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Inconsiderate Mom Award

I’ve had a huge mental barrier about writing this post. I know that we, as normal people, hate to make ourselves look bad and open up our less than attractive traits for the world to see. However, this has been clawing at me to get out and onto “paper” since it happened.

Mother’s Day is not the easiest day for my family. I don’t demand things or gripe that it’s My Day or any of that other garbage. I’m just a horrible “receiver”.

On past Mother’s Days I have, at different times, been presented with breakfast in bed (4 hours after I was ready to be out of bed… cold food/coffee…) and a single rose (the only bloom on my rose bush in the front yard) and left all by myself for peace and quiet (while the rest of the family laughs and talks and plays during their breakfast in the kitchen). So I thank my loving, generous, and kind family… and say “Please no more breakfasts in bed… I’d much rather enjoy breakfast with you guys!” I also may or may not have grumbled about having my only rose plucked from my bush.

This year, Sierra said “I don’t know why we do breakfast for you… it never ends well.” I felt like crap that I make them feel like their gifts aren’t appreciated. The SENTIMENT is always appreciated. But I feel like if it’s a gift FOR me, it should be something I want and enjoy.

So… this Mother’s Day, I got up at my normal time and spent some time hanging out with everyone. Anna was generously, once again, trying to please the unpleasable mommy. When I went to the kitchen for my lovingly prepared breakfast, I officially requested that we start going out for brunch on Mother’s Day.

My sweet daughter had placed on a (paper) plate:

  • One apple – Rarely has she actually seen me eat one of these… and I don’t eat sugar/carbs in the morning because it makes my blood sugar spike/drop and I get sick.
  • One container of yogurt – expired
  • 3 pieces of bacon – shaped into a smiley face! AWESOMENESS
  • 1 Bagel – still cold from the refrigerator and only slightly toasted
  • Jam – see above about carbs and blood sugar

She stood in the kitchen, SO disappointed, while I put the bagel back in the toaster, threw away the yogurt, put the apple back in the fruit basket, and fried myself an egg for a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese bagel. YES I felt like shit. YES I knew I hurt her feelings. But as my friend Heather (who was visiting) said that morning “I’ve only been here 3 weeks and I know you don’t eat sugars in the morning…”inconsideratemomaward

I know that it makes my family think they can’t possibly please me. Hell, it makes ME feel like I’m completely inconsiderate and ungrateful. No amount of kisses and hugs and “thank you for trying, baby” will make her feel like less of a failure that morning. But really, who accepts gifts that make them unhappy, lonely, or physically ill?

I know I should be more laid back about receiving gifts… but I’m not. And, if you’ve known me for longer than five minutes, you’ll know I probably won’t ever be. I’m just not programmed to paste on a smile and go with the flow. So I guess that means I get the Inconsiderate Mom Award. Uh… yay me…

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Teach One To Lead One

Obligatory proud mommy moment

My mini-me graduated from the Teach One to Lead One program through Celebrate Life International, last week. According to the website, it’s a Leadership Mentoring program that promotes:

“These universal ethical principles apply to anyone, anywhere, anytime:”

Respect Integrity Self-control Courage Humility
Excellence Compassion Enthusiasm Teamwork Honor

 

In a school that is known more for its gang activity and drop-out rate than it is for its academics, I’m thrilled that the students are being exposed to such self-esteem and leadership boosting programs. Some of these teens will have few other opportunities to learn these concepts.

My whole hearted thanks go out to Pebblebrook High School and Celebrate Life International for giving so many of these kids the knowledge that there is an alternative to the life their parents have modeled.

Congratulations Sierra… I’m proud of you, and of the responsible young woman you’re growing into.

Obligatory proud mommy moment

Obligatory proud mommy moment

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On the one morning a year that my family would like for me to sleep in (so THEY can sleep in) and lounge about while they dote on me, I (of course) woke up at 5:30 am and couldn’t get back to sleep.

