Thursday, August 31, 2006

What Does it Take to be An Amazing School Principal?

After hearing about the girl's first day of school Monday, T said to me, "Wow. I don't ever remember having a principal that I wasn't scared of or even knew!" It's true, the principal at the girl's school is very hands on, visible, she interacts well with the students. I don't think the girls are afraid of her at all. In fact, Em didn't even realize she WAS the principal until I told her today it's the woman in the lunch room!

The fact is, however, that unlike T I had the privilege of having a unique and amazing principal my last three years of elementary school. For my first four years, we had Mrs. Kennedy. She was everything you would imagine a stereotypical principal would be. Mrs. Kennedy had an air of prominence, of sternness. When she stepped foot in the cafeteria, all would instantly become silent. She would clip-clop through the cafeteria right out the other door without a sound being uttered. As soon as the door shut behind her, the pandemonium returned!! The cafeteria ladies used to tell us that the crack around the bottom of the domed ceiling was there because we were so noisy we would actually raise the ceiling an inch!

When I was fourth grade, life at my elementary school changed dramatically, all due to the retirement of Mrs. Kennedy and the replacement of her by a man. He was quiet, unimposing, would never look you in the eye when he talked to you. He was in no way shy, just very thoughtful. He remembered everyone's name, almost instantly. If you were sent to him, it might be for one of many, many reasons. If you were my brother, than you were in trouble, and you knew it! If you were me, then he had some exciting new adventure for you to embark upon. (Sorry, D, but I knew when you yelled to the cooks, "Hey dudes, what's cookin?" and Mr. P stuck HIS head out the window, you were in for it!)

Mr. P went way out of his way to engage students of all kinds. Instead of being a presence, he was always present. Instead of having an air of anything, you would be happy to see him walking towards you (unless you were somewhere you shouldn't be!) and if you were almost smart enough to be in one of his special programs, he invited you along for fun. Mr. P had a way of making each child feel special and didn't beat around the bush with any parents.

Mr. P would stand everyday at the lunchroom door and collect lunch tickets from the students. Once everyone was in the cafeteria, he would walk around and monitor the lunch room. When everyone was settled, he'd sit in the back of the lunchroom helping kids with classwork they didn't finish. When lunch shifts were over, he'd head outside to monitor the recess.

When things needed to be done around the school and nobody was able to do them, Mr. P would find an able bodied student to come and help. I answered phones in the office, did some calligraphy for him and even helped him in the computer lab he'd set up in his office, which he rarely used.

When parents didn't run afterschool clubs, he did. He started a unicycling program (yes, folks, I used to unicycle!), juggling program, clowning and our reading teacher started double dutch. He couldn't actually do any of those things, but he was there afterschool to help us learn how. He even took the show on the road, as we traveled to other schools to show some skills. It was fun, it was adventurous and it was amazing.

I cannot think of another school administrator who did more for me personally than this man. Honestly, I can't think of a school administrator that I knew other than this man! And when I graduated college with a teaching degree, I went back to see how things were at my elementary school, of course hoping that this man would be proud of me. I got one of his big smiles AND a job offer. For real. I didn't take it, because I'd made a commitment here in Maryland and had already started teaching. I can't say it wasn't the most tempting moment in my life, though. I would have loved to work for this man, who took a shy, quiet and average girl and made her feel like she was important in the world. I'd seen him do that with many of his students.

A few years later was the "Erasuregate" scandal, that left the school scarred for eternity, many students and parents hurt and a town torn apart. To this day, I cannot believe a word of what was suggested, that this man, Roger Previs, was capable of changing standardized test scores. Even now, years later, I still do not believe any of the accusations. Why would a man who had done his job so amazingly, need to change scores on tests? I'd never known him to be anything but honest, compassionate, full of integrity.

I don't really understand what happened, but I know this: his was a tough act to follow. In the end, I can say that a truly amazing principal in my mind must love the students first and foremost, must listen to his teachers and support them and must make parents feel proud of the school their children go to. He did all that and much more. The scandal cost him his job. Even after passing a polygraph that seemed to clear him of wrongdoing, he sacrificed himself to stop an investigation that may have uncovered the true culprit. Do we have any principals these days who would do that for a school they love?

In Howard County, where we live, I doubt a principal could ever match that kind of dedication. They don't allow them to stay long enough in one school to create that kind of atmosphere. In the four years that we've been in our elementary school, we've had two principals and two vice principals. None of them has done after school activities, none of them has taken a lunch or recess duty for teachers, none of them have even come close to what I experienced. That doesn't mean they are bad, it just enforces upon me the realization that Mr. Previs was special, and he did something that few principals are able to: he took a large group of kids, told them they were each special and took them on an adventure in education that they would never forget.

Playground "Safety" Part Two

Today I stopped in for lunch with Em when I was turning in Kt's asthma meds. The same three parents from Monday were there again today. I guess they have gone in everyday! Hmmm... and all in the same class. Very strange...

Anyway, Em was sitting with a new friend today. Extremely sweet little girl. She was a talker, which must be why Em likes her! Em mentioned to me that the "coach", who didn't send her in for ice when she hurt her eye outside, asked her to take another little girl to the nurse today for ice. She had fallen and skinned her knee. After telling her story, Em's new little friend chimed in that she had to go to the school nurse when she hurt her back yesterday. She then showed me her back, with a huge scrape up it. She apparently fell just like Em did while sliding down the same monkey bars.

I have said all along that our playground is inappropriate for kindergartens, but now I find myself in a Catch 22. If I make a stink about it, the kids will have nowhere to play. If I don't, they'll be visiting the nurse in droves each day. Maybe then they'll actually do something about it. I'm going to leave it alone for now.

Em was quite impressed with those playground scars. Those two girls now have a lot more in common than just being talkative!

Ousting Religious Groups at a Religious Institution?

Apparently, Georgetown University has pulled the plug on "evangelical" christian groups on campus, such as InterVarsity. Georgetown is technically a Catholic university, but they do have a campus program for Protestant students. It looks like they have decided that these six groups are proselytizing too much - huh? Last time I checked, Catholics also believed in Jesus Christ, worshipped Him and encouraged the spread of this belief. I'm dumbfounded! Shame on Georgetown! Even more surprising, they have failed to limit the creation and activity of other religious groups that, in my opinion, have extremely different beliefs than Catholics. Go figure!??

End of an Era

Growing up in Fairfield, Connecticut definitely had it's perks. As a child, I never fully appreciated the fact that I lived in suburban America, with backyard neighbors, quiet backroads and within walking distance of our church, our bank, a pharmacy, most of my friends, a pizza shop, a newspaper stand, gas station/service center, community park, later a video store, a bagel shop, a hair salon, a travel agency, our elementary school and most convenient of all, a grocery store. It was a small one, but it was perfect for picking up those last minute items and more recently for my mom, who living alone never needs much in the way of groceries.

The truth is, it's just a tiny pocket in that suburb that still enjoys the charm of days in the past, when anyone could walk to the market and purchase all they needed for that day. Most of the businesses in the tiniest of stripmalls has changed hands. What used to be a meat market is now travel agency, what used to be Stratfield Pharmacy first became a video store and is now an Italian Restaurant. I can recall weekly trips to the "drug store" to purchase candy, avoiding the vicious german shepherd along the way. Very little has changed, although the dog is long gone.

Right now, in that neighborhood, there is an unhappy event occurring. The owner of the building that now houses the IGA market has accepted a bid from a rather large chain, Walgreens, and is shutting out the grocery store. It's truly a very sad event. Why? Because within 5-10 minutes of my mother's home there are several CVS and Walgreens stores. What has historically been a nice, quiet privately operated cluster of business will now be redefined by a major "chain" store.

Probably what is most disconcerting to my mom is that her corner of the world has been fairly quiet, safe and comfortable. While it's only minutes from Bridgeport, a city in Connecticut that is rife with crime, the unsettling safety issues that plague that city rarely cross over into Fairfield. With the advent of this new store will come, most likely, a rise in neighborhood crime, as stores such as CVS and Walgreens are often the target of ill-minded individuals. This is a huge worry for that community, which has enjoyed decades of safety. (We won't add centuries, as the house next to this IGA was historically a brothel!!)

