Sunday, October 16, 2011

Life in the Book Lane

Today I turned 45 and I got all these books for my birthday. Actually there are a few more not on this stack. Best birthday ever! Now I just need hours and days and weeks and months to get through all of them. Barnes and Noble had a "buy two classics, get one free" deal going on, so we took advantage. They were not expensive to begin with. So happy day. As I an thinking of being a teacher someday, there are so many books and I haven't read, and I am just not feeling prepared! So many books, so little time. At least they make a great centerpiece.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Life in the School Lane

Wow. My head hurts. It is not used to the information that is being crammed between is flabby, squishy walls. It is used to being filled with light, airy subjects like books, family, PTA and how to get out of making dinner and the second hour of church. Or whether to order the pork salad OR the burrito at Cafe Rio. Not things like common core, scaffolding a lesson, unpacking a standard, objectives, rubrics and accountability. Sheesh.

My brain is stretched beyond capacity. So when more data tries to find a spot it strains the walls and causes inflammation and discomfort that can otherwise be called a headache. In other words, I am having a medical reaction caused by a foreign ( and how!) intellectualism. Like a pebble in a shoe. A similar analogy is the class sizes in today's English classes. The brain is like a classroom that  can't get bigger. Students have to adapt by sitting at tables instead of desks, and it is often uncomfortable.

Here is the conversation I have been having with my brain:

Brain: (with conviction) This stuff is hard to absorb. If nothing else, there's too much of it. Get rid of some of it. You are not sleeping, and when you don't sleep then I don't sleep, remember? You  do remember those REM patterns that I HAVE to have to function? I cannot process all this!!

Me: (sheepishly) I know. I can't get rid of all this stuff.  If I get rid of it, I will not pass this class. I will do all I can to sleep better so you can perform better.

Brain: (with resignation) OK, just this once I will try to stretch a bit more. But I can't make any promises. I get tired, too.

Me. (with gratitude) Thanks for trying as hard as you can. When we are through with this tough part you get to do some fun stuff like watch a movie (you like that, right?) stare off into space, look at pretty leaves and sleep more.

Then under my breath I say, " Until the next round of info comes barreling down the track."

Brain: Goody!

And so it goes.

A side note: Thirty five to forty kids in a class is standard not the exception. I kept hoping to see some smaller class sizes when I switched from high school to junior high last week, but no, they are packed in like sardines, too.

An observation: Some teachers measure the stacks of papers to grade by inches and feet. No kidding. But today a teacher from Orem High came to our class to teach us his technique for handling the paper shuffle and I will definitely adopt his method. There is hope.

This class ends in two weeks. I can't believe how fast and furious it has been.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mama Goes Back to School Part 3

Here is my report of my first day in high school.

Here are the words that represent my experience: acne, BO, zits, yelling across the room, flirting, hiding, reading, texting, blushing, laughing, kicking (desks) and tapping (pencils). Apparently the tapper thought he was in band class.

Many times I heard, "What are we supposed to do?"

And the most alarming: 39 kids in one class. 39 kids that don't really want to be there. English is one of those classes that you HAVE to take. So there is no choice. ALL of the 39 were there, just not really there. If they were there mentally, they were faking it.

There are not enough desks. Three students were sitting at a table in the corner. One had her flip flops off and was smacking gum loudly. Her "neighbor" was voraciously reading "The Hunger Games." At least she was reading. That's a good sign.

Here are words that I said during both classes of 39 students: stop touching each other, don't kick his desk, don't throw the gum wrapper, and SHHHHHHHH about a hundred times.  I sounded like a deflating tire. Do you need a piece of paper. Maybe if you like her so much you should ask her to Homecoming. (This just resulted in more blushing and laughing.)

I walked around and stood by students who were talking and laughing. I got more exercise than I've had in a week. When I stood by them, they talked and laughed less, but only until I moved away.

One girl came in and just laid her head on her desk. She got out a piece of paper and wrote a bit, then stopped. Then she laid her head down again. You could tell she had "stuff" going on. She was one of the saddest girls I've ever seen.

I wonder if I'll ever be able to figure out these kids' "stuff." And if so, I hope I can help somehow.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mama Goes Back to School--Part 2

Well, I'm glad there is a Part 2 to this ridiculous undertaking. It almost ended in Part 1. But here I am back in the saddle after being bucked off the horse several times this week.


