Reluctant adventures on a data phone

I am very late in the game of getting a modern phone, until last week I only owned a phone/text type phone. I have also been paying 55$/month plus tax with T-mobile for a measly 300 anytime minutes and 400 text messages. Complete robbery! My 2-year contract ended and I wanted to save money. I did tons of research looking for a smart but cheap alternative and found Virgin Mobile....and for $25/month I get 300 anytime minutes (which is more than enough for me), unlimited text and unlimited data time....WOW!! All I had to do was buy one of their phones. They are not top of the line, but for a novice like myself, I can't complain. The phone has been fantastic.

I somewhat understand now when I see people everywhere glued to their phones....but fear having this device take over my life. I do not want to have another thing in my life that takes over my time and energy. As a person who strives to live true to Buddhist philosophies I think it's important to be able to attend and focus on the task at hand without getting constantly pulled away by a vibration or a beep telling you there's a new 'tweet' or a new e-mail in your box; as if the world would end if that text was not replied to immediately. For now, I have turned off all non-necessary reminder sounds except the good 'ol ringing and so far my life has been somewhat the same....

On the positive end, it's been sweet. this past weekend, I misplaced the GPS for the car and was able to use the phone to get my family back home. I had a meeting across town cancel last minute and was able to get the notice before departing on a long, useless trek.


Lego mania

I went onto Etsy.com to see all the creative things artists have been able to do with legos and I was totally blown away. If interested in finding out more about each artist, just click on the image.

Attire Pendant Lego


Can I bottle up this moment for all time?

When you plan on having kids there is one thing you don't really think about or plan for, it's how these kids will interact with each other. You might have SOME idea of what this will be like, but since you have no idea the personality of your future children, it's impossible to be sure.

On that note, one of the most amazing 'bonuses' of having 2 kids has been this very fact; the interaction between the two of them. Yes, 90% of the time they spend their together arguing about totally insignificant things and these arguments literally can making my hair turn white. But every once in a while something happens, something that makes all the bickering about he-said/she-said or the never ending it-was-mine arguments absolutely worth it.

Today, before bedtime, Nora expressed wanting to read on her own. Being three, she pretends to read plenty. We think it's cute and just play along, except for Luke. Generally, it bothers him that she gets accolades while all along she is not yet reading. This night though, instead of the usual "That's not what it says Nora!", Luke decides he will take it upon himself to TEACH her a few things, real words. My ears perked up and I had to look up from my blogging on the couch. He goes to get a book and starts teaching Nora how to write the word 'cat'. Once she finished writing a beautifully executed 'CAt, he looks at it and adds in Chris' voice, "Now you need to write the word in lower case Nora, let me show you." I wish I can bottle up this moment for all time and come back to it whenever I wish throughout the rest of my days.....thank goodness for cameras....Thank goodness for for all the past bickering, for it makes this moment all the more special. I feel so blessed.

Above you see Nora's 'CAt' and then she 'practiced' writing lower case 'a' twice. That was Luke's curriculum lesson for the day.


Free weights from home

I have begun to do free weights from home right before going to bed. Nora, being my right hand girl, of course also wants to do it too....so instead of free weights, she gets to use 2 paint tubes as weights. Here is her 'gear'.
I have a book where I have drawn all the exercises using stick figures. She then insisted on drawing her own stick figures copying the poses found in the book above. These are hilarious. Notice her depiction of a dumbbell.
Do you recognize any of these exercises?


Nature-ish weekeend

We hiked around Rock Creek this weekend and came upon these amazing tracks...now what could have left these? To me they look like dog tracks....
Geese or ducks.....right?
These look like to raccoon maybe? any ideas?
Luke, being a very active 6-year old, giving me a heart attack at each turn....Chris thinks I am too uptight....but, he could have fallen in and swept away....safety first!!

This was MUCH more steep than it looks in the picture. It was about an 80 degree climb....Nora (3) asks daddy to carry her....and he did. Mind you, this was labeled the 'moderate route'. Wondered how much more steep the difficult one would have been....
I announce I want to take her pic, and she posed this way herself...what a HAM!! Stripes is IN by the way....
Daddy and Luke, together forever...
The next day we went to Virginia to buy a vacuum and on my new handy dandy GPS we looked up a park....we got directed 2 miles away to Accotink Park in Springfield, VA. Amazing place, everyone was smiling, people would pass us and say 'good day', some were fishing. Luke was going crazy picking up rocks, Nora found THE perfect walking stick. The day was PERFECT....

Yes, we are rich.....

I was having a conversation with a mom friend a few weeks back and she asked how do parents with little means compete with parents who essentially have the large sums of money to supplement their child's education with all sorts of 'extras', such as clubs, activities, or personal tutors.

I answered her, that you don't compete.

To give some background, I live and work in a fairly affluent community where homes are worth way too much for my hubby and I to ever afford, and so we rent a tiny two-bedroom apartment in the neighborhood instead. Which works out perfectly, for now I am able to save ten hours a week on commuting, which translates to two extra hours with my family a day.

As a parent of limited financial means myself I have never equated my lack of millions with somehow limiting what I am able to provide for my children. In fact, I believe my hubby and I are giving our kids a very 'rich' life despite our financial limitations. We provide them with one of the most important and rich factor there exists in parenting; our time. By the mere fact that we spend time with them (cooking, reading, lecturing, chatting, playing with them) it sends a clear message to their little heads that they are worth spending time with, and that is by far a much, much richer gift to any child than years of club-like activities, tutors and college savings rolled into one.