I really am sad about this development. Apparently the property owner did not even give the current business operator even a chance to rebid for continued use of the building. Not to mention, this property owner has allowed the property to suffer tremendously, with no improvements over the years that my family has lived there. It is a shameful state, and I highly doubt this property owners calls to the community to support his decision will be met favorably! He ought to just walk away with his head hanging.

So on my next visit to Connecticut, I won't be able to run down to the corner for milk, or deli meat, or any of the small food items that I forgot. I cannot take my girls down for some ice cream or even send T in the morning for the orange juice that we've all finished up. If anything was a "convenience" store for us, it was the place we could go to buy all the things we forgot on Thanksgiving morning - butter, sweet potatoes, brown sugar and the likes. I doubt there is a person in that neighborhood who will be able to call Walgreens convenient. It just won't be anymore!

Full Story here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Your Child's Gorgeous Classroom!

There is nothing more impressive to parents than a bright, cheery, well-decorated classroom for their child. A room that is inviting for parents and students alike reveals a teacher who is ready for school and cares about her class. Parents like color, vibrance and vitality so that they feel like their children won't die of boredom in another classroom of the past!

What parents don't realize is that schools do not provide decorations for the teachers and what you see is more of a reflection of how this teacher spends his/her money! As a teacher of 5 1/2 years with two parents also in the field of education, I know first and secondhand just how expensive classrooms can be. My mom has been teaching over 20 years and still, just this month we spent over $100 on her room. Things that can cause a hefty pricetag for a teacher are switching grades, changing curriculum and moving to a new school. It's a huge burden, and one that many teachers are not allowed to reveal to the parents who benefit from this huge expenditure.

If you really want to treat your child's teacher, give them money. I assure you, it's already been spent on something that will benefit your child. A target gift certificate or even a meal out will make the expenditure well worth your teacher's risk. I understand that some think giving money cards or gift cards to teachers is tacky, but I am here to tell you that it allows teachers to go the extra mile when they run out of stickers or need some new writing prompts or just want to do something extra for the class, like an art project or a Mother's Day gift. You really have no idea what a teacher dreams of that would be an amazing experience for your child, if only he/she had a budget!

The Washington Post has a great article recognizing the sacrifice that many teachers make at the start of a new year, for students they don't know and parents they've likely never met. Why do they do this? Because they love what they do and it's worth the risk to communicate to you, the parent, that they really do care. I think they deserve that gift certificate to Target or that dinner at The Melting Pot for all their hard work and effort. And you never even knew...

No Textbooks?

I just started tutoring a repeating senior today. I have tried contacting his teachers via email and the only one who responded was the one I was warned likely wouldn't use computers. LOL But what really surprised me was the fact that out of all the classes, Consumer Math, US History, Ancient Medieval History and Environmental Science, not one of them sends home a textbook. Now after 4 years of a backbreaking backpack I'm thinking this is completely unfair. AND how do these students complete homework, reading assignments (which for two of the classes makes up a percentage of their grade) and study for tests?? Slowly, I'm losing faith in the public school system around here!!

EDIT: I am happy to report that my student brought along two textbooks today, one for US History and the other for Consumer Math. YEAH!! Of course, now I'm wondering if I can believe him!!??

A Day in the Life of a Third Grader

Here is Kt's letter she wrote to us on her first day of school in third grade. I am so happy that she at least sounds happy, as she, for the first time in her life, did not want to go to school on her first day of the year.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Today at school we went to P.E. there, we got to have extra recess. Then, we got to lable our school supplies. Then, we had lunch, and more recess. Then Ms. C read us a book, it was about a person who did not want to go to the first day of school. A boy was with her and made her get out of bed and go to school. When the princeable saw her she showed her to her room.

Then the princeable said, "Class meet your new teacher."

I love my teacher. She is very nice and very funny. We also get to get a planner. It is used for homework. My classroom has a lot of resourses. Its not to bad in third grade. I know alot of the people. I have two or three new students = J and A. Ms. C is a big fan of sports, she had the Ravens and the Orioles flag hanging in her room, she has spots stickers, plus the buliton board says Kicking off a Great Year. the name tags are the shapes of mega phones. I guess to put all this together I can just say I love third grade.

I guess Kt gets her longwindedness from me! I'm only slightly embarrassed. I take no credit for the poor spelling - I'll leave that in the hands of the Howard County School System, who refuses to adopt a formative spelling curriculum!

Kt came home very excited because her teacher read her letter to the class. It was the longest, most detailed letter and the only one Ms. C read. Kt was very proud of herself and that made me super happy. What more could a parent ask for??

Last night, when Kt and I were reading before bed, I had this overwhelming appreciation of her and the gift she is to us. We have our ups and downs, our bumps in the road, but the truth is that I think she is rare in many ways. All her teachers (except for last year's) have told us that she is a treasure, and they've told us multiple times until sometimes it's a little uncomfortable. But I know what they mean, I really do.

Tomorrow she will take in three things that define who she is. She is taking a video she made of her new puppy, Phoebe (I'm not really sure how that defines her!), her CD she made with Uncle D - "My Favorite Color is Rainbow" written and performed by the both of them, and her Bible. I would LOVE to be there when she presents herself, but I guess that's just something I'll have to hear from her!

Station Wagons

I have just had this urge all day to blog about station wagons. What happened to them?? When I was a kid, our first station wagon (actually, I think it was our second) was a Gran Torino, light blue with navy interior. It was money! I can remember my little brother singing away with my mom to "Are You Ready?" playing on the radio while we all jumped around and played in the back. What a great car!

Our second (or third?) station wagon was much nicer. I can't remember what kind it was (I'll ask my brother - the car fanatic!), but I do remember it had air conditioning, "wood" trim, also blue outside and in. We took many fantastic road trips in that station wagon. We camped, drove to Florida and even drove across the country in that beautiful wagon. The beauty of it was really in is versatility. Actually, maybe the beauty of it was in the no seatbelt, no carseat laws era!! When we drove through the night, as my parents loved to do, we put all the seats down, the two in the "way back" and the middle seats and laid out our sleeping bags!! Can't do that anymore!

That one fateful vacation, on our very first leg of the journey through St. Louis in the middle of the night and onto Kansas (or was it Oklahoma??), we brought along my first dozen roses from my boyfriend. When you are in high school, a dozen roses the day you leave for vacation is so romantic, until your little brother wakes up the next morning with snot all over his face and his eyes glued shut because he's allergic to them! We also packed all our luggage on the roof in our brand new soft carrier, in our brand new soft duffel bags - black. That was the cool color.

We all slept soundly in our luxurious wagon, waking up to sunshine, but not before my father lamented about having to drive all night through rain. We finally stopped somewhere in Kansas or Oklahoma to find all our clothes ruined. Our wonderful soft carrier and new black bags were not waterproof. Hmm... not so luxurious anymore. The three of us kids, squished into the backseat for the rest of our cross country trip! ROFL!

That station wagon served us well. I learned to drive in it and my poor mom, she drove that thing with the soft, cushiony ceiling caving in on us for years. By the time we got rid of our precious power windows, power seats and power door locks wagon, we were ready to see it go. I don't think any of us realized, however, that we'd likely never see another station wagon like that again!

Just this year my mom purchased a Ford Freestyle. It's like a cross between an SUV and a station wagon! Why she bought it, I will never know. I mean, I'm thinking it might resurrect some painful memories of her three children moaning in the back, "Stop touching me!" Or maybe she might be reminded of my father driving while swatting at us and swerving all over the road (I remember that clearly!). Or maybe even still, the fact that our neighbor who had some very shady friends and our EXACT SAME station wagon managed to get his friends so mad they slashed all our tires by mistake!

I don't really know what has made me think about station wagons, and if my brother, the car expert, knew that I was even uttering those two words he would run for cover! Just so many memories of the past, things my children will never have to live through. Instead, they will have only memories of the minivan....

*Oh, and just in case you are wondering, 'snot' is not in the blog spell check dictionary. I thought you might want to know that!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New Health Initiative

The "new policy" in our schools this year is the Health initiative. Can we say "bogus"?? (Yes, miss negative again!) So far, the only change that I've seen is that instead of sending a class treat for birthdays, we can only send in a gift for the class for our child's birthday!! This is supposed to create healthier children. Hmmm...

