Archive | February, 2012

Expanding Their Horizons

29 Feb

Remember that really great field trip my kids went on the other day?  I feel it really helped them mature.

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Seeing the World One Job at a Time

27 Feb

Let it be known, I’m not just a homeschooler.  I’m a stay-at-home-schooler.

I’m not a huge fan of leaving the house, and not just because doing so means making sure five children are dressed, shod, and buckled safely in the ‘mobile.  No, I just like being home, it’s cozy, warm, and welcoming, plus, diapers and milk are always close at hand.  Well, almost always.

So days like today, that involved field trips to Papa Murphy’s, an outing with friends to Frederick Meijer Gardens, a dentist appointment, and swimming lessons, wear me out.  I’m  a certifiable wimp.

I suppose this is a result of living a pretty stay-at-school childhood back at our cozy one-room.  Though, as a child I lived for field trip days.  They only came once a year.  Well, unless you count trips to other rural schools for hearing and vision screenings, school pictures, and spelling bees.  I did, for sure.  Shoot, other than planning the best method to cheat the eye exam, the entire night before Health Check Day was spent picking out the perfect outfit.

But the official Field Trip was strictly annual.  Once a spring we would all pile in our teacher’s car and set out on what we considered a grand adventure.  In retrospect they probably should have been called Town Trips since we were leaving our corn surrounded school and heading toward civilization for the majority of our outings.

There were a few big journeys beyond town, but most years our field trips took us no further than the seven miles in to Ainsworth.  Once there, we toured the library, the courthouse, the jail, the feedstore, the newspaper and the bank.

When I was serving jury duty a couple of weeks ago the prosecution asked every potential juror if they had ever visited the jail.  She really didn’t want anyone who had, and since I was anxious to be on a jury, I was having quite the internal struggle over how to answer the question.  In truth, I’d been to the Brown County Jail.  Several times.  I’m pretty sure one of the years there was even someone in the men’s part, because that time we only got to see the single female cell.

Other memories of the trips are just as vivid.  At the bank they once generously gave us ballpoint pens stuffed with shredded dollar bills, even though I had proudly announced to the kind banker that my parents kept their money at the Other Bank.  At the library I typically name-dropped that the other librarian always let me recard the books every Saturday while Stacy was at storytime.  And despite my track record for rude behavior, I don’t think I ever told the people at the newspaper how many typos we’d counted in the latest Star Journal as we stood in awe of the whirling miles of print streaming before us.  But if I had, this blog would be now open for their revenge.

So, despite my grown-up hermitish attitude, it pleased me to see the boys getting a good “this is how we do business” tour on their field trip this morning.  Plus, if they ever decide that they wish to make 60 lbs. of pizza dough they now have that skill set.

And although they didn’t fret over what to wear, well, there was that brief debate about whether or not “comfy pants” were acceptable, I think they really looked forward to getting out of the house and being about town, so we might just have to schedule some more field trips.

But just in case they ever want to serve on a jury, I’ll steer clear of taking them to jail.

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It’s Not All Snakes, and Snails, and Puppy-Dog Tails

22 Feb

Don’t worry, I’ve cut them off.

Now, if I could only locate their source of Vim.

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An Explanation

21 Feb

A few weeks ago my eldest says to me, “Mom, when I grow up I want to be one of those people who plays the giant piano thing during church…” Awesome. My son, the organist. I love it. I’m sure his Organist Aunt loves it even more. I can see them now, discussing Trompette Stops and Soft-soled Shoes.
He finished his adulthood dream with this, “…oh, AND I really REALLY want to be a video game tester.” Awesome. My son, the nerd. I love it. I’m sure his Nerd Dad loves it even more. I can see them now, discussing Koopa Troopas and Joysticks.

My son’s realization led to a discussion with a friend of what we had wanted to be when we grew up. Strangely enough, both of us had wanted to be dolphin trainers. Nebraska Girls Dream Big. And realistically.

What hadn’t I dreamed of being? Well, a lot of things, I guess. I never wanted to be a lawyer. Or a doctor. I had no designs to be a window cleaner or even a secretary. And I never considered being a Mom or a Teacher. What? Did you read that wrong? I’m sure not (although I’m not you). Nope. Hadn’t even thought about it.