I almost quit my class Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday--really and truly Thursday. It was all just too much. I had sat in class for 20 hours. Twenty hours in the same class. I did homework for this class for probably 16 hours. Instead of asking my kids how much homework they had each afternoon, they asked me. "Mom, do you have a lot of homework?" I just looked at them sort of glassy-eyed. "Yeah, I said, see you in a couple of hours. Or maybe tomorrow morning. Have a nice life."

On Thursday I had hit a low point. My brain hurt, literally hurt. I think it probably hurt as much as a migraine, although I never have had one. But that was what I imagined it might feel like. I could tell it wasn't just a headache, it was a a message from my brain. The message said, "I am overloaded, my message box is full. Stop stretching me." I told it, "I know, I am sorry. Bear with me for one more day and then you can have three days off." It was kind. Thank you, brain.

That was just the physical part.There were also the emotions that gurgled and bubbled over like a Yellowstone Park hot pot multiple times during the week. The thing is, you can talk to your brain and reason with it about hanging in there. You can persuade it to let a little more information in. But you can't talk to your emotions and tell them to STOP IT, THAT THEY ARE RUINING YOUR LIFE! Well you can, but they don't listen. They do what they want.  The are unpredictable and embarrassing. They are fickle. They make you look and feel older than you are, something I definitely didn't want in this class of 20 somethings.

And then there's the sleep issue that I can barely talk about sometimes. I hadn't slept well Wednesday night. My brain hurt, I kept getting teary. I was beyond tired. What was I going to do? Was this how I would feel for the next two years? Shoot me now, I thought.

"You'll get used to homework," my Mom told me. "You'll be able to do to do it faster in a while." "If you quit, I'll kick your butt," my sister told me. "You're going to be just fine," one of the professors told me. She had been a non-traditional student like me. She said I'd be able to find part time work and that I wouldn't have to work 10-hour days like full time teachers. That there were jobs out there. I began to smile a bit. This kept the tears from flowing. My brain stopped cramping so much. Bless you, Professor Rawlings. Bless you Mom and Lisa.

Friday at noon arrived. The sun came out a bit. I would have some time to pull it together.

Friday night I watched "Princess Bride" with Nathan. I totally related to Miracle Max when he said, "He's not dead, he's just mostly dead." Yup. That's how I feel. Then came Saturday with its mundane housecleaning and grocery shopping. We went to the Storytelling Festival and laughed and laughed and that made me feel better. Today was relaxing. Tomorrow is a free day. I am well again.

Tuesday I go to good old Orem High just down the street to spend three weeks with Mr. Johnson in his 10th grade English class. I will try not to let anyone know I am Sammie's Mom so as not to embarrass her. I may have the neighborhood kids down the street in my class. They already think I'm strange, so oh well. I am told I will do anything from teach the class to make copies. I do have to do at least one lesson while I am in his class.

I hope I like him and he likes me. I hope it is a good experience.

Baptism by fire.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mama Goes Back to School--Part 1

I sent my kids back to school last week. And then I went.

Back to school.

It’s been 21 years and I am back in the classroom hoping my brain still functions. Actually I am hoping my brain functions way better than when I was a student at the U of U all those years ago. It had better because there is a lot riding on it this time around.

I have been a little worried lately about the brain thing. I keep asking the same questions over and over and my kids keep answering me over and over. I don’t listen to their responses so I have to keep asking. Here is an example:

“Are we picking up Zack for the game?” I asked.


Five minutes later: “Are we picking up Zack for the game?


Five minutes later: “Are we . . . .”


This resulted in my son telling me I had Alzheimer’s. This only increased my anxiety about returning to school as a geriatric patient who wants to be a high school English teacher.

After forgetting the pressures of school for two decades, I have new respect for my own kids who work hard every day and excel beyond what I was capable of doing at their ages.  How I ever produced such kids is beyond me.

I practically worship the ground my high school senior walks on because she is taking three AP classes, one of which is Statistics. I have a panic attack when I think about anything number-related (ex. I often have to pass the fifth grade math homework off to someone more competent in my family). So the fact that she can take this kind of a class shows her grit and intelligence. It also proves that she has a lot of her Dad in her as far as how her brain works. What a blessing for her.

