Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Just Keep Swimming

I always feel that if my stress is self-induced, I give up the right to complain.  So I'm going to try really hard to not whine about the poor planning I did with regards to the kids schedules that resulted in weekly piano lessons for one, gymnastics for the other, rehearsals 2-4 times per week, and bi-weekly baseball games.  And I'm not going to dwell on the loss I find myself at considering I'm frequently gone for class, busy planning Trek, or attempting not to suck at my callings.  I somehow accidentally chose all that.

Instead, I'm going to attempt to post the rewarding moments that remind me why I do what I do.

Exhibit A:

Yep.  I wrote a song for Trek.  And by all musical merits, it's just a dumb little song.  But the beginnings of a trek choir I have going enjoy singing it.  A lot.  Validation that the time I spent was worth it?  Check.  Meager hope that the youth might think I'm at least a little cool?  Check.

Exhibit B:
I wasn't there for Adam's first baseball game this season, due to a Trek conflict.  But thanks to a kind neighbor who was at the game, I didn't have to totally miss out.

And when I received her email today, it made my day to know that someone had been thinking of me.

Exhibit C:
My new primary buddy made it through 20 minutes of primary yesterday both calm and awake.  (Thus far I've only been able to achieve meltdown or sleeping.)  And he expanded the list of words he usually says repetitively to himself/me to include positive phrases like "You're a good boy," and "Wow-ee!," instead of the typical, "Are you alright?" and "Oh, no!"

So later this week when I miss Adam's school performance debut as Paul Revere because I'll be busy teaching in the adjacent classroom, when I miss his second baseball game because I'm busy transporting Alex to gymnastics, or when I eat-and-run to make it to class on time, I'll be able to remember that the choices I make are worth it to me, and I can just keep swimming.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Here's Your Sign

Dear Sign Holders in the Construction Zone on my Road-Less-Traveled Route to School Each Day,

When you turn the sign to "STOP" and put your hand out in a stop motion, I get that.  Thanks.  And when you turn the sign to "SLOW" and do that come on through motion, I'm good with that, too.

But when you combine "STOP" with come on through, please be patient with me as I try to figure out which one you really want.

Also, when you change the sign from "STOP" to "SLOW" and start the come on through, please don't glare at me when I check both ways before making my left turn.  I appreciate your indication that the road is clear, but I'm the one who's gonna get sideswiped if you're wrong.  I'm going to look both ways.  And when you speed up the come on through to indicate come on through, NOW!, it doesn't make my process any quicker.  It just makes me annoyed.

I'm pretty sure you guys have been there all school year, and it doesn't seem like you'll be leaving anytime soon.  I'd appreciate it if you would take these matters under consideration.

The driver of the bluish Mitsubishi Outlander who smiles at you every day, even when you treat her like an imbecile.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Knowing the importance of reading, having a personal passion for it, and studying it in class just makes me smile to look at these pictures from a few months ago.  Pictures of my kids doing what they do best: being weird.

Adam's requirement from school is 15 minutes per day of reading.  We've finally established the ideal system where he reads after we've put everyone to bed.  But before finding that ideal moment of focus, we'd tried reading right after dinner.  

Usually he reads from chapter books, but sometimes he really just wants to read to Dylan.  

Dylan is usually less than willing to be the audience.

But somehow, donning Adam's backpack and heading out to the garage ("Why the garage," you ask?  I have no idea...), he managed to sit and listen to Adam read for at least 7 or 8 minutes.

Then Adam patiently allowed Dylan his own turn at reading.

And then it was all downhill from there.  Adam figured out that if he read in a silly voice, so would Dylan.  Sneaking a video from a cracked door, I captured what got logged as reading minutes but could more accurately be described as mayhem.

Speaking of mayhem... Reading 530.  That's my current class.  And I think the 530 refers to the number of hours I'll be spending on homework during this course.

This time around, I have one of those "expect not to get full credit on every assignment" teachers.  

Challenge accepted.

I've securely attached my "innocent until proven guilty" chip to my shoulder and determinedly set out to force him to give higher grades than he's used to giving.  
I do love a good challenge.

I also love having a present focus on reading.  Nearing the end reading aloud Hatchet to the kids, I'm finding our in-class discussions about readability particularly relevant.  But I'm not sure I agree with the methods.

In Fry's readability, you choose a 100 word passage and count both the number of sentences and the number of syllables.  Plotting that on a special graph gives an output of appropriate grade level.  But there's no accounting for subject matter.  In the case of more informational science texts, there's no accounting for the fact that science just has big words.  So, the jury is out on the usefulness of the readability graphs.

