Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Scottness Monster

Child protective services showed up at our house. Only Tommy was home, but at 12 years old, we were pretty sure we were on solid legal ground leaving him there for a few hours. The worker told Tommy she "just wanted to know the truth", which left Tommy somewhat flummoxed. "Sure!" he replied.

While Erik and I counted down our frontmost marginal parenting decisions of the past few weeks (the list was surprisingly long and impressive array of missteps and mistakes), he made an appointment for the worker to come back and talk to him and the boys, both alone and separate. I was working, and although I was curious....I wasn't too worried. Turned out it was about Scotty, and the alarm had to have been sounded by summer camp the week before.

When the worker showed up, she explained that Scotty had spilled some water at camp and severely over reacted. Crying, scared, etc. When the camp counselor questioned him, and tried to reassure him that this was not a tragedy, Scotty burst out with, "I get hit! My brother gets hit! My mom gets hit!" Which, really, is only tragically, hilariously funny because none of those things is true. Erik literally laughed when she told him.

"He's just talking. [did not add: out his ass] You'll understand when you meet him." He left the room and went to play guitar while she talked to the kids. He left the door open and could hear her laughing. "Scotty, are you afraid of anything?" Scotty:  "Yes! Have you seen the big yellow tractor at Yolore's house!" 

File marked "unfounded" complaint.

It's hard to explain Scotty. He's a very quirky, unusual kid. But if you meet him...well, no explanation needed. :D He has an insane vocabulary, that he uses totally appropriately. Example: We were at the top of the ferris wheel, overlooking the fair. What six year old wouldn't say "I'm looking for Aunt Karen"? Scotty:  "I'm trying to locate Karen." When he sees a red mini van: "That's a version of your car, just a different color." When he's done: "Set a course for home." (Trekies unite!) 

He practices Extreme Walking and will move furniture all over the house so he can bounce and twist and flip his way through without ever touching the floor. He exhibits mild (in some cases) to moderate (in most cases) OCD behaviors. My brother has called him Monk, after the slightly obsessed tv character, since Scotty was two years old.

He's obsessed with death and dying, and earnestly needs me to reassure him, not occasionally, that human beings can, in fact, live to be 100. But I always gently add, "Scotty...everybody dies. If you live, you have to die. It's nothing to be afraid of. The important thing is to love each other with all the days we're given." I always tell him this while I hold his hand.  Yet, when a small mouse (meant to be eaten by the classroom snake) passed away before he could be swallowed, Scotty cried over his cage and told me it was "his destiny" to use his "energies" to help the dead mouse. He shut his eyes tight and said "I will give some of my life, so he can live." Sometimes, all a mama can do is hug a boy tight and whisper "shhhh" in his ear.

My mom tells me he's indulged and thinks he's the way he is because somehow, he's spoiled? I still don't understand it, actually. He is who he is; marvelously, gloriously, impossibly different Scotty, and very often, I don't know what to say or do with him...but I love him even when I can't understand him, and I try hard not to be impatient with his quirky ways, even when he's so different from me I don't know how to start. He hates change. The first day of anything causes such anxiety and panic in him that he slowly decombusts over his morning routine, until finally he's rolled in a ball, crying, and whispering, "Nobody loves me." I curl myself around him and hug him...."Mama loves you, Scotty. Mama knows this: you get so nervous on the first day! But mama also knows this: you are so happy and smart and kind...this day is going to be a great day. And I'm going to hold your hand, and you're going to get through this part, because there's a lot of fun waiting for you on the other side. I'm here to remind's always this hard for you....but only at first."

Lately, I've noticed that he queues up miscellaneous physical ailments. A jammed finger, a splinter, a stubbed toe....I think he feels it's acceptable to cry over these things, instead of how he's feeling. When he does this lately, I hug him and rock him and tell him..."Scotty, it's normal to feel this way. It's okay to cry when you're feeling scared or lonely or sad or angry." Scotty: "But my finger's my finger!" I know, honey. I know.

