Diapers and Dragons

Friday, October 31, 2008

Oh Well--or Not

I had not one but TWO terribly interesting and insightful posts I had in mind to post today. Neither one is going to make it up here. One was a charming story about DramaBoy. The other was an absolutely AMAZING idea I had at about 8:00 this morning. I now have no memory whatsoever what the idea was.

You see, I'm sick. It's been creeping up on me all week, and I was crossing my fingers and hoping hoping hoping that it would just be allergies, but alas. Today was the second morning in a row I woke up coughing--one of those deep, chesty, painful coughs that sort of brings up whatver nastiness is in there but doesn't quite. My sinuses are full. My throat is raw. My head feels stuffed with cotton wool. Sudafed, that marvelous invention (curses on the deliquents who make it such a pain to procure!), helped me get through much of the day, but the bug is now taking a firm hold.

I have been surveying with increasing dismay the pile of papers that still remain to be graded before Monday. I waded through several sets already today, while my students worked on quizzes, but there are still five class sets of formal essays and two class sets of novel tests' written responses that are mocking me. "You could have graded us days ago!" they sneer. "Remember how you were going to tackle us on Tuesday? Remember how you had hours in which ComputerDaddy was working late and the kidlets were in bed and you chose to play online instead?" Their edges curl in contempt. I'm sure they'll slice me viciously when I work with them this weekend, inflicting punative papercuts that I will have to bear in humble penitance.

I do this every time. I start out the year/semester/marking period with determination that This Time I will be organized, timely, and efficient. No more random papers covering every available space on my two (yes, two) desks in the classroom, no more towering piles of essays threatening to spill over at the slightest touch, no more procrastination. But as time moves on, all those good intentions fall by the wayside, and by the time the grading period is nearing its end, I am in desperate straits. I can and often do learn the hard way, but this lesson is not one that seems to stick.

So no special posting for you. Just a whine about feeling like crap and facing an unpleasant task that is completely My Fault.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Woohoo! I'm It!

My first official tag! An old childhood friend ("old" as in a long time, not "old" as in SHE is old--sorry about that, Kathleen!) tagged me on her blog Treasured Chapters, and now I get to do it too! Of course, this means I have to tag people. Hmm...

Anyhow, it's the 7 Random Things About Me tag that I've seen going around elsewhere. First, we must put the rules in play:

1. Link to the person that tagged you and put the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 weird or random facts about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and link to their blog.
4. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a note on their blog.

So here are some items that might qualify me for a Questioning Look at the very least...

1. I'm a little OCD about numbers and letters. By this I mean that they need to be round, complete, and make sense in the part of my brain that misfires on several neurons. Years ago ComputerDaddy had a CD player/radio in his car for which the volume dial displayed numbers from 1 to 80 (why that number, I don't know.) I would obsess over the number set for the volume, not because of the level of the volume, but because it had to be a number ending in "0" or "5" or that had some other symmetry, such as "33" or "44." Though "11" wasn't OK, because it was just past "10" and therefore a little too Off. ComputerDaddy would occasionally torment me by slyly moving the dial a tick or two and waiting to see if I would notice and fix it. Along the same lines, when people write letters/words, the letters need to be completed. An "o" needs to meet properly at the top. The crossbar of a "T" needs to touch the vertical line. And so on. If this isn't done, I get completely obsessed about that little error and can't focus on anything else until it is either fixed or erased.

2. Monkeys/primates either love me or hate me on sight. I have been attacked twice by monkeys and once by a chimp. I still bear the scars from the damn chimp. Stupid Lulu.

3. For years I've wanted a coy little tattoo somewhere where only Special People (i.e. me, my doctors, and ComputerDaddy) would ever see. It would be a dainty little cat's pawprint. But I'm terrified of needles, so this will never happen. Besides, pregnancy, two c-sections, and the ensuing wreckage of my body has made me rather glad I never gained a permanent ink mark that would have stretched and become misshapen.

4. I have actually corrected grammatical errors on public signs--only a couple of times, and they were on those restaurant signs that are done either in chalk or marker and can be discreetly corrected when no one is looking. These errors almost invariably involve the abuse of apostrophes, such as "Soup's of the Day." What is the soup possessing, I ask you?!?! Stop using apostrophes for plurals, people!

