Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why I Love Pinterest

I have often remarked that I am not crafty. I have friends who are uber-crafty, and they intimidate with their creativity. I've often wanted to be crafty, but I just haven't had it in me.

I also just flat out haven't had the time. I know this is a bit of a broken record, but I would guess that during the school year teachers put in more hours every week than any other profession on earth. As a high school English teacher, it was not unusual for me to work from 7:30 until 5:30, pick up my kids and take care of evening activities, and then work for another hour or two after they went to bed. This happened at least three days a week and probably more, and it does not include the three or four hours I put in on a light weekend. These are serious underestimates for the times when major papers were turned in for Pre-AP. If you know a teacher, thank him or her. It is the most rewarding yet life-consuming job on the planet.

That is not to say that in my new role as Assistant Principal I'm not busy. I love my new job. It's exactly where God wants me to be right now, and it's a blessing for more reasons than I can list. However, (this totally IS NOT complaining) it's kind of exhausting. If it's any indication, I went to sleep Friday night at 7:00.

But I don't grade papers anymore.

It's been a culture shock for me. I found myself physically incapable of sitting on my couch without a stack of papers in my hands. I felt like I was forgetting something every time I left the house because I didn't have papers to take. My brain was exhausted from my new job, but I couldn't turn it off...ever.  I fidgeted, couldn't sleep all night, made up stuff to do, and I think I started to get a little depressed. My brain kept saying DO MORE DO MORE DO MORE DO MORE. My house was messy and my kitchen wasn't painted and my yard looked like a jungle and I wandered around feeling like a failure because people without papers should not have messy houses and weeds in their yards. It was difficult for me to adjust to a normal life - where it is possible to stay afloat with less than an eighty hour work week.

I considered learning how to crochet or knit so that I could have something in my hands to work on all the time. I watched some You Tube videos and practiced the same starting stitch about a hundred times, but then I could never get the next stitch. I think I'd still like to learn and have had several people offer to give me lessons, but I'm not exactly a natural.

Then I found Pinterest.

This weekend I have completed several Pinterest-found projects, and it's been fantastic! I may have cured myself of the "I don't know what to do with myself blues."

Here's what I've done:

S'Mores Bars: My cousin Dona recommended a different s'mores recipe, but I made this one because it didn't have eggs (the boys are both allergic). It was super easy, and they were good, but I was little underwhelmed. Next time I'll try the ones she suggested and just let the boys eat marshmallows or something. ;)

Bacon, cream cheese, and jalepeno crescent rolls: You guessed it - crescent rolls filled with bacon, cream cheese, and jalapenos, then folded up and baked. Delicious and also super-easy. How can you go wrong with bacon and jalapenos? 

Since we painted the kitchen last weekend, we've hung accessories on the walls that I forgot I had. They have literally been in boxes since we moved into this house seven years ago. Remember the grading - I blame it for my lack of unpacking. This cross is one of those items. Then, last night the boys were trying to remember their memory verse for Sunday school this morning, and Trey and I talked about how we should have a place to post the memory verse each week so they can see it all the time. I remembered a Pinterest tip that you can use dry erase markers on glass, we rummaged through some boxes of old pictures, and Presto! Memory verse in the kitchen (and easily interchangable when it's time for a new verse)!

Finally, my major project of the weekend is this wreath. I love the way it turned out!  I have poinsettias already made and some ribbon left, so I may make another one to give away. Since it was half price ribbon week at Hobby Lobby, I estimate the cost of this project to be about ten bucks.  Awesome!

So look out world, The Storm is a-craftin'. Follow me on Pinterest so I can follow you back. I have lots and lots of ideas for projects. It's just a matter of which one to do next. If you know of places in the B/CS area where I can find old windows, shutters, or wooden pallets (besides the Habitat store), hook me up. Keep in mind that I am ridiculously cheap.

See you on Pinterest!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Just another visit to the doctor

Tucker has bad skin.

Since he was born, Tucker has been plagued with what we've called eczema. All by itself, it sounds minor. But it's not minor.

He has spent his entire life covered in sores. His arms and legs, specifically, have been completely healed only once in his life, and that was for about two weeks last spring when he took a powerful anti-rejection medication that is usually given to organ transplant patients. We knew at the time it was a one time deal  -- he could never take it again. Other than those two weeks, he itches and scabs and bleeds and scratches. His sores are innumerable, and he has truly never known relief from them. This is kind of a blessing, actually. He doesn't know what it's like to not itch and hurt, and so he lives. He plays baseball and swims in the summer and goes to school and bleeds and scratches and it's his life.

We've seen dermatologists and allergists and the like, and we've "controlled" it sometimes and it's been infected and then it's better but just gross and painful and we continue on.

In the past three months, however, I've decided that I am a horrible mother. I think I realized this because he's started a new school, and I get to be there with him every day. It occurred to me that these new friends and new people at this new school know Tucker first as the kid with the sores. I knew they asked him about it. They asked me, too, "why does Tucker have sores all over him?" and it broke my heart.  I began to see him going into intermediate school and middle school and high school and having to first overcome his skin before he could make his mark in his new place. The thought still gives me this horrible feeling deep in my gut.

So I took him to the doctor, like we always do when the skin gets increasingly worse instead of staying just plain awful. He took an antibiotic for staph (as we often do because he has open wounds all over his body), and we hoped for the best. Two weeks later I took him again because he still seemed to be getting worse. Our awesome pediatrician, who always looks for new ways to help Tucker, put him on a different antibiotic and mentioned that there is a pediatric dermatologist in Round Rock that he'd be glad to send us to if we were up for trying something new yet again.

I made an appointment for early November, the soonest they could see him, but his skin continued to worsen. Finally I called the doctor, desperate for an earlier appointment, and they agreed to fit me in the next day provided that I changed to a different doctor in the practice. It wasn't what I wanted, but it was something, so I took the appointment.

Tucker and I made the hour and forty five minute drive and decided to have lunch before the appointment. Tucker chose a place called "Z Pizza," and it turned out to be the most hilarious place to have lunch. This was because Tucker spoke with an Italian accent the whole time, exchanged all the's for zee's. "Z Pizza at Zhis place is Zee best pizza I've ever had!" He was cracking himself up.

Off we went to the doctor, and when we arrived we learned that Dr. Tee, the pediatric dermatologist we wanted to see, found out we were coming and rearranged his entire schedule so he could see us. The nurse ushered us to a room and made Tucker don his very first doctor's office gown, booty hanging out in the back and all. Doctors don't usually make kids strip down and put on a gown, so it was pretty funny to see my eight year old's face when the nurse said those classic words: Take everything off and put on this gown, open in the back.

Dr. Tee was amazing. He studied Tucker, asked tons of questions, and really paid attention to us. After a few minutes he offered some theories and began explaining the tests he wanted to run.

There are moments in life that stop your heart. When the world around you keeps moving and panic rises in your throat and, just for that second, you can't breathe. You want to scream for time to stop and back up and I can't do this and no thank you and you must be wrong and this isn't really happening.

I learned this week that the word "biopsy" has that kind of power.

As the moment passed, all I could think was that I could feel my face. I felt it change into the face of one hiding what was really happening, one who appeared brave and strong and positive and altogether unaffected when what I really wanted was to cry. I knew Tucker was watching me, and I couldn't hear what the doctor was saying because I was so focused on what to do with my damn face.