She does her stats homework and she hasn’t pulled out one strand of her beautiful hair. She just does it.

Today was my first teaching certification class. I felt like my classmates were teenagers. I was old enough to be their Moms, and I told them so. I told them I had a daughter their ages. I hope I didn’t look or sound too matronly. I tried to dress a little bit fashionably, but sometimes when you’re 40-plus those efforts fall flat. My oldest daughter who counsels me in these matters has recently moved out. I got my hair done so there wasn’t a gray hair visible. After pulling myself together as best I could, all I could do was hope.

My class is four hours, five days a week plus homework. Brutal. Its main goal is to weed out people who really shouldn’t or can’t be teachers. Was I going to be one of them? This thought was almost unbearable during the first two hours. The last two hours I settled down a bit.

About mid-way through the class, one student raised her hand and said, “Does anyone else feel like they want to throw up?” This resulted in uproarious laughter.

When I walked out of the class at 11:50, my head was swimming with info and caffeine withdrawal. Sometimes there are major blessings right down the hill. Thank you, Wendy’s.

When I got home I did homework for two hours. An hour of it was spent trying to figure out how to print off a pdf document so the font was big enough to read without a magnifying class. This was a huge effort, and to my credit, I stuck with it until I figured it out. I didn’t wait for more tech-savvy people to come home to help. I did it.

That was a good first step—independence with tech things. No more, “How do you turn on the DVD player?" Life is changing.

Papers, journals, textbooks, annotating articles, (I had to ask my daughter what that was) teaching in the public schools, dressing professionally, resumes, etc. And the real nail biter--exams. This is what my life has become.

And yes to the brave student in class today. I do feel like I'm going to throw up. But you can only throw up for so long right? 

Monday, August 22, 2011

To Sleepover or Not to Sleepover

Teresa and me at our 20 year reunion in 2005

School starts tomorrow and the one thing that I will NOT miss is the question, "Can I sleepover at so and so's house?" ) Or, "Can so and so sleep over here?"

So and so is, of course, a most beloved and cherished person, without whom the world would cease to turn. Why have there been so many so and so's around this summer?

There seems to be three schools of thought on sleepovers: never under any circumstances, occasionally with close friends, and what the hell, they’re only kids once. This last school of thought seems to be what many parents thought in the 70s and 80s, and my friends and I took full advantage. Their parents thought the same thing. It’s a different world now.

Here’s what I have heard the hardliners say about sleepovers. Their stance is that nothing good can come of them. They don’t like the “sleepover hangover” in which kids are good for nothing the day after. They have heard “horror stories” of kids who have major issues later in life because of something that happened at a sleepover. A stake president said something once about the evils associated with them.

I tend to fall into the second category. I hate the hangovers, but I know of the potential fun and euphoria of a sleepover under the right circumstances. My parents, however, should have never let me have sleepovers when I was young because of my negative reaction to them.

On several occasions I was so homesick that I would call my Dad to come get me. Usually at about 3 am. I remember sneaking into my friend Kristen’s kitchen so that her parents wouldn’t hear, calling my father on her rotary phone (the noise, noise, noise!) and begging him in a whisper to come get me. I did this again with my other friend Kristin (must have been the name). On both occasions the Kristens’ parents were awakened to my utter embarrassment as we waited for my Dad to arrive. And I am sure the Kristens always wondered if I hated them all of the sudden or if I was just a wuss.

When I got older I had tons of sleepovers with positive outcomes, but there are some things I learned and saw that were maybe not so positive. These are for sure the things that the hardliners of today are warning against that we didn’t even think about then.  Maybe that is why I am a damaged adult today!

Here are the highlights of my teenage sleepovers, which almost always involved my best friend Teresa. (see above photo.)

Once Teresa had a 50s birthday party where we put on American Grafitti and her Mom donned her 50s clothes and taught us the jitterbug.

Everyone brought tons of candy and pop and we gorged. Three girls ended up throwing up and having to go home, and that was a major downer for the rest of us. One by one they fell victim in the middle of the night like an Agatha Christie novel. After that, Teresa couldn’t have another sleepover for years it seemed.

 Murder in the dark in Teresa’s woods was one of the best. There were hand-picked boys who were invited to play in the woods with us but then “left” at a certain time determined by Teresa’s parents. I remember Teresa not coming in the house for a long time after the deadline, and then all of us peppering her with questions about a certain boy (who she later married).