Well, I'm no fitness freak, but I can think of a few things that might make school "healthier" for kids. For one, how about longer recess or P.E. classes? How about healthier school lunches?? Or better yet, how about improving our 25 year old playground that is inappropriate for kindergarteners??? Most schools in our county, even the "less popular" ones, have a separate, age-appropriate playground just for preschoolers. Not ours, even though parents and administrators have been requesting that for years!! In fact, our school has one blacktop area, one playground/mulched area and this year no grassy areas due to the delayed building of two more kindergarten rooms for the new full day kindergarten that has already started. The foundation for that addition has NOT EVEN BEEN LAID OUT YET!!

Basically, if I felt like there were other significant changes being made to benefit my children's health, no birthday treats would seem like a great idea. But the bottom line is that this is no "health inititiative", it's a "let's see if we can't just eliminate complaints about food in the classrooms for our food allergy students" initiative. Why not just have a peanut free school??(*) It's not that hard, it's safer and it allows the students to enjoy the few fringe benefits of school, such as a few times a month getting to celebrate a special day for a student in the room? I don't know about everyone else, but the day I got to bring in cupcakes and pass them around then take the extras to everyone in the school office - those days were AWESOME!! Well, those days are no more!

I guess to me, each year with the elimination of holiday parties and now birthdays, I am feeling like school really is just a boring place for kids to live out their young lives. At our school, last year Kt had not one off site field trip. I LOVED field trips, so the thought of not having even one just ruins it for me. What is this world coming to?

On a side note, totally off this terrible topic, Em announced to me this morning that on her radio (which she has set to WGTS, a christian station) they said there would be thunderstorms. She told me they might have to come home early from school! LOL I had to break it to her that you have to stay in school for thunderstorms. She was not at all happy about that, so I'm praying for no storms until she gets home! Of course, then we'll have to skip the pool again. So much for our health initiative!

*The truth is, schools would rather listen to a few parents complain about food allergies than to take the bold step of just eliminating peanuts and having to listen to a majority of parents complain. Having a peanut free school would mean sending in Oreos for a birthday treat instead of homemade cupcakes - doesn't sound so bad to me! Not to mention we would be eliminating a fatal risk for some children. If you want to make a healthy decision, make all schools peanut free. How about that??

Monday, August 28, 2006

First Day of School Update

We survived! It was a crazy day and a lot to report. I sent my girls off to school and I think they both had a great first day. I decided to walk on my treadmill as it was hot and muggy out when they left. After that I went to my dr. appointment where I waited for an hour to be seen! This is par for the course where I go, which only makes my appointments even more annoying.

The amazing thing about this appointment was that my blood pressure AND heart rate were normal. That NEVER happens!! Maybe both kids in school all day is good for me!?! Who would have thought. While there, however, I got a TB test and a DTP test. My arm is not feeling so great today, not to mention my slightly swollen eyes will need to hit the hay soon.

After my appointment, I decided to catch the last 10 minutes of Em's lunch. When she saw me, she looked disappointed and said, "Oh... I wanted to ride the bus home!" I assured her I had no intentions of taking her home, just wanted to see how her day was going. She loves it. She loves her teacher, her classmates (except for the one who breaks the rules and pushed her!), she was gobbling down her lunch and ready to head back to class. I love her!

While there, another mom informed me that she had forgotten to send in a stuffed animal, so of course, I realized I'd done the same. Not sure how I forgot that. I remembered the egg salad for lunch, to finish the laundry, label two shopping bags full of school supplies, wrap teacher gifts, pack backpacks and lunch boxes, write notes, get the extra kindergarten supplies ready for T to take in, pack lunches in the morning, take pictures.... how could I have forgotten the stuffed animal?? I have no idea! Anyway, a trip home to grab a lunch/snack, the note Kt forgot to bring in and a stuffed animal only to return to school to deliver. I had a short visit with Kt, where she shared that she was enjoying her first day.

From there I went BACK to the doctor. Since my appointment took so long, I had to return to turn in a form for Kt's asthma meds. The whole office closes for lunch, so I couldn't leave it earlier. Then I went from there to register the girls for gymnastics, came home and totally crashed on the sofa. It's a good thing I woke up before the bus came!

Em stepped off the bus this afternoon with a semi-black eye. Try extracting important details from a 5 year old on her first day of full day kindergarten. It was painful! All I can gather is that she fell from the monkey bars that are totally inappropriate for kindergarteners and hit her eye. The "coach", who we will assume is the insensitive, old, cranky gym teacher, told her just to sit out and rest a bit. Why was the gym teacher monitoring the kindergarten recess?? Where were the other teachers? aides? Why didn't anyone get her ice??? Well, we got her ice when she got home and got the swelling down to a bruise. That will look lovely for school pictures!

We had dinner at Friendly's to celebrate the first day of school. I'm totally spent now. My eyes are puffy from my DTP shot, my head hurts, my arm aches and I sort of feel like I didn't get anything done today. Good thing I don't have anything at all tomorrow - so that is really my first day of freedom!! Yeah!!

Now, for the rest of the school year!

First Day of School!

Last night, my family asked me what I have planned for the first day of school. I'm sure most moms who send all their kids to full day school for the first time have a great "first day of freedom" planned. I, however, responded with, "Well, I have a doctor's appointment!" All of them agreed that next year, for my first day of school I should schedule a dentist appointment - LOL!

We spent a better part of this weekend getting organized for school, getting school clothes laundered, teacher gifts chosen and cards written. I spent Saturday morning shopping for lunch boxes, shoes (forgot to get a pair for Katie - oops!), finishing up with school supplies and purchasing games and play doh for kindergarten. We are all exhausted, which likely won't bode well for my doctor's appointment this morning, but I definitely feel a sense of relief that it's over - at least this part.

Last night, the girls each had a bath, different bed times (which did not go over well at all for Em until she crashed on her pillow!), choose clothes for today... Kt, for the first time, is not overly excited about the start of school. In fact, I think she is slightly depressed about it. I'm hoping and praying that she will have a wonderful first day. Em is her usual fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants self. One minute she is "so excited" about kindergarten and the prospect of spending an entire year locked inside a building with her best friend, the next minute she declares that she never wants to go to school. She just wants to stay home and play!

I think our funniest moment today was when I announced at 8:30, while both my children were still eating, one not even dressed yet, no hair brushed, no shoes on, that we needed to hurry it up as the bus was coming at 8:50. Em stopped in her tracks and yelled, "I get to ride the bus???" We all busted out laughing. I'm quite certain we've been over this 100 times, but clearly the reality of the situation finally hit my happy-go-lucky child. What a day it will be for her!

For me, probably the saddest part about today is that I won't get to experience it with her. I don't necessarily want to be with her, I just want to watch, like through a hidden camera or something. The first day of school isn't meant to experienced by any parents! It's a special day for teachers and their students, but when I was teaching it was so fun to watch the expressions of my students on that first day, when they were all angels (this changes really quickly by the way!), and everything was new for them. It's such a pleasure to experience!

So, for me, well, I'll get to blog a little more, get my house organized for the first time since I had children (oh, wait, I don't think it's ever been organized!), I will be tutoring a high school student through his senior year a few hours a week and teaching 3 year olds at a Mother's Day Out program on Friday mornings. On top of that, I'm hoping to find a pool to join so I can fit in some swimming and I am planning to do the Parent Partners reading program that I did last year. I doubt I'll have a lot of free time, but it will be fun to do some of the things that I've always wanted to do but couldn't. T is being kind enough to not make me get a job for this first year at home. The last thing I want to do is squander any of this precious time!

Happy First Day of School to everyone!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sleepover with Em

So, tonight T is away. Kt went to spend the night with her friend. Em asked me right away, "So, can I sleep in your room? In your bed??" She has been gleeful all night that Kt is gone, sad that daddy is away. I thought we'd make a Target run, but her leg hurt (likely story!), so we watched Princess Diaries instead.

Em is such a funny girl. It's fun when I get to spend time with just her and tonight was a gift because soon I won't see her nearly enough. Full day kindergarten is a bit of a curse to me. I feel like I'm being robbed of extra time that I had with Kt. So tonight I enjoyed her a bit.