5. The two hemispheres of my brain have extra connections. This results in a coordination problem: You know how when little kids move one hand or the fingers on one hand, the other hand/fingers mimic the movement? People are supposed to grow out of that as their two hemispheres disconnect over time. Mine didn't disconnect enough. This was particularly problematic when I was learning to drive, especially since I learned on a stick shift. When I moved my right hand on the gear shift, my left hand would jerk the steering wheel. When I moved my left hand to toggle the turn signal, my right hand would jerk the steering wheel. When I would move one hand to push my hair out of my face, my other hand...you get the picture. Driving was a very scary proposition for me and my passengers until I finally overcame the problem. These days my large motor movement is under control: it is only my fine motor that still has issues. I still clench my left hand into a fist when I write on the board in class so that the fingers on that hand don't tremble and jerk along with my right hand's movements.

6. I LOVE Nutella and ChocoNut (which I just found out I can get from Canada and may just require a trip across the border). I can quite happily sit with a spoon and a jar of either delectable chocolately delight and demolish the whole thing. It's terrible and wonderful at the same time.

7. When I was a little girl, I had an imaginary identity as a woman named "Diana" who had about 22 children. There was no husband in the picture, as far as I can recall.

The problem with tagging is that most of the people whose blogs I follow don't know I exist--I am a Lurker Extraordaire--and have probably done this one already because they are the High Mommies of MommyBlogging (um, that's "High" as in "High King" sort of thing. I'm not insinuatin' anything. Whew. I'm doing really well today!)

OK, so I tag:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

This weekend ComputerDaddy and I took the kidlets to our favorite cider mill, meeting up with some friends we haven't seen in ages and who have a new kidlet of their own. Their boys are the same difference in age as ours, just a year-and-a-half behind us. My dear friend says she now has a new level of understanding and appreciation for what we have been through. I told her it gets easier in some ways (a little more sleep) and tougher in others (trying to herd TWO mobile children somewhere--there's an ongoing debate as to whether it's like trying to herd chickens or sheep.) They had a couple of friends along, one of which had brought his four children as well. So we were quite a group.

For the most part, it was fun. Both kidlets enjoyed standing on hay bales and poking their heads through the cutouts in those painted boards that are made-to-order Kodak moments, DramaBoy got to ride on a large rusty tricycle over bumpy tracks through monster tire tunnels, DramaBoy also got to ride on a small and placid pony, and both boys got to pet some goats. We take our cider mills seriously here in Michigan: they're not just places to get cider and donuts, they're miniature amusement parks and tourist traps. Minus the rollercoasters.

We finally stood in line to purchase our apple spice donuts and fresh-pressed cider, which we then fed into a plethora of gaping mouths rather in the manner of adult birds feeding cheeping chicks. We tried to find a place out of the wind, but we were only able to mitigate the chill somewhat. The autumn cool had officially ushered in a taste of winter's bite. After a while, my little kidlets in their cute denim jackets were shivering and complaining. We had to leave the rest of the group to continue on in their quest for pumpkins and a hay ride without us; we bundled the kidlets in the car and went in search of winter coats.

Walmart had too few options, despite attractive prices (I know, I'm going to hell for shopping there, but hey! My wallet thanks me), so we bundled them back into the car and went off to Target. You detect a trend in our shopping choices? We didn't visit Meijer only because they usually have an even worse selection of children's clothing than Walmart.

Target was the place. The coats were twice the price of Walmart's rock-bottom, no doubt sweatshop-produced outerwear, but they were thicker and softer and had hoods. DramaBoy selected matching ones for himself and The Widget--muted pine green with a pumpkin-orange lining and mottled light- and dark-brown faux fur edging around the hood. Never may it be said that my child does not have taste! Not for him the neon green and navy blue coat! Not for him the flashy Disney merchandising! (Well, maybe the latter, but we didn't show him those. We have standards too, and they're often based on price.)

The moment was capped when we slid the coat on for a fitting and pulled the hood over his head. His eyes lit up, he felt the faux fur, and he said:

"I'm the Big Bad Wolf!"

And as we laughed and smiled at his adorable precociousness, he glanced at me with a slightly worried look on his face and assured me:

"But I'll be a NICE Big Bad Wolf!"

How could we resist? The Widget also gained a new coat, thus dubbed the Little Bad Wolf in my mind at least, and we merrily went on our way to pay for the coats and venture once more into the frigid not-yet-winter-but-you-could-have-fooled-me Michigan air.

