Thoughts on being an Army wife and working mom...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The awesome skills of a kindergarten teacher

About a week ago, while starting a Friday morning with my kindergarten class, I realized what a crazy three (16?) ring circus I work in. As I attempted to begin the day with our usual morning work - word family practice or some such other thing - a hundred plus distractions came at me. A parent comes in to discuss the upcoming zoo trip and her daughter's talkative behavior. A grandma who hasn't been by in a while stops by to check in on her grandson's progress. A student comes to me with a nonexistent scratch begging for a band aid (because of course band aids ease all hurts). Another student monopolizes my time with a story about how her sister scratched her. Have you ever seen the AT & T commercials? Yea those are my kids. Ten pencils need to be sharpened, one quarter is found, 15 questions about how to do the word family work (even though I explained it 15 times already), a missing brown crayon is reported, a story from another student about how her mom bought her these adorable new clothes, three requests to use the bathroom, four requests to fill water bottles, one report of a student who didn't color his tree brown (probably the one who reported the missing brown crayon), 10 declarations of I'M DONE, and one note from the principal about a fire drill in 15 minutes. And that was only the first 20 minutes of the day. It's a crazy life and I can't believe I'm in the middle of it every day. Recently when I told someone I'm a kindergarten teacher they exclaimed "oh what fun!". Yes, it has its fun moments, but there is nothing easy about what I do. Gone are the days of playing and naps. We have state standards to fulfill and our kids have to be reading by the end of the year. Rewarding? Yes. Busy? Yes. Challenging? Yes. But never believe its all fun and games. Kindergarten is serious graduate work.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Christmas 2012

This is the second time I've done my Christmas letter on my blog.  I really like how it works, and I hope you do too!  After all, I saved all that paper I would have printed the letter on, and didn't have to fold and stuff it into envelopes.

You may have noticed that the Casper family has moved to yet another state - Kansas!  We actually made the move last December, but by the time I got here on Christmas Eve, last year's Christmas cards were a definite no go.  So, we've spent a whole year in Kansas now and we have to say, we are enjoying it!  The funny thing is, everyone says (even the Kansans) "So sorry you had to move to Kansas."  While western Kansas is desolate, where we are in central Kansas is very pretty.  There are lots of trees so even though it's flat you can't see the next state's border.  And the further east you go, there are some legitimate hills.  Most importantly, the people here are very kind and welcoming which has helped make the transition even more smooth.

Anna continues with her gymnastics in our new town.  Not only is there a club gym that she practices at year round, the high school also has a gymnastics team that she had the privilege of competing on this fall.  She did well for a freshman and was very excited to receive her letter in gymnastics already.  Other than gymnastics, she's settled into high school, met some great friends and is studying for her driving permit.  Here they can get their permit at 14!  Needless to say, her dad and I aren't ready for that.

Seth is in 6th grade this year and is quite the middle schooler.  He still loves video games more than anything, but has also tried out a couple new sports.  This summer he did a golf clinic and found that he kind of liked it.  I was thrilled with that!  We didn't get much chance to golf this summer, but hope to do more next summer.  The last few months he's been taking Tae Kwon Do lessons and earned his yellow belt already.  Next fall, in 7th grade he's determined to try football since it will be offered at his school.  After breaking his arm playing football in Tennessee at age 5, I'm not really keen on the idea, but we will see.

Steve is busy at his new recruiting station in Hutchinson, KS.  He is the station commander there and spends long hours working.  This year we are so proud that he was promoted to E7!  In his free time, he is rebuilding a 1980 CJ5 Jeep.  I got a job teaching kindergarten in August and have been very busy with a classroom of 5 year olds.  It's been a big change moving from high school to Kindergarten, but I am enjoying it.  Steve and I had the opportunity to go to the Nascar race in Las Vegas with friends last spring and have also been to three concerts - Nickelback, Buckcherry and Aerosmith.  Needless to say, we are enjoying being close to a big city again.  The picture of us here is celebrating my 40th birthday.

Our Christmas card features a picture of the family when we went to Branson, Missouri for a week during the summer.  We had a great time playing, taking a boat out on the lake and relaxing.  I hate to say it, but I've been out of Oregon too long.  Just driving the curves from our condo to Branson made me car sick!  Ah, the hazards of becoming a flat lander!

We hope that you and your family had a memorable 2012 and we wish you a blessed and safe 2013!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Beach Needed for Half Devoured Mom

I've come to the conclusion that any mother who says she loves being a mom and couldn’t see herself doing anything else is flat out lying.  You may wonder how I managed to work this out.  Maybe I did a study?  Handed out questionnaires?  Visited the Dalai Lama?  Developed mind reading capabilities?  Well, while the last two options are included on my bucket list, none of them apply to my current enlightenment.  The fact is that as a mother myself I just KNOW those other women can’t be telling the truth. 

