Sunday, May 31, 2015

I Want What They Have

The opening line to the piece that I just had accepted for publication in June states, "When I envisioned my future, I only saw the beauty in the imperfect lives of others’ happily ever after stories, and didn’t see the sweat, tears, and time that went into creating these lives I idolized."

I'm not usually a want what other people have kind of person, but there is one thing that they have that I want. It's not a house; it's not a car; it's not some career, promotion, or milestone; it's not some body type or image; it's not money or early retirement; it's not even to travel the whole world (even though I would LOVE that), but it's what I see when I look at my parents, both sets of my grandparents, Nate's Grandma and Grandpa Dell, some of my friends' parents or their grandparents or aunts and uncles, and neighbors from my childhood to neighbors of my adulthood. None of my friends have this yet, but like us they're working to make it their story some day too.

Fifty percent of marriages these days they say end in divorce. It's scary to think we only have a 1 in 2 chance of having something that really is part of the one thing I want above all else in life. My husband was quite the cynic of marriage; he did not buy into the lifetime commitment, two parent family structure at first. To me it's not just the sitting in our rocking chairs together at the end of our days, but it's what that commitment to each other gives to our kids. Nothing lights up my parents' faces more than having all of us together. I love how the three of us with our kids and spouses will just fill up the house on our trips home; the love that is there among a family in moments like that really is one of the greatest magical moments of life. I love, love seeing older couples I follow on social media post similar images of their grown children with their families all gathered for the weekend or holidays.

To me that's the whole journey right there. As much as I love to celebrate how far Nate and I have come in eleven years; we still have so many trials and tribulations that I'm sure will test us in the years to come. But to reach that point where you've worked together for decades creating a life, raising a family, and then to have the moments where your grown children with their families gather in your home and it's filled with laughter and joy that's the happily ever after we're all chasing. That's the moment you can say we did it. We made it.

My childhood neighbor who has been married over thirty years now shared how rough their first five years of marriage were, and I thanked her for sharing it because even more so in this social media world it's easy to think that everyone's story is easy, simple. That they don't struggle or have to work for the things they want in life too.  Every marriage is work; every marriage has it's good patches and bad patches. I focus on the good in ours most of the time but it is not always the case, especially early in our relationship. We have little cousins and a few friends that will sometimes look up to us, and as great as that can make you feel  I try to stress to them we have to work to make this work like everyone else. Not every day, but there's so much more to our story than I share sometimes. One day maybe I can share the whole story, but it's not just my story to tell.

We have never brought up divorce, but the most important thing is I think he believes in this (marriage) and what it can give our kids now. We are still so early in this journey. There is still so much left to be written. But more than anything else-more than a nest egg of money, more than a bigger newer house, more than some nice car, more than some body type or image, more than some advancement or recognition with my career-I want the marriage that stands the tests of a lifetime, the marriage that still stands strong to provide that safe haven for my adult children when they're just entering the early trials and struggles of adulthood and parenthood and need that reminder that magic still exists in the love that surrounds us.  


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Controlling that Bitch

It's like a ticking time bomb.If one more person says one little thing the wrong way, that's it. The bomb is going off. As much as we can all put on the sweet, ladylike, pleasant façade you know there's a crazy bitch under there somewhere.

My crazy inner bitch gets off her leash every now then. However, I've gotten pretty good at learning to control her. But sometimes she just needs out. People from every which way-work, the husband, the kids, the idiot drivers, really anything that breathes -just keep feeding that fire. I had one of those days today where everything annoyed me. I surround myself with kids all day; always talk about how I would love to have more kids. Then there are days like today where I wonder if I even like kids. Maybe I don't even like humans?

As soon as my husband walked in the door today I jumped in with everything that was irritating me from the kids at work, their parents, our kids, the neighbor's kids. I ended with "Am I just being a bitch?" I wish I could have caught the deer in the headlights look on his face. The look pretty much said, "Is this a trick question?".  He promptly backed out of the house and disappeared to the shed (?) of all places since he never goes out there unless he's going to mow. Maybe he thought he'd try the reentrance thing again and see if crazy bitch was gone and good ole me was back.

