Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Fragments: the Grocery Store

  • To the shoppers who decide they don't want a perishable product and dispose of it by dumping it in some hiding spot, like the cat litter aisle,
  • To shoppers who park their carts right in front of the dairy case while they have an extended phone conversation,
  • To the woman ahead of me in the self-check who thinks I am rushing her, to the man who has parked his car right in the fire lane, to the shoppers who leave their dirty tissues in their carts:


  • To the greeters who continue to admonish me to wear a winter coat:
Allow me to introduce you to a crazy new concept called mid-life HORMONES.

  • To the man who bought the box of tampons and the case of beer:
Yes, the cashier should have put those tampons in a bag instead of assuming you would prefer to carry them out of the store carefully hidden under your arm.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Out of Touch Mom

Our girl is 13 years and 10 months old.

But even though she is growing up so nicely and so lovely, she is in eighth grade. And a middle-schooler is a middle-schooler.

Our daughter is a glasses wearer. She is quite dependent on them, and was overjoyed a couple of years ago when my sister and favorite optometrist convinced me that my girl needed contact lenses. She told me how my girl's field of vision would literally open up. She told me how people would notice my girl's eyes and how my girl would grow in confidence. So contacts it was.

In the last year, my daughter's vision has changed and her glasses are far from the script she needs, so she wears her contacts from the first minute after waking until the last minute before sleep. I always fret about what will happen if she needs to wear her glasses to school.

So I gave her great news a while back. I told her that we will be visiting the local optometrist and ordering new lenses AND frames.

If I imagined her joy, her gratitude, her delight in not having to wear contacts every minute of every day, I was mistaken.

"I really don't need glasses," she replied.

But what about having the option of not wearing contacts?
What about the option of taking the contacts out earlier and watching t.v. through glasses and simply slipping the glasses off when she gets tired instead of walking to the bathroom to take out and rinse the contacts?
What about all the cute frames out now? What about the fashion change-up new frames would provide? And what of the fact that she cannot see through her current lenses?

"I could never wear glasses to school because I have braces and that combination is something people laugh at."

You know, you could not pay me enough money to ever go back to being 13.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Kid's Got Talent

We thought he could use a haircut.
He did not agree.
Then independence changed his mind.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A 12-Step Program to Losing Your Self-Confidence

1. Have a lovely phone interview with another college to teach part-time in their online program.
2. End the interview with the "understanding" that you will be hired provided you pass their training course.
3. Attempt to log-in for several days with your newly-assigned employee password.  Note the "Access denied" message each time.
4. With your newly-fixed password, take the pre-assessment.  If you score a 92% or higher, you will not have to take the course.
5. Score a 72%.
6. Note that the post-assessment will be twice as long as the pre-assessment you just scored 72% on.
7. Reread the directions and confirm that you have only two opportunities to pass the post-assessment.  After that, you're not going to teach at this school.
8. Participate in the first component of the course.  With some panic, take the 5-item self-check at the end of the component.  Be able to answer only one item before panic swallows you whole. 
9. After eating the leftover turkey and a fudge pop, reread the first component.  Take the same 5-item self-check and correctly answer two items.
10. Resort to googling the self-check items.
11. Pass the first component, and feel okay until the first video of the second component assures you that this course is not taught in any language you know.
12. Cry when you realize that there are 9 components left to pass before you can take that ever-so-important post-assessment. Yes, the one you have only two chances to pass.

Monday, February 23, 2009


I have never been a mother who does the "My children are back in school" dance. Apart from the fact that I am not a good dancer, and apart from the fact that I really don't enjoy fitting in with the status quo, I miss them when they go back. I miss their laughter, and spontaneous hugs and kisses. I miss the lack of a schedule and wearing nothing but jammies all day (or until a friend calls or the doorbell rings and we morph into panic mode.) So here's a new one for me:

I am happy to announce that my children have returned to school following a week of "Winter Break."

Despite their insomnia the night before, their cries in the morning, their mother's oversleeping thus causing the teenager to miss breakfast, the rush to finish packing lunches, the traffic, I am delighted to see them go. The bickering, the obsessive video gaming, the way my daughter was devouring 600-page books. Wait a minute. I just got a little confused.

