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Sunday, December 30, 2012

One Year Later

Dear Blog,

It's been one year since I declared to the Blog World, that I would begin a writing adventure with an on-line audience.  In the beginning, it was kind of weird to write, because I didn't really know who my audience was.  But after writing on this blog for one year, I can proudly say that I write from the heart. I participated in the  Slice of Life writing challenge, which I wrote on this blog everyday in the month of March.  It was actually difficult to do;  writing about this exciting life of mine and making it relevant and interesting for all of you, but I simply wrote about the simple things, and those little happenings of each day.

I love to write, and wrote a lot when I lived in Germany.  One of the reasons why I want to return to an expat life, is because I'll have time to write.   And, I'll have some interesting topics to write about again.  All the traveling, all the little mishaps that happen when you are trying to survive in a foreign country...Yes, I hope to return to write more about this world that I had to leave so abruptly.  (Well, we knew we were moving back to the USA after living in Germany for one year, but it just came to a halt and I wasn't ready to return here to the States).

I hope all of you make New Year's resolutions that you can achieve.  My goal for 2012 was to write.  I wish I wrote more, so this year, my goal is to write at least once a week.  Maybe like a weekly column.  And if we DO move to Germany, I will promise myself to write each day.

This year's other resolution:  I hope to keep up running.  Running was something I pleasantly discovered that I enjoyed; or maybe it's a love/hate thing.  I hate when I am in the middle of running and can't wait until it's all over...the constant talking to myself in my head "You can do it.  Just listen to the music and run to the beat.  Oh, there's my neighbor...keep running so she thinks you're working hard and she'll be impressed.  OK, is she really impressed?  You run like a weirdo.  Oh, why is this song on my i-pod???  I have to get this song off- it's starting to annoy me.  Next song... OK, better.  Breathe, Breathe...    OK, so that's myself talking to myself while running.  It's all pretty comical in my head.  And then there's a 3rd personality within me that just laughs at everything Pathetic Me and Running Me say back and forth.  But truly, there's nothing like the feeling after a run.  When everything negative and toxic has been drenched and wrung out, and a clear and healthy mind wait for me, as I cool down and catch my breath;  and later, take a shower.  I imagine all the sweat as the toxic that leaves my body...  I have become addicted to running in a way, and my relationship to running, I guess, can be compared to that of my relationship to writing.  I am always striving to do better, and to not quit.  And when I write, the toxic energy sometimes is released to the paper.  
Dresden, Germany.  Where I lived for one year.  I loved how the buildings seamlessly flow together.  This is  Dresden's main square, where I enjoyed a drink every now and then.  Oh, missing the cafe life, too!

Happy New Year, and I hope all of you have a couple resolutions that you actually look forward to achieving.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


2012 is almost over, and what kind of year did we all have?

For me, personally, it was a year of transitions and adjustments.  With a new job, I was faced with lots of difficulties and obstacles with co-workers, and I had to learn to work with people that are different than me;  very strong personalities.   It was a year of frustration, and having to endure with these "setbacks" and having to settle.  After applying for a teaching position at my former school, I was told that Human Resources lost my transfer request, and my request to move schools was denied.  It was such a disappointment for me, since I was having these issues at my new school, and looked at this as my "way out;"  the light at the end of the tunnel.  Always trying to stay positive, I found myself being upset a lot.  It took a long time to find peace with this decision,  or with this HR mistake...Currently, I am in my 2nd year at this new school, and the environment is a lot different for me and I'm making it work.

2012 was also the year of my migraine headaches.  I am so grateful for a neurologist that I see in Clifton Park.  I am now on a preventative pill, and my headaches are much more under control.  What triggers them?  I honestly think it was the stress from work last year.  I am fortunate, because as I write this, my principal is putting in special filter lights in my classroom, to help decrease my migraines (I had to leave school one day this year because I lost vision, then a migraine came on).  I still get them, but not at all in frequency.

2012 was the year I became a runner.  My friend asked me to run a 5 K with her in the Fall, so I decided to give it a try.  I started running seriously in  July, and by September, I was running my first 5K.  I felt so healthy and alive, and I found myself being addicted to running.  Now, however, with winter here and a foot of snow on the ground, I haven't been able to run.  I'm debating on trying to get a treadmill.  I feel so much better, physically and mentally, after running.  It releases so much negative out of me.

2012 was a year of change for my children.  Riley was elected the student council president at his school.  He also raised just over $3,500 for St. Baldrick's, which helps fund research for childhood cancers.  Maggie has become a swimmer and is on a swim team.   She is becoming a very independent and strong 8-year old, and I'm so blessed to have my two children, because they are perfect in every way.

2012 was a year of family reunions.  Tim's parents drove in their RV from Washington State to visit us for 10 days.  Then shortly after, my sister got married, and my mom's side of the family were all in town;  the first time since my Grandmother's death.

2012 also brought a decline in our dog Toga's health.  He now has diabetes, liver problems and heart problems.  He's currently on 3 different medications, and he is declining...It's been a sad sad couple of months, but our vet has convinced us that Toga is a "Miracle Dog," and he is surpassing all her expectations (she had suggested we put him down in September).  Because we knew Toga was on the decline, we decided to rescue a dog named Guppy.  Guppy is a French Bulldog/Boston Terrier mix and he's between 4 and 5 years old.  We brought him home in August, and he is slowly becoming an integral member of our house.  In the beginning, he had many issues (peeing everywhere, bitting issues), but now I'm happy to say that I think Guppy is slowly learning and he is honestly a good  Toga will be approaching his 13th birthday this Spring.  I know in 2013, it may be Toga's last year with us...This will be very hard for all of us.  But we are lucky to have this time with him now.

2012 also brought back thoughts to Germany.  My husband is currently applying for a position back in Germany.  We will know soon if we are indeed moving again.  This time, it will be more permanent, and there would not be an end date.  I do miss Europe, and all that it offers.  I find myself bored here a lot.  I get upset at how small my world seems to be again, living in the US.  I want to think more globally again, and I miss walking in squares and plazas, that are filled with history and amazing architecture.  If we are to move, it would be soon.  It would be in February.  So, if this does happen, we will start the beginning of 2013 with having the task of selling our house, and trying to figure out what items to permanently keep, and which ones to sell.  Last time we moved to Germany, our friend Kellie lived in our house, since it was only for a year.  We rented a furnished apartment, so we did not have to ship large items abroad.  It is a daunting task, and one that we are unsure about as of now.

So, I'm ending this blog on a good note.  A note that we could be once again, be living in Germany and part of the European culture again.  It is a time of feeling excitement and uncertainty..This kind of decision will be a difficult one to make;  if Tim is even offered the position...But this ex-expat could once again be an expat...We will have to see what 2013 will bring.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What To Do?

I wouldn't have this blog devoted to being an ex expat, if I didn't totally love the life I had overseas.  So when my husband came home last week from work, and told me his old boss from Germany contacted him, with information on a job position that she thought Tim would be perfect for, discussions once again were revisited, on our decision to move to Germany.  But this time, not on an expat package, but a German contract.

I feel in love with Europe and all of its charm.  And now to be given another chance to live there is a dream come true.  Or is it?  I'm trying to decide.  When we made the decision to move there a year and a half ago, we knew there was a time limit.  We would be living there for one year.  This time around, it could be a forever thing.

Tonight, we talk to our kids about all of this, and we will make a decision as a family.  It's exciting, but scary.

These are the things I worry about:

  1. I won't be near family or my friends that live here.
  2. What do we do with our house?  Last time, we had our friend live here, because we knew we were coming back.  This time around, we have no idea when we are coming back.  Can I say goodbye to our house?
  3. We have an aging dog, that is on 3 medications.  Can he handle the trip back to Germany?
  4. Is the Dresden International School going to cut it?  When I was there, I saw lots of pros, but lots of cons too, as a school for my children.  Will my kids be stable and happy throughout this?
  5. Will I be happy?  Many of the friends I had there, are living here in NY.  I still have some contacts in Dresden...I know I make friends easily, so maybe this will be fine?
  6. Do I want to work at the international school?
  7. Can I handle the language gap?  I know I will never speak German fluently, and this bothers me. I hated not having a newspaper to read, or reading signs- all over the place.  How will this impact me?
  8. I find comfort that I can speak to my doctors here, and they understand me.  It's always hard to visit the doctors in Dresden.  Will I be able to get migraine medication?  Last time, I brought so much medicine with me.  But now I am on a preventative medication- what if they don't approve of the medicine I have been prescribed?  It is really hard to get prescriptions in Germany...
This is the biggest decision that we will  have to make...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Daughter Realization Made Me Sad

This weekend, on Friday night, my daughter said something to me, so profound and sad.