Truth or dare. The thrill of learning intimate stuff you wanted to know about your friends, but wishing you’d never confessed the stuff you did. “We swear that what we say tonight, will never leave this room” was the standard safety net to get you to tell, but later someone blabbed your secrets and you were busted. Never mind, you blabbed theirs, too.

There was the old standby ritual of putting a sleeping girls’ fingers into a glass of warm water to get her to pee in her sleeping bag. The perpetrators always claimed success, but the victim always ended up crying and hating the mean girls who did it. They were out of sorts for the rest of the night, understandably (especially if they really did pee in their sleeping bags).

Why did we have sleepovers with mean girls? So stupid.

Sometimes we slept on the trampoline and giggled so loud the neighbors complained.  We told some hand-picked boys what we were doing, and they scared us to pieces and got us screaming in our jammies. The boys were banished by annoyed parents and we were threatened with having to go home.

I don’t know how our sleep-deprived parents stood it. Maybe that’s why many parents today are saying no. Some have come up with a great alternative that I have used as well: lateovers. Sleepovers are fraught with unknowns, but lateovers are safe. A kid is retrieved by his or her parents at around 11 pm. They have still had fun, but they will get their sleep and not get into trouble. Parents today are smarter than parents of my day! This works!

So I am torn. There is a closeness and a deepening of friendship that comes about at a sleepover with a best friend that often doesn’t happen other times. There are the amazing memories (both good and bad) that make for great stories then and later in life.  There are life experiences that shape ideas about friends and fun. There is the feeling of doing something special with people you care about. It shouldn’t be something that happens often, but that happens with the right people at the right times.

Friends are the cherished people who won’t be around forever like families, and so it’s nice to take advantage when the time is ripe. When’s the last time you, as an adult, had a sleepover with your childhood best friend? Probably years ago, but I bet you still remember every vivid detail, and sometimes wish for those carefree summer nights

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mother Google

Artwork by Mary Lee click to enlarge

I have been thinking about how Google is really too good to be true for lazy parents like me. Three times this week my kids have asked me some questions:

1. When did Disneyworld get started?

2. How many people live in the United States?

3. Do black bears attack people as much as grizzly bears?

I had sort of a rough idea of the answer to these questions, but like most, parents I don’t know for sure (and I know I can’t fake it). Sometimes I don’t even have the slightest idea (and they know it).

So instead of saying, “I’ll have to get back to you on that,” or “Go ask your father,” I took the slacker Mom way out. I just said, “I don’t know. Google it.”

And they jumped on the computer and Googled all the questions and found their answers and a whole lot more than I could have told them. Simple. Easy. Too easy.

Sometimes when I’m feeling even more "slackerish" I tell them to read Wikipedia when they want a bunch of information on a certain topic. I figure if I do it, so should they. This is the Age of Finding Out Things Fast. Wikipedia is oh so fast and informative and fills my mind with meaningless trivia that I promptly forget. It’s sadly more entertaining that going to the library even. Never thought I'd say that.

I should feel OK about this practice, but I just can’t shake the knawing feeling that this is a big Mom copout on my part, and not exactly how I should be interacting with my children—at least not very much.

Yes, Googling things is quick, convenient and makes it so I can continue reading my novel on the couch or flipping through aromatherapy catalogs, but. . . . . it also limits the valuable connections and discussions I could potentially have with my children.

My Dad used to answer my questions by pretending he knew everything about the topic at hand and then somehow morphing the conversation into his own loosely formed connections. It was entertaining but not necessarily informative. I appreciate him now, even though I suffered through his long-windedness back then. I might give anything just to have one more of those conversations.

To the brown bear/grizzly bear question my children asked this week, I could have responded: “Well, I think it might be grizzly bears because they are bigger and stronger and seem to be more aggressive. We have a book about different kinds of bears. Remember what we saw in that pamphlet we got in Yellowstone Park last week? It talked all about this. I will see if I can find it.” Then I would have to get up off the couch.

That would have been the "non-slackerish" way to answer the question. It would have required eye contact in which I could have ascertained the general physical condition of the child, like if he or he needed to take a shower or change his clothes or brush his teeth.