For the most part I am the sweet, nice Ang that most know, but my sisters, parents, and my husband will definitely tell you there is a not so nice Ang in there too. So for the sake of others' sanity, as well as my own, I've learned to control her a little better. Just like we all have our way of controlling different aspects of our lives I'm sure you have your own way of controlling your inner bitch but in case you need some pointers here are my two go tos:

1. Get my butt out the door and go get in some physical exercise. For me it's not only the exercise itself that is good for my mental health but the being outdoors. I walk/jog 1-2 miles on this back country road where it's just nature, the horses, deer, and me. This is my therapy. I need it. It does wonders for calming me down and keeping me from picking fights when I'm stressed. By the time I'm back that crazy bitch has simmered her ass back down.

2. Writing. That's right all of you that drop in here and read are being used for my own personal therapy.  Again, this I have found does wonders for my mental health. It gives me a chance to step back, reflect, and vent when I have to.

Again I don't know how well you have your inner bitch tamed but maybe these two can be helpful to you and help minimize the future casualties of future times she takes over.  I'm also always open for more tips on how to control mine so please feel free to share.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Summer Plans and To Do s

The unofficial weekend kickoff to summer is so close, yet two days is too far away this week! I keep reading all the posts from back home where everyone is having their last day of school this week, and we still have 3-4 weeks to go after Memorial weekend here in Maryland.

Memorial weekend has always been the start of summer to me even when it stopped representing the end of the school year when I left the Midwest to move East. Memorial weekend is early this year and Labor Day weekend is late making this a 15 week long summer! Even though my teacher summer vacation is only eight of those weeks in which I'm working four day weeks for four of those, summer is still a slower paced, less work stress time of the year for us (I think I only have four full five day work weeks in that Memorial to Labor Day stretch) so working over the summer or not, it's still a time to look forward to with lots of time for family and friends.

This past week has been crazy with softball games, tball practice, vet appointments, work on the rental house, wacky schedules at work, and now tomorrow we have to scramble to get everything ready to leave town for the holiday weekend right after work Friday. But we're kicking summer off with one of our highlight events of the whole summer. We're meeting a bunch of my husband's fraternity brothers and their families in Shenandoah for a wine festival. Some of them we haven't seen in years so it's definitely a great way to kickoff the summer.

Then things slow down for a bit as we finish up the school year. We have a couple closing activities for our daughter's first year of school, and then a to do list of replacing the brakes on my car, building a cabinet and counter around my new dishwasher, replacing the screens the dog tore up, and repainting the bathroom after fixing the towel and toilet paper holder that my kids managed to rip off the walls somehow (it's a zoo around here some days). We'll probably squeeze our first drive in movie of the summer in there somewhere, as well as a kickoff to summer vacation fire night with friends. Hopefully we can get all the house/car projects done before we take off for our two week trip to catch all the grandmas, aunts, uncles, and cousins on the Williams and Glenn side.

Once we get back after the Fourth we both start our summer work, and hopefully the girls' great grandma will be spending that month with us too. We're hoping to bring back our annual Phi Psi Reunion party from a few years ago this summer; it may be a small crowd but any cookout and fire in the backyard in the summer is a good time to us. We'd also like to either go check out Williamsburg, VA or the zoo and Liberty Bell stuff in Philadelphia one weekend. Our annual camping trip to West Virginia on the river is planned with friends for August, and we're hopefully ending the summer vacation with a visit from my parents. Somewhere in there we'll be hanging out at the ballfield for Nate's softball games once a week all summer and hopefully getting in some fishing.

Even though we haven't officially signed the girls up for anything yet, hoping to get them in swim lessons again in July,  my oldest wants to do Vacation Bible School again, and there's a short four week summer session of gymnastics so I told her we might sign her up for that because soccer starts by the end of the summer too. She's not signed up for any summer camps or summer school though so I guess her teacher parents will have to do a little enrichment teaching with her this summer over her eleven weeks off.

My other summer projects involve trying to play catch up on my shutterfly photobooks. I'm working on last Fall's right now. It'd be nice to have that one, Christmas/Winter, and Spring completed, as well as Ave's kindergarten year started. I also started reorganizing all our memory boxes so want to do that with the girls' ridiculous collection of momentos, as well as clean out their toys, and hopefully have a yard sale with my neighbor at some point. Maybe we'll finally finish Nate's man cave too and paint it before we tackle the final room in the house this Fall, the middle bedroom that the puppy has temporarily taken over. Then we have the okay to try again for baby G #3 so that may also be on our summer to do list so send some prayers and positive thoughts on that. Even though it should be fine with closer monitoring of my bloodwork, after the experiences of the last year, it will be a  little more nerve wracking than the pregnancies with the girls.