It's not a search for buried treasure, but you take what adventure you can get.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Fiddledeedee tagged all her readers with this meme, and this is one of those Word Nerd games that are so Me, so:

Here are the rules:

  1. Use the 1st letter of your name to answer each of the following questions.
  2. They have to be real places, names, things. nothing made up!
  3. You can’t use your name for the boy/girl name question.

1. What is your name? TeacherMommy
2. A 4 Letter Word: 'Tool (You know, that thing DramaBoy 'tands on to reach the sink?)
3. A Boys Name: Taylor (According to me. One of my favorites, but ComputerDaddy nixed it back in the baby-name-choosing days because...)
4. A Girls Name: Taylor (According to ComputerDaddy.)
5. An Occupation: Teacher (I know, kinda cheating...)
6. A Color: Tangerine
7. Something you wear: Tutu (Well, not regularly. Or ever, now that I think about it. But I COULD. And t-shirt is a boring answer.)
8. A Beverage: Talking Monkey (Which I may now have to try!)
9. A Food: Tortilla chips
10. Something found in the bathroom: Toothpaste
11. A place: Tropical island (Which is where I'd like to be...)
12. A Reason for being late: Two toddlers throwing tantrums
13. Something you shout: "'Top it!" (Again, according to DramaBoy. He's good with the s and the t, but not together...)

Friday, October 24, 2008


Today I took a Mental Health Day.

This is what people in many professions, including mine, label a sick day we take when we aren't really sick in the virus-bacteria-doctor's visit sort of way. What it usually means in my profession is that all the stress is really getting to us and we can't wait for the next official holiday to take a break. Because, you know, we can't work from home or take a nice coffee break in the middle of the day or just spend most of the time online instead of actually doing work. Which is what I'm assuming the rest of the world does at such moments, and which probably condemns me to the same level of asinine assumption-making that so many people make about teaching.

So I'm a hypocrite. Fabulous.

Anywho, I slept in this morning as much as my kidlets would let me and then hied them off to school a good two-and-a-half hours later than usual. Where they proudly strutted about in their super cool new Spiderman and Hobgoblin shirts that have the amazing jack-o-lantern that ACTUALLY FLASHES with LEDs when one taps it. I know it's not Halloween quite yet, but they have their official Halloween party tonight at school and besides, what do they know?

I've spent the remainder of the day moving about somewhat listlessly, folding clothes from the many baskets of clean laundry that seem to magically appear during the week, catching up on all my TV shows sitting quietly on the DVR, and ruminating over My Life. It appears, from what is showing up on a number of the blogs that I visit each day, that there is a pall of depression coating its melancholy upon many of us these days. I'm no exception. For various reasons both too personal and/or professional to write here, the last several weeks have been particularly difficult. Yesterday I had such a lump of leaden pain in my belly and was so otherwise occupied mentally that I was rendered nearly useless in the classroom. I decided that I needed a day to Think.

It's Autumn: a season that, while my favorite, still holds a bittersweet quality for me. There is incredible beauty in the blazing glory of autumnal trees. The sweet-tart-spicy flavor of crisp apples, bold cider, and moist donuts make each weekend visit to the cider mill a delight. The aroma of fireplace smoke wafts through the sharp cool of the air. And yet all of this comes at the price of death: of leaves, of gardens, of warmth, of another year passing too swiftly. Winter approaches.

My life, too, is passing through a bittersweet season. We all have them, and as Nathaniel Hawthorne says wisely in The Scarlet Letter, it is the experience of sorrow as well as joy that makes us fully human. It may be that I am entering a winter in my life, and that the death of certain dreams, ideas, and things that I hold close to me are coming.

Yet Winter also has a purpose. The death that brings Autumn to a close is not a permanent one. There is a cycle, and for new life to grow, for new beings to come forth, there must be a time of lying in wait beneath the snow. For the cold of snow holds a strange mystery: what lies beneath is sheltered. We call the snow a "blanket" with more wisdom than we know. With the new warmth of Spring, the promise and hope that Winter keeps fast is nurtured as the snow melts to become the very source of life needed for growth.

Perhaps I need an Autumn, even a Winter, in my life, to give death to that which I only think I need or which no longer serves a purpose in my life, and give way to the hope of Spring.

And remind me of what, and who, is worth nurturing 'til then.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Oh the Books...the Many, Many Books

I know it's not Meme Monday, but I saw this one on an old friend's blog and felt like posting. Looks like I'm not the average adult!