I knew he wasn't doing a biopsy because he thought Tucker had cancer, but it didn't matter. It was like this thing, this giant monster of Tucker's skin that loomed over every day of his life was coming out of hiding and facing us. I realized that for so long I'd feared that what causes Tucker's skin to break out is something devastating, terrible. Something that would take him from me. The biopsy was going to show me how big the monster really was, and I don't think I was ready at that moment to know the answer. We had worked so hard to keep the monster stuffed in a little box, and I knew that we would never be able to put it back in. It was terrifying.

Long story short - okay, long story less long - the doctor did two 3 millimeter punch biopsies in Tucker's right arm, and then we went to the lab where they drew four vials of blood (he almost passed out). I smiled, I joked, I made a bet with Tucker about how many homers Pujols would hit in the World Series, and Tucker never once cried. He tolerated all of this a million times better than I ever expected. We have since joked that Trey and Keaton should never again send the babies to the doctor alone, but the babies did okay.

I must say here that I realize people all over the world and here in our own back yard have real problems. There are incurable diseases and debilitating conditions that make Tucker's skin problems look minor. I am well aware that in the big scheme of things, this is not the worst. But we just can't keep watching him suffer if we can help it.

Today the incredible Dr. Tee called with results. Tucker does not have celiac disease (that was a theory), and we now have documented evidence that he is one incredibly healthy eight year old who happens to bleed all over the place. His liver and kidneys and electrolytes and everything else they can test with your blood are all normal.

He does, however, have both eczema and psoriasis, an overlay that occurs very rarely. It seems people are supposed to get one or the other, and my little over achiever has managed to have severe cases of both.

But Dr. Tee thinks he can help. He wants to start Tucker on a new oral medication. It has lots of scary side effects, as do all medicines, but Dr. Tee's professional opinion is that the benefits will far outweigh the risks. For the first time in his life, Tucker could have complete relief. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it, but I'm also a little afraid to be too hopeful. Either way, the monster is a great deal smaller.

Tonight I asked Tucker what he thought it would be like to not itch all the time. He laughed a little and said, "I guess it would be like being a normal kid." 

"Oh, honey," I told him, "You are way too special to ever be a normal kid."

I'm pretty sure he made a face at me.

Then I told him when his skin got better, I was going to buy him new sheets. I think he was genuinely excited when he said, "And they won't get bloodstains on them!"

I know of no better way to end this post than to let Trey end it for me. As he told my mom in our latest facebook message conversation: "It seems like there are some risks with taking the medicine, but they think the benefits outweigh the risks. I would rather take a calculated risk for myself then to decide to take a calculated risk for my kid. I'll try not to worry....God always takes care of us and there is no reason to think he won't continue."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Keaton's First T-Ball Game

I haven't blogged in over a month. I've formulated several posts in my head, but none of them have actually made it out onto the keyboard. Perhaps they'll come soon.

Part of my trepidation is that the post rattling around in my head is regarding the differences and similarities between high school and elementary school. I'm very concerned that my people on both ends of the spectrum will interpret something I have to say as an implication that one is easier than the other, and that is most certainly not the case. Someone I respect more than just about anyone in my professional life told me from the beginning (I'm paraphrasing here) that people think elementary is easy, but it's not easy, just different. She, too, worked in both elementary and secondary schools, and now that I'm six weeks in I know exactly what she meant.

So that post will someday be posted, but for now I'll share about one of my favorite subjects in the world. Keaton.

It's good to be Keaton. It's fun and exciting and an all around good time just to BE Keaton Hickman. After six years of his life, I've realized that the rest of us in the world just don't enjoy ourselves enough.

Tonight he had his first t-ball game, and he couldn't have been more excited. He was serious business as a player -- he made sure he wore his batting gloves and showed off his swagger. You could just see the fun seeping off of him while he was on the field.

Now, in t-ball, the kid hits the ball off of the tee. The opposing team attempts to field said ball, and the player runs to first base. As the next batter hits the ball, all of the runners advance one base, and this continues throughout the entire batting order. Every great once in a while the defense gets an out, and the out player takes a seat on the bench, hopefully without crying. Finally, when the last batter hits the ball, all of the runners run through to home to finish out the inning.

Keaton was the last batter.

Here's how he told the story of his game to several people after it was over.

"I hit two home runs!  One time, I was running, and the player got in my way, but I was running so fast that he got scared and moved and then I scored a home run. I scared him because I was so fast!  The other time, the score was four to four and the pitcher was at home plate, and he had the ball, and I ran so fast to him, and when I got to home plate I just jumped right over him. The coach said I was safe. I JUMPED over him and scored another home run. It was awesome."

In reality, I'm pretty sure the score was like 30 to 30 because virtually every kid rounded the bases, and Keaton did run all the way through THREE times because there were three innings and he was the last batter. (I'm not sure why he didn't include the third one in his home run count.) But also, in reality, on the last play of the game the pitcher was waiting for Keaton on home plate with the ball, and Keaton did his level best to leap over the player's head so that he could be safe. Both boys ended up on the ground, and Keaton earned his final imaginary home run of the night.

It's fun to be Keaton Hickman.

Friday, August 26, 2011

First week of school

I really want to blog, but I'm tired.

A few things that should be documented...

Today is the first Friday of the school year with the boys and me at our new school. Conversation on the way home included:

Keaton: Mom, did Robert Earl Keen used to be the president?

Tucker (a question that I'm certain was inspired by his renewed rubics cube obsession): Mom, when do you think I'll get to learn algorithms?  Like sixth grade?

Keaton: Hey, you know what I get to do now?  Study.
Me: What are you studying?
Keaton: I don't know yet. But I get to study this year. You know how in kindergarten I didn't get to study?  Well, in first grade, we STUDY.  Awesome, huh?

Keaton: I need to learn how to play the banjo. You're supposed to learn how to play the banjo before you play the guitar.

Tucker: At 2:15 p.m. it was 100 degreess outside, but we were checking it with a rotary thermometer, so that could be approximate.

Lots of life changes, but the Hickman boys are still the Hickman boys.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Historic Moments

I just had an Irish coffee at an Irish pub, and it was good. Good like a cigarette.

I dated the same person from the time I was 17 until I was 21. We went off to college together, and it was just assumed that we would some day get married and have kids and live "back home." But that wasn't what was right for either of us. It's a long story that I'd be glad to tell you someday, but one night I was driving through Kosse, Texas, and God spoke to me in an audible voice and told me that it was time to move on.

You can think I'm crazy. That doesn't mean it didn't happen.

And so, we broke up. It was ugly and heartbreaking and full of the angst that fills those young people who think they have their lives planned out and then learn that they were dead wrong.

I decided at that point to start smoking. (I'd like to pretend that this is news to my parents because I have no doubt that they knew - or at least suspected - but we never spoke of it. I now appreciate their ability to let me work out my vices on my own.) My former boyfriend hated cigarettes and smoking and people who smoked, and we still had classes together in college and still spent time together ("let's be friends"is the stupidest phrase ever spoken), so I, naturally, chose to smoke incessantly around him to piss him off.

God did not tell me to do this.

Slowly but surely we went our separate ways, but I continued to enjoy the rebellious solitude of the morning smoke...and midday smoke...and evening smoke...and I think you get the picture. You lifetime non-smokers won't understand this, but there's something both calming and exhilarating about slowly, quietly enjoying a cigarette.

The night before I married Trey, the most amazing person I've ever met, I smoked my last.

Fast forward through the best ten and a half years of my life, two amazing boys, and eight years of what amounted to both ruining and lifting up what I estimate to be close to one thousand high school students. This and that happens, and I find myself elated to become part of a new elementary school family. My exit from the high school was filled with undeserved fanfare, including the most thoughtful gifts. A journal in which those I worked most closely with wrote me letters of encouragement and support, a few books and a list of books that I should read, a bucket of margaritas, a monogrammed pair of ceramic balls in a tray with a note that said "every administrator needs a pair." Only my friend Grace could get away with that, and it makes me smile every single time I think about it.

