Monday, August 30, 2010

Sizzling Summer

           “Hot enough for ya?”                                         
            It’s 101 degrees F in the shade, not including the humidity index. The water in the neighborhood pool is hotter than a 16-year-old’s showers that set off the smoke detector when he finally opens the bathroom door. You get 1st degree burns touching the steering wheel if you leave your minivan in the parking lot at the mall for more than 3 minutes. I swear to you I saw a squirrel using a leaf to fan himself this morning.
            The clerk ringing up my cart of groceries is waiting patiently for my response. A few snarky answers spring to mind.
 “No, I’ve been thinking of moving to Venus, so I’ll be closer to the sun.”
“Not really. I’m waiting for it to get really hot before I turn on the air conditioner in my house.”
“Not quite. The steaks I cooked on the sidewalk last night were too rare for my taste. A few more degrees and they would have been a perfect medium.”
There is a thin veneer that hides the real me. My parents can check off the block on the official parenting list that reads “Teach Manners to Child.” Done.
I smile back at the clerk. “Yup. It sure is hot enough for me today. Thanks for asking.”
Please help. I’m looking for a few more snarky comments to add to my list. Is it hot enough for you?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Summer Reading Blues

Summer vacation is drawing to a close here in Georgia. It doesn’t matter that it’s only August and still 103 degrees F in the shade; summer is officially over. School starts on Monday.
            “Did you finish your summer reading?”
            “You did? That’s awesome!”
            My 16-year-old son shakes his head. “Not finished.”
            “Oh. How much more do you have to go?”
            The soon-to-be high school junior holds up the copy of Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank that I bought for him nearly three months ago. He opens it and flips pages until he gets to the back. I feel a blossoming of hope.
“About 316 pages.” He shrugs and tosses the book on the kitchen counter. He opens the refrigerator, grabs a gallon of milk and empties what’s left into a glass that has obviously held cranberry juice sometime since its most recent washing.
I pick up the book and take a look. “There are 316 pages in the entire book. You haven’t started it yet.”
“Uh huh.”
“But it’s Friday! School starts on Monday.”
“When are you going to start reading? You know, once you start reading you’re really going to enjoy that book. I read it and I know you’ll like it.”
He arches an eyebrow. He’s not impressed.
“You have to start reading that book today. It’s going to take you all weekend to finish.”
“OK what?”
“OK, I’ll read it today.”
“Good!” I answer, naively expecting him to take the book and his glass of cranberry/milk to the sofa where he will immediately begin reading.
Instead, he chugs the contents of the glass and places it back on the counter next to the empty plastic milk jug. “See ya later.”
“Whoa, cowboy.”
“What?” he asks, grabbing my car keys from the counter and opening the door to the garage.
“Where are you going?” I frown up at him.
“School. We have a percussion sectional this afternoon. I probably won’t be back for dinner. The guys and I will get something to eat after practice.”
“You have to do this reading, young man.”
“The sectional is school work, too. I can’t miss it. I promise I’ll read when I get home.”
He bends down and kisses me on the forehead. “See you later, Mom. Love you.”
            I’m left staring blankly at the closed door, listening to the sound of my minivan backing down the driveway. Chocolate. Need…chocolate.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Voting: It's fun!