I'm so afraid of disappointing him. What if he needs something I do not have? I think...there are times, thinking about my responsibilities as his mom, when I need somebody to hug me tight and whisper "shhh" in my ear. Here's what I know: I love him. I love my children. My story didn't even exist until theirs started.

I hope that's enough.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Late Summer Garden

 summer squash
 jungle out there
 pumpkins (LOVE)
 seriously....a jungle

So many cucumbers! Lots of green tomatoes, but it's been a bad year for tomatoes. Not one tomato has been harvested! I wonder if it's the same all over? I have been too busy to know what is happening in the tomato world.

August is a bit of a blur for me at the moment...two birthday boys ate many cupcakes and I worked for two weeks and the boys went to day camp (LOVE) and I worked hard...setting up my classroom and STILL wasn't quite ready for the first day of school two days ago. 

It's foggy these mornings....I'm feeling quiet and open to possibilities. I started taking a writing class on Monday evenings (worst. timing. ever.) and as you can see from this stellar blog post...that shit works! ;)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Before and During

I've been keeping very busy the last few weeks. I was overtaken by the urge to completely overhaul my classroom. Several contributing factors led me to go through every file, box, closet, cupboard, and drawer. I have been purging, recycling, donating, gifting, and tossing like....well, frankly, like it isn't my own stuff. Do you know that feeling? I love when I feel completely detached from STUFF and I like to take advantage of those periods of time. Teachers (elementary school teachers, in particular) are notorious hoarders. But I had three big steel file cabinets in my room....representing 15 cumulative years of teaching 5 different grade levels AND five years of being a math coach....and 90% of what was in those filing cabinets.....went straight into the recycling or the "free to good home box". I pushed those empty cabinets into the hallway and I feel about 2000% better already.

But more than just cleaning, and organizing, I've taken a big leap and I'm actually....well, I guess the word I'm looking for is "decorating". There are teachers who LOVE to make bulletin boards and pick a "theme" each year....The Beach, then The Rainforest, then Western, and on and on. Then there is me. I do not. I gladly leave up the backings for three years (and they were kindly left up by the person who had the room before me! lol) and have students staple up work when the mood strikes.

But I don't hit me this summer that I would nest into my classroom, the same way I nest into my home. And I'm never going to be what I am not, but I was suddenly inspired to be a much better "what I am".

So here are some befores and some durings, as I am not done.

 Here's something funny. I typically think of my closets as pretty organized. It's not unusual for me to even have some empty shelves in my closets, so this before picture of the first two kinda shocks even me. But, at the end of the year, things that are usually out and about in the classroom need to be stowed away in favor of a deep cleaning (our custodians work their butts off all summer! love them!) so that accounts for some of the haphazard look. But not all of it, no sir.
Here is the first closet. Bottom three shelves (blue, then white, then repurposed green worm bin haha!) are all base ten math materials. units, tens, hundreds, and thousands. Need them.
Next shelf is a box with my unit on rocks (a box of rocks! only a teacher!), a box of multiplication array cards, and on top, a box AND two tubs of dice - dice!!!! - and three big jars of assorted beans. If you're wondering about my mental health, so am I. SO MANY DICE. I actually labeled the box of dice with a small sign that says "OMG Dice" haha. For some reason, everything I touched had some number of small paperclips and dice. I cannot explain, but if you need either, give me a call.
 Nothing fancy here, and I've already emptied those shelves and am separating those books into "staying" and "giving away", but $7.50 for a shower curtain, rings, and a tension rod never looked so good in my opinion. And a coat of black paint makes EVERYTHING better, including two cement garden blocks and a shelf I found that, it seems, was once part of that very bookshelf.

