I think perhaps I'm on my own climb. (Cue the music)

I’m feeling a bit scared these days, and I’ve been desperately searching my soul to figure out why.

My crazy life is changing, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I’m not talking about those changes that are thrust upon you by a middle of the night phone call. I KNOW, unfortunately, what those kinds of changes do to a person. (I’ve had more of those calls than I can count.) Those are the changes that grab you from behind when no one is looking.

The change I feel growing near is one I can just barely make out in the distance. I see its silhouette. I can sense its approach – and there is nothing I can do to slow its forward progress. It moves with a great sense and purpose and never veers from its course. I am slowly accepting the fact that in a matter of moments it will be perched upon my doorstep.

I have always felt like a brave and independent woman. (I like to thank my Navy brat upbringing for that.) I’ve weathered many a painful storm, only to turn my face to the sun and thank the Lord I was still standing.

These days? I don’t feel so brave.

When Bitchy left home to go to college, I was fooled into thinking she was still here because I could practically throw a rock through her dorm window. I didn’t see her every day, but I could feel her presence in my heart and that gave me great comfort.

When Sassy leaves at the end of the summer, she will travel 300 miles to begin the next chapter of her life. She will take with her a field hockey stick, a great sense of humor, and her mother’s love and great expectation. With both of my hormonal, screaming, argumentative, strong-willed, amazing, wonderful girls pursuing their dreams- this house for ONCE will have testosterone in the lead. (I’m still not convinced I have ANY estrogen left after that hysterectomy debacle. But that’s another story entirely.)

I find myself re-defining who I am.

It’s a scary feeling. I do realize that the only person who can help me find my OWN way…is me. I am finally, after all these years, thinking about and searching for what makes me happy, content, fulfilled and complete. I’m not sure where this new path will take me, but I am mustering up all the courage I can.

I have a strange inkling that I’m gonna need it.


Be true to your school...

Sassy attends a rather large high school here in this quaint college town in Oregon. There are approximately 754 young men and women graduating with her next weekend.

Last week she came home and as soon as she walked in the door she threw down her backpack and shouted (cause that's how we communicate in this house), "Mom! I am on the front of the yearbook!"

"The front? Like the front page?"

"No - the cover."

I thought for a moment, and replied, "The COVER page? Like the first page?"

"NO! THE COVER. THE. HARD. FRONT. COVER. Oh My God. How did you EVER become a teacher?"

And then she pulled it out of her backpack, flung it on the table, and ran away shaking her head.

She was right. The HUGE fifty pound yearbook on the table? Her pic is SMACK on the front cover.

And yes, in case you were wondering, it DID bring a tear to my eye. Or two.


Frankly, it's a tie.

The shoes of the day. (I couldn't decide....they BOTH rock.)

These kids are WAY better dressed than their teacher. That is NOT a good sign.

Things I’ve learned in the past 4.5 days.

1. If your accident-prone husband tries to clean the house with a large pumping spray bottle filled with Greased Lightning, bad things will probably happen. These things MIGHT involve an explosion; chemicals entering all openings in husband's face; and a two-hour visit to the ER which conveniently coincides with the FINALE of the ONE show that you loved. (And Lost.)

2. When a bottle of chemicals says “Seek medical attention if this comes in contact with your face” you SHOULD. (But don't bring your wife. She'll only be bored.)

3. The check-in clerk in the ER knows my name. (Probably not a good sign. However, they were all making bets that it involved an exacto knife.)

4. Baby groundhogs do not run very fast even when being chased by two loud, barking dogs who will eat anything. Any I mean anything. (I’m still a bit nauseous.)

5. When your sister mentions the word biopsy and suspicious in one sentence, you can make a 7-hour trip to New England in 6.

6. Eleven-year old boys never, never, never shut up.


Those pesky spelling rules...

Right before lunch today we had an animated discussion about bugs and their bites. It was enlightening, exhausting, eye opening – and frankly I’m itching just reliving it again.

I’m not sure HOW we ended up at man-eating bugs after reading a sweet story about travelling bunnies, but there you go.

Susie: “You KNOW, if you scratch your bug bites, they will only get WORSTER.”

Maya: “And, the bugs that bite are giant flies!”

Zack: “Yeah, but you can get bug spray for them in the bug aisle at the store.”

Joe (looking at Maya in surprise): “No, they are not flies they are called MOSKWEETOES.”