“Here comes someone!”
            I instinctively turned to look behind me, but the smiling, excited man was holding the door open for me. There were only a few cars in the parking lot, and the only person following me was my 4-year-old son, who was not at all happy to be dragged out of the car, and who was showing it by scuffing his new shoes on the concrete sidewalk.
            “The sooner I finish here, the sooner we can get to McDonald’s,” I reminded my angelic offspring.
            He was too short-term to care. He was hungry, tired after a long day at daycare, and actively unimpressed that I had decided that I just had to vote in the primary run-off. He slowed down.
            The man holding the door now held out a bribe. “Would you like a sticker, young man?”
            My son looked at the round sticker with the big peach and the words “Georgia Voter” and held out a hand.
            “What do you say?” I prompted, as we finally entered the elementary school cafeteria slash polling facility.
            “I want another one,” my baby whined, sticking the peach to his cheek.
            “Wrong, thank you for playing,” I answered him. The man gave him a sticker for his other cheek, and I gave him a stern look.
            “Thank you,” he mumbled.
            I walked over to the first station. I knew it was the first station because of the big sign hanging from the cafeteria table that read “First Station.” The woman there handed me a pen and a paper and clipboard. “Please fill out your name and address.” I think it might have been the first time she had said that all day, because she had to read the form before she told me what to do.
            I filled out the form, and handed it back to her. I now had 2 peach stickers stuck to my backside, one on each cheek. That’s OK, though. I love children. That’s why I became a teacher, right?
            My son and I moved to the second station, clearly labeled “Second Station”. I love these people. They are obviously masters at handling crowds. They would make excellent teachers. The man there looked at my ID closely, and then back at me. Let’s just say that my driver’s license picture had been taken on a day when I hadn’t already worked 10 hours teaching verb conjugation to 7th graders. “Nice picture,” he commented, handing my license back to me. How bad did I look, if my driver’s license picture looked nice in comparison? Oy.
            I smiled at the woman sitting next to him. She smiled back and handed me a neon yellow electronic card to put in the voting machine. “Here you are,” she said brightly.
            The man who had held the door open for me pointed in the direction of the 10 computerized voting machines that appeared to have been collecting dust all day. “You can choose any one you like,” he said, waving cheerfully.
            I walked to the one nearest to the exit, pulling my son along by the hand. Voting is an important responsibility, and we need to take our children with us so that they understand that. It’s what we call “A Teachable Moment”.
            I inserted my card into the slot and heard the click. My son looked at the graphics, saw that Mario and Mickey Mouse were not there, and fell on the floor. I had moments before the fireworks started, but that was OK. I only had one choice to make. Which of the two candidates running on the Republican ticket did I want to represent the GOP in the upcoming election in November? Not that it really mattered. The state was likely to choose the Democrat anyway, despite the thousands of teachers he had abused during his first term. He was a lousy boss, and I wanted a new one.
            I selected the least objectionable choice and confirmed that, yes, I actually did want to vote for this man. Go figure.
            I pulled out my neon card and bent down to pick up my son. Four-year-olds weigh a ton, and their arms and legs stick out at awkward angles.
            “Do you want to go eat now?” I asked him. He nodded sleepily and put his head on my shoulder.
            “Thank you so much for coming out and voting today.” The man who had given my child the stickers held the door open for us again.
            I nodded.
            “Really,” he said, wanting me to know that he sincerely meant every word. The other poll workers lined up next to the door to watch us leave. “It was great that you came to vote.”
            “Um…yeah,” I mumbled.
            “Thank you again.” The line of poll workers waved goodbye, and watched the two “Georgia Voter” peach stickers jiggle on my backside as I walked to my minivan and bent over to hook my son into his car seat.
            Must have been a slow day at the polling place, huh?


            I dropped my son off at daycare the next morning and turned up the news station on the radio as I drove to school. I was mildly interested to find out if the person I had selected had won the election.
            “And once again, the election results for the GOP candidate for governor in Georgia is too close to call. Officials expect that another run-off will take place the first Tuesday in September. Mark that date on your calendar, folks.”
            I’m thinking not.

Monday, August 23, 2010


        “Mom, what did you think of my latest article?”
            “You’re such a good writer, dear.”
            “But did you like the one I wrote about what we should do this weekend?”
            My mother took a gulp of her Starbucks nonfat cappuchino and responded. “mmmmm.”
            I waited as she wiped her mouth delicately so her lipstick wouldn’t smudge.
            She flashed an angelic little smile at me.
            “I posted it Friday, Mom.” It was now Sunday afternoon.
            “Uh huh.” She looked down at her watch. “We should probably go look for the guys now.”
            We were in the middle of the Lenox mall, sitting at Starbucks and waiting for my dad, my husband, and my two sons to come out of the Apple store. I estimated that we had at least another half hour before they even considered leaving the ipads.
            “You didn’t read it, did you?” I’m a teacher. I can spot “I didn’t do my homework” from a mile away.
            “I have been your most enthusiastic cheerleader since the day you were born, missy,” she responded indignantly.
            “Yes, you have,” I admitted. “You didn’t read my article, did you?”
            She pursed her lips together and thought about what she wanted to say. Evasion wasn’t working. She decided to go with an excuse. “I haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet.”
            “You sat and read the latest Janet Evanovich novel all morning. You could have taken a minute to read my article.”
            She sat up straight and gave me that mom look that meant “enough already.” “I’ll read it as soon as we get home.”
            “Thanks,” I responded. “And would you ask your friends to read it too?”
            “Oh look, there’s your dad.” She pointed off into the distance and I turned to look behind me.
            “I don’t see…” By the time I turned back around, Mom had thrown our trash into the can and was briskly leaving me behind.
            I laughed and followed her. I have got to come up with a marketing plan. Heck, I can’t even sell my writing to my own mom.