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read but haven't read yet.
3) Underline the books you LOVE (in blue instead).
4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading (in red instead).
5) Bold and strike books you read but hated (bold and red).

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible (read it all, really--love some of it)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (Someday I'll read this all the way through)
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman (So much promise, wasted.)
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (I've read some of them. All of them eventually, hopefully)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger (Holden is SO whiny!)
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (Interesting that it's listed seperately from the Chronicles...)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce (OK, not all of it, but Oh Dear God. Call me a philistine if you will, but if I ever pick this up again, I will shoot myself.)
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray (actually, I started reading this when I was about seven. My mom took it away. Wonder why?)
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom (Ugh. Mitch Albom is NOT my favorite author. All sickly sweet and cloying.)
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (love the musical)

So that means I've read 52 of the books/series on the list, with 24 of them loved and 6 of them hated. Woot! You may now bow before my awesomeness.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cluck, Cluck

So I reaffirmed my status as an occasional idiot this morning. I think this happens in order to bring me down a peg or two.

Over the summer I attended a seminar that very kindly gave attendees a $25 gift certificate to Macy's as a reward for attending (not that a gift certificate and a free lunch were why I attended. Of course not.) Now Macy's isn't a place I normally shop, as I'm a girl who enjoys thriftiness and LOVES a good sale. However, I had the gift certificate, and Macy's indeed had a sale (by their standards), so I went. And I did get a nice $10 blouse (at Macy's? Really? Who knew!) as well as a luxury item: I bought a pair of very comfortable and extremely elegant black slacks that looked wonderful, felt like heaven, and flowed lovingly around my legs with silken caresses. They were on sale, and the gift certificate helped, but I still spent some extra moolah on that one.

This morning I pulled those slacks out of my closet and put them on. Or rather, tugged them on. Because rather than sliding smoothly over my skin and billowing gently about my legs, they were snug. And short.

I looked at the mirror in horror. Had I gained that much weight? Were my thighs really that fat?

Ah no. (Well, probably a little bit true, but not the problem this time.) It occured to me that I had worn the slacks a couple of times before and I couldn't remember whether I had cleaned them properly or not. I tugged them off again and checked the label.

Remember I said they had a silken caress? More right than I knew. 100% silk. Dry clean only. And I suddenly had a horrible flashback to tossing the slacks in a carefree manner on the top of Mt. Washmore some weeks before.

I am an idiot.

In a kinda-sorta related event, ComputerDaddy and I were driving home from a play this weekend and were discussing (for reasons I will not go into here) the delicate balance between overprotecting children and shielding them from ideas/topics/images/etc. that are inappropriate for their age. The topic of modesty (a dangerous word, that, and one that is hotly debated on the mommyblogs) came up, and I was discussing the problem of women being told that they are the ones responsible for men's "straying/sinful thoughts" in reaction to what they wear. I mentioned that I truly enjoy dressing in a way that makes me feel attractive and even sexy, and I don't feel that if a man gets all heated up over it that it is my fault that he has a dirty mind. However, I do not believe that I dress in a way that shows a lack of respect for myself or that is "slutty." For example, I said, I don't wear tops that show cleavage "down to here" (pointing midway down my torso).

ComputerDaddy glanced over at me, grinned, and said, "If you want to show cleavage, you HAVE to wear tops that go down to there."

Thank you, honey. Thank you for that.

Breasts and thighs. What am I, a chicken?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gratuitously Cute, Part 2

Not so sure...

Should have done that whole child modeling thing. College...paid for. Oh well...

A new friend

Again with the child modeling...Gerber baby, move over!

Gratuitously Cute

I am Widget. Now stop staring.

It's good to be King.

Brotherly love


Like, Gag Me With a Spoon!

OK, so now that DramaBoy is being so consistent with going potty AND avoiding accidents (five days and counting! Yeehaw!), The Widget is showing increasing interest in also sitting on the potty. Tonight as I was preparing to dunk them in the bath, I quickly used the toilet myself (yeah, I know eventually I need to be a little more privacy conscious, but it was urgent), and then placed the potty seat on top for the boys. I didn't bother flushing because, you know, "don't waste water." The Widget did his bobblehead routine when I asked him if he wanted to go potty, but I needed to wash up first. All of the sudden I hear a panicked "Oh no! Don't do that, [Widget]!" from DramaBoy. I turn my head; much to my horror, The Widget is leaning over, halfway into the toilet, dunking his hand in and swishing it around. You know, testing the temperature or some such.