At that moment Max turned matter-of-factly to his neighbor Joe (the most amazing reading in our class) and said a professor-ish tone,

“No, Joe, it's moskeeto- I think the ‘w’ is silent.”


Who knew it could be healthy?

In the last 72 days I have lost 12 pounds.

My original intent, back in the throes of winter malcontent, uncertainty and depression, was to shed approximately 215 pounds in one painful, fell swoop.

It's funny how God watches you walk intently and confidently down one path only to reach down, pluck you up -twist you in another direction and set you back down. (He must have quite the sense of humor - of that I am convinced.)

As the course of my intended walk changed, and my love convinced me that the marriage we've been committed to for 21 years was worth fighting for, I felt the need to perhaps give up a few other things that might help in this journey of ours.

I decided to give up holding things in, to talk more about what I was thinking when I was thinking it.

I gave up late night snacking.

I gave up trying to be a single parent, and convinced Tightwad that we needed to share that honor. (Why should I be the only one having so much (@(#& fun?? )

I gave up diet pepsi.

Oh, and I gave up one more tiny thing.



Who mentioned Japan when I wasn't looking?

I think I speak for many teachers when I say that we try to incorporate "service learning" projects and community service projects into our curriculum as often as we can. (Or perhaps it's just me. Either way, I'm too tired to care.)

Yesterday we wrote "Thank You" cards to a group of service men and women stationed in Iraq. A good friend of a co-worker is stationed there, and we have often talked about sending a "pick-me up" from the kids.

The card writing activity gave us a great opportunity to talk about SO many things, but unfortunately the killing of enemy persons and bad guys DID come up. OFTEN. (I managed to steer clear of that smoother than Jimmy Johnson at the Daytona 500.)

I laughed out loud this morning as I looked through them, though. They were all adorable and special, but these two were keepers.

And as far as the card below, I'm PRETTY sure we never mentioned Japan OR World War II, but at this point in the year I don't even remember what day it is.

(Other people? Did you all get that? SO endeth the lesson.)


Who is working these tear ducts? Someone needs to turn them off.

One of the perks of living in a somewhat small community is that I often run into families that belong to the children I’ve had the pleasure of teaching these past 20 years. (I know, I don’t look a DAY over 30, but that’s another topic altogether.)

I started my career in fifth grade, so many of the children from those years are in their **cough** twenties.

I love it when parents stop me to tell me of the adventures that the kids have experienced, the schools they are attending, and the various successes they’ve enjoyed.

Today was no exception.

I ran into Target for just a few items for school tomorrow: some googly eyes, Q-tips and puffballs. (Don’t ask.) As I was leaving, the mother of one of my previous students stopped me to let me know that her son Jack had just been accepted into medical school! I was not surprised by his success, and felt incredibly proud and pleased for Jack and his family. Jack had invited me one year to an award’s banquet after winning a contest I had prompted him to enter, and I felt a special connection to his family.

As she finished sharing her news, another mother walked by us and grabbed my hand. SHE had great news about HER son, and I turned my attention to her, as Jack's mother left the store.

She shared that her boy Matthew had recently graduated from a local technical college, and was awarded degrees in construction management and architectural something or other.

I don’t remember the last part, because honestly my eyes were tearing up after looking at a photo that she quickly pulled from her purse. He was standing proudly with his family, wearing an amazing graduation robe and holding a diploma.

I remember Matt as a spirited youth- a bit of a troublemaker with a quick smile and brilliant blue eyes. He was in and out of a bit of trouble for most of the years that he was in school. He was one of those bad boys that I had always hoped would find his way.

And apparently, he has.

THAT moment – that moment that reinforced my belief that ALL of us can succeed? That made my night.

And that is one of the reasons that I do what I do.

Because I hold in my heart the knowledge that each and every child matters, and each and every child can succeed.

(Now someone pass me some tissues- I'm all verklempt again.)

Rooms to Let - Fifty Cents.

Attention all groundhogs: There's a new billion-room hotel conveniently located in a large garden area here in Oregon.

While you MIGHT have to share the common rooms with a couple of fairly large and well-fed groundhogs that are mighty crafty, clever and elusive; there appears to plenty of room for friends and neighbors. These groundhogs have also developed some kind of super-immune system and can eat just about anything that is designed to "put them to sleep." (They are also apparently wearing bullet-proof fur coats.)

And, here's a clever rear exit at the OTHER end of the garden.

Yeah. If we charged by the groundhog, I'd be so rich I'd able to pay Bill Murray to come over and get rid of these himself.



