Sunday, August 23, 2009

What I did this summer...

School starts tomorrow. I'll be taking Ben to the bus at 6:30 a.m. and then heading into school for early morning duty so that I can get off early (hah!). For some reason I feel the desire to write that cliche' essay.

  • Did NOT update the blog. If you really want to know what I'm doing, then friend me on Facebook.
  • Taught summer school.
  • Took a photography course.
  • Took a course on geoecosystems in Yellowstone National Park with my dad.
  • Drove the Going-to-the-Sun-Road in an old-timey red car at Glacier National Park with my dad.
  • Sorted gravel for sapphires in Montana with my dad.
  • Went to the Ute Stampede in Nephi, UT with my mom, dad, Ben and Uncle Steve.
  • Spent a week at mining camp in Texas.
  • Saw KA in Las Vegas with Ben, Bryce & Tyce.
  • Visited the Shelby Museum in Vegas with Ben and my mustang-loving nephew, Tyce.
  • Got my toes prettified with my fab sil, Rebecca.
  • Cleaned out my closet, the garage, and the laundry room.
  • Hit my fitness goal and had to buy a new wardrobe.
  • And some more completely fantastic stuff.

Is it any wonder that I don't want to be back in school?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's sometimes cool to be a mom.

1. Ben tells me that he is ready to get his hair cut - short. I make the appointment and on the way, he informs me that he is going to blame it all on me. (After seeing the result, I will gladly take that blame!)

I have walked past him 3 times in various venues without recognizing him. His teacher carried on and on about how shocked she was. He looks good.
2. He is really fun to hang out with. Here he is at the art car parade dancing to the tunes from the disco bus!

3. Ben's grades slipped a little and he was grounded from the computer. After his grade raised, he thanked me for grounding him. Not sure that I heard right, I asked, "what?!" "Thanks for grounding me, Mom - now my character on World of Warcraft has full HP because he rested so long." (there's always a catch!)

4. Ben worked really hard on his Lone Star project which is a cumulative, interconnected display of everything they learned in Texas History, science, math and literacy this year. Ben made jerky, wrote a script for a podcast and directed said podcast. When I get a good link, I'll share it with you.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Of Lions and Lambs

You know the saying....March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb? I don't know that they meant the weather - it seems to apply much more to life. March began with a roar. I know we still have another week to go, but already the pace is less frantic. No big stresses are viewable. I'm hoping for the lamb-like ending.

The last week of February was busy - very busy. Come in late and get to bed late - busy. 5 hours of sleep a night busy. Ben was on academic probation, so Mean Homework Mom was required everyday. Nate's iron must be really low, because he is sleeping 16-18 hours a day. I am slightly overcommitted (as usual), but am handling it. not well, but doable. Until...

Friday the 27th, I was elected Teacher of the Year for my campus. This should be a great honor, right? I had a moment of "awww...somebody noticed" which was cut short when they told me that I had to write 7 essays (~14 pages by the following Friday). You know that I HATE to write! I have terrible writers block on a good day, and I wasn't having any good days lately. Panic sets in.

Saturday the 28th, Ben is to be in Austin for the state German competition. This is a 3 hour drive each way. Nate is too sick to go, so I drink about 3 diet cokes and head out early in the morning. I take a wrong turn. I call my sister for internet directions and Ben makes it to his competition time with 10 minutes to spare. (Turns out that the wrong turn was a benefit as there was a terrible wreck on the road we were supposed to be on, and traffic was backed up for an hour). Ben does his 2 competitions (german play and german skit) and we get back on the road home. I force him to go to the store where they are having a 70% off men's suits sale. He chooses a beautiful sport jacket. We arrive home at 8 p.m. A really, really long day, but I lived.

Monday, March 2nd. My shelves arrive. They were ordered in December for my lab, but installation got quirked and they arrive today to install them. My new directive is to get that unholy mess from the 2 room floodings the past fall cleaned up before the EP comes to visit. (Oh, and by the way, don't forget those essays). I come home to write, and promptly get in a fight with Nate, who is not really very coherent. I really, really want to run away from home. Really.

March 4th - spend the day getting my essays rewritten (since the computer didn't save my last changes). Principal assigns me to attend a meeting next Wednesday evening. (Science Fair is on Tuesday and Family Science Night is on Thursday. Evidently someone told him that I had a couple of free hours on Wednesday afternoon) Ben gets his Star rank in Scouts. Good job, Ben! (good job, mom, for grounding him until the last requirement was finished) Find out that Ben is 28 entries behind in his journal which is being picked up on Friday. Thus start the super-late nights...

