Tuesday, July 3, 2018

This House

Change is inevitable. 

When Mark and I started out together, our mantra was basically the words from Billy Joel's "You're My Home". We both grew up in La Porte: me from 6 months on, him from 1st grade on. However, once we left for college, we became a bit like gypsies. We moved 14 times from High School graduation to 10 years later when we had our first son. And each time was fine. We had each other and not much else.

Things are different now. 

Our oldest was born in one apartment and we moved to our condo just before he turned two. He doesn't remember it.

Our youngest was born a week after we moved into the condo. We lived there for 5 years. The boys remember some of it, but not much. 

We moved to our house during Spring Break of Will's first grade year. Matt would start kindergarten in the fall. The condo had some of this too, but the boys will remember this house for their childhood.

This is the house where they will remember the footprints the Easter Bunny left when he hid their Easter baskets.

This is the house the Tooth Fairy left glitter behind when she replaced their teeth with a dollar bill. 

This is the house where we lived when we drove to cut down our Christmas trees, placing it in different places as our book collections required more space. The place we created our own fireplace with construction paper and tape, so we could hang our stocking on a fireplace. 

This house is where Will learned to make amazing cookies and Matt learned to perfect our homemade spaghetti sauce. 

This house is where Praxis, our first cat died. 

This house has the lilac bushes I love, the day lillies from my mother-in-law's garden, and the two tree's Matthew planted as seedlings.

This house is where they did homework.

This house is where I read them stories every night until Will was in 8th grade and that homework took over evenings.

This house is where I created birthday cakes they tried to make more difficult for me every year. 

This house is where they lined up every Rescue Hero, Transformer, and stuffed cat they had, carefully lining them up on opposing sides though they worked together to decide which side advanced and when. And the three stuffed cats that sat on top of the Karaoke machine to announce the battle as it happened. 

This house is where we had family game night every Sunday, taking turns each week picking the game. 

This house has the yard where I took family pictures every Mother's Day.

The marks on the door jamb mark their height from every first day of school.

This house is where I heard, "Hey Mom, look at that sunset," because they knew I'd love it. 

This house has every memory of school and friends and family the boys will remember. 

And this house is now for sale. 

The boys are both going to be in college in the fall. There is no reason for me to live separately from my husband (who is also their dad) as we have for the last 7 years. No reason to have two separate living expenses. No ability to afford to do so. So, it is for sale. 

The boys are both working at camp this summer and haven't seen it emptied of all but the beds and piano. They knew it was happening, and started packing, but hubby and I have finished it. We cleared it out and moved every thing to storage. 

We can't buy until we sell. So that is still to come.

If it were still just me and hubby, I would say I will miss all that that house was to us all, but wherever we both are is home. But in this Choose your own Adventure life, we have chosen the page to turn to for our boys. The next home we have will likely just be the house Mom and Dad live in for them. And that breaks my heart. 

I could, and may eventually, write another blog about my neurosis concerning thinking we've ruined our boys' lives, but this one is about the four walls we four grew up together in. This blog is about the house that is for sale. 

I hope the family that buys it has as much love for it as we did and always will. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Anxiety and Depression

I have anxiety and depression.

It gets easier to say. Acknowledging this makes it easier to accept the feelings and not feel there is something wrong with me.

It fees a little like driving a car in Chicago traffic at rush hour, knowing how to drive, but being physically unable to steer or touch the brakes.

I know what would make things better, but I would rather crawl under the bed and hope that it will all be over when I crawl out again.

Friday is the last day of school...for the year, and forever for our family. Our youngest is graduating high school, and I have resigned my position at the elementary after 12 years.  I have so many problems with the way our district is run that I am just done. I am happy to not be dealing with it all any more. But, I love working with kids, I care about these kids, and knowing I won't be back is hard.

I am resigning. because hubby has been living and working 2 hours away for the last 7 years. He's come home on weekends and for school functions and holidays, but I have been a part time single mom for 7 years. With both boys in college in the fall, we can live together again.

To live together again, we have to sell our house here. That means packing and sorting and storing and figuring out what to keep and what to get rid of. We have a lot of clutter after 13 years in this house. The stress of all of it is a huge weight. On the one hand, I want to just throw everything into boxes and throw into storage and be done. But the monumental task has me wanting to crawl under the bed and hope a clone of me, that isn't a mess, will take the initiative and do it for me.

Hubby wants to wait until after graduation to think about a storage shed. Youngest wants a party and parties are a huge stressor for me. How do we plan for people? How much food to plan? Activities--yes or no? Order a cake or make a cake? What if only family shows up, since he doesn't have a lot of friends? He will be crushed. I think. One sister just had a mastectomy. Will she be OK? And all of this is the evening of graduation, after seeing our baby walk across the stage and into adulthood.

Both boys are working at camp this summer. Oldest loves it and has changed his major in school and thus has changed colleges because of camp. Will youngest love it? Will he gain maturity?