What am I today? A Mom. A Teacher. Who knew?

I’d like to discuss the latter. See, initially I became a mom, which inspired me to want to be a teacher. Then I became a mom again while still having aspirations to become a teacher. Mom again, while working towards fulfilling the teacher dream. Teacher. Mom. The more Mom I became, the more Teacher I became, but the less Leave-the-house-to-teach-other-children I became. Get it?

Here’s where it gets confusing (yes, here). I finally figured out that what I really truly wanted to be when I grew up was a Mom (with a minor in teaching my own offspring). But, alas, turning into both a mom AND a teacher put a bit of a dink in our bank account. So, now, here I am. A  teacher. Full-time.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a really cool job. I’m a Title I Teacher. It’s one of those challenging/rewarding/pride-inducing/bash-your-head-into-a-wall jobs. Cool. I can go for that.

But, I miss my children desperately. I miss this blog desperately. I miss sweat pants desperately.

If you’ve been wondering where I am, that’s it. Molding minds and all. I promise I’ll come back. In the meantime you all are SO lucky, because you will be inundated with the wit and wiles of my sister more than usual.  Hoorah for us all!

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Trial and Error

20 Feb

A week ago today I was doing my civic duty of the jury type.   I was not chosen to serve.  It was a great disappointment, because I’m one of those weird people who has always wanted jury duty.

I blame my jury desire on Mock Trial.  In High School we had an awesome Mock Trial team.  Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  We had a reasonably decent Mock Trial team.  But by the time my sister was a senior they had an awesome Mock Trial team –  Second in the State Awesome, awesome.  Then by the time our Schwester Rachel was in High School they were Super Awesome – competing at the National Level Super Awesome.

I like to think I laid the foundation for all that awesomeness.

Mrs. Rau celebrates a win, don't worry, back then a good guttural fist pull was still cool.

No, actually I don’t delude myself at all.  The Awesome Foundation for that team was our coach, Mrs. Rau.  Awesome doesn’t even really begin to cover her leadership skills.  The woman knows how to make impish, hormonal, flighty, self-centered teens focus on big tasks, work hard, and strive for superior results.

She didn’t cut us any slack, and yet at the same time she never let us appear foolish.  For me, this was a particularly important quality to have in a coach.  I’m sure you can’t possibly imagine this, but I was prone to acts of stupidity back in the day.

For instance, there was the time we arrived at a meet two hours away, only to discover I had forgotten shoes.  It wasn’t like I trekked that far in my stocking feet, but we traveled in comfy attire so as not to wrinkle our grown-up, professional, attorneyish wear.  When we donned our suits in the restrooms of the Custer County Courthouse my toes were left naked on the cold tile floor.

I don’t know what other coaches would do in this situation, but Mrs. Rau grabbed me (and not by the ear, although I’m sure she was tempted,) her purse, and the keys to the school van and off we rushed to the local TG&Y.

If you’re not from the Middle of Nowhere you’ve probably never had the TG&Y/Pamida/Alco experience.  Let me set the stage for you.  Think of Walmart*.  Now, reduce the inventory by 75% paying special attention to keep the really unusual and odd items, up the prices by 30% and add some grunge.  Now that you’re there, come down the shoe aisle.

As you can imagine, this is where you would find the really odd stuff.  But it didn’t matter, I just needed something to replace the holey Payless pleather loafers in which I shuffled.  Anything in an 8 1/2 that didn’t scream “I’m 17!” or worse, “I’m 84!,” was going to work just fine.

And then it happened – that moment when the steel-sheeted roof opened to reveal golden clouds, the fluorescent lights were replaced with a celestial glow, and the angel choruses drowned out the musak:

There were my Mock Trial Shoes.

They were gorgeous.  The unbelievable color was a deep plum that matched my boxy Mock Trial suitcoat and paisley skirt as if they were all born in the same dye lot.   The heels told all potential witnesses that their testimony was in my capable hands and feet.  The tight gold and purple knot that adorned the pumps let everyone know that when I said, “Objection”  I meant, “Objection.”

There are no pictures of the MTS. Instead, you'll have to imagine them under the bench in this doctored yearbook scan.

Mrs. Rau fronted me the exorbitant $40 and we strode out of rural retail heaven and into the awaiting trials.  My purple clad feet gave me the confidence to take on the world, or at least six other overly arrogant teenagers.