Returning to school comes with a price, though. You probably know that price well. It's the social traumas, the homework and other projects, the worn-out school supplies, the need to get to bed on time, the need to have food in the house to make lunches, the need for clean clothing, the need for the mother to look presentable when delivering children to school and retrieving them seven hours later.

Nevertheless, the kids have gone back to their teachers and friends. And what of my school schedule? MY break begins in three weeks -while my children are in school.

Kind of funny how that just happened to work out :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday's Limited Fragments

With my bi-weekly (semi-weekly?)nod to Mrs. 4444, surely one of the world's best teachers, here we go.
1. What does it mean when the dentist is talking to me and the assistant is making eye contact with me behind his back and the assistant is shaking her head "no"?
2. Look what happens when it's Winter Break week and the mother declares a moratorium on video games, television, and the Internet: a puzzle!
3. Dream interpreters, please help me: I dreamed that my child's teacher kidnapped me. We both thought it was a boring kidnapping and I walked home.
4. Please pray for one of my students who lost a parent last week and then tried to end his own life in response.
5. My version of Apple Cake (See, Mom? I do use your flower cake pan!)
1 1/4 white sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
5 1/2 cups chopped apples (I went over by a cup - don't repeat my mistake)
45 minutes in a 325 degree oven (325 doesn't seem right to me; maybe it was 350?)
6. Why do we ALWAYS need the receipt AFTER I've thrown it away?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Things in my Town

I live in a busy area. Lots of new buildings going up while entire strip malls sit vacant. Roads being widened while the potholes on other roads swallow entire towns. New cars running me off the road even as the Big 3 claim low sales.
But all those things are old news. Anything really new around here? Well, of course!


This is our road commission's answer to traffic congestion. "Just go around and around until you can get out," is what I believe their working theory is. It seems to work well for Checkered who charges full-speed into and around and out of the roundabouts. But someday he is going to meet a driver like me who just can't seem to get in the right lane and is befuddled. It won't be pretty when it happens.


It is the first in our area ever and we are entirely grateful. For years we've watched their ads on cable late at night (in this house: 9:30) and craved an intimate acquaintance with Sonic. Then we went to Myrtle Beach and my family took it upon ourselves to make that franchise a fiscal giant in one week. Now Sonic has moved in about 15 minutes from my house. Sonic gives us 3 ordering options.
  • The drive-in: which we finally managed to execute today after several attempts. Imagine a line of 20 cars waiting for that next empty spot. We were quite excited when I managed to snag one of those slots today, but then I realized that we had to pay a tip. The fun factor deflated immediately for me.
  • The walk-up: which would leave us battling for our lives in a sure-to-lose encounter with hypothermia. Nevertheless, every teen-ager in the county has claimed the walk-up as his or her own domain.
  • The drive-thru: which takes only 30-43 minutes to navigate. The line just doesn't move. Such a winner in my book. What's an hour's investment when it results in a Sonic slush?
My fear? That the traffic crisis Sonic has now created will result in a roundabout.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Look What Showed Up on Facebook

A newly-minted Dr. Caution Flag, c.1991. 
  • Where is her hair?
  • See her sister and dad in the background?
  • Do you think she should wear this gown on a regular basis?  Maybe to church next Sunday?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Want to be a DARE Officer

I hope your local school has a DARE program because we do and it's terrific. Two of our kids have been through the program now in fifth grade and have taken away a lot of preventative info about drugs and other dangers such as cyber predators and bullies. The DARE officers, who are very cool just because they arrive in a police car and teach in full uniform, also carry so much more convincibility than Checkered or I do. My kids have come home from every session quoting and quoting and quoting their DARE officers. And although I believe we have done a fair job of keeping communication open with our kids and talking about dangers, the DARE officers have moved far beyond some of the topics we've discussed with our kids. I mean it when I tell you that I LOVE DARE.

Our fifth grade boy just finished his DARE program in December. He was genuinely sad that it was over, but excited because the Sheriff was rumored to be coming to the ceremony. Now you must know that we live in a populated, suburban county and the sheriff is commonly regarded as the most powerful man here. There is always speculation about what state or federal job will come his way.