If I am sitting on the couch absorbed in an Eddie Bauer summer sale catalog, however, I have no way of knowing these things and other important things like why they need this information. Is there a report due tomorrow or have they made a bet with a friend? Or are they so fascinated by this information that it may open up a lifetime of inquisitiveness and study that could lead to a career as a park ranger or wildlife biologist?

These are good things that parents should know, and can find out fairly easily if they pay attention and get up off the couch--especially slacker Moms like me!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Decade of Leah

Leah at Huntington Beach in June

Leah with a Danish Santa in Copenhagen

My last child has reached the double-digits. This feels like a milestone to me and represents a new phase in my life and hers.

She was born at a crossroads in our family's life. We were getting ready to move to Copenhagen, Denmark for a semester when she arrived. She was born on July 30, 2001, and we boarded the plane on September 3. She was still a newborn with blotchy skin who needed to be nursed every two hours.

I remember being crammed on the plane in the very back with my back aching and my legs cramping for 10 hours. I was excited to go to a country where my ancestors had come from and where my grandfather had served as a mission president during WW II.

But I was terrified of how we'd get along with four kids in a foreign country, one who was a newborn.

Leah was a beautiful baby and turned out to be much easier than a three year old or a seven year old or even a 10 year old because she could be transported easily in a pram and obviously didn't need to walk for long distances. She didn't require home schooling or entertaining.

We were a spectacle--a family of four kids--hopping on buses and trains and taxis. When 9-11 happened and we went to the American Embassy in Copenhagen to pay our respects, I wondered what kind of world Leah would grow up in. Would there be more terrorist attacks and would her life be altered because of it? Though there was nothing I could do to prevent it, I didn't like the idea that all her life she would know she'd was born six weeks before 9-11.

She was a bright spot in a world that seemed condemned to darkness. Those thoughts came to me repeatedly as I ate Danish chocolate at 3 am while trying to get her back to sleep.

Now she is an inquisitive 10-year old who loves people and worries about her family and friends. She loves to do art projects and paint and swim and play with friends. She is a joy to me and a good student and a beautiful girl.

Happy 10th birthday Leah! I love you!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mother Gothel Meets Huck Finn

what I want this summer!
Artwork by Mary Lee
I have a skewed misconception that summer brings with it much sought after time to nurture flowers, complete long-put-off tasks and focus on all the slackers in the house (mostly me). The dreams of endlessly reading, going to the pool, watching stars, taking idyllic picnics and bike rides have somewhat been realized over the past month, but not as much as I’d hoped.

You’d think I’d know that by now. Reality always comes crashing down about July.

Every Mom I know goes into summer armed with new goals for the kids. By the second week of fighting them I have decided what I want them to do isn’t nearly as important as not hearing them complain. The chore charts and reading charts and pick up the poop charts are written on the white board but ignored. Heaven help the person who tries to walk into the back yard to mow the lawn.

I think all kids grow up thinking that they have more chores than their siblings and that their moms do this on purpose to torment them. NOT FAIR are the two most spoken words in our house.

And I cannot believe that my kids think they need me to make them lunch every day!

Yesterday I turned into “Mother Gothel” from Tangled—the evil Mom who grabs Rapunzel around the arm and hisses, “Don’t ever ask to do that again!” I was violent and I hissed, just like her. Yup. That’s me. Mother Gothel. Also this week my daughter turned into Rapunzel and said, “Mother! Or should I even call you that!” They don’t like me much this summer.

This is what my kids have been doing this summer to “enrich” their minds.

My 13-year old went to an all you can eat pizza place and ate 13 pieces of pizza. His father and I are so proud. Hall of fame for this boy. We’re just grateful he didn’t throw up like the other kids did. He can’t remember to shower and then argues about if he smells or not. He thinks he can spend all day at Seven Peaks without any food or any money to buy a $7 plate of nachos.

My 17-year old daughter tried to fry and egg on the cement. Apparently it wasn’t hot enough. Thus the blob of yolk in the driveway. “We cleaned it up—promise,” she insisted. She has also spent all her income on concerts and Summer Sno (she’s almost bought enough to get a free one—her father and I are so proud) When it’s time to pay for some toiletries or movies she is flat broke.