Oldest is visually impaired, but has had training in adaptive driving and has his license. He now has a car. We have driven with him, but not a lot before he left for camp. I worry about him driving up there.

They will both be at Ball State in the fall. Will they find friends? Will they find their passion? Will they meet girls that will be girlfriends? I don't want them to be alone.

Moving to where hubby lives and has a life will be stressful, because those people can't wait for me to be there. Hubby is going to try to protect me from the onslaught, but I'm going to have to meet new people. I'm going to have to interact. That is stressful.

When we sell our house, we can look for one there. I will miss this house, so what will we find? Something with the view we have now?

I am taking the summer off to figure out who I am again. I will eventually have to get a job-- two kids in college remember. I have no idea what I want to do. I have only ever worked with kids. What do I do if I don't work with kids?

And to top it all off I turn 50 in October.

There is so much in such a short span of time, I'm drowning. I wish I could thrive on the challenge and live in every moment as they happen, but I can't. I feel bad for wishing it all to be over and settled, because I will miss the individual moments.

Hubby is great, but he has his own ideas of how things should progress. I have friends, but they have things going on in their lives as well. Hence the out of control car.

I have anxiety and depression, but by saying it out loud, I can start to take some form of control. I still can't steer, but maybe by listing it all and acknowledging it is a huge weight, I can maybe tap the brakes before wind up a sobbing ball in the corner.

I have anxiety and depression, but I'll get through and be stronger..stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Bit of Dirty Laundry

We have 13 days left in this school year, and it will be my last 13 days in Public Education. Our youngest is graduating, and we will be moving to where my husband and the boys' dad lives during the week. I could look for, and probably get, a job in a school there, but I can't even fathom trying. Before working in education, I knew in my heart I was meant to work with kids. I changed my major after working at camp, because I knew I didn't want to be a teacher any more. I wanted to work in a recreational setting.

That I do well.
Or at least I did.
I don't believe in myself enough any more to know if I could be worthwhile in an informal setting any more.
And that is a testament to our district's education system. From what I hear, it is like that other places as well, so I can't trust it would be any different somewhere else.

Others, when they have left, have left quietly, because repercussions are  assured. And when you still have kids in the district, you can't take that chance. Our youngest is done and so am I, so I am leaving, but I can't in good conscious leave quietly.

Honestly, I could give you a 13 year blow by blow, but it comes down to respect and lack of courage and commitment.

As a profession we lament all the ills that face our kids and affect our teaching: poverty, lack of parent involvement, too much parent involvement, government interference, society today...the list goes on. But you know what? Kids adapt to their environment and what is expected of them. This is where we fail.

Our Assistant Superintendent, who is also our curriculum director, is the driving force behind the chaos and exodus. If you look at her LinkedIn account, you will see that she worked the first 5 years after college as a teacher in 3 different grade levels. This was in the early 1990s. After that she worked for various data collection aspects of education. She came to us about 7 years ago and was the driving force behind our 1:1 technology, which we jumped into whole school without any training or preparation.

Turns out her doctoral thesis was about technology in schools.

Under her we have changed curriculum every year for the last 5 years. Under her, we have eliminated industrial arts.
Under her, we have been told to give homework every night.
Under her, we have been told not to give homework.
Under her, we have moved to an extended calendar.
Under her, we adopted scope and sequence of a reading program, but not the actual materials to carry it out.
Under her, we have adopted, Daily 5, eliminated reading groups, and eliminated text books.
Under her, we have gone to having "Maker Space."
Under her, we now have "Standards Based Grading" with which we have eliminated "due dates."

Under her we have switched from Character Counts, to University Time, to PBIS.

We have been in a state of constant flux for the last 7 years. Nothing is eliminated, just emphasized less and less until it fades away.

Questions are met with hostility and derision.

And there is no one to be the buffer between administration and teachers.

Our last principal was a disaster. She was a black and white person. If she was told to do X, there were no shades of gray. X meant X...
as she interpreted it and we better darn well execute with fidelity.

Parents have been conditioned to go up the chain to a, "yes." And they eventually get their way. The louder the complaint, the quicker the capitulation. And yes, the superintendent has reversed a decision by the principal without finding out details or supporting the principals decision.

And this is the biggest problem in education. We can teach in temporary trailers.  We can teach without resources. Heck, we can teach with a stick and a patch of dirt. What we can't do is teach without support.

The rules and climate of a building have to be set by the principal and enforced by the principal. I would love to see what a school could do with a principal who said to both administration and parents, "These are my staff, and I won't allow you to treat them this way."  This takes a courage they don't teach in Principal school, I'm guessing by what I've seen?

Support is the thing we need most, but are least likely to get.

I will be laying this out in my end of the year review. I'm leaving, but the kids I care about, and the staff who aren't leaving at the end of this year will still be there.  If I can leave one last impression... if I have a shot at making a difference for those left behind, it is my obligation to do so. I can't go quietly. My conscience won't let me.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Encyclopedia of Me: Volume K

Loosely based on Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krause Rosenthal.

