>The usual three ring circus

>Juggling. Juggling work, family, home. Juggling the needs of aging parents and needy kids. Juggling tennis balls that become eggs that become watermelons. Juggling several large fruits with one hand while holding a cup of coffee in the other…okay, back to the topic.
Is family life really about keeping all the balls in the air and keeping them moving, or is a more accurate metaphor that of a tightrope walker? Balancing on that thin wire, holding a number of props weighing us down…let’s see how this can look.
On my school/work shoulders, progress reports and an upcoming IEP. Added to that weight was a directive to move “my things” out of my old classroom. The boxes they thought were mine, however, were actually old curriculum materials. I threw several away, hoped they weren’t valuable, and labelled the rest for storage. Then, and only then, I returned to my desk and my gradebook.
On the other hand, or the other shoulder, Husband had the week off during Amigo’s final exams which helped with the odd schedule that always accompanies finals. I could stay after school for an extra hour because I didn’t have to rush home to take the kiddo to an appointment.

Rather than go on and on about the uneven balance of work and home and outside events outside my control, I’ll just call on a skill many mothers possess. I’ll climb on that tightrope, look straight ahead, find a focal point, and breathe. In, out, in, out. Then a deep cleansing breath, and I’m there, on the other platform, still holding all of my burdens, but at least able to hang onto something for support.
That’s what it’s all about; support. The safety net below our tightrope is real and necessary. I think my next task is making sure that net is in good repair.

This post was written for Parent Bloggers Network as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by BOCA. I can’t write about juggling without thinking about my grad school friend, Deb, who found herself competing for attention with a very real juggler.

Share and Enjoy !


>Warm on the inside, water mains breaking on the outside

>The outdoor thermometer reades -1.1. Yes, 1 degree and a tenth below zero, before wind chill. The heater is cranking out warm air, and I can feel it sucking my paycheck in with each degree of warmth it adds to the room. Mornings have been even colder. One of our oldest school building suffered a water main break in the bitter cold earlier this week.
My kitchen is drafty. My classroom is drafty. I dress in layers to work indoors!!
And….(drumroll, please) I eat oatmeal for breakfast.
The children I teach don’t always have a chance for a warm breakfast. Several depend on school breakfasts. While it’s nutritious and often delicious (I love the smell of cinnamon toast in the morning!), it’s not the same as warm cereal at the kitchen table.
As the temperature drops, I worry about kids being warm enough, too. Do they have gloves and mittens? Sweaters? Hats or hoods? In this weather, even the most die-hard Cool Teenagers will wear their warm layered clothing.
I work with some incredibly generous people. When a student needed shoes in October, she had several pair to choose from within hours. A family was displaced by fire, and typical of working poor, they had no insurance. A teacher contacted a friend with an unused set of bunk beds and put out an all-call for sheets. Less than a week after the fire, two young boys were no longer sleeping on the floor.
If you’re making resolutions or setting goals in these hard economic times, please make sharing part of your plan. Whether you’re buying an extra can of soup for the food pantry or dropping coins in a red kettle, people need you.

How did this all come from oatmeal, you ask? Parent Bloggers Network has teamed up with The Quaker Oats Company to spread the word about the Start with Substance campaign to donate up to one million bowls of oatmeal to those in need. Go to www.startwithsubstance.com for more information.

This post was written for Parent Bloggers Network as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by The Quaker Oats Company. This is making me hungry; bring out the raisins and the cinnamon!

Share and Enjoy !


>Reclaiming the den

>”Can we take the tree down tonight?”
“Absolutely not on my agenda.”
“But the Maids are coming tomorrow!”

Let me be clear. I am not wealthy. The Maids are on the order of a cleaning service, a group of people who come in once every four weeks to do the main cleaning chores in our home. I have the utmost respect for them (and tip them every single time) because I really detest cleaning. They clean the floors, the toilets, the bathtubs, and the sinks – all the dirty and grimy places I can’t stand. The Maids will be the last item I cut as we adjust our family budget for the tightening economy.

But I digress. I really started this post thinking about the den, the mantel full of Christmas decorations, and the rapidly-drying Christmas tree. I like to have the tree down before the Maids’ visit because they vacuum and dust, and that’s exactly what I need done after the holiday decor goes back in the basement. This year the post-Santa cleaning visit arrived closer to Christmas than usual, so we weren’t ready to deal with the tree.