So the day of DARE graduation arrived and it was exciting. Music pounded from the speakers, the teaching officer was a gifted presenter and the ceremony was fun.

And there he was, the man himself: the Sheriff.

And then it was time for my boy to walk up to the stage and receive his certificate. He climbed the steps with self-confidence, made eye contact with the sheriff, the school principal, and the superintendent of schools. I stayed comfortably seated in the last row while my much more nervy friend walked up to the front row. She calmly asked the sheriff to slow down and pose with my boy so she could get a picture.

I heard people laugh, but I was a little teary eyed thinking of how God has brought our boy so far physically and emotionally, so I thought the people were laughing at the self-confident photographer ordering the sheriff around.

The school district taped the ceremony and put in on the local access channel. We watched it, and then Checkered shouted, "Wait a minute! What did the sheriff just do?"

We rewound the tivo and watched again, but I didn't see anything except my beautiful miracle boy.

SO Checkered rewound again, and put it in slow motion for me, and there it was:

The sheriff shaking hands with my boy while making bunny ears behind my boy's head.

I think I will settle for simply posting this more innocent picture:

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Places I've Left Behind

When I was a teen in Kentucky, we would hang out at Giovanni's Pizza. I loved that place even though it was not much more than a few red and cracked vinyl booths, some wobbly tables, maybe a jukebox, and less than stellar service. The pizza was swimming in grease, was very thin, and maybe too cheesy. Nevertheless, I invested a significant amount of time there with my family and with friends. We went there after church. We went there after football games. We went there on dates. It was wonderful. Smelly, yet wonderful.

By the time my niece and nephew became teens, Giovanni's was long out of favor. They would look at me blankly when I asked if they ever went to Giovanni's and I was a little sad. I suppose that's the natural cycle of things.

I remember that the yearbook (sorry, in Kentucky it was called the annual) advisor in high school once asked us to photograph a dive called the Bluegrass. That had been THE place when she was in high school. She said she invested way too many hours cruisin' the Bluegrass. My older sister and her friends had cruised the Bluegrass a couple of times, but by my time, it was passe'. The Bluegrass finally closed for good some time ago, and sentiment made certain that there were several articles in the local paper remembering when.

I do think there was something very sweet about growing up in a small town because those "in" icons are so much easier to identify than the "in" icons of the metro area where my kids are growing up.
It's emotional for me every time I go to Kentucky and need a greasy, greasy pizza from Giovanni's, but at least I'm not the only one. I joined the Giovanni's fan site on Facebook a while ago. Let the detractors say what they will, but I was the 782nd person to join.

Friday, February 13, 2009

What Love Means

As we watched the news the other night, I was horrified by a story. A mother who suffers a long history of serious mental illness was being charged with torturing her children. Not just abuse, but torture. The husband/father was interviewed. He was obviously brokenhearted at losing his children and tried to explain that when his wife was on her meds, she was a loving, wonderful mother. "She's so sick," he sobbed, "And now I've lost my children, too."

I issued some invective against the husband/father for his blind love of his wife.

My husband turned to me and quietly asked, "Would you want me to stop loving you just because you got sick?"

I was rendered speechless at the depth of Checkered's compassion and love.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hold On! Sisters ARE of Value!

You may know that I've been reconnecting with long-ago friends and acquaintances. Some I remember and some... Anyway, I reconnected with another "lost" acquaintance recently and let's say the update on his status was i.n.t.e.r.e.s.t.i.n.g. I mean, really, really interesting.

I needed to tell someone about it, so I called my husband. He doesn't share that time in my history, but he was polite and listened and asked a couple of questions. That was it! That was all I got.

So I called my parents. They certainly shared that time in my history. My mom wasn't home, but my dad was and he listened to the update and was suitably shocked. He asked a few questions and made a few comments, and then he was done and wanted to talk about other things.

But I needed more. I needed to rehash this update ad nauseum and dissect it and explore it from all different angles. So I did what I probably should have done first: I contacted my sisters.

They have different work schedules than I do, so emails had to suffice. And they reacted perfectly.

