Thursday, February 28, 2013

The February Doldrums

I should post at least once a week, right? I find it fascinating how little I get done now that I am home with Ryan every day. It doesnt help that it is February, a month of relative low productivity anyway.  It used to be that I wouldnt get stuff done, but it was because I was working all day, cooking dinner, making lunches and breakfasts, doing the laundry, making sure the kids had done their homework and representing Charlottesville on the School Board. Now that I am not working, do I have an excuse?

I often tell people that I do not know how I had time to work because I am still pretty busy. Budget season will do that. Between late January and now, we have had many meetings to work through a budget for the 2013-2014 school year. Tonight, we have a special meeting to approve the budget. It is not a perfect budget, how can it be when funding from the state and federal governments has been cut so dramatically? The City and its supportive citizens have made up a significant percentage of the deficit. For the second year in a row, the School Board has made about a million dollars in reductions.   I disagree with some of the reductions, but I will vote to approve the budget this evening based on the information I have at this moment.

In the meantime, I have been keeping up with the laundry, meal making and mommy-ing. Things I havent been able to get to- cleaning the house and exercising.

I am going to give myself a break. Ryan and I will be busy again soon with Spring fun, like going to the park, library and the pool.  On this, the last day of February, I will enjoy the hibernation of the past month and relax without so much pressure to get things done.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday- Moms doing nice things

The boys are not in school today. This presents a few problems, but overall I am super excited that we are able to relax into the week.  They are going on a hike later with friends, which is just one of those things I appreciate other mothers for. She texted me and said "hey do your kids want to join us for a hike, maybe scavenger hunt, tomorrow?"
Heck to the yes, yes.

Why dont I think of such things?

As those who follow me on Twitter may know, I received a Valentines Day card from the Coconut Girl in. the. mail. How nice is that?

I posted this on facebook not too long ago:
"2013 -- Let's Pay It Forward -- The first five people to comment on this status will receive from me (sometime in 2013), a handwritten note, perhaps with a gift attached, or a homemade surprise. There will be no warning, no plan, just a gift that I'm hoping you will receive with a smile. The catch, those five people must make the same offer on their FB status. Go. Create. Do. God Bless."
I am looking forward to surprising those five people soon!

Can I be honest though? I would like to be more generous. I am not writing this to be heaped with praise or compliments (see previous posts, if I do want compliments, I will tell you). I am not naturally generous in the small ways. I have ideas about being generous, but follow through is not always there.What I like about the facebook exercise is the idea of forcing myself to do it a few times so I will get in the habit of following through.

I would love to hear small ways people have been generous to you that have made your day. I am hoping to find a balance between generosity and budgetting. Now that I am on a budget, I know it would have been easy to make someone's day when I was working with a small gift certificate or something like that (not that I had time to run and get a gift certicate). I have to consider what generosity looks like without buying things. The Coconut Girl's card and neighborly mother are perfect examples, so I know it is possible.

Tell me, what has made your day recently?

Friday, February 15, 2013

family life

Ryan has moved to a toddler bed. One night down, many to go. Am I sad that my last baby is out of the crib? no.

I am grateful that I will not have to hear "mommy, moommmy, moooommmmy" every morning like an alarm clock. He can now walk from his bed to mommy's bed all by himself.

I am anxious, of course. He can now walk to the bathroom and get in the toliet water all  by himself too or climb the ladder to the bunk beds in D&A's room, also I worry about him climbing his dresser or the book shelf (we have some work to do in his room still- third child syndrome is in full effect with Ryan). This morning I heard him stir and not 20 seconds later he was in our room. I was glad to know that his instinct was to come into our room and demand "apple juice" and "tv."

D&A's school had an unscheduled fire alarm the other day. Andrew came home talking about it. The alarm came at dismissal, so for Andrew there was confusion. He followed his teacher's lead. Fortunately, according to the note sent home the day after, the alarm was a "system issue" and not an actual emergency.  Since the boys first encountered fire drills, they have been anxious during fire alarms/drills.

My boys are particularly sensitive to fire alarms since their daddy is a firefighter. D&A know there are serious consequences to actual fires. However,  Andrew noted only that he was "kinda scared" while David didnt admit to any fear during the alarm at school. It is a testament to the calm demeanor of the staff, regular trianings and drills, and prioritizing student safety that D&A did not have the anxiety that previously accompanied fire drills in the past. It feels like progress.