So here it is, already the second week in January. I’m back to school, Husband is luckily (according to him) not working any play-off games, but Amigo is gearing up for final exams and I’m busily gathering data for Semester I report cards. Who will take the tree down, and when will it finally happen?

Most years we get the tree down and the knick-knacks stored within a few days of the New Year. The Maids sweep and vacuum any needles we’ve missed and leave the place looking Christmas-free. This year, I’m going to end up doing it all myself because no one, but no one else is interested in helping out.

No help? I’ll be like the little Red Hen. See if I bake any cookies for the lazy family this weekend. Not if I have to do it all. by. myself.

Parent Bloggers Network is looking for more stories about the holiday clean-up. If you’d like to post on the topic and link to them, go to their main blog. SCJohnson’s new website also gives cleaning advice… for the dreaded day that I stop the cleaning service!

Share and Enjoy !


>So the Grinch said

>He didn’t stop Christmas from coming: it came!
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes, or bags.
He puzzled and puzzled ’til his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store?
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?
–How the Grinch stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss

I’m giving some gifts from stores (brick & mortar and online), some from my kitchen, and some from creative secondhand shopping. I’ve taken to heart the thoughts of wrapping, though. I don’t like the waste or the cost of commercial wrapping paper, so this year I’m working on alternatives.

– The bags protecting the newspaper have been red lately. Tie at each end with curling ribbon or twist ties, and the package looks like a great big piece of candy!
– Seasonal grocery bags have simple but nice graphics; cut them out, add them to the fireplace motif wrapping.
– All this wrapping material will get recycled or thrown away. Don’t get attached to it. But who gets attached to wrapping paper anyway?
– There’s always Wordle.net!
– Martha doesn’t live here. Really. And it’s okay.

This goal was born of my environmental streak. The frugal piece is a byproduct of the green, but a valid one. I haven’t purchased wrapping paper, ribbons or tags, boxes or bags. It lets me focus our budget dollars on the gifts, the keepers, rather than the byproduct that ends up in the trash. And even with my lack of scrapbooking skills, I’m having fun thinking of new ways to make the wrapping look nice.

If Dr. Seuss wrote about gift wrap, he might suggest:

What if wrapping, itself, didn’t come from a store.
What if thoughful gift wrapping meant just a bit more?
Just reuse the boxes, the ribbons, the tags.
Make use of the packaging, boxes, and bags.
If you and your clan enjoy Christmas each year,
Be nice to your budget, the message is clear.

Parent Bloggers Network and FFDA are working together to find out how families are handling this holiday season, adapting financially and in other ways to make the season less overwhelming. FFDA is an organization that provides support and counseling year round, not just at Christmas.

Share and Enjoy !


>Juggling — literally and figuratively

>In the final graduate class toward my Masters Degree, all of the class members were describing their personal growth and professional progress as they had passed through the program cycle. We were seated in a circle, my friend Sara next to me, and Deb was showing us a collection of photos that represented critical points in her educational journey. The classroom windows were tall and narrow and far apart, so only those of us sitting exactly in the right place could see outside. Beyond the window behind Deb, on an entrance road that passed rather close to the building, a juggler appeared.
Yes, a juggler. Big yellow shoes, baggy black clown pants, bowling-pin style clubs spiraling through the air. Sara and I exchanged glances, then looked back at Deb and tried to concentrate. The juggler walked on, and a parade of dog-walkers following him. This group of people — it had to be at least 75 to 100, just counting the two-legged folk — strode along as though they were marching for a cause (which was probably the case!). By this time, Sara and I could no longer look at each other. The longer the line went on, the closer we came to laughing. As the dogs and their humans paraded down the road out of sight, a helicopter landed on the campus lawn. Yes, a helicopter.
Deb had no idea.
Sara and I held onto our composure and used our best drama skills to at least feign focus until Deb was done. During our next break, we told her the whole story. Truth is stranger than fiction, and this was one of the strangest things to happen to us during grad school.
Five years later, we are still friends. Deb’s a fabulous teacher and a great juggler herself, a mother of three and teacher in a low-income school in our fair district. Her sense of humor took her through the cycle of graduate classes and served her yet again when we informed her of the sights she hadn’t even known were competing for our attention.
As the new year looms closer and my personal juggling act gathers momentum, I can’t help but think of the juggler who started the whole crazy parade outside the graduate school window. The symbolism remains strong; we might never know how many people around us are juggling. I won’t even try to address potential symbolism in the helicopter landing.

