Thursday, February 24, 2011

Too Familiar?

I always wonder where you draw the line when, as a parent, you address a teacher--and vice versa.

I've known Little Brother's teacher since he was an infant, and we've been on a first-name basis, which is fine until I'm in the school building, and suddenly, though we are about the same age, I want to call her "Mrs. [insert last name here]." Even when there are no kids around!

The familiarity is fine, I think, when you've known the teacher for a while, when you've volunteered side by side with the person.

But over the past couple of days I have had occasion to email Middle Sister's algebra teacher. I've only met this teacher once--at Back to School Night. He doesn't know me from any of the other parents of his 75 students (or his 75 choir members). He never taught Big Brother. And he's young enough that he could have been one of my students, back when I was teaching.

Yet despite the fact that I addressed my email to him: "Mr. [insert last name here]," he responded back with "Barb."

I did sign my email with my first AND LAST names. Perhaps he didn't feel like typing my whole last name. I'd never in a million years, though, think that it's OK for me to call him by his first name--and I'm at least 10 years his senior.

Really? Is that OK? If you were a teacher, would you do that? I've received emails from several other teachers in the same school in past years, and this is the first time this has happened.

Hat Trick

Little Brother has been struggling with cursive writing this school year. Recently, his teacher began requiring the students to write all homework, except for math, in cursive.

So yesterday he got busy doing his spelling homework: use 10 of his spelling words in a sentence. Four or five sentences into the project, he realized that he hadn't done this work in cursive. Much complaining, wailing and gnashing of teeth resulted.

"Just start over and do it in cursive," I advised. Little Brother tends toward the dramatic, and can easily spend more time whining about a job and how difficult it is than it takes to actually get the job done.

He stomped up the stairs. "Cursive writing is the worst," he proclaimed. "Just like showers and haircuts!"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sandwich Time

Here I thought I was too young to be part of the Sandwich Generation. After all, Little Brother is only turning 9 next month.

Apparently I thought wrong.

My mother-in-law stays with us just about every other weekend. That means two three-hour round trips per weekend for my husband to go get her and bring her home. So in a way we've been sandwiching for the past year and a half.

Last night while we sat at the Boy Scout Spaghetti Dinner, my mother-in-law suddenly didn't feel well. After a few minutes, my husband sent me into the restroom to make sure she was OK. My neighbor went with me and we asked my mother-in-law about her symptoms.

We were both fairly concerned when she mentioned chest pain, trouble breathing, pain between the shoulder blades, dizziness and a cold sweat. Since we were all done with our dinners anyway (we were just hanging around talking with friends and other Scout families by this point) we all went home and I convinced TheDad that a trip to the ER would be a good idea. They were seen pretty quickly and nitroglycerin relieved her angina symptoms. She declined the offer of an overnight stay "for observation" and came back here with us.

Now she'll be here until tomorrow night, when my husband will hand her off to his brother. We don't want her staying alone in her house until she sees her regular doctor on Tuesday. She's not happy, which is going to feed her anxiety, but we just don't think that leaving her alone is a good idea, especially when we found out that she has had other health issues for several months and not told anyone (including her doctor) about them.

So it looks like TheDad will have plenty on his plate in the days and weeks to come. It will be my job to keep things going around here so that he's free to handle what he has to.

Prayers would be appreciated.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Barbara has been doing an occasional series on laundry.

Laundry is one of those chores that we do one way and we stick with it. Even when our system isn't working well for us, we stubbornly stick to that system.

I freely admit to being a slave to my laundry system, which hasn't worked well for us since we moved into this house. That was in 1998.

Our old home was compact, with no wasted space, but not much to spare either. The utility closet (big enough for furnace, water heater, washer and dryer and nothing else) was just inside the front door--in the dining room. I had room for one laundry basket on top of the dryer. So laundry got done and delivered to the bedrooms, to be put away. I had no choice--there was nowhere else to put it.

Then we moved to this house, which has a laundry room in the basement. Since I had always folded the laundry right there by my dryer in the old house, I did the same here. But it was so easy to fold the laundry and place it in a laundry basket--one for each family member.

Five laundry baskets take up an awful lot of floor space in the basement.

And by the end of the day, I would forget to hassle nag remind my kids to carry their laundry baskets upstairs and put their clothes away. So they'd go to the basement to look for stuff, and rummage through the baskets, and I'd get annoyed because they had unfolded all the neatly-folded laundry.

It wasn't working for me. It wasn't working too well for them, either.

