Sunday, April 7, 2013

It's a Wrap!

This is not going to be a post bemoaning the end of Spring Break and the return to school tomorrow... although it could be.

I am not going to express regret for not making a To Do List... although I should have.
Or express regret for not actually taking a "break" during Spring Break... although I should have.

I am not going to muse on how the days passed at a leisurely pace at first, and then all too quickly piled on top of one another as they whisked away at the end of the week... although they did. They always do.

Instead, I will just recap the memorable moments of Spring Break 2013.

Because there certainly were some. The most memorable would have to be on Wednesday afternoon. As I was sitting in the living room sewing (Seriously! I was sewing. It was just a button... but I was sewing.), I heard a loud BANG outside. It sounded like when the back end of a tractor trailer with an empty bed hits a bump in the road. I looked out the window just in time to see the cables running from the top of telephone poles snap and fall to the street. When I stepped outside, I saw a truck driving across the neighbor yard and heard wheels spinning. The view was obstructed by the hedge of trees and bushes dividing our yards. When I crossed over to see what was going on... I don't really know how to describe the scene.

An elderly gentleman was driving a truck carrying a flatbed trailer with a riding lawn mower. He hit the telephone pole across from our house then drove two wheels down the sidewalk, knocking out mailboxes, until the truck hit the next telephone pole then tumbled the lawn mower into the middle of the street before racing across the neighbor's yard, stopping just a few feet from crashing into their garage.

The driver was unconscious when I approached the vehicle and for the next several hours our section of the road was shut down to a parade of police cars and fire trucks and ambulances and tow trucks and animal control. What made an intense situation even scarier is that Cameron was in the front yard with the neighbor when the truck came ripping through. It's too much to grasp the reminder of how fragile life is. (Forgive me if that borders dramatic.)

Cameron filling out his police report for the accident. (Hopefully not a foreshadowing for future dealings with the police.)

On Thursday, Benjamin had an appointment with the doc following one month on a stronger anti-biotic for ear fluid. Unfortunately, it did not help enough and there is still enough fluid behind his ear drums that we are being sent back to the ENT for a follow-up appointment, which will likely lead to new ear tubes. The ones he had put in a bit over a year and a half ago have just recently fallen out, although they are still laying in the ear canal, which makes my own ear twitch a little just to think about.

Perhaps the only good note about our sometimes frequent visit to the doctor is that Benjamin has visited the office often enough without having to get shots that he has no apprehension about going. He fussed at Cameron for sitting in the doctor's chair and when the doc came in he insisted on rolling up his pant legs and showing the doc his "boo boo" (scraped knee). It is, however, incredibly more difficult to entertain (and restrain) him in the examination room now that just crumpling the paper on the tables are not enough entertainment to capture his attention.

Cameron had his first experience in his LTG role for Key Club over Spring Break. He went for Board Training in Herndon, Virginia, Friday - Sunday. Thankfully, he was able to drive up with one of the Adult District Board Members so I only had to drop him off and pick him up from Williamsburg. Friday morning we ran some errands before the drop-off, including picking up presents for Benjamin's birthday, and items for the Relay Team's summer-themed raffle.

I needed beach chairs, towels, and an umbrella with stand. So, we drove out to Virginia Beach to find good deals at the tourist shops. I have to admit that I have felt twinges of jealousy (and maybe even a little hatred... just a tinge) towards all the people on my Facebook page posting their updates and photos from Busch Gardens, the beaches, and Florida (Florida!). We, on the other hand, managed to put our feet in the sand for about 20 minutes between errands.

Looking ahead, after next year's Spring Break, Jason will either be teaching in my school district, or hopefully teaching in a district with the same schedule and taking "real" vacations on school breaks will be an option. In the mean time, I need to strive towards not always bringing so much work home with me. Not having that never-ending To Do list churning through the back of my my mind during the entire break.