It was bedtime, and often at bedtime, my kids  tell me of what is bothering them.  On this night, it was Maggie's turn.  Before walking up the stairs, she looked at me, so innocently, and said, "Mom, when I grow up, I want to be a singer.  But I don't think I can, because I am not skinny enough."

My daughter, Maggie, is 8 years old.

I quickly embraced Maggie and told her she can be anything and do anything.  She melted in my arms and started crying.  My heart was aching.  I hated this so much.  That she has these thoughts already.  That she might have challenges in her teen years, with her weight. That she cares what everyone thinks about her.  

At a young age,  my daughter is already aware of sex in the media.  She sees skinny girls on her TV programs on Disney and Nick.  She sees skinny women in advertisements.  Commercials.  It's everywhere;  the illusion that beautiful and sexy women are the ones that succeed in life.  I am proud to say that Maggie is a bright and intelligent little girl, and brains will get her places.  She is my beautiful daughter, inside and out, and I love her so much.  I wish I could protect her from every ill thought that she has and will have.  

I intend to talk to my daughter, and make sure she knows she's special and beautiful.  I want her to continue growing into a self-confident little girl.  She's amazing.  

That next morning, we were cuddling outside on our porch and Maggie looked at me and said, "I want to be so many things when I grow up.  I can't even decide."  Now, she wants to be an art teacher, a vet, and she wants to own a shoe store in London (not in Paris anymore, because she'll need to learn French).  She also said she still wants to be a singer and songwriter.  I just hope that she knows that she can truly be all of those things.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Quality of Life

"You need to think about Toga's quality of life now,"  I heard the vet tell me.  I fought back tears and heard my voice, brave and calm, as I asked Toga's vet many questions.
We were back at the vet's, since we noticed in a short time that Toga was urinating and drinking almost triple what he normally does.  He was having lots of accidents in our house, which was abnormal for him.  I knew diabetes was common in aging dogs, and he had all the symptoms.  An hour after being at our vet's, it was indeed confirmed he had diabetes.  Because of his already existing heart, liver and kidney issues, the vet was warning me about "something," since she kept talking about his quality of life. 

I quietly asked my two children to wait for me in the waiting room.  All of my courage and bravery left me, when the children left.  I looked at the vet, and I couldn't even muster the words.  I began crying profusely.  I was the saddest I've been in a long time, sitting in that vet's office, trying to hear her words.   Because Toga is already on a heart and liver medication, adding insulin may make him depressed, more sick...  "Are you telling me that Toga is on the decline?"  I asked the vet, through tears.

"Yes,  that's what I am telling you."

Oh boy.  I started crying again. 

She told me that I should have two jars:  A Good Day Jar and A Bad Day Jar.  At the end of each day, place a penny in the kind of day he had.  She said when Toga has more bad days than good days, then we will know. 

So, I sadly look at Toga these days, knowing that his days with us are numbered.  He has trouble breathing at times, and pants more.  He is still having many accidents in our house, and we go back tomorrow to the vet's so she can monitor his insulin levels.  We are starting to crate him when we leave the house; something we never did, even when he was a puppy. 

Last night while we were sleeping, Toga rested his head next to mine;  cheek to cheek.  While  he was sleeping, I felt his poor heart racing, trying to beat to a rhythm, but so out of control.  I petted his face, and he didn't even stir.  He was soundly sleeping.  I hope this was a good day for him. 

Yesterday, I pulled into our driveway and saw Toga laying on the front yard.  Once I pulled in, he chased my car down the driveway.  I thought to myself in that instant, "Thank  God."  Because if he didn't chase me down the driveway...  I can't even end that sentence.  Because he's so happy to see me, and if it gets to a point when he's not happy to see me, I know that he's so sick.... 

The last week has been hard.  I'm seeing my little buddy lose more and more of his spirit and energy.  I just hope he knows how much we all love and care for him.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

16 Years

Tim and I, in London
The Abbey
Last weekend, I celebrated my 16th wedding anniversary with my husband, Tim.  It seems like yesterday when we first met in a dive establishment in my hometown.  I fell in love with Tim so fast and I knew he was the one.  Everyone says, "You just know," and I never understoodthat, until when I felt that with Tim.  "I knew" with Tim, that he was the one.  

Tim proposed to me almost a year after we met, and we were married six months later.  

In the sixteen years we have been  married, we have lived in four states and in a foreign country, we have had 2 children, have been through our share of ups and downs.  And through all the changes, Tim and I have remained committed to one another, even though we have had all these changes.

16 years is a long time.  It's the age of a young adult.  Someone who can drive.  Wow, there's days when I feel like I AM 16 years old!!   Where did all these years go?

I asked Tim on our anniversary, "Why do you love me."  And his answer was simple- "I just like hanging out with you."  I think after 16 years, you HAVE to enjoy hanging out with your spouse, because friendship is the foundation to any marriage.  We love hanging out with each other.  Tim is my best friend.  I would rather hang with him than anybody else, and that's why our marriage works.

This is what else I have learned about marriage:

  • Marriage is about compromising.  Sometimes it's me compromising, and sometimes it's Tim.  
  • Tim and I share the same belief about many things.  We have the same philosophy about parenting, money, and even interior design.  The only things we disagree about our where we want to vacation.  I prefer the beach and ocean, and he likes a quiet lake.  BUT, that's where we have to compromise.
  • We never go to bed mad.  My grandmother gave me that advice, and it's the best advice.  
  • A sense of humor.  Tim and I have lots of fun together.  We like to laugh with each other and with our kids.  
  • Date night.  You really need to have alone time.  Once the kids came, we got so busy with them and their activities.  If you have happy parents, you'll have happy kids.  I have learned to put Tim and I first;  sometimes the kids need to take a backseat.  
  • Marriage is about teamwork.  We both  help out around the house.  "Choreplay."
  • Marriage is not always a fairy tale.  You go through rough times.  We were 26 and 25 when we got married.  We have both changed in those years, and we had to learn to apply our personal changes to our marriage.  Adapting to all the changes, and growing together as a couple is really important.   
  • Kids can change a marriage.  When we had our first child, we had been married for  7 years.  It was a huge adjustment.  Learning our roles as husband-wife, and now as a mother-father to our children and what those new roles were took time.  
  • Communication, communication.  You need to talk to  your spouse about your wants, needs and worries.  Tim is not a mind reader, but he's good at knowing when I am upset or worried about something.  He is a good listener, as I am with him too.  This year has been extremely challenging for us, with both of our work situations;  Tim working long hours, and me at a new school, but we always make it a priority to ask each other about our days.  It sounds so 1950's:  "How was your day, honey?"  But, it's good to talk about your day.  

I feel very lucky to still be in love with my husband.  I know so many people in the last couple of years who have gone through divorces.  Actually, the day of our anniversary, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes announced they were divorcing!  In my kindergarten classes each year, less than half of my kids live with both parents.  It's a sad reality.

If you were to ask me what my biggest accomplishments are in my life, at 41 years old, I would tell you that it's my family;  my husband of 16 years, and my 9 and 7 year old children.  These are my accomplishments, because marriage is work, and so is raising two children.  

One of my biggest complements I have received have to do with my marriage.    A teacher friend said to me, "I hope my husband and I are like you and Tim as we get older," (she's a younger teacher, and just married). I don't know if there's such a things as a "perfect marriage," because nothing in life is perfect.  I think a great marriage is deciding as a couple, how to deal with life's misfortunes.  

The night of our anniversary, we decided not to get a babysitter.  We celebrated with our children.  We went out to dinner at the restaurant where our wedding reception was.  After dinner, we took them to the upstairs room, where it was empty from any events.  The kids were excited to hear about our wedding stories. They had lots of questions about our big day.

16 years.  Where does the time go?  Here's to many more.