March 5th - send off essays in the morning to my 2 dear friends for editing. Nate has doctor appointment spurred by our argument on Monday. Docs see him, run labs, have no answers. Go visiting teaching and then drop into my hair person, as I cannot gray gracefully anymore following 13 ma'am's since Saturday. As I walk in her door, the phone rings. Nate's doctor is admitting him to the hospital immediately. I apologize and go directly home. Thank goodness Heather can take Ben overnight and do school dropoff and pickup on Friday. We head to the hospital where all they can tell us is that is hemoglobin is less than 6, and his hemocrit is 1. (both of these are critical levels). The plan is to transfuse blood until Nate's levels are above critical, and then do IV iron in hopes that his body will make more blood. By this time, I am dangerously tired, and a little stressed because I haven't done the final edit on my essays. Nate sends me home at 11:30. I return home and get through the essay edits. Many thanks to my friend who chatted with me online until I was through the crisis and could think. Get to sleep around 2:30 a.m.

March 6th. Print final copy and put in dividers. Go to school to drop it off and head straight to hospital. Nate is looking less pale - he actually has some color in his skin instead of the transparent sallow look of the past few years. They haven't started the iron iv, yet. The doctor comes in and is quite concerned that the full workup that we had done 1.5 years ago hasn't been followed up on. Gets him to a new hemotologist on Monday. (yay!) After the iron iv and confirmation that he is 2/3 full of blood, and the final okay, we head home at 6 p.m. Nate eats dinner and goes right to sleep. I decide to color my hair myself, so that I can squeeze in for a haircut on Tuesday. (put this one under things NOT to do immediately after bringing your husband home from the hospital). It's rather light - blond in some places.

March 8th. Get word from my AP that the last 2 words on the essay were cut off, and can I fix it and bring it to her first thing on Monday? Nate feeling better, but starting to look pale again. Ben up until midnight writing.

March 9th. Science fair is tomorrow. I don't even know how many projects are actually completed. I have 9 judges scheduled for tomorrow. I call for all projects and end up with....5. 5 projects. Last year we had over 100. Decide to cancel the judges since it isn't worth their time to take off from work to judge 5 projects. Start cleaning the lab to make administration happy. Get an "FYI" e-mail informing the school that I am now the 'bat containment specialist'. ??? Which means that if there is a bat on campus, they should call me so that I can contain it and call the district animal control. (in the past few years, there have been some rabid bat incidents). What I want to know is how I got assigned this job? I'm only a science teacher! Start laughing hysterically which beats crying hysterically. Nate comes home from his hematologist appt with a calendar. His body made blood (nearly a pint!) with the iv iron from the hospital. So now we know that his body makes iron, but we don't know if it is an absorption or storage issue. Plan is to give heavy iron ivs for each of the next 3 weeks, and then wait 3 weeks to see if his body will store iron and absorb it. At last! After 3 years there is a plan! Ben up until 1 a.m. writing.

March 10th. Science Fair. Judge 5 of the WORST projects I have ever seen. Start prepping for family science night which is in 2 days. Get my hair cut. It looks cute. Come home - Ben is reading my high school yearbook and informs me that I have the same hair as then. Ben up late writing again.

March 12th. Family Science Night. Very, very nervous as I changed the way it was handled from previous years. Starts POURING at 3:30 p.m. Get all set up and ready. Crocodile Encounters and J.C. come to do their presentations beginning at 5:30. All 6 earth science activities are ready and most of my volunteers show up. -- Only 6 kids are there. Finally about 6pm, we have to start adding chairs and the evening begins. It went great! Everyone was pleased with the presentations and the activities. It ran very smoothly and we were cleaned up and out of there by 8 p.m. My principal even called me to say thanks. wow!

March 13th. School. Spring Break begins at 3:30 p.m. I'm trying to stay awake....trying....trying... I sleep for the next 3 days.

March 16-20th. My sister and our friend TA have set up a project goal as well as a daily reward for meeting our goals. I get the Den clean. Yes, for real! for the first time in 2 years, everything has a place and is in it. I finish the handmade book that has been sitting in pieces for the past 14 months. I get the house clean, I shop, I cook, I start working out to get ready for my trip to Yellowstone. It's a great week. Nate is getting much better - not normal yet, but now only sleeping 12 hours a night.

March 21st - we all go out for lunch and then to 2! stores. This is something Nate hasn't been able to do since the summer. (and back then, I couldn't do it because of my broken foot). He evidently overdid because he had a migraine for the next 24 hours, but he is improving.

March 22nd - It has been a really long month. I was under enormous amounts of stress. I was so stressed I stopped eating (and you know that I am usually a stress-eater). I need to thank my family and friends for their support. Heather, the Wards, Rebecca, Jim - you were all true blessings in my life and I could not have gotten through without you.