I played some solitaire on my phone while lying still and trying to convince myself to get another hour or two of sleep. When that didn’t work, I took the longest most luxurious hot shower I can remember ever having. Then I dried myself with my brand new (58% off clearance!) Egyptian cotton towels. YAY BLISS.

When I crept to the kitchen to start the coffee pot, I found this at my spot on the kitchen table. It definitely put a big smile on my face while I was making the coffee and folding the first load of laundry of the day.

ThroneDrawing-Anna

After Mark woke up (ok… so he rolled over in his sleep and I pounced on him and told him since he was awake it was time for him to pay attention to me), and we headed back to the kitchen for more coffee, I found this on my laptop desk in the living room:

What About Then - Anna Rhoden

Anna wrote me a poem and titled it “What About Then“:

There’s always going to be someone,

To tell you when you’re right.

To praise your work

And lift you up when you’re not in a plight.

But what about those times,

When nothing seems to go right?

When mornings aren’t as bright,

And every step forward’s an uphill fight?

What can you do,

When everything goes wrong,

And you have to hide it,

And try to be strong?

Remember these words,

Which will always ring true:

You’re perfect, mom,

And I love you.

It’s not often that they make me cry before they’re even out of bed, but there you go. I made it to the last 4 lines before I started leaking. That’s got to be a record.

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Who’s Your Momma?

I know everyone has their own spin on Mother’s Day. For my friends and family members who’ve lost their moms, this is one hell of a tough day. Brad and Jeremy, please know that my thoughts and love are with you today.

If you come from a large family, a close knit community, or a broken home… chances are that you’ve got more than one person who soothed your tears, paddled your behind, fed you, bandaged your knee, listened to you pour your heart out, gave you advice, and loved you immeasurably… in other words, more than one “Mom”. In my life, I’ve been so blessed to have many of these people.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

And Uncle Doug – I’m still trying to get the family to let me make them peanut butter gravy. They have no idea what they’re missing!

And Mama Kaye – I’ll never forget how you saved my sanity when Anna had colic.

And Mrs. D – Thank you for the hours and hours of phone time… and for raising an amazing son. He still makes all my dreams come true.

Thank you for all the good things you’ve brought to my life. I’m thinking of you today.

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A Year of Getting It All

In three weeks it will be a full year since I quit my corporate job. I was going to write a book, and build my blogs into a full time venture, and be a model wife and stay at home mom. I’m smart, capable, and pretty high energy most of the time… it was gonna be a piece of cake.

During one of our long chats about the direction I planned for this blog, the PTSA, my garden, and all of my June Cleaver dreams, my friend Jill said “Just remember that it took me a whole year to get the rhythm of our house and our life down so that I could do more than just run around like mad trying to take care of everything.” Of course, I totally knew I’d be able to walk out of the corporate world into the full time homemaking world without so much as a misstep.

I can see Jill’s facial expression in the back of my mind when I said as much. The look that says “Yeah ok… let me know how that works out for you…”

Between family emergencies, children needing to go in opposite directions at the same time, an amazing (but exhausted) husband who works long hours, house repairs, friends in need, social engagements, and trying to battle depression… I’ve spent this last year in complete overload. Except for that 2 month stretch where I gave up on it all and spent all my waking hours playing an MMORPG. As a result, NONE of the things I had on my list last year even made the Top 20 List of Priorities.

girls silly

Here we are though, at the end of year one, and I’m finally feeling like I have (most of) a grip on our life. I’m ready to take baby steps back into all of those goals I have been pushing into the closet for so long. I don’t know where this road is going to go, but I’m long past ready to find out!

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Stranger On The Road

This afternoon, on Facebook, a friend of mine wrote about a knapsack and a cardboard sign beside the road on her way home from work.  Just those few words reached into my chest and pulled out a memory so strong and poignant that tears filled my eyes the same way they did on the day it happened.

It was June or July in Georgia, so it was blisteringly hot.  I was driving to see a friend and when I pulled off the highway exit, there was a man with a large green army duffel bag, dirty blue jeans, a heavy jacket, and a hand written sign.  It’s been a few years and I couldn’t tell you what that sign said, but I can tell you that it didn’t matter.