One of the books I received when I left the high school is a memoir by Frank McCourt called Teacher Man. McCourt is an Irish immigrant who won a Pulitzer for his book, Angela's Ashes, but perhaps more impressively he spent thirty years teaching English in New York City high schools. I began the book a few weeks ago. The first chapters relate McCourt's first few days of teaching and also MY first days of teaching. It's incredible the way he captures the fear and uncertainty of those days. I laughed at McCourt and at myself as I read, and I called teacher friends and told them they have to read this book when I'm done.

Currently, I find myself at the Conscious Discipline Summer Institute, learning about brains. Limbic systems and brain stems and pre-frontal lobes and safe places and well wishes. I am in awe of the science.We saw a demonstration today that proved the actual electrical fields around people sending positive thoughts versus sending negative ones. I am more in awe of the practicality. Children must be taught to regulate themselves and not rely on others for their self-worth or positive emotions. That's big stuff, folks, and most adults haven't figured it out yet. I wonder if I've even figured it out.

As we spend hours each day discussing self-regulation, I find it appropriate that I am all by myself. This six day conference is the longest I've ever been away from Trey or my boys, and it's hard. Really hard. But I am reminded every day here that I have a choice to make the most of this and enjoy myself or sit alone and crying in my hotel room for a week. I know I would rather Trey and the boys enjoy themselves than sit in a stupor, and I've made a valiant effort to enjoy this trip. Skype has really helped.

Tonight I walked from my hotel to Bongos, a Cuban food restaurant in Downtown Disney, and I requested a table for one. I ordered an appetizer and a mojito, said a private prayer of thanksgiving for Hemingway (Cuba always makes me think of Hemingway and my awe of him), and opened my book.

McCourt describes a silly little lesson that happened out of nowhere in which his students recite recipes like poetry. To an English teacher (which I will possibly always be at heart), the lesson is brilliant. Sitting alone at a table in a busy restaurant, his message to his students struck me:

"If you're an observant writer, you'll recognize the significance of this event. For the first time in history a Chinese recipe is to be read with background music. You have to be alert to historic moments. The writer is always saying, What's going on here? Always. You can bet your last dime that nowhere in history, Chinese or otherwise, will you find a moment like this" (212).

I closed the book and observed my moment. Never in history, and likely never again, would I sit alone in a loud Cuban restaurant enjoying fried plantains and ceviche. I didn't care that I was alone. I loved the food and atmosphere and the volume and the people. It wasn't Chinese recipes set to music, but the message was the same. Every moment is historic. We just have to realize it.

On the recommendation of a friend, I stopped on the way back to the hotel at an Irish pub for some bread pudding. I intended to take the pudding back to my hotel, but was informed at the front that they don't do to go orders. The hostess encouraged me to sit at the bar to order and then ask for a to go box after my food came. It was a lame rule, but I really wanted that bread pudding.

I wound my way through the tables to the bar, found an empty chair against the wall, and ordered my dessert. It arrived quickly and was so beautiful on the plate that I decided to just eat it there in the restaurant.

I took my first bite and reopened my book. I felt as if my friend, Frank the Irishman, had written it about our collective careers. As if on cue, an Irish band began to play their nightly gig, and the patrons sang along and stomped their feet to the rhythm. It occurred to me that I would finish this book, this Irishman's testament to every scary, exciting, depressing, amazing moment spent in high school English classrooms for ages, here in this Irish pub with Irish background music. This, friends, was an historic moment.

The entire book is phenomenal, but the last part (detailing the end of McCourt's teaching career) was profound. If you've ever felt that a book touched your soul, then you know what I'm talking about. I felt kinship with known and unknown teachers everywhere, and I felt like this book and this pub and this band and this bread pudding were, together, a gift.

And so I settled in, ordered an Irish coffee, and drank a private toast to Frank McCourt, to every student I ever taught, to every paper I ever graded.

And the coffee was good. Good like a cigarette.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I've been thinking that I needed to blog, but I didn't really have anything specific to write about. It's summer, and the boys are playing inside as much as possible. Tucker's been playing baseball and he ran summer track, so that was fun (and hot). As of last Saturday night, all of those activities are over. I've been working as much as I can. My in-laws are awesome and have helped with the boys a lot so I could go into the office. There's laundry, dishes, picking up the living room three or four times a day. Overall, things are just wildly normal. I have nothing clever to say about any of it. 

Today, however, I found myself something to write about. 

It was a wonderful, regular day, and after Vacation Bible School the boys had friends over to play for the afternoon. The boys, brothers, were so kind and polite that it was almost shocking. I really worried about my boys going over to their house and one of them chewing with his mouth open or putting a hand down his pants to give his butt a good scratch. The boys, Jacob and Andrew, and my boys were so good that they played all afternoon with no arguments or fights or messes. In fact, I sat at the bar in the kitchen and got a great deal of work done while they played. It was a great afternoon for all of us. 

We left about 4:05 to take the boys home because I had a 4:30 appointment with a personal trainer. See, I recently joined a new gym, and it comes with four free personal training sessions. We dropped the boys at their house, and as I drove to the gym I contemplated exactly what I could tell the trainer without sounding too lame. Honestly, he shouldn't even ask me any questions. He should take one look at me and see that I am yet another 34 year old woman who, at some point, was in pretty great shape, but now I just like ice cream and could stand to drop a few or fifteen pounds. I hate the "What are your goals?" questions at the gym -- be 22, thanks. 

As I imagined my conversation with the trainer, I checked the calendar on my phone to remind myself of his name, and that's when I realized that my appointment with the trainer is tomorrow. Fail. 

So I decided to go on the gym anyway, and I apparently had all of these thoughts out loud because as soon as I had this particular thought Tucker began wailing about how he just wanted to go home.  PLEASE!!! My next thought was about being in Trey's car and, thus, without my headphones, and since the thought of running (okay, I'll just walk, but running sounds so much better so please pretend I run) on the treadmill  without watching Swamp People or 19 Kids and Counting seemed kind of awful. So I decided we would just go home. 

I was fully aware of the fact that this was an epic parenting moment. I taught my kids a) you don't have to exercise if you don't want to and b) wailing is a great way to get what you want. 

I hope you can tell by now that my brain was all over the place. In order to make myself feel better about ditching the gym and being a terrible mother, I started making a mental list of the work-related tasks I could accomplish during the time I would have been working out. 

Did I mention to you guys that on Keaton's Mother's Day card to me he did all of these fill in the blank things?  "My mom's favorite color is (blank)"and "My mom is (blank) tall."  On the question that asked "My mom is good at (blank)," he wrote "work." Seriously. Of all of the things I could be good at (mothering, for one), he wrote work. 

So I thought of that, too, as I drove home, and I was feeling really good about myself.  

I opened the garage door, parked the car, and was the first to get to the door that leads into the house. It was locked. 


This door is never locked, but clearly as we left earlier one of us locked the door. I'm not pointing any fingers, but Keaton was the last one out. 

No big deal, I thought, and then I realized that I don't have a house key. I went around the fence to the back door, hoping that perhaps I had left it unlocked as I often accidentally do, and it was, of course, locked. I had one random house key on me, and I knew in my heart it was to Trey's parent's house, but I tried it in the bolt of the front door anyway. No luck. 

But it was no big deal. Trey would be home soon, and we needed milk. "Boys, let's just run to HEB and get milk and by the time we get back your dad will be home with a key." It was a good plan. 

