Writings of a teachermom, choosing to stay home with her kids, while loathing all domestic responsibilities! In late Aug. 2008, I was diagnosed with Triple Negative breast cancer. After surgery, chemo and radiation, I was given theall clear. However, in the late summer of 2008, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which metasticized to other areas.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Tough 4 year old questions

My grandmother passed away yesterday morning. I did get the opportunity to see her on Tuesday when I arrived, although she was not really conscious when I was there. She hadn't had anything to eat or drink in a couple days. And if someone hadn't told me that was her in the room, I wouldn't have recognized her. I'm glad she did not have to suffer too long before the Lord rescued her.

But now my four year old has so many questions. How do you explain death to someone who is so literal?
Why isn't God helping her? But we prayed for Him to make her feel better.
Why does she look different? Why do people look different before they die?
What will happen to her house? But what about her house in Heaven? Can we visit her?
But what about her friends? She won't have any friends to be with in Heaven.
(After explaining that her body is still here but her soul, which is on her inside, goes up into heaven), So her skin will be all broken apart so the inside goes to heaven?
But how will she breath if she's underground?

Although I'm not a fan of celebrities who think they can be children's authors, I did go out and purchase Maria Shriver's book about Heaven. I must admit, it was perfect.

Besides being able to answer Cameron's questions, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to act. Everyone seems so happy and cheerful around her house. But me, I don' t feel that. I just keep thinking about Mom-mom prancing through the house, so filled with energy...just not there anymore. All I want to do is cry. But no one else is crying. I guess everyone grieve's differently.

The viewing is Sunday and the funeral Monday. I've never been to a viewing, nor to a burial. I've been blessed.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The greatest grandma

Above is a picture of my wonderful, awesome 86 year old "Mom-mom" with my equally wonderful "Pop-pop" taken just a couple months ago. I know when I go to NJ to see her tomorrow, she's not going to look like this, so I have mixed feelings about seeing her all drugged with Morphine, lying in a bed. Cancer has finally taken over. But I must see her. This is so hard.

The boys and I will be gone for a couple weeks. Not sure how much blogging I'll get done. Please keep my grandma in your prayers.

Friday, September 23, 2005

More Messes

Being as undomestic as I am, there's probably nothing I loathe more than cleaning. So much so, that despite the fact that I'm a Stay-at-home-Mom, we hire a cleaning lady to come once a week.

However, whenever my husband comes home, he always looks around the house in disbelief and asks, "Did Rhonda come today?"
"Yes," I reply, matter-of-factly.
"Are you sure? Did you actually see her clean?"

Here is what my husband does not quite get. Within an hour and a half of Rhonda leaving a pristine household, this is what occured:

Max had lunch...a bowl of spaghettio's, which he managed to smear all over his face, his hair, his high chair tray, before dropping a half-full bowl onto the sparkling floor.

When I brought him to his bathroom, with the recently-cleaned mirror, I set him on the counter so I can run the bath water without him walking all over with his tomato sauce hands. He manages to smear his hands all over the mirror.

As I run the bath water and undress him, I discover that he had pooped all in his diaper. As I try to juggle holding him up so he doesn' t sit down and finding a wipe, he pees all over the bathroom floor.

In the meantime, I hear Cameron in the family room. He apparently had finished his watermelon, with many drips on the floor, and made his way to the living room where he poured out his entire bin of action heroes.

After Max's bath, we come downstairs, and he finds Cameron's sneakers by the door. He brings them to Cameron, into the family room, where he throws them, dislodging any dried dirt caught in the bottom tread.

Then, while I'm upstairs cleaning up the bathtub mess, Max decides to play in the toilet that Cameron is currently peeing in!

So to answer my husband's question....Yes, Melvin, she came. And yes, I actually saw her clean. I admired the beauty of my home for just a few minutes....then the little monsters took over.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

False firsts

I thought Max finally said his first word yesterday.

We were at gymnastics, and he kept pointing up to this shelf saying "du" "du." I finally discovered that he was pointing to this stuffed duck. Because he has a duck themed bathroom, I say the word a lot to him. I was so excited, and really, all I could think about was how I was going to blog about it.

But then for the rest of the day, anytime he wanted anything...a rock, a toothbrush, his new bike, Cameron, etc. he would yell out "Du!" "Du!" So much for his first words.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Does this disturb anyone?

I'd love to have people weigh in on this new dilemma of mine. So please comment if you have an opinion, whatever it may be.