March 23rd - back to school. Not completely rested, but the days are more normal now. regular labs, regular classes, regular life...I hope it continues for the rest of the month.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thoughts on Jury Duty

When I received my summons, I was of two minds. First, I had a sense of dread brought on by the memory of my last experience in criminal court. (As a juror for those of you who wondered.) Second, I had this dream that I could go sit in the jury assembly room, drink my hot chocolate and read uninterrupted for a couple of hours.

My contention with jury duty last time was that I found it incredibly stressful to decide another person's future. I know that they made bad choices, but I didn't relish the responsibility. I also didn't like making decisions with only partial information. However, I also believe that my country requires the service of good, reasonable people in order to function in a good, reasonable way, so I did my best.

I am concerned by the number of people who believe that any time and effort they spend on the workings of democracy is too much. Not just those who learn the phrases that will get them out of jury duty, but also the ones who want to elect officials and then wash their minds of any further responsibility. How can we blame elected officials for doing the wrong thing if we don't keep informed? Is anyone else really, really bothered by this latest economic stimulus package?

After several weeks of ignoring advice from others on how to respond during voir dire so that I would be released, today finally arrived. I arose at the same time as usual, put on the same clothes I wear to work, because there is a dress code for jury duty, and drove downtown. I was able to park in the jury lot for fifty cents less than my jury pay was expected to be. This was a good omen, as the other lots charge $8-$10 a day. I found a seat in the back where the row consists of 2 seats, opened my book, put up the flap on my hot chocolate lid and began to relax.

As I sat, I realized that I felt SAFE in a manner that is uncommon now that we live in the big city. It took me awhile to put my finger on the reason, but as the jury duty video played in the background, I figured it out. Everyone in the room is a good, upstanding citizen. There are no felons, no one is facing felony charges, no one is insane. Since jury rolls are taken from voting lists, nobody is uncouth (young) enough to listen to loud music, make-out, or shout into cell phones. There are no children to make my teacher eye pop out. There are no sleep-deprived mothers of children under 10 (only sleep-deprived mothers of teenagers), and everyone missing had already lied and turned in their exemptions. People sat with an empty seat between them and minded their own business.

Juxtapose this experience against a PTO meeting at the school where I teach. Parents who speak little English talking on cell phones, carrying on loud conversations with profanity and raucous laughter while the principal is trying to impress upon them the importance of their children's education, while said children (and their siblings - both younger and older) run across the tops of the lunchroom tables or up and down the steps on the stage and then finally pandemonium when the police were called because two parents got into a fight over who the mother of both their children should sit with. Amazing. I briefly consider a career as a court clerk or bailiff - so orderly.

The jury duty video (repeated in 3 languages even though you can't serve if you aren't fluent in English) was low enough I could block it out. Loren Jackson, our recently elected district clerk, has apparently been elected because of his stand-up routine. After his one-liners, they administer the oath and begin calling groups. 5 groups go to criminal court, 4 to civil court and 2 or 3 to family court. Three times bailiffs return to the jury assembly room to call names of people missing from their group. They actually know if you are missing! Wow! I miss the last group by 11 numbers.

One group comes back - evidently an attorney didn't show up or something. We are advised to pay for our parking to avoid lines later in the day. I do so. Then they announce that we can donate our jury duty pay - all $6 of it - to either a victims group or Child Protective Services. I fill out the paperwork to make my selection and am touched by how many people are willing to donate during a tough economy. I also notice the scornful, disbelieving looks of those who choose not to donate. They obviously think we are crazy. Because the difference between me and a millionaire is $6?

I finish my book. Wow - I used to read a book a day and lately a book lasts me 2 weeks. I'm starting to get my things together - obviously I won't be needed today. Uh oh, the computer screens light up with another list of numbers. Mine's not there. Oh, its the group that got sent back. I guess the attorney finally showed up.

We are given final instructions and thanked for our service. (Thank you! Finishing that book was a treat compared to my Tuesday classes.) They release us to the survival of the fastest danger of the freeways and the rabid routine of real life.

I think I'm going to miss jury duty. Not because it is peaceful, convenient, or fun, rather because sacrificing a little for the betterment of others is worth it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Cost of Energy

At the first of every year, I tend to reevaluate my life. I have friends who do this on their birthdays, and others who plan a meditation retreat one weekend every year, but for me, the New Year just seems to work.