Be right back... in 9 weeks

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Myth of Morning People

Morning people are mythical creatures, likened to gnomes and pixies. They don't really exist (sorry pixie lovers). I know there are some people who think they are "Morning People," but they are just suffering delusions in an effort to fit into a magical role praised by our work-driven society. It's against the laws of human nature to actually want to get out of bed in the morning.
The alarm clock is a natural antagonist to man. Snakes and bears are no enemy in comparison. One well-aimed gunshot strategically-placed humanitarian trap, and those predators lose their power. Alarm clocks though? I have to hack away at thing every ten minutes... up to three seven times... every. single. morning. And on those very rare mornings that I do not have to await the alarm clock's menacing cry, an agent of the little brainwashed militants of the Morning People Army (also known as a toddler), still manages to wake me up before the laws of gravity have engaged for the day, allowing me to lift my head off the pillow.
That being said, I must admit that I do love on those rare mornings I do get up and do get productive to look at the clock, usually around 11 in the morning, and think "Wow, is it only 11?" because I am surprised that I have already gotten so much done for the day. Admittedly those days are not too often.

Since the idea of creating a To-Do List for Spring Break was too stressfully cumbersome, I decided to just dedicate each day to a different area of concentration. Monday- Relay (check), Tuesday- Housework (okayyy), Wednesday- Schoolwork (ummm, no), Thursday- Out of town fun & errands (catching up on that schoolwork), Friday- Paperwork (catching up on those errands, no time for fun).

So yeah, that plan lasted until about mid-day on Wednesday when I just could not convince myself to roll up my sleeves and pull out the red pen for schoolwork. Instead, I spent a greater part of the day with Nicole & Jenny. Perhaps you know them?

They are better known in some circles as Snooki and Jwoww. I decided to watch a couple of episodes that have been sitting in the DVR cue for a while, but those dang MTV producers kept hooking me in and I wanted to see what was going to happen next (Roger proposed!). So, I mayyy have watched five episodes, then... I took a nap. A nap!

I don't think I have successfully taken a nap since I was pregnant with Benjamin. I have tried, but either something at home needs my attention or I spend too much time lying there thinking about all that I need to do and should be doing instead of laying around trying to take a nap. This nap was delicious though. I think as close as the human soul can come to Nirvana on Earth are those ten minutes of snuggling back down into the bed after the snooze button (which loses its effect after the third... or seventh, time). Well, this nap was like 60 minutes of that Nirvana.

Unfortunately, that nap was as close as I am going to come to a vacation during this break. So, thankfully... it was a really awesome nap. Thus, I will close with the poem given to my students as an example of hyperbole:

I Swear I Only Napped a Minute

Eyes fluttered shut

Drool formed a pool

The nap was only to last a minute

The sun set

Winters came and went

The nap was only to last a minute

Wrinkles formed

Young men grew white beards

The nap may have lasted more than a minute

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Some Books for the Younguns (YA Fiction Reviews)

So, about those lil' tabs across the top of my page... yeah, those... the ones that could lead someone into believing I am a cooking, crafting, literary extraordinaire?

Well, about that.

Confession #1- Since school started, I do believe the only time I have used a recipe was to make cookies for the exchange.

Confession #2- I have yet to complete the set of two (two!) coasters I was making out of repurposed tiles that I started back in September,

BUT! I have managed to continue reading (probably because it is a lot easier to read in the bath tub at night than to cook or craft... go figure).

Unfortunately, I have not been good at blogging reviews about what I have read. I am trying to catch up on that though. For a while there, my reading taste went from Young Adult to Erotic Fiction, and back, and forth. (We're going to pretend "eclectic" is an appropriate word to describe that weirdness.) To not proliferate that weirdness eclectic reading genre, I decided to break my "catching up" into "The Naughties," previously blogged about, and "For the Younguns," now.

Also unfortunate is that some of these books I finished as long ago as five months ago, so I can offer no more than a brief overview and reaction.

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker

This book is pretty easy to summarize- football, football, football, dad living vicariously through son to hide thrown away chances of his former youth, football, football, football, player turning to steroids in fear of being replaced by younger guy, football, football, football, steroids causing player to lose place on team, friends, and potential girlfriend.

Oh... and football, football, football.

Seriously, there is a LOT of football in this book- like entire chapters just describing the action on the field during a game. Now, some may expect that the plot considering what the book was about. However, for those of us not at all (AT ALL) interested in the game of football, football, football- it was mind-numbing.