Part of that is remembering how enthralled my father was with her when she was young. Em has an aura of joy around her most of the time. Her smile is very bright, infectious and her spirit is light-hearted. She has a bounce in her step, everyone comments on the way she walks - like a little fashion model. I can't tell you how many people have watched her walk away and said to me, "Wow, good luck with THAT one!"

Tonight we cuddle together and she once again asked me a ton of questions that she already knows the answers to. She just likes to make sure the answers haven't changed. Why do you love me - because I'm your kid? (that's my personal favorite!) Do you want to share my blanket? (gives me a tiny corner!) I just love spending time with you - don't you? (of course I do) Why can't I stay up longer? (that's a given)

I laid down with her for a bit hoping she settle down and fall asleep. She is very tired, but totally excited about being the only kid in the house with me. She was laying on T's side of the bed and being very giggly. She looked at me and said, "I wonder what daddy will think when he smells me on his pillow?" Giggle, giggle, giggle.... I wonder what goes through that 5 1/2 year old mind of hers. She absolutely loves her daddy and I think in her mind she believes she is the most important thing in his world.

I can say this about T, for never having siblings he did a pretty good job with his girls. They always want their daddy around and love to be with him. If you can make your child think that they are the most important thing in your world than I think you've done a pretty good job.


I talk too much!

Warning: Entering a Negativity Zone

I'm starting to wonder right now if getting a job would help with my general negative attitude or just absolutely drive me insane!?! I am in one of those zones where every direction I turn I seem to find something I'm unhappy about. I do not like being here and I'd like to get out soon.

First problem: the puppy. As a disclaimer to what I'm going to reveal next, I am not, never have been nor will I ever be a "dog person." I prefer cats, but since Kt and I are allergic, dogs it is. We have had one dog in the family, Calvin, since T and I got married. T had always wanted a dog, something big, but I couldn't so we settled on a Maltese. He seemed cute at first, but we knew nothing about dogs. Our agreement was that this dog would be solely T's responsibility because I don't do dogs!!

Calvin has been a source of great stress for me over the years. He has never grown up, has severely diminished my love of all kinds of dogs due to his constant chewing on everything, including people. He and I have an understanding - we coexist, occasionally love each other but try to stay out of eachother's way.

So, why, you ask, would I ever agree to another dog?? In a weak moment of possession by a clearly evil spirit, I actually thought a puppy might be a good idea. My manager at Curves had a litter of 3/4 Shit-zhu, 1/4 poodle puppies, Em and Calvin are best friends, Calvin, while refusing to grow up mentally is showing signs of getting old. He has seizures, a heart murmur, sleeps most of the day.... Anyway, I was more thinking of Em. After YEARS of swearing there would never be another animal in this house after Calvin, I actually thought a new puppy might work.

I did have some serious restrictions, however, including it must be a female, have a very calm, nurturing disposition and basically be a lap dog. We found this exact puppy in this litter, and I was very excited. We said nothing to the girls while we waited to see if they would give up this prized possession. I have to admit, I was excited. There was not another puppy in that litter I would have agreed to buy. This one was perfect, she was gentle, not spastic, very sweet, beautiful - the one with the most white, something else I really wanted. I didn't touch another puppy there, all of whom were jumpy, nippy and noisy. All except for her. I named her Sophie.

Weeks passed, T went off to Cameroon, I took the girls to CT and came home to a message. Our puppy was ready, a week earlier than we expected!! T was not even home yet, so I was scrambling. When I finally talked to the owner, she explained that our puppy was sick. Upper respiratory something. I immediately became concerned because of Calvin and decided I ought to check with our vet. He concurred that it was not a good idea to bring home a sick puppy, so I asked her if we could wait. She was not so happy about that idea.

Now comes the part I totally regret. What I wanted to do was pay for our puppy, ask this woman to keep her until she was well and then bring her home. T disagreed with me on this. The woman's son had fallen in love with our puppy so she was offering us the puppy they were supposed to keep, the runt of the litter. I did not like that idea, but T had taken Em over to check out our puppy and of course, she wanted the teeny tiny puppy. Never let a 5 year old decide for you.

We now own a yippee, nippy, spastic puppy and I'm really finding it hard to live with this. This was NOT my idea, even though T will try to pass it off like it was. Our pool manager bought a puppy from the same litter who is twice the size of our puppy - I'm losing any hope that this puppy will grow up, in size or mentality. Basically, I'm not happy and someone else has my beautiful (if I hear my pool manager one more time describe how perfect the puppy we were supposed to get was, I will be sick!), sweet, calm and cuddly little girl. In reality, I just feel duped! by everyone!!

Second problem: (yes, the first one is really a lot of small problems, but I lumped it into one just for you - aren't you happy!?) T is gone. He's away on a "leadership weekend" with church. One night, but I'm just really annoyed by that. First of all, he's got a puppy to take care of!! Second of all, he has no responsibilities on this weekend and every year when he comes home from this same weekend, he tells me he really didn't have to go because there is nothing for him to do!! He just told me about it after we got the puppy - "Oh, by the way I'm going away that weekend..." kind of thing. Huh? Take that puppy back, then!! I guess I feel like I'm not recovered from the past couple of weeks, things need to be done around the house that are not getting done:

mow lawn (the big mound of weeds outside our house!), landscaping (from the spring - nothing has been done in my yard!!!!!! T kept telling me he'd have kids who needed to raise support for their trips do the work - I guess no one needed help!), foundation of house needs to be painted (basically since we moved in and changed the siding), garage is a mess (beware of falling junk and bags of stuff everywhere!), bushed trimmed (I finally did it myself - I guess I'll have to start doing all the yard work too!), and more but I won't bother to go on!

Last problem: school. Kt's in a class this year with hardly any friends (none of her good friends), the same boys that I really don't want her with and a teacher that is clearly not the popular one, but I'm sure she'll be fine. The bigger problem - the reading issue we thought we had resolved at the end of last year must not be resolved because she is not with any of the high level readers. She is with the same level or lower, and they place students based on reading level. I'm so tired of her class....

Em has the brand-spanking new teacher, and I'm happy about that. She is with our neighbor's daughter, her best friend, and they are even sitting at the same table - they couldn't be happier. No stress there, until they call me up and say they want to move her. They will be having lunch at noon (seems like a long time to wait to eat!), not having any snack time at all for full day kindergarten. Hmmm.... sounds like the peanut allergy mom got to them again!! Yup, she has a daughter in Em's class. Surprising, because Kt has had afternoon snack in first AND second grade, so not having it in kindergarten seems totally ridiculous to me.

The worst policy at our school, hands down, is the "we reserve the right to move your child in the first two weeks of school and expect your 'full support' of our insensitivity" practice. I hope they know not to bother calling us, because we will flat out refuse!! It's just not something we'll agree to, and I honestly can't believe they are still doing that. If you have to move children around because of a reading level, then assess the children BEFORE school starts - it's as simple as that!

Anyway, negativity seems to have overshadowed my life at the moment. I need to come up for some air. Oh, look, on top of all this (as if this isn't enough) I just got an email from Jerry Falwell. Thank goodness for delete buttons!! If only there was a delete button, or better yet rewind, for life! Thanks for letting me vent!

In fairness to myself, my family, here are some positive things: the girls have been walking the dogs for me (YEAH - until they go off to school next week!), we bought an electric piano - so maybe lessons??, I have finished buying school supplies, we have had great pool weather and are enjoying our last weeks swimming, that is all I can think of for now!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Weekly Update

Well, it's been a while since I blogged!! Here's a short list of what I've been up to:

1. Women of Faith conference in Hartford, CT: great trip, Yankee Candle again, awesome HUGE hotel room at the Residence Inn in Hartford, excellent conference. When we arrived at the convention center early and decided to do a little "shopping" we were stopped by an employee and asked it we wanted to meet Avalon! I'll write more about that later!!

2. Brought my mom back from CT so my sister and her husband could whisk her away to Lancaster for a couple days and then return with her to my house. I had no idea this was the plan until I arrived in CT Friday night!! Needless to say, my house was in no condition for guests!

3. Cleaned my house!

We had a wonderful but short visit with everyone. I was able to spend some time with my niece, Skyler, and the rest of my family.

4. Shopping with my mom - that's always fun. After my sister left, my mom hung around until yesterday when my Aunt and Uncle returned her to CT. That will be a great trip for my mom, as my Uncle will be getting a lot of work done around my mom's house for her. She has been keeping a running list for him for an entire year!