Then Tucker began wailing again. "I just want to stay here.  Please!!!  I'm tired!"

And so, from the driveway, I went full-on lecture mom. 

"Tucker Hickman, I cart you all over the whole free world all the time to whatever you want to do. I take you to practices and games and your friends' houses and I pick up your friends and bring them here and all I'm trying to do it get some milk so you can have breakfast in the morning and you are whining and I can't stand it anymore. You can't even get in the house anyway. Get in the car!"

My tirade ended, and I realized that everyone within three houses both ways probably just heard that. Then I thought, "Aw, hell."

Then, my mind took off again. I decided that I shouldn't think things like "aw, hell" because I'm working in an elementary school now and if you think things then sometimes they come out your mouth and I would be mortified if I said that in front of some first graders. I plotted on how to clean up my internal language, and this was followed by a scenario in which two sweet kindergarten girls in pink dresses come into my office asking for hugs, and I spill my diet coke all over their dresses as I hug them and then I say "aw, hell" out loud. They, of course, make that "aahhhmmmm...I'm going to tell" sound that only kids can make and then I start trying to explain to them that hell isn't always a bad word because it's an actual place only some people don't believe in it. Then I felt like a twisted, black-hearted person for trying to get away with something terrible like cursing in front of kindergarterners. Then I remembered the whole thing was only happening in my head and I felt a little better.

Tucker, Keaton, and their mentally deranged mother got in the car, and I called Trey.

I explained the key and the locked doors and the milk, and all was well with the world for a tiny moment until he said, "I don't have a key to the house either. I gave mine to Josh."

Aw, hell.

So I started driving to who-knows-where making phone calls. My sister-in-law does not have a key to my house. My mother-in-law has a key, but it's in her purse that happened to be with her on her trip to Dallas. The Hickman house was impenetrable. Fort Knox, if you will. 

My only option was to drive the 25 minutes to the Bombers ballpark where Josh, the player we're hosting, was probably already warming up for the game. I went through the mental picture of me traipsing onto the field to summon him from the team in order to get his key, but I'll save you the details of that little trip through my brain. 

I called Trey again to tell him my plan and not to hurry home from work because he couldn't get in anyway, and he asked if I tried to get in the front door. His thinking was that Josh left through the front door and since it was the middle of the day and we were all home he probably didn't lock it. 

Hmmm...I didn't try to open the front door. I only unsuccessfully tried to use my mother-in-law's house key to turn the deadbolt. (I guess when I put it like that it just seems silly.)

So I turned around, finally made it home, walked to the front door, and -- you're not going to believe this -- it was wide open

You know, like Fort Knox would be if someone left without locking the door. 

As always, there is a lesson to be learned here. I sometimes give my very smart oldest child a hard time about his lack of focus on everyday life. Case in point: he lost his shoes -- his actual tennis shoes that he wears every day -- at some point this year. I very kindly and lovingly have referred to him scatterbrained.  Today I was reminded who he gets that from. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A True Test

Grad school is finished. I have an awesome new job as an Academic Coordinator A.K.A. Assistant Principal. Professionally, things have been going my way.

The only hurdle left to tackle was my Texas Principal Certification Exam. I intentionally waited to take this test until summer. I wanted to finish grading and packing and get off the emotional roller coaster that was my departure from the high school and initiation into a brand new campus. I wanted to focus. 

In preparation for the test, I took three practice tests over the course of the year prior. The passing standard is approximately 78%, and I scored well above that on all practice exams. I never made a 100, however, which a little part of me felt was failure, but then I remembered I am a humongous nerd and no one really cares about my actual score on this test - just whether I passed or failed. 

Honestly, I was never really nervous about the test. If I began thinking too much about specific questions that could come up, I could have made myself nervous, but I chose not to do that. Each time I thought about it, I reminded myself that I had passed this test three times in practice. That I am a basically intelligent person who made a 4.0 in the grad school program preparing me for this test. That I am good enough, I am smart enough, and -- dog gone it -- people like me.

My mother-in-law graciously offered to drive me to the test because parking is often a problem at A&M, and she dropped me off at the General Services complex around 8:05. I told her I'd probably call for my ride home around 11:30 because I anticipated that the test would take me 2 to 2 1/2 hours. My report time was 8:30, and the test was to start at 9:00. I was not stressed out by being late. Things were going well.

Around 8:25, the testing proctor checked in all of the testers, and the other testers and I locked our belongings in a provided locker, including our watches. One by one he took us into the testing computer lab and hit the start button on our various tests. He informed me specifically that I had five hours to take my test, and that I could take as many breaks as I wanted but that the time would continue to count down while I was out of the room. I'm pretty sure I was the only one taking the principal test, as all other testers looked very college-aged. I assumed there was quite of lot of GRE-taking going on in that room. 

As I began clicking through the on-screen instructions ("don't cheat," "don't tell the questions to your friends," "if you cheat you will be drawn and quartered") I realized the computer was moving very slowly. In my effort to remain calm, I took a deep breath and decided that maybe the directions were just slow. 

But it wasn't just the instructions. Once the questions began, I quickly realized that it was taking forever for one question on the screen the change to the next. Okay, I thought, I have to figure out if this is costing me time on my five hours. If this is costing me time, it could create a real problem. 

So I answered the next question, checked the timer on screen, and then clicked the magical "next" button. The timer stopped while the computer loaded the next question, and I felt so relieved!  The speed of the computer would not impact the amount of time I had for the test, so I was good to go.

I answered question after question, clicking the answer and then waiting waiting waiting waiting for the next question to pop up. It seemed to take almost a minute to change questions, but I decided that it was just my anxiousness to keep going that made it feel like so long. 

Sidebar: I have always been a good test taker. I'm one of those people who often looks smarter than I really am because I'm good at taking tests. I am also a fast test taker who doesn't second guess myself. I answer a question and move on, and I almost never go back to review my answers on a test. It's my personal strategy, and it has worked pretty well for the first 34 years of my life. 

But this test-- this stinking test that held my entire future career in its hands -- took that away from me. I answered a question, clicked "next," and then stared at the question and answer choices for what seemed like a full minute before the next question came up. I found myself rationalizing answers that I didn't choose, figuring out why they could be right even though I deemed them wrong. Each time, just as I over-analyzed enough to really question my answer choice, the next question would finally pop up. I frantically marked the last question number on my scratch paper so I could go back and look it over again at the end. I did this over and over.

This left my brain in a muddle. Was the last question right?  Was it worth the five minutes it would take to try to go back and read over it again? Am I over-analyzing?  Am I failing?  Am I unprepared?  Was my 4.0 dumb luck? Am I going to be that person who gets fired because she can't pass her principal test?  Will I be forever blacklisted from all jobs that require tests?  

Needless to say, I began to feel anxious. So I took a break. 

As I signed out of the testing room, I casually asked the proctor, "Does this test always run so slow?'

"Yeah," he replied, "ETS is having a problem lately that is making their tests run really slow. Sorry."

Okay, well, I guessed this would be my testing reality. I took a brisk walk to get my blood flowing again, drank some water to rehydrate my brain and did some cross-overs with my arms to get the two sides of my brain cooperating. I thought through the facts.

1) In practice, I have passed the test three times.
2) I am good at tests.
3) I never read over and over my answers after I choose them.
4) The slowness of the test is taking away my best strategy and replacing it with stress.
5) Getting frustrated will not do my any good.

I took a deep breath, signed back into the testing room, and proceeded with a new plan. I needed to answer the question, click next, and then not look at the screen again until the question changed. First, I counted. 1 mississippi, 2 mississippi, 3 mississippi. I determined that it was taking approximately one to two minutes between questions. 