We've also been discussing our favorite children's books, a topic I could gush about forever.  But in teaching us about children's literature, it seems our teacher intends to read aloud to us during a portion of class.  I never had the attention span for that as a child, and I certainly don't have it as an adult.  I'm not a books-on-tape kind of girl; just give me the book, and I'll read it, thank you very much.

I'm going to go to the store to get some silly putty.  I used to bring some to my undergrad classes so my hands had something to do when I was forced to listen.  It seems that may be necessary if I don't want to keep getting in trouble in this class like I did in my last class.

Or maybe I should just adopt Dylan's hand-over-mouth technique.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Don't Hate the Playa...

A little something for tax day:

(I overheard Alex watching this cartoon as I was getting ready for work one day in January.  I knew I had to save them for a day like today!)

"When we get sick it means a bacteria or virus has invaded our bodies.  Just like bill collectors or guys in suits telling you to pay your taxes, we attack them and we throw them out."  ("Surprise, surprise, the hippie doesn't like to pay taxes..."

"Look at these white blood cells united together to fight off the government.  I mean disease."

Besides the more obvious reasons, no wonder everybody hates the IRS.  Indoctrinated much?  And being married to the IRS, I kinda have to say, "Don't hate the playa... hate the game."

Happy Tax Day everyone.  Be sure to smile at your friendly neighborhood auditor.  :)

Monday, April 9, 2012


Having a day off work made me realize a few things I miss about being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM):

  • Lack of rush.  Yes, I still had lots to do today, but I had the ability to set and re-arrange my schedule as necessary.
  • Ability to say, "Alex, how was school today," right when school let out.
  • Non-existent dress code.  Here I sit in basketball shorts, a t-shirt, and no bra (sorry... tmi) with unbrushed hair.  And I'm lovin' it.
  • Mom-friends.  I chatted with one neighbor for a few minutes while she pulled weeds.  I, on the other hand, was finally getting around to putting clothes on Dylan, only because he went outside in just a diaper.  Then I sat on the porch swing with another neighbor as we watched our kids play in the backyard.  Yep.  I miss mom-friends.
  • A clean-ish house.  I had time today to do a couple of loads of laundry and even clean up the breakfast dishes.  Just ask Kirk; that most definitely does not happen every day.
But I'm not gonna lie.  Here are a few things I'm kinda grateful to not have to do every day:
  • Make lunch.  I don't know why, but this is the most bothersome of the meals my kids seem to think they need to eat.  And I'm happy to pay someone else to do this for me most days.
  • Dylan's nap.  It's a fight, and one I'm so willing to share.
  • Un-bored-ify the kids.  But honestly, I didn't even really do that today.  They are at a neighbors, jumping on the trampoline.
But with the gorgeous weather and the happy munchkin smiles, I'm glad that summer is just around the corner, and I'll get to play SAHM for awhile.  It's one of my favorite roles.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


You know those videos of American Idol contestants doing cute things like singing in talent shows or school plays?  Well, just in case my kids ever get famous, and someone asks me if I have any videos of them singing when they were little, here's the OFFICIAL DOCUMENTATION of their very first not-for-mom audition songs.

I had them record each other, and in true Alex fashion, he started moving the camera side-to-side with the beat of the music.  So if he ever wins an Academy Award for best cinematography, well, that's documented, too.

For the record, their auditions went very well, and I was very proud.  I am not sure if the directors will be looking to cast kids as young as mine, but they did their best, and there are plenty of lessons to be learned just from auditioning.

And a bonus video of Dylan singing to his apple slices (and ending with a bit of Dylanese, translation: "I want water.")

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bitter and Angry and Disillusioned

Ok... maybe just disillusioned, but those of you who get the reference will understand that never again will I be just one of the three.
Disillusioned: adj. - Disappointed in someone or something that one discovers to be less good than one had believed.
Remember this post?  The one where I stood, starry-eyed, looking at the next 18 months of Masters Program Bliss through apparently rose-colored glasses?

Well, I take it back.

I have a feeling that this entire masters program will provide plenty of opportunities for introspection and hopefully plenty of nights where I need to unload an over-stimulated mind before bed. 

How about, instead, plenty of nights where I come home tense and frustrated from four hours of wasted time.

I've reached a conclusion.

Those who can teach, do.  Those who can't become professors of education.