This blog entry is dedicated to my sister, who is getting married in September.  I'm so happy for you during this special time of planning your wedding.  You have found your man of your dreams.  Here's to many years of compromising and communicating!!!  


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer Vacation

Summer is here...

Last week, I said goodbye to my 18 kindergarten students.  Every last week of school is difficult for me.  I have a hard time with goodbyes.  My class performed a class musical for their parents last week, and after their performance, I had waves of frogs in my throat, and at one time, I had to stop talking, or a burst of tears would had exploded.  It's always hard to say goodbye and let these little ones go.  It takes a year to create a loving community of learners, where we are like a family.  And every September, when I get new students, I have to start all over again.  It's hard to let go...

But with the last days of school and those bittersweet goodbyes, come long days of unstructured days with my own two children that I absolutely adore.  I love that I can devote all my days to them during these months.  Riley will be doing a morning camp in our town, and Maggie is on a swim team.  We have a vacation to Lake Champlain coming up, and another long weekend trip to the coast.  Today, Riley made a list of day trips he wants to go on. Waterslide World, Great Escape, and zip lining in the Adirondacks is on his list.   Maggie is excited about all the playdates she'll have and the sleepovers.  We'll begin our summer vacations with pedicures and girl outings.  

Summer when I was little...

When I was younger, I have fond memories of kickball games, ball tag, playing Pickle in my front yard, and playing hide and seek on bikes in my neighborhood.  We would ride our bikes to the country store and many times, our parents did not know where we were.  We were just told to come home at dinner.  How did things in today's world change?  

Since their last day of school on Friday, I have been observing my children.  Maggie, who is very social and loves her social life, has already had two playdates since Friday.  She was unsuccessful in finding a friend to play with today (no one was home).  Today, she spent the day in her room playing Barbies, or on our computer or the I-Pad.  

Riley, spends his days on his computer.  Today,  he is publishing and writing his own neighborhood newspaper, and is is organizing a spelling bee, which will occur in our backyard next week.  He is completely happy doing little projects, and they often involve his computer.  I found myself getting upset with Riley today, and all the time he is spending on his computer or with his I-Pod.  "When I was  your age, I was BLAH, BLAH, BLAH."  Did I just sound like my mom there?  But seriously, we didn't have all this technology.  We spent all of our waking hours outdoors playing and riding our bike.  Today Riley said to me, "It's boring to just ride your bike up and down the road."  Is this unfair of me, to expect my son to be like me when I was 9 or 10, and to play outdoors?  Maybe if we had technology in the late 70's/early 80's, I would be like Riley.  Instead of playing "Charlie's Angels" in my backyard, I would be designing my own webgame or website, devoted to my favorite TV show from back then.  

So, as excited I am for the unstructured days of summer, and all the fun activities I will have planned with my children, I also know that I need to "put the smackdown" on the computer (that's what I called it today).  Because after all, summer is all about not having structure.  I can't be entertaining them 24/7 with structured activities, so I want them to be imaginative, creative and physical.  I want them to enjoy running until they are out of breath, playing a competitive game with neighbors, or reading a good book.  Sitting in front of TV, the computer, or the I-Pad drives me nuts.  I love when I tell  my kids to go outside and play, they bring an I-Pad out on our porch and play a game.  That really drives me over the edge.

I'm wondering if I need to get with the times, and embrace all this technology.  

My kindergarten students have an hour of computer lab each week.  With the Common Core Standards being implemented next school year, our students need to be more computer literate.  They are expected to use the computer to publish their writing, even at the kindergarten level.

Maybe I need the "smackdown."  After all, I don't know my cell phone number or even where that phone is half the time, and when I do find it, it needs to be charged.  I have never sent a text.  

So, this summer, I will have to try to understand this technology, give my children some time with it, but I also want them to experience a summer that represents simple times before technology emerged.  Are those days of simpler times gone?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Is 41 still Forty and Fabulous?

This past week, I didn't feel so "40 and Fabulous..."  I'm beginning to think I need to change the name of my cheesy blog name.

It started on Thursday.  I had made two appointments for the afternoon.  The first one was to see a gastroenterlogy doctor.  The second was to get my haircut and colored at an upscale salon that I won at a fundraiser event.

I was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease about 7 years ago, and it was determined that I was allergic to wheat and gluten.  My life drastically changed from that point on.  Since I have never been on any type of diet my whole life, it was a big life change for me.  I would always tell my friends that I could never be on any type of carb or Akins Diet, since I eat pasta and bread daily.  So, this was really sucky.  After I was officially diagnosed, I cried for days.  I joined a support group for people with Celiac Disease and cried there too.  It was really hard.

Seven years ago when you got diagnosed with Celiac Disease, many people and even doctors didn't even know what to do with someone like me.  I went to the primary doctor that I had at the time, and told him I wanted him to test me for Celiac.  I told him of my symptoms, and he went ahead with the blood test, but told me at the time that he didn't think I had it.  When the test came back borderline, I had to get an endoscopy, which is then they take pictures of your small intestines.  It was then that I was diagnosed, and my primary doctor was again, surprised.  The gastroenterolist I went to told me I have Celiac Disease, and that was about that.  I found that I had to educate myself about my disease, and was really given no guidance.  I found the support group to be very valuable, and Dr. Peter Green, in New York City, mailed me a little book.  In it, were products that were gluten-free.  At this time, the labeling law was not yet in effect, so I had to educate myself on what ingredients could be wheat or gluten.  For example, I never bought anything with "Natural Flavorings," because natural flavorings could have flour in it.  It was so frustrating and it take me months to figure out.  Grocery shopping was stressful.  Eating was no longer fun.  And going out to eat was torture. 

Years later, the labeling law became in effect.  At the bottom of the ingredient list, it will now list if a product contains milk, wheat, eggs or nuts.  I still have to read carefully, because gluten is not included, but it helps a lot.

So, after I became diagnosed, I was finding that my yearly visit to my gastroenterlogist was a waste of time.  I went one year after, and I sat in his office, and he asked me a bunch of questions.  I found that I knew more about Celiac Disease than my doctor.  It was a waste of time and money to go back.  That was 6 years ago.

Now, years after having Celiac, and wondering what it has done to  my body all these years (I believe I have been Celiac since late high school, but was diagnosed with IBS), I made an appointment to see another gastroenterlogist.  This doctor was friendly, knowledgeable, and listened and answered all my questions.  After leaving, I have appointments for a Bone Density Test, a colonoscopy, a endoscopy, and some sort of test on my bowels.  All because I'm over 40.  Yup, because I'm 40 and Fabulous. 

Since I took the afternoon from work off to go to this appointment, I made a hair appointment for 4:00 at an upscale salon that I have never been to.  I won a raffle for a hair cut at this salon, and decided to get my hair colored too.  I'm starting to get lots of gray.  She cut my hair (was an inch really that much, ouch, I should had said half an inch, ooops...) and when she was all done with the hair cut and coloring, she remarked that my grays were not matching to the color.  Basically she said that my grays are hard to color.  Now, I don't know if she just said that because she made a mistake, because I'm thinking all hair colors should cover the gray.  She told me the next time I come to her, she would use this other type of color on me, because THAT would work.  So, my hair is a lighter version of my natural color, but all the gray is still showing.  Because I'm 40 and fabulous and my grays are resilient.  I still have to investigate this, since I don't really believe that any type of color can't color the grays.  Since Thursday, I have been looking at all older people that color their hair, and all their hair is gray-free.  Is there such a thing as grays not being able to color??  I don't think I'll be going back to this hairdresser-  She's a drive away anyway, not anything local.

So, am I still Forty and Fabulous??  My colon and bowels are a mess, and my gray hair supposedly can't be colored.  Yup, not feeling so fabulous this week.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Friends Who Inspire

Last weekend, I went to Happenstance, a vintage, jewerly, art and furniture shop in the Art District in Saratoga Springs.  I have been dying to go, since looking at the pictures on Facebook of all Lorine's projects.  Lorine is the owner of the shop.  She is one of the most creative, free spirits I have met in a long time.  Walking into her cozy shop and seeing all of her projects was so awe inspiring.  Lorine finds old pieces of furniture, and re-creates these pieces.  Gracing the floors of her shop were  many benches with colorful fabrics, cabinets, and even a gossip chair.  I left her shop, purchasing a new bench for my newly remodeled living room, a creative wall planter that is hanging on  my outside fence, earrings, and a handmade fabric crayone holder t hat I bought my daughter, who was patiently waiting for me as I chatted with Lorine, and talking to myself about what I wanted to buy.  I drove  home, inspired by her bravery to do what she loves to do.  She had a vibrant energy, while showing me all of her projects.  She is at peace and happy with what she is doing.  That's inspiring.

