Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cupcake Making

Lili made red velvet cupcakes tonight using my flower cupcake pan, mini muffin pan, and balloons pan. She tinted frosting and decorated them too. I think that was her favorite part. She's very creative and quirky.
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dealing with Loss

Loss has been weighing on me heavily. I know loss is a part of life. I know it is something we have to learn to accept. Sometimes it takes grandparents, and we can be sad, but we can also celebrate and appreciate a life fully-lived.

But sometimes, loss decides we are becoming too complacent. Instead of taking those whose time we know is near, it hits us with a sucker-punch to the gut. It takes a child too soon.

The community in which I work has been dealt too many of these sucker punches lately:

A cherub-faced little boy struck down by an insidious cancer, succumbing on Thanksgiving Day. A boy who the community rallied for, prayed for, and in the end, cried for.

A young couple, graduates of our community school, buried their 4-month old baby this week.

And today the promising future of a bright, energetic junior boy was cut short in a car accident.

How does a community come to terms with this kind of loss? How do we comfort parents who, in a perfect world, should still have their children in their arms, should still be looking forward to birthday parties and cheering at sporting events and graduations? How do we continue to find the joy in life when it has been ripped so perfectly away from our friends and neighbors?

In this community, as in many communities, the people come together. They raise money. They fight for cures. They pray. They support. They console. They remember.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My First Post

This week on the Bloggy Moms' Writer's Workshop group, the assignment is to reflect on my first blog post.
The first thing I realized through this assignment is that I missed my first anniversary! My first post to Tales from the Compound was titled Welcome to the Compound. It was posted on January 13, 2010.

I think the post is a great description of how I ended up living on my own little Waco. I realize that is probably not politically correct, but there really is nothing else to call it when your entire 13 acres is enclosed in electric fencing and patrolled by two rottweilers. And this is your husband:
And he was a corrections officer in a maximum security prison, a gun-shop owner, and currently is turning a wrench on boats and golf carts.

So if you are new to my blog, read that first post to find out how a young girl who thought she'd be living in high fashion in a big city ended up in the middle of nowhere, happy as a clam.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A bazillion that the goal?

Earlier this week I joined Bloggy Moms. It seemed like a neat way to connect with other moms who blog. I was looking to find bloggers who were similar to me. And I did. Several, in fact. It is nice to know that I am not alone in feeling frustrated about my family's lack of help around the house, that I can share the joy my girls bring me, and that, through my "teaching" blog, I can offer helpful advice to teacher and parents of middle school kids.

Last night, in order to continue fostering those new relationships, I left several comments on the new blogs I am following. But I was disappointed to see a pattern emerge. A lot of comments people left were simply statements that they were now following the blog and wishing the writer to follow their blog back. There was no engagement with the content of the blog. In fact, I was a bit saddened that I received one of these comments on my post about my grandmother, who had recently passed away. How do you leave a comment on a post like that without acknowledging the writer's sorrow?

The number of followers I have does not concern me. I would rather have 5 followers who continually engage with the content of my posts rather than 100 who just "followed" my blog so I would follow them back. I have no interest in following coupon blogs, give-away blogs, or blogs by new moms. Don't get me wrong, those blogs have their niche and they may be very well written. But I don't use coupons, I don't have time for entering a thousand give-aways, and I am so far past the new-mom phase of life that I am probably closer to being a grandma (not for several more years yet, ok G and Lili?) Yet, I feel guilty when those bloggers follow me and I know they expect a follow back.

But I don't have time to read all the blogs on the web. I don't have time to read 1/1000000000 of them, I'm sure. So I hope that the people who follow my blogs are truly interested in what I have to say, that they comment and share their similar experiences and stories, and that they aren't offended when their blog is not one that appeals to me. Because my time is way too value to have to sift through my google reader, trying to remember which blogs I followed because I wanted to and which I followed out of a sense of duty.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Let's play fill in the adjective...

There is an interesting phenomenon occurring in my house. Specifically in the kitchen. It seems that if I am in the kitchen cleaning things up (any time other than right after dinner) or packing lunches for the next day,it is somehow a signal for the rest of the family to have a snack.

My kitchen is not big. In fact, it is so small that it is too small to be called small. It is not handy for more than one person to be working on any one thing at a time. But if I am emptying the dishwasher in the morning, that is the exact moment my husband has to have breakfast. The girls both think the time for a bedtime snack is right when I am in the middle of packing lunches. THEIR lunches!

Yet if I am in the kitchen fixing dinner, it somehow becomes a black hole. A place to be avoided at all costs. To be fair, tonight G (almost 14) did call from the living room and ask if I needed help tonight. But it does seem like she only calls and asks at that exact moment I have finished the dinner prep.

As I was coating chicken to put in the oven and thinking about this perplexing phenomenon, I thought it was ironic. But then I decided that wasn't the right word. Irony occurs when what happens is different that what one expects to happen. And this habit my family has of being underfoot when I am doing anything but cooking and disappearing when I am cooking is totally expected.

So what adjective do you think would describe my feelings about this? I look forward to your words. :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What the World Needs...

Many of you already know that my Grandma Miles died on Christmas Day. She didn't want any kind of funeral or memorial
service. We honored her wishes. I am still not sure if not having that made it harder or easier to suffer her loss. I know I am glad that my mom did not have to take on the burden of planning a service and I hope that people who knew Grandma are honoring her in their own way. I know that I would have had things to share about Grandma at a service. But at the time I think I would have found it hard to organize my thoughts.

Last night while Genevieve was on my computer, I hand-wrote what I thought would be today's post. I felt like it was time to say something about my Grandma. I wrote four pages about what she meant to me and what I would miss about her. I am glad I did that. But this morning, what I wrote yesterday didn't seem to be enough. Those four pages were telling me they needed to be written in a different way. So below is my tribute to my Grandma, who we also called Nana after great-grandbabies came along. I hope it would make Grandma happy.

