Diapers and Dragons

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's a Good Thing I'm Not a Model, Because They'd Lose a Fortune on the Touchups

Footwear Photo of the Day (I'm doing my best to keep Lauren happy here, especially considering...well, you'll see tomorrow):

Those who know me well know that I'm a spectacular klutz. Add in the fact that I also bruise like a quasi-hemophiliac, and it's amazing I ever put on anything other than jeans and a turtleneck. It's less When you cut me, do I not bleed? and more When you touch me, do I not bruise like I've been attacked by a very ticked-off and muddy rainbow?

You might think this is a particular trial and/or tribulation for me during the summer, but actually I don't do too badly then. If Joe and I are still dating next summer and he gets me out on a plethora of motorized toys the way he'd like to, that may change, but so far my summers have been more of the supervising-from-the-sidelines and sunning-on-the-deck variety and less of the throwing-myself-bodily-into-active-living sort. I might have the occasional delicate coloration on my knees and shins, but nothing tragic.

No, it's during the physical hardship of the school year that the full, glorious evidence of my klutzdom comes to light. My legs take the brunt of the battering, since I apparently can't keep track of where the tables/chairs/backpacks/doors/desks are and constantly bash my thighs, knees, and shins into any solid object within a three-foot radius. Most of the year I have twin bruises halfway up my thigh from the edges of the student tables:

This was taken about a week-and-a-half after the fact, and on my cell phone. It's a little darker in reality. My bruises are nothing if not persistent.

I have been more klutzy than usual lately, however, so I have a number of hematomas gained elsewhere than in my classroom. There's the slowly fading bruise on my upper arm from bashing into the edge of the slanted ceiling in my parents' Skyhouse suite while frantically packing two weeks ago. This bruise elicted a question or two from some students, who looked rather suspicious when I told them I ran into a ceiling.

Finally I have the grandmammy of them all, added just this last Friday. It's fresh and fabulous. I was climbing out of a boat and got tangled in the mooring rope (because I'm awesome like that), managing to bash my left knee and shin into the side of the boat so hard that this was the result:

I told you. It is currently an ominous blackish-purple with a hint of olive green, sort of like an oncoming storm of the sort that requires a special shelter. Oh, and you should feel privileged that I'm actually showing you my knobbly knee. Not my favorite body part.

However, the worst bruise I ever earned was achieved over four years ago, two weeks after we moved into the house-that-is-now-worth-less-than-we-owe-dammit. Unaccustomed to carpeted stairs, I was going down one day with my new kitten clutched under my arm when my besocked feet slipped. Rather than save myself, I elected to save the kitten, with the result that I bounced down a flight of stairs mainly on my right butt-cheek. I landed on the landing (is that why it's called that?) with such force that the breath was knocked out of me and all I could do was gasp and moan and wonder if my rear end was still attached or if I even wanted it to be.

I was accused by someone who shall remain nameless of overdramatizing the incident--until the bruise showed up a few hours later. It's amazing how quickly the skepticism vanished.

I have used my mad coloring skillz to create a crayoned approximation of what this bruise looked like:

Imagine this as about four to five inches in diameter and, well, less pretty. With a dead-white lump in the center.

The bruise was like a reverse sunny-side-up egg: about the same size, with a dead-white raised "yolk" in the center and an amazing spread of purple-green-yellow-black radiating outward. Right where I usually plant myself in a chair.

I couldn't sit straight for a couple of weeks. The lump would not go down. I hied myself to the doctor's office, where the doctor looked at my otherwise attractive rear in frank amazement (and not of the good sort), hummed to himself a bit, and then called in two more doctors for a consult. They also hmmed, ahhed, and peered more closely at my nether regions than I'm accustomed to. Certainly it was the largest audience that part of my unclothed body has had since I was a kiddo running around sans diaper.

All three doctors admitted that they'd never seen anything quite like it before. Which was very comforting, as you can imagine. They then suggested I take myself to a surgical specialist (really? for an ass-bruise?) where the specialist might be able to ascertain whether the lump was the result of a fluid build-up and perhaps remove said hypothetical fluid using a monster needle.

Yeah, right.

So now, four years later, the surrounding coloration has vanished, but the lump has not. I know that's probably more information than you want to know about my anatomical particularities, but hey, whatever.

It's not like I'll be showing it off on here.

You can beg all you want.

Tomorrow: a harrowing tale of bruises inflicted not on my own flesh, but the flesh of another.

Trust me, she asked for it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You'd Think I Actually Expect Them to LEARN Something, for Pete's Sake

I am, apparently, a Very Mean and Unreasonable teacher.

You see, I am showing my sophomore honors classes the film Good Night and Good Luck in an effort to connect the Salem witch trials as portrayed through Arthur Miller's The Crucible to the Red Scare and McCarthyism of the fifties.

Oh, you're showing them a movie, you say, surprised that I'm being so wimpy. And how does this make you a Mean Teacher in any way, shape, or form?


I know. The horror.

I also keep pausing the film to ask questions and add commentary. Did you notice what they called the law enacted during that time? I ask them. That's right, the Internal Security Act. A law that was supposed to protect us from communist infiltration and just happened to stomp all over civil liberties while doing so. Does that remind you of anything? No? Really? Thank you! Yes, the Patriot Act. And do you notice the use of euphemisms there? "Internal Security." "Patriot." So what does that mean if you happen to disagree with any elements of the Patriot Act? Right. You must not be a patriot. Isn't that great?

I'm very subtle with my opinions.