My son loves computer games. He'll spend hours playing Robots and Shrek. Of course I don't let him do this for hours, but if I did let him, he would be in all his glory. I personally find the games boring. In both of them there are these main characters going on some journey somewhere. Along the way they pick up coins and tools and such. You have to figure out the keyboard combinations to make the do certain moves, etc. etc.

A couple months ago, when the movie came out, a video game for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory also came out. Now Cameron was not at all interested in the movie, ("It's too scary"), but he wouldn't stop asking me for the computer game.

So finally, I found it at Target...for almost $30. But I decided I wouldn't just give it to him, but rather he would have to earn it. So we have this little chart system set up, and when he gets 30 stars, he earns the game.

HOWEVER, tonight in my grad class, I overheard a student mention something about an article entitled Willy Wonka and the Racism Factory. (Click on the link to see the article). I asked her about it, and she briefly described it to me, and I also looked it up when I got home. Basically, the original version of the Dahl book included vivid racism, as indicated in the article. This deals mainly with the darkskinned oompa loompas who were "rescued" from Africa, basically to be slaves in the Chocolate Factory. The author was actually asked to rewrite the book to make it more socially acceptable, and he did. The original movie was based on this newer version of the book, where the oompa loompas are orange and come from Oomapa Land. However, the latest version is based on the Original Book.

And although I don't read into the depiciton of the Oompa Loompas as much as the article does, I do find it disturbing. Although I haven't seen the movie, I am looking right now at the box to the video game I purchased. And on the cover is a white Willy Wonka, a white Charlie, and a handful of little black Oompa Loompas. It's just bothersome and feels wrong.

So now what do I do? If I open up the game to see whether my uneasiness rings true throughout the game, then I can't return it because it's open. And also, how in the world do I explain to a four year old boy why he can't have the game he can't stop talking about, and he's worked so hard to earn?

I guess what's most disturbing is that this movie has been out for months, and I've heard nothing of the racism involved.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Going for a ride

The boys took a tumble down the stairs today...together!

While Cameron was backing up to get away from Max, Max was coming full-blast at him to give him a big hug. Once he finally reached him, Cameron was at the edge of the stairs. Max's enormous hug pushed Cameron off balance, and they both went tumbling down the stairs. Paralyzed, I just stood there and watched the fall occur.

Once they got to the bottom of the 8 stairs, Cameron looked up at me with a bit of hesitation, not sure if he was going to cry or not. Instead, he just started laughing, as Max was next to him screaming.

His response, "Hey, that was like a roller coaster! Can we do it again?"

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Coffee Break

It's 9:30 at night, and I am drinking a cup of coffee. Not too bright on my part, as I'll have a hell of a time getting to sleep. However, my coffee is my motivating tool right now. You see I have homework for my grad class to do, but I just can't get myself to settle down and do it. This is quite scary, as the term has just begun, and I'm usually quite enthusiastic about doing my work at this stage of the game. But I'm not feeling it this year. There may be several reasons for this:

1. I wasn't thrilled about the class offerings this term. Seems like there's so much for elementary or initial license teachers, and only a handful for us seasoned, secondary teachers. And of that handful, I had already taken some of them. So I was limited in my selection.

2. I'm taking an English Language Learners class. This is good, as I've never had a class to help teach ELL students. However, I've had little to no experience with ELL students, so I have NOTHING really to connect with when trying to learn new info or to contribute to class discussions.

3. Because I've never had an ELL class or worked with ELL students, I feel dumb in class. Usually I have a lot to add to classroom conversations about what I find works or doesn't work. Now I just must remain silent and soak it all in.

4. It's an elementary class. The course description did not state this. The only interest I have in elementary classes is when my own son enters them. Other than that, I'm not interested in teaching in them.

5. Amongst other work, we have to write weekly 3 page reflections about what we've read. I'm kinda tired of writing reflections. I feel like I've done this in my past 4 classes, and it gets tiring. Can't I just read and make little notations in my book. Must I write a "report" on everything I've read.

6. The weekly reflections are GRADED. So now I'm nervous about whether I'm doing it right. Am I writing enough, summarizing enough, asking enough questions, making enough connections, etc.

7. If I miss more than one class, I can't get higher than a B. Considering the fact that I'm due 3 days after the last class, there's a possibility that I might be missing that class. And my grandmother in NJ is very sick, so I also might have to leave to see her. I'd hate for this class to be the "B"lemish on my transcript. I know I shouldn't stress about my grade..it's all about the learning...right?