That's pretty much our plans and to do lists of the summer. As long as I don't have to stress about financially making it from the last paycheck of the school year to the first check on the upcoming school year, which I shouldn't with us having July work, it should be a less stressful, relaxing time of the year for us. I love the extra family time; I love creating annual summer traditions with the girls like drive in movies, fire nights, fishing, camping, time at the ballfield, and trips to grandmas and grandpas.

Come on, Friday, we're ready to kick off Summer 2015!

                                  Went to our first Orioles game of the season last weekend!

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Reasons Babies are Easier to Carry than Toddlers

Reasons Babies are Easier to Carry than Toddlers
As compared to babies, toddlers are always on the move. They can run away from you, they are able to access many areas of the house that a baby couldn't and they are always demanding. Not to mention, toddlers are difficult to carry. Here are several more reasons why.

Babies are Lighter

It is obvious that a toddler is much heavier than a baby. Would you rather carry a 20 pound object or a 10 pound object? In that spirit, babies are much easier to carry compared to toddlers. You can travel long distances with a newborn in your arms, but when it comes to carrying toddlers, you can barely reach the corner of the street. They either feel uncomfortable and want to change their position or they want to get off. When they move, it becomes more difficult for you to hold them.


Babies Nap Often

 A napping baby has a few advantages over a toddler – it doesn't make noise, it doesn't move and it can't run away. It is like carrying a bag or a pile of clothes (sorry for the lame comparison). I mean, what if your suitcase would disobey every time you wanted to drag it down the road? What if your backpack could talk and move? Imagine you have to convince it to stay calm while you carry it? What do these have in common with a toddler? They are heavy. But since they don't move and don't resist your attempts to carry them wherever you want, they are much easier to carry. The same cannot be said of toddlers, though.

 In comparison, a napping baby is such a joy. You can carry it everywhere without hearing “Where are we going?”, “Are we there yet?” “I need to go to the bathroom now!” all the time. Quiet and easy.


Babies Don't Move a Lot

Generally, babies' movements are pretty restricted. They don't move that much. And you know, it is much easier to carry a still baby than an impatient toddler who wants to see everything.

Another great advantage of newborns is that they are not faster than you. You don't have to run after them until you are out of breath. As they cannot even walk, it is very easy to maintain control over them.


Babies Don't Want Snacks or Cookies

 While babies are impenetrable to all the temptations available in stores, your toddler is already fully acquainted with the different varieties of sweet things and other not so healthy foods. Kids are easily attracted to bright wrappings. It is very difficult to keep them from eating snacks, burgers, donuts and other unhealthy foods. 

 On the other hand, babies eat pretty much the same food every day and it does not include snacks, junk food or chocolate. In fact your newborn doesn't even know these are worth crying for. He or she will not scream in your ear “I want cookies, I want cookies, I want...” seven hundred times. He or she will eat the food you offer without complaining. If they could complain, they probably would, but since they can't, it is much easier to deal with a baby than with a toddler.

 Now don't get me wrong. Every stage of childhood has its pros and cons, its beauty and plight. Many sleepless nights are awaiting you with a newborn. And while toddlers can take better care of themselves, your baby still needs to be fed and supervised. You have to clean up after them all the time and help them wash themselves. You will get used to it someday. In the meantime, try to be more patient.

The articles is kindly contributed by HireHouseCleaner Paddington

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What I want to Teach My Daughters about Being Perfect

I've always been a little envious of men. You know why?  Because they don't give a shit about so many of the things women obsess about. They don't get hung up on things. They don't compete on things the same way as women. It's "hey I kicked your ass now let's go have a beer." They typically don't give two cents about the words "perfect" or "perfection" .

I don't want my girls to get caught up in the battle of perfection that tends to be a woman's fight either. I kind of think women are more competitive than men, and I think it's because of this obsession with perfection. Our digital age makes it an even crazier battle so since I am raising daughters in this wonderful information age of the 21st century here's what I want them to remember when it comes to being perfect.

1. Do NOT obsess about it. Remember perfect is subjective. Someone else's standards of perfect are going to be different than yours. Probably in everything you do from your career, to your marriage, to raising your kids, to keeping up your house, to taking care of yourself.  
2. Social media will try to sell you perfect. Don't buy it. Again if you let yourself you'll be convinced everyone else's way is the perfect way and yours is the flawed, wrong way. You'll doubt yourself and find yourself in battle between your own doubt and confidence.