Chris and I have been watching the Tour of Oman recaps during the evening. The recaps are ridiculously short (less than 3 minutes for a five hour bike ride does not give a good idea about the race). Two things though about watching the recaps- I am so excited for the Spring Classics and Oman is a really beautiful country (honestly there are impressive mountains and historic sites in these 3 minute recaps)..

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

False Modesty or self deprecating or I have issues

I was asked whether I planned to "coach soccer again in the Spring?" I laughed since my boys arent playing soccer in the Spring and I never considered coaching again because "I am a terrible coach." The parent looked at me and remarked "I wouldnt say that." Awkward.

Considering the parent's reaction, this article on five things you're accidently doing to make everyone hate you, and my own reaction when I am confronted with people who are limiting their own accomplishments, I am thinking about how I respond to my accomplishments. I worry about two perceptions, one am I being falsely modest or am I fishing for compliments when I minimize my accomplishments. I do not believe I am doing either.
Am I being falsely modest or pretending to have a low opinion of my achievements or abilities. I do not think I am falsely modest. I can see how a listener may conclude such a thing, if he/she were not feeling generous towards me. I do not think I am a good coach, but I dont know how to measure whether I am a good coach. I told the parent my basic premise was "do not harm," which may be a brilliant way to coach soccer to 4th graders, I just dont know.

Another way it may be annoying is that it may appear I am fishing for a compliment.  I am never fishing for a compliment, I assure you. I will proudly tell you to compliment me if I believe I deserve it. The parent responded to my comment by saying "I have seen terrible coaching, you were nowhere near terrible" or something like that. Unfortunately, I had made him awkward and he felt he had to respond. A casual adult conversation should not have that push and pull.

I do however speak in hyperbole (key point "not to be taken literally").  I use hyperbole to be amusing and self-deprecating, which is super cool now, right? (I am the expert on super cool as someone who graduated from high school more than two decades ago- see self deprecating).  The reality, however, is slightly more complex. By minimizing my power or accomplishments, I am not serving in the way I want to be.

I think it will take a little bit more than a blog post to make a change. In the meantime, you dont have to correct my statements or think badly of me if I minimize my accomplishments because I do not expect to be taken literally. When asked about coaching in the future,  I will say "I had a great time coaching, the boys had a great time and we won a few games, so overall it was a positive experience, but I will not be coaching in the Spring."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras-->Lent

One of my favorite people on the internets is Bite Size and she is just as amazing in real life. She recently completed the Daniel Fast, twice! I didnt (dont) know what that was until she started writing about her experience. I say I dont really know because I havent looked into it more than what she has written (and now that link on the Daniel Fast).

I have her writings on the Daniel Fast in mind as I consider Lent. I am not ready for Lent, I feel like I need more time to prepare, but as with everything it is coming whether I am prepared or not.

My experience with Lent in the past is giving up candy or chocolate or something like that. The 40 days gets me because my birthday falls during Lent (as my dad will tell you, I was born on Palm Sunday). I want cake on my birthday and, as with any good addiction, once I have cake it is a spiral to eating the chocolate or candy regularly.

Can this year be different? Of course, I am an optimist, usually.

As I read some of the links in this post, I learned that Lent is not observed by all Christian denominations, which I find fascinating. Even if Lent isnt observed by the particular church I am attending, the deprivation and reflection before Easter is a good spiritual practice for me.

Are you observing Mardi Gras? If so, how? I will eat the delicious chocolate chip blondies I made after lunch.

Are you observing Lent? If so, how? I will likely do some combination of a. wake up earlier; b. give up refined sugar and flour.  And best wishes for you in Lent.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Church things

Running a campaign is quite a challenge, the money, the paper, the signs, the competition, it can be brutal. These difficult things are often countered with amazing things, like talking to new people, learning more about the City I live, and visiting churches I had never been to before.

I sat down with a minister to discuss my candidacy for school board early on. He invited me to his church, I told him that I did not like the idea of going to church just because of my campaign, I didnt like the way that felt. He advised me that as long as I come back after the election then the congregation would not mind. I thought this was good advice.

