A “Raven”-esque Glimpse at the Saga of a Potty-Training Train Wreck (a work in progress)

Once upon a Tuesday evening,
While I watched my children, seething,
Due to excruciating hours spent perched upon the bathroom floor,
While I suffered, nearly breaking,
Suddenly with no mistaking,
I earned clarity while faking, faking as never before.
” ‘Tis a blessings,” I debated, “raising babes…” (still on the floor)
Still I yearn for something more…

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The Secret to Investing as a Broke Mom of Four

After ponderous thought involving at least the amount of time between each threat to remove the twins’ door from its hinges, I have determined that the best way to improve our family’s finances, which are stretched as thin as the surface of a balloon (after inflation) to say the least, it to invest.

I played the Stock Market game several times in middle school, so not only do I understand the basics, I also know that my skills must have matured and grown over the years, much like other things in my life that should never be pondered while already in a mildly depressed and slightly stressed state of mind.  I figure it should be broken into several easy steps:

1.  Consider the amount of money I can reasonably afford to invest.

As a teacher on a fixed income married to a man who works several jobs to help our family of six stay afloat, I understand that money is tight.  I know the importance of keeping up with even small amounts of money and storing it in safe places.  With that said, I am pretty sure that between my wallet and the girl’s eight piggy/kitty/princess banks (How the heck did we end up with so many?) I can scrounge up at least $11.52.  If I wait until after pay day, I may be able to round that up to an even twenty bucks!

  1. Determine the desired net return.

I want to be realistic.  Given the fact that I have four children in need of college educations, I must invest well to ensure I maximize my return.  (Let’s face it, these princesses are on their own for their weddings, so I don’t have to worry about that figure.)  Given the cost of schooling now, compounded by the inflation that will occur before the tuition checks have to be cut, I estimate that I will need to turn my $11.52 into at least a million dollars.  I am sure that this is attainable if I only keep my eye on the prize.

  1. Understand the time frame in which I want to be able to cash in.

Considering that my oldest in in first grade, I need to be ready for her to seek higher learning in a little over a decade.  The twins will follow suit roughly four years after that.  (Do colleges and universities offer group discounts for having three children on their rosters at the same time?)  Perhaps we can pretend that Abby and Makayla are the same person and pay for two copies of their degree…

  1. Search for reliable products to invest in.

I would like for this to be a product I am familiar with and use regularly.  My choices are as follows-

  • Tissues- Never did I understand the speed at which a trail of snot could travel down a toddlers face until I had twins.  Tissues are not only a necessity but must be kept in multiple rooms and both vehicles at ALL times.  If we prefer to buy them in bulk, I am sure others do the same and thus the company must be stable
  • Hair detangler- Those who have seen the length to which my children’s hair grows will not question this one. Additionally, anyone who has heard them wail as I GENTLY attempt to tame their tresses will beg me to support this product to ensure its production is continued.  (Side note: They will die if my mother ever attacks their hair like she attacked mine.)
  • Toilet paper- In my house there are four female potty users, two of which are still in the training phases. Need I say more?
  1. Spend the money.

Once the decisions have been made, all that is left to do is place the order, though I am not sure how this will go down.  I cannot call in my shares as I cannot easily talk on the phone while my demure and shy girls run through the house screaming like possessed banshees from the underworld.  The computer is out of the question as I am unable to sit for more than two minutes at a time without becoming a living jungle gym, complete with cushioning and sound effects as two or more of them squash the air from my lungs and attempt to “he-yelp” me with every task.  Post is also not an option because it would require taking all of them to the mail box, which ultimately would lead one of them into the road in front of the onslaught of traffic (which will surely include three cars, an eighteen wheeler, and a tractor- we live in the country).

Now that the steps are outlines and the options are clear, beginning is sure to be a breeze.  Once I wrestle the piggy/kitty/princess banks from my children, decide on the proper toilet paper company (I’m not really brand specific as long as it comes in two-ply), and train the carrier pigeon that I have decided is the safest bet for transporting correspondence, all I have left to do is sit back and wait while my millions grow.

A Realistic Glimpse at the Reality of Teaching Real Students

Several months ago, a friend from high school shared a video of several teens who made a public statement of what they would like, deserve, and should be taught.  They were well spoken, honest, and forthright… and the teacher-part of my heart broke for them, got angry for myself and at the situation, and became frustrated because there is no easy solution.

