Yesterday was a full day orientation replete with all the do's and don'ts of being a public school teacher. Unfortunately it was full of more "don'ts" than "do's". I learned that showing cleavage, buttcrack or midriff is unprofessional but bring on the tattoos and piercings. No limitations exist on either of these artistic expressions. I also learned that 34% of the teachers in my state (or roughly 20, 000 educators) will reach retirement age in the next 3 years. So all you naysayers will have to stop warning me that "there will be no jobs." However, all along I have felt this journey has been about so much more than simply landing a contract. I can't wait to watch it unfold.

I sat in a room full of future educators and walked the campus where 90% of the population was easily half my age--or more. Actually it was definitely closer to "more". I wrote on my Facebook that I was hoping to not be mistaken for a parent. At the lunch break, as I was standing in line to pick up my student ID card, the young lady in charge asked me if I would be living the dorms! Yes, the dorms. I guess it would be cheaper--especially if I could bring my family along, but seriously? I found it a little (actually a lot) flattering. Kind of like when you're 19 and a construction crew whistled at you and you got mad and now if it happens, you scream "Really?? Thank you so much!!" I'm sure this sweet co-ed wanted to retract her question as soon as it crossed her lips but I happily let it sink in to my wrinkled skin and tired body and let myself be puffed up while I waited my turn.

Since I was denied the opportunity to feast on Chick-fil-A, as they no longer exist on our campus, I grabbed a cold, tasteless sandwich and returned to my advising session. As we sat at our respective tables one of the professors asked if anyone in the room had any desire to work with 11-to-14-olds as this would mean a change in your advisor assignment. I quickly shot my hand up only to discover that I was completely alone in my enthusiastic response. Not a single one of my fellow classmates joined in. They have no idea what they're missing. Or maybe they do and I'm about to find out why. This lovely lady, who also loves middle schoolers, came over to chat with me and suggest I add another course to my schedule this quarter as it's only taught two of the three terms--at 8:00 A.M.!! I think this night owl will sleep on this decision. Literally.

Today I arrived at the Park and Ride with my new bookbag (thanks, Mom!) and caught the bus to campus. I think the bus driver was the only rider older than Moi. I really need to get over this, huh? I only had one class today and I quickly decided that this was a course I wanted to be in every single day. Our professor is one of the loveliest, charming women I've ever encountered. She hails from England and if listening to her accent wasn't wonderful enough, her enthusiasm and personality only put her over the top in likeability. Just when I start to doubt or worry about this path or what each quarter will hold I get a treat like this to confirm yet again that I am exactly where I need to be.

Now, about that sunrise class.......


Ian's belated birthday

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I wrote a post on my middle son's 13th birthday and it disappeared. I even did it in advance and scheduled the posting. That's what I get for not following up. Story of my life. If I was a bit more of a micro manager maybe events would happen a little more seamlessly.

At the end of the week my husband said, "Can we move Ian's birthday to a different month?" Back when we were starting a family no one warned us to not have a baby near the beginning of the school year--not that we would have listened. Every year I look back with regret and worry that he was overlooked and I didn't put as much effort into his day as I do for his brothers. This year both the middle school and elementary school had their parent night on his birthday along with a freshman football game 30 miles away. As a result we had to celebrate the night before which made the actual day kind of anti-climactic.

True to middle child, go-with-the-flow Ian fashion, he didn't complain one bit. It probably helped that he raked in enough cash to cover our weekly grocery bill and got his very first cell phone--which happens to be a huge upgrade to the one his brother received on his 13th. It's the little things that count, right?

Maybe it is a blessing that my earlier post evaporated into cyberspace as this kiddo does not like to be gushed over. Just about everything I do or say these days gets an eye roll or a "that's embarrassing, Mom!" So I'll just say, "Happy Birthday, Ian!!" You are kind, bright, funny and a true joy to be with. I've loved being your mom for the last 13 years and I look forward to watching you continue to thrive in this life. You rock!

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And another school year begins

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's my favorite day of the year: the first day of school! It was touch and go there for a couple days as our teachers decided to strike last Thursday. Fortunately they settled on a contract by Friday night and classes were only delayed one day. Since Ben is at a private school he started (much to his dismay) yesterday while his brothers got to prolong summer another 24 hours. I did make them go get haircuts so they couldn't have fun the ENTIRE day.