My 10-year old is literally devastated if she can’t find a friend to play with. Keeping her happy and entertained is often expensive and wearisome and requires me to actually play or cook or do crafts.

I am reading Huckleberry Finn and loving Huck’s descriptions of floating down the Mississippi with Jim at night staring at the stars and listening to the night. I often wish for my own quiet leisure where there is time to think. I actually feel rested as the river images come to life for me.

I like this part the most. Huck says, “Sometimes we’d have the whole river all to ourselves for the longest time . . .It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened—Jim he allowed they happened.”

“We used to watch the stars that fell, too, and see them streak down. Jim allowed they’d got spoiled and was hove out of the nest.”

This week I will watch stars and float around a bit and try to keep Mother Gothel at bay.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What I've Been Doing

I haven't vanished into winter oblivion. I've been posting at the Daily Herald's Utah Mom Click.

I've found a great illustrator for my posts. My friend Mary Lee, who used to live down the street, is the artist/cartoonist/illustrator. She just happens to be the most creative person I know. I consider myself to be very lucky indeed.

Check out her fabulous cartoons on parenting and family life. I can so relate to all of this, and I am sure many of you can as well.


Here are some of my recent posts.

Elk Antlers?

Courageous Parenting

The Dangerous Descent into Driving

Teenagers and Toilet Paper

Ode to my Teenage Son

Bands, Brackets and Braces

Duh! Can't you Speak Teenager?

Teenage Speak: Understanding their Words

Why are you Wearing that?

Why are you Wearing that in Public?
I hope you can relate to some of these!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Kitty Mama

It's January 18 and I feel like I've been assaulted a bit as a parent, and that America's education system has been similarly raked over the coals, perhaps justifiably.

Last week I went to hear Condoleeza Rice speak at the BYU Marriott Ceneter. I had no idea how much I would like her, and how what she said would speak to me in unexpected ways. I felt uplited to achieve more in my personal life, but also that my hands were tied as a parent concerning my ability to help my children become better educated.

Ms.Rice, who I believe was undoubtedly the best thing to happen to the George W. Bush administration, was stern in her reprimands of the status quo. She said, "The number one threat to national security in America today is the disastrous state of our K-12 system." We are not competitive, she says. Not remotely competitive. Ouch. We all agree that she's right.

How do we become more competitive? She offers several ways, but it seems like my kids will be middle-aged by the time her suggestions can take hold. And then America will be a tortoise, left in the dust by the smarter, faster hares in Asia. But she made me want to do something, to at least try. What exactly I don't know.

In the meantime, there is Amy Chau, the author of "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mama," who is all over the news right now. She makes me proud that I am the wussy tortoise and she is the ruthless hare. I am a kitty Mama, and proud as a peacock about it.

She is a woman who I could not spend five minutes with. She lambasts American parenting, insisting we are coddling our children because we let them have the pleasures of childhood. We don't drill them into the ground with academics and music. Never mind that her own children nervously vomit when they worry they can't live up to her abusive standards. Never mind that Asia's young women between the ages of 15-24 have an astonishingly high suicide rate due to unrelenting pressure.

Her parenting methods work, she claims. She says this is a traditional approach to parenting in China. I doubt many Chinese parents would have the energy, grit or heart (or lack of) to parent their children with such lack of compassion and harshness. It's just too exhausting and emotionally draining. I just think she likes the publicity she's getting for being the "Tiger Mama" and the $800,000 advance she got to write the book. (That part makes be a bit envious, I must admit.)

This Kitty Mama is sickened that she's getting rich writing a book that has a message that is so at odds with the human value that espouses freedom to become anyone you want to become. Amy Chao has forced her children to become what she wants. How will her children every learn to make a decision on their own?

So she makes me want to sit on my butt and watch my kids tiptoe through the tulips, read a little, have a sleepover, watch a movie, go out to lunch, hang out in their pajamas, all the things she says we wimpy American parents do. Hey guys, eat a cheeseburger while you're watching TV!

And I want to punch her in the face and tell her that a person who is truly intelligent is the person who has emotional intelligence. Because if you can't get along with people, you will never find success in life no matter how well you play the piano or what college you graduated from.

I agree with David Brooks of the New York Times. He says that Amy Chau's the wimp, not American parents, because she isn't making her children do the truly hard things like discern the emotional cues of their peers or play on a team or work in groups to figure things out. They don't have to get along with anyone.