5. Dr. Pepper Party: My Uncle is a Dr. Pepper collector and often hosts parties at his home. As a founding member of the JOY group at our church, Just Older Youth, he hosts a party each year for this group. This year, 68 people signed up!! I went along to help with food and clean-up. The menu this year included Dr. Pepper chicken (which is delicious!), Dr. Pepper potatoes, salad with Dr. Pepper dressing, Dr. Pepper slushies, Dr. Pepper milkshakes and Dr. Pepper brownies. He always has games, and this year those included a scavenger hunt, the Dr. Pepper trivia test and a bit of entertainment. I think other than the downpour at the onset of the party, the entire event was a success!

I am now trying to enjoy our last week before school starts. Our new puppy has been a chore, mostly because I'm not really a dog person. I'm trying to figure out how I could have ended up with another! I have most of the school supplies taken care of and am now trying to figure out how to survive without my children.. I'm not really ready to have no kids all day long - I know I will miss them, so I need to find something to fill that time!

On a wonderful note, we received a newsletter from the girl's school yesterday and they have decided to add a fourth kindergarten class!! I'm very excited that they actually did that, that it was done before school starts and that the class sizes will be reasonable! Yeah!! The bad news - the county is short 5 kindergarten teachers!! So far, with teachers all back in school this week getting rooms ready and having meetings, we are without that fourth teacher. Should be interesting!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Deer Decoy, Dastardly Judge

I know I haven't posted in a while, and I will catch up soon (once my mom leaves town!) but while she's out for the night, I must comment on this ridiculous judge. I'm sure most have read this story already, but I feel the need to speak my two cents here.

When Judge Gary McKinley announced his decision Tuesday to delay the sentence, he said, "I shouldn't be doing this, but I'm going to. I see positive things about participating in football."

I added the bold, mostly because these words jumped off the page at me right into my "unreasonable" motherly thoughts. If you shouldn't be doing this, than WHY ARE YOU?? You are the judge, you clearly know this is a MISTAKE, yet you are choosing to make it, admitting you are stupid for doing so but going to anyway. All I can say, because I am utterly speechless, is WHAT AN IDIOT!!

Let's see. Two boys put a deer decoy in the middle of a road in the middle of the night and HAVE FUN watching two other boys nearly lose their lives while trying to avoid the pretend deer, swerve and flip their car in a ditch, one going through the sunroof, the other landing outside the car and being permanently brain damaged. This judge has the nerve to suspend sentencing until football season is over because the culprits are the two star football players????

And we wonder why professional athletes think they can get away with drug possession, rape, spousal abuse, doping and all other kinds of serious offenses!?! And I'd LOVE to hear about a judge who suspended the sentencing of a band member, honor society member or school play actor until a concert or play was finished. Go ahead and send me the stories....

The 17-year-old's father, C.J. Howard, said members of the community have made crude remarks when his family shops at a nearby Wal-Mart store and that his younger children are taunted by older youth when they play in the yard.

He said his son would not be the focus of such attention if he didn't play football.

"I don't know why it's about football players. Why isn't it about student council or track?" Howard asked. "He admitted what he did and he faced the consequences like a young man should."

Well, that's just it Mr. Howard. Your family is paying the price of having a son who admitted to a crime that caused serious injury to two men and seemingly faces NO CONSEQUENCE at this moment. It's not about student council or track because for those school activities, those students would be in juvenile hall. You are lucky your son is in school and allowed to play any sport after committing that crime, the one you call a prank. If I were the principal or the judge, your son wouldn't be suiting up for anything other than jail!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Thoughts on Africa

Here are some thoughts posted by one of T's leaders on Africa. They made me cry! Especially the part about smelling the sheet. T kept say, as he unpacked his bags to show the girls all his treasures, "This smells like Africa!"

The "Sting" of Exclusion

Competition is not my favorite part of life, but it's something we all face almost daily in so many ways. As a kid, I never participated willingly in any kind of sports competition, I was not athletic and contact sports scared the heebie-jeebies out of me! I did, however, enter art competitions and participated in band competitions. They were definitely good experiences, none of which I would say "scarred me for life" when I lost!

The idea I've seen tossed around in elementary school circles for years is this idea that kids should never lose or be excluded in any way. It's just not worthy of the time spent in arguing in my humble opinion. Today, on, they have a brief article about this very topic, and it peaked my interest as I just participated in and won an online game competition and this very topic has once again come to light!

Having formerly been a first grade teacher, I have to dispute some of the comments made in this article about friends and exclusion. First of all, there are many young children who have only a few exclusive friends. To say that young children's friendships change from day to day is a statement that I think applies to a minority of children. My own daughter has been in a circle of 4 friends since kindergarten and she is now entering third grade. These five girls have been very close for the last three years and I don't see that changing day to day!

Secondly, the birthday party thing has just gotten WAY out of hand. It's gotten to the point where you must invite the whole class or not have a party, and I'm sorry but there are maybe a handful of parents who can afford a birthday party today for 20-30 kids, as class sizes are now going out the roof!! I see no problem teaching your children to be sensitive to others. Invite their 4 best friends, send in cupcakes for the whole class and tell your child their party is cancelled if anyone other than those four friends finds out about the party!! so as not to hurt anyone's feelings.

Truth be told, my daughter has been excluded from other parties and it's a GREAT lesson to teach your children. Embrace that teachable moment, not by committing to always invite everyone to your parties, not by excluding that HORRIBLE, ROTTEN classmate who left your child out (PALEEEASE!) but by explaining to your child the difficulties we face in life when we have to make difficult decisions. If you find that you excluded and hurt someone's feelings, then set up a single playdate with just that person and make it special! Decide how to use those situations to teach your child a valuable lesson about friendship, not revenge or bullying.

Finally, competition can be healthy and is the perfect way to introduce the concept of sportsmanship to your child. For a few years, I was the chairman of the Fine Arts committee at a small Christian school. Each year we would run a very organized week long competition that included many fine arts categories, including art, drama, music and a big spelling bee. Each year, at the onset and close of each competition, we would review letters written by parents bemoaning the idea of having a competition in a Christian school. It was pathetic!! I felt like asking them all, "How do you think I got this job as a teacher here? Did I walk in and say, 'You must hire me because I'm a Christian, I want this job and it doesn't really matter if there are others more qualified than me to work here!'?"

In the competition, the kids signed up to be in it. If you don't like it, don't sign up. They knew when they signed up that there would be winners, there would be some who did not win but that every participant would be recognized. The whole week was AMAZING!! We'd have judges come in from outside the school who left wonderful compliments for these kids, we would end with performances by students, dramas and an art show for all to enjoy. We celebrated the accomplishments of students who obviously spent hours preparing for this event and no participant was unrecognized. But still, each year, complaint after complaint.... I guess that is a part of life as well!!

Sending my children to public school has presented many choices for me that I've had to weigh very carefully. I'm not completely thrilled with everything my children or I have encountered, but it's my choice to take each situation and shape it into something that will grow me and my children into people who are wiser, more Christ-like and better prepared for the world. I have not always succeeded in this endeavor, but that doesn't mean I'm throwing in the towel. It means I have to work harder to recognize when I'm being challenged and what I want to teach my children from that situation.

I don't want to be the whiner and complainer if that means my children will always be included in everything just to feel good about themselves. I will whine and complain, though, when the safety or education of my child is compromised. The idea of competition in life, well, it just doesn't interfere, in my opinion, in the safety or education of children. It only strives to prepare children for the real world!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Last night, the girls and drove through NO TRAFFIC to Dulles Airport. So unpredictable, that beltway! We made it there in record time. Despite my two emails, suggesting that parents arrive sometime between 8-8:30, everyone beat us there, and we arrived at 7:40. Of course, I was shooting for 8:30, but without traffic it was a very quick ride down.

We all waited until 8:45 for the team to finally immerge from customs. Em, just as I'd predicted, refused to let go of her daddy, who was exhausted and is still pretty ill from his little adventure. After making sure our one last team member made it through customs (with a bag of food that was sent along from Cameroon - apparently with some unknown food item that looks a bit like "weed"), we said our goodbyes and headed home.