 Speaking of black paint, I'm looking at you writing cupboard. This is a during and after, technically, since in the photo on the left I've already painted the top and sides with the black paint. Picture the "oak" veneer on the sides and straight up board on top, since the oak veneer panel had popped off long before I moved into the classroom. Contact paper left over from pantry (surprisingly easy to apply...I had certainly anticipated much cursing, but it was a pleasant 6 minutes) and it's no longer being used for writing.
 These are the extra math materials (a lot of these will come out and go into individual bags the students keep at their desks) and the shelves where their Problem Solving Journals are kept. The kids can use all of these at will.
 Black paint for all (love you black paint!) and some Dollar Store scrapbook paper....and the afters are so much nicer! In the after picture, I have the cubby facing the "wrong" direction because on top is a stacking 'inbox' system I use to keep their math folders. It only fits on the cubby in this direction, so for now, this makes the most sense to me. We'll see if the orientation is a problem once The Squirrels move in. Oh, why can't they keep these in their desks? Because they aren't allowed to. Things in their desks get ripped, lost, spilled on, stuck to.....and, whatever else. No desks for you!
 Before: 24 cubbies. These were when K-3 had 20 students. Each student was assigned a cubby for....I don't know? Homework? Book storage? Mail? I have no idea, but the tell-tale stickers of student names (students I've never even met who are, I'm assuming, driving by now) and generally grungy appearance has been hidden for three years under.....uh, MORE math bins. haha What can I say? I'm a hammer, so everything I see is a nail.
 During: Meet my new writing center. Black paint on the sides and run across the fronts, more Dollar Store scrapbook paper and this showstopper is going places. 24 cubbies for a writing center, you ask? Oh, it's full.

Anyway, I've been working, painting, sorting, tossing, and organizing. Feels good! Something more interesting soon, I promise :) and Michelle, I haven't forgotten about you... I have Disney opinions, believe me!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I have had the busiest few the very laziest of ways. I don't know how else to describe it! My days are full of gardening, hanging out with my boys, cooking, doing endless mind-numbing chores around my (thankfully) small and manageable home, and working. Yes, working. Teachers typically work all summer. But, here's the beauty of summer work: we only work on what we WANT to work on. So summer is a time of creativity, reflection, and productive output the likes of which you cannot fathom from the whirlwind that is our gig from September to June. I am having a blast and falling in love with all things classroom once again. Soon enough the boys head off during the days for their beloved summer camp, and I'll be giving two one-week workshops at the same time. So scheduling and rushing and real work looms ahead...but for now, I'm quietly and happily puttering around in this Land of Nod between the past and the future.

A few pics from our short, oh-so-sweet romp at DisneyLand. Every year we go, and every year it is better than the last year. This time, we met my brother's kids and his ex-wife for a day and we had a blast. Can't wait to see them in a couple of weeks.

 (fyi: that IS a space mountain astronaut t-shirt my honey is wearing. LOVE)
 The new CarsLand at California Adventure is sooooo gooooood! The new Radiator Springs ride is AWESOME!!!!!!!  

Do you want to hear about how we got there at 7am, for a park that opens at 8am, to stand in line for a fast pass that opened at 9am, so that we could get on a ride that didn't even open until 11am? And do you want to hear about how, when I picked up my family set of fast passes at 9:15am, they were already for a return ride between 3:15 and 4:15? Do you want to hear about how, when I met up with the rest of my family and we strolled by that very fast pass outlet not 30 minutes later....the entire ride had 'sold out' of fast passes for the rest of the day and night? The hapless folks who didn't leave their hotels at 6:30 am to get tickets (haha! #winning! wait.) had to wait 2 hours and 10 minutes in the standby line. Because of a fluke, our kids got to ride twice (and we each rode once) during the designated hour only using two of our four fast passes (one of the kids we traveled with that day had a pretty severe disability, and had a special pass that we all got to use). So we were able to gift two of our fast passes to a man and his son, as they took their positions at the end of that line.

 Scotty was all arrrrrgh matey! on this trip. He bought (I bought him) one of those scopes after one of our many turns on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (don't mind if we do go again, son, it is one of my favorites too!) and he was checking to see when the "pirate ship" was coming. It's actually their "Columbia" ship ride, but try telling him it wasn't a pirate ship.
Being a pirate is hard, lonely work. But well worth the sacrifices.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Zucchini Bread*



My mom and I both planted zucchini and that was, I assure you, a tragic mistake. I may have planted two. Nobody needs more than one. And one to share? Probably about right. Already, I have a dozen of the squash ripening on ONE of my plants. At my mom's house the other day, I was rooting around in her garden (as you do) and pulled out a zucchini that was roughly the size of a three month old baby. You don't want to lose track of a squash for a week. They will balloon to Jurassic proportions overnight.