Do you have some marketing ideas for me? Please help me out and post them below. I appreciate it!

Interested in reading my blog on a new ipad? Check out Apple's website. http://www.apple.com/ipad/        

Friday, August 20, 2010


            “So…what do you want to do this afternoon?”
            “I don’t know. What do you want to do?”
            “I don’t know.”
            The silence drags on uncomfortably.
            “I chose yesterday,” I offer smugly.
            “What did we do yesterday? Oh, yeah, we went to see that movie.”
            “I liked it.”
            “It was a chick flick.”
            “Uh huh. That means you have to decide what we’re going to do today.”
            “How about we go walk around the zoo?”
            “That’s a great idea. Except that it’s 101 degrees F in the shade.” I muttered that last part under my breath.
            “It’s really hot though.”
            “Uh huh.” I earn some major wife points for not saying, “Ya think?”
            “We could…oh, I don’t know.”
            I decide it is only fair for me to suggest some options. “You want to go with me to shop for shoes? We need to go to the grocery store, too.”
            “Oh boy, could we?”
            I recognize sarcasm when I hear it. “Well then pick something that you do want to do.”
            He flops down onto the sofa and closes his eyes. “I’ll think about it.”
            “You do that. I’ll harvest my crops on Farmville until you decide.”
            He snorts, and opens one eye to look at me.
            “That’s what you wanted to do anyway.”
            The man knows me too well.
            “Well, you’re just going to take a nap.”
            “Not a nap. I’m just resting my eyes.”
            “Fine. When you get up, we’ll go to the grocery store.”
            “Can’t wait.”
            “Did you want to do something else?”
            The response is a light snore.
            I smile.  I’m going to have time to level up in both Mafia Wars and Farmville today. Weekends rock!

The photo above shows the newest baby at Zoo Atlanta. Seeing her is definitely high on my list of things to do. Visit the Zoo Atlanta website to enter the contest to name the baby giraffe. You'll have to hurry - submissions close on Wednesday, August 25th.        zooatlanta.org/babygiraffe

For more information about Zoo Atlanta, please visit their website:    http://www.zooatlanta.org/home
This site is a great resource for teachers!

So what are you going to do this weekend?                

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bass Fishing Scandal: Teacher’s Fault?

At the U.S. Open Bass Fishing Tournament in August 2010, Mike Hart was disqualified for cheating. He decided it would be a good idea to stuff iron weights down the throats of live bass so that they would weigh more. Kudos to Mike’s math teacher for teaching him basic math skills; obviously he has mastered them. However, Mike’s high school biology teacher has some explaining to do. Didn't you teach him that stuffing iron weights into live fish would most likely be detrimental to the health of the fish? Yes, it’s true. The fish died, and Mike was caught when the fish were filleted prior to donation to the local food bank.
Obviously, the blame for this whole fiasco lies with that one science teacher. If you’d only done your job properly, Mike would never have been caught perpetrating such a stupid act. Of course, we can’t really blame his lack of morals on your teaching weaknesses, but at least Mike would have been able to come up with a less ridiculous plot for cheating. This incident is clearly an example of why teacher compensation should be tied to student achievement. I’m sorry to have to announce that Mike’s biology teacher will receive a 20% pay cut this year.

If you would like to read more about this pathetically stupid incident, Pete Thomas at GrindTV.com wrote a fine article. http://www.grindtv.com/outdoor/blog/19468/cheating%20scandal%20at%20us%20open%20rocks%20bass-fishing%20community/

Also check out Pete Thomas’s blog Trail Blazin’. It’s well worth a look.