8. Other reasons, not sure what they are, but I'm sure they're there.

I know I should be more optimistic and have a better attitude. It would make this work more enjoyable. But for now, I'll just sip on my java, crank out some reflections, and try to just "get it done."

Friday, September 16, 2005

Tying Times

I need to announce to everyone that Cameron can now tie his own shoes. It's quite peculiar really...I'm not sure how he figured it out. Some LONG time ago last year, I purchased a "tying book" from the book order, and Cameron and I spent a couple days trying to learn how to tie. He couldn't quite get it, and we basically lost interest and abandoned the book. However, the other day, he put on his soccer shoes and tied them. No, not the kid way, where you make 2 bunny ear loops and such, but the "adult way" (as he refers to it). I didn't believe him when he told me that he tied his shoe. But he really did, and the clincher was that his shoe stayed tied throughout the entire soccer game. I honestly have no idea where this shoe-tying ability came from.

Now the problem is, about a week prior to this new skill, I purchased him new shoes. These great hot wheels shoes that light up around a wheel when he walks (he thinks they make him go faster). But not wanting to deal with the laces, I bought shoes with zippers! Well, now that he knows how to tie his shoes, and is quite proud of his ability, he only wants tie shoes. EVERY DAY, he asks if he can wear his SOCCER CLEATS, merely so he can tie his shoes. EVERYDAY I must explain to him why he can't wear them, and that he is stuck with his zipper shoes until he outgrows them.

He whines a little, but relents, until the next day, when he tries out the soccer shoe idea, once again.

On a different note, my boys have been quite good lately. Not sure what's in the water, but Max has been sitting in his high chair and eating, not throwing his food, but handing it to me when he's all done. Although he still wants my attention, he's doing a little better at playing "around me" while I'm cleaning or hanging pictures or whatever, instead of insisting that I hold him, or play with him. He even sat in the cart at Target for a good 15 minutes (but then insisted that I hold him).

This evening, out of the blue, Cameron pulled down their "lion chair" from Max's room into the living room and two bins of his books and set up a "reading" corner for Max. (Not that Max would sit and "read" books but the thought was lovely). They spent a lot of time wrestling and hugging each other tonight. Cameron was even helping Max brush his teeth tonight. "Say cheese," he kept insisting, as Max just looked at him like he was crazy. I couldn't ask for more loving brothers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Name Game

My husband and I are having a big dilemma. Months ago, when we discussed names, we had agreed (although my husband denies this) that if it was a girl, we'd name her Ella. I just like the sound of it...Ella Ashford. It just so happens that Ella is his grandmother's middle name, also. So doubly great. Then I added Ella Helene (Helen being my ailing grandmother's name). It wasn't set in stone or anything..but we started calling the baby Ella and everything.

Well, now my husband has changed his mind. He feels that Ella sounds like an old lady's name. And his family has made it quite clear to me (even though I NEVER asked) that they think so, also. He said we never actually agreed on the name, so I shouldn't have told people that we were going with Ella.

So now we're absolutely stuck. Any name he has come up with I have not liked at all. And even the girl names that I previously adored just don't sound right to me because I'm so used to thinking of the baby as Ella. And most of the people I know say that they love Ella Ashford. I even try to think of how kids might make fun of her name so that I won't like it anymore (Ellaphant..Cruella). But nothing seems to be working.

We have about 3 months to work this out...but until then.....

Ella ella bo bella, bannana fanna fo fella, me my mo mella....ELLA

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I'm not going to cry over it.

Usually when I give Max breakfast, I just put a bunch of dry cereal on his tray (or pieces of my own cereal soaked in milk), and he eats a few, throws much of it on the floor, then tries climb out of his high chair. But today I gave Max a BOWL of cereal with milk in it. He actually just sat in his high chair and ate the entire bowl (with his fingers, not the spoon). I was so delighted. But I didn't seem to get the bowl away from him quick enough. As when he was done with the cereal, he found a place to pour the milk.

Monday, September 12, 2005

New Beginnings

Today marks the beginning of our "Week of Beginnings."

Cameron starts his new preschool...his "4 year old class" we call it.
I start my new grad class at the Univ. of Minn...Teaching Literacy to English Language Learners

Max and I have a gymnastics class together.
Cameron will have his class after us.
(Continuing with soccer practice in the evening).

(Preschool again)
First meeting with a nanny organization.
I was chosen for the Community Action Board for the South Washington County Office of Equity and Diversity...first meeting tonight.

Mom's Spiritual Spa at church begins -- Cameron and Max will start "Jesus Junction" the kids program.