Once home, daddy emptied his suitcases full of all kinds of strange and bizarre artifacts from Africa. OK - I am totally kidding!! But to the girls, you would have thought the wooden elephants, bongo drums and bracelets were strange and bizarre, the way they gawked at them! He also brought home an anniversary gift from Paris - a beautiful sterling silver/amethyst necklace, for me. How sweet! We don't really do a lot of perfume in this house with all the asthma!

After the girls went to bed, sort of!, two team leaders stopped by to pick up their cars. They hung out for a few minutes, talking of their first trip to Chik-fil-A. You could tell they were already having reverse culture shock and I wasn't sure they were going to leave... just had to talk to T about, well, nothing much! LOL, but that's the way it goes. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the team adjusts to being home after living in such a different country.

Once we went to bed, T and I ended up staying up talking and looking at some of his pictures. They paint a picture of a not so beautiful country filled with amazingly beautiful people. From my brief photo tour, that really stood out to me that the people in Cameroon are what create the beauty there. They are phenomenally bright, cheery, jubilant - in a picture! I imagine them to be emotional, attached, community oriented just from what I saw and a bit from what I heard last night. The beach was gorgeous, but other than that the pictures of the city are really kind of depressing. Abandoned buildings, dirt roads, makeshift homes. I think I was expecting a bit more for city dwellers in one of the more stable African countries.

I finally let T fall asleep last night, and boy did he sleep!! He kept mentioning to me that he is too old for these trips anymore. Really, though, the problem isn't his age, because he's very young! The problem is 10 days is not long enough for his body to adjust AND enjoy his stay. They flew into Cameroon after 28 hours of travel, then after another 36 hours went straight to the beach. That's a lot on a body. He will need some time to recover, and hopefully will begin to feel better soon.

The debrief in Paris was probably one of smarter pieces of the planning. At first, I think T wished they were not spending the night there. In truth, though, it was a great idea. For some team members, it was the first hot shower they'd had. It was also a place everyone wants to go, so there was plenty to see and do. They also still had just their team there. No distractions from friends and family, so the leaders still held a captive audience in the team. They had a great debrief session at the Eiffel Tower, then spent the rest of their time touring. Later they continued with a few more debrief and re-entry sessions.

I reminded T that last year, when returning from Brazil, all plans for debrief went awry because it was difficult to pull the team back togther. Some left for college, others went back to jobs and the rest were trying to readjust to life back home. This idea of debriefing away from home is a good one, especially for a trip like this, so far from home with so much to process.

We are super glad T is home. Now we have to make a decision about getting a new puppy (long story!) and plan our little welcome home celebration for tonight. Let's see, I have the Saltines, bottled water and we'll have to go get some bananas and rice. Sounds like a feast! LOL

Monday, August 07, 2006


I feel like I have a hangover. I have no idea what that feels like because honestly I've never had one! But I'm sure it feels just like I'm feeling right now. Because of certain health conditions, I never drink anything with caffeine. Yesterday I was sooooo sleepy that I went ahead and drank a WHOLE can of Pepsi. It was disgusting! Anyway, I was still able to get to sleep. Usually, when I drink even a few sips of caffeine, I'm awake most of the night. Last night was an exception. I went to bed early - around 11:30 - and didn't wake up until 7 this morning. That's very unusual for me. But since I woke up, I've had a terrible headache. I'm pretty sure it's a caffeine hangover. If I drank coffee, I think I'd need a cup right now!

On the Dulles Toll Road

Today I need to go pick up T at Dulles, so waking up to this story was not the best way to start my day!! Road rage is a real problem around here. It's so random, so stupid, so scary! It's worse during high volume traffic times, like around 5-7pm, which is right around the time I need to leave... You can pray for me!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Too Much Christian Music??

Em loves to belt out made up, ridiculously hilarious songs most of the day. Recently, they all seem to be a combination of worship tunes she's been listening to. Sometimes, when I listen to her, I think this child must have such a warped theology. Just a few moments ago, she was singing her heart out something like this, "I believe in you God, I will never stop believin' in you, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE! I love you, Lord!" Hmmm.... I wish I could just get her to learn the real words!! (We are all still laughing at the "Recipe the Name" from the other day!)

Here's What He Wrote:

From Paris:

We've had a pretty amazing day in Paris today seeing the sights. I
was still a bit sick so the other leaders ran the show including
getting everyone into the city and a pretty intense debreifing
session. I caught up with them later which was a lot of fun. Two
more sessions on reentry tommorrow qnd then flying. Pray for ontime
flights. More after we get home.

Like I said earlier, "qnd" for "and" - LOL!

It's nice to know he's feeling better. Now, for my final act as mission's mom, we have to drive to Dulles airport at rush hour tomorrow. For me, this is probably the most challenging task of this entire trip. While it would have been much easier to ask someone else to just bring him home, T I know would much rather be picked up by his girls. We'll do it for him - but just to warn you all, no one else better ask as much from us!!

Em has asked me about 5 times today if tomorrow is the day we pick up dad. She honestly cannot wait! She likes everything to be just right, the way it should be and it's just not been that way for her. She's very happy, content but I can see in the back of her mind the daily reminder that something is out of place. From the time she could walk, Em has been our cuddle kid. If T so much as looks like he's going to hug me, she's right there at our legs, holding on for dear life! Tomorrow night, she's not going to let him go - I can feel it already!! I guess I'll be sleeping in her bed! LOL

Kt I'm sure is just formulating a million questions in her mind about Africa. She is our information monger. That child cannot stuff enough trivia into that brain of hers and is always looking for more country facts than one can put in an encyclopedia! In California, my aunt gave her a small globe on a keychain. It's TINY, and she has been showing everyone the pinpoint on the globe where her dad is. I can hardly even tell it's Africa!! I think we are both very ready to take her somewhere far away!

We are slowly getting cleaned up and ready. Kt wants to plan a big coming home party for T tomorrow. I had to break it to her that by the time we get home, no one will be awake enough for a party!! Not to mention, dad will be exhausted, not feeling well and party will be the last thing on his mind. But, to appease her, we will plan a party for Tuesday night!

Tomorrow at this time they should be landing - yeah!

Can I Just Tell You How Psycho I Am??

This is a totally random story, but since I just remembered it, I'll tell you how totally blonde and psycho I am. Two weeks ago, the Sunday before the Cam team left, I was leaving church to go to my CPR/First Aid training. My mind was not completely there, my allergies were acting up, I was kind of tired.... OK, I had absolutely no excuse for what I did.

I was walking through our entirely way too big church lobby and my eyes caught sight of two girls who looked exactly like the daughters of a woman I used to teach with. She and her husband had adopted these girls from Russia years ago and the last I saw them was at our Extreme School Makeover, when they were out with their school PTA. They had mentioned leaving their church and I have wondered where they ended up. When I saw these girls, I immediately thought of them.

One of the girls ran up to a man I recognized, so I went right over, with only this thought in my mind, "What are they doing here??" I said to this man, "HI THERE!! When did you start coming here?" He gave me the strangest look and said, "Well, uh, oh, you mean the 11:15 service? Because we usually come at 9:15!" I replied, "Oh, right. Gosh. The last time I saw you was at the school makeover! Where's Jen?" At this point, he looked at me really strangely and said, "She's right over there." and off he went to catch a younger girl.

At this point, I turn around, I do not see Jen anywhere. Of course, I see my other friend, Jen, you know, the one who is in our small group every other Monday, the one who knows my friend Jen that I am looking for (thankfully!). At this point, I realize how totally stupid I've been. I mean, I'm clearly psychotic. This man and these girls, they are not the people I thought they were. This is Bob from my small group!!! and these are his girls, his very own, not from Russia. What is wrong with me???

I caught up with them as I was leaving and we all laughed it off, but really, I need my head checked!! Of course, of all the couples in our small group they are the ones who come the least. And this past winter I was taking that class so I was never there. I think the last time I saw them was last November!! But still - I mean, really, people need to start wearing name tags at my church or I'll be completely lost. Oh how I miss little churches!!

T chat

I just spent some time this morning chatting with T in Paris. It was kind of funny, as the "A" and "Q" are reversed on the french keyboard, so it looked funny everytime he typed "qnd" - LOL!

He is the only one who is sick, the rest of the team has been touring Paris all day. He was finally feeling decent, so he is now meeting them at the Eiffel Tower. He was at an internet cafe near Notre Dame. Can you imagine? I can't!