When my utilitarian Danskos and I filed into the court room last Monday, the first place I looked was to the lawyers’ shoes.  They both wore black.  Cute, but plain.  I pitied them for not having coaches as wonderful as Mrs. Rau.

Then again, maybe the Bar Exam has a No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service rule.

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By Both of Us

Uncheckered Pants, um, Past

18 Feb

Yesterday was a really important day, but it was also sort of a unexpectedly hectic day.  Suffice it to say that the complimentary valet service at Devos Children’s Hospital ER is super awesome, and that all Babies are improving in health.

Still worried?  Here’s a picture I just snapped a few seconds ago to prove to you they are just fine:

Anyway, yesterday was kind of difficult, so I didn’t get a chance to blog about what made it special.  February 17 is our Gramma’s birthday.  91 she turned.

So, in light of Grab Bag Special Saturday, I picked up the nearest old photo album and pulled out this 1976 shot of she, Grappa and myself.

I’m sorry, we need to address Grappa’s pants right away so we can concentrate on what a wonderful woman our grandmother is.

GET A LOAD OF THOSE PANTS!!!!

Was that enough?  Does more need to be plaid, um, I mean said about them?  Okay, good.  Let’s groove on, uh, move on.

GG (by the way, that’s what we call her since the birth of our children, G.G. for Great Grandma, get it?), so GG has always looked just like that. Her perfectly coifed hair is the result of her standing Tuesday morning appointment.  Her elegant demeanor is also unchangeable and proves comfortable leaning aside a pick-up, holding babies, volunteering for the Hospital Auxilary, leading Bible Study at the nursing home, washing dishes after family gatherings, folding church bulletins, warning her granddaughter against bossiness, and defending her husband’s choice of clothing.  All things this beautiful nonagenarian still manages to do on a regular basis.

Well, okay, she probably doesn’t have to defend Grappa’s crazy slacks anymore, but who amongst us could?

Gramma, we love you.  Happy Belated Birthday!

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AN-I-MAL!

15 Feb

Last weekend I made my 20th birthday cake for our children.  And as I have it figured, there are only about 70 more to be baked by request.

Oh goodness, I wish I hadn’t taken the time to figure that out.  It’s a little depressing.  I practically have enough to start my own Cake Wrecks Ripoff blog.  Believe me, there have been some doozies.

Just the thought of more sugar highs and glazed-over eyes makes me a little out of control.  Kind of like this guy:

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Checked Out

14 Feb

On this St. Valentine’s Day I wish to share with you a heart-broiling story of admiration and age-inappropriateness.

See, the other day I was checking out at my favorite retail center. No, you’re wrong. Although I’ve flaunted an obsessive affection for Walmart*, my true discount loving heart is at its happiest within the walls of Target. Do you feel better now?

So, anyway, there I was having my at-home hair dye (GASP) scanned by the late-teenish/early-20ish clerk when he engaged me in the following dialogue:

CLERK (Let’s call him “Boy With Infected Ear Rivets” -BWIER): You’re going to dye your hair???

ME: Yeah…….

BWEIR: Why?

ME: Roots, you know. See? (This is where I lean in to actually show him my roots. Quite probably this is also my undoing. I’m as prone to revealing too much about myself as my sister.)

BWEIR: They don’t look too bad. (Flirting initiated)

ME: No, see the white? There’s white. A lot of it.

BWEIR: I see white hair, I see a woman. (So overt!)

ME: I see a woman with four kids. (Emphasis on “four”)

BWEIR: NO! you’re too young. (Obviously heart-broken)

ME: Nope.

BWEIR: But, you don’t look old enough! (Spread it thick, kid. Spread it thick.)

ME: Oh, but I am. Remember the white hair? (Leaning in again! Lock it down, Stacy!) The hair dye? (What about the Super Mario Bros. stickers I was buying?!?!?!)

BWEIR: But your face…..(awkwardly LONG pause)……….it’s young. You have a really young face. (I knew that adult acne would pay off somewhere)

ME: Yep, well, thanks. (awkwardness) Have a good night.

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!?!?!? Wow. Wowee wow wow. Oh, to be on the receiving end of unrequited love. It’s rough, I tell you. Rough.