So I brought it home, because she was already dealing with more zucchini than she cared to, and really, squash doesn't taste as good when it gets that big. So I cut it up and made zucchini chocolate chip loaves. I've made 6. I'm about halfway through this one zucchini. Really, now.

I've immediately removed the loaves from my home, via friends and neighbors, and so far, I haven't eaten any. Of course, that could change, since six more loaves are in my future, though I'm currently out of chocolate chips so it will wait a little bit. I think I'll do four loaves and then make a couple dozen muffins.

Anyway, this bread smells so good, and looks so amazing, I'll share the recipe. It's an old recipe, not unlike other zucchini bread recipes, I have to guess. But it's the one my mom taught me, and it's a keeper. Same recipe for loaves or muffins, and the recipe makes two loaves.

This is a quick bread, and nothing could be easier. Mix dry ingredients together, mix wet ingredients together in a separate bowl, then combine wet and dry, add the walnuts and chocolate chips, then bake at 350 for 50 minutes (two loaf pans) or 25 minutes (muffins).

Dry ingredients: 3 c flour, 1/2 c sugar, 1 c brown sugar, 1 tsp each baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt

Wet ingredients: 3 eggs, 2 cups shredded zucchini (leave the skins on yum), 2 tsp vanilla, 3/4 c vegetable oil

1/2 - 1 c chopped walnuts
1.5 c chocolate chips

I use pam spray on two 9x5 loaf pans. Each is filled halfway, pre-baking, by this recipe. Yum yum!

(This freezes really well. I slice it first, so I can pull out a few slices at a time, and then wrap it in wax paper then aluminum wrap. Muffins can be frozen in freezer bags.)

* I had to look up how to spell zucchini. It is not, as it turns out zuchhini, zuchinni, or zuccinni. Just saying.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


We woke up this morning to a rather blustery day....overcast and windy, it finally cleared up around 2pm and although it's glorious now, it was just gloomy enough to require a quick batch of 'homemade donuts' in the morning.

"homemade" in quotes because they start and end with these:

For some reason, a package of these biscuits has been in my refrigerator. Easy enough to make biscuits at home, I can't account for why I would have these....a monster sale? left at a potluck? I have no recollection. If these are your biscuits, and we just ate them, I apologize.

Anyway, pop open a package (or three) and separate the doughy disks. I heated some organic vegetable shortening (healthy! #winning!) in the electric skillet. I have no authority in these matters, but used the 375 degree setting, in case you are inclined to try these but are as clueless as I am.

When the oil was good and heated, I plopped all ten biscuit doughs right in, browned for a minute, then used silicon tongs to flip them and brown on the other side for a minute. I pulled them all out and onto a paper towel, then rolled them in a bowl of sugar/cinnamon mixed together. No idea how much of either, I keep an old jam jar full of it for cinnamon toast, and I just used whatever was in there. Repeat from the top, when serving my kids.

That's it. Seriously. I didn't even bother with punching holes. And you know what? Not bad at all. A tasty (and more importantly....easy) impromptu treat for a dreary morning!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I love the fair! I even love the rides. We are at DisneyLand this week, and we take both our boys on every single ride....Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain Railroad, Matterhorn, Splash Mountain, just doesn't matter. We encourage the last car, the first car, HANDS UP EVERYONE, and I never bat an eye.

But there's something about a fair ride, isn't there? The "thrill" of these "thrill rides" comes from getting a close up look at the carnies who are responsible for transporting, constructing, and operating these creaky, broke-ass monstrosities. The excitement comes from not knowing if this thing is going to shake apart completely, hurling you across the park.

Good times.