As I shout "NO!" and lunge across the room, trying not to trip and brain myself on the various stools and toys and toddler clothing strewn about the floor, The Widget turns away, looks at me in confusion, and Puts. His. Hand. In. His. Mouth.

Oh yes. THAT hand.

I could not wash his hand and mouth fast enough. I have dealt with explosive diarrhea, projectile vomiting, and noses so full of snot we put slugs to shame, but I cannot properly express my utter disgust at this incomprehensible act my Widget CHOSE to perform.

He didn't even look fazed.

Sweeter Words...

Sometimes it hardly seems worth it, being a teacher. On the surface, it looks great. Hey, work six hours a day, get all the holidays off, and never undertake hard manual labor! Right?


'Lest I go into a rant starting with the words "Why don't YOU take my classes for a day and grade all the homework and go to all the meetings and plan all the lessons and, oh yeah, pay for all the continuing education courses the law/certification requires..." and continuing on in that vein for about three pages, let me move on.

As much as I cannot imagine doing anything else as a career, I do not always Feel It. There are days, weeks, sometimes (when it really gets bad) months when I find myself questioning my choice. (Not that I had a whole lot of options with an English Lit degree, mind you, but that's beside the point. Flashback to me, an overly dramatic eighteen-year-old, draped across my bed moaning to ComputerBoyfriend that my future was bleak and what the hell was I going to do with my life? He was the one who suggested I check out the Education courses. Bless him. I never looked back.) I went into this career because I wanted to Give Back and Be Useful To Society. You know, shape the minds of youth and our future and all that. Plus I REALLY love books. What I didn't anticipate was all the dreck that comes along with the mind-shaping. The politics, the benchmarks, the standardized testing, the administrative wrangling, the minds that really don't want to be shaped...

And so there are times when my fire is burning at a low, low level and I fear that just a sprinkling of discouragement might put it out. I went through two years of this a little while back, a time when all the bitterness and cynicism that being an educator can produce was surging through me in almost complete control. I was not a good teacher during those years. It doesn't surprise me that very few students who had me in those years keep in touch or viewed me as one of their best teachers, because there wasn't a lot to like. I was negative, I scowled, I criticized without the leavening of encouragement. I did little to inspire them or lift them up towards greater heights. I came very close to abandoning it all, because there seemed to be little point in even continuing.

And then I took a good, long look at myself during one summer, both as a teacher and a person, and realized that I was letting my anger at the system and the students and the administrators and the parents and all the other members of the big Them twist and sour inside me. This wasn't righteous anger, this was bitter, destructive anger that was leading toward my destruction. It was affecting my career, it was affecting my marriage, and it was affecting my parenting of a very young DramaBoy (flying solo back then, though not for long). So I resolved then and there that the next year would be different. I would allow myself to get angry--because it would be unrealistic otherwise--but I would not allow myself to become bitter or cynical.

And it worked. I rediscovered my love for teaching, my sense of humor, and my connection with my students and coworkers. It was a good year. And it's been good, for the most part, since.

But there are times when I feel flat, and uninspired, and as though I'm creeping back towards a low place. This last week was one such time. I was even teaching a book I'm passionate about, and when I saw my students' eyes glazed over, I realized that none of my passion was coming through. Then there was a series of days of testing, and that lowered my sense of impact even further. I was not being an effective teacher.

Then as I was walking out the door yesterday, a student from one of my sophomore honors classes last year greeted me. After exchanging pleasantries, he asked, "Do you remember that ten-page paper you made us write last year?"

"Yes," I replied with trepidation. (How could I forget? The days on end of moaning and complaining and gnashing of teeth. The glares of hatred. The stares of frank disbelief when I informed them that they could hate me now, but they would thank me later. Please, thank me later.)

"So I had to write another one this year. And I found myself on page six without even trying. And it's all because of you."

Cue beam of light from Heaven and angels singing.

And then, as if that wasn't enough already and tears weren't already forming in my eyes, he turned to the other students lounging nearby, held his arms out in presentation, and said:

"Behold, the World's Best English Teacher!"

It's times like these that make it worth it all. The "thank you" from a student, present or past, whether it be in person or e-mail. The gratitude from a parent for making a difference in a child's life. The gift from a student at Christmas or Mother's Day. The hug in the halls, the notes on the dry-erase board on the door, the smiles. They don't come every day, and sometimes they don't come often, but when they do, they make all the difference.