When I saw him there, tall and thin and looking just as worn down as one of my uncles after a long tobacco season, I knew I had to do something.  With tears in my eyes, I headed straight for the closest gas station.  I bought the biggest bottle of cold water they had in the case, took $40 out of the ATM machine and drove back to the interstate to loop around and get off at the exit again.

Doug & Pete

Doug & Pete

When I pulled up beside him and rolled down my window,  he came over to the van.  I handed him the bottle of water and he smiled, thanked me, and started to back away because the light had turned green.  I stopped him though, took his hand, and put the money into it.  When he looked back up from the money in his palm, his eyes were full of tears and he swallowed hard a couple of times.

The man thanked me and asked my name.  He told me that his was Brian, and then he said that he would pray for God to bless my family as much as my kindness had blessed him.  I cried all the way home that day.  I cried when I told Mark about it.  And I have to admit that I have to swallow hard and wipe my eyes whenever I remember how that worn down man was startled to tears by the kindness of a stranger.

I don’t remember where he was going or even if I asked… but I do know that in 10 minutes one summer, a man named Brian (who looked so much like my Uncle Pete) changed the way I look at strangers on the road.

I sure hope he got home.

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Last Week, You Learned To Walk

I have no idea how time passed so quickly. They were laying you in my arms for the first time ever, just a few short months ago… surely it couldn’t have been longer than that.

And wasn’t it just last week that you were learning to walk?

annababy2

And making everyone fall in love with those round little cheeks…

annawithneal

And developing your comedic timing (I think you peaked at just about this moment)…

anna5thbirthday

And becoming the big sister that your little sisters have always looked up to…

halloweenanna

How is it possible that you became a young lady…

prom

And achieved so many milestones…

driving

And had such fantastic experiences…

homecoming

In such a short amount of time?

 

To my dearest Anna Marie,

If I had done all the “right things” as a teenager, my life would never have held the richness, the love, the laughter, the tears, the memories, and the dreams of a bright future that having you has brought to it. I’m so thankful that the universe chose me to be your mom; and I’m stunned at what an amazing, beautiful, smart woman you have grown into.

It’s your time now… your time to go out and chase your dreams, make your mistakes, and achieve your successes. We’ll be waiting right here to catch you if you fall… now go spread those wings!

Happy 18th Birthday Anna!!

Back Camera

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Of Music and Dreams

There was always music in our house growing up. No matter where we were or who we were with, music was always a part of our daily life. To say that I had a diverse exposure to music would be putting it mildly.

Granny taught us to sing as little children from old church hymnals. My cousin and I cut our teeth on old 8 track tapes of Kenny and Dolly, trucker music, Conway Twitty, and Hank Sr. We were always singing at Granny’s and even now I think she had the sweetest singing voice I have ever heard.

At Uncle Doug’s house, where my older cousins controlled the tapes (Cassettes ya’all!), it was Motley Crue and … ok, so thanks to my cousin Tim it was mostly Motley Crue! I still get excited when I hear the motorcycle rev at the beginning of Girls, Girls, Girls. Sad, yes?

Spending the night at my best friend Angel’s house meant that I would get to enjoy Meatloaf, the Eagles, and Nancy Sinatra. I used to think it was ridiculously cool that none of our friends had any idea these people existed and we knew all the words on all the albums.

In my dreams, I was going to have a career in music. I sang constantly and was told over and over again how talented I was. I just knew I was going to be the next best thing since The Judds. Of course, those dreams have changed and evolved over the years, but the music has remained a fixture.

So when my daughters all expressed an interest in singing, I encouraged them to participate in chorus and follow their dreams. Last Thursday night, the musical theme in our family brought about one of my happiest moments as a parent. Anna stood in front of a theater of people at her Senior Recital and entranced us all with her voice. Her talent, hard work, and dedication have brought her dreams… once the dreams I thought were mine, but were generation too soon… into the realm of the possible.