3. Excel in imperfection. It's more original. Never be afraid to try something for fear of  mistakes, to let people see your true colors, and there's a certain level of freedom to really not caring what others think. Just be you and love others for who they are too. They don't need to be like you anymore than you need to be like them.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Student Voices on Race and Poverty in America

Sometimes people's very close minded, usually conservative views, really annoy and upset me. Most of those posts are insulting to a friend, a student, or a family I know. Social media really seems to bring out the attacks from liberals and conservatives alike. With the recent events of Ferguson and Baltimore, being that I am from Missouri and a former resident of Baltimore City, my newsfeed is a minefield lately of political attacks.

I also recently had a conversation with someone this past week that even though she meant it in a very innocent, non hurtful way, I thought about how she probably wasn't very different from some of those that just have no idea. I had said something about going into Baltimore next week, and she went on about how the city always terrified her. Then remembering that we lived in the city for almost seven years and have taught mostly immigrant and minority students she said something about how the city must not intimidate us in the same way. I imagine us and the majority of our friends out here, which are pretty much all Baltimore area teachers, perceive things differently. We get labeled as liberals and told we're the ones that are going to ruin American society (yes, I'm referring again to that awful claim I heard a few weeks ago).

So I am going to attempt to play mediator here. The first thing is I am all for self accountability. Remember some people in society are treated the way they are treated not because of their race but because of how they act. Even with everything going on in our society right now people have to remember that people do need to be held accountable for their actions no matter which side of this issue they stand on. The youth torching Baltimore should be held accountable in some way, but others need to realize that's a small representation of Baltimore's youth even though society will want to label them all as thugs.

There unfortunately, will also always be people in power, who abuse that power, and again for the officers doing that they should be held accountable. However, it needs to be remembered that the majority of officers put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect all American citizens. We cannot strip our officers of their power as an answer to this problem because as much as I try to shed light on the misunderstanding of today's youth part of the problem is as a society we have given them too much power without limits and boundaries as it is. If we excuse what the youth did to Baltimore as an acceptable reaction to years of frustration and oppression, we are feeding to a larger problem in which we give our youth power and make adults powerless.

All that being said my students have written multiple times in reaction to Ferguson and now Baltimore as we've read about slavery with Frederick Douglass and the time between the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement with the Harlem Renaissance. What I want to share with you are some lines from some of their work. Remember next time you post something about race (including white cops) , immigrants, poor people that you're talking about somebody I know personally.

Here's the thing they see. They see a society in trouble because we still have a level of "separate of equal" in our society, they see in their peers a youth that is out of control and misguided in desperate need of direction and mentors, they see the division that is becoming ever increasingly clear in America between the political differences on wanting to move forward with equality and opportunity and those that want to continue years of oppression.

Excerpts from my students' recent poetry writing assignment from their Harlem Renaissance unit which we were completing at the same time as the Baltimore situation.. They may not be the greatest poets and maybe didn't quite follow the guidelines of the assignment, but I think their messages are worth hearing.  In every class you have those that want to complain about things but they're the same ones that act out and want to know why they are treated the way they are treated. These are students though that are good hard working well behaved kids, and their voice does deserve to be heard:

Voice 1
"Sides are chosen, and allegiances are bred
Emotions run high, face flushed, all is red
All look at me, hatred clear in each eye
here I find myself, my intentions misread"

Voice 2
"Poverty holds much more of her people
And those on top kill those in need
A burning fire of lies take minds
causing discrimination of a certain people"

Voice 3
"I found a new life
at seven years of age
we came to America

what I saw was greatness
and the joy felt nice
but what we had come to
all came at a price

For we weren't so free
for once I was called a 'terrorist'
it seemed all the joy had left
and I all always remember this"

Voice 4
"The whole of the rainforest, such a connected environment
Communities tattered, yet no connection of people
The function of the forest reliant on every link
Communities struggling, yet reluctant to connect
In the rainforest peace can't be broken
In America's techno interconnected first world society
can't some togetherness be taken and healing be spoken?"