Anyhow, you should have heard the groans when I told them the kind of movie they would be viewing, not to mention what they would be doing while watching it. You would have thought I was threatening them with waterboarding or something.

Hey, maybe that's what our government should do. Instead of torturing employing "enhanced coercive interrogation techniques" on all those suspected terrorists, they should just sit the suspects in front of non-stop black and white movies composed mainly of dialogue and character development and FORCE THEM TO TAKE NOTES.

I'm very much looking forward to hearing my students' reactions when I tell them about the paper they're going to be writing.

Next thing you know, I'll be brought up on charges of violating the Geneva Convention.


To keep my darling friend Lauren happy (which apparently involves hating me for my fabulous foot fashion), I'm gracing you with a gratuitous shot of my footwear today.

You're welcome.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

You'd Think I'd Have More of a Plan When I Start to Write. I Blame it on the Kidlets.

It's Sunday morning and I'm lying in bed, listening to my children watch TV downstairs, because I'm a fabulous parent like that, catching up on my blogs because I finally gave in and called the stupid help line last night to figure out how to get my internet connection working again. Thus my recent absence from the online world. One of my children decided to flip the power switch to all the computer stuff the other day, and when I turned it back on and the wireless modem/router/whatever reset, it decided I did not have the right system password on my computer, thankyouverymuch.

Initially when I thought maybe I was dealing with an AT&T U-verse situation (which is what we have over at the apartment, apparently), I was speaking to someone with a distinctly MidWestern accent. Oh, wow! I thought. How nice! You mean they actually use in-country employees? Maybe they aren't as heartless a corporate giant as I thought. But then it became apparent that the house uses their DSL service instead, which they bought out from SBC, which is where our internet service journey started years ago, which explains in part why I have no clue which ID, password, or phone number is currently associated with internet access.

So I was transferred. And the very pleasant but clearly-reading-off-a-script woman on the other end had a remarkably Indian accent, which resulted in her having to repeat a number of questions and instructions. In the end, however, we were able to correct the silly situation.

I should note that my children, with their unerring ability to detect when I might actually need a little peace and quiet snow (as my sister used to say), have now ascended to my bedroom and are doing their best to use me as a mountain. Sherpas have nothing on them. They are also dumping faux Lucky Charms all over my sheets, which would tick me off more if I wasn't already planning on dumping them (the sheets) in the wash today.

Not that I'm sure when, because there's church this morning and then at some point this afternoon the children will stay with their grandma and I will be going out with their father to hunt down furnishings and whatnot for the pitifully bare apartment.

And now I have no idea why I started this post. Thank you, my darlings. They told me that pregnancy would affect my memory, and yes, it did, but I really had hoped that the expellation of their wee bodies from mine might allow my brain to recover some aspect of normality. What I didn't realize is that children then make it a priority to distract and destroy all vestiges of concentration their parents can muster. I think it's likely a plot to make it easier for them to trick us someday into letting them do things like, oh, going to a friend's house without checking whether there will be adult supervision. Or getting various body parts pierced.

I will therefore note that yesterday I went to some friends' house for a BBQ, which was very fun and probably saved my sanity because all three of us were CRABBY and needed some cheering up. Which J. and C. were more than happy to do. They're fabulous that way. Anyhow, once I managed to cajole my kidlets out of the house by dint of escaping them going outside and letting them follow once they realized I wasn't returning, DramaBoy happened to spot the little electric kiddy four-wheeler, and his heart was lost. I had to remind him to ask permission before hauling it out of the garage. And who would have thunk--turns out I have a little road warrior on my hands. With a touch of maniac.

No one even had to show him how to work the gears or the "gas" pedal or steer...he was off. Though his idea of steering at times involved heading full throttle into the retaining wall, laughing his head off. He also managed to take out a little remote control car. The car never had a chance.

DramaBoy spent most of the next two hours on that thing, draining one battery and doing some serious inroads on the backup. He was all over the place. We were highly entertained. The Widget and the other kids were in stitches. C. and I were practically falling over with giggles every time DB roared by, a maniacal grin on his face.

He even got the (much more cautious) Widget on there after a while. Whereupon DB turned into a marvelous big brother, helping push him along, then hopping up behind on the seat and helping steer while The Widget ran them along in stops and starts. He even made sure we switched the helmet from his head to The Widget's.

Pre-helmet transfer: also pre-Widget figuring out the "gas" pedal

Who knew?

And now it's time to go shower and get prettied up for church, so ciao and have a fabulous Sunday.

Even over in India.

Friday, September 25, 2009


1. It isn't hard to love them, these miniature people with the wacky senses of humor and infectious giggles and puckered-lip smooches, but it is at times immensely difficult to like them. Especially at six o'clock in the morning when I'm trying to convince them that they should get dressed and maybe not whine and cry and throw their clothes across the room and twist away from me while I'm putting on their shirts/shorts/socks. Oh, and then God forbid I actually get them out the door without carrying them both simultaneously along with my laptop, purse, and lunch. I am, after all, a professional pack mule.

You should sleep in later, DramaBoy informed me as we drove the (thankfully much shorter) commute to daycare and work.

I'd like to, but I can't. My work starts early, I replied.

Well, then you should tell them they start too early and they need to start later, he said.