Then I made up variations of songs in my head. One of the most popular sing-in-my-head songs was Stutts's "I'm gonna pass this test. I'm gonna pass this test." I also thought about words that rhymed with "test" so I could sing more than one line of the song I really didn't know. I came up with with "best," "lest," and "hest" (which I'm really not sure is an actual word). 

I wrote names on my scratch paper. If I know you, I probably wrote your entire name in my best handwriting at least twice. Then I went for initials. I pretended to be a calligrapher writing invitations for a fancy event.

Then I made traingles. I estimated how many triangles I could fit into a half sheet of scratch paper, and then I began dissecting triangle after traiangle to increase my number. When that got old, I shaded in every other triangle to make a pattern. 

I am particularly proud of the brick structure I made around my name. It had bricks going in various directions, but they were all exactly the same size and shaded in various colors. It was a masterpiece. 

All the while, every two minutes, I answered a question that could change my entire future. No pressure. 

Finally, I answered the last question. Then I went back to each question I had marked from the early part of the test (before my strategy change), and I did not change even one answer. Going with my instinct was the right thing to do. My total test-taking time: 2 hours, 19 minutes.

Then, at long last, I was done. I was so proud that I found a way to work with this ridiculous situation, and it felt good. That's when I discovered that I had to answer 13 survey questions, one at a time. 

THIS was frustrating, but I answered each question until I finally reached the "Report my scores" screen. I clicked it with victory, and then waited the two minutes for the confirmation screen to come up. The next screen read (did I mention it was two minutes later) "Your testing session in complete." Of course, it also came with a "next" button.

I clicked next, and left the testing room. I explained to the proctor (a new shift of proctors -- now a young lady) that I thought I was finished but I wanted to be absolutely sure. She offered to go in and check the computer for me.

She returned several minutes later and asked, "Wow!  Was your computer that slow the whole time?"

I checked the clock, and then informed her that while I had actually tested for two hours and nineteen minutes, I had been sitting in front of the computer for five hours and five minutes

"Oh my gosh!  I'm so sorry!  I wish you had said something because we would have moved you to a different computer. Next time be sure and let us know."

Seriously? Next time? I hope there is never, ever, in my life a "next time."

I suppose all's well that end's well. I am "officially" qualified for my new job. I passed the test with an equivalent of about 91. However, the true test, I suppose, was of my patience. In the midst of the insane slowness of the test I did not throw the computer across the room or begin pulling out my eyelashes one by one. I calmly made a plan and made it work. 

Perhaps I am prepared for this new job after all. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Sweet Baby Boy

On Monday, Keaton will be six years old. I can't believe it. What did we do in the 2 1/2 years we only had one child?  What did we do our whole lives before that without Keaton?

A few reasons why Keaton is awesome.

1) He takes great care of himself, even at almost six years old. If Keaton needs a drink of water, he gets some water. If he's hungry, he grabs a snack (usually a peach or some green bell pepper slices or a honey bun). When it's time to clean up, he makes a game out of it and gets it done (most of the time).

2) For his birthday cupcakes, we went to the store, and he chose the cake mix, the frosting, and some gold decorative frosting to write on the cupcakes. Tonight, we made the cupcakes together (he did most of the work), and then he carefully instructed me on how red to make the frosting so that it would be perfect. Then, he gave me specific instructions on how to frost the cupcakes -- the flower-looking ones are for the girls. As a final touch, he wrote the first letter of each person's name on a cupcake so that all of the partygoers can have special cupcakes just for them. You can't read some of the letters, but who cares?

Keaton is thoughtful even on his special day -- he wants everyone to be happy and feel special. The cupcakes kind of look like they were made by a six year old, but they WERE made by a six year old and he and I both think they are beautiful. When he finished his work, he gave me a gigantic hug and said, "Thank you, Mommy, for making my cupcakes." What an awesome kid!

3) He randomly assembles things and makes up new games almost constantly. Tonight he was jumping from the "diving board" of a pillow in my room into a pile of blankets. Yesterday he took an old backpack and filled with first aid supplies so that it would be an "emergency backpack" he could use to help people who are hurt. Tonight when Tucker complained of a tummy ache (because he didn't want to brush his teeth), Keaton came running with the emergency backpack and told me I needed to take Tucker's temperature.

Yesterday he made this contraption, which he said was good "for moving stuff." After I took this picture, he connected the end he is holding to his Tonka truck, and then the whole thing was on wheels and could move "really heavy stuff."

4) He has a vivid imagination, even in his dreams. Every once in a while he'll crawl in bed with us, and usually he's talking so much that I have to wake up and listen carefully to whatever crazy thing he's talking about. I'm also convinced he sleepwalks because many times he comes into our room shouting about something that has apparently just happened. At 2:30 this morning he appeared at the foot of our bed screaming, "I am getting so tired of this!"  Hmmm...if we only knew what it was he was tired of.

5) I could go on forever, but I will finally add that for Keaton anything is possible. Even changing his name. He told Trey tonight, "You can start calling me James if you want. It is my name, you know." Then he talked about how at Greens Prairie Elementary he might just tell everyone to call him James. It is his name, you know.

My sweet Keaton is going to be six, and it's hard to be too sad about him growing up because I am so excited about all of the things he's going to do in the near and far future.

Happy birthday, baby boy!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Keaton Randomness

I was reading, but the television was on the Food Network and there was a show about smoking meats. A man on the show remarked about the ribs he was about to cook, and Keaton calmly, without an ounce of disgust or even shock, asked, "Mom, are those real person's ribs he's cooking?"


Some day I will tell my grandchildren about countless weekends like this and they will wonder if it really happened just this way or if my memory has been altered by the clouds of age and exaggeration.

Future grandchildren -- you grandma (whom you'll probably refer to as "The Storm") did not make this up. Your dad really spent countless weekends just like this.

Saturday morning, Tucker had a baseball game at 10:00 a.m. The BV Astros won, we went to McDonalds for a quick lunch, and then we went back to the ball field for a second game at 1:00. This game we lost.

We came home all hot and sweaty and tired, and just as Trey and I settled in to relax, we realized that Tucker and Keaton weren't in the house. They were in the front yard playing baseball.

Trey made them come inside for "just a little while to cool off."

After a only a little arguing, they came inside, and Tucker immediately turned the tv to an Aggie baseball game. Trey and I had no idea the Aggies were playing, but, as usual, Tucker knows more about those sorts of things than we do so we were just happy to get to see the game.

Then Tucker began telling us how the game would end, and who would strike out in what inning, and when we should watch for the awesome plays. A quick glance to the top right corner of our television screen confirmed that this was actually a repeat of a game Tucker had already seen. Apparently it was worth watching twice.

Finally, the boys deemed themselves cooled off enough (and we stopped trying to keep them inside long enough) to go outside and -- you guessed it -- play a little baseball. Darkness eventually fell and the baseballs eventually had to be put away. So, of course, the game moved indoors to the living room.

Sunday morning, Tucker had a baseball game at 9:00. The BV Astros lost, but they played okay overall, and we all had a good time. We met family for lunch, then came home, at which time Tucker turned on what he hoped would be the pre-game for the Aggie baseball game at 1:00. Sometime during the seventh inning, his friend called and then came over to play, but unfortunately he got here before the Aggie game was over. Tucker's friend and Keaton played, and Tucker finished watching his game.

It was eerie when Tucker said, "Brodie Green hit a walk-off home run to win the Big 12 championship last year" about three seconds before the commentator.

The game was over, and Tucker, Keaton, and the friend went outside to play a little baseball.