Wherever she decides to go in life, I hope she takes my love of 80s hair bands and Mark’s love of Elton John and Stereophonics and all of the other musical influences in her life and keeps heading toward her dreams.  I may just be a proud momma, but I think she’s going to go a long way.

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Fair Weather Friends

Over this past weekend, I realized that I’m a really crappy fair weather friend.  I know that people generally see the term Fair Weather Friend as a negative… someone who is only around when times are good.  But what about the friends who only make time for you when times are not?  Is that just as bad?

I forget to return phone calls and emails, can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to reschedule lunch appointments and just quiet hanging out time, and can’t be found on sunny breezy days.  Is your life falling apart?  Need an emergency babysitter or a place to crash or help with a crisis?  I’m SO there.

I had to stop and wonder if that makes me a rubbernecker.  You know the people I’m talking about… the ones who seem to ALWAYS be around whenever something bad happens.  Do I just enjoy the train wreck?  Is it that I’m ridiculously curious about other people’s bad luck?

goodfriends

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that every single person that I count on to be there when I need them… the ones who come hold my hand in the hospital… the ones who helped shovel out my parents belongings after the 500 year flood… are the friends that reschedule lunch, forget to return my phone calls and emails, and can’t be found on sunny breezy days.

I think it boils down to this… everyone I think of as a good friend shares only one trait.  They all need to bring something of value to the table.  If they can’t lend a hand, lend their experience, lend their knowledge, or lend their shoulder, chances are that I’m going to spend more time thinking “I haven’t seen her in a while, it’s been too long” instead of saying “It was great seeing you today.  Same time on Thursday?”

I’m sure there are some people who manage to find a balance… who manage to be there often during sunny times and just as often during storms.  Maybe they don’t live between 10 and 75 miles away.  Maybe they have better time management skills.  Maybe they try harder at it.  Whatever it is, I am certain I’m never going to achieve that balance… so I’ll just be thankful to have my stormy weather friends and our sprinkling of sunny days together.

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Today is a rare occasion… when my political opinions intersect directly with my parenting opinions and my PTSA President opinions.  In Cobb County, GA (where we live) the school board held a vote last week and 4 to 3 voted for a 2011-2012 school calendar that went against the (VERY VOCAL) wishes of the parents, students, teachers, and administrators of this county.

Last year, the CCSB voted for a calendar that pissed off a LOT of people.  They called it a Balanced Calendar and it forced the children back into the classroom on August 2nd this past Fall.  Everyone was up in arms about this calendar because in return for the early start to the year, the children AND teachers received:

  • 1 week off in September (Fall break)
  • 1 week off for Thanksgiving (as opposed to just Wednesday/Thursday/Friday)
  • Standard break for the Winter holidays
  • 1 week off in February (Winter break)
  • 1 week off in April (Spring break) as usual.

To say that there was a lot of opposition to this new calendar would be the biggest understatement I’ve ever made.  People screamed that childcare for those weeks would be difficult to procure (although, I’m sure that daycare centers are happy to take your money in February and September just like they do in August).  People screamed that the facilities costs for air conditioning would be ridiculous.  People screamed that the children would have a harder time learning with all those breaks.  The truth is… PEOPLE BITCH ABOUT EVERYTHING AND HATE CHANGE EVEN WHEN THE SYSTEM IN PLACE SUCKS!!!

Anyway… fast forward to today.  Board members were voted in on the promise that they would revoke this calendar the moment they could.  And shock of all shocks if they didn’t.  Citing voter preference (which was true last year) and lower facility costs for the “old” school calendar, the board kicked the balanced calendar out.

Except… between last year’s elections and last week’s vote, some things happened that they didn’t expect.