(Preschool again)

New beginnings are hard for me. I don't know anyone, I don' t feel comfortable, all my insecurities run rampant in my mind. I usually tense up, rehearse every word about to come out of my mouth, get shy. If I just know one person well, then I'm fine. But I'm venturing into territories where I know no one. Never sure what to say, how to act, etc.

Luckily these personality traits have not rubbed off on Cameron. His teacher said he had an excellent day, and he jumped right into the pack at preschool and started playing as if he'd been there all year. I wish I was 4.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

My TV babysitter...failing

Yesterday I was finally well enough by the end of the day to at least venture out of the house. We went to my husband's partner's new home, where we had pizza and the kids played. Max was doing his usual, where he bounced around from person to person, wanting to be completely preoccupied by anyone, wanting to be picked up, etc. Mind you, he's very cute doing this, laughing and giggling, and the way he bounces around will crack you up.

After a couple hours of this, one of the doctor's turned to me and said, "Does he ever just sit? Like watch a TV show....Teletubbies or anything?"

"No," I responded without any hesitation. (This is not the first time I have been asked this question). "And believe me, I have tried!"

Yes, I must admit, while other parents are trying to drag their kids away from the TV, I am DESPERATELY trying to get my 1 year old addicted to a TV show. No, not addicted to the TV all the time, just one show...Teletubbies, Barney, Sesame Street, anything really. Just a show that I can pop-in when I need to say...clean up the kitchen (or else, he tries to take all the dirty dishes out of the dishwasher for me), or when I need to cook dinner (he wants to be held and then "help" me with whatever I'm doing over the hot stove), or when I need to fold some clothes (Max likes to unfold and throw around everything I've folded). I try to give him something to do (like play with the duster in the picture above...can you tell how happy he looks!), but it doesn't preoccupy him for more than 2 minutes.

Maybe if the sound of Elmo's voice, or Barney's singing, or the Teletubbies' giggles would lure him away from me for just a half hour, things might not be so "half-done" around the house. But like anything else, I turn the show on, he'll sit WITH me to watch it for five minutes and then he's off and ready to do something else, tugging at me and crying to play with him. If I don't sit with him, he barely gives the show a second glance, before he realizes no one is sitting with him, and he's off to find someone, crying as if he's been abandoned (and it really doesn't have to be me...just anyone to play with).

Maybe I just haven't found the right show yet. Any ideas?

BTW--My husband's attempt to take the kids out to dinner the other night turned out as I had expected. He came home, plopped the kids down on the bed as I was resting and told me I could have 10 nannies if that's what I needed! Cameron was good (4 is a good age), but Max not only doesn't sit to watch TV, he doesn't sit to eat either. He ended up out of the highchair, on Melvin's lap, where he proceeded to mush all the food on his plate. Poor guy, people thought, as he said several people came over and tried to help him (funny, no one tries to help me when I'm out alone with the kids!). I certainly appreciated the rest. But now I must give him a "breather" before I let him know that I'd like to go and visit a friend for the weekend WITHOUT the kids.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Just plain sick

Today was one of those days when I wish I lived near family. I woke up with some sort of stomach bug and felt like total crap all day, with a slight fever. Of course, I couldn't "call in sick" because I don't have any childcare alternative at the moment. That meant Cameron watched hours of TV today. He eventually became bored of it and tried to entertain himself. He got a kick out of putting Max's hamper over his head to make a "costume." He found his Star Wars life saber and told me that this is what he was going to be for Halloween...no matter that he can't SEE out of the hamper!!!!!

The only thing I managed to do today was feed the kids and get Max down for a couple naps (oh, and change a few diapers that incited my nausea). Below is what Max thought of the PB & J I made him. He just took it apart and smashed it all over his tray, eating none of it.

Thankfully Melvin came home a little early (4:15) to help out with the kids. He took them out to dinner. I tried to tell him to just order in, but he insisted on leaving. I pray it's not the disaster I'm imagining it will be with the two boys. We also had to cancel a weekend wedding trip to NJ.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

NCLB strikes again

I read this article online about federal leaders willing to waive some NCLB restrictions...by way of adequate yearly progress and teacher requirements... for those schools who are taking in a lot of evacuees due to Hurricane Katrina.

