Here’s an excerpt from my latest column for the Virginia Journal of Education.

Serve and Protect?

Just before the dismissal bell rang, there was an announcement. “All resource teachers and specialists please report to the lobby. Immediately.”

We went dutifully: the reading resource teachers, the ESOL teachers, the art, music, and gym teachers who had finished their last period and didn’t have a homeroom class.

The principal and vice principal were there, at this impromptu emergency meeting in the lobby. They told us there was a situation, and our help was needed. For a brief moment, I felt good about being called on to help (even if it was only because I didn’t have a homeroom class). I wasn’t always in good favor with the administration, and small things like this gave the illusion of cooperation and teamwork.

Our orders were simple enough: stand at your regular bus duty assignment or another spot surrounding the building.

I figured it was a domestic issue, perhaps an angry parent without custody rights that came to pick up his child. I stood at one of the crosswalks. The buses arrived, the dismissal bell rang, yet no students appeared. Then the police officers came, patrolling the perimeter of the building.

Doug, a special education teacher, and I met half way between our posts as we frequently did on slow duty days to chat about our day. Always one of the first to hear gossip, he told me another teacher reported hearing gunshots.

Gunshots.

                (Read the rest HERE.)

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It’s been embarrassingly long since my last post.

My mind is often buzzing with new ideas for essays and such; but an “active” three year old boy, and a still not sleeping through the night four month old baby are keeping me from any coherent writing (not to mention taking up a LOT of my time).

So, I decided to share some gems that I’ve come across on Freecycle. As the name suggests, it’s a listserve for folks to post stuff they are giving away for free, or find stuff they want for free.

Most of the posts are for things like furniture, books, or clothing.

I don’t even remember why I joined in the first place. I thought of removing myself from the list, but then I started looking forward to it – searching for the wackiest free stuff.  Like this:

Offer:   Hairdryer. Non-working.

Offer:   Fish sauce.

Offer:   Beat up bag of shoes.

Then this:

Offer: Trader Joe’s Frozen Turkey Meatballs
1 bag is completely unopened; other bag has been opened and 3 meatballs used. Pick up in Cleveland Park.

But the best by far…

                    Offer: 8 Month Old Black Cat – Male

 

 

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The Truth

by Amy

My column from the April issue of the Virginia Journal of Education-

To Tell The Truth

Is a little fibbing really that bad? 

 

 

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donation-box

Every season, I switch my closet out. In the spring, I put my winter sweaters in a big blue bin, and it goes into the storage space until the weather turns cold again.

I try to purge, and create piles. Donate, consign, trash – just like those clear the clutter books recommend.

I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping clutter to a minimum. I donate clothes, and books frequently. When the mail comes, I sort through it right away, and throw out the junk.

Sometimes I accidentally throw away catalogues my husband wanted. Or worse, I tear up receipts too quickly, and panic when we decide to return something. Even if it’s not my fault, I’m usually blamed for “lost” papers.

I used to save everything. I liked making scrap books when I was younger. I kept birthday cards, letters, programs from concerts, ticket stubs.

Not anymore.

It’s not that I’m not sentimental. I’ve just learned to let go of the physical stuff.

Even still, a few items seem to remain in that storage bin year after year. I can’t seem to put them in another pile. It’s unlikely I’ll ever wear the faux suede brown pants and the tight little sweater with the sparkle heart in the middle – a gift from Jen for my 26th birthday when we lived in Spain.

And yet, I can’t seem to let go. Maybe that’s ok. It’s really not taking up that much space in the big blue bin. I realize I’m holding onto the memory, to what that cute little outfit represents.

Sevilla.

The orange trees, Vespas zipping past, the smell of Spring flowers mixed with smell of horse piss.

Cappuccinos, and why is this toast so fantastic?

Red wine, Fanta limon, olives, jamon hanging from the ceiling, cheap whiskey, discotheques.

The Cathedral, The River Guadalaquivir, The Torre del Oro, The Royal Alcazar.

Bar Sancho Panzo, little glasses of cool beer

Tia, hija

A kiss on each cheek.

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Dr. Nanny

by Amy

The Sunday New York Times Style section recently ran a little story about the “Nanny Doctor.”

People pay Lindsay Heller $200 an hour to mediate with their nanny. We’re not talking about figuring out how to pay for taxes or health care, or sponsoring someone to reside in the country legally.

This is about mothers who not only struggle with letting go of the notion that their way is the only way, but who also fail to communicate their expectations to employees.

Women who complain about things like this: “She lets Joshua just lie on the floor while she’s drinking her tea. Put some pep in that step. Put the tea down.”

It’s not like this kid is 5 years old, he’s seven months old. What’s a little floor time so the nanny can relax for a few minutes during what is certainly a long and hectic day? As for the “pep” –  the nannies I see have far more energy and enthusiasm than we mothers usually do.