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My Top Ten

13 Feb

It’s Monday, and even though we’ve done very few Memory Dirt Road posts as of late, I’d like to travel down one today.  But today is not just any old Monday.  Nope, today is February 13.

That doesn’t mean it’s the day to panic because you don’t yet have flowers ordered or reservations placed for tomorrow.  And it’s not just the day you recuperate from partying hardy at Abe Lincoln’s B-day Bash.

In fact, as much as I think the 16th President’s birthday is worth a good hoorah, the birthday that has my eye and heart this day is that of my beloved.

But I think Lincoln would have liked my guy.

Here he is reading the constitution to our kids on the Fourth of July.  He’s not the kind of dad that puts exploding substances in the wee hands of his offspring.  He’s the kind that makes sure they understand why their crazy Mom made them pick color coordinating outfits to wear as they stand on the curb collecting tootsie rolls.

You know what else is all-American about my husband?  Apple Pie.  He doesn’t just eat them.  He makes them.

So you’ve got me on this one, it’s cherry, not apple.  It doesn’t really matter, it’s a Jerry Pie, and that makes it delicious.

And he can can.  He can’t can-can, but that’s okay.

Nope, sorry, you can’t have him.  He’s mine.  All mine.

You see, ten years ago this week we started our whirlwind romance.  It began with a dinner at Arnie’s on Feb. 11, a “Lincoln’s Birthday Present” for him the next day, an Ash Wednesday present for me on his birthday, a 7th/8th grade Valentine’s Day party, topped off with a first kiss on Feb. 15 and Voila!  By February 21 we were talking about wedding dates.

I know, hold on to your hat, right?  We were married just four months later.  It was utterly grand.

And it still is.

So, dear, sweet, husband-of-mine, thank you for the best decade of my life, and may we have many, many more decades together.

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Life’s a Fillet of Fish

10 Feb

Yes, it is.

It’s been one of those days.  You know the type, where every time you turn around there’s spilled milk, pencil writing on the wall, toddlers plummeting off desks, odd literary cakes to bake, leaky dirty diapers, second graders who can’t remember long vowels, knitting stitches that don’t add up, 467 small stones spilled on the floor of the unheated sunroom, and the clock reads just 10:32.

And to top it all off I’m bookless.  There is a giant void in my life where a book should be.   It’s very uncomfortable.  So this Friday you’ll have to settle for a movie/soundtrack/DVD post.  Can we all agree to dumb ourselves down for the day and let that happen?  Whew.  I’m glad.

Yes Thomas, it’s time to start the music.

Several weeks ago we checked out some old Muppet Shows from the library to occupy the hour or so of screen time that makes it possible for me to prep supper, fold laundry, talk to my sister, and visit the restroom in peace.  Go ahead, call the Good Mommy Police,  because at about 5:00 p.m., solitary confinement sounds cozy to me.

Kermit and his gang were an instant hit.  And since my tolerance for Imaginex and Planet Heroes DVD’s sometimes wains, this was a huge score.  I don’t mind having  Harry Belafonte, Julie Andrews, Paul Simon, and even Fozzie the Bear accompany my evening ritual chant of “Serenity Now!”

We kept riding that Muppet bandwagon and purchased Simeon the soundtrack from the new Muppet Movie for his birthday.  Also an instant hit. It’s been blaring out of the stereo singers (Thomas only calls them speakers if he’s playing on audiobook) during every free moment of the day, and some moments at night.  You see, the boys and I are still in negotiations about when night ends and morning begins.

My dear nephews first introduced us to the soundtrack over Christmas break, but at the time, I was blinded by a bright flashback to fourth grade.  Because on this fabulous CD is “We Built This City” by Starship – song so popular in 1985 that Stacy and I knew it.  And what that means, is that this song was really, really popular.

Our little school, all seven of us, made up a recess dance routine to perform while we belted what I now know were the incorrect lyrics across the barren corn fields.  We leapt out of swings, jumped over teeter-totters, circled the propane tank.  The song was awesome, the choreography was awesome, we were awesome.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone to contradict me – those cows are long gone.

I haven’t taught the kids the routine yet.  Hmmm . . . maybe that’s a solution to my day.  We seem to already have our own soundtrack, maybe all we really needs now is a dance number.

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