Sometimes I wonder how I ended up in a career where I am routinely up before dawn and starting my day just as most normal people are thinking about crawling out of bed and hopping in the shower. Not for me the leisurely breakfast with the newspaper over a steaming mug of coffee. I forgot to grab a new box of South Beach Cereal Bars this morning, so I had to go begging. My darling mentee S. had a snack pack of chocolate crackers in her cabinet, so at least I won't be taking my pills on an empty stomach. Yesterday that did not go well: between the lack of breakfast and my unfortunate habit of dehydrating myself during the workday, I had a bad reaction to my antibiotics and had to go home early.

Note to self: Drink More Water.

2. I've managed to get a few of my many stacks of papers graded this week, and hopefully more will be done this afternoon. I miss the days of teacher's aides: when the state changed the rules about monitoring TAs and making sure they were actually working, the district discontinued the program. I worked my TAs hard. In fact, I had one student who referred to himself as my "TB"--he said he wasn't the Teacher's Aide, he was the Teacher's B*tch.

So now there is no one to grade the objective quizzes and tests that pile up on my desk, no one to file my papers, no one to decorate my bulletin boards or make posters or tidy my cabinets. I laugh when people say that teachers have it easy, working a measly six- or seven-hour day. That's ignorance talking, so usually I forgive.

Unless they get insulting about it, in which case I have to wrestle with the rage. So far no one's gotten hurt. Much.

3. I still haven't unpacked and organized things at the house and apartment. I'm struggling with decisions, such as where to keep the majority of my clothing and shoes. I think the house is the logical choice, but this means I will have to plan ahead. I'm much more accustomed to waking in the morning and choosing my outfit based on how I feel. Is it a sophisticated sort of day, or am I feeling cute? Skirt or slacks? Jacket or cardigan? Blouse or top? And then there's the issue of accessories. Earrings, rings, necklaces, shoes. I'm an emotional dresser. I think I will have to provide myself with at least two more outfit options than I actually need in order to satisfy my sartorial soul.

4. At some point I need to go coat shopping. I have a snappy little charcoal grey coat from the Gap that will do for daily going-to-work during the winter, but I am lacking a true winter coat for the outdoors. Since DramaBoy is already stating his desire for winter to arrive so he can play in the snow...

You'll get tired of the snow after a little while, I said.

No, I won't! I will love the snow forever and ever! he replied.

...and it looks like I might actually get involved in outdoor activities more often these days, perhaps I should have outerwear that will prevent hypothermia. I may need to invest in a good pair or two of long underwear, not to mention heavy socks and real gloves. Oh, and perhaps a pair of boots that don't have a fancy heel.

Last winter I barely stepped foot outside other than travelling to and from my car. I'm sure that didn't help my depression any. This year I just might breathe some fresh air and have a snowball fight or two. I've heard a rumor that Michigan actually has sun in winter. That vitamin D could do me a world of good.

5. A student thanked me this morning for making him write that horrendous ten-page paper last year that is the annual bane of my sophomores' existence.

I told you so, I said, always the gracious victor.

My sophomores this year have already heard about it. The paper is a good seven or eight months away and they're already groaning.

I love having a reputation as a tough teacher. I don't want to be the teacher students choose because they'll be able to skate through my classes. I want to be the teacher they remember years later, the one they just might send an e-mail or card to, or drop by on a visit, so that they can tell me that as much as they resented the work I made them do, they are grateful for it now.

I do have students who return, however, who sign up for classes on the chance they'll get me again, who visit my classroom and tell me how much they miss having me. It feeds my soul to know I have an impact, that I make a difference. I could not be happy in a career where I felt like I was just a cog in a machine, where if I disappeared no one would know the difference and my position would be filled as if I had never been there. Knowing that at least some of my students see me as a significant person in their lives makes the stress of this job worthwhile.

It even makes getting out of bed at 5:30 in the morning bearable. With a cup of coffee, of course.

6. I took the RHETI Enneagram test yesterday on the recommendation of my dear friend Heidi. I've always been a fan of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a tried-and-true personality assessment I've loved for years. (I'm an XNFJ, for those of you in the know--a combination of INFJ and ENFJ depending on my context.) The Enneagram goes hand-in-hand with the MBTI, really, even asking for one's MBTI type on the RHETI test. It turns out I'm a Type 4, the Individualist, with a secondary emphasis of Type 2, the Helper. Reading the Type 4 description was...eerie. It was as if someone crawled into my head and wrote me down. The Type 2 description is a little more secondary, but still true.

Something written on the Enneagram Institute website caught my attention, because it is true of both my Type 4 and Type 2 aspects, and it says a great deal about why I do what I do:
Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing Twos, Threes, and Fours in their inner work is having to face their underlying Center fear of worthlessness. Beneath the surface, all three types fear that they are without value in themselves, and so they must be or do something extraordinary in order to win love and acceptance from others.
I cannot express how true this has been for me during my life. Even now, when I am stronger and more self-confidant than I have been in...well, ever! I still struggle to believe that people would love me simply because I am Me, rather than because I am or do something that stands out, that grabs attention, that has a Wow! factor.

Last night Joe told me that he wants to know me just because I am who I am, not because of what I do or can do for him. I want to believe this, but it's difficult. I so often feel like I am insufficient in myself, that I need to do and be More. I'm still learning to love myself, to be content with who I am in the Now.

Where I'm blessed is the many wonderful people in my life who are patient enough to keep telling me this, who are happy to just spend time with me. I was reminded again this morning, when I read a lovely comment from GingerB, a fellow blogger whom I have never met, yet who sent a message of love across the blogosphere.

I love you too, Ginger. I love you all, and I'm so thankful for you all.

I better end my ramblings before I get all mushy and verklempt.