I responded to her with these words:

        I’m torn. I see them, I hear them, and I believe them. I feel their frustration, and much of it is mine, but I’m also one of the ones teaching them some of these lessons. I don’t know how to fix the problem, much like I don’t know how to fix the problems that exist within my own classroom, where earning an 8% on the latest test is seen as acceptable among peers and I am the one who is expected to put in more effort to ensure student success… They [the girls in the video] are fearless, and I feel powerless.

Being an amazing woman, my friend replied, assured me of my worth, and in the first conversation we had really had in years lead me to respond with the following:

        Thanks for the words of encouragement. The video hit on a day that I was already feeling low. I am finishing a semester with some of the most unmotivated seniors I have ever seen. They are nothing like we were, and so the caliber of many of my lessons is far below where it should be.

        The most amazing feeling is when they get it, really get it. Last week, my honors kids got it. We were reading “The Highwayman,” and as I finished the room was silent. Not the silence of confusion or sleep or way too many things consumed the night before, but the silence of understanding, and awe, and sorrow. They got it… and then they went to their second period classes and were replaced by my eight percenters, who honestly don’t give a damn. And a part of me died.

        The video you shared grabbed that part, and I cried. I want to be like our great teachers were, and some days I am! Then there are the days where I struggle to get them to care at all. I’m stuck between what great education is and should be and having to justify why I have students who expect to play college ball but can’t even crawl their way through my class- all while knowing there is an even greater message to be taught.

She again replied with words that every teacher needs to hear.  She assured me that I was doing what needed to be done.  My students are receiving what I am offering them.  They may chose not to act on it, but it will impact them in some way, at some time.

Our conversation was so simple, so heartfelt, and so real that it prompted us to say things that may have never been said otherwise.  We talked about teaching and motherhood and feeling like we are failing at what we both love to do.

And I was inspired.

Maybe others need to hear that I feel frustrated a great deal of the time.  Perhaps they feel frustrated, too.

So, here’s to us who teach where our words are not often heard.  Here’s to us whose students love us, or hate us, or somewhere in between.  Here’s to us who give of ourselves and the lessons we craft, for teaching truly is a craft, a gift, and a skill.

And here’s to Devon, for helping me to remember that, to see my self worth, and to remember that my words are of value.  Here’s the blog I promised all those months ago.

Anticipating the First Day Back/Away (Or… Proof that I Suffer from Mom/Teacher Syndrome)

Today is a perfect lesson in the oxymoron that is my life.  While I have not updated my followers, I have spent the past months creating, growing, and meeting the unexpected miracle that is number four.  (More on that later, I promise.)  But for now, on to today’s post.

I have been away from work for eight weeks.  In that time, I have experienced an eventful hospital stay (including the amazing birth of a beautiful human being, frightening blood loss and painful procedures to make it stop, and a 5:00 am fire alarm), come home with a newborn in a snow storm (high stress for me), had oral surgery, and potty trained twins (most of the way).  An entire online class has been taken (final exam due Wednesday), my teacher book has been worked on, and the grades my long term sent me were always entered in a timely manner. I have cleaned out all of the cupboards in my kitchen and straightened the closets, vacuumed several times a day, and cleaned up continuous messes made by the previously mentioned potty-training twins.  I have sorted and packed up eleven Rubbermade totes of out-grown clothes and multiple boxes of too-small shoes, which I have toted to the shed (also straightened by yours truly in the past few weeks).

There have been countless appointments, forms, applications, and phone calls completed in this time.  Most difficult for me is the fact that I’ve been alone most days from sun up to sun down (or later) due to a husband who works so hard to help provide for us and had very little interaction with adults or the outside world.  I am a social person!  My children make for interesting company, to say the least.  To say I am ready to return to work tomorrow is an understatement.

But…

Tomorrow I will not be able to snuggle my tiny, warm baby or receive random kisses from my twins.  I will have to call or text to know how their day is going.  I won’t be the one to care for them if there is an accident or they get upset.  I will not be able to run to my first grader at the drop of a hat if something happens at school.  I will have to leave them in capable hands that are not my own, and though I trust the one who will be caring for them, it will not be me.

Tomorrow I will leave my house with a smile of gratitude to be going to something less exhausting and tears for all I am leaving behind.  (I may also be yelling something akin to “Free at last!” while sobbing and hiccuping.)