This year I am reevaluating my career choice and the cost of energy. And before your eyes glaze over, this isn't really about gas prices beginning to go up. I left my career in accounting to be a teacher for a couple reasons. One, the Lord told me to. Two, when I drug my feet about opening that new door, he threw me out the window. (I found myself unemployed a little earlier than I had planned on. Luckily I was only a couple of months away from beginning my new career in education.)

Being an accountant, I had created several spreadsheets that did a cost analysis - could I go from making a nice salary to only getting paid for 9 months of work? Several factors were involved: drycleaning, maid service, and childcare costs. I figured I could squeak by, but it would be a sacrifice.

Teaching has been more profitable than I ever imagined. In the past 5 years, we purchased a house, a new (to us) car and began a new savings account. This doesn't really seem possible when I look at the spreadsheets. However, sometimes the little things add up. Now I don't buy clothes that need to be dry cleaned. Per month savings: $50. No maid service - per month savings: $150. Free parking - per month savings $70. No afterschool and summer care - annual savings....$5000. Not driving during rush hour - approximate savings of $200 per month.

The biggest change was meals. Although, I come home tired, I don't come home late. We actually have time to cook a meal instead of eating out. I used to have lunch out every day. Sometimes I'd eat in the company cafeteria, other times I would escape the great and spacious building. Average weekly cost for lunches - $40 including tips. When I started teaching, I would purchase my lunch from the bacteria at $2.75 a day, saving me nearly $25 a week.

This year during lunch, my friends and I were discussing budgets and several of us made a goal to eat lunch for less than $10 a week. This means bringing food from home. I was excited because I could eat leftovers from the previous night's dinner since N & B don't believe in leftovers. This worked great until October. For some reason in October, there stopped being leftovers. I couldn't figure out what was happening, until I noticed the heaping platefuls that Ben was eating. The 7th-8th grade growth spurt has hit. My grocery budget started having severe shortfalls - and I was not getting a good lunch. I learned to shop the sales and eat Lean Cuisine and the like. But then, my Lean Cuisines started going missing from the freezer. It seems that Ben would eat them for a snack after school. (I'm sure in your mind you are thinking that he must be HUGE, but on the contrary, he's getting taller and not wider.) The cost of fueling my son is a major expense these days....surpassing our insurance bill and our summer a/c bill.

So I'm thinking that I need to leave teaching and return to the business world so that I can afford to feed my child. But first I'm going to try something new...stop at the grocery in the morning and buy my lunch. That way I'm sure I'll get to eat it!

Another strategy is to spend more time planning meals and looking for savings. I especially love the $5 blog. I get some great recipes there and hear about good sales. Right now they are even having a giveaway for a designer lunch tote. Check it out!

Now, if I can find some way to convert the cost of fueling B into a savings in another area of our budget....maybe I'll feed him in exchange for lawn care - then I can cancel the lawn service. Or maybe he can pay me for his meals...he has that dog-walking job. Or maybe I'll just enjoy this stage of life and find ways to make it through without changing careers or taking out a loan.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Home Improvement - ADD edition

What is it like to do home improvement projects with ADD? Let me tell you....

Two years ago, I commenced cleaning out the boxes of stuff behind the bar in our den. Putting away that stuff necessitated cleaning out and reorganizing a closet, which in turn required clearing out and reorganizing all the built-in cabinets (12 of them). I am on the final stretch and am only a hard day's work from being completed. Instead of finishing, here is what I have accomplished:

November 2007...I painted my bedroom and replaced all the baseboards with new ones. I hung curtains and have a new bedspread. Still need to hang pictures and few nice things. I have the ideas, but first I...

...must have food storage (april 2008). Begin buying sale items and long-term supply items. Store water and wheat behind the bar that I cleaned out in 2006. a raised bed garden (august 2008) and begin a kitchen garden. Food storage starting to take over the den, so...

...reorganize and buy and build shelving for our pantry. (november 2008) Buy new shelf for over washer and dryer. Before I put it up I must take down the old shelving...

...All that working with food has made me interested in some new recipes. (december 2008) I planned, cooked and savored 5 new recipes in 6 days. Ben is slightly freaked out that I actually can cook. Before the last load of dishes were done...