Happy Friday, you wonderful people!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Because It's the Little Stuff that Gets to You: Top Marks Award

Since I've been writing a good bit of poetry lately, I thought it might be fitting to give out my first ever Top Marks award for Poetry! And no, it's not for myself. I'm not quite lame enough to do that. Tempted, maybe, but not lame. I mean, if any of y'all want to give me an award for my writing, I will squeal like a schoolgirl and probably print out the post and award and put it on the refrigerator, but hey, it's not quite the same when you do it for yourself. Ya know?

But anywho, I came across a poem that not only speaks to me in its style (which is much like mine, down to the lack of capital letters) but also in its subject matter. Sarah at Momalom wrote a poem about the morning duties of motherhood that could have come straight from my own mind. So go read "Little Stuff." It's worth it. And congratulations, Sarah!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


i'm drained
soaked in sweat
lids smothering my eyes
weighted with tears
stored deep within

they say it gets easier
and so it does
but today
was stone and acid

and the night
lies dark ahead

I'd Rather Not Have to be Draped in Yellow Caution Tape

Drama seems to follow me. If I believed in auras, I imagine mine would be...interesting. I imagine swirls of brilliant purple and puce and vermilion trailing chaos in my wake, occasionally smoothed by a wave of pearly pink or sky blue.

I've sought this much of my life, truth be told. I like attention. I was an only child for some time, not only in my immediate family, but in my extended family as well as the general community. I was the adorable little girl everyone doted upon, and I ate it up. When my sister came along and challenged my status as Official Center of the Universe, I was Not Pleased.

It occurs to me that much of my search for attention, both positive and negative, has been rooted in deepset insecurity. I rarely felt good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough, interesting enough. When I was dramatic, people paid attention. A small piece of the hole was filled, albeit temporarily.

The reasons why I felt this way are not simple. I cannot point at one person or event and say Aha! THAT'S why! A complex web of words and events and experiences and interactions trapped me. I trapped myself. I let the doubt whisper in my ear and lead me down a path of lies and manipulation and Drama Drama Drama.

Now, in the proper time and place, having a dramatic personality can be a Very Good Thing. In the classroom, for example, the ability to use hyperbole and excitement and dramatic flair can capture students' interest, bringing literature and language alive. Public speaking is exponentially better with a delicate touch of drama. Theatre, it goes without saying, thrives upon drama.

It's the personal drama that becomes excessive and damaging. Taking what could be fairly simple situations and blowing them up into massive events is the stuff of soap opera and tabloid journalism. For a large part of my life, I thought that worked for me. I was the Lindsay Lohan wannabe of my little bubble world.

I've come to the conclusion that I'd rather grace the pages of Time or the NEA Journal than the World News or Enquirer. I may not wish to fade into the background, but I also am tired of the endless games.

What does that really mean? I'm learning to be comfortable in my own skin. And being comfortable and confident means that when I get attention, it needs to be for the right reasons and because I deserve it, not because I'm creating my own little Charybdis, sucking my nearest and dearest down into the chaos.

It also means altering the habits of a lifetime. It means going with my gut instinct of the best way to handle a situation, rather than diverting into secrecy, manipulation, and outright lies. It means being transparent about myself without exposing those who want to stay opaque. It means balancing on a thin line, and I'm still learning where each side lies. It means recognizing that something that I may not intend to be hurtful could be exactly that. Words only bring their own meaning to a point; the reader brings his or hers to the table as well, and that personal perspective colors and shapes the meaning of what I write.

So please excuse my mess. I'm still under construction. And the remodeling may take some time. Nothing too extraordinary--just a lifetime or so.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

God Knew What He Was Doing When He Sent Me This Little Guy

Surefire Cure for the Blogging Blues: (Also effective for other types of doldrums. Satisfaction guaranteed)

1 day home from work in comfy clothes:

1 adorable blond toddler who feels a lot better after sleeping for 14 hours:

1 TV playing an episode of the Backyardigans:

Mix. Enjoy.

Creates a minimum of ten minutes laughing, singing, and smiling.

By the time I whipped out the video camera, The Widget had regained his reluctance to cooperate. No more dancing for Mama. Sigh. It was awfully cute.

I Screwed Up, Again

I've removed the last post because I crossed a line and hurt He Who Was very badly. I apologize to him here, and will be doing so in real life as well.

Out of respect to his wishes, I will be keeping him out of this blog in the future. I will do my best to respect his privacy.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


i will risk it if you do
i will try it if you do
i will step halfway and meet you there
so we don't walk alone

let me say to you
forgive me if i'm cautious
hesitant and fearful
i've been burned
i'm still healing
but growing stronger every day

i will walk beside you
not before
not behind
you balance me and
i will do the same for you
learn from me and
i will learn something too

and maybe
just maybe
we'll both be better in the end
for you knowing me
and me knowing you
and taking the risk

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Don't Know Why This Keeps Happening to Me. He's the Third One. And Those Health and Biology Teachers Need to Step It Up a Notch.

11th Grade Male Student: Ms. TeacherMommy, you are my BOI!

Ms. TeacherMommy: Sorry. I am not your BOI. I am nobody's BOI. I don't want to be a BOI.

Student: But you have to be my BOI!

Ms. TM: I am not a BOI. I don't have the plumbing for it. I'm also not your GURL, so don't even go there.

Student: Well then...you can be my COOL PERSON.

Ms. TM: That doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it? "Yo, you're my COOL PERSON!"

Student: Okay, well then, you're my ZEUS.