So I tried something different--which, for me, is a big step. The only time I willingly try something different is when I'm cooking. I stepped out of my Laundry (Dis)Comfort Zone. When the dryer was done, I dumped everything into a basket and took it right upstairs. I folded it on my bed and delivered the folded things to everyone else's beds. Now when they get home from school there is laundry on their beds, to be put away. There are no baskets cluttering up my basement floor, full of tumbled clothes. There is no "Mom, where's my (insert name of article of clothing here)?" There are no mad rushes to the basement downstairs to find that missing piece of a uniform.

I deliver as I go, and it's amazing how much better I feel about getting that done. The only thing I need to tweak is what happens to the Lonely Socks, since I'm no longer in the basement to utilize the Lonely Sock Clothesline.

It feels so good to retool a system and have it work out so much better!

Monday, February 14, 2011

One of Those Days

And it's not even 8 AM!

I had weird dreams last night; I was substitute teaching in a very unfamiliar school--the kind of school where there has been addition after addition until the whole place is a maze. You're amazed if you can find your classroom. I couldn't find any sub plans, there was a fire drill, school didn't end until after 4, and they asked if I'd come back on a Saturday to sub again. Yikes.

Incidentally, I'm subbing for the librarian at Little Brother's school tomorrow. But I know what I have to do, I know my way around, and school's over promptly at 3. Saturdays? Not gonna happen. I can't promise that there won't be a fire drill, though I hope that if there is, it's not when I have the first grade.

So I woke up and got a shower. I was almost dressed when my husband called, "Don't take a shower!" Too late now...but apparently the sewer line had been acting up last night. Sometimes it gets clogged.

He spent most of the next hour crouching over the cleanout drain with a drain snake while Little Brother and I ran up and down stairs flushing toilets on command.

Middle Sister admitted that she'd forgotten to hand in her registration papers, check and bus form (due last Friday.)

My neighbor, who always drops off her unused coupon inserts, left them in my mailbox, and the wind carried them out of the mailbox and into the shrubbery, the lilac bushes, the fence, and the snow.

Middle Sister's bus was so late that I wound up driving her, only to pass the bus when we went around the corner.

It's definitely a glass-half-empty sort of day.

Can I have a do-over?

I think the best thing I can do right now is change out of my "grubby" clothes and go over to church. Then, I can start my day again. Hopefully this fresh start will be a good start.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Calendar FAIL

I'm usually good at matters involving the calendar. I've got the family calendar in the kitchen, my planner on my desk when I'm home and with me when I'm not, and a church calendar (for reference purposes) hanging above my desk.

People depend on me to be good at calendar stuff. Mostly that's my family, but sometimes it's people outside the family. The folk group, for example. Well, actually, they depend on me to be good at church stuff, but sometimes the calendar is a big part of that.

With every change of seasons in our parish, our music director assigns us to use a different Mass setting. The one we use for that small bit of Ordinary Time between Christmas and Lent is the least familiar, since we only use it at that one time of year. We don't know the Gloria for that Mass setting yet, so we've been using one from a different, more-familiar Mass. One recent week at folk group practice, one musician wondered if we should work on this other Gloria. "Why bother?" I asked. "Lent is in a couple of weeks, and we won't need it then. Plus, with the new Mass settings coming up, we won't be using this one next year."

Then I was reading Sarah's blog yesterday and I discovered that Lent is still FOUR WEEKS away!


Monday, February 07, 2011


Yesterday, I was the only one in my family at the 12:00 Mass. Nobody was sick--everyone else had gone to other Masses, at other parishes, due to commitments they had.

Usually we're all at Mass together, though we don't all sit together. I'm in the folk group. When Big Brother is home from college, he plays bass and/or mandolin with us. Little Brother usually sits with us and sings. Middle Sister is an altar server, and since Father isn't going to let Little Brother serve until he's a fourth-grader, Middle Sister remains on the job. It's rare that anyone else ever shows up to serve. TheDad is the only one of us who's "in the pew" at Mass. But he spent years and years and years on pew duty with the kids so that I could play in the folk group.

But now Big Brother is back at school, where he's playing the bass at the Campus Ministry Masses. Middle Sister sings in her school choir, and they were invited to sing at a Mass at one of the sending parishes. And Little Brother is in his school choir as well; on the first Sunday of the month, they sing at one of the parish Masses.