To show you what a stellar mother I am, I woke Ben up, got busy doing my thing and then realized it was 20 minutes until we had to leave. We rolled into the parking lot with a minute to spare only to find the entire overflow lot filled with cars. Oh yeah, the back to school assembly. Grrrr. With my "bedhead" and "morning breath" I opted to skip the gathering and let Dad walk him to the classroom. Nice. Fortunately, despite his mother's lack of planning, Ben had a great day. When he got home and I asked about his first day his response was: "AWESOME!! Ms. M is awesome!!"

My fun fourth grader

Ian was beside himself with excitement as he got to return to his middle school that burned down two years ago. No alarm was necessary this morning. The district finished the re-build a year ahead of schedule and it is so absolutely amazing. Makes me want to go back to middle school myself. I promised to be back from handing out schedules at the high school in time to take him and get his planner and ASB card. Well, we had a little mishap with cars and keys that I will share below. Anyway, we got there before the buses and he actually let me walk beside him to the building. I jokingly asked if he wanted to hold hands and he said: "it's bad enough that we're walking in together." Spoken like a true 13-year-old (in 8 days.)

My sweet seventh grader.

Ahhh....high school. It feels odd to be sending your child somewhere that you still remember like it was yesterday. Nonetheless, Quinn is embarking on his freshman year. I volunteered to help hand out schedules in the commons from 7-8. School began at 7:45 but Quinn opted to join me instead of having to walk an entire eighth of a mile. Since I had a coffee in each hand (one for me and one for my BFF) my son grabbed my keys and put them in his backpack. I knew this wasn't a wise choice but I immediately got distracted as my BFF walked up behind me to grab her coffee. We settled in to our table with another mom to pass out the "E-H" students. My BFF was going on about how much fun this is and she does it every year because she's nosey. The other mom didn't miss a beat and promptly replied, "I do it to pray over them." Ummmm, us too. I think we were put in our place. At 7:40 my panicked freshman came over and told me that someone stole his schedule out of his hand and he had no idea where his first class was. What a terrible feeling. The vice principal stepped in and sent him to the counseling office to pick up another copy. As I stood up to leave I realized where my car keys were--and where I probably shouldn't go if I still wanted a relationship with my son. Could you imagine me walking in to his first period class and announcing: "I'm Quinn's mom and he has my car keys!"?? I refrained and got a ride home from my BFF only to find my seventh grader at the door reminding me that we were supposed to be leaving....NOW!

And to think I have to get myself to school in two short weeks from today. I should have a little more practice by then.

Here's to a great school year for all our kiddos. May they all come home today with the enthusiasm of Ben!

My fabulous freshman


When traditions cease

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's something I look forward to every year:  the "boy free" Labor Day weekend.  Trey and the boys ship off on a three day adventure and I get the house to myself.  I clean from top to bottom, don't cook a thing, spruce up the yard and usually burn out by Sunday morning.  It is glorious.  This year it was not meant to be.

By Wednesday I knew it wasn't looking good for me when no plans had been made.  A few were thrown around but I could tell no one was really into it--namely my husband.  Salmon fishing on the Fraser River was the first consideration but after purchasing one fishing license, we realized that we were lacking in gear, bait, etc.  Plan B: Trey would go up on Friday afternoon and fish since the license would expire in 5 days then come back on Saturday and get the kids to go camping an hour away.  He promised to farm everyone out for Friday night sleepovers so I could have the evening to myself.  Ian was gone by noon and Ben left at 3.  In the meantime, Quinn got invited to Whistler on Saturday morning but wasn't able to sleep over for various reasons.  Just as I was about to doze off, Quinn announced that he now could go over to his friend's--at 10:20 p.m.!

Saturday morning I jumped out of bed, got some coffee and made my plan of attack.  Target, Costco gas, Costco, Kohls, Walgreens, Haggen--in that order.  As I backed in the driveway to unload my goods, I get a text "the boys want to come back over to your house, is that okay?"  By noon my house was full of boys again as we waited for Trey to appear.  Five hours later he showed up, not in the mood to pack up for camping, but with 26 pounds of beautiful salmon in his possession so all was forgiven.  We feasted on his catch with the promise that "I'll pack up the tent trailer and leave tomorrow morning." 