Later, Trey and Tucker took the friend home, and as soon as they returned Tucker found a softball game to watch for a few minutes. Keaton left to go play with his Uncle Mike, and Tucker (in the absence of his usual catcher) convinced Trey to sit on a stool in the yard catching baseballs. After all, he hadn't practiced pitching all weekend.

An hour and a half later, we made Tucker come in to take a bath, and when he was finished, he went straight for the computer to find Andrew Callazo's walk-off home run on youtube so he could watch it over and over, all the while calling us over one at a time -- "Watch this!  You have to see it one more time!" Of course, he did this while simultaneously watching the Reds/Braves game on tv.

Finally, we made him go to bed. I wonder what he's dreaming about?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

As Yet Untitled

Our dog died.

But this post doesn't begin there.

I foresee it being more like keyboard vomit about all of the things rolling around in my head over the last month or so.

I was honored after spring break to be named the Academic Coordinator at Greens Prairie Elementary beginning this fall. It's a brand new campus -- not even finished yet -- and I get to be there to get it going. I've worked so hard in grad school, and to be awarded with a job so soon has left me overjoyed. And the more I learn about my new school and the fantastic staff, the more excited I get.

I have only worked at one school. Eight years. One of my kids was practically born there. I know all the nooks and crannies, people to bug to get anything and everything accomplished, and the ins and outs of the English department -- the good and the bad and the details. I know what I'm doing.

For my new job, I make lists. Mostly lists of words or programs or authors or books that elementary people use in casual conversation, but I have no idea what they are talking about. Google is my new best friend.

My real best friends are at my school. Not just my best friends, but the best friends I've ever had in my life. Never have I been around such a large number of people at once who "get" me.  I like books a little too much to be normal, I randomly cry about absolutely nothing, and I'm addicted to my work email. Besides my husband and maybe my parents (I have to deduct points for them because I'm sure I scared the hell out of them when I was an angsty teenager), these people get me more than anyone, ever. They think it's funny to refill my wine glass when I'm not looking and they recognize when I need someone to just agree with me even when I'm dead wrong.

I've now met most of the teachers at my new school, and they are incredibly nice and great fun, and tonight they even promised to read books and talk about them with me. It's an all star cast at Greens Prairie, and being a part of that is more than I could ever ask for.

So I live here on the threshold between what is and what will be, and I happily and sadly walk forward, growing more excited with every step.

All the while grading, grading, grading, and doing homework, homework, homework.

On Friday, my second period crazies threw me a surprise party. They had been talking about it in front of me all week, and I almost took up the sign up sheet for snacks one day until I realized that's what it was. Second period is a group of very different kids -- some who have everything and some who have nothing -- and they have been a challenge this year. On Friday they all came together to wish me well and literally tell me they loved me. It was a beautiful moment.

At the beginning of seventh period that day, I learned that some colleagues, one a principal and one a teacher, lost their son. She went into labor at 24 weeks, and their precious baby lived for 55 minutes before he returned right back to heaven. I cannot imagine a deeper heartbreak than that.

On Saturday, Tucker hit his very first home run. It was epic. There is nothing more fantastic than an eight year old home run.

Today, my last day of regular classes, my sixth period paid tribute to my years of teaching. Five minutes before the bell they all ascended to the tops of their desks and recited "O Captain, My Captain!" -- just like Dead Poet's Society. It was both cheese-tastic and moving. They are a brilliant group who often cause me great frustration with their constant questioning and lack of confidence, and I admit I was surprised that they care I'm leaving the school.

Seventh period came into class grumbling, no doubt in tones they believed to be unhearable by teacher ears. Sixth period had stolen their schtick, and they had to come up with something bigger and better on the fly. About ten minutes before the end of class, one girl approached my desk and said, "Mrs. Hickman. Do you think you to the bathroom for like...five minutes?"

"Funny you mention that," I replied. "I was just thinking about how I have to go to the bathroom, and it will likely take me about five minutes."

I returned exactly five minutes later to find them standing on desks, announcing "O Captain, My Captain!" Only they had made a half circle with the desks and each held one letter of the poem title, and they had written their own original poem for me that a representative read. Interestingly enough, there was exactly one letter of the poem title for each of my 17 kids. I've said all year that I couldn't have picked a better class to have as my last class for this portion of my career, and they certainly did not disappoint. The number thing just cemented it.

After school I went to a meeting, then to Half Price Books to pick up a book for our book exchange tomorrow,  then to Schlotsky's to get a pizza for dinner. I came home to find Trey and his dad standing in our kitchen. Isabelle the Chihuahua and reigning Queen of the Hickman Hacienda, was found lying peacefully on our back porch when Trey came home. When we first married, I miscarried. Then we got Isabelle. When the boys were babies, she would sit in the doorway to the nursery as if she were standing guard. She was a good dog.

And so it goes. Good and bad. Grief and wonder. Past and future.

I am certainly blessed beyond measure, a recipient of unmerited favor.

I may also need a stiff drink.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

And now, a quick Keaton story

Perhaps it is a Trey story.

Tuesday night I had a late meeting, so Trey picked up the boys from Kids Klub and together they went to meet a family from Tucker's baseball team to try on baseball pants. They were a little short on time, so they were in a hurry.  I wasn't in the car, but I've heard the story and I imagine it went something like this:


At some point, Keaton says matter-of-factly, "Dad, my whole class got red today!"

Trey responds, "Awesome!"

Later that evening, we sat around the dinner table to eat and visit. It's during this time that we usually go through Tucker's homework with him and make a plan for when he needs to do it, and we go through Keaton's daily folder and ask him questions about his favorite part of the day.

Unfortunately, I opened Keaton's daily folder to see a red sad face, and a note from the teacher that the whole class had a bad day and continued to scream and run around when they were told to stop.

"Keaton!" I questioned, "What on earth happened in your class today?  Your folder says you were all being very disrespectful to your teacher. What do you have to say about this?"

Keaton popped a bite of food in his mouth and shrugged nonchalantly, "I already told Dad. He said it was awesome."


A Quick Tucker Story

If you've been around us at all you know that Tucker is weirdly smart. Case in point - one of his second grade spelling words this week is "condescending." I had to think really hard to spell it right.

However, Trey and I decided a long time ago that it's important for us to not talk about Tucker's intelligence, but rather comment on his hard work. Even though all things academic come pretty easy for him now, some day he will face challenging course work, and we want him to know that hard work is the answer instead of questioning his natural intellect. We want him to look for challenges and not be discouraged when something doesn't come naturally for him.

We swore not to have him tested for his giftedness until at least first or second grade so that we could avoid being "those parents" who think our kid is the smartest and needs special treatment, but his kindergarten teacher suggested the testing and we went with it. Since then, he has been in his school's gifted and talented program, GT for short.

In our quest to raise a well-rounded kid who isn't too full of himself, we never refer to his GT class as GT. Instead, we ask about what he's been doing with Mrs. Chenault (who just happens to be the GT teacher). I honestly don't know if Trey or I have ever used the acronym "GT" with Tucker.

This became painfully obvious last week because of a program called Lemonade Day. It's a day where kids all over the country become entrepreneurs by opening their own lemonade stands. Mrs. Chenault has taken the program on as a project for second grade GT, having a banker speak to them about loans (they did NOT like the idea of paying interest), a marketing consultant work with them to plan and film a commercial, a taste test in which they chose the best product - basically they created an entire business model for their lemonade day. While tomorrow at recess is the official day, they've done a booming business in pre-sales and plan to donate all of their proceeds to charities they think are important, including the animal shelter and Japan earthquake relief. Pretty cool.