I think it's quite pathetic that TESTING is their concern. What about discussing how we're going to help these kids and these schools...getting more counselors, aiding with more supplies, etc. Oh no, only test scores matter...right? Talk about leaving the child behind!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I looked like a Tasty Tomato

This weekend we went to the "Waterpark Capital of the World"...Wisconsin Dells. For those of you not familiar with the place (I hadn't heard of it until we moved to Minnesota), the town is centrally located between the Twin Cities and Chicago and is filled with waterslides...indoor, outdoor, big ones, small ones, upside-down ones (okay, not really). But the point is, you go there to swim.

Of course, in my haste to pack everyone else's necessities, I forgot my own swimsuit. It's this really cute one from Old Navy Maternity...I left it in the dryer. We're two hours out, (it takes 3 to get there), and something "hit" me. "DAMN!" I yell. Melvin perks up from his slumber. "I fogot my swimsuit, damn, damn, damn, damn," I continue hitting the steering wheel as I speed along I-94. "Wanna turn around?" Melvin asks sarcastically.

Normally, not having a swimsuit wouldn't be the end of the world....except that it's the END of swimsuit season, and I'm 6 1/2 months pregnant! The town is literally in the middle of nowhere, with a Wal-mart Supercenter as the local shopping spot. Ever shop for clothes at Wal-mart (Okay, Lanette...I know you do, but you're the exception)? Ever shop for maternity clothes at Walmart? They have the super-large shirts that have horizontal stripes to emphasis your largeness.

After dropping the boys off at the Wilderness Resort, I trudge out to shop, defeated before I even begin. I make my way through the crowded aisles and find what is left of the swimsuit section. They never had maternity suits to begin with. So I start browsing through the "bigger suits" section. Hideous! I pick out a few somewhat-almost tolerable ones to try on, only to discover that although I'm big enough for them in the belly, I'm not in the top, and everytime I move, the top straps fall off. I manage to mangle through more, and find some size Large that I might be able to pull off, if my belly would just fit.

Unfortunately, the color selection was sickening...there's a reason why these suits were still here in September. I ended up with a plain, but bright, cherry red one piece that seemed to glimmer in the light. And in case when I got back to the resort I couldn't tolerate such a suit, I also picked up a purple suit with flowers right across the belly (for emphasis or camaflouge...not sure which). If I though that somehow I could blend in with the crowd, I was certainly mistaken, with the color pallette available.

But I survived. The swimsuit stayed on, and Cameron was like, "Oooh, your suit is pretty mommy." (Barf!!!). We met my husband's sister, brother and cousin with all their kids. They drove in from Detroit for the weekend. Our grand total in the cabin was 5 adults and 11 1/2 kids!!! Noisy, but fun....for the weekend. Not sure I could handle many nights with so many little ones (most of them falling in the 4-7 year old range). Naturally, the boys had fun, and Cameron finally went down some of the bigger slides we had unsuccessfully tried to talk him into doing previously. Wouldn't surprise me if we go there at least one more time before the baby comes. Melvin is even looking into purchasing a rental property.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Backyard Park

Whenever we attend the State Fair (a VERY big deal for those of you not from Minnesota), we always stop at the Rainbow Playset display. They have a couple playsets out for the "general public," to crawl all over, but we never stop there. Each year my husband makes them think we're going to purchase a set so that Cameron can go behind the fence and play with the really cool sets. Last year, the sleazy sales guy recognized us from the previous year, using all the same sales tactics...using our first names whenever he talked to us as if we were old friends; "Can't you see this in your backyard, Cari, with the neighborhood kids coming to play," "We can get Cameron in one of these by next week." blah, blah, blah. Well, this year, it was no different. Except the joke was on us, because we actually bought one (from the same sleazy sales guy). With the huge new yard, we knew we'd have the room. We just weren't sure if the money paid would be worth it. But we went for it. Mind you, we by no means purchased the biggest ones there (which were the price of a used car), but we got some nice accessories for the kids, including a baby swing, which Max LOVES (and screams when I take him out). Below are the pictures from the day.

Cameron waits with eager anticipation as he watches the guys put the set together.

Once all ready, Cameron sprints out to the playset.
He cruises up the climbing wall.

Cameron encourages Max to climb the steps to join him in the clubhouse.

Cameron and Max take a first slide together (what I didn't capture on camera was the boys falling forward with Max ending up on his face because the slide was so fast...a few tears to start our day!).

The boys played for a while on the set....Cameron ended up having 2 friends over....although they seemed to spend more time in the "woods" next to our property (a large line of pine trees separating our yard from the walking paths), than on the playset. But by the end of the day, Cameron was all tuckered out, too tired to eat dinner and falling asleep on the couch before 5:30.