TEACHER SICK DAYS:

(This section has been updated to reflect real numbers and not assumptions, as I’ve located actual documentation):
The new balanced calendar has resulted in a reduction of 8740.5 teacher sick days in ONE semester.  Wait… what?  You read that correctly.  Teachers did not feel so burned out and exhausted because of these added vacation weeks that they didn’t call in for as many Mental Health days.  Let me break this out for you:

  • 8740.5 fewer sick days meant that 8740.5 fewer substitute teacher days were needed.  Saving the county $651,342.06 IN ONE SEMESTER (Putting us on track for saving over $1 Million for the full school year), on just the base salary of the substitutes alone.  This number does not include any employer side costs or Human Resources salaries to manage substitute teacher days.
  • 8740.5 fewer sick days meant that there were 8740.5 fewer classroom days spent watching videos and having Free Day because the students had a substitute.  In other words 8740.5 TEACHING DAYS got added back to this county’s students, at no extra cost.
    • A little side note on this one: At Pebblebrook High School, one substitute teacher spent Sierra’s ENTIRE CLASS (Math) talking on her cell phone… and when the student chatter got so loud that she couldn’t hear, she left the classroom to talk in the hall.  A few weeks later, this same teacher spent the entire Choir class spewing propaganda at Anna.  She even made a reading recommendation: The Militant. (Folks, I can’t even make this crap up.) EIGHT THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED FORTY POINT FIVE LESS OF THESE DAYS PEOPLE!!!

STUDENT IMPACT:

  • Yep, you guessed it.  Student absenteeism was down ALMOST 50%.  Guess what?  Part of the schools’ funding is based on student attendance.
  • Students come back from these vacations well rested and ready to work too.  WHO KNEW?  Guess what?  Part of the schools’ funding is based on student achievement.
  • Students get a chance to spend time on these breaks studying for subjects they’re struggling with, work on projects, and work with tutors to help then when they’re struggling, BEFORE it’s too late to do anything about their failing grades.

OTHER STAFF MEMBERS:

I don’t have any actual data for the other staff members, but I’d be surprised if the levels of absenteeism and productivity have not been just as impacted as they are for the teachers and students.  To quote one of our county’s school bus drivers this morning:

The (winter) break is almost over. I know there are a lot of mixed feelings about this week off, but I for one am really happy we had the break. Even with cut in pay, I feel ok. Just when you feel like you are freaking out – there’s a break. Proof for me – I’ve not really been sick this year. Last year I had pnuemonia and the flu so missed two weeks right there. These were a much more enjoyable two weeks. – Tracey

THINGS CHANGE:

Guess what else?  Things change.  People get so worked up about things they FEAR will happen that they knee jerk and do stupid shit like oh… vote in a school board that is also knee jerk and not willing to listen to facts… and then when things calm down and the true impact of the change is seen, realize that they’ve already screwed themselves by being Chicken Little in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong.  Not everyone was happy with the balanced calendar.  Some people liked the old calendar and voted for it.  But you can’t make everyone happy all the time.  Just how much of a “majority” did the Board vote against?

Responses in favor of the Balanced Calendar:

  • Students – 79.2%
  • Parents – 66.8%
  • Teachers – 82.1%
  • Employees (Non Teachers) – 81.3%
  • Residents Without Children in CCSD – 73.6%
  • Total Results after all duplicate entries removed: 77.2%

Responses in favor of the Traditional Calendar:

  • Students – 13.6%
  • Parents – 21.7%
  • Teachers – 10.6%
  • Employees (Non Teachers) – 13.6%
  • Residents Without Children in CCSD – 14.3%
  • Total Results after all duplicate entries removed: 14.7%

So… way to go Cobb County School Board… you made good on your campaign promises, even though people overall decided that their fears were unfounded and that the balanced calendar has been great for the district as a whole.  Way to continue the short sighted, rigid, and self destructive methods meant to prove to us you have only your own best interests at heart and NOT the interests of the education of our students.

OH and thank you for saving us some money on air conditioning. **Except, that’s not true either.  The “Traditional Calendar” costs $62,333 more in utilities just by being open those extra two weeks in September and February instead of August.

**Edited to add quote from one of our bus drivers and to note that this article, along with my comments, was sent to both David Morgan and Tim Stultz (the board members representing Pebblebrook High School and Lindley Middle School, where my children go) and there has been no response.

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