What boys do when they're mad.

Sassy and Bitchy have an uncanny ability to reek havoc with a mere glance in Golden Boy's direction. (It's a talent)

Here's what my laptop looked like this morning after a particularly exciting night. (YOu might have to click on the picture- I'm as stupid as I look when it comes to pics on this blog.)


I am still cleaning the coffee from my screen.


Sugar and Spice? Yeah, right.

What do little girls who can't dig for worms at recess do for kicks?

They put snails up their noses.

And if they're REALLY lucky, one will get stuck in someone's adorable little nostril. And if they are even LUCKIER, the only girl in the class who can't speak English is elected to go and try to tell the teacher - using hand motions and a modified version of Chinese and English.

This works out well for the snail sniffing lass, however, because in the length of time it took to shock the teacher into action, the nose had sufficiently "run" enough to expel said snail.

Some lessons are best learned with no assistance.


Everyone has to start somewhere...

Each year the school gathers to hear the accomplishments of all the hard working first year band and orchestra students in an afternoon concert.

Enough said.

Well, maybe NOT enough. In my opinion, these talented teachers, who have the patience of SAINTS and must be partially deaf, have the hardest job of all. They must encourage these young children who rarely play a musical piece properly the first time. Or the tenth. Or hundredth. All the while they have to be enthusiastic and encouraging. Give those people a RAISE. RIGHT NOW.

Today during the concert I had to convince one of my squirmy, active boys to sit next to me. Truth be told, it was the principal’s idea.

After the choir sang an amazing version of “My Pretty Planet”, I turned to him and said, “Ahh, wasn’t that beautiful?”

He looked at me with enthusiasm and said, “YEAH! And I sure hope next time they sing it in ENGLISH!”


Wait, WHAT day was Sunday?

The things I did yesterday? Well, let’s see if I can give a quick recap.

First, I made a little trip to McDonald’s for a greasy cheeseburger after hearing Sassy driving the great white porcelain bus in the bathroom. It appears that Sassy caught a “stomach virus” from a fella she met at her social gathering on Saturday night. I think his name was Daniels; yeah, and his first name was Jack. (I might have been born at night, but it wasn’t LAST night. And p.s., if Vodkamom can’t smell a hangover a mile away, she had better change her name.) Moms know lots of things, and Mom’s of TEENS know even more. The “having a teen” thing is what TAUGHT me what a hangover was. Sheesh.

Then, I spent a half an hour cleaning up MUD, leaves and what I THINK was a large spider that Golden Boy and the neighbor kids managed to track through my NEW downstairs bedroom (that’s nearly complete after eight years under construction) after managing to pry open the window that was supposedly burglar-proof. (Note to window manufacturer: If three fairly STUPID and filthy 11 year-old boys can open the damn window, so can Jack the Ripper.) And if I could RUN faster, their #**@* would be so sore right now.

Third, apparently Bitchy didn’t get the message that moms try NOT to clean on Mother’s Day, and managed to convince me to not only clean out the (God-awful) refrigerator with her, but the linen closet and the laundry room as well. WHY am I such an easy target? WHY? I also managed to fold only two loads of laundry- cause heaven FORBID I miss a day of THAT.

Fourth, and certainly not the least important, Tightwad had to work for the billionth day in a row. While it is doing wonders for paying those bills we’ve been ignoring for, oh, say about a year, it put a bit of a damper on my kid yelling. They don’t take me quite as seriously when the fairly huge Tightwad isn’t standing right behind me. (Apparently I’m a five foot-one inch wussie.)

All in all you know what kind of Mother’s Day it was? YOU WANT TO KNOW?

It was perfect. Absolutely, incredibly, stinking P.E.R.F.E.C.T.


To my mother... thank you.

My mother taught me many things. The most important? Here it is.

Do yourself a favor, and watch and listen. It's a nice reminder of what's really important.

If I can give anything to my own children, anything, it's the knowledge that yes, it IS a wonderful world.

Happy Mother's Day, my loves. Happy Mother's Day indeed.

(And to my darling sister? Happy, happy birthday. Just remember- you'll ALWAYS be older than me.)


How to render your teacher speechless in five words or less.

I was sitting with an adorable group of girls on Friday during our Kid Writing time. They were drawing furiously in their journals, all the while giggling away.

I like to think I've mastered the art of helping each child in a group sound out words and write "stories" with their writing. (It's like following that bouncing tennis ball that we used to use when they FIRST invented computer games in the OLDEN days. Remember that? Ya gotta be quick.) I was bouncing back and forth encouraging their sound spelling and trying to decipher their writing.