Voice 5
"Did one dream to be labeled inferior?
Did they dream to be racially profiled by the one that feels superior?
Welcome to the land of hope
But will everyone get their dream...nope"

Voice 6
"The boy across from me
Proceeded to tell me the truth
about the skin I was in

He didn't mean to hurt me or see me cry
But I began to ask why
Why was I so dark, and they were so light
That's when I learned about this thing called race"

Voice 7
"I just wanted to fit in
But I was just the poor girl
They mocked and laughed
I wish I could go back now
and stand up for that girl"

Voice 8
"People make their snide comments
like we can't hear
But we don't care
Us mix children walk along
we know that we are different but we carry on"

Voice 9
"As long as things are good we believe it
She tricks us because she is ashamed
that after everything
parts of her haven't changed
songs of poverty and injustice still we sing
land of the free; home of the brave
she saved so many others but herself she is struggling to save"

Voice 10
"White and black we all cool
why discriminate I don't know
grab a hand and lets go
we need to integrate and learn
that love is kind and doesn't burn
whether white or black you don't need a card
just take them out on the boulevard"

                                 With Ferguson and Frederick Douglass we wrote Letters to the Editor and then students used the sticky notes to engage in "conversation" with their peers writings about race in regards to the recent events.

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Allowance for Chores??Helping Pay for Their College???

I just got in this heated debate with my sister about the issue of giving my daughter an allowance for doing chores. For quite some time she's pretty much the one responsible for cleaning up hers and Kenzi's room and their playroom. Just recently I feel that Kenzi actually helps her finally but before she helped poor Ave, whether she made the mess or not, was usually the one cleaning it up. She also helps clear the dinner table some nights and now that we have a dishwasher she also helps by emptying the silverware sometimes.

I do think she should do these things because well there are just some things you do because it's what you're suppose to do. Everything she does she shouldn't do just because she gets a reward, but I do know my daughter as much as my well meaning sister may forget that fact. Even though yes sometimes I will have to fight with her to pick up her room or playroom, there are other times she'll tidy it all up just because she's either tired of the mess or she wants to surprise me. She'll also jump in with helping me around the house with chores because again she does it because she has a good heart.

I find two purposes with paying her an allowance. One it teaches her the idea of working for your money so just like with this past vacation she will get a little practice seeing that when it comes to money you have to choose what you're going to buy with what you have because you can't buy everything. I think it's important to learn early that you can't buy everything you want so spend your money wisely.

Even though I will at first give her this money to put in her piggy bank and will let her spend some of it, some of it is also going in her savings with the other money we've been putting in their monthly in hopes of building her a little head start when all those expenses around 16 start coming at us and her faster than we can keep up with. This lead to the second argument.

I worked since I was sixteen, chose to go to community college first because I had an academic scholarship that paid for the first two years there. From there I got a transfer scholarship to a university and after four years total with a Bachelors took out less in loans than what it cost for the first year of college today. Throughout both college experiences I worked and paid for a lot of my extra expenses like rent, utilities, groceries, car payment, insurance, and phone. My parents would slip me a little grocery money when they could and paid my car while I was student teaching. This was all a very valuable experience to me. However, I think if my parents would have been able to help us a little more they would have. It's just there were three of us, and they just didn't have the means to do it. I don't think negatively of this experience at all.

However, again my well meaning but childless sister thinks that they need the tough love parenting whether we have the means to help them or not.  No allowance, get a job at sixteen to pay for everything, community college first to save money, and work and loans to get their Bachelors. Even though Nate and I disagree on this I do support the idea of them getting a job in high school unless they're a four season athlete, and again unless they're on an athletic scholarship they're going to have to work to help cover their college expenses. There is plenty time in college to work, and I will expect them to do that first before taking out unnecessary loans. I'm not for paying for everything for them because I don't think it teaches them anything valuable. However, I know with things like prom, driving, college, and then weddings and possibly their first house all within the span of possibly ten years (16-26) it's a crazy expensive time of their life.

My parenting thinking is give them as much of a head start as I can. If we can save up money for her to have a small savings to build on when she does start working part time at 16 or 17 and have a small college savings to help off set the cost hopefully she will learn the value of work ethic and managing money wisely and hopefully not start out in the adult world buried in ridiculous debt from school loans and life events like marriage and home down payments. These are huge expenses. I don't see us realistically or even expect us to cover the expenses of all of these but I don't really think I should deny them our help if we can help them.

So what are your thoughts on giving kids an allowance for chores? On them working in high school and/or college? On paying for college? I would love to hear what you have to say. Feel free to disagree with me :)

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