I'm inspired by other friends:  Joanna, who owns Lipstick and Lashes, an award-winning make-up studio, that also includes a hair salon.  I visit Joanna's shop to get my kids their hair cut, my eyebrows waxing, and soon, my sister's wedding (we have Joanna doing our make-up)  She took a risk several years ago, by opening up her own business.  She is my hero too.  She is one of the sweetest people I know.

My friend, Meaghan and her husband, Kevin, own and operate The Whistling Tea Kettle.  It is one of the most beloved restaurants in the area, and it's just a good place to relax and eat.  I love that I have watched their business soar to the sky since they first opened up when I first met them.  And, I also love that they work hard on their gluten-free menu and sometimes I get to be their taster for new products!!   It's a special place.  An unique place.  One that Meaghan and Kevin envisoned, and through hard work, their restaurant has become a major destination to our small village. 

All of these friends really inspire me.  They are brave, creative, strong, smart women.  Someday, I hope to follow in their footsteps, and release this creative, business-side part of me.  We all have some passions and talents that we enjoy doing, but when do we just say to ourselves, "OK, it's time to do this now."  Time to follow our dreams?  These friends of mine are NOW people- they acted on their dreams and just did it.  It wasn't easy, and while it might had taken years for them to decide to be NOW decision makers, they got to a point in their lives where NOW would be NOW.  I love that about them all.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

33 years old

In our first home, in Vancouver
In today Sunday's  Times Union, there's an article about how, at the age of 33, it is supposed to be the best year of your life.  There's even a study to back it up.  So, it made me think of when I was 33 years old, was I thinking that?

At 33, I was married with a one year old.  We were living in Vancouver, Washington, very happy and content.  I turned 33 in October, and so 33 started off in a happy, "on the right track" sort of way.  In November of that year, we were faced with another major life decision.  My husband Tim was facing lay-offs at his semi-conductor plant, and the field was going through a major recession in 2003.  It was around this time that Tim decided to look for another job.  It was also at this time that I was looking at leaving the classroom, and pursuing a Reading Recovery job.  My friend Jen was also pursuing the same job in my district, and we thought it would be fun to go through the classes.  It is a very rigorous training, and our district actually trained teachers.  I decided to apply for one of the few Reading Recovery positions, and had an interview right around November.  It was a dream job;  I would be learning how to teach Reading to kids in this very specific way.

In front of our Vancouver home

In December, I remember going to my work Christmas party.  One of the teachers I worked with owned a pub with her husband, and the party was at this very informal and fun townie bar.  I remember dancing and drinking.  Another one of my teacher friend's noticed I was drinking and said, "Oh, you're not pregnant."  "Nope," I yelled back, as I probably was on my 5th drink.  I remember we left our son, Riley, with a babysitter that night.  It was the first time we left him with a teenage babysitter, and not my friend Cindy.

Well, later that month, I found out I WAS pregnant, so I WAS drinking and pregnant.  I became pregnant with Maggie at 33.

Around January, Tim and I decided that if I was offered the Reading Recovery job, we would stay in Vancouver.  Tim was interviewing for a job in our hometown, and our interviews were days apart.  Days apart, we were both offered new jobs.  I decided that we should move back to New York.  It was a major decision.  We were both very happy living in the Pacific Northwest.  But with Riley and another baby on the way, I thought living near family was more important, and Tim really wanted to move back to Saratoga.  At the time, I thought I had to follow what my husband wanted, and his job career, since he was the breadwinner.  Many times, I often wonder how life would had gone, if we didn't move.  It's hard not to look in the past, so I try not to.  But, I miss my colleagues and my old district- It was the best place to work.
I hated our furniture in that apartment- we were always on the floor

So, we moved in February, during the February break.  It was very stressful.

We found an apartment to rent in downtown Saratoga while we were shopping for a house.  The apartment was furnished, and it was the most uncomfortable furniture, considering I was pregnant.  But I loved walking the streets in downtown and getting to know my hometown once again.

Living near family and old friends was an adjustment.  I had been away for almost six years, and in these years, I changed a lot.  It really was a struggle for me to feel at home.  The saying, "Once you move away, you can't come back," held true for me.  I felt like I didn't belong.  I went through some depression and bad moods.

Before we moved to New York, we had booked a Mexican cruise in Western Mexico.  In April, we left Riley at my parent's, and flew to California to board our cruise.  It was a lot of traveling, a lot of time zones.  And I was almost 6 months pregnant (not planned to be pregnant on this trip).  I remember sleeping a lot on that cruise.  I felt so relaxed with Tim, and when I returned, I felt a lot better about life.

In April, we finally bought the house we are living in now:  a 1906 Victorian house in the village of Ballston Spa.  It was a total fixer upper.  Now, 8 years later, our house is finally received many of the renovations that we planned.  Tim has been working so hard in making our house what it is today.
Our house, before we bought it.  Looks so different!

Tim and Toga at our house, before move-in
Tim was working a swingshift at this time, and during all of his free time and weekends, he was traveling to the house to fix it up.  We were still renting our apartment until the end of July, so Tim could get the house ready.  Those first couple of months, he worked on painting, taking wall paper off, ripping carpet, redoing the wooden floors, and getting new carpet upstairs.  He did a lot of work.  It was hard for me, because he was never with us.  I felt like a single mom.  And, I was HUGE.  Maggie's due date was August 13th, and I was going to have a C-section, since the doctors estimated her to be 12 pounds.  I remember not being able to move or walk because I was so  huge.  And Riley was turning 2, and was active.

We finally moved into our house weeks before Maggie was born.  It was a relief  to have our furniture from our old house.

Maggie was born on Friday, August 13th at 9 pounds, 13ounces.  I remember feeling so much love and so relaxed being her mom.  With  Riley, I was nervous and never sure of what I was doing.

Maggie, a couple days old.
In our new house, weeks after Maggie's birth
Shortly after Maggie's birth, my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Shortly after that, my Grandma was diagnosed with colon cancer.  And then I turned 34.

So, I have to say, that 33 was an important year, since it marks the year I moved back to New York and when Maggie was born.  Was it my best year?  No.

My favorite years would have to be any of my college  years.  Life was so easy then.  Sure, I made the dumbest choices and wasn't too bright about decisions, but I grew confident in college and made lots of friends.  Life was good.

I also liked when I was 30.  We just moved to Portland, Oregon, and we had an apartment in downtown Portland.  I loved walking the streets of Portland, discovering the districts and being a city girl.

And of course, I loved 40, since I was living in Europe and discovered the world, myself and we grew tight as a family.

I can't say that any age I went through was bad...I think all the "bad" things that have happened to me have made me who I am today.  I appreciate things more.  I am wiser.

Age 33...hmmm.....can't say it was.  But it was an important year.
Riley, right before his 2nd birthday.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Last Post for the Slice of Life

For the last 31 days, I've been challenging myself to write everyday on my blog. I first heard of this "Slice of Life challenge" on a teacher on-line newsletter that I get. I thought it was a great idea for my students- to write everyday in a journal for the month of March, and I would do it too.

It was a challenge for sure, but there was always a load of writing topics.

For the month of March, so many things happened to me. Sometimes I feel like I would be a good candidate for a reality show, because every single day, something eventful happens.