Thank you to McLaughlin Outdoors for the use of the photo of Karissa Trobec, the daughter of Dr. Jay Trobec, meteorologist for KELO-TV in Sioux Falls, SD. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Too Busy?

Are you one of those people who are always working? Do you rarely take time to relax and enjoy life? I’d say that I feel sorry for you, but lately I’ve found myself in that exact same predicament. So now I feel sorry for both of us!
Always frantically swimming against the current?
 You see, I’ve overloaded my schedule. Simply finding time to read a magazine (I have a huge stack of them in the bathroom) cannot be wedged in, even with a crowbar. I’m sure there are a lot of helpful tips on how to solve my time crunch problems in those magazines, if only I could find the time to read them!
First, I have a job that I have to go to each and every day. My husband says that one of these days I’ll learn to do my job properly so I won’t have to go back and do the same thing all over again the next day. Isn’t that just so…cute?
I’m a middle school teacher. Attendance is not optional. Neither are designing lessons, grading papers, “collaborative planning” (read: meetings) and filling out a ream of paperwork every week. Sounds like a full-time job, right? Apparently, this is not so.
I also attend a class on Wednesday nights from 4:30 to 8:30 so I can be a better teacher. I have never taken a class before that requires so many hours of busy-work to do at home! I co-coach the Readers’ Rally team, and volunteer time to mentor a student. I am a member of a teacher’s service sorority and look forward to our monthly Saturday meetings. I attend band concerts, PTA meetings, basketball games, fundraisers, and try my best to learn Spanish so I can communicate with my students’ parents.
It’s not that I don’t like my job et al, it’s just that to do it properly takes up more time than there is in a day. And having a hint of perfectionism in my make-up (Yes, that’s a joke and you may allow yourself a brief smile. No one is just a little bit of a perfectionist), I put in all the hours that are required to make myself look, well, perfect at my chosen profession.
As I mentioned earlier, I have a husband. My mother says he’s a saint for sticking with me for more than 26 years now. She may have a point, not that I’m difficult to live with or anything. I also have two sons, ages 22 and 15, and an ancient dog. Pathetically, I have had to resort to catching up with my sons’ lives when I have a few minutes to check out my Facebook postings. As for my dog, Buffy waits to see how long I’m going to be home before she bothers to get up to greet me. Visits home of less than 15 minutes don’t even qualify for a tail wag.
In addition to wanting to spend time with my family – it doesn’t even have to be “quality” family time at this point – I have a bunch of other things I’d like to find time to do. I have shows saved on TIVO. Someday, I’ll watch those American Idol finale shows and learn who won the last 2 seasons. There are cobwebs on my ceiling and I’m pretty sure the mold growing in the shower grout will turn out to be the cure for the swine flu. My husband finally got tired of stepping around and knocking over the stacks of books I plan to read “in my spare time”. Last weekend, he transferred them to a new bookshelf that he bought at IKEA and spent the afternoon building. It looks great next to my night table, and now there are somewhat fewer stacks of books to trip over. I also love to cook, but haven’t actually turned on the oven or stove in six months. My from-scratch brownies are universally adored, but it’s been so long since I made them I can no longer find the recipe.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’m a teacher and that I have the whole summer off to do whatever I want to do. You’ve always wanted a job that lets you lounge at the pool for a couple of months, so why on earth am I complaining? Well, here’s the answer: Someone has to teach summer school! And don’t forget that before and after summer school, there are “voluntary” professional development classes to take and weeks of planning for the next school year. Deciding what to teach and when to teach it is important, you know. And then there’s….
“Stop!” My husband rolls his eyes. “When are you going to learn to use the word ‘NO’?”
Oh, I couldn’t.
It would be nice to go to a movie with my family.
I’m going to read my book by the pool.
Wow! That felt good. I think putting balance into my life is going to be a piece of cake. Just say NO to extra work! Maybe you should try it. We could meet for a nice long, relaxing lunch.
But not tomorrow, I have a meeting. Nope, next day’s booked, too. How about a week from Friday? You’re going to a seminar? I feel you. Call me soon and we’ll schedule a time to get together, I promise.