We spent Sunday morning packing up and I stood in the driveway and waved goodbye with a huge smile on my face.  Off they went to do boy things and I grabbed Millie and went out to the lake for some reading on the beach.  Three hours later as I arrived at the 3-way stop near our neighborhood there in front of me was my brood of boys with the tent trailer still attached to the vehicle.  Uh-oh.  Trey yells out the window, "Zach fell and hit his head on a rock and needs stitches."  How could I be so selfish when a sweet little 9 year old is in pain?  I quickly got over my disappointment when I saw this blonde boy crying in the backseat.  Quinn came home a couple hours later from his mountain biking excursion--in one piece-- and our family was reunited.  I just had to laugh.

Monday morning Trey and I got up early and went on a beautiful hike.  (Our summer arrived along with September and we've been in the mid-80s all week)  When we returned he loaded up just his truck with pellet guns, mountain bikes, a cooler and all three boys and off they went.  I didn't even ask when they were coming back.  I didn't need to.  10 minutes later I hear banging in the garage and open the door to find Trey hammering away at Quinn's bike seat.  ??? Apparently his seat fell off while driving down the road and when they realized and turned the car around to retrieve it some obnoxious teenagers decided it would be funny to run over it.  Hilarious.  Not.  I walked over to the car to see three glum faces and some tears.  Everyone was ready to call it quits.  Dad perservered, fixed the seat, jammed it back on the bike and they drove away.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't holding my breath for at least the next two hours.  To channel my nervous energy I got busy scrubbing floors, organizing closets and washing windows.  Millie and I returned to the lake to cool off and when we walked back into the neighborhood there was my contented family. 

So the 3 day weekend morphed into 7 hours but at this point I was happy to take what I could get.  Isn't it hard when traditions change?  I think this was just God's way of showing me that I need to be open to what the future holds and eventually some things I've counted on for years are going to look different as my children grow and change and ultimately leave home.  Case in point: I can't even count on school starting the day after Labor Day as it has for the last 9 years since the teachers went on strike last week. (A contract was reached and they are starting tomorrow. Phew!)

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away......"
~Ecclesiastes 3: 1-6 NIV


The many uses of toilet paper

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I don't know about you but when I was a middle schooler/high schooler, waking up to a front yard decorated in Charmin was a tally on the popularity chart. The best memory by far was when three guy friends of mine and my sister's moved the entire contents of our backyard patio to the front yard, toilet papered every tree and as a final touch turned on the sprinkler for good measure. When our parents woke us up to share their findings we immediately got on the horn to spread the good news and invite our friends to observe the handiwork: "Come see what Morgan, Alan and Matt did???!!" I still remember my mom asking "What are you girls doing at school? Why don't people like you?" We just couldn't seem to convince her that this was a sign of being liked. She wasn't buying it. And it didn't matter if it was true, she wanted her yard cleaned up. Pronto!

Not realizing that nowadays people are so oversensitive, and take themselves way too seriously, I thought it would be a great idea to initiate my kids into this lost art. For my oldest's 13th birthday, I took him and a few friends out for a midnight adventure armed with a couple cases of TP. The boys were focused on hitting houses that were in high traffic areas. If they were going to take the risk, they wanted many to witness their work. At the first house they were caught by the older brother who was up getting some water and whose first reaction was to throw the water on the first boy he encountered. Oops. We pulled it off at the other two houses and went home. Unbeknownst to me, two of the bright teenagers decided it would be a good idea to relieve themselves on the decorated yard. We came back to the house and they bragged to the little brothers about their devious behavior and one of the little brothers went to school and shared their secret. (Apparently there was no pinky promise) Fast forward to Monday night and I receive a phone call from the owner of said house. Not pretty. I understood her frustration but I also think warning me that I am raising juvenile delinquents (when the boys who committed the infraction were not being raised by me) was a little much. Whatever. I'll refrain from commenting further.

After it all blew over we realized that we had perhaps started something. In fact one of the other moms whose house was "decorated" just smiled at me and simply said, "Paybacks." Well, the paybacks have been coming every few months now and it's driving the boys crazy that they haven't figured out who the guilty party is. Last Thursday night around 11:30, our dog (who never barks) started going nuts in the living room. I walked in there and looked outside to find a sea of white. This was definitely the best artwork yet. And it definitely wasn't boys performing a "payback" as there were just too many "feminine touches". And they used the good stuff too. I was considering recycling it but my kids shamed me into throwing it in the yard waste can. See the evidence below. Nice job, ladies.

My friend Toni said: "it almost looks pretty."


This was outside the front door to greet me. Very cute.