This is a good read for that kid that sees himself as the stereotypical jock that isn't supposed to like reading. It's a good boy read. You do spend a lot of time inside the narrator's head and it's written in a way to make you believe in the conflict he is feeling between making decisions he knows are wrong and having to keep his place on the team.

Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin

This was one of the books given to me for my classroom library from the graduate course I took on promoting independent reading in English classes. It was part of a list of novels that were written for adult audiences but included themes for a young adult crowd. Surprisingly Hunger Games was part of that same list, so I almost wonder if the adult and young adult roles in that classification didn't get switched around.
It's the story of a sixteen-year-old girl, that is a "Little Person", and decides to transfer to a performing arts school because she is an amazing singer. The novel opens though with Judy living in a motel, next door to a rather creepy guy that does not speak but appears to be her only friend, as she seemingly hides away from news reporters. The story unfolds to reveal the events that led up to her secluding herself away from family and schoolmates in a way that pulls in the reader, especially the young adult reader, in wanting to know what she did that was so awful.
The narrator's voice is strong and well-developed. You see into her mind as she deals with the usual stresses of high school- making new friends, trying to fit in and having a crush on the popular boy. You also see those high school stresses amplified in a playground where you are judged on your creativity- from the way you decorate your locker, to your talent- including which role you will land in the next musical. Of course, all of these emotions and conflicts are highlighted by the spotlight Judy lives in on an everyday basis, due to her being vertically challenged.
I was drawn into the novel immediately. I liked the voice and I was interested in the plot. When I told a co-teacher that I was reading the book, she commented about it being "dark" or "twisted," and I immediately thought there was no way she had actually read the book. Then...  I understood. The stardom that was thrust upon Judy by a few of her classmates was not at all the stage for popularity she had hoped for.

Burned by Ellen Hopkins

This was a novel that I learned about in that same graduate program. It was one of the "STD Books" (because it got passed around a lot) or a "Hooker Book" (because it hooked kids into reading). I kept hearing about it and then saw it in the piles of discarded lit at the Habitat Re-Store and grabbed it!
Although not a "large" book in dimensions, it is a THICK book- 531 pages thick, which may stop many young readers from opening it up. But when they do, and see that it is written in poetic form, they just may be too intrigued to turn away. The unique structure of the book's text does make it a quick read, despite the volume.
And, it's a good read. Pattyn is raised in a Mormon family, that while it doesn't seem to quite fit the  genre of Fundamental, is definitely part of a close-knit religious-based community. She gathers with the other teens each morning to pray before going to public school (in her traditional dress), and spends each night hiding away the secrets of her father's alcoholism and abuse.
When Pattyn tests the boundaries of her father and her community with too many conflicts- questions about religion and interest in a boy, she is sent away to live with an Aunt in Nevada. The Aunt, although a very private person, had too many of the same conflicts with the life from which Pattyn comes. As a result, Pattyn gains a lot of freedom through what was meant to be her isolation in the middle of rural country.
Certain developments in the novel are a bit trite and too easy to predict. The writing is brutal though- raw emotion that often makes you feel punched in the gut. Then, the frustration you feel when the book ends, unresolved... punches you in the gut again when you slam it shut in frustration... and see the title... and understand. Sometimes the most powerful words are those unspoken, or unwritten.

Almost Home by John Bauer

I picked this up at the high school's book fair. I have to admit it was a "Sucker" buy. I was suckered into the book by the fact that when this young girl's life falls apart though homelessness and abandonment, she still gains self-worth through the very distant connection maintained with her English teacher. I was probably even a little suckered by the fact that English teacher's name was Mr. Bennett, and James M. Bennett High School is my Alma mater. Then, even that puppy. Look at him! He is very well-casted for the book jacket to fit his descriptions in the novel.
I would have to say that the reading level of this book is more middle school than high school, and the main character is one that middle school girls are going to relate to better. Still, it is a good story. Although written simply, several twists to the plot are unexpected, and the conflict the main  character feels towards her mother is well-developed. Namely, after struggling to find normalcy with a delusionally eccentric mother and trying to force a sense of self-worth into a mother who allows men of no worth define her, should Sugar feel guilty that she finds stability in a life away from her mother just as her mother is gaining the tools to be better in that role? The characters are a bit extremely stereo-typed beyond Sugar herself. However, I can very much see this story translate into a Lifetime-produced movie.