His was the first African American church I visited. I had not been going to church regularly before this visit, but post election it was one thing Chris and I decided to commit to (newspaper and coffee notwithstanding). I walked in by myself not having any idea what to expect, except a lengthy (I had heard) service. I immediately saw three people I knew. My friend waved me over and let me sit with him and his family. Visitors in African American churches are welcomed by the whole congregation later in the service. I had the opportunity to introduce myself to the 300 people in the congregation. The service was moving, with modern music and a message emphasizing education and youth. I left rejuvenated and grateful. I recently returned post election and it was just as moving and inspiring as my previous visit.

I attended many other churches, including two additional African American churches. I showed up early to one, and helped put the program together (volunteering to help always makes me feel useful).  At the other church, I was moved to tears by the brave and desperate people who were called to the alter to join the church. All of the ministers were powerful men of God whose messages were inspiring and the churches had large congregations as a result.

Post-election, we attended two churches before we found the church we currently attend. At one of the churches, I went to the minister with an issue, he uninspiringly told me that the option was to attend another church. Unfortunately, the second church was the same demonination as the first and I was thusly turned off the denomination despite the truly lovely people who attended the churches.

A long time ago (at least 5 years), my friend Mike told me somewhat reluctantly given our apparently different views, that he thought it would help me if I attended his church, he gave me some of his testimony so that I could relate to why he thought it would be useful. I took it as a sincere invitation but was not in the right place to accept it until last October. It was a series of events (as these things usually are) that led us to this church. I still struggle with the Sunday morning thing, but no one else in my house has to be convinced to go to this church. David and Ryan have a great time with other children while Andrew sits with me and Chris and is usually engaged and happy in the church.  I always learn something at church and am called to think more deeply about Scripture and daily life and I usually meet a really nice new person when we greet each other.

I am delighted, honored and humbled to serve on the School Board. However, the exposure to the amazing congregations in this town have given me more than I ever could have imagined.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

CARS and cost recovery

I do not live in the County. If I did, I would be a lot more upset about the changes to the delivery of emergency services. As it is, we have a long time relationship with the Seminole Trail Volunteer Fire Department as Chris remains a volunteer there. Interestingly, we spend a lot less time there since Chris has been promoted, but our commitment to volunteerism and the department remains strong.

When the City wanted to implement cost recovery for ambulance service in order to support the expansion of the fire department into ambulance service, I balked. I support Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad (CARS) as an institution in our community. I think having CARS in our community saves taxpayers money in two ways: we dont pay for people and equipment to expand emergency services and we dont pay for the increase in health insurance premiums and copays as a result of localities billing for the service.

The County has not been transparent with the change from supporting CARS to implementing a very expensive ambulance service.  The public did not have an opportunity to weigh in on this change. Where do the supervisors stand on this expansion of paid ambulance service? What was the hurry in implementing this change? Why does the County believe that billing health insurance companies for service is a win win situation for taxpayers? Do they honestly think that health insurance companies wont pass that cost onto users? What about increasing copays (our copay for an ambulance ride is $150.00, and we are told it is relatively good insurance)? I also worry about whether folks who are unable to pay are being harassed by collection agencies or the billing departments of health insurance companies who dont receive their copay.

CARS and the other volunteer emergency service departments in the County are very professional, they have served our community nobly for many decades. I remain convinced that the County should work with the organization in a way that serves county taxpayer and supports the volunteer organizations. I am not saying that just because things have always been this way nothing should change. I am saying these decisions should be made more transparently and the process should be inclusive of all stakeholders.
Please ask your County Supervisor where he/she stands on this issue and demand answers to these questions.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

"Mommy, Moommy, Moooommmyy"

Ryan wakes me up everyday with a chorus of "Mommy"s from his crib. Yes, he is two and in a crib. For some reason he walked earlier than the other boys, but doesnt climb out of his crib yet (thankfully). The benefits of having him in the crib outweigh the lovely morning alarm every single day (at this point). As a public service, I want to remind all of you to be following the Honest Toddler on twitter. It is a little but of a glimpse into life with a toddler, if you have forgotten.

David, on the other hand, continues to be obsessed with DS. He will wake up an hour earlier than the whole house, make himself breakfast, get dressed, brush his teeth, GET HIS JACKET ON, then ask me (usually two minutes prior to the Ryan alarm clock) "can I play DS?" At that moment all I am thinking is "please dont wake up Ryan" so I sleepily agree.

Right on cue, Ryan will go off "mommy...mooommmmy....mommy.mommy.mommy.mommy.mommy..." I think you get the idea. It is cute, really, until I actually have to get up.