When is the last time you thanked someone who made a difference in your life?

Monday, October 20, 2008

In Loco Parentis

Which means, in the Latin (oooh, look, she’s using a dead language! She must be Smart!) “in the place of the parent” (more or less). And this is what I am, each work day, in my classroom. Now, this has legal ramifications (“Bobby, you can’t just go MIA from class because if something happens to you and I didn’t know where you were and your parents are heartless a-holes then I can get in very very big trouble and spend the rest of my life paying for the crime of losing track of your 16-year-old butt!”) that we are very aware of as teachers, but there are also the social ones.

You see, many of my students have wonderful parents, for whom I am grateful, but there are those who do not. In fact, there are those who have parents who, if you ever meet them, make you want to grab their child and hide him/her under your jacket. Some of them are the ubiquitous Helicopter Parents who seem determined to give someone an ulcer—either their child or the teacher or both, depending on the parents. Some of the others are just Horrible Parents.

It’s all too easy to judge parenting, and as a rule I try not to do it too harshly. God only knows what things I am doing to my sons that will scar them for life, and certainly I subscribe to the school of belief that individual children require individual parenting approaches. In other words, Do What Works.

But there needs to be parenting that is done with the goal of raising well-adjusted, fairly-well-functioning members of society who will—to the greatest extent of your limited control—hold jobs, live happy lives, and not kill people. And if you can work your hardest at helping your child succeed in school (without being a Helicopter Parent—that’s no good either), that is Good Parenting. And if you actually care about your child in some way, show him or her love, and are involved in his or her life, that is also Good Parenting.

But I have seen the Bad Parenting. I have had the student who has to work in order to feed herself because her parent thinks that a sixteen-year-old is old enough to pay for basic necessities. I have had the student who walks five miles to school (not uphill both ways, but…) because his mother has left him in the care of his stoner brother who sold household items to pay for his drugs, and she is off for months with her boyfriend, secretly hoping her younger son will give up and move in with his father in another state. I have had the student who has wonderful grades and works really hard and wants to be a doctor or lawyer or something like that, and who will not be attending college because her parents don’t believe girls should get higher education. I have had the student who covers his arms with long sleeves year round because his bipolar mother tries to hurt him when she’s in a rage and his father beats him if he resists her because he is not “honoring his mother.” I have had the student whose parents loudly objected a zero for cheating on a test because he had shown “creativity” in figuring out a way to cheat (I wonder if they’ll protest to the judge that he showed creativity in bilking clients out of millions? Hmm…Enron, anyone?).

I cover information that some students simply do not get from their parents. I teach students about morality (“Cheating is bad”), philosophy (“Is there Truth that does not require us to know, understand, or believe in it to nevertheless be True?”), politics (“Checking a box to vote for one party regardless of the individual candidate is NOT informed voting”), sexuality (“Yes, there are emotional consequences as well as physical ones for engaging in sex, even for boys, regardless of what society says”), and social mores (“Even if you don’t agree with a person’s identity, ideas, or lifestyle, you need to treat him or her with respect”). And somewhere in there I get in a comma rule or two, and read some literature, and have them write papers.

So I have been in loco parentis in ways I never dreamed when I took this job. I have been teacher, counselor, mother, sister, friend. I constantly walk that precarious line, trying to keep balance between professionalism and the personal. And I hope and pray and watch carefully to make sure that the special people at my sons’ daycare are trying to be as excellently in loco parentis as I try to be.

(My apologies. This started out with some attempt at humor and quickly went serious. Such is the subject matter, I suppose. Today I had a student who spoke to me about an issue with her parents. It made me sad.)

Meme Monday

I've decided, partly because the alliteration appeals to me, and partly because Mondays NEED some kickstarting, to make Mondays my meme days. I love memes. There's something satisfying about them, and they share bits of oneself with others without having to have the context in which to share them! So here is my first meme.

1) What would you do if your workplace was closed today and you could do anything you wanted? Snuggle up for most of the day with a good book and some coffee, spend time online reading blogs, meet my husband for lunch, and pick up the kids early enough that we could take a visit to the park before supper.

2) Have you ever been emotionally attached to someone in a way that was detrimental to you? Yes, yes I have. But the details will remain private.