I'm feeling a bit lazy this morning. The girls do not want to go to church and I'm too tired to make them go. Isn't that awful - I'm feeling rather wimpy. It's been a long almost two weeks without T. I really want to go to church, but it's now 10:30. I needed to chat with my husband this morning and now I'll just be running around trying to get ready, we'll be late, I'll be mad, the girls will be grouches.... we're staying home.

Next weekend I'll be in Connecticut for the Women of Faith conference with my mom, my sister-in-law and possibly my sister. I'm doubting my sister will come - long story, I'm not going to bother to get into it, but I'll be in total shock if my sister and her husband make the trip. We are going to do the same as we did last year - drive up early Friday, go to the Yankee Candle flagship store and then go to the conference. This year we will be only 2 blocks from the Hartford Colesium. Last year we were about 15 minutes away and had to drive in a park. I'm very excited!

Well, I do need to get dressed and start cleaning up. Oh, and eat. Pray that T feels better when he gets home. He's still sick!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Tster has landed!

The team just landed in Paris. Now I can sleep peacefully while my husband is enjoying himself in the city of.... uh.... I don't know, really. Anyway, would have been nice to go, but I'm fine here. Time for bed!!

On His Way Home!

T is on a plane right now from Doula, Cameroon to Paris, France. He emailed this morning saying he was still sick and hoping to sleep on the plane a bit. I have a feeling he'll be taking a sick day on Tuesday!! Hopefully, they will all arrive safely - 7 am Paris time, 1 am our time. I might just stay up tonight to make sure they land safely.

After his email, I received one from the family in Cameroon that arranged and hosted everything for us. A tearful goodbye, reunion plans and a small P.S. on the bottom that they were returning T completely exhausted and pooped out. I replied with: That's always the way we receive him after these trips! : ).

The girls are planning a chocolate feast when he returns - I'm guessing that is more for their benefit. I'll have to go to the local chinese take-out and make sure we have plenty of Won-ton soup around for his return! The girls won't mind, as long as they get their chocolate!! Getting them to clean up for him is a completely different story.

Today Kt was supposed to have her best friend, who is moving to Bismarck, North Dakota on Thursday, over for the day and evening. We picked her up, ran to the grocery store where before we even got out of the car she became sick to her stomach. Poor Kt - she's been asking for her all day!! Anyway, we'll have to see if we can't work something out before Thursday, but that's not looking so good.

After swim lessons, we had chips and cheese for dinner. We have to do stuff like that when dad is away. He hates cheese and I would never dream of having something like that for dinner. We just did it tonight because we could. It was really gross! LOL! But fun, and the girls were happy. They are now watching Aquamarine for the umpteenth time. Yes, I let them watch it, and it was much cuter than I'd expected. I wasn't going to let them see it, but when we went to Target and saw it mixed in with Disney and Nickelodean movies, I decided I'd give it a try.

And me? Well, hopefully I can finish up these wedding invitations tonight so that all day Sunday and Monday I can clean my house! Not so fun, but must be done. That's life!! I also have a prospect for a very part time tutoring job for this next school year. I was praying about what I could do that wouldn't require me to work all the time but I could be productive, and keep a little busy. I've also been pondering what to do with the rest of my life. Graduate school for something education related or do something totally different, like a travel agent or banker. You know - I'm basically directionless at this point!! LOL - well God just started me out with something education related. And He knows my heart best. We'll see where this goes!

Pray for T - and our adjustment to him being home, processing his trip and applying what he's concluding to his life now. It's never an easy adjustment, but it's always worth the time and energy we put into translating the experience God has given to our lives here. We'll get him well first, then we'll listen intently to the amazing things he experienced on the other side of the world! One of the things I've always loved about T is that he loves to be the learner, but he's really a great teacher!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

What I've Been Saying All Along!!

I know I've mentioned before how I feel about parents of children with nut-allergies. I sympathize with them to a point. I personally do not send food with nuts to school with my children as I do not ever want to be responsible for another child having an allergic reaction. I also am frustrated with parents trying to dictate every morsel of food in the name of a food allergy. Last I checked, DOTS have no peanuts!! However, many of these parents do not educate their children on what food items have peanuts or peanut products, so the children never learn how to make very important food decisions on their own.

On today there is an article supporting this belief of mine is printed. I'm NOT suggesting that start introducing nut products in schools, but I'm just reiterating my belief that if children never see what they are allergic to, they may not recognize it when it's put in front of their faces!! I think creating a completely peanut/nut free environment is just as dangerous for kids as exposure in so many ways.

My sister-in-law's best friend was allergic to walnuts. Her mom very carefully created the walnut-free life for her and she was always told what she could and could not eat, namely walnuts. So, when she went off to college, she decided that as long as she took off the walnuts on top of her brownie, it would be safe. She never made it to the hospital and her epipen was back in her dorm room.

Please, if you have a child who has a lethal peanut allergy, educate them, as scary as it may be, what can happen if you eat this, or this, or even this. No exposure can kill them as well!

News from T in Cameroon!

Here are a couple updates. I'm copying them, pasting them so some of the info will be duplicate. The girls and I are heading home tomorrow. I'm dreading the ride. I'd much rather stay here, but we need to get home for a good-bye party. Then we sit around all weekend waiting for T to come home!

Update 1:
Hi parents,

Sorry for the lack of updates. The team is doing great – there are some slight stomach issues and Lauren got a small dog bite by the Naines dog. Lauren did talk to her mom, and we are treating accordingly. Good thing they both got all their shots.
The team has done a great job with the youth camp, which finished on Wednesday. Lot of friendships were made, 4 students made decisions and the indigenous youth worker team here got some great momentum. Tomorrow is a visit to a tech school in the morning, followed by visiting some first time ever student small groups – as a follow up from camp – and then a Nav gathering to say goodbye to us. We depart from Yaounde on Sat evening and land in Paris Sunday morning.
Thanks for praying, please pray for:
- that our stomach issues would go away
- for Lauren’s ankle
- that our flights would be on time
- that our time in Paris would be a great time of encouraging our team as they come back to the states and what they will do with the experience

Thanks again, your kids are pretty awesome!

Tony for the team
Prayer Update:

Dear SPACE friends,

I’m writing this from Yaounde, Cameroon, Africa, where we are in day 7 of a 10 day mission experience. The sights, sounds and smells of Cameroon are mostly what you expect of Africa – dusty roads, lots of people, roadside stands and a lot of taxis in this city of 1.5 million people. The relationships here though are far deeper than those images relate to. Cameroonians love people and their warm smiles and handshakes only scratch the surface.

Our team just finished helping run a four day youth camp - assisted by an indigenous team of Cameroonian youthworkers - for around 35 high school students. The overall effort is part of a long term strategy to start a high school ministry and our tasks included being a part of small group discussions centered around faith and spiritual things, running fun high school style games and sharing our stories as well as our lives. Most Cameroonians don’t swim, so the combined experience of a youth camp and the location of the beach was a real treat for them. It was also great for us to have a few lifeguards on our team. This strategy is an ideal situation for a team such as ours, as 4 Cameroonians made first time decisions for Jesus and as the Cameroonian youth team already has planned immediate small groups to follow up.

As if being in Africa wasn’t enough of a real time lab about culture and context, our team also took a 2 hour ride – via dugout canoe – into the jungle to see a village of Cameroonian pygmies. I never imagined I would have the privilege of talking about God to a village chief via two translators. It was a wild experience.

Thank you again for praying and supporting this team – we know God is hearing your requests for us. Please continue to pray for:
- our relative safety for the rest of our time here
most everyone has been healthy except for minor stomach issues.
Also please pray for LFoley, who got a minor bite from one of our hosts’ dog. Fortunately, both have had all their shots.
- Our timely and safe travel – we fly to Paris on Sat night and back home on Monday evening.
- A quality time of debriefing and processing the experience while in Paris
- Our new Cameroonian friends, their spiritual growth and that decades from now, Yaounde and all of Cameroon would be a much different place because of Jesus
- That life back home would be lived with the same passion and intensity for what Jesus longs to do with our lives and the communities we live in.