And I don't think my expectations are unreasonable.  All I expect the teachers to do is:

  1. Teach something that has something to do with the weekly objectives listed on the syllabus.
  2. Act like they've ever read the description of the assignment.  Be able to answer questions about the upcoming assignments.
I used to have a longer list.  Now I see it as a pipe dream.
  1. Reward excellent work with excellent grades.  Give mediocre grades to mediocre work.
  2. Extend the information included in the weekly reading with relevant experience.
  3. Be engaging.  
  4. Teach by example how to reach students with different learning styles.
At first I thought it was just this one teacher, but the pattern of poor instruction persists.  I find it really sad that I am adjusting to the idea that I'm just paying for my degree.  Apparently, I'll exchange thousands of dollars for hours of wasted time as long as I get a fancy piece of paper at the end.  

Bitter: adj - Marked by resentment or cynicism.

Okay.  Maybe I am a little bitter, too.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I'll Show You Mine...

You may recall my earlier complaints/concerns about my vocal health over the last sixth months.  I quickly recovered from a half-day's worth of sickness, but my voice has never fully recovered.  The combination of my own constant worry plus the encouragement of a few key friends resulted in this morning's appointment with both a speech pathologist and otolaryngologist.  Lest you be overly impressed by my doctor's title, that's just the fancy word for ENT.

I didn't want to see just any otolaryngologist.  It sounds totally diva, but mine isn't just any old throat.  I earn my living with my voice, and I was reluctant to trust it even to the great ENT's I've met through the course of the innumerable ear issues we've had around here.  A friend's suggestion led me to the Voice Disorders Clinic, part of the U of U Research Park.  They have three types of specialists on hand, all working together for an accurate diagnosis and effective therapy.  But despite my trust in the clinic, I've been pretty scared leading up to today's appointment.

I had a whole list of things I was afraid they'd say:

  • Nodules
  • You'll need to go on complete vocal rest
  • You've already done irreparable damage
  • You obviously talk way too much.  You'll never recover if you can't get that in control.
  • Did I mention nodules?
Well, after an incredibly uncomfortable diagnostic process, I...

Nope... gotta sidetrack and explain the process...

For maximum results, follow along at home.  First, lean forward and stick your chin out like you're "trying to cross the finish line."  Now stick out your tongue, and imagine a doctor grabbing it with a paper towel and holding it as far out of your mouth as possible.  A rod, slightly thicker than a pencil, holds the camera and is shoved as far back as it can reach, just barely not choking you.  And the doctors tells you to make an "Eeee" sound.  Seriously.  Try it.  I dare you to make an "Eeee" sound while holding out your tongue and half-swallowing a pencil.

Anyhow.  After an incredibly uncomfortable diagnostic process, I was actually told:
  • I do not have nodules.  Yet.  I'm pretty sure the clinical word they used was "bumps."  My vocal folds are inflamed toward the middle and are currently sporting small, fluid filled, squishable bumps.  It seems bumps are much less serious than nodules.  So that's good.
  • My singing is not at all the problem.  In fact, according to the torturer speech pathologist, I have very good vocal habits when I sing.  
  • My speaking voice developed bad habits when I chose to push through October's cold.  Just as one might tend to favor a sore leg and end up straining other muscles in the process, I've managed to mess up the muscular balance associated with talking.  Maybe I've always had bad habits which have just been exacerbated.  Or maybe it's a recent development.  Anyway, I've now been told I talk "right on my vocal folds" putting strain on muscles that shouldn't be strained.  And I've developed a "glottal fry;" that raspy noise most people can produce on purpose has now found its way into my standard speaking.
  • I'm fixable.  A bit of therapy to retrain my muscles, and the swelling should reduce.  The bumps should go away, and I should be good to go.
And a few other interesting things:
  • I heard the speech pathologist discussing my diagnostic assessments with the otolaryngolosist.  It was fun to hear, "She has rapid-rate speech patterns."  I laughed and told them I've never heard that before.
  • I'll be looking into some sort of personal amplification system that I can use at school and probably when I run rehearsals.  And I will feel like a total diva using it.  But now that I've strained my vocal folds once, they'll always be at a higher risk for damage.  (Did you know that music teachers are 4x more likely to sustain vocal damage than regular teachers, whose risk is already pretty darn high?)
  • They want me to reduce the amount of chocolate I eat.  We'll see.
And now, since I took a cell phone pic of the computer monitor when the doctors left the room, I have a pretty gross picture of my vocal folds.  If anyone's curious, I'm just posting the link, because nobody needs to just see it pop up on their screen!

Now you show me yours...