3) What is the most beautiful word you know, in any language? In terms of meaning, "love." In terms of sound, there are many. I love words. So "mistral," "plethora," "catharsis," "zephyr," and "intelligentsia" are among the top. I could fill a page or two.

4) What one thing limits your freedom the most? My need for security.

5) Show and Tell. What comes to mind first when you see this picture? Or, tell a story if it reminds you of one. My honeymoon. ComputerDaddy and I had a blissful six days in Negril, Jamaica, at the Sandals resort there (Everything paid for! No tipping! Unlimited food and drinks! Pools! Gorgeous white sand beaches! Friendly people! Trips into the mountains to discover the joys of Jamaican Rum Cream! Did I mention unlimited food and drinks?) Whenever I get very stressed out, this is what I long for. This picture is the nighttime version of the picture that is the wallpaper on my cell phone.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Difference of Opinion

A conversation with DramaBoy about why he is grouchy:

Me: Did you take a nap today?
DramaBoy: Yes!
Me: Was it a good nap or a really short one?
DB: It was a short one.
Me: So not a very good one, huh?
DB: Yes! (Insistently)
Me: You mean it WAS a good nap?
DB: Yeah.
Me: I see.
DB: It was a short one, toooo!
Me: I think they might be mutually exclusive, buddy.
DB: Oh.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Today was the first day, ever, that DramaBoy made it all the way through the day with NO ACCIDENTS. This means he came home in his original underwear and original jeans, instead of in pullups and baggy sweats with two changes of clothes bagged up in soggy lumps.

VICTORY! (For now.)

Now to tackle The Widget...

Starting Things Out

As a relatively new addict to the world of mommyblogs, I have had my concepts of blogging seriously challenged. My exposure to blogs was limited to the travesties of MySpace and the more personal ones of a few friends and family members--you know, the kinds that really only their friends and family are meant to see and enjoy? But a short while ago, on a day when I really had MANY other things I needed to do but really didn't feel like doing, I followed a series of links that led me to, of all things, a MommyBlog. (I won't say which at the moment, as I do believe in asking permission before linking and don't have the courage to go ask this High Lady of Humor for permission to link to my sorry little starter blog.) This Mommy was Funny. And Smart. And Funny some more.

As I became addicted to her blog and then (perhaps unwisely for the sake of the stack of papers that is teetering precariously on the corner of my desk) to several others that she herself linked, I realized that (1) blogging mommies Rock, (2) the ones worth reading have actually improved their writing skills through blogging, and (3) apparently blogging can satisfy something in women who are mommies but like to think too.

Now you have to understand that I am the type of person who writes really well when it comes to academic sorts of things, and I know it. However, that confidence falls short when it comes to the Personal. I am much like Adrian Plass, Aged 37 3/4, who starts a diary with the entry:

Feel led to keep a diary. A sort of spiritual log for the benefit of others in the future. Each new divine insight and experience will shine like a beacon in the darkness!

Can’t think of anything to put in today.

This is Me. I have started a half dozen diaries (or, rather, "Journals," very much in the tradition of Great Contributers to Literature) with the rather pompous and idealistic vision of sharing Great Thoughts with Humankind. I buy the pretty ones, the appealing ones, the Journals with lovely clean pages just aching to be written upon with a proper pen (I feel strongly in this matter, as does Anne Shirley, that only the right pen* will do). They generally lasted for a scattering of entries, and then they lay forgotten and dusty on various shelves. I find them later, mourn over another waste of money, laugh at myself and those silly entries, and then try to find something more useful to do with all that lovely paper. Such as jot down important notes about items to find and gems to get cut and quests to fulfill in another addiction of mine, World of Warcraft. But that's another post.

Similarly, the only blogging I have ever done was one exasperated post (about the frustrations of dealing with hormonal teenagers, as I recall) on the otherwise silent MySpace account I created solely to be able to read my sister's blogs. She doesn't blog there anymore, so that account lies quiet and dusty, but definitely unmourned, on some shelf the Webgods have tucked away in a back corner.

We shall see if this blog goes that way. I hope not. Mainly I need to remind myself that the best MommyBloggers are those who edit themselves and yet remain true to themselves. That way they avoid the pomposity and short-lived interest in what they write. From what I have read, at any rate.

So, here begins my account of life with Diapers and Dragons.

* So do you find it curious, as do I, that upon reading over this entry I realized I had initially written "write pen" rather than "right pen"? A slip of the pen, or keys, or whatever, but amusingly apt.
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