This month I wrote about:

  • My continued battles with migraines. This month, I went to an allergist, got an MRI (everything was normal), was put on a drug called Topamax, was taken off Topamax for the side effects, and as I type my last post, today is my first day not on Topamax in nearly 3 weeks. Earlier today, I read that the side effects of NOT being on it, after being on it, are seizures and the continued side effects. So I'm hoping to feel back to normal soon. Whatever that is. The side effects were way worse than my migraines, if you can imagine that...
  • My kids were sick this month, I was sick a lot this month with my headaches. So there was a lot of guilt this month for not being in my classroom and having substitute teachers.
  • After denying to myself that I am stressed, I think I may be admitting that I am, and maybe that's why I am getting my headaches. I feel like change might be on the horizon; we will see. I always want to be the happy, bubbly person, but sometimes it's not always roses, even if you try your hardest to smell those roses. Writing this month actually made me realize this. With my husband working many long hours, and myself working, it's been a juggling act since September. And the changes that I've had since moving back to New York have been somewhat difficult. I am trying so hard to get through these changes with grace and being grateful for what I do have, but it is hard. I was taking life day at a time. Now, I need to look in the future, and I think that's when my headaches started. Reality sunk in, that life isn't going as smoothly as it should for me. There's a reason why things happen: Why we had to move to Europe, why we moved back, why I couldn't teach at my old school and I'm at a new school, and there's supposed to be a reason why I'm having a difficult transition with all of it now- maybe it's to push me into another direction...I need to look at it as an opportunity, not as anything else. I guess time will tell. But through all of this, I refuse to let my spirit be broken, and others influence my happiness. I am wise enough to know that only I can be in charge of that.
  • I still reflect on my life overseas, and miss Europe. It's been 8 months since I've moved back to the U.S. I miss everything our family was then. I miss the carefree, adventurous me. I miss city living. I miss life being exciting. I miss learning about cultures and being amazed at simple things I saw outside my window. I struggle with boredom now. I miss the exciting me from Europe.
  • My kids and my husband mean the world to me. This month even more. I'm so proud of everything my kids do. Riley continues to amaze me with his kindness and Maggie with her creativeness. I feel very lucky to be the person I am. When I sit at this computer, especially this month, and put words and thoughts and write about my kids, the feelings are so overwhelming. I feel so blessed. These 2 kids of mine mean everything, and so does my husband. Without him, I wouldn't be half the woman I am today. And I mean that.
  • My kindergarten students mean a lot to me too. I really miss them on those days when I have to call in sick. I have a WONDERFUL class this year, and I've grown attached to these kids.
  • I enjoyed participating in the "Slices of Life," and having my audience be teachers. We are really one. I read many blogs throughout this month, and felt the same celebrations and frustrations as all of you.
  • I was surprised that I didn't write about my dog...I think he was always my "backup" writing topic, but I never needed it. So much happened this month-
  • This is a great idea, with a great community of writers. My students enjoyed it, too. I always looked forward to it. Friday nights were the hardest nights to write though.

I look forward to blogging with you all on Tuesdays. :)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Renovation Day 2

Today is Day 2 of the renovation that is taking place in our living room. Our 1906 Victorian house has had several renovations in the 8 years we have lived here.

This newest one is a very very minor one.

We are just repainting, and replacing the baseboards and trying to fix/paint/keep the frame and molding going around the windows. Our house does have a certain charm, and the molding around the top of the windows is something we want to just paint and fix up.

My husband is very handy. Through the years, we have seen so many projects that Tim has done all by himself. But for the last couple of years, with a new demanding job, Tim just doesn't have the time.

What is really funny about this whole story, is that he really wanted to have the time. Back in September, we had talked about replacing the living room furniture- the 2 couches. We actually were hoping to bring something back from Europe when we living there last year, but everything was super modern, and didn't fit with our old Victorian house. So, we gave away our furniture, didn't buy anything new, and my husband said that with the loss of the couches, he would make time to fix up the trim and window frames.

Well, here we are, last days in March, and no furniture.

Finally, last week, he called a handy man. It's not because of lack of knowledge. It's lack of time. Sometimes you have to pay for what takes time.

So, as I'm writing this, all of the rest of the furniture is crammed into our parlor (we call it the parlor because it's this cute little room off of the living room), and the parlor has a desk with this computer on it. I literally can't move. All around me, is "stuff" moved from the living room, so the handy man can paint and fix his things. I was hoping that the work would be finished by this weekend, since he told Tim it would take 2 days, but after 2 days, he still has at least 2 more to go.

We did order a new couch, and 2 side chairs, that remind me of Paris. Very simple and chic, yet not that fancy and chic. For some reason, I'm all into Paris-related interior design.

This weekend my house is a mess. The big picture of house renovations are hard to see when you're caught in the moment of all the clutter and craziness!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Slice of Life with My K kids

This month, I have challenged my kids to do the Slice of Life, just like we all are. Even though they are in kindergarten, I thought they were perfectly capable of writing about their days. I went out and bought them all their own black marble composition notebooks, and wrote inside, little directions, so their parents would know what a "slice" was. I gave writing ideas, such as, "Did something happen at school that made you happy?" "Did you see something interesting on the bus ride to school?" "Did your brother or sister make you happy or sad?"

I have had about 10 out of 18 students writing in their notebooks on a daily basis. I have enjoyed reading their writing, and responding to their writing everyday. I've learned that Isabella's grandpa is sick and in the hospital. I've learned that Ashley has really enjoyed learning about ladybugs this month. I've learned that Tyler likes playing with a boy in his neighborhood. I've learned that Neveah looks up to me- she writes she loves me a lot, which is very sweet. Wladu writes a lot about his dad and how his dad builds things in his garage. Aidan was worried about me one day when I was sick and not in school, which was also sweet. Noelle wrote about how she was sad when we ran out of time and she didn't do calendar that day, which proves that kids love structure and when it's their turn to be calendar. (I felt bad).

I asked the kids today if they will still continue writing in their special Slice of Life Notebooks, even in April, and several said they would. Tomorrow, is the last day of our challenge. Those who have written at least 25 entries will go home tomorrow with a bunch of pens, and a raffle will be drawn for a big bucket of sparkling pens. They are very excited about this.

Tomorrow at school, I will Xerox my favorite student Slices and post tomorrow. I am so glad to have been a participant in this!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An Important Day for My Son

Today my son woke up and got dressed. When he came downstairs, he had on his Ralph Lauren sweater that I bought him that he promised that he would wear 2 times a month. He actually told me that in the check out line.
I remember the conversation:

Me: If I buy this, will you wear it?
Son: Yes.
Me: You will?
Son: Yeah I will. I might wear it like 2 times a month.

Well, here we are, nearly the end of the winter, and I think he wore that sweater once. To his credit, it WAS a mild winter.

But when I saw him this morning wearing his sweater, I knew today was a special day for him. Last week, he wrote an essay on why he should be picked to eat lunch with the author, Dan Greenburg, who was visiting his school today. The "contest" was opened to the students in grades 3-5 that are on Student Council. 8 students were chosen and Riley was one of them.

Riley was very honored to be the few chosen. He is an author himself. He has maintained his own blog since 2nd grade, written in a journal since 1st grade, and published his own neighborhood newspaper this year as a 4th grader. Meeting a "real life" author was important to him, I could tell, by just looking at him and seeing him all dressed up.

He had written a list of questions to ask Mr. Greenburg. When I asked him what his favorite part of his presentation was afterschool today, he said, "Everything." Typical 9-year old answer. Either it's "Nothing," or "Everything." He liked how Mr. Greenburg's wife was at the school-wide presentation, and later on, at the intimate luncheon. I asked what Mr. Greenburg had for lunch, and Riley said he had had a salad. Riley said that he got to sit on one side of Mr. Greenburg while his wife sat on the other. He was very proud of that.

I got very little answers from my quiet son about his day, but I hope that his luncheon with a famous author will give him lots to write about in his journal, blog and maybe an article in his newspaper.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Things I Am I Grateful for

Since yesterday's slice was a negative piece, today's piece I'm reflecting on my day and all the things that brighten my day:

1. I am grateful for my husband this morning, who organized the kids' lunches for me this morning in the refrigerator.

2. I am grateful that the pants that I laid out fit me, and I liked all the clothes I had on. Sometimes, I don't always like what I have on.

3. I am grateful that my kids woke up easily this morning, and that they didn't fight. I know I'm lucky, and I have good kids. I am also grateful that no one was sick! There's a lot of sickness in both my kids' classrooms!

4. I am grateful that when I arrived at school and visited my school's librarian, she was able to squeeze me into her schedule for a research project with my class. Then, I went to see my friend Kelly, and she gave me a really nice pep talk. Then I walked to my classroom and got ready for my day.