All of the posters, videos, emails, and other correspondence about lemonade day reference "Mrs. Chenault's 2nd Grade GT Class."  Trey was talking about the project with Tucker and randomly asked him if he knew what GT stood for.

Tucker thought for a moment, "Hmmm...I think it's something like geographic technology."

My GT kid didn't know what GT meant, but had sense enough to choose the longest G-word he knows and the longest T-word he knows and put them together to come up with an answer.

And GT will forever, at my house at least, be Tucker's geographic technology class.

Here's the commercial in case you're interested (I have permission from all of the parents to post online).

Thursday, March 31, 2011

English Teacher Math

My students are smarter than me.

Or is it "than I"?  I think I've made my point.

This is not a self-deprecating post, as I believe I am a reasonably intelligent person. Smart, even. It just so happens that I spend a pretty significant portion of my life with students who are, quite literally, geniuses. Case in point: one of my students from last year is one of only 588 people out of 1.6 million who scored a perfect 36 on the ACT. That's not about me. I didn't teach him that. He's just incredibly, amazingly smart. He's a great kid, too, so that makes it even better. I'm so in awe that I think I've bragged on him to everyone I know.

Nope. This isn't a "poor me" post. It's simply another time that I made a fool of myself in front of a room full of people.

As I introduced the research paper to one of my classes, I reviewed the rubric with them carefully. I attempted to point out that at least half of the points on this particular paper come from following directions, and that I've taught the research process upwards of 30 times, and if they stick with me and follow my plan they'll have a great grade and be really good at research papers. In fact, I told them, the research paper grades are usually the best essay grades all year. I was selling this project like no other.

Then came to the part about the way the points add up.

I explained it this way: The rubric adds up to 200 points, and the paper is for two major grades. But the computer likes grades on a scale of 100, so to get your score I will add up the points on the rubric, divide by half (to get to the 100 point scale), and then enter the grade twice. It made perfect sense to me.

Unfortunately, my explanation was met with confused stares, and then a few brave souls raised their hands.

"That doesn't make sense," one girl said, "If you divide by half the math doesn't work. Is that what you meant?"

The confused faces turned to me, waiting for my response to the question that was obviously on all of their minds. But I could only respond by returning their confusion.

I explained the whole thing again, but I guess I talked slower or something in an attempt to have it make more sense. Finally, when the heads continued to shake and the confusion became too much for me to bear, I just said, "Trust me. It all works out mathematically."

Confusion turned to suspicion, until someone eventually said (slightly under his breath), "Maybe that's why the research paper grades are always the highest."

The room erupted in laughter, including mine, and we moved on. Only I didn't get the joke. I didn't know why they were so confused. I didn't even really know what was going on. I had a feeling, however, that it was my fault.

Five minutes after the bell, I walked to the water fountain and it hit me. After I add the 200 possible points, I need to multiply by half or divide in half, not "divide by half" as I said over and over and over again. I knew what I meant, but it was quite obviously not what I said.

And the Crazy English Teachers Can't Do Math stereotype lives on.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Getting Rid of Gargamel

Trey and Tucker are at baseball practice, so Keaton and I played a few games of Uno and then we watched an awesome episode of The Cosby Show (where he laughed in all the right places). Then, as we flipped channels to find something else to watch, I noticed that The Smurfs were coming on Boomerang. We just saw a preview for the new Smurfs movie, so I thought it would be fun to watch the old-school cartoon. I explained to Keaton how his Aunt Wendy used to love the smurfs and she watched them all the time. As the show started I told him all about Gargamel and how he's the bad guy, and then I pointed out some of the other characters -- Smurfette, Pappa Smurf, etc.

Grouchy Smurf immediately began his signature "I hate swimming!" and "I hate summer!" and "I hate ___!" I thought to myself how much cartoons have changed and how much life has changed because I don't let my kids say "hate" and the cartoons they watch are so politically correct and I waited for Keaton to remark on the ugly word that Grouchy kept saying.

After we watched for about five minutes in silence, he finally piped up:

"You know if those Smurfs would just get a gun and shoot that bad guy then he would be dead."

I guess the ugly words are the least of my concerns.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Taking Care of Mom

Earlier this week the boys and I took a little trip with my family. Trey couldn't go because he had to work Monday and Tuesday, but he encouraged us to enjoy our spring break and have a good time. I certainly didn't love the idea of going without Trey (face it - everything is better when he's around), but I decided I'm a real-live grown up who can drive the kids to Lake Conroe to hang out for a few days all by myself. It's too bad my boys didn't have so much confidence in me. 

I meant to get gas at HEB before we left town, but the air conditioner in my car works only sporadically and I was so intent on figuring out how to trick the air conditioner into working that I forgot to stop. As we drove down highway 6 the ensuing car talk went something like this:

Me: Aw, man, I forgot to get gas as HEB.
Tucker: Should we turn around?
Me: No, we can get gas later.
Keaton: I think we should turn around, Mom. 
Me: It's fine. We'll just get gas in Navasota.
Tucker: Do we have enough gas to get to Navasota?
Me: Yes.
Keaton: How many miles is it to Navasota?
Me: Like 16, I think.
Keaton: We should turn around and go to HEB for gas.
Tucker: Maybe not. We should calculate it. How many gallons of gas do you have left, Mom?
Me: enough to get to Navasota.
Tucker: Are you sure?
Me: Yes. I am certain. My light hasn't even come on yet. I can go like 50 more miles. I've been driving for almost 20 years. I know I can make it Navasota to get gas!

This brought a few moments of silence while they no doubt pondered my driving expertise and whether or not I am a good judge of how much gas is in my car. Then it started again.

Tucker: Which gas station will you stop at in Navasota?
Me: The Hi-Ho. At least it used to be Hi-Ho. It might be something else now.
Keaton: Are you sure it's still there?
Me: Yes. I'm absolutely certain! It's a Shell station on 105. Look, we're exiting now.
Tucker: Mom. I only see a Texaco and you're about to pass it.
Me: The Shell is on the other side of the highway. I know what I'm doing!

Finally, the Hi-Ho Shell station came into sight and I pulled in to get gas. I answered several questions about how much gas I chose to get and how far we could drive on that and whether or not we would need to get more gas on our 45 mile trip. I got back into the car and headed down 105.

Keaton (alarmed): Mom!  You're on the wrong road!  We were going on that road over there!
Me: We turned. We have to go on THIS road to get to Lake Conroe.
Tucker: Are you sure?
Keaton: Should we call Dad?

And, in defeat, I just ignored them.

I realized a several things that day.

One, the kids have us figured out. Trey always knows what he's doing and often I just choose to wing it, and our kids are well aware of these differences. I think they may prefer less of my "winging it" and more of his "knowing what on earth is going on."

Second, my boys think I need to be taken care of. I certainly understand that on some level it's a little insulting, and I have laughed a lot about an eight year old and a five year old giving me driving advice like they've been doing it for years. But they seemed so grown up just trying to make sure Mom had it together. I hope they are always so willing to take care of their crazy old mom.

Third, trips without Trey, even if they include fishing and games and family and a great book, just aren't as fun. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Where have I been????