Parent Bloggers Network and BigTent asked bloggers to chronicle their goals and changes for 2009. For me, life always come down to the juggling act. This is a true story, a post renewed and revised one more time.
I’d love to get my act together and maybe even take it on the road for a while. But for now, I’d be satisfied to successfully juggle all the balls that life throws at me. Want to join my circus? Watch your step; the dogs are often a hard act to follow.

Share and Enjoy !


>I’ll take Blog Blasts for a thousand, Alex

>You might be a Jeopardy addict if:

You think the Before and After category on Wheel of Fortune is wimpy (Whistle a Happy Tune-p? Try Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pub).
You phrase average everyday responses in the form of a question.
Your thumbs twitch when you’re watching the show.
Your cell phone’s ring tone is Jeopardy’s “Think Music.”
You talk about Ken Jennings as if you knew him personally (Ken would know this one).
You get upset when a contestant doesn’t know something you think is obvious (It’s Gerald McBoingBoing!).
You know exactly how long the commercial break is between the Final Jeopardy category and Final Jeopardy itself.
You plan suppertime around the evening show.
When the college alumni office calls, you offer to make a donation only if the caller can answer a trivia questions.
Kids tournaments make you wonder how you can get your students on the show.
College tournaments make you want to fix up your daughter with the hot champion who might be almost as smart as she is.
The show “Who wants to be a Millionaire” seems too easy because it offers choices and (gasp) lifelines.

When you pose a question to someone else, you hum the final Jeopardy theme song.

And finally the sign that Merv Griffin counted on you for ratings: You know you’re a Jeopardy addict if —
You actually know the title of the Jeopardy theme song!

This post suggested by Parent Bloggers Network and their partner du jour, Oliebollen.com. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what Oliebollen’s “fun stuff for kids” really means, but they’re offering an Arm Chair Holiday Shopping Sweep that sounds, if not like a Daily Double, pretty darn fun!
Oh, the theme song? Hint: Merv Griffin’s wife. What is……

Share and Enjoy !


>Bake it yourself; I’ll Can it and Wrap it

>”I’m going to Fleet Farm. I need canning jars.”
“Mom, you have a case of canning jars in the basement!”
“No, I used them up!”
“Can’t you wait?”
“No, they’ll be on sale now. And the real canners will buy them out if I don’t hurry.”

The truth comes out: My name is Daisy, and I don’t can.
I grow the vegetables.
I cook the vegetables.
I freeze the sauces and soups.
But I don’t can.

So why on Earth do I need canning jars?

For Gifts in a Jar, of course!!

I received a gift like this several years ago and I just loved the concept. I invested in two Jar books, one for cookies and one for bars, and I’ve given some of these every Christmas. It’s just the dry ingredients, layered nicely to look artistic, with the recipe attached. People always enjoy them. I enjoy picking out the recipes, making sure I have the right ingredients, and then putting the jars together. Wrapping is simple, too. I use a fair amount of (reusable) tissue to cushion the jar, then put it in a (reusable or reused) gift bag. It takes time, and time is precious. But time is also a gift, and this is one way I can show my coworkers I appreciate all they time they spend on the students we share.

So back to the beginning. Did I make it to Fleet Farm in time to get a case of quart-sized canning jars? Yes and no. I got the jars, but they were all out of wide-mouth. I had to buy the standard size. Wide-mouth is easier for packing in flour and sugar and chocolate chips and raisins. Next year I’ll get there earlier to beat the rush.

This post was not sponsored by Gifts in a Jar, but here’s the link if you’d like the books. I see they’ve expanded beyond the cookies and bars that I usually give. The blog blast is, however, based on a topic suggested by Klutz, publishers of activity and craft books, and the omnipresent Parent Bloggers Network.

I think I’ll browse the other blog blasts and sigh in envy at those bloggers with actual crafty talents.

Share and Enjoy !


>The Most Scariest Time of the Year!


To the tune of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”
It’s the most scariest time of the year.
With incumbents campaigning
The pundits complaining
And bending your ear…
It’s the most scariest time of the year!!

My “kids” are too old to trick or treat, but they’re not too old to enjoy the holiday and the candy that comes with it. They’re of different minds about the upcoming “holiday” on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November, however. Amigo would mute every political commercial and hide the campaign signs in the front lawn. La Petite, however, enjoys experiencing political events through the lense of her camera and proudly wears an Obama/Biden button on her backpack.