The two little ladies at the end of table were giggling a bit louder than the rest. This didn't worry me TOO much, as I've aptly named them the giggle sisters. Honestly, most of the time it's music to my ears. (Except on a Friday afternoon after no "special" and four hours of Mother's Day Marathon crafting.)

One of them stopped mid-giggle to ask me something. "Mrs. Smythe, do gododugugyaogo?"

I couldn't really understand her, as she is so soft-spoken when talking to the teacher. (She BELLOWS at Free Play, however.)

"What, Janie?"

"I said, do youshebieuwoo?"

"One more time, honey. What?"

And then she said, clear as a bell, "Do you shave your woo?"

And that is how this five year-old managed to silence this veteran teacher. (Well played, Janie. Well played indeed.)


A Thursday mystery, and the deciphering of the baffling journal entry. (A two-for.)

Those of you who have been loyal (I love ya like a sister and brotha) friends through these last (almost) two years will remember the many stories involving my being half-Dooced last year. (You can thank Suzy for that clever spin on my heart wrenching experience.)

It was a traumatic, painful, educational, and interesting journey - and I'm honestly a better writer (in my own mind) for it.

However, imagine my surprise when one of my students walked in this morning wearing this.

Although, since we do live here in Oregon, I should NOT have been shocked.

Either one of you loyal readers are the parent of this fella, or someone sent him the shirt anonymously.

It MADE my day.

(And if you’re interested in what the “queen of journal writing” wrote yesterday, it said “I love to go to school it's raining in the wetlands." Or so she claims. )


Wordless Wednesday. (As if.)

I'm either dang tired or losing my touch - cause today I'm stumped.

It pays to have them read it to you first. Any takers?


Do any of you kids know CPR?

Each morning I have an online “morning newsletter” of our local paper sent to me via my school mail. I have my mail account set up so that a snippet of each email is visible below a certain line. (Don’t ask me the technical terms - I work with five-year olds, remember? I like to calls things thingamabobber, dookickey and doodad.)

This morning as I was preparing to send my attendance and lunch count via that same email account, I received the newsletter. Smack on the front of the page was this picture of a collison that had occurred earlier this morning, and a horrifying headline. That car? It was the SPITTING image of MY car- the one I had let Sassy drive to school. Today. This morning. On that road.


Immediately thoughts were running through my head: Would someone have called me? Was that call from Sassy that went DEAD a half an hour ago HER? Shouldn’t someone be coming to GET ME?? WHAT’S GOING ON???

When I managed to collect myself, I grabbed my cell phone and somehow managed to press a button that called Sassy.

After one ring she answered, “Mom? MOM? What the (@** ARE YOU CALLING ME FOR? I’M IN SCHOOL! Jesus.”


Ahh. Never has a hang-up been so sweet.

And THAT’S the way to start a day.


He's wearing an incredible disguise.

We have a tiny, nasty stomach virus that is chasing every person in our kindergarten community here in Smythe, Oregon. In fact it is having so much fun that it has come back for a second round of torture. (My "running with the garbage can" skills are getting a work out - and when you clean up their messes- you'll make the janitor your friend for life.)

On Thursday night it unfortunately caught ME. This took me by COMPLETE surprise, as I have become very adept at avoiding every nasty coughing, sneezing, feverish vomiting virus that has tried to take down this veteran teacher.

In fact, my friends often tease me about the super-immune system that I have- and don’t buy it for a MINUTE if I try to cry out of something by saying, “I’m sick.”

On Friday morning I managed to drag myself to school in order to get the classroom ready for a sub and prepare lessons and materials for the day. (Most teachers will drag their sorry sick behinds to school because it’s much easier to teach when under the weather than to PREPARE for a sub. But you didn’t hear that from me.)

Our incredible secretary managed to find me a sub in record time, and I only had to stay for 20 minutes after school started before I could make my hasty (and not touching anyone) exit.

As I tried to leave my room I was accosted by a former student who had come down the hall looking for a hug. I held him at arms length and tried to explain that I didn’t feel well.

“I’m sorry, Johnny, but I am leaving because I don’t feel well.” And then I whispered, “My stomach hurts a bit.”

He looked at me and shouted, “Aw! It’s probably just GAS!” and ran back to his room.

I laughed out LOUD as I walked out of the building.

Gas? I wish.