Ms. TM: Nope. Zeus is male. Remember? I'm not male. No desire to be male.

Student: Well then, you're my FEMALE ZEUS!

Ms. TM: Um. No. Pick an actual goddess if you're going to go that route.

Student: Fine. You're my MEDUSA!

Ms. TM: Seriously? She's not even a goddess! She's a monster! You're saying I'm a monster? With hair made of snakes and the face that turns people into stone?

Another 11th Grade Male Student: Her hair is definitely not made out of snakes.

Student #1: But she does have that death stare.

Student #2: True.

Ms. TM: True. I do have that stare. I suppose that's okay.

Student #1: Ms. TeacherMommy, you're my MEDUSA!

Hey, at least he's learning his mythology and basic biology.

I Swear He Had a Mischievous Grin the Whole Time

DramaBoy: If we cooked [The Widget], he would be so yummy. Then we could eat him all up!

TeacherMommy: You think so?

DB: Yeah!

TM: So you want to eat up your own brother?

DB: Well, not right now. Right now he's YUCKY.

TM: But he would be yummy if we cooked him?

DB: Yeah! We could eat him all up with a spoon. Then our tummies would be happy.

TM: So you want to become a cannibal?

DB: Yep! That would be fun.

TM: I'm not so sure [The Widget] would like to be cooked.

DB:  But if he did want to be cooked, then we could cook him and eat him up. And he would like that.

TM: You really think so?

DB: Yep.

TM: I'm not so sure it's a good idea.

DB: *giggle*

Mmmm...Toddler on Toast

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

I was talking last night with a friend, and somehow the subject of death came up. Cheerful stuff, you know? But it's real. And sometimes it's best to get it out, talk about the emotions, let someone listen and absorb and tear up in empathy.

I've been blessed with relatively few deaths in my experience. All four grandparents are still alive. My parents are well and healthy. I've lost very few people. When my great-grandmother died long ago, she had lived a long and wonderful life. I didn't truly experience the unexpected death of someone I knew well until nine years ago. Last night I realized the litany was more extensive than I thought.

Nine years ago a casual friend (a friend of my friends) was murdered, brutally. He had to be buried in a closed casket. The murderer was never caught. The general belief was that he had started dating a married woman whose husband had connections. My best friend at the time had dated him years before. It was the last straw in her already imbalanced mental state, and she went off the deep end shortly thereafter.

Seven years ago I lost my first student. He was very sickly, with a fatal condition. He simply never returned after Christmas break.

A year later another student died during the night from an undiagnosed heart problem.

Almost four years ago one of My Boys, the fringe kids with whom I somehow connect, was captured in Iraq. He was MIA for almost two years before the army found his remains. I remember when he came to see me and a few other teachers just before shipping out. He was so excited, so proud to be serving his country. The army had done for him what little else had done: given him a drive and purpose, structure for a life that had been chaotic. I worried, wondered what would happen, hoped he would return safe and sound. I'm still mourning him.

Three and a half years ago my aunt, my mother's only sister, lost her battle with leukemia. She left behind five children. I'm still working through it.

Three years ago a former student, one with whom I had become close through a Leadership Camp the school had run, died from shooting up heroin laced with fentanyl. She had been beautiful, brilliant, filled with potential. The waste of her life rocked me to the core. The other teacher and former students who had been part of our small group hugged and cried at her wake. She had gotten clean, had started dating another former student of mine who loved her and treated her well. We had hoped so much for her. The vicious embrace of that poison proved too strong for her to resist.

A year and a half ago my father's oldest brother died from a catastrophic stroke. Both my sets of grandparents have now outlived a grown child.

I know there will be more to come. My grandparents, as well as they are still doing, are in their eighties and nineties. And in my profession, the tragic deaths of the young are inevitable. Some are more senseless than others, like the student from one of the other high schools in the district who was killed when another teen hit him in the back of the head with a baseball bat. He had simply been in the area trying to get his brother to come home, away from a prearranged meet-up between hot-headed youths fighting over text message insults.

The world seems, at times, filled with the senseless deaths of those who have not lived long enough. It is broken. We are broken.

So I cling to hope and faith and friendship and love. If life is so short, if it can end in a moment's breath, then it should be lived fully.

And I'm finally learning how.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

the winding road

where the path leads from here
is hazy; the future does not like
to offer more than a glimpse
of Possibility

it branches from choice to choice;
at some, dead ends--
retrace the steps, start again.
others fork and fork again
'til beginning is lost in the mists of memory

twisting and turning
i climb mountains
dip into valleys
sunshine shifts to shade
dark shadows drift across with menace
then vanish as the vista opens once again

when i crest a hill
i can gaze
across the expanse
to a far-off place
where joy beckons me onward

i stop a moment,
take a breath:
then step again into the journey
seeking the paths
that lead to where i wish to go

and wonder at the back of my mind
if the vision was true
or a mirage

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

If Blogs Were Weather Patterns, This One Would Have the Meteorologists Stumped. Because They're Always Spot On in the Normal Course of Things.

Okay, so yeah, here it's Tuesday and I haven't been on here for realsies in ages and you're probably wondering, Hey, doesn't she love us anymore?  And the answer is, Yes, yes I do, but life is crazy and busy and awful and wonderful and up and down and sideways all at once and sometimes I think I might just need to pull over for a while and hyperventilate in private.

Because I'm insane complicated that way.

School is going well, other than having to squish the occasional overly-vociferous boy-child and threaten them with a dark, dusty sojourn in the Pottery Jar of Ashy Anguish.