Skinny by Donna Cooner

I really like the main idea around which this book centers. Ever Davies is 15 years old and has a gastric bypass. When I read the author's notes following the novel, I was unsurprised to see that the author had herself had a gastric bypass and writing this book was a type of self-therapy for her to resolve the conflict she felt between who she was and who she now sees herself to be. I think this would make a much more interesting and appropriate novel for the adult reader. I don't like the idea of promoting such radical weight loss surgeries to adolescents. Parts of the novel also didn't feel believable, likely because the author was imposing an adult inner conflict on an adolescent character.
That feeling of unbelievability was also compounded by the metaphor of that "voice" telling you that you are never "good enough" manifesting as an actual Tinkerbell-like fairy that whispers into the main character's ear. That aspect of the novel, of course, plays much better in a young adult novel than it ever could to an older audience. There were two other conflicts introduced though that I found very interesting. The first was with a popular girl who would have never acknowledged Ever, at least in any good way, prior to her surgery. Once she began to visibly shed weight at a quickened pace though, she became almost a make-over pet project for the class mate. I imagine this is a relationship dynamic the author may have faced in her actual weight loss journey- the idea of someone attaching themselves to your success so that by symbiosis they receive some of the admiration and praise.
The other interesting dynamic was the discovery of the main character at the novel's end that perhaps she wasn't as victimized as much as she made herself a victim to the ostracization and what she interpreted as judgment and cruelty from others. It's an interesting concept to ponder even in my own life- how often am I the one to label myself an "other" and assume I am rejected by the norm because of my size vs. how often is that really the case? Perhaps not as much as I think it is, and perhaps my defenses to perceiving it that way is sometimes what actually perpetuates the responses that I go into situations expecting (this concept is much less confusing in my head... and doesn't require a fairy to explain).
As I said, the premise behind this book, and several of the topics explored and conflicts developed could have made for a very interesting book aimed at an adult audience. And not just those whose identity is tied to their weight because so many of those same conflicts are universal across whatever standard we use to judge ourselves needlessly. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring Break 2013

Spring Break is upon us - three days down, six days to go (weekends included, of course, because I want it to sound like as long of a stretch as possible). I have tried so hard to stick to my resolution of not being one of those people counting down to the summer or next break... or even praising the arrival of Friday. I don't want to wish my life away, and I try to encourage others (namely, co-teachers) to not do so either.
That being said, I am very thankful for the timeliness of this Spring Break. This semester has just rushed by; the whole school year has been a blur. And while the days are quickly passing, the tasks on my "To Do" list are not. So much going on... always so much going on. I should be a list maker, but the idea of a "To Do" list stresses me out; once started, I don't know when it could end.
Still though, such a list may not be a bad idea for this Spring Break to help me prioritize my goals for all this "free time." Oh yes, that is sarcasm - to the immeasurable degree. I am thankful for the timing of this break not to get away from work, but to give me a little extra time to catch up on all my work- at school, at home, and with Relay.
Save for a couple of loads of laundry, I have spent the greater part of my day from early morning until late night, planning a party. Exactly two months from today, about a thousand of my closest friends will gather at the high school's football field to Celebrate, Remember, and Fight Back.

Time is such an antagonist to me. It just slips right through my hands, like trying to grab a fistful of sand. I swear, it seems some days, like the more time I have the less I can get done. In a typical month, I can get the final details together to prepare for a Relay meeting in the small window of time between school and Relay.Today, with the whole day stretched before me, and having spent that whole day working on Relay, I was still scurrying at the last minute to pull things together and felt unprepared going into the meeting. This, in part, comes from my deficit of always feeling "I could have done more."

Of course, given the more free day, I did squeeze in a couple of abnormal Relay errands, such as running to Wal-Mart for meeting snacks (popcorn and soda for Disney movie trivia) and meeting with my former-Key Clubber-turned-Relay Committee Member for lunch to discuss fundraising and overnight activities. That former Key Clubber, who I affectionately dubbed "Radar" for his ability to know what I needed before I asked, actually paid for my lunch today. He adamantly refused to allow me to pay for it.

Oh, it is sad to see my kids growing up some days (but other days there are perks ;)