Encyclopedia of Me: Volume K

Kaluah- I am not a drinker. I am 49 and I can honestly say I have never been drunk. In High School, we'd go to parties with friends, and I'd have a couple of Coolers. Beer was never my thing, but then again there weren't flavors then. (Do flavored beers make a difference?) 
My sister, Sheri, let me try a Kaluah and Cream once and I loved it. Now, I have an occasional glass of wine, but still, I'm not that into it. I do however have a shot of Kaluah over vanilla ice cream every now and then. Add a little homemade Magic Shell and you have a yummy dessert.

Key- When we were counselors at Camp, nearly every thing with a padlock, used the same key. They were bought in bulk. There were several floating around, and since we worked over weekends, we aquired a key.  After the second summer, and the difficulty it contained, the key became a symbol of standing up for what was right. It represents doing something hard because it is what is right. (See also Camp)

Kids- My own: I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but not right away. I worked in Child Care and was happy, as parents drug whiny kids away, that I got to go home to a kid free existence. Once I felt, "My kids won't be that way," I knew we were ready. I tried at first to be both a Mom and a Child Care/ Camp Director, but couldn't do both 100%. We chose together for me to be a stay at home mom. It is the best and only decision for us. WE chose to have THEM. WE owed it to them to be there for them. No regrets.
Others: My favorite quote is, " The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you figure out why." I realized through my work with the Y that I was meant to work with kids. That time may have passed, because with the kids today it is harder to find the magic. I miss the magic.

Kindergarten- I worked in the Kindergarten classroom with one of the best teachers for 10 years. I loved working with them. I loved teaching them how to hold a pencil and form their letters correctly. I loved helping them learn to read and then how to Read. I loved seeing them grow from the beginning of the year to the end. They are funny and exhausting and I loved my time with them and learned a lot from Tracey-- the teacher and my friend.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Encyclopedia of Me: Volume J

Loosely based on the book, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krause Rosenthal.

Encyclopedia of Me: Volume J

Jeans- I love wearing jeans. I miss the days of ripped jeans... faded ripped jeans. I feel like me in in jeans. No pretense. Just me. Throw in a T-shirt and a flannel shirt unbuttoned and you have my uniform of choice. I just love jeans.

Jetsons' Car- I have always wanted a Jetsons car. I am not a fan of traffic. Driving in big cities scares me because cars cut you off or push from behind. If I had a Jetsons car I could fly over all the nonsense and arrive at my destination ahead of schedule and stress free. However, the only way for this to work would be for me to be the sole owner of the Jetsons car. It's possible. Right?

Job Titles- I have been a babysitter, a bus girl, a McDonald's employee, a camp counselor, food service at Valpo, a counselor at a Y, Senior Counselor at the same Y, an employee of Camp Fire Boys and Girls, Program Director for the same Camp Fire program, recreation leader at a foster village, Child Care director at a Y, Child Care Camp Director at another Y, Stay at home mom, and Instructional Assistant and Reading Intervention at an elementary school. The next job to add to the list is yet to be determined.
Informally, I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, and a friend.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Big Project

I accepted a project from camp this weekend. They have boxes of slides. Thousands of slides. Slides in slide protectors and placed in binders. Loose slides. Slides in slide boxes. Literally thousands of slides. To some this would be tedious and boring, but I am loving it.

There are slides from the mid 1990s all the way back to the 1950s. There may be older ones, I've just started.

It is so fascinating to see what were common pictures -- pictures much the same as the ones we take today. But the buildings are newer, and the trees are different. It is fun to see the clothes and activities.

Each photo makes me want to do more research. I want to find out more about the history. I have a big project and I am planning on making it bigger. What exactly is the timeline of camp? When did the changes occur? Who was involved? What were the rituals and legends and when and why did they fall out of favor?

But the big take away from looking at these photos? Keep it simple. These photos were before photoshop and are beautiful in their simplicity. I can trust that they are what was happening and not manufactured. There is interest in the honest truth. We all need to take more of those. They will mean more in years to come.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Almost went Ballistic

We spent a volunteer work weekend at our "Happiest Place on Earth" - Camp Pinewood.  It could not have been a more perfect weekend. Bright blue sky. Sweatshirt weather unless you were raking, or painting, or working hard, then a T-shirt was great. This camp is beautiful and built for kids.

This morning a mom and her 3 kids came in the lodge about a half hour before breakfast. Each child had an electronic device and mom was telling them to make sure they played on them plugged in, because they had a 4 hour trip back to Chicago and if they wanted them to last, they had to keep the batteries charged.


The children roughly 8, 6, and 5 would be riding in a car for 4 hours, and with wide open spaces, and a beautiful clear morning, Mom plugs her kids into electronic screens.

I could literally cry.