To be honest, it makes me feel more than a little guilty to admit that maybe, just maybe, sometimes I don’t like being a mom.  I mean, it has its good moments and I wouldn’t wish that I never had kids.  It’s just that after twelve plus years of being wholly responsible for two other human beings I’m tired.  Tired of cleaning up after them, reminding them, worrying about them, arguing with them, driving them, making decisions for them, cooking for them, cajoling them, keeping tabs on them, buying things for them, etc, etc, etc.  I mean, humans really got the short end of the stick raising their young.  No other creature in the animal kingdom has to put up with their offspring for 18 years!  Any momma bird with sense would leave the nest herself after a few months.  Maybe this is why some animals eat their young? 

Paradoxically, there are times I feel like I’m being eaten alive by my own brood.  Piece by piece, bit by bit, who I am is slowly being devoured by the ones I gave life to.  It starts innocuously enough with just a few nibbles out of the time you used to have to do the things you enjoyed.  But soon it develops into full blown cannibalism.  GULP!  Your name is gone and you become “so-and-so’s mom”.  CRUNCH!  Your time is devoured with your motherly tasks.  SLURP!  Your identity slips quietly down the gullets of your children.  One day you wake up half eaten and can’t remember who you are or what it was you once dreamed of doing.

So how do we moms stave off the feeding frenzy and retain our identity, not to mention our sanity?  I sure the hell wish I knew!  Sometimes it feels like a daily effort not to run screaming for the hills.  Summer time, and spending every waking minute with my children, tends to have this effect on me.  Where is that beach vacation when you really need it?

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Fort Casper

The view that greeted me coming down the stairs
Remember those days when you were a kid making forts out of blankets, chairs, sheets, and whatever else you could find?  I remember making a lot of those in our basement with my brother when I was a kid.  I always loved hiding in them with books or a notebook so I could read or write in my own private place.

Today I've been nagging the kids to go outside and enjoy the nice weather.  It's 85 and beautiful! When I yelled downstairs earlier for them to "Get outside and play!" the reply that came back was "No!  We're not done with our fort!"  My first inclination was to be irritated that they told me no, so I gave them a ten minute time limit to finish and get their butts outside to play.  Well, an hour later, they were still not outside.  I ventured downstairs to see what the damage was, and was greeted by a wall of sheets.  I sneaked down with my camera and shot this picture of them in the darkness; all curled up in sleeping bags while playing video games together.
Dark, cozy kid cave
TV and game system included in cave

Now, while I'd prefer that they get outside and play, you have to admit that they are at least doing kid type things that require creativity and cooperation.  Although, as for the cooperation part, I suspect Anna was the project manager and builder all in one while Seth sat by and watched.

I  often feel guilty about letting my kids stay inside to watch TV and play video games.  I mean, when I was a kid, the TV was turned off most of the day (there wasn't anything on anyway), we didn't have game systems, and we survived just fine.

Now, as you can see from the picture, our basement is wired for sound complete with cable, Xbox 360 and unlimited movies through Netflix.  Wow, to be a kid nowadays!  I suppose a little harmless fort building and TV watching on a Saturday afternoon can't hurt the kids any, and at least they're not arguing, which is really saying something.  I guess I'll relent and let them stay in today.  Tomorrow, however, will be a different story...maybe.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kindergarten Lessons

Anna in Kindergarten in TN with her teacher Mrs. Miller
What you see in the picture left is an amazing Kindergarten teacher with patience, caring and love enough for 20 + little five year olds, and a smitten five year old girl.  That girl is my daughter, Anna.  When we moved to Tennessee in December of 2003, it was the middle of Anna's kindergarten year. I was nervous, anxious and distressed that I had to do such a thing to my five year old daughter.  I mean, kindergarten students in their first year of public school should be left alone to grow and thrive with their new friends and experiences, not be shuttled half way across the country to start over with making friends, learning a new routine and trying to understand a teacher with a southern accent!  Amazingly, Anna settled in without difficulty.  Her teacher was, I think, mostly to credit for this.  You see, Kindergarten is a crucial year, and it's not even required in most states!  This is the year when anxious parents drop their babies off at a strange place (school) to meet their new part-time "mother" (the teacher) for seven full hours and put all faith in the abilities of these unknown people and places.  It's the foundation for the next 12 years of those children's schooling career.  It's an act of complete trust on the part of the parents... and I may soon be launched back into that trust circle, but as the teacher, not the parent.

I have been waiting, none too patiently I might add, for a call for an interview.  None came until a few days ago, and I have to admit that to my dismay I discovered it was a for a Kindergarten position.  Now, when you've been waiting months for a call for an interview, you don't turn anything down, even if it's your LEAST favorite grade.  After all, an interview does not automatically mean a job is to follow.  I taught Kindergarten 15 years ago; it was my first teaching position.  I'm not sure if it was because it was my first year of teaching or because it was Kindergarten, but that was a very hard year and one I did not want to repeat.  I've not taught Kindergarten since.  After recently spending a year and a half with high schoolers and thoroughly enjoying it, I had visions of being trapped in a small room all day playing with little kids who cry, tattle tale, speak like babies on occasion and may wet their pants.  I even posted my fears on Facebook, and soon regretted it.  After reading my own posts, I realized how horrible and unprofessional I sounded and deleted the post.  Here I am a teacher, charged with caring for children and teaching the future of our nation, and I'm really WHINING about how immature Kindergartners are??