I notice my slowly-emptying nest most when Sundays roll around. Even more so than mealtimes, Sunday Mass has always been a family occasion. I am glad that all of my children are willingly participating--and giving of their time and talent--at Mass each week. But I miss those Sundays when we all would participate together, from various parts of the church.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Bit of Wisdom

When I was growing up, we began every Saturday morning with a trip to my sister's allergist so she could get an allergy shot. That's a lot of time spent hanging out in waiting rooms reading Highlights for Children and waiting for my lollipop (Dr. Goldstein always let my sister take 3 lollipops after her shot--one for each of us.)

A framed poster with this poem hung in that waiting room. I guess it was there so the parents would have something to read. I remember reading it too. This morning, a friend of mine on Facebook posted it.

If I were Queen, I would decree that all parents receive a poster of this poem and be required to place it where they could read it regularly. There's a longer version, but this is the one I remember from my childhood.

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte

If children live with criticism,
They learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility,
They learn to fight.
If children live with ridicule,
They learn to be shy.
If children live with shame,
They learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement,
They learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance,
They learn to be patient.
If children live with praise,
They learn to appreciate.
If children live with acceptance,
They learn to love.
If children live with approval,
They learn to like themselves.
If children live with honesty,
They learn truthfulness.
If children live with security,
They learn to have faith in themselves and others.
If children live with friendliness,
They learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright © 1972/1975 by Dorothy Law Nolte

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Availability is a Gift

The other day, Stay at Home Mom at Work wrote about the gift of availability.

It's a rather long essay, but one well worth your time. To whet your appetite:
how grateful I was to be able to do this for [my daughter]. I was able to spend all morning in this pursuit. Not all Moms can do that. Some work - in various ways for a paycheck or in volunteering positions that don't allow for spontaneous adventures such as this one.

This has gotten me thinking a lot about availability, and my attitude toward the demands that my family places on my time.

It's pretty telling, right there, that I consider it "my" time. As if I own it or something.

After I got both the kids and their lunches onto the school bus this morning, I had about an hour to tidy up the kitchen, start some laundry, and wrap up the package that needed to be mailed. My husband (AKA Mr. Cubmaster) realized that he would be very late to work if he waited for the Scout Store to open so he could buy the Scouting awards that were needed for tonight's meeting. So I said I would do it if he gave me the list. I wasn't entirely gracious about it, and I heard myself not being gracious, so I switched into "joke mode" and told him that this was going to cost him a couple of Milky Ways.

He was good with that, and even handed me the Wawa gift card that was in his wallet so I could buy those Milky Ways as I ran errands.

Off I went, to daily Mass, the post office, the Scout store (where the manager observed that my husband owes me a nice dinner in exchange for today's errand...he should be glad he's getting off easy with those Milky Ways), Wawa (for said Milky Ways), the Big Box Home Supply Store for light bulbs and furnace filters, and Chick-Fil-A for a gift card that I have to send to school as part of Little Brother's class prize for a fund-raiser event. I returned home at 11:30, had lunch, got my work done as well as some laundry, and then got busy sorting out the awards for each of our 30+ Cub Scouts. Beads, belt loops, badges and pins all went into the appropriate bags. I was going to be done soon!

And then the phone rang. It was Middle Sister. Her friend had missed the after-school bus. Her friend's mom doesn't drive, and her grandmother wasn't around to take her home. Could I give her friend a ride?

My first impulse was to refuse. Was she crazy? Didn't I have enough to do today? But I realized that I could pick up Middle Sister's friend when I was on my way to get Little Brother after choir practice. Since her friend lives fairly close to Little Brother's school, I could drop her off then.

And that's what I did. I found out later that this friend had missed the bus because right after school, her boyfriend broke up with her. I was glad that I was available to get her home. Middle Sister, in the middle of a track workout, saw me in the school driveway and gave me a big wave.

So I went back home to finish bagging up those Cub Scout awards. And I wasn't resenting that task anymore. I was glad that I was available to do this to help out my husband. My freelance work and my volunteering commitments did not prevent me from helping my husband and my daughter's friend. That last load of laundry will still be there tomorrow, and I'll get it done then. Provided, of course, that I'm available.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Worth Reading

R.C. Mommy: Holding on for a hero: "To develop my Catholic identity, or to develop it in my family, requires intentional living. It is not enough to float through my life..."

I'd like to put one of those little sidebar thingies in my blog so I could just insert great links when I read them. Unfortunately, the only one I found requires Google Reader, and I use FeedDemon.

So I'll have to share this way for the moment.

Go and read Amy's post. Great food for thought, and an excellent book recommendation. I've read some of this book--but not enough of it--this was a good push in the right direction.

(Actually, when I clicked the "blog this" link on Amy's post, I wound up sharing this on my recipe blog. DUH...once again, a technology fail for me.)