Then there is Andrew...so sweet looking, so tired. He will sleep in on school days and wake up early on the weekends. I have to bring him gummy vitamins to start the wake up process, apparently a little sugar helps start the day even if the 8 year old is STILL IN BED. Dont get me wrong, I may appear to be ashamed of the idea, I am actually SUPER proud since most days he actually gets out of bed a minute or two after I give him the SOMA.

Of course, there are days (or stages) where Andrew will not get up, those are hard days for everyone.  I try positive reinforcement (treats in his lunch, playing DS before school, or other tricks in the mommy book), usually on those days though I have to end up with the following statement "ok well you can go to school in your pajamas and hungry." That usually does the trick, especially if it is almost time for the bus to come. Sometimes before that point, I get all "no electronics for you after school..."which quickly turns into a week of no electronics, which makes him "cray cray" (remind you to tell you a story about the time David said that-so silly) and also doesnt usually resolve the situation. Anyway, it degenerates from there. If he makes it to the bus, I am grateful, but usually I have to drive him to school, me and him fuming, David, relatively oblivious in his post-DS stupor and Ryan sometimes making fun of Andrew by saying "boo hoo" and pretending to cry (which is hilarious for David and I, infuriating for Andrew).

This past Saturday was a lovely combination of all of these morning rituals. David and Andrew are attending a Saturday program from 9-11. They actually both agreed and wanted to do it and we were fortunate enough to get in (and budget for it before I quit work).  Ryan woke up super early, however David was already dressed and playing DS, and I was just about to make the coffee at 6:30AM, when Ryan, after already having his morning  "juice" which is kind of like his SOMA, but with a lot more water, asked for a "peepop" which his incredibly cute way of saying lollipop. I actually had to put my foot down on the pre-sunrise lollipop, leading to a delightful toddler tantrum at 6:30AM. I live a charmed life (OK I do, but at that moment, I wasnt feeling it).

David, jostled from his DS fog by his brother's tantrum (if it isnt one, it is the other), said "oh I forgot it was Saturday." 

Andrew got up shortly after that without prompting (because it was Saturday). He was on day 6 of his electronics vacation, only one more day to go (this "vacation" has to be harder on me than him). I get him some breakfast and tell him about his day (which is already written on the whiteboard in his room) and he flips out, so we add another day to the electronics vacation.

By this time, I have to shower and skadattle to a scheduled school board work session that starts at 8:30 (there is breakfast at this meeting, so I dont have to eat before I leave the house, but I should get there early). Chris wakes up when I tell him I am about to leave (to be fair, he is the first one up most days). I ran out the door around 8:10 never to be heard from again...

Not really, but that is how long that work session felt.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Inaugural Poem and classroom visit


Apparently it is difficult to write an inaugural poem. Frankly, I pay very little attention to poetry. However, recently I walked into a classroom with this portion of poem on the board for "Free Write" time of the class. Unfortunately, I walked in late so there was only 1 minute left of free writing time.

"One Today' Richard Blanco (first two paragraphs, find the rest here)

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,

peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces

of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth

across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.

One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story

told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.


My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors,

each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:

pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,

fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows

begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—

bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,

on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—

to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did

for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

I looked around the classroom and saw a bunch of sullen teenagers. I compared them mentally to the excited, energetic third and fourth graders I know. I wondered which level of sullenness my boys and their friends would be in tenth grade. Who will be the apathetic, shoulder shrugging child who refuses to answer the teacher's question, but otherwise abides by the rules of the class? Who will be the child that refuses to listen to the clear directive to "put away your phone" until the last possible moment before losing the privilege of having it in his/her possession for the class? Who will hide and be silent? Who is the one that will respond in a harsh, defiant manner to the teacher (but is correct)? And who will be the polite, hard working child that still exudes the teenage front of disdain and apathy?

Which child will honor so generously his or her parents' sacrifice, as Mr. Blanco's poem does?  

As I noted on Twitter, I appreciate the teachers and principals who let me come into their classrooms to see the way policy impacts the classroom. I always marvel at how much I learn (SSR? oh, that means, silent, sustained reading- I read Fahrenheight 451- what a good book).

If you want to read an article on how it is difficult to pull of an inaugural poem, here is a link to a Slate article on those whose poems didnt make the cut.