5. I am grateful that I have 18 great kindergarten kids. I really do. In 17 years of teaching, this might be one of my favorite groups of kids. I am very grateful for this bunch of kids.

6. I am grateful when one of my students runs down the halls and hugs me. She comes from a rough home life, and I know that school is a structured time for her. She smiles up at me every morning. I am grateful for her smiles every morning. I know I make a difference. This is the one student who really needs me this year.

7. As my morning continues, I am grateful for the author who is visiting our school. He visits our K and 1st graders for 1 hour this morning, and before I know it, it is lunch.

8. I am grateful to spend time at lunch with Randi and Becky, my good friends who understand me.

9. I am grateful for a quick Go Math lesson in the afternoon. Usually our Go Math lessons take 1 hour, but the chapter 9 lessons on Geometry are about 30 minutes. I find I can spend more time with our Wonder table this afternoon, since one of our students brought in a bird's nest.

10. During my break when the kids are at Art, I spend the whole break talking to my friend Keira, who teaches 1st grade. I often wonder if I should switch grades next year to 1st so I could teach with Keira, but I really love kindergarten, but it's something that I'm thinking about, along with a million other things right now.

11. Afterschool, I am grateful for my talk with Karen. She is another good teacher that I teach with.

12. I am grateful for an hour of alone time afterschool, after I drop off my kids at their German class. I sit in the car for 30 minutes and just meditate, with my heated seat on. I find it just relaxing. Then I walk to a natural food store.

13. I am grateful for my husband for letting me rest tonight. I came home with the kids at 7, and I'm tired. He's doing work around the house, right now, as I'm typing.

14. I'm grateful that my kids are reading their books in bed, as I'm typing. I will walk up the stairs and say good night soon.

15. I am grateful that I have been a teacher for the last 17 years. Because even if I decide to stop being a teacher and pursue something else, I will always be grateful for the experiences teaching has brought me. It has allowed me to be the mom I am; I could never be the mom I am without being the teacher I am.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Late Night Girlfriend Phonecall

My best friend Julie and I always call each other really late at night and we talk like high school girls, because we can talk for hours. Sometimes rambling on with giggles about Vinnie from the Jersey Shore and other times, serious conversations about our kids and jobs.

This late night phone calling ritual was recently broken because I've been taking my migraine prescription medicine, topomax, and one of its side effects is drowsiness. So, I've been going right to bed after putting my kids to bed, at 8:30. So with my new early bedtime, I haven't been connecting with my friend.

So last night, the first time in 2 weeks I wasn't tired, I called Julie at 10:45 and talked to her until 2 Am. Good old girlfriend talk. We talked about the stresses of both being teachers, we talked about our daughters' first communions, or first communions that look like beauty pageants and how we both vowed that we wouldn't go overboard for the religious day, and I guess a bunch of other things since we talked for a couple hours! What else did we even talk about? Funny stories about her family...My work vs. stay at home mom decision/conflict and then lots of laughter.

We made lunch plans for today at our favorite lunch restaurant- You would think we would had run out of things to talk about, but never us. Three of the four kids came, minus the husbands, so the kids seemed to always have a hand in the conversation, as kids do when they come along. But we were both tired, and we didn't realize a late night of talking could be as harmful as a hangover! I guess when you're over 40 with kids, a late night talking on the phone until 2AM is as bad as being out on the town! But without the hassles of loud music, annoying men trying to buy you drinks, huge crowds, getting a parking spot, and paying a cover charge.

Whether it's a night out, sneaking into a night club to see her favorite TV personality (Yes, we just recently did that) or sitting on the couch talking about life's dilemmas, Julie is just a good person, and I'm so lucky to have her as a friend; at all hours of the day.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lazy Day

Today, I rewarded myself with lots of rest, reading and a trip to Target.

My favorite part of the day today was running into a college friend outside the Target parking lot, buying my Slice of Life little gifts for my kindergarten students inside Target, and while walking outside Target, my son telling me thank you for buying him something. I love that we have taught our 2 kids to thank us for buying them things, and not to take us for granted. It such an important life lesson to teach kids today.

Day 24 of my slice of life was short and sweet, kind of like how my day was like today...

Friday, March 23, 2012

So happy it's Friday

It's Friday and I'm happy. After a long, long week at school with lots of politics and grumpy stuff going on, I was happy to take advantage of walking with my husband (who is never home before 8PM from work) and our 2 kids, to our village's downtown from our house to dinner. I had a big fat strawberry margaretta with my dinner, and now at almost 9 PM, I'm really tired, so I'm heading to bed.

I don't know about you guys, but on Friday nights, I'm ready for bed at 4 PM. It's like my body is ready to collapse, knowing that I don't have work to do for the next day, and I can relax. I'm so glad it's Saturday tomorrow!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gluten-Free Pasta

Today, I searched frantically in my bare cabinets for something to eat, after coming home late after my daughter's Zumba class (yes, my 7-year old daughter has a Zumba class, yet I don't). While my hands were groping in the cabinet, my hand felt a pasta package. I pulled it out, because pasta was what I was looking for.

I was pleasantly surprised to find it was an pasta from Italy that we bought when we visited last year when we lived in Europe. I have Celiac Disease, so I need to be on a Gluten-free diet. While traveling around Northern Italy and Tuscany, we bought lots of gluten free pasta to bring home with us to Germany. I knew Italy would have the best gluten-free pasta in the world...When we moved back to the States, we shipped what we didn't eat back with us to the States. Seeing the pasta package today, brought back so many memories. I thought we had eaten it all! Part of me wanted to save the pasta. But I knew it was silly to save it; I looked at the expiration and I only had a couple months to eat it.

While I was boiling the water, my daughter was going for a bike ride. I yelled down the driveway, "Don't be too long. I'm making the pasta we got in Italy." My son started laughing. "You just yelled that because you just want all the neighbors to know that we went to Italy." It was pretty funny.

I'm laughing because I'm finally eating pasta that I like!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Skin Care Products

What kind of skin care products do you use?

Sometimes on weekend mornings, I'll watch those Cindy Crawford commercials, where she's selling her skin care line, where the secret of youth is from a melon in the south of France. And then there's the Joan London skin care line- I remember when she did Good Morning America and I thought she was so beautiful. She still looks the same after all these years.

So many anti-aging lines, and I find myself getting suckered into watching these info-commercials. It seems to be my weekend morning ritual, as I prolong my weekend cleaning and motherly duties. These commercials and the Brazilian Butt ones!

My friend, who just decided to be an Arbonne representative, let me borrow and be a "tester" to the "7 step system" to one of Arbonne skin care lines, with hopes that I will buy some of the products and give her some feedback as well. Before this week, I've only been really a 2 step girl; with cleanser and moisturizer in the morning, and then at night, cleanser and night cream. Now with 7 steps- there were things I didn't even know what they were even for: toner, serum, eye stuff.. I had to read the directions each day to make sure I was doing the steps in order.

After doing Arbonne for a week, I didn't really see a big difference in my skin and I felt bad for my friend because I really wanted to buy some stuff from her. I liked the night cream, so I think I'll buy that, but overall, no big differences.

I currently use an Oil of Olay moisturizer and my L'Occitane products. But, I have a ton of sun damage and age spots that these moisturizers haven't been able to conquer. I'm wondering if there's a magic cure or melon somewhere in the world for this?? Or maybe I'm just a simple 2-step girl?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Orthodontist Bills Begins

My kids had their 6-month cleaning at the dentist today. For a long time, when my dentist makes his appearance at the end of my kids' cleanings for their evaluations, he always makes the recommendation that they visit a orthodontist. The first time was when they were were 6 and 4. At the time, I was like, "REALLY?" I thought it was a joke, and I dismissed it.

Two years ago, when they were 7 and 5, again, they were recommended to visit an orthodontist and I looked at my kids and could count on my one hand how many teeth they both had lost. I didn't understand why they needed ortho work.

Then, we moved to Germany for a year. I didn't have to see my dentist for one whole year.

Six months ago, when I returned from Germany, I somehow escaped the lecture. Maybe they were consumed with my European travel stories and forgot to tell me again that there were numerous orthodontists awaiting my phone call.