Power back at my moms - at least we think!?! The answering machine is picking up, so we are assuming there is power. We are heading over there to see, cool the house (and the dog) down. It will be nice to clean up a bit. The freezer in the basement and the refrigerator both defrosted, so we'll have some mopping to do. It's another hot day. It's rather unfortunate that we've missed going to the beach on our little vacation.

Now I can pack up in less than sweltering heat so we can head home tomorrow. Kt's best friend is moving and we have a party to attend. I hope we make it home in time. We are all on each other's nerves, it's pretty bad. I think we all need more sleep. My mom woke up at 8, announcing it was 9 o'clock and if she didn't get up, she'd never get up. Both girls were woken up and then my mom, when she figured out it was only 8 laid back down!!! The girls needed at least another hour!!! UGH! It's going to be a long, long day!

United Illuminating: Part II

We are now going on 36 hours without power. No response whatsoever from UI. My brother and his wife have been kind enough to allow us to crash at their place, but I'm very worried about our dog, who is not allowed in this apartment. It's beginning to look like I might have to leave today for home.

I monitored UI's web page. It's so not informative, I will never complain about BGE again! Whenever we have power out at home, we see multiple trucks out, get hourly reports on TV and radio and can track everything online. The UI "tracking" consists of numbers. In other words. All you know is how many customers have no power. That's it!! Yesterday, in Fairfield, we started the day with 20 customers out of power, that would be my mom's street. By early evening there were 250!! In Bridgeport, the number was in the 300's. This morning, all other areas are down to double digit numbers and Fairfield is now up to 380 customers. Could it be that they might actually send one truck down here today???

Truth be told, in all of our wanderings yesterday to stay out of the heat, we never saw one single UI truck anywhere. When we lose power at home, BGE works around the clock and anywhere you go you are bound to see at least one truck. Definitely NOT the case here.

For Fairfield being the #9 top place in the US to live, I'm quite certain the power company had nothing to do with that rating!!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

T just called!

Despite what we'd been told, someone's cellphone actually works in Yaounde! T used this cell to make a quick call - I guess Em must have prayed really hard last night!!

He sounded very happy, upbeat and excited. It was great to hear from him. They are back in Yaounde. Tomorrow they will go on a city/souveneir tour, then debrief. Friday they will do a small get together (I think) to follow up with the teens they went to the beach with. Saturday they pack and get ready to leave for Paris.

It seems that a few of them (T included) got a little stomach thing but it was not too bad. The two who had the worst of it are both fine now, so that is good news. It was super to talk to him, and a nice break for us as we are sweltering in our electricless heatwave. Only 5 more days until he's home!

United Illuminating

Yesterday, we started our hot, hot day at the beach. It was awesome, and fortunately, we all took showers when we got home. Later we drove up to our favorite spot, The Christmas Tree Shop, did a little shopping and that's when all the fun started. A very large thunderstorm came up very quickly. We all had dinner across the parking lot. I dropped everyone off, then made a run for it. I entered the restaurant after running through a parking lot that became a river and looked like I'd just gotten out of the shower!!

After eating dinner soaked! we went back to my mom's. We were not home 30 minutes when the electric went out. I'd have to say it was a bit surprising as the storm clearly never made it to my mom's area. It was totally dry there and much hotter. Even more strange is the recent history of her street, which used to never lose power, even when all the streets around us were dark. For the last 3 weeks, this is the fourth time they have been the only street to lose power.

Needless to say, it was hot last night. I am sure today will only get worse. My mom fully expected the power to be back on this morning, as the longest she has been without power was 8 hours. However, today at 11, still no power.

Last night, my brother called UI. Never in my life, other than that experience we had last year with United Airlines, have I ever encountered worse customer service. We called, pressed all the right buttons, and waited an HOUR for anyone to answer our call. When the woman finally did she said this, "We are aware of that outage and we cannot promise any estimated time of restored power." That was it. One street to them is nothing I guess!!

It's amazing to me that these power and gas companies need to double our bills and take away any kind of reliable service. There was no explanation, not even a sign of a UI truck or any estimation of when we might expect to regain power. How miserable!

So, here I am at my brother's, trying to get a little cool after a sleepless night of all of us in my mom's living room. I guess God is trying to give us a hint of what it might be like for T in Cameroon! No updates in two days - poor Em asked me last night if we could call him, she misses him and is sure that there must be some way to call him. Didn't he bring his cellphone? she asked me. Oh, to have a world so small!! and comfortable!!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Well, today is our first day without an update, but the truth is I never expected any updates!! It's been a pleasant surprise getting the few that I have, and I am so thankful for that little bit of connectivity.

This afternoon, after a morning in the heat at the beach, we got an Incredible Edible fruit basket from T! It said in the card, "Enjoy. I am having a great time in Cameroon (I think!). " So funny, and a very sweet thought. I'm glad we really came to Connecticut!

Please just continue to pray for the health of the team and the receptivity of the kids they are hopefully bonding with. They are to return to Yaounde either tomorrow or Thursday, and I know the 3 hour bus ride - no bathroom stops - may prove to be a challenge for any who might be ill. Once back in Yaounde, I'm hope they can enjoy some culture, a bit of rest and a time of encouragement with their hosts, who have so graciously opened their homes.

They leave Saturday evening, fly to Paris, arriving at 6:30 am for a debrief in France. Their return to America is Monday late afternoon into evening for us. I hope they all get a chance to enjoy Paris!! and reflect on their experience. I can't wait to hear all about this trip!

School Supplies

Have I mentioned how much my older daughter LOVES school?? She loves it so much that I'm worried my second will be the complete opposite, as she has tended to be, and absolutely hate it!

Like many parents in America and beyond, we've spent a couple weeks gathering and organizing school supplies. In our county, the school supply lists are outrageous. I believe I've spent close to $50/child on supplies, which are clearly listed with correct sizes (.77 glue stick, Elmer's NOT school glue, baby wipes 80 ct. from Giant food store ONLY, etc), amounts (that would be 7 super large glue sticks for my kindergartener!!) and sometimes colors and places to buy them. It's rather annoying. They have finally taken off the list the ream of paper each child was to send in, it is now only a suggested donation for kindergarten.

With all those items to buy, school clothes, backpacks and lunch boxes tend to be the icing on the cake. We have spent a couple weeks pricing backpacks for my very selective and picky older daughter. We narrowed it down to a cheetah print backpack at the Children's Place for $15.50 or a light blue Jansport backpack at Target for $19.99. The cheetah print favorite was too small, the one at Target I was hoping would go on sale. I totally lucked out going to the Target up here yesterday and found a slightly different one for $7.99!!

Score, and my 8 year old was quite happy I'd finally agreed to buy one. For $8, I can bear to watch it being dragged from the bus to my front stairs without completely losing it, if it were to disappear I would not go into cardiac arrest and my daughter is quite happy to have this new backpack. So happy, in fact, that she has carried it around my mom's house (in her new palazzo pants also from Target!) non-stop since we brought it home. She wanted to take it to the beach but we said no. She has insisted that her sister play school with her and has even allowed her 5 year old sister to be the teacher so she can be the student and carry around her new, cheap backpack. It's quite funny!

Now I wonder if all those new school supplies will fit in this new backpack?!?

Creation Museum

I was just reading about this Creation Museum in Kentucky. The name Ken Ham came up. T and I went to a presentation by him once. It was actually a school trip, when I taught in a christian school. Some very interesting theories and very good arguments against the theory of evolution and the origin of life.

Most people, I'm sure, will laugh off this museum, balking at the idea that there is anything "scientific" about creation. I think it takes some amount of faith to believe what you read in the Bible concerning the origin of life. Of course, I happen to think it takes a larger amount of faith to believe that humans "evolved" from a single cell!!

The truth is, there are things we will never know until we "meet our maker." We can argue all we want about who is right or wrong, but that will never accomplish anything. I do think it's worth dwelling on, though, the theories this man has researched for many, many years.

As a student in America, I was forced to learn the theory of evolution as fact. Never presented with any other option or possibility. As a parent, I won't allow that to happen to my children. For those who think I'm a "wacko" for believing in creation, have you ever wondered what I think about evolutionists?? Here's what I think: if you would like me to be more open-minded, I'd like the same courtesy. Thanks!

On Mel Gibson

I love what Jeremy wrote about Mel Gibson. You should read it!