They screamed (via email), they speculated, they laughed, we rehashed it repeatedly, and then we began to speculate all over again. It was satisfying. It was exactly what I wanted and needed.
And that is why I believe the Lord did not allow us to kill each other when we were younger. He knew we would become very good middle-aged friends!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Semester

Here are two of the essays I've graded this term:

I'm open to some pity from you all at this point.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's Important to Always Remain Sane: A True Story

I went last week to wash the 2008-2009 winter season off my van.  Now that I've invested $3.00, winter had better stay gone.  Anyway, after I finished the carwash, I checked my phone and sure enough, there was a voicemail from Mr. Checkered.  It was Friday.  It was 2:00.  So I assumed:
  • That he was calling to say he loved me
  • That he was calling to ask what kind of pizza we were getting for dinner
  • That he was calling to say he would be home in time to pick up the boys from school.
Instead, I heard the first five seconds of his message and took a total leave of my reasoning ability.  This is what I heard,
"I'm calling with ... some really bad news.  It's ... sad.  It's terrible."

And that is where I stopped listening and THOUGHT I heard him tell me that my mother had passed on to Heaven.  Oh! I grieved immediately.  My mother! Gone!

Then, after a short while of grieving, I moved onto rage that my husband would choose the medium of voicemail to tell me that my mother had died. 

I was beside myself with anger. How thoughtless!  How stupid!  How cruel! 

And then I thought I had better be brave enough to replay the voicemail message and actually listen to it all the way through.  I would deal with divorcing Checkered after my mom's funeral.

His actual message said,
"I'm calling with ... some really bad news. It's ... sad. It's terrible.  I have to work late tonight and won't be home until 7.  I really hate this. Call me. I love you."

So my mom is wonderfully alive, I am not divorcing my husband, AND he did not get any over time pay (thank-you, Automaker Bailout Loan conditions.)

The moral of the story:  do not leave voicemail messages for a woman who may have temporarily taken leave of her rational thinking ability while in a carwash.

And, Pam?  If you refer to me as a nutty professor this time, I will understand.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Here We Go Again

Several years ago we began what proved to be a very slow process of recognizing that one of our children had an attention/focusing problem. The process took us to conferences with teachers, appointments with doctors, very expensive testing, and then the confusing decision of whether or not to medicate. We researched and researched and prayed and then we medicated.

While we may have thought the process would ease when we decided to medicate, there were dosage problems and adverse reactions to two of the three classes of ADHD drugs. The third class of drugs still had frustrating side-effects for our child, but the medicine also did what it was supposed to do. It made our child's life a little easier. We willingly hand over $$ every month for the pills knowing it's the right thing at this time for our child.

In the ensuing years, I have had the opportunity to support a couple of acquaintances as they each began the ADHD journey with their own children. I have listened as they debated whether or not to medicate. And I have shared their frustrations when other parents have announced that the problem with America is that "poorly disciplined" children or children with "no issues" have "lazy" teachers and "pill happy" doctors "needlessly" medicating children. (Did you like all my "" ?)

I wish my child could focus as effectively OFF the pills as my child does ON the pills. But that's not the case. As we tell those who ask, it's just not that big of a deal now for us and our child's life is better because of the medication.

So what's the problem?

Last week a much-trusted and beloved teacher asked for a conference with me, and during that discussion she confirmed what Checkered and I have quietly suspected for a while. Another of our children is struggling with attention and focusing. And so we begin a long journey again.

And me? My "it's just not that big of a deal" bravado slipped a bit.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Good Life

  • Do you remember the joys of tooth loss?
  • Do you remember not being able to sleep lest you miss getting a sneak peak at the Tooth Fairy?
  • Do you remember writing a note to the Tooth Fairy asking several questions?
  • Do you remember the Tooth Fairy having to retrace her steps and write and print out responses?
  • Do you remember awakening and being so relieved because the Tooth Fairy didn't forget you?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I ... Meme

I borrowed this meme from Betty in Paraguay who lives in a Spanish-speaking country, blogs in English, and speaks German at home!.