So today, it's been 6 months since our summer cleaning. And I did get the lecture. But this time, it was only for Maggie. Somehow, the dentist told me that Riley's teeth are fine and he outgrew whatever problem they once had. Hmm. Outgrew. Maybe because he's still growing. He's a growing 9-year old!

But this time I probably am taking the dentist more seriously. Now that Maggie is 7 years old, and she's lost 8 teeth, you can tell that there's not a whole lot of room for her adult teeth. They are coming in fine and they are not crooked or anything, but there's not a whole lot of room in there.

My husband just came home from work and I just told him about today's news. Before prom dresses, college loans and weddings, there's braces and orthodontist bills.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Rules of White Pants....What rules????

Last March on a beautiful warm sunny day, my German friend Mona, was wearing white pants. I complimented her on her white pants and told her how in the States, Americans don't wear white pants until after Memorial Day, an American holiday at the end of May. (Last March, I was an expat living in Germany). We were always telling each other facts and little tidbits about each others' cultures- she told me way more about German culture than I did about American culture, but I was trying to do my part with the white pants.

"Why?" she asked. "Why do you wait until May to wear white pants?"

"I don't know. It's like one of those unwritten fashion rules. And then we can only wear white pants until Labor Day, which is an American holiday in the beginning of September. And I don't know why we stop in September." I shrugged my shoulders.

She looked kind of confused. She looked up at me and laughed and I knew she thought that was the strangest set of rules she ever heard of. I had to agree with her- it does seem kind of weird that as a society we follow these white pant rules.

So, in upstate New York, it was a mid 70 degree sunny day today, and I took my white pants out of my summer wardrobe. And I wore them to work today, in honor of my dear friend Mona. Thanks to my European influences, and my "unwritten rules"- because if they're not written, I don't need to obey them.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pet Peeves

A list of my Pet Peeves
1. People who don't smile. This was probably my biggest transition when living in East Germany last year, because hardly anyone smiles there.

2. I hate rude people.

3. I can't stand ignorant people.

4. I can't stand people who yell at kids.

5. I hate mosquitoes. The reason I am writing this blog is because we were swatting them today while we went and got ice cream on this beautiful spring day!

6. Negative people. I run run run from them. I surround myself only with positive people. ALL THE TIME.

7. When my husband drives and takes a sip from his coffee while taking a sharp turn. He scares the hell out of me. It looks like he's not paying attention, and why does he have to take a sip while going around the turns?

8. When my house is a mess. I can't stand clutter. It makes me go crazy.

9. People who lie. An old principal of mine once lied, and it hurt so bad. Yup, good ole tenure...

10. Christmas shopping parking lots. I hate them so much!!!!! I did most of my shopping on-line this year.

11. I can't stand bugs. Any type of bug. If I find a bug in my house, I really freak out. If we camp, and a spider or bug gets in our tent, I can't sleep. My husband HATES this about me. THIS may be his pet peeve about ME. Right honey? And the sad thing is our 9-year old son has inherited this trait from me. "If you weren't such a spaz, Riley wouldn't be! He's learning it from you!"

12. When people throw their cigarette butts out of their cars or on the ground. We saw this all the time in Europe last year. In the city we lived in, a crew of workers every morning was hired to pick them all up on the sidewalks!

Those pesty mosquitoes today got me thinking about my other pet peeves. I'll probably go to bed and think of more, but what are your pet peeves?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Proud of My Children

Yesterday, my 4th grade son and 2nd grade daughter came home with their report cards. They are both really smart kids. My son might be gifted, and my daughter is pretty smart too. I am humble when I say this, because when I was in school, I had challenges learning. Up to fourth grade, I was in special education classes. My third grade teacher told my mom that I would most likely never attend college. My mom was very vocal to my elementary classroom teachers, and I'm sure she had the reputation of being "That Mom," but to her credit, she had to be. My fourth grade teacher told my mom that I was borderline mentally retarded.

Thank God I had a good mom. My mom knew and believed in my potential. She took me out of the public schools, and enrolled me in a small Catholic school. I repeated 4th grade, and to everyone's surprise and maybe relief, I was an A and B+ student.

I am very sensitive to the fact when kids can't learn- because I can relate. That was me. I know that all kids can learn and that's why I am so passionate.

For the longest time, I kept my secret of "failing 4th grade" a secret. Years after being married to my husband, he called me stupid. I don't even remember what led to him calling me that, but I'm sure it was a joke. But I started crying. And I told him my secret of how I was once indeed stupid.

I have never been the kind of student where things come easily. But my two kids learn so easily, sometimes I am in awe. I can't even believe that these two kids came from me.

Our kids got to pick out a restaurant for dinner, and while we were eating out Moe's, we talked to them about the importance of having good grades and how proud we are of them. Just as important as their high grades were their high behavior and work habit grades.

I'm so proud and grateful for so many things in my life. My kids are right up there on the list. So proud tonight. But everyday, I'm proud of their everyday accomplishments. I am lucky and blessed to be the mother of these two children. They are my world.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Difficult Parent Conferences

Today our school district had a half-day, so we could meet with parents for parent-teacher conferences. We had three days in the Fall, in which we met with ALL the parents. Today's conferences were tough, since we met with only the parents whose kids we have concerns about.

I had five conferences today. One mom cried, two moms were frustrated, and a mom and dad were utterly confused.

I teach kindergarten. And in today's conferences, my concerns with these five students fall on the fact that they are not yet reading. Yes, not reading. They can not decode simple 3-letter words.

One of my students has made wonderful progress. He never went to preschool. During my conference with mom in the Fall, I was telling Mom how he wasn't able to write his name, how he was only able to identify one or two letters, and he was very distracted and couldn't sit at our meeting area. Today, I applauded Mom at his progress. He can now write his first and last name, knows all of his uppercase and 24 lowercase letters, and all of the sounds. He is able to follow routines, and is a diligent worker. But, he is not able to fluently decode 3-letter words, and scored in the red on our DIBELS test.

The other four students- the same kind of stories.

I think right now I am finding Kindergarten to be a different kind of place for our young learners. Is developmentally appropriate even a word anymore in education? What about play? What about social skills?

I feel like the 90 year old kindergarten teacher, who doesn't want to change with the times. I want kindergarten to be fun with art projects, units of inquiry, thematic units- all of that. Instead, our district has changed so much. We adapted a reading program... (I really miss Guided Reading) We have a math program (Go Math) which consists of lots of pencil and paper work (4 sheets a day to be precise), and I'm having a hard time changing with the times.

Today at my conferences, I had to tell my parents that their children need to be readers by the end of the year, and if they are not, then they do not meet end of the year benchmarks. I wanted to kick myself under the table for saying that, because that's not what my philosophy is...

I did tell each parent where each of their students started the year off at, and look at their progress (because each of these kids has made so much).

I'm just having a difficult night tonight. I'm not liking the direction education is going; not even in Kindergarten.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

When Maggie Was Born

This morning when I was at work, I was talking to some teachers before our classes came whirling through our hallways. One of the teachers is very pregnant with her second child, and her due date is at the end of this month. As I was listening to her talk this morning, and how relaxed she seemed, I couldn't help remember the feelings I had when I was in labor with Maggie, my 2nd child.
Maggie was estimated to be a 12 pound baby, so I was scheduled to have a C-section with her. I went into labor 3 days before my scheduled C-section. We called the doctor, and she told us to come to the hospital to avoid the unneccesary labor- we were going to have this baby tonight, and still have the C-section. Instead of having the baby on Monday the 16th, our daughter Maggie would be born on Friday the 13th!
We made arrangments for our two-year old son to be picked up by my mom. I was, all of a sudden, stricken with a sense of loss, as I said goodbye to Riley. Would I ever love another child the same that I love Riley? How can you love two children the same? After Riley left with my mom, I found myself sitting on a chair and not wanting to go to the hospital. (My husband took a picture of this moment because he thought it was comical-which I'll post- because now I think it's funny)- I was afraid to have another baby. Afraid to love another baby. What if I couldn't love another baby? My husband, who is good at reasoning with me when I'm crazy, got me off that chair, lugged my suitcase into the car and drove us to the hospital.
Maggie was born at 11:45 PM on Friday the 13th, even after trying to convince the hospital staff to wait until after midnight.
My friend who is having her 2nd baby later this month laughed at my story. She is clearly more ready to have her 2nd than I was.
I have to say, that after the first second I met my daughter Maggie, I loved her as much as Riley! All that worrying for nothing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Revising conferences in K

Today in my Kindergarten classroom, I had the kids get in pairs and they revised a piece of their writing. I'm taking my class through the writing process. Last week, my students picked their favorite book they have written (We have been writing books for the past 2 or 3 weeks-)After picking their favorite pieces, they spent a day or two revising their pieces on their own. Then, I took their writing and typed it, and today, they took their typed pieces, and revised with a partner.