"Ashes of Obnoxious Teenagers"

It always seems to be the boy-children. With the very occasional exception (none so far this year), I spend more time exhorting the female students to speak up than I do commanding them to pipe down.

I move up to the apartment/house on Saturday and have gotten absolutely nothing packed or ready yet. I have a vision of flinging everything down from the third-story window into the waiting arms of various friends and family so they can stuff it all in cars and haul it north. I'm terribly afraid it may come true.

I had a fabulous time over the weekend. My nails are now purple. I was only able to read 40 pages of the book I took, which says something about the amount of time I spent talking and laughing and goofing off instead.

I have graded a grand total of NONE of the papers piling up on my desk. That's a task for this afternoon, since I'll be stuck here until the Sneak Peek (a.k.a. parents-come-meet-teachers-and-check-things-out) tonight. Fortunately a wonderful and much-missed retired teacher is feeding a number of us at her house beforehand.

A former student brought me dark-chocolate-and-raspberry Godiva chocolate bars today. I may have to write her into my will.

I am surviving on practically no sleep, a mug of coffee, a breakfast bar, and a Godiva chocolate bar. The walls are wiggling a little.

And now perhaps I should return to work, since there are some students here to teach. I don't know where they came from. Apparently the tables have given birth.

Remember, only silly teddy bears wear red bow ties.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


i wonder
if i reached past the moon
touched a star
ran my fingers through a comet's tail
stroked the rings of a distant planet

would i find the fingerprints of God
etched deep in every grain of dust
His breath in every vapor trail
an eternal song echoing
the ancient words of Life

would it take the infinite
stretches of starry space
to understand the wonder
and breadth of His works
the miracle of existence

or would i hear His song
in the joyous laughter
of two small boys and find
the Sonlight glowing
in the radiance of their eyes

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Gift to You (Very Few Strings Attached)

I'm gone for the weekend, but I'm scheduling a couple of posts (including this one, cuz that's how I roll) to keep you entertained over the weekend.  I'll be sunning myself with two marvelous girlfriends on a dock by a lake while you read this, sipping special *ahem* fruit punch and painting nails and giggling.  I wouldn't leave you all in the lurch just because I'm escaping from regular life for a day or two, however.

You're welcome.

Dark chocolate gratitude would be acceptable.

Saturdays are best when goofy, so in that spirit today I will simply deluge you with some favorite goofy photos of the kidlets from the last year.

(Hey, I said I'd entertain you, but I didn't say I'd exert tons of effort in the process. There's only so much I will do for the ephemeral dream of conceptual chocolate.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

I Remember

Eight years ago today I was a brand-new certified teacher. A full year internship had only gone so far in preparing me for the overwhelming reality of being on my own, The Teacher, the one who had to plan and teach and do everything On Her Own.

Two weeks into the school year, 9-11-2001 took place. I was in class, a tenth grade American Literature class, and someone (I forget now which teacher) ran in and told me to put on the news. What we saw...my mind struggled to comprehend it. A plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. There were flames. There was chaos. The newscasters were debating what had happened, whether this was accidental or an actual attack.

A short while later the truth became apparent, as a second plane flew into the other tower. This could not be coincidence.

It took some time before the Towers began to collapse. We watched as the tiny specks of bodies flung themselves from ledges, apparently preferring that death to the one they faced inside. I don't want to know what brings a person to make that choice. We heard that thousands were still inside, trapped by the fires. We heard that policemen and firemen who had gone inside to rescue those they could were also caught.

And the Towers came down, among a great billowing eruption of flame and dust and screams, and all the proud security of the Greatest Nation on Earth tumbled down with them.

I remember the aftermath, as the evildoers became known, this faceless force of hatred that had flung its hand across seas and borders to strike at the heart of their Great Satan. I remember the Chaldean students, suddenly spotlighted by dint of dusky skin and Midde-Eastern descent, avoiding eye contact, sitting silently in corners. The crosses many of them wore around their necks suddenly appeared from beneath their shirts, shouting in wordless desperation that I am not one of Them! I am not your Enemy!

I remember trying to use the novels I was teaching at the time to raise discussions about appropriate reaction to Arab-Americans. My honors students were reading The Crucible: we discussed the Red Scare and its poison. My regular students were reading The Picture Bride: we discussed the shameful history of Japanese-American internment camps.

I remember the girl who asked, in all seriousness, But wouldn't it be safer if we did round up all the Middle Eastern people here and put them in camps?

I remember the stories of irrational fear, bigotry, hatred. The two Somalian men who were forceably ejected from an airplane when another passenger hysterically accused them of being terrorists--because they had dark skin and were speaking a different language. The Middle Eastern store owner who was beaten to death by youths from the neighborhood. The hate-filled graffitti sprayed over stores and houses owned by anyone who looked like they might be One Of Them.

I remember my parents telling us of the stream of Muslim visitors to their house in the Ivory Coast, all coming to convey their deep grief over this American tragedy and their revulsion at the blasphemy of committing such a crime in the name of Allah.

I remember...

And so do others.

I'm giving out my first "Top Marks" Award today, to Monica of And I'll Raise You 5. Her 9-11 post "Together" was so poignantly and beautifully written that it is deserving of Top Marks indeed.  Go read it. You'll be glad you did.

Congratulations, Monica!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

To Whom It May Concern

Dear Einstein Bagels Customer Who Was In Line Just Before I Arrived,

Thank you so much for leaving that trail of cloying perfume so thick I had to swim through it. I love breaking out in hives and sneezing fits during my miniscule lunch break. I also very much appreciate that delicate flavor of rotting flowers that now lingers in everything I eat or drink.