What the world needs...
What the world needs is Grandmothers.
Not just any Grandmother.
Not accident-of-biology Grandmothers.
But real and true Grandmothers.
Grandmothers who take you places.
Take you places camping or shopping or exotic travel.
Take you places like Ponderosa or KFC or KMart or Giantway.
Or take you places like small towns during the Great Depression
or to factories where you work hard for what you have
or to glimpses of your parents' childhood and forgotten parts of your own
through stories they tell over and over again.

What the world needs is Grandmothers.
Grandmothers who give you things.
Give you things like your favorite shampoo your mom won't buy
or $100 every Christmas or surprise gifts whenever
just to let you know she's thinking of you.
Give you things like loans when you need it
or bags of groceries because she couldn't figure out
how to shop for one person after Grandpa died.
Give you things like values and hugs and praise
and time and confidence and unconditional love.

What the world needs is Grandmothers.
Grandmothers who let you do things.
Let you do things loudly like play and sing and dance
and turn cartwheels in the living room and laugh.
Let you do things like have yard sales at her house and sell
her stuff and keep the money and store your junk at her house.
Let you do things like put "dibs" on the things she has that you love.
Let you do things like mess up and make mistakes and cry.

What the world needs is Grandmothers.
Grandmothers who make you feel.
Make you feel like a perpetual child, even after you turn 40.
Make you feel a connection to history and family.
Make you feel confident and smart and worthy.
Make you feel like you are the most important person ever born.
Make you feel like there is a hole in your heart when she has to leave.

What the world needs is Grandmothers.
Grandmothers who help you see.
See the importance of family and story and connections and love.
See the gifts she has given you to celebrate what is important.
See the values she has passed on to guide your living.
See that you would give back all the stuff you "dibbed"
if it brought her back for even a day.
See that even after she is gone, she is with you forever.

What the world needs is Grandmothers.
Grandmothers who make you realize.
Realize that the world needs Grandmothers.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Harry Connick, Jr., a crazy lady in a bathrobe, and a hotel fire

I love going to workshops, seminars, and conferences for work. I love learning new ideas and strategies that will help me to improve and perfect the craft of teaching. I also love networking and meeting new people from other schools to hear about their experiences and work. And I love hanging out with my colleagues in a setting outside of school. So I was really looking forward to the last two days at a workshop in Ludington with three other formative assessment coaches from my school. Unfortunately, one of them ended up getting sick, but Stacey, Marla, and I had a fantastic time and we are returning with some great stories.

The workshop had a relatively small group and as many of us drove some distance and were staying in hotels, ten of us got together for dinner. It was a lovely time, full of conversations that had us laughing and connecting with each other. The ladies among us (9 of the 10!) fawned over the waiter, who bore a striking resemblance to Harry Connick, Jr. Sadly, we could not convince him to sing for us and the restaurant had no piano. He insisted that Harry Connick, Jr. looks like him.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel. Nine of the ten were staying at the same place. As we keyed into the back door of the hotel, we all noticed a bad, almost burning, smell. But we continued on to our room, joking with Linda, who was headed up the elevator, that we would let the firefighters know she was in the elevator if the building really was on fire. In our room, the three of us made calls to our families and got comfy in our jammies. Stacey decided to walk to the lobby to check her email, but when she opened the door, we could hear the smoke detectors buzzing loudly. I have been in hotels when the smoke detectors went off before, and my behavior has always been to ignore them. But this time, Stacey reported that there was smoke in the hallway, so we decided we probably better head outside.

As we waited in the back of the hotel, we chatted with Joel (the lone male at dinner) who said that someone had told him we would be evacuated to another hotel. We were not happy to hear that! Then, from the far end of the hotel two figures emerged. It was Jane, the workshop presenter, and Sara, the facilitator from the organization that sponsored the workshop. These two women are classy and smart and it is truly a pleasure to learn from them. But now, Jane was bundled in her winter coat and Sara...oh Sara! Sara had on flannel kitty pajama pants, a pink fuzzy robe with monkey faces all over it, and winter hat that came down over her ears. Best of all, she was carrying a bottle of wine and a stack of dixie cups. We stood there for a bit, shivering and predicting what might have happened and when we would get back into our rooms.

Finally Jane said, "Let's pour that wine and then drive around to the front of the hotel and find out what is going on!" Oh my, we laughed so hard that this woman who we so admired was encouraging us to climb into a car with open intoxicants! But of course, we did it! Sara parked at the door to the hotel, and strode purposefully into the hotel to find out what was going on, and see where the promised cookies (set out by the hotel staff from 8pm to 9pm each night) might be. Sara was only in the hotel for minutes before she emerged, carrying a tray of cookies. The four of us waiting in the car were laughing again as Sara passed a gentleman wheeling his suitcase into the hotel to check in. We weren't sure if the look he gave her said, "Why is there a crazy woman in a bathrobe leaving the hotel?" or "Hey, where is she taking the cookies?"

After Sara came back out to the car, we discussed where Linda might be, hoping she had not indeed gotten stuck in the elevator! As we drove around to the side of the hotel to watch the firemen who had shown up while we were out back, we saw Linda. We found out that it was she who had first seen the smoke billowing out of the pool room when she got off the elevator after dinner. She had gone to the front desk to tell them to call 911 and was frustrated by the young workers who didn't seem to want to listen to her. Luckily, in the end, they did listen to her, the firefighters were able to take care of the rags smoldering in turpentine in a pool room full of paint fumes, and we were able to return to our rooms. We couldn't use the pool, obviously, but we sure got a workout from laughing!