I did not post anything for the entire month of February. That makes me a little sad because I KNOW stuff happened, but now I can't remember it because I didn't write it down. Bummer. Here's my solution:

#1: Keaton's class has a student teacher who has started a blog for other kindergarten teachers. I realize it wasn't made for the parents, but I am so happy that she gave us the link to it. It makes me happy, and you should all look it over. The link is

#2: While I haven't logged into blogger, I have updated my facebook with random kid stories. It includes this little note about Tucker that most of you have probably seen. I think it's Tucker-like enough that I have to add it here:

I was going through his Monday folder and discovered a worksheet on which he had to estimate how long it takes to say the pledge of allegiance. His choices were one second, one minute, and one hour. He chose one second and got it counted wrong, so I was giving him a very hard time about how it is impossible to say the pledge in one second. He told me I was wrong and he was right, so we bantered back and forth until finally we decided to time it. I made the boys say it slowly like in school. It took 14.5 seconds, and Tucker said, "See, it's closest to one second, so that's the best estimation."

And the literal child wins again.

#3: Trey is working a lot. I'm very thankful that he has a great job and stuff, but I realize how spoiled I've been for the first ten years of our marriage because he's been so available. On a side note, I usually do the laundry on weekends but he's decided that I'm no longer allowed to fold the socks and put them away because I can't ever tell which socks belong to which kid, and I think it annoys him. Trey is now the official sock-folder.

Other than that, I should note that the ELA TAKS test is over, I have finished my Instructional Leadership Development training required for my principal certification and passed my practice TEXES, I am two weeks away from finishing my last "official" grad school class, and it is spring break. The boys and I are going with my parents to spend a couple of days at a house on Lake Conroe (Trey has to work), and when I get back on Tuesday I'm going to begin tackling this grading that I need to finish by the end of spring break (don't feel sorry for me - just don't ever complain that teachers get a week off in the spring for no reason):

And so, I am resolved to blog more often, recording the crazy things my kids do and my no doubt hilarious mom-fails that probably won't completely screw them up. 

I think I'm back, people. Happy Spring Break!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Things that drive me nuts right now that I'll miss later

I have this reputation among my friends of being the one who is not a hugger. Often, Erin or Tiffany will feel the need to hug me (probably because I need it), but they always warn me first. One of them will say, "I know you don't like it, but I'm going to hug you now." They are not entirely correct. It's not that I don't like hugging, it's just that it doesn't come naturally to me.

In my family, we are what I like to call "side huggers." Mom will come in after I haven't seen her for a month or so and we'll each put one arm around the other's shoulder and say, "hey."  Sometimes we'll go all out and I'll say, "hey, Mom," and she'll say, "hey, Stormy G." We're super-emotional like that.

Trey's family is quite the opposite. They hug hello and hug goodbye and sometimes hug because it's a commercial and there's nothing else to do. They are huggers.

I love my husband's side of our family very much. I am blessed with fantastic in-laws, and I often wonder what we'd do without them. In the eleven years that Trey and I have been together, I have become a little better at remembering appropriate hugging times, but I'm still not too great at it, and they forgive me.

Clearly, this is an argument for nature versus nurture, in favor of nature. Hugging just isn't my nature, even though I spend a great deal of time with friends and family who hug like there's no tomorrow.

The only exception is with my kids. I feel like I'm constantly hugging, tugging, loving on them. Deep down I know that some day they won't like for me to hug on them all of the time, so I'm getting in all that I can. Unfortunately, I think I may have trained them too well.

You see, the boys don't know how to sit next to me. If they are in the same room with me and sitting down, they must be sitting on top of me. I think it's completely unintentional on their parts, but it is, nonetheless, a fact of my life. Being a non-hugger, this extreme closeness is often difficult for me.

I sit on the couch, one of them piles on top of one leg, the other follows right along and curls up on the other side, and -- wouldn't you know it -- here comes the blasted dog.  It's very, very sweet. For about five minutes.

Then my legs go to sleep and my arm feels like it's going to fall off and one of them is yelling at the other in my ear and I accidentally get smacked in the face and the dog starts growling and a kid's nose is running and it's the most uncomfortable I've ever been in my life, childbirth included.

Trey always notices the uncomfortable grunts coming from the couch and laughs at us. I'm sure it looks hysterical. Every once in a while, I'll remark (with absolutely no sarcasm, I'm sure) how incredible it is that three people and a dog can fit on one couch cushion. The boys think that really is amazing, and they start jumping up and down shouting about how awesome it is. Of course, this makes me much more comfortable.

As I joyously enjoy these lovely little moments, I wonder what it will be like when they're teenagers and they don't want to sit by me at all. Will Tucker think that couch cushions are made for multiple people and feel the need to sit carefully on one cushion with his girlfriend? This will be a definite problem, and it might cause me to have a nervous breakdown or, worse, start hanging out in the living room with no make-up and no bra muttering to myself in order to scare away the skanky little girls that want to share couch cushions with my boys.

There's really only one solution. Chair-only seating in my house. It seems I have some couches to post on craigslist.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My life is like a sitcom, only better.

My random thought for today is that my life is like a sitcom, only without the lazy husband.

You know what I mean. Most sitcoms feature a slovenly, idiotic man who idles around while the family functions in spite of him. My life is like a sitcom, only with the opposite of that guy.

I picked up the boys from choir at church and dropped them off at the school because they rode their bikes this morning and needed to ride them back home. As soon as they left the car the race was on because they always want to beat me home. They took off down the sidewalk one way and I took off down the road the other way, but in my rearview mirror I could see Keaton running beside his bike to get it going fast enough, and then hopping on and pedaling like mad, like he was fighting to win his very own NASCAR race. I pulled around the corner to our house just in time to see him jab both fists in the air and scream "YEAH!!" because he hit the driveway before me.

I pulled into the garage and got out of the car, and Tucker said, "I know, I know. Get my backpack out of the car."  Yes, I was going to say that, and yes, he did it. Immediately after, he put on his new shoulder pads and one of his dad's Aggie jerseys, the only one that will fit over the enormous pads.

The neighbor kids saw that our car was home and biked over, so Keaton never actually made it in the house. They rode bikes in circles and cheered about random things. I came into a delicious-smelling house because of a roast in the crock pot, fed the dogs, opened the mail, and tidied up a little.

I went into my room to change, and then I started hearing these loud thumping noises from the living room. I gave it a few minutes, wondering if I really even wanted to know what was happening, and then finally relented. I found Tucker in the living room carefully placing the ottoman on its end and then running from across the room to tackle it, over and over again.

"You can't do that anymore," I told him.

"Awwwww, mommmmmmmm. I need something to tackle with my new should pads. Can I tackle you?"


"You're right. It's probably a bad idea because I might break your rib or something."

Hmmmmm...that's not exactly what I was thinking, but pretty close.

I stuck my head out the door to check on Keaton and found him working on his basketball skills while the neighbor girls cheered. He was using a volleyball, but whatever.

Tucker told me he was hungry, and I went ahead and gave him some roast so he didn't ruin dinner by snacking too much. He sat comfortably eating his dinner, properly padded up in case a natural disaster or NFL linebacker should happen to come through the living room. He's also eight years old now, so he has to look cool in pictures instead of smiling.

Keaton came in to get a drink of water, and asked, "What's that smell?"

"Roast," I replied.

"Oh, YUMMY!  Thanks for making roast, mom!"

Trey called to say he's on his way home from work, and he came in the door singing whatever song was on the radio in the car. In a few minutes it will be too dark for the kids to play outside any longer, so we'll make them come in, but only after some arguments and begging for a few more minutes. Until then Trey and I will have probably the only full conversation of the night.

We'll have dinner, Trey will clean the kitchen, the boys will take baths. We'll practice spelling words, read a few books, maybe watch a little television. Keaton will do or say something hysterical, and Tucker will throw footballs, baseballs, and other sporting equipment about a million times. Around 8:30 we'll say prayers together and put them to bed, and then Trey and I will watch our grown up shows, uninterrupted.

Life is just good.