I've spent time thinking since I realized my mistake, about what kind of teacher I am and what kind I want to be.  After surprisingly little thought, I know that I'm a teacher who wants to do her best by her students and their parents, even if (even because!) they are Kindergarten students.  Despite my momentary lapse of maturity, when it comes down to it, if I'm offered the position as a Kindergarten teacher, I will throw myself into it both for the students and for their parents.  I've been the parent dropping her child off at not one, but two new Kindergarten classrooms.  I know the uncertainty and the anxiety over how my child will be treated  by some unknown teacher.  I've been the Kindergarten teacher.  I remember the tears on the first day by both kids and parents alike, the video cameras and cameras (somewhere I'm recorded in a family's memories), and the excitement by those students to be "big" kids going to school.  It's a huge responsibility being the teacher of those children, and one I've decided I'm not willing to take lightly   I'll find out tomorrow or Monday if it will be my newest challenge.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Cost Cutting Run Around

In an attempt to organize my finances and fix my budget, I spent all day on the phone with lenders and utility companies trying to find ways to cut down my bills. I even spoke with a debt consolidation non-profit to see what I could do to get rid of my credit card debt. I can't tell you how frustrating this process was. It almost seems like these places that take your money give you the run around on purpose when you call to cut costs (well, duh!). Virtually every call I made led to either another call, or the request to wait for a future date to do something. A call to my cable company even resulted in a $2 increase in my bill over last month even after getting rid of Showtime (they told me it's because last month's bill was only a partial bill).

It feels like I spent four hours spinning my wheels and made no progress toward reducing my bills. The debt consolidation people, however, were great. They spent a lot of time talking to me about how I could reduce my bills (which is what sent me on the calling frenzy to all my lenders and utility companies). They also prepared a budget for me that shows my current spending as well as what the typical national spending for a family of four is. Wow! I could not believe that my grocery bill should be one half what it currently is! How in the heck do people grocery shop for so little? On the plane when I flew back to Kansas there was a show about couponing. Those people are crazy! One woman spent nearly $900 on groceries and after her hundreds of coupons only spent $88!!!! There is no way I could be that dedicated to couponing. In fact, I've always held a bit of disdain for coupons because they really are just a marketing tool by big companies to get you to buy their products - and then be hooked. After all, $.50 off of the name brand cleaner is still more expensive than buying the off brand label, so why bother with the coupon? But my debt consolidation counselor told me that I should look into coupons and the stores' value programs.

I've always considered myself a good shopper; I usually buy the off brands unless it's something I trust in the name brand, I bring lists to the store and generally stick to them, I really don't buy frivolous things, I check the per unit cost. How the heck can I possibly cut so much from my grocery budget? Needless to say, since I'm unemployed for the near future, I will be looking for ways to cut my costs, and groceries, eating out and entertainment will be at the top of the list. Not that we really had any entertainment when I was working anyway...can you say "Netflix"?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Finally made it!

So, here we are, finally in Kansas! It was iffy for awhile whether we would really end up here. It was hardest for me as I had to stay in Colorado until Dec. 23 to finish the semester teaching. The family was in Kansas starting December 2. But, I arrived on our Kansas doorstep at 11pm on the 23rd and knocked on my new door saying "Merry Christmas!" when the door was opened. It was really a great Christmas and New Year in our new house back with the family.

Now, I'm trying to find the groove of being at home full time with no job. It's been an interesting change. Funny how when I'm working full time all I want to do is be home to work on me, but now that I'm home all the time, I'm bored with it. I've been working on my master's classes, organizing, cleaning, etc, etc, but it's been a hard adjustment. If only I could get motivated enough to take a shower every morning and get out of my jammies! And why the heck does the day go by so fast when I'm home! I swear it crawls by at work, but here, before I know it it's time to pick the kids up from school.

Without sounding too pessimistic, it has been a nice change. I'm glad I can work on my master's classes uninterrupted. I'm glad I can take the kids to school and pick them up everyday. I've been cooking more than ever and we have eaten at the table together nearly every night. I am trying to appreciate this break as I know that soon enough I'll have to find a job and go back to the real world.

Very soon, I hope to replace the banner photograph above with one that features our family. The kids are growing sooooo fast! Anna will be in high school in the fall and I'm starting to freak out a little about that idea. She is definitely showing her independence and we have been butting heads more and more. I'm trying to remember to be empathetic. It really wasn't that long ago that I was a teenager and I do still remember what it's like to be there. So, we are picking our way slowly through the maze of adolescence. Then I'll have Seth to deal with too...I hope I survive this!