Don't get me wrong. I don't believe in the idea of the 'self-sacrificing parent who gives up their own lives and livelihoods for their children's benefit. That is not the parenting style I am advocating here. In fact, I do a lot of the things I love still; I sew, I paint, I cook, see friends, travel. The big difference is that I do it alongside my kids. Yes, it takes a lot more work to set up paints for three, or travel with kids, or to figure out ways to get them 'helping' you in the kitchen....but the trade-off is that they get that rich time with you......and the whole time they are learning the MOST valuable lesson of all.....'YOU are WORTH spending time with'.

Now, I have not done studies on this or anything, all I have are my own life lessons to reflect upon, but my guess is that your time alone will give them super self-esteem, a gift they carry with them throughout their lives. This might mean better choices in life partners down the line, healthier eating choices, more balanced social interactions, higher level of self-reflectiveness, happier grow-ups, and it might even carry over to making them better parents. All that finding-our-place-in-the-world garbage we all go through growing up will be greatly diminished.

So you see, there is simply no substitution for qualitative time with parents. I reject the paradigm thinking of rushing to beef-up our kids' club resumes as a means of getting them ahead somehow. Understand, I am not against clubs. Our own kids will join activities and clubs as they wish, when they are ready. Nevertheless, utilizing activities and clubs as a 'means' of getting them 'ahead' of others academically is pure myth. If qualitative time with you (the parent) is not pencilled in the schedule, all the other efforts will add up to nothing in the long run.


Keep your incentive money....RESPECT, the incentive teachers dream of

Did you read the paper today about how "New York City’s heralded $75 million experiment in teacher incentive pay" did not improve achievement? I am not at all surprised....in fact, no one should be surprised.

First and foremost, teachers do not go into teaching to make a load of money. We knew going into this we would not be wall-street rich or even close, therefore throwing money at us for doing a good job is a absolutely a nice 'pat on the back', but only helps to affirm that we are doing a good job. For teachers that do not get the incentive pay, they could do just fine without it; for it was never about the money anyway. The problem with economists and business-minded folks infiltrating and privatizing our schools in this corporate reform movement is that they bring with them the ideas of the business world, such as 'incentive pay for performance'. These ideas work well in wall-street, but fall flat on its face in education overall. So the education reformers need to rethink incentives or throw it out all together.

Now, as a teacher of 13 years I can give you the kid-in-a-candy store incentive that would automatically help raise achievement scores, and that is respect. In fact, I would even take a pay cut to get it. But how would respect raise scores? Up to now, most reforms are handed from above (district-level) and while they theoretically sound good they do not often fit the reality of the schools or the community they address making them ineffective. If teachers were invited to the proverbial 'table' and treated as a part of the solution, teachers could give valuable insight that would better work for their schools. Right now, in the country, teachers are depicted by wall-street and the media as the problem and millions are poured by each state into weeding out 'bad' teachers. Not all teachers are under attack we are told, just the 'bad ones'. turn on the TV you'll hear about the 'avarice' of teachers, our greedy pensions, health and dental and cushy 10-month contracts. But while each and every District spend millions on smoking out the 'bad teachers', every teachers is feeling the pressure and that makes the profession very unattractive for young teachers. I loved the most recent Jon Stewart , during his interview with Diane Ravitch he jokes,

"The whole bad teachers argument blows my mind too, have you been in the world, there is a bad everything. How many fast food restaurants have you been to and think, what the h*** is going on here? How many times you've been to the bank, the wall street...there are crappy people working almost in every field and yet, somehow teachers don't have the luxury of having a couple of crappy ones."

As funny as this is, it's probably true. In my 13 years teaching I have run across maybe 1 or 2 teachers who I felt should not be teaching. But, wouldn't this incentive money be better spent getting the right learning environment for our children and getting all the teachers the right professional learning environment to learn from one another with the right resources? I would urge any district to stop wasting money on incentive pay. While I don't mind getting an extra 5k a year for being highly effective, I would more happily give it up for an invitation to the 'table'.


"If you loved your job, I doubt you'd be investing this kind of time degrading mine"

A friend sent me an amazing post yesterday written by a fellow art teacher, Brandi Martin in Illinois concerning the recent rise in animosity towards teachers. I cannot urge you enough to read it, it is quite on mark with the rage a growing number of teachers have come to feel. I'm including just one sample from the post to make you click here and go read it personally.

"So do it. Reduce my pension. Make me poor, since I don't qualify for Social Security. Make my medicine unaffordable. Make my raise contingent upon proof that my art lessons somehow improved state math scores. Continue firing at my feet to see how long you can make me dance. It still won't change the fact that life did not work out as you planned and you're now a bitter little turd. AND I will STILL f******love my job, because I am rocking this for all the right reasons. After you take every tool and incentive and support away from me, and millions like me, you won't suddenly have anything great that you don't already have. And then you will be terribly disappointed to find out that this isn't a scam after all. Whether decorated or destroyed, inside every school we run on something you can't legislate, isolate, measure or destroy. Much to your inarticulate all caps despair.
It's love, dumbass. If you'd bother to volunteer at the little school down the street you could have a sample. I won't even tell the kids what you wrote about their teacher."


Nora's HIT creation this week....

I came home to this giant city with blocks and plastic animals covering my living room this week. Mind you we have a very small apartment......so this was smack in the middle of it......Must have taken Nora at least an hour to put this together.

Maze Craze

So Luke is obsessed about mazes lately......I made him a Star Wars Maze book.....
here is Vader maze.
Yoda Maze
R2D2 maze
Nora's version of my Yoda maze.....for a 3 year old I think this looks very cute....
And here is luke, working through another maze book I made him. This was was all about sweets.....candy, lolipops, cookies...etc.