Women are waiting later and later in life to have children. Many are established in their careers, and financially successful. I suspect that a majority of the mothers who seek the expertise of Heller have climbed corporate ladders, founded charities, AND maintained their flawless slender appearance -  and yet, they cannot bring themselves to have a conversation with the nanny about healthy snacks for the children.

The irony of course, is that the people who likely need the most advocating, are those nannies.

That said, I commend Ms. Heller for the outreach she does for nannies – providing affordable weekly support groups, and helping these women learn to advocate and negotiate for themselves.

I imagine the piece in The Times will be great publicity for the Nanny Doctor’s business. If you have the money, why not pay someone to mediate with The Help?

Ideally, the article will motivate people with the resources and experience to do more outreach work on behalf of the nannies – who raise other peoples’ children in hopes of providing a better life and education for their own.

 

 

 

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The Wanderer

by Amy

(from the February issue of the Virginia Journal of Education)

What happened to Andrew? one of the girls asked. I had lost track of time, and the bell was about to ring. 

“Andrew is missing,” I told the office. Missing? Lost? I wasn’t sure how to word it. It wasn’t that much of a shock, actually. He was just that type of kid. Fortunately, our administrators responded quickly to these “situations” and had a great sense of humor. Humor is essential in middle school, especially with a lot of at-risk students. 

I probably shouldn’t have let him go to his locker…

Read the rest of it here 

 

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www.tabletmag.com

I’m sure it’s normal, but recently I’ve been wondering about my parenting ability. It’s probably because I’m doing the SAHM (Stay at Home Mom) thing, and like any other “job” it has its ups and downs. Only this one is way more emotional, and you can’t take a mental health day.

I constantly wonder:

Is he getting spoiled? Will he outgrow this obsession with elevators? Will he eat fruits and vegetable that don’t come in a squeezy pack again? Will he ever sit still? 

As for the last question. The solution, it seems, is Elmo.

We were those parents – and waited to introduce DVDs until our son was past two. Now, it’s a wonderful break for all of us, and frankly the only thing that keeps him focused for more than 30 seconds.

His favorite program is Elmo’s World. (Though, I have made my folks promise not to buy any talking, laughing, dancing, tickling or otherwise extremely loud and annoying Elmos.)

True – he’s learning about babies, dogs, and the farm! But really, what is the appeal of Elmo? Why do toddlers just love the little red creature? And what is up with that creepy Mr. Noodle character?

I found this article about Judy Freudberg, the show’s creator and writer, to be insightful. Freudberg was one of many creative minds we lost in 2012.

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There is a woman who is at our gym all the time. She’s great at the step and aerobic classes that I suck at. She wears perfectly coordinated outfits, has beautiful olive complexion, a knock-out little body, and an accent that I can’t place. It’s easy to notice her because our gym is no frills and casual, as are most of the members.

She is pouty, yet friendly once you get to know her. I always assumed she was the wife of a diplomat, that she had a somewhat charmed life.

We were talking about her daughters (now in their twenties), and about raising children in general. That’s when she so casually mentioned her own struggles – a failing business, cancer….

Cancer? Wait. That didn’t fit my image.

It turns out she’s a breast cancer survivor.

I felt terrible – for what she must have gone through, for assuming to know anything about her life. And yes, for recently theorizing that she had implants.

It’s easy to misjudge people, to create a life for them that doesn’t really exist. But it’s much better to actually get to know someone.

You never know what inspiration they might provide.

 

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In keeping with the spirit of sharing something light and humorous on Sunday – here is a little something from the Washingtonian: 

“Check Out the Insane Craigslist Post We Found This Morning”

 

My friend actually lives next to these guys. I swear.

 

 

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Black Friday

by Amy

If you search Black Friday, Walmart on YouTube, you find some really scary and sad videos. (I’m not even going to post one, because it’s just too dark for me to see all the time.)

They look like footage of countries at war, of people running for their lives. Like people trying to escape gunshots or bombs. Like people fighting for their ration of food.

In one particular video that’s popular, the riots are over phones. Phones.

The people acting this way likely have no means to pay for the expensive plan most smart phones require anyway. They probably can’t afford most of the things they buy, even on sale.

I understand wanting to have nice things, to see your children unwrap decadent and special gifts on the holidays, to pretend for just a day that you can splurge on things.

This just isn’t the way. It can’t be.

And shame on Walmart for continuing this tradition. The 2008 death of an employee by a stampede of  “people” entering the store should have signaled the end of the famous sale. It should not have been a call to simply improve security.

Since then, the violence continues – stampedes, pepper spraying, fights, injuries.

It’s ironic that this day occurs just one day after Thanksgiving. When folks sit down to that big family meal, they certainly aren’t saying grace over an iphone or an Xbox.

We should teach our children the true meaning of the holidays, or just don’t celebrate them at all.

 

 

 

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