My household costumes won’t qualify for the cutest or the most creative of the 2 and under set, and I doubt they’d work for over 3 either. But Halloween fun? No one is too old for that!

Here are the Three Blind Mice: three intermediate teachers.
Amigo loaned them an old white cane so they could make theirs look more authentic.

Here’s a rabbit auditioning for a part in a Monty Python movie as the Beast Like No Other.

And last, but not least, here’s a cow masquerading as a rabbit. Or vice-versa. You decide.

Parent Bloggers Network has links to number of this weekend’s Blog Blast posts and the Blurb/PBN Flickr pool as well. Blurb is a book publishing platform that anyone, yes, even you, can use. They’re the sponsor of this blast. Nope, don’t feel disillusioned, I wrote this post for fun. I’m not even eligible for the photo contest this time. Blog blasts are fun, with a contest element involved sometimes.

Share and Enjoy !


>Pass the Timothy Hay, please!

>Come feeding time, pets let us know they’re hungry. Even bunnies have their own way of saying, “Feed me, Seymour!!”
Peanut, the tricky little fellow who convinced his lady friend Sadie to chew through our alarm clock cord, used to climb up on the back of the couch and stare at us at feeding time. If I tried to put it off too long, Peanut would gradually approach me until he was sitting almost on my shoulder. By that time I’d usually end up laughing at him, so I’d go get carrots and greens for my little furball.
The bigger furball, the one by the name of Buttercup, likes to hang out near me and chew on various and sundry toys like cardboard boxes and firewood. When she starts chewing on furniture or carpet, it means I’ve waited to long to get out the food. What now?
Butters, as we call her, doesn’t need a lot of food. In fact, we overfed her for a while. The vet told us to put her on a diet and encourage exercise. Exercise? How does a conscientious pet owner exercise a rabbit? If you find out, drop me an email. I’m still working on it.
Official feeding time isn’t the only time our bunnies show their feisty personalities. Peanut loves anything salty. He and Sadie will run into the room and harrass anyone who dares eat popcorn or chips. We’ve tried feeding them right before we bring in the popcorn, but it doesn’t work. It’s like chocolate to a woman with PMS. Yes, that bad.
Buttercup, the big friendly furry bunny that weighs almost double the other two put together, isn’t a popcorn and potato chip eater. However, Amigo has to guard anything fruity or sweet. The big bunny with the bovine appearance will attack and plunder a serving of fruit snacks or a fruit roll-up, and forget hoarding those gushers. Suddenly you’ll see what it’s like when the Beast like No Other attacks.
If we spoil our small (and not so small) furry creatures, it’s in their attention and their living quarters. We have an outdoor playpen for the pet rabbits to use in good weather. We brush them, make sure their nails get clipped regularly, and buy organic carrots (with greens attached!) at the farmers’ market. I have to admit, though, we feed them the garden cast offs, too, like the broccoli stalks and the old bean vines. It’s not all gourmet academy salads.
Feeding, changing the litter boxes, brushing their fur, or showering them with TLC, the bunnies are no effort at all compared to the unconditional love they give us all the time.
The iDog might not masquerade as the Easter Beagle, but it won’t cost much to feed, either. It won’t shed or chew on your shoelaces. Get one at Burger King (watch out for the guy in the tights and the creepy mask) until November 2. Maybe this critter can keep your child busy while you’re waiting in line at the polls on the 4th!
This post was written for Parent Bloggers Network as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by Burger King Corp. I’ll have a burger; you can keep the king. Seriously.

Share and Enjoy !



>It’s not a living room by title, but we live in our den. It’s a small and cozy room, complete with television (HD, of course), and a fireplace. The “boys” watch TV, I read books and blog on my laptop, and we all have “den tailgate parties” when we’re feeling kinda Sunday, I mean when we’re watching NFL football.

Amigo, age 16, watches college football. Husband watches Survivor, Ghosthunters, and the Antiques Road Show. Me? I’m happy with Jeopardy and Green Bay Packer games.

But when we live in this small space for too long, it gets crowded. Overloaded. Messed up. It becomes (drum roll) the Cave. It gets so full it’s hard to walk through the room!

Buttercup manages, though. I hope she can find her way out again. She managed last Christmas; I’m sure she can handle football season.

Bill Me Later sponsored this blog blast, while Parent Bloggers Network inspired bloggers to post their own versions of the Man Cave. If you have a Man Cave, complete with Cave Relics, you can enter a contest for a new and improved Man Cave by submitting photos and video here!

Share and Enjoy !