Before the partners got together, I modeled what a typical revising conference would look like. I modeled questions. I modeled "I'm wondering...." type questions. When I thought I gave enough modeling and practice, I paired the kids off, and let them go. I walked around the room and I was honestly amazed at what I was hearing. I stopped at Ashley and Isabella. Ashley wrote about a birthday party she went to. Ashley was reading her writing piece to Isabella, and Isabella was asking Ashley lots of questions like "Were you playing with Barbies at the party?" What did the cake taste like?" "What was in your treat bag?" After Ashley's revision, Ashley included many more details about the birthday party. I loved that she even included eating the P of the birthday cake! Then Isabella read her story to Ashley- it was a story about a princess trapped in a tower. After her revision conference, Isabella included more details about why she was trapped in the tower, more details about the prince who saved her, and she even wrote that the horse the prince was riding on was a girl horse.

I walked around more, and I couldn't believe how the kids were suddenly all writing more. I never in my 17 years of teaching saw such a drastic improvement of writing in one Writer's Workshop lesson. It was simply amazing to listen to the dialogue, the excitement that was in the air, all the writing that was being added to their typed rough drafts, and again THE DIALOGUE! I absolutely loved the questions they asked one another. And the mutual respect they were giving one another.

Most of the kids later told me while we we sharing that they wanted to add even MORE details to their writing, and they wanted to revise more. So, I plan on handing out their rough drafts again tomorrow to see what happens. After we edit, I plan on publishing their stories into one big book and having an Author's Celebration. Each family will bring home a book of all the kids' stories.

I'm finding that this year's students love to write, and it's been a real fun year for me to do Writer's Workshop. Fun day for me today!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I'm Just too tired tonight to write

I am just too tired today to write. I've been battling a headache for 2 months, and after an ER visit yesterday and getting an IV pain killer, I had the highest of hopes that the headaches would be ending. But I woke up today with another one. And I went to the trenches of my kindergarten classroom ALL day. I seriously don't know how I did it. All I know is that I have a great teaching assistant, a wonderful parent helper who came in today, and an ESL teacher who was pushing in today for about an hour. Everyone told me I should go home. But my thinking is, I seriously could call in sick every single day, since these started in January.

Now, I'm going to bed. I just can't think of anything but headaches, and that's what I seem to be writing all month with my Slice of Life. It's all I think about. Will I have a headache tomorrow? Will I ever be better? Will the topomax kick in? Do I have Lyme Disease (test was taken yesterday)?

I hate this. This hopelessness that I feel.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Worst of the Worst

My kindergarten students will always remember me as the teacher who taught in the dark and had headaches. My son and daughter will remember their mom as having to lay down a lot in a closed bedroom, complaining of headaches. But today was the worst of the worst.

I woke up in the middle of the night with a severe headache. It was so severe, I think the actual headache woke me up. I've been having ongoing headaches for almost 2 months, so I'm used to the pain, if you can actually be used to it. But this was a different pain, much more powerful.

I somehow went back to sleep. When I woke up at 6 to my alarm, my blanket was wrapped around my head, in a mid-slumber attempt to get rid of the pain. I got up and took my Excedrin Migraine pill, and yet I was still in pain. Usually, that pill works.

I was a mess for the rest of the morning. I called my husband at work, and cried like a baby. Maybe more like yelped. I felt I had to go to work, since I had to call in sick 3 days last week to take care of my sick kids. I had to go, right?

Once at school, I was a total train wreck. When my teaching assistant came to the classroom, I told her I wasn't feeling good (which she has heard quite often with this almost 2-month headache), and I felt myself crying. The reading teacher saw me cry. My friend Kelly did. My whole Kindergarten team did. I was so out of sorts. I am usually the bubbly, happy one, so my crying was so out of character for me, and others around me knew I was in a lot of pain.

I ended up leaving school at 10:15, drove myself to Urgent Care, and the doctor there gave me an IV of a pain medication. I also have a new medication for my migraine- Topiramate, which I don't know how I feel. I also have an appointment at a Migraine Clinic in April.

I have mixed feelings about taking this new medication for my migraines. It has a slue of side effects.

I have no idea what is triggering my headaches, since I wake up with them. I had a MRI done 2 weeks ago, and it came back normal. At first, the MRI results came back as "maybe allergies, so take Claridin." But after today's Urgent Care visit, allergies have been ruled out, and now migraines are the sole culprit of my head pain. But, all the bad stuff was ruled out; brain tumors. I'm at a complete loss, putting myself at the mercy of medicine to make me better.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Tulips

Today was a gorgeous sunny day in Upstate New Y ork. After a morning of shopping, I couldn't wait to head home, so I could play with my garden, and the kids could play outdoors.

Because I was living in Germany last Spring, I wasn't able to get my garden ready. My friend who was living in our house, I think, didn't even want to touch anything in the yard, for fear she would mess things up. So when we returned from our one-year expat position, we returned last summer to our beloved 1906 house, with our overgrown garden. The garden was so overgrown, I couldn't even begin to tackle it.

Now that a new Spring has arrived, I'm excited to share the garden's responsiblities with my daughter. So today, I just raked the leaves. And after dragging the leaves to the curb, I went back to the garden and noticed my tulips were showing through the soil.

These tulips were one of my treasures that I brought back from Europe. On a trip to Amsterdam, we bought tulips there. Last Fall, I planted the tulips around the garden. I really have no idea what I'm doing, so we'll see what happens.

My garden is just a small plot of land in front of our covered porch. It's crammed with flowers sprouting up. Wild flowers, tulips, daffodils, and other plants and flowers I don't even know... I don't really have a plan when I garden, but that's the way I like it!

I bought blue tulips in Amsterdam just so I would know what tulips are the ones from Amsterdam, and which ones are the ones that come up every spring. These tulips are just another reminder of my year in Europe. Another one of my treasures.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

St. Baldrick's

Today was the day my 9-year old son got his head shaved.

For the last two months, my son has been raising money for St. Baldrick's, a charity that donates money to find cures for childhood cancer. He was having his head shaved in honor of his friend, Hannah. Hannah was diagnosed with leukemia in November 2010. She is one of the bravest people I have ever met.

My son raised $2,300, and he was the top fundraiser out of over 80 shavees today. People donated on my facebook page. He went door-to-door, asking for donations. He wrote a fundraiser proposal for his school's student council, and last Friday, his school raised almost $300 by having a Hat Day. The kids paid $1 to wear a hat to school. He has updated his blog (yes he has one) and produced his own movies, to get the word around about his fundraising goals. He original goal was $1,000. So he surpassed it, surprising all of us.

As he was getting his head shaved today, I suddenly became emotional. First, I thought about him, and how proud I was of him. Riley is one of the most giving and generous people I know, and he's a nine-year old boy. I felt so much love for him. I was inspired by him. I was amazed and in awe of him. Then, as I looked around the room, I looked at my friend, whose daughter is Hannah. Hannah was standing near to me, and I looked down at her several times, and bent down to tell her how special she was. Her little sister, Fiona, is in my kindergarten class this year, and she's pretty special too. She donated bone marrow to her sister, and is also a brave little girl. I felt my eyes fill with tears, but happy tears. My friend and her family have been through a lot this year. And their family has taught our family so many things. So many things.

It was a day filled with emotions: happiness, joy, and pure love.

The event today raised close to $40,000. One of my best friend's organizes the St. Baldrick's event each March. She lost a cousin to leukemia, and it's her mission to raise money for childhood cancer research. Many people in our community came together to join my friend. She's pretty amazing too.

Today, I take nothing for granted. I haven't for a long time. Hannah has taught me that.