Offering you a hosing-down,
An Allergy-Prone Fellow Customer


Dear Myself,

You really need to start remembering your lunch. This is going to get really expensive. I'll have to start starving you if you keep this up.

Forgetfully yours,


Dear Students,

Last year every English teacher notified you about the summer homework. Some of us were even nice enough to hand out hard copies of the summer homework. We then posted PDF files of all the summer homework on the school website. The principal sent out postcards reminding parents and students about the summer homework. There was also a reminder at registration, where you were required to sign a sheet that you were, in fact, aware of the summer homework.

You had to read a novel or two. You had to fill out a few grammar worksheets. That was it. We didn't even make you write a paper over the summer because we were tired of the crap students kept turning in the first day of school, which just depressed us.

Showing up to class and telling me that you didn't know anything about the summer homework, were unable to access it/print it out/get to a library/lift a single finger/use a single braincell the entire summer, or that you just plain forgot...

...will simply be received with a raised eyebrow, a Well that's too bad, and a big fat zero to start out the year.

Congratulations on your failure,
Ms. TeacherMommy


Dear Delicious Apple Butter,

Why are you so yummy? Why can't I resist you? Why do you keep sending forth your spicy siren call from the refrigerator that makes my tastebuds leap in ecstatic joy? Why am I seriously considering buying an automatic apple peeler and food processor so that I can make more of you with ease? Why have you driven me insane?

Thinking longingly of you from work,
Your Salivating Slave

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

That Better Not Be a Double Chin I See in the Mirror

Reflecting on the comments my lovely peoples left yesterday about my photos, particular the one written by Becky, I came to the realization that lo, these many months of not exercising have made me a wee bit more, well, fleshy than I was back in January.  Witness the evidence:

Me in mid-January, following angst and drama and a few days in the hospital

Me in late August, following months of no exercising and summer foodiness

That and the firmness with which my work pants pressed upon my thighs this morning when I greased slid them on for the first time in months made me think that perhaps, unless I really want to spend a minor fortune replacing my wardrobe, I really should start exercising again. It also occurred to me that perhaps four pieces of toast with lovely smooth spicy apple butter slathered all over aren't the best late night snack.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Didn't Fall Down a Rabbit Hole. I Promise.

Have I disappeared off the face of the earth? Have I sunk into a black hole? Have I been so mesmerized by the beauty that is the photo shoot my dear friend Claire just took of me that I cannot tear my eyes away from Picasa?

The answer, no doubt to your great relief, is No.

Although those photos rock. I usually hate photos of myself. That's why that one of me with pink hair stuck around for so long--it's one of the few taken of me that I actually liked. Now that I think of it, I think it was also taken by Claire.

Goodbye, punk TeacherMommy. It was fun.

That settles it. She's now my official photographer. If I could afford it, I'd hire her to follow me around and take fabulous photos of me so I can feel, you know, Hawt.

I feel so pretty.

Enough of the overweening modesty. I'm sure you're dying to know what's been going on the last few days. So I'll give you a little synopsis:

Saturday: Woke up way too early in order to drive out to Claire's, go to breakfast, and then do the photoshoot at the park. I did one of her too. We had both decided it was high time we got some decent photos taken for Facebook and blogs and such.

Then I drove out to the house and met up with He Who Was and the kidlets. We drove out to the Renaissance Festival, where the kidlets' days were made complete by seeing knights jousting and eating apple dumplings. I looked longingly at the wonderful costumes and dreamed of the day I might be able to afford one. I also decided I really need to go back sans kidlets sometime so I can shop properly and enjoy some of the shows other than the joust. Finally I went home and collapsed.

Sunday: Picked up the kids who were miraculously already dressed by He Who Was and took them to church, where DramaBoy charmed everyone in the sanctuary by his cute antics before he left for Sunday School. We then drove back down to Detroit to pick up their uncle and get changed into play clothes, and we all drove out to Erwin's Orchards. We picked an entire bushel of apples and four pounds of raspberries. Well, I did. My brother mostly corralled the kidlets, which led him to comment, Now I understand why you wanted me to come along. He didn't have to be so snarky about it.

Also, I don't know why I obsess over obtaining so much fruit. It's a sickness.

So Sunday night I spent THREE HOURS (no exaggeration here) coring, peeling, and chopping apples in order to make Apple Butter. Which was AMAZING. I just let it cook all night in the crockpot. Here's the recipe, as I did it:

All-Day/Night Apple Butter

About three million 1/3 to 1/2 bushel of apples, cored, peeled, and chopped fine
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

Stir sugar and spices into chopped apples. Pack firmly into crockpot, filling it completely.

Cook on High setting for one hour. Turn crockpot to Low and cook for 7-8 hours, stirring occasionally (I cooked this overnight with very little stirring and it did fine). Remove lid and cook for one more hour. Whisk or puree. Enjoy!
This stores and freezes well in freezer jars/tupperware. If you prefer your apple butter a little sweeter, add more sugar--I prefer slightly tart, spicy apple butter.

I will say, though, that if I were to do this again, I think it would be worth purchasing one of those automatic apple peelers and a food processor. The preparation was ridiculous. The product is heavenly.