...Thus commences my love affair with Lowe's. I popped into Lowe's and purchased a new vanity and sink for bathroom on clearance. Had to have matching mirror and drove across town to find it. Decide that if I'm going to replace vanity, then I should go ahead and repaint since I am trying to eradicate the gray from the previous owners. Hauled it all home and checked a few paint swatches. Back to store to purchase paint. After paint is mixed, discover that I gave him the wrong swatch. Keep paint anyway since it was our 2nd choice. (december 31st)

...Pull out old vanity and break a pipe in the process. Take down old mirror. Prep wall, clean floor, take down fixtures, tape and tarp necessities. List vanity on freecycle. Give away old vanity with faucets (and water supply lines) still attached. Stay up half the night looking for a new faucet. Click a sidebar to see the in colors for 2009 and find out that gray is coming back in.
(january 1st)
...Put first coat of paint on the walls. Go to plumber's supply to find out how to fix pipe. Discover they have gone out of business. Go to Lowes, find out pipe isn't broken - that's the way it is made. Yippee! Go to get faucet. Look at 5 others I hadn't seen online and end up with the one I originally picked. Check to see if there are matching furnishings. Decide I can get a better price online. Buy new switchplate. Go home. Start to measure fitting to be sure what I bought will work. Get distracted by police chase down my street. Talk to neighbors for an hour. Come back in and check on paint. Not very sure I like the color. Bid on robe hooks and other furnishings on eBay. Ben comes home and I nag him about science fair project. Go ahead with 2nd coat. Halfway through decide it looks like a prison cell. Nate talks me into finishing. Eat supper. Finish 2nd coat. Talk to my parents who are calling from the airport on the way to NZ. Decide to write blog entry. Go wash out paintbrushes. Tired, but still need to do that load of dishes. (jan 2nd)

...Clean up painters tape and tarps. Install vanity and sink. Remember that I do like this color. I guess the cell effect came when I was sitting on the edge of the tub and all that was in my view was this dark paint and the toilet. Begin installation of faucet and discover that I need more tools. Get Ben started on science fair project. Call Heather and combine shopping trip. Go to Lowe's and get sealant, caulk, plumbers putty, and teflon tape. Help Heather choose paint color for her house. Go to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to get shower curtain, rug and extras. Go back to Heather's to look at paint samples inside her house. Fight over which bag of granola I get to have (Mom's granola is worth fighting over). Go home and return to installation of faucet. I cannot figure out these stupid instructions. Ben's classmate (a girl!) comes over to help with his science fair project. Finally make Nate so frustrated that he installs the faucet. Attempt to install p-trap but have to make another trip to Lowes for a fitting trap adapter and water supply extensions. Water supply are wrong size, so return to Lowes. Plumbing "specialist" will not believe that my connection is 1/2" since the standard is 3/8". I guess he doesn't live in an old house. They don't have what I need so drive to Home Depot. They only have the "standard" as well. Get bright idea to purchase two more water supplies and piggyback them onto the water supplies we have as a makeshift adapter. Return home to find that it won't work. Meanwhile, Nate has had enough of letting me "DIY" and is putting on the p-trap. It leaks in 7 places. Go to bed at midnight in tears of exhaustion and frustration. (jan 3rd)

...Sleep through alarm and awake refreshed at 9:04 a.m. Return to Lowes with a picture of our water supply connection to show the plumbing guy. Fortunately, this associate was born before our house was built and knows that we need a 1/2" flare. I almost cry with relief. Purchase another $60 in plumbing supplies and return home. Everything goes together and now we only have 2 leaks. Apply sealant and plumbers putty. Voila! We have running water....cold water...there is no water pressure on the hot water side. Take everything apart and discover sediments have blocked the hot water supply line. Clean it out with tweezers. Clean floor, sink, and tub. Hang up old, dirty mini-blinds since I forgot to buy the new roman shade. Hang up new shower curtain and fill dispenser with soap. Throw new rug on floor. Discover that we forgot to buy screws to hang mirror. (jan 4th)
However, the important thing is that we can now wash our hands and brush our teeth. Brushing our hair will have to wait until tomorrow. As will hanging the furnishings that I am still the high bidder on. Also the tub refinisher will be scheduled in February. And matching towels will be purchased during the January/February white sales.
Oh, I'd better take down the Christmas decorations. And the toilet in the master bath is broken. The DIY website says it is an easy replacement and should only take a couple of hours. Hmmm....MLK day is coming up...that's a 3 day weekend. Maybe we can get it done then.
You want to see the changes thus far?

Here is the before... It looks pretty good in the pic, but the counter is a very cheap laminate. There is no backsplash and they never sealed it, so everytime you wash your hands or brush your teeth, water runs down the wall. The sink needs to be regrouted, and the counter ran the whole length of the wall, but there was only one 24" vanity on the left. On the right was just a big open space. I liked the red shower curtain. When we bought the house all the rooms were painted gray like this except for the 2 small bedrooms. It was a little depressing.

Here is the new color scheme: Offshore blue in a sandstone finish and white. A pale blue-green rug and towels soften the deep wall color. Mirror will go above vanity. Faucet and furnishings will be rustic pewter (brushed nickel).

Nate chose the faucet. It looks like an old water trough pump: