Wednesday, October 31, 2007

uneconomical language

Did you all know that I teach (and I mean that in the loosest sense of the word)?

I’m in the middle of writing Fall Term reports and I’m stuck trying to come up with palatable ways of expressing "progress", "achievement" and "challenges" without causing me to grimace, retch, and hide after reading what I’ve written.

I mean how many other ways can I say "Your son just can’t spell."

And I’ll let you in on a little inside joke -- I’m absolutely positive that parents don’t even bother to read the comments I write. They're only interested in seeing their kids’ grades. So what’s the point. In essence, that concise, flowery prose I struggle to write so eloquently ends up lining their trash cans. Beautiful.

On top of having to write comments, I have to calculate grades. Yeah, the whole grading experience – I absolutely despise – terribly inconsistent and a tad bit too subjective for my taste.

I struggle with the idea that Joe Rock’s overall spelling grade is pretty much based on a series of poorly taken tests. He may study, but the reality is that when it comes time to take the test he freezes up – he’s a frustrated mess having to face a blank sheet of paper lined with looming numbers running along the margins knowing full well that it’s a crap shoot no matter how you look at it.

So I end up giving him a mediocre grade for test anxiety? Yikes!

What about the dreadful realization that he simply can’t recognize a misspelled word – it’s a 50/50 proposition for him. Spelling, writing, reading, everything having to do with words comes down to wild guesses based on poorly internalized rules of spelling, mental mispronunciations of words and a fluctuating sense of word recognition. Double yikes!

My frustration comes from not being able jump into his brain and whisper "No dude, it’s S·T·RONG not S·RONG! How in the heck are you saying that word?!"

And don’t get me started on the whacked out spelling exceptions we have throughout the English language. My poor, confused students already have a hell of a time even as I try reassuring them that it really isn’t their fault – our language is just really messed up!

Take for instance, the long ē sound. How many possible letter combinations would you expect it takes to make that happen in some of our words?



Try TEN ways!

And those ridiculous combinations are as follows:

e - as in me
ee – as in jeep
e (with a consonant in between) e – as in Christmas eve
ea – as in meat
ie – as in chief
y – as in baby
i (with a consonant in between) e – as in machine
i – as in variation
ei - as in receive (‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ and in words that rhyme with ‘day’ – come on and recite along with me!!)
ey – as in key

How’s that for messed up? And don’t get me started on how many combos it takes to create the long ā sound …

(psst ... it’s NINE!)

*sigh* Writing reports. I have to get back to writing reports.

Now how do you spell "spectacular" again …

[FYI - I use Word spellchecker! But look out! Those accursed homonyms get me every time.]
$$$wishes: pretty quiet on that front.
$$$sins: pretty quiet on that one too
$$$goals: "How do spell ‘filthy, stinking rich’?"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

chest pains and heartache

Mini (and not-so mini) financial panic attacks.

Dinner out
great food
$60 for our share
plus a commitment of $33 for Cub Scout popcorn
that was hawked on their son’s behalf
dinner out
was it really worth it.

And their Christmas wish lists continue to grow.
$320 - Legos already requested … and counting!
$280 - basic Xbox gaming system plus $85 Guitar Hero II "game"
$82 - soft contact lenses
$$$ - parents’ trip to France

"How about we plan another fun-filled vacation down to Oak Island, N.C. …"
A brief and agonizing conversation with close family friends.
Four families. Two houses. One week. Playing at the beach with your best friends.
Not quite so priceless.
Roughly $1800-$2400 for the rental (split with another family); $300-$500 in groceries; $150 in gas to get there and back; innumerable small expenses that inevitably occur
Mucho dinero for the much-anticipated trip to France with husband.
Brutal, brutal call.

And the envelope please …
That’s what it costs to have an emergency appendectomy
when your insurance denies you coverage.
(but don’t you fret, dear readers, Pos was on the case …
that poor unwilling-to-be-identified-on-the-telephone insurance minion really got an earful!)
Let’s just hope his stern words translate into a final claim adjustment.

All of this
in less than a week’s time
and I’ve been good
and stayed away from Starbucks.

Let’s just hope I don’t develop an ulcer
and need hospitalization.
$$$wishes: to not be so damned middle class.
$$$sins: luckily, none to report. I’m too anxious to spend any money.
$$$goals: regardless of these "attacks", I need to express gratitude.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

time budget

When it comes to time and money ...

I simply don't have enough.

I haven't had the time nor the energy to read all of my favorite blogs, respond as much as I'd like and my posting rates, well quite frankly, are pathetic.

I'm beginning to see an ugly trend here ...

my chaotic and frenzied life is totally messing with my blogger zen.

And to make matters worse I have to fight, nay scratch, claw and screech my way to get at the computer. I really can't believe I have to justify my well-deserved computer time with an eight year old, for heavens sake. Watching YouTube versions of animated Star Wars Legos just isn't enough of a priority for me.

I'm simply having a hard time with this whole arrangement.

And at work ...

they actually expect me to get something done.

therefore, no blogging.

$$wishes: It's 'charity giving time' -- for those of you who listen to NPR, our local station is having is triennial (sp?) fund drive and I'd simply love to give them loads of money to help fund their great programming.
$$sins: *gulp* spouse and I have a true Starbucks addiction -- I'm embarassed to say how much we've spent in just THIS MONTH ALONE on beans, snacks, and lattes. Let's just say that it'd be enough for a pair of VERY nice shoes!
$$goals: start budgeting and saving for middle son's orthodontics -- it's only a matter of time (more like months before I get the word!)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

free verse frenzy

[the life of a post-holiday weekend mother]

Sitting backseat, relaxed and reflective
enjoying the fact that I managed to grasp more sun –
achieved more late summer, golden ku-luh.
Not knowing
or caring
what lies in wait
for me
at home.
Chatting and laughing
I pull into my driveway


I’m home.
Hauling, dropping, snatching, scooping, rearranging
little pieces, big pieces
before me
scattered all around me.
My stuff. Her stuff, His stuff. Whose stuff?
Load up, let’s go.
Back on the road again.

Rushing, rushing always rushing.
Persistent struggle against a
consistent spinning of the clock.

Made it. Just in time. One hour to find that perfect pair.
Yes. No. Yes. Maybe. No. Oh definitely no. The color’s all wrong.
Up one aisle. Down another.
My head’s spinning and I’m wobbling
upon two different heights of heels.
She’s convinced. These are the ones.
The color’s right and the heels feel nice.
And YIPPEE! They’re on sale!

Rushing, rushing always rushing.
A persistent, consistent battle.

Pick-up the friend.
Pick-up the son.
Drop off the kids back home.
Load the laundry.
Switch the laundry.
Make up the extra bed – for we have an extra child overnight.
Help fix dinner.
Set the table.
Eat our meal.
Then clean up the post-dinner mess.
Load the laundry.
Switch the laundry.
Repeat, as necessary, until the bedtime collapse.

Wake up. Get up.
Rotate individuals through the bathroom.
Socks. Where are my socks?
Don’t you know, my dear, we fish in baskets for our multi-colored fleece.
Hustle downstairs. Hustle through the pantry. Hustle through lunch-packing options.
Where is the bread? I don’t like that for snack. But I want to pack THAT for my beverage.
Rummage. Scoop. Rinse. Seal. Stash. Pour. Gobble. Sip. Slurp.
Pack your backpack. Put on your shoes. Have you fed the bunnies? What about their water?
Hurry up! Let’s go! This train’ll leave without you if you don’t get a move on it!
Load up, let’s go.
Back on the road again.

Rushing, rushing always rushing.
Our persistent, consistent battle.

Workday. School day. Play day.
Work. Teach. Learn. Snack. Work. Teach. Learn. Lunch. Continue to work.
Always one eye on the clock.
Resort. Repack. Rinse my cup. Relinquish another school day.
Load up, let’s go.
Back on the road again.

Homeward bound. But how long? Who knows. Never long enough.
Tea time. T.V. time. Lego time. Computer time. Reading blog time. Never enough time.
Load the laundry.
Switch the laundry.
Unload dishwasher.
Load dishwasher.
Read more blogs.
Oops! Lost track of time! Time to start collecting.
Load up, let’s go.
Back on the road again.

Rushing, rushing always rushing.
Persistent, consistent.

Sports over. High schooler picked up.
What? Sure, I can take another.
And another.
Certainly. I have room for another.
Drive this way.
And that.
Double back and drop off the last.
Chatting. Grousing. Laughing. Processing.
The ever-present music playing in the background.
Day slowly unwinding.
Arrive home and park. For a while.

Homework time. Shower time. Primp to get ready and go out again time.
Fix dinner.
Set table.
Shovel food.
Quickly clear the edible debris.
Oops! Lost track of time! Time to fly.

Bring cleats. Bring long socks and shin guards. Bring water bottle filled to the brim
Bring enormous backpack filled with unfinished homework. Bring cell phone. Bring iPod to while away the time.
[For a teenager, time is meant to be mutilated. To be killed.]
Hurry along you sluggish fiends. You scalawags and toe-dragging dawdlers.
Load up, let’s go.
Back on the road again.

Rushing, rushing always rushing.
Consistently, persistently late.

Drop off One. Then Two.
Back home for Three.
Homework. Do your homework. What do you mean ‘you’re done’? What about reading? What about writing? What about that missed period and capital letter?
Come back here. You’re not done. Don’t argue with me now.
Your T.V. can wait. Your Legos can wait. But my patience is at an end.
Though my work never, never ends.
Load the laundry.
Switch the laundry.
Unload dishwasher.
Load dishwasher.
Finally, read more blogs.
Oops! Lost track of time! Time to start collecting.
Load up. Always loading up. To begin the final collection.

Dark and winding, that same familiar road
rises up to greet me.
Meet me.
Thrice in one day.
The ever-present music continues to play,
as I contemplate the completion of my day.

Pick up One. Pick up Two. Three is at home with Calvin and Hobbes
and dad.
While I continue to drive
with conflicted emotions
that someday
this all
will change.

$$wishes: to buy more time [and perhaps Exxon/Mobil stock]
$$sins: I burn way too much gas: I AM the greenhouse effect.
$$goals: Less rushing. More reading, researching and writing

Friday, October 5, 2007

Se ya'll next week

I'm happy to report that I'm abandoning my family (husband and three children) for a girls getaway to the shore. I leave them to their unfolded laundry, piles of dirty dishes, Lego-strafed living room, trashed bedrooms, soccer tournament, homework-loaded weekend.

And I plan to buy Starbucks on my way there :)

$$wishes: a $15,000 - $18,000 windfall from the heavens ... husband needs a new (and way more reliable) vehicle.
$$sins: try not to spend all of the money I'm bringing along this weekend (fat chance!!) because that translates to less groceries for my family for the next two weeks!
$$goals: find a pair of shoes for my daughter's Homecoming Dance ensemble for under $45 (that miracle needs to occur when I get back on Sunday!)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

there is a higher power ...

and he/she must like coffee.

In a desperate attempt to get a handle on the rest of my day ...

I broke down and headed to Starbucks for a much desired venti iced coffee -- nonfat milk, two Splendas.

So with guilt in my heart and dread at having to fish out my last five bucks from my wallet. I did it. Typical of me -- screw all good fiscial promises.

I justified it, however, by having just endured a thrift store/Halloween costume shopping spree with my 8 year old and knowing I still had a dentist appointment and soccer practice to get kids to, a field hockey game to attend and a high school play practice pick-up and delivery to make before I could call it a day.

[It's 10:00 p.m. -- and I just got home 15 minutes ago].

I really needed that caffeine. And I knew I could easily make more empty promises after a good night's sleep.

So I pulled into the drive-thru. Placed my order and sheepishly drove up to complete my transaction.

"Wow!" exclaims the barista, who also happens to be my lovely friend Katy, "Where'd you find the alien?!"

My son, trying to be all clever and funny, had on his "brand new" Halloween costume in the middle seat of the van and was hoping to get just such a reaction.

"Yeah," I quipped, "I frequently cart illegal aliens across state lines. You should've see the group I had in here last week!"

She laughs, hands me my coffee and proceeds to shut the window and begin taking another order.

"Whoa! Katy!" I shouted through the closed window. "You forgot to take my money," I say while waving my wadded up five dollar bill up to the window.

"Oh, Susie didn't ring you up?"

"Uh, no. I guess there was so much confusion, what with my carting an illegal and all, that she must have forgotten."

"Ah, don't sweat it. Coffee's on the house!"

I must have looked shocked because she simply smiled real wide and waved me off.

And it was in that moment that I knew my Higher Power forgave me my sin and weakness and wanted to give the best gift of all ....

free caffeine!

$$wishes: $150-$200 spending money for my girls' weekend this weekend to Avalon, NJ
$$sins: I'm serious this time ... no more Starbucks!
$$goals: dammit -- I really meant to get to the bank today and deposit that $25 (maybe tomorrow)