Monday: Spent the morning making raspberry empanadas the easy way, using premade pie crust (you know, the rolled up frozen kind?) DramaBoy had been begging for "Raspberry Pie" since he heard we were going to pick raspberries. They were okay, but I underestimated the amount of sugar I needed to put in the raspberry filling. I ate more than the kidlets did, since I like tart stuff. I still have two pounds of raspberries left. I may just freeze them.

Then I drove the kids out to the Detroit Yacht Club to see their Grandpa and Grandma and Auntie and Daddy. We ate yummy food their grandpa grilled, then took refuge on the boat when it started raining. Finally we gave up on the weather permitting a sail and just went home. I did laundry and painted my nails and went to bed earlier than usual.


Because I had to wake up at five ay-em this morning to get myself and the kidlets ready in time to get to work.

That's right, folks!

School is back in session.

And that's all she wrote.  More later, if my eyes stop crossing with fatigue. Besides, I still have to pick up the kidlets and head home.

And holy crap, I just realized I totally missed my therapy session! Dang it. That's what happens when I actually WORK and stay after school doing all sorts of prep stuff!

Guess I should have been lazy instead.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Standing in the Shallows

I have a craving for sad songs lately. I found myself singing "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt in the car the other night. Not on the radio. Out of the blues, so to speak. I've been listening to Pandora.com all day on a new station I created based on Moby's "Porcelain," giving thumbs-up to all the semi-trancey wistful songs by Enigma and Zero 7 that tug at my core. Tonight Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" was on the radio and I sang along, remembering those times back in December and January when I would listen to that song, despair spreading its poisoned agony in my belly, and wish I could feel that way.

I'm toying with the idea of putting together a mix-CD. Mourning music.

I'm not exactly plunged into depression--certainly not despair--but I sense that I am once again slowly cycling back through the stages of grief. The phases reduce in intensity each time, but still I can feel the grieving roll over me like a long slow wave, inexorable in its roiling strength. I've made my way to the shallows, so the wave no longer flings me down and sucks me under, but still I feel myself strain to hold balance in the shifting currents.

There was a time when I would not have withstood the grief. I remind myself that I am infinitely more whole than I have been in...well, as long as I can remember. I am growing strong. I am learning to be comfortable in my own skin.

I spent a lovely evening with a close friend tonight, a woman I've known for ages and who has been there for me even through the years when it must have been hard to be my friend. I remember as little as a year ago--less than--being tense, on edge, self-conscious, every time I was around her. I appreciated having her friendship, but I always had a sense of inferiority and fear of comparison. I second-guessed everything I said; my laughter was often strained or forced; my muscles tensed and flexed until they ached.

Tonight I realized I was simply carrying on conversation, laughing, advising, being truthful in my words and being. I thought a little more and recognized that even though I'm still learning to relax and just Be with people, I am doing so more often than not. In return, I feel that people are also more relaxed around me, more able to relate with me. At least, I hope that is the case.

So I'll breathe. I'll take in the air, take in the Spirit, and release the anxiety and anger and grief. And in time this too will roll on, leaving me standing strong in the shallows and, one day, on higher ground.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

In Case You Hadn't Noticed...

There's something a bit new about Diapers and Dragons today! I cannot thank Judith Shakespeare of Judith Shakes Designs enough for her fabulous new design. She's been working with me very patiently for about two months now, and she's finally tweaked and loaded it up, to my tremendous delight.

You may notice on the right side that one of the new features is a blog award called "Top Marks." Since I love writing and love reading good writing, I want to start handing out awards to blog posts that are of particular literary merit. I plan on writing award posts linking to those posts and commenting on them, as well as creating a mini blogroll for the recent award winners. Maybe I'll even have some sort of contest for the TOP Top Marks posts with you, my readers, as the judges!
I'm toying with creating different categories for award-winning posts: Humor, Poetry, that sort of thing. If you have suggestions for categories, please let me know. ALSO: please, please let me know if you come across particular blog posts out there that you think are really well written. Then please email me the link at teachermommyblog [at] gmail [dot] com and I will take a look. I'll be finding some of my own, but there's no way I can hit it all. I do have a job, after all.

So let me know what you find out there in the blogosphere! And please let me (and Judith) know what you think of the new design!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Really Am Excited About School Starting, but I Need a Good Kickstart

Tired. That's the word. And unmotivated. That's another good one.

I started the day with vim and vigor, but my energy has waned and I'm staring around at the chaos that is my classroom, with its haphazard few decorations (the rest are sitting on tables and in cabinets), with the piles of textbooks staring at me. We dare you, they taunt. You haven't poured your heart into your job in three years. What makes you think you can start now?

I want to, you know. I want to get back to teaching the way I know I can teach, with passion and committment and dedication to my work. I want to open up vistas for students, spark ideas, build confidence and skill. I want them to want to come to my class, even when they know I'll be tough and kick their butts.

But lack of sleep and the sleepiness of my new medication (which will wane, they say, as my body grows accustomed) mean that I've gotten little done today. I look back over the last ten hours and wonder--what have I accomplished? A little lesson planning with my Professional Learning Community colleagues, a handful of decorations put up, a good deal of semi-fruitless efforts to create reading quizzes for the summer reading assignments.

I'll be here tomorrow, but will have no time to work in my classroom. And I won't be able to stay after school. So Friday is my last chance. I'll have five or six hours during the day to tackle this room, tackle my remaining prep work. Next Tuesday the students descend upon us and I must be ready, come hell or high water.

Anyone have a handy teen just dying to spend an hour in a classroom helping a frazzled TeacherMommy get the room looking presentable? I might even be willing to cough up a buck or two...
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