Those are the skills that "competitive" people have. I will think about this when I help my daughter with her 10 math problems that she had for homework last night. I will think of this when I ask my son if he has any homework and he says, "No."


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Top Ten for 2010

I am glad 2010 is over. It has brought many blessings and new and exciting things. But it has also been personally draining and exhausting. I am a goal setter, but not a goal achiever, and this is problematic in a culture that values putting off the natural woman and striving for perfection.

If you are wondering why Michael Jackson is staring at you, skip down to number 10, but y'all come back ya hear?

Here are some happy things about 2010. Yeah, Michael is one of them.

1. The best thing about 2010 was that my daughter had a year of healing, physically and mentally, and she is on her way. We didn't know what to expect. We were terrified as much as any two parents could possibly be, but she is remarkable in the progress she has made and her determination to beat her illnesses. I admire her ability to pick herself up every day and work toward getting better.

2. My brother in law Mike is alive and well. He walks with a crutch and his legs don't work like he would like them to. But he is a medical miracle. He is back at work. He survived a burst illiac artery in June which most people do not. We can't imagine life without his tension-relieving sense of humor and generous nature. It's a good thing that I didn't have to pray at our Christmas family dinner, because I would have been reduced to a pile of mashed potatoes when I think of the blessing of his life, and how we almost lost him.

3. My Mom survived breast cancer and Darren's Mom has recovered from her debilitating auto immune disease. I can't even say what it was because the words are so long. I have high hopes that my Mom's back surgery will be successful later this month, and that her health will be restored. Good luck Mom!

4.Being PTA president has been surprisngly pleasant and enjoyable. It has been rewarding and self-esteem boosting. I feel like I have done well, and can say that I have achieved the goal of doing my best for our school. I am proud of the work that I have done, and actually have some goals in this area that are achievable in the months to come. Wow, achievable goals, who would have thought?

5. Our puppy Theo brings joy and more joy even though he poops a lot and chews things up. He is adorable and fast as snot and we all love him except one person in our family. And that's OK because he has five other people who can't imagine life without him. He is a trail runner and a mountain climber (even a moose chaser) and that makes Darren happy. Darren frequently says what a cool dog he is. This is way more than I had hoped for when we got a dog. Darren was less than enthusiastic, but now we finally have somone in the family who can keep up with my ultra-fit, super outdoorsy husband.

6. Speaking of outdoorsy, I have taken up snow shoeing with Darren and I love it and am starting not to hate winter with the same vitriolic passion that I used to. We have couple unit time and I get to breathe fresh air and exercise while enjoying our beautiful surroundings. And it is so cheap and accessible and easy. One can't fail at snow-shoeing. There is virtually no skill required, (why else would I be able to do it) except it is sometimes hard to get those tennis racquets all buckled up!

7. My shoulder is healed. I can move it almost 100% and this makes me so grateful and happy. I can do anything I want to do without worry or concern, and I am attempting to do just that. It does not pop out of the socket anymore and I truly hope that I will never have to endure seven shoulder dislocations again. The surgery was a great success.

8. Zumba class is a riot and so fun and such good exercise. What an amazing discovery for me. I did it all through the summer and less in the fall, but I resolve (how I despise that word because it is most uncharitable) to keep it up this winter. The music and the energy are fantastic.

9.My kids are healthy and happy (at least it seems that way, one never really knows) and they seem to be growing up to be intelligent, kind, good people despite their mother's erratic behavior. Hooray!

10. And last but not least, my Michael Jackson Wii game (bonus white glove included) that I got for Christmas is "SICK" (to use teenage phraseology). I am thrilled and surprised that I am not a complete washed-out has-been and that I actually have some moves. I beat everyone in the family, probably because I was very "impressionable" when Michael's music was at the height of mania. It swept over me, seeped into my blood and stayed around until Michael was no longer recognizable.

I lived for "stomps" at school when I could rock out to "BAD" and "BEAT IT." And I will never forget when a crowd of my friends gathered in the fall of 1983 in the dark to watch MTV's new video "THRILLER." I secretly wondered how a white 17-year old Mormon girl from Salt Lake City could have Michael's baby someday. That was before he got all gross and freaky! Whoops, not a secret anymore!

Happy New Year!