Y’all, please pray for me.

Pardon me While I try to Enjoy my Meal

It’s small, crowded, and often noisy late at nights, but one tiny restaurant in my home town is unlike any other I’ve ever been to.  Filled to bursting with Hollywood memorabilia from days long gone by, it has borne witness to celebrations of personal milestones, both great and small, and overheard conversations that I can’t even remember.  Its bustling aisles were the scene a first date that turned into a marriage (I always comment when we pass the table where we ate), and my husband and I visited it at least once a week for years after our wedding.  It’s just that kind of place.

By the time our first child was born we were visiting less frequently, but it was still a great place to be.  We avoided the crowds on Halloween and St. Pats, and we knew that weekends meant longer waits for tables and we understood that the months when college kids filled the booths were also not ideal.  But the comforting familiarity and moderate noise level made us feel it was a great place to take a toddler whose table manners had not yet evolved to the point of eating in many other sit-down restaurants.

It holds a piece of my heart.

Or it did…

Several years ago progress came and change occurred.  Much of what made it a cool place to be was taken off the walls.  The pictures and artifacts were replaced with flat screen televisions, displaying the news and the action of any game occurring in real time.  It got louder.  But still we went.

There’s a table in the corner, the big, round one that used to hold all of my high school and college friends.  It’s now the site of dinners with one of my best friends and her family.  All of our kids, hers and mine, can fit around this table where we gather when our calendars allows us to meet on a Tuesday night (because that is when kids eat free).  Here we make new memories.  Even without the pictures and the autographs, we make due with the television that hangs over us, deal with the other patrons staring over our heads at the game instead of at the dates they came to eat with, and enjoy our food and conversation.  Usually…

Then came the night of great miscalculation.

Without thinking about the sports schedule that I skip over in the guide on my personal television, my family packed into our round table in the corner, under the offending flat screen, to celebrate the last night that our out-of-state friend would be staying with us.  It was a Tuedsay, and we had always made the pilgrimage to this particular sandwich shop when she was in town.  As we gathered my three children, well behaved and hungry, into their seats, I noticed that things seemed a little more unsettled that usual.  Think of it as a second mommy sense.  Something was just a little off.

We placed our orders, received our drinks, and enjoyed our conversation over the louder than normal din of other voices as we watched the kids color the jungle scene on their paper menus.  And then it happened.  Directly to my left, at the table beside us and directly behind one of my twins, a college kid with a sloshing beer stood to full height and let out an ear piercing bellow… over the head of one of my children.  She looked terrified, his date looked annoyed, and I’m sure I looked pissed.

Angrily looking for the source of his frustration, I saw in brilliant color what was the end to my enjoyable evening… The World Cup.

Admittedly, I did bring my children to eat in a restaurant, alas, that is filled with televisions on a night that I should have avoided.  However, as our meal arrived he grew louder and louder.  He moaned each time the opposing team, who even knows which one, scored a goal, and screamed in jubilation when his team made a good shot.  My six year-old attempted to join in with his behavior, for which she was quietly reprimanded.  After all, we were in a restaurant and not a sports bar (where I never would have taken my kids), or a barn for that matter.  She was upset, of course, because she wanted to act like the grown man-child was acting.  The twins grew more and more uncertain of their surroundings, this making it hard for them to eat, and the overgrown ape’s poor date slid a little farther into her seat each time his vociferous cries erupted.

I began to shoot daggers from my eyes as my husband looked around for our waiter to voice a complaint.  We found him.  He was standing beside the now purple man, who at this point was standing in the aisle beside his table, discussing the game.  (I assume it takes too much energy to continue jumping up and down every time a player does something interesting.)  This went on for fifteen minutes.

Finally the couple left.  Apparently the date had announced that she was leaving, with or without him, so he chose to go.  By that point, we were waiting for our check, which the waiter had to go find because he had forgotten we were one of his tables.

As we left, bellies full of poorly digesting food, I was left to ponder the following:  Why were my small children better behaved than an adult, and how are we, as parents, expected to teach our kids how to be respectful and kind when the people they see around them often can’t do it?  Why does becoming more modern often kill all that is good about a tradition?  And why should I have to ask to be allowed to enjoy a meal that I am paying for?  Pardon me, but I’d like to enjoy my indulgence and one of my few nights out of the house with my, for once, well behaved children, my husband, and a life-long friend.

We haven’t been back since…