I live: in busy, cold metro Detroit

I work: as a part-time instructor at a community college

I smell: banana bread baking and soup simmering

I listen: to the cd of choir music I am trying to learn after skipping a month of rehearsals

I hide: under my pillow during thunder storms

I walk: to the end of the driveway and back and you wonder why I haven't lost any weight

I write: better than I do math

I see: the clutter more often than I see the beauty

I sing: every day

I can: avoid burned banana bread by not blogging while I bake

I watch: t.v. in bed every night

I daydream: all the time

I want: someone to help me learn to play the bass

If I am angry, excited, sad or happy: you will know

I read: every single day

I love: when someone holds my hand

I rode: a jet ski only once

I fear: outliving Checkered or my kids

I eat: incessantly

I drink: far less alcohol than you might think possible

I play: a passable house-rules bocce ball

I miss: having my parents and sisters close by

I forgive: s l o w l y

I drive: a Chrysler mini-van. Oh, so sexy!

I dream: of being naked in public or being enrolled in a course and never attending until the final exam

I kiss: more people that I used to

I once: introduced a couple to each other who then got married and did NOT invite me to the wedding

I remember: how I used wonder what stay-at-home moms did all day

I don't: really enjoy the "greet your neighbor" portion of church

I believe: that the Lord knows me and loves me anyway

I hate: the way my boy bites his fingernails

I wear: jeans, jeans, and jeans

I get annoyed when: a student asks if we did anything important in the last class

Never in my life have I: been downhill skiing

When I'm nervous: I find a bathroom

When I was 5: I tried to drop out of school

If I ever go back to school: I would probably skip a lot of classes

And, by the way: I deeply appreciate that you stopped by here and stayed to read.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My Family at 5:00 on Sunday

Save your preaching when you see this true glimpse of my gaming family:

Bless your heart, Pepper:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

No More Black History Month?

I read a great editorial about ending Black History Month. Here is the link:

Here is a copy if the link doesn't work.

I'm curious what you think!


Today, at the beginning of Black History Month, I propose an end to Black History Month.

I propose that, from this day forward, we stop telling the tale of two Americas and instead document and celebrate the full and storied, multicultural and multidimensional story that is America in all of its colors, geographies and passions, in all of its ups, downs and exhortations.
I propose that, for the first time in American history, this country has reached a point where we can stop celebrating separately, stop learning separately, stop being American separately. We have reached a point where most Americans want to gain a larger understanding of the people they have not known, customs they have not known, traditions they have not known.
I propose that this month, 142 years after Congress passed the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 that allowed for the Southern states to be readmitted to the Union, we adopt our own personal reconstruction goals to admit into our lives people who are different, people whose origins differ from ours, people who can teach us so much if we listen.
I propose that this month, we become not the America of Rush Limbaugh or the America of Al Franken, but to become an America where all opinions matter and hope trumps hate.
I propose that this February, we become not an America of black or white or Hispanic or Asian, but an America of black and white and Hispanic and Asian, an America where each of those heritages is a mandatory part of school curriculums.
We don't need more amendments to the U.S. Constitution; we need more amendments to our own personal behaviors, beginning with changing how we treat one another.
We cannot complain about how those outside America treat us if we treat one another worse.
So this Black History Month, 139 years after Congress granted black men the right to vote, 89 years after Congress granted women the right to vote, we can vote to no longer be a fragmented nation.
This Black History Month, we can do more than imagined to honor Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves who is credited with founding Black History Month.
We can do what he wanted and accept American history is the history of all Americans.
We can appreciate that, in response to history textbooks ignoring the story of black Americans, he established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, created the association's Journal of Negro History and founded Negro History Week.
That was 83 years ago, and I applaud Woodson for asserting, in his words, that "the achievements of the Negro properly set forth will crown him as a factor in early human progress and a maker of modern civilization."
It was 33 years ago that Negro History Week became Black History Month.
It is now time that American history be American history every day, that Americans be Americans all the time and that we stop learning and living and celebrating separately.
I propose that we adopt our own rules to usher in a Second Reconstruction, and through our acts, unite a nation that is closer than it has ever been.
Today, in honor of black history, which is American history, I propose that Black History Month be no more.

Contact ROCHELLE RILEY at 313-223-4473 or

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Busy, Busy Week-End

We had:


Rock Band contests

Tim Hortons (yes!!)



cake (with trick candles that kept relighting)

and buddies.

And this:

The sad part?  That it's Monday already.