Tuesday, October 11, 2016


I quietly, though publicly, embarrassed myself on Twitter today.

I saw a question, posed by an author I follow, asking for suggestions for a picture book that might make a case for moving away from Columbus Day toward Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Right away I responded with a book I’d felt proud to use in my classroom years ago, one that provided an alternative perspective on Columbus’s arrival, one that I felt would open student’s minds to the notion that there are many angles from which to view historic events. Almost immediately another Twitter-user, one who had been tagged in the original tweet, responded with an emphatic, “no, not [the book I’d recommended].”

I was taken aback, at first, and embarrassed. I thought about just deleting my tweet, but stopped, because there may be other librarians/educators out there who had the same thought. So I summoned the courage to apologize and ask, “Why not?”

The person who had tweeted not to use the book I suggested responded, thoughtfully, and as thoroughly as Twitter allows, and explained why the book I mentioned wasn’t a good representation of Native society. She also pointed me toward a critical essay of the book.

I’m going to be honest and say that I never would have realized how problematic that book is. And it has left me uncomfortable and wondering how many more books have issues with their cultural representations that I’m not equipped to recognize.

I looked back to the review sources I typically use when I’m evaluating books to purchase for the middle school library where I work. None of the reviews for this particular book indicate it is as problematic as it is. So, where do I turn? I rarely have the opportunity to read a book before I purchase it, and I certainly haven’t read everything I’ve ever purchased for the library. I have to rely on reviews. If the reviews aren’t going inform me about cultural misrepresentations and I’m not going to pick up on all of them myself I guess I’m bound to make mistakes?

By and large, I have lived a privileged, sheltered life. Being aware of that doesn’t necessarily make it right and it doesn’t work as an excuse for everything I don’t know. I’m overwhelmed by the responsibility of doing better for my children and my students. I’m not sure how to fix it.

I do know that I learned something in my embarrassment today. I’ve added another layer to lens through which I read and evaluate books. I hope I’ve taken a small step toward a bigger awareness.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

After 15 Years

Each year, on this dark anniversary, we hear the stories of the heroes of 9/11. We read about the final words loved ones called to say. We hear about bravery, last kisses, love amidst the horror. It is good to remember, and it is good to hear stories that somehow give hope that all is not lost for humanity. And what I'm about to write is not meant to diminish those stories in any way.

For some reason, this year, I find myself thinking about the rest of the stories. I wonder about the people who were not brave. I wonder about the parents who fought with their teenagers before leaving the house in the morning. I wonder about the parents who were impatient with their toddlers, and then never saw them again. I wonder about the couples who didn't kiss each other good-bye, those who parted that morning amidst tension and hurt feelings. I wonder about the people who can't console themselves by thinking, "I said, 'I love you,' before I left." Some people had bad mornings on what turned into their worst day.

Today I am thinking of them.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Baby My Baby Loves

Back in December, my sister had a delicious baby boy. I'm an auntie!

We love being with my nephew when we visit our family in Wisconsin. We were all, of course, delighted to welcome J to our family. But there is one among us who loves that baby perhaps a little more fiercely than the others. My dear, sweet Michael is over the moon about his cousin J. 

When my sister brought J to visit in May, Michael spent the entire weekend about as close to that baby as was physically possible. When he had to write a personal letter in second-grade, he wrote it to J. My sister sent a letter back as though J had written or dictated it. Michael sleeps with that letter on his nightstand. 

I asked him, not long ago, why he kept the letter there. He said, "Because I love J and when he feels far away I can read it and feel like he's with me." 

I've 99.9% come to peace with the fact that we won't have any more babies in this house, but Michael would have made a most wonderful big brother.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

I Don't Pay for Opinions at the Drive-Thru

We've had three days since summer break ended and this morning I took Michael in for a strep test. Welcome back to the Petri dish that is elementary school. Michael's been complaining of a sore throat for a couple of days but doesn't have any other symptoms. However when he woke me up this morning to tell me about it I decided I'd rather call the pediatrician than wait and end up at urgent care tomorrow or possibly missing school Monday.

The rapid test came back negative, so he probably just has some little viral thing going on - fingers crossed that it all passes without too much fanfare.

Michael was crying and shifting into panic mode at the mere mention of the doctor so I told him we'd get a McDonald's Hi-C afterward, as long as he cooperated. Which, ultimately, he did.

It was about a three minute drive from the office to the nearest McDonald's drive-thru, where I ordered Michael a medium (gasp) Hi-C. You guys, I know that I was just handing him a cup full of sugar, but a doctor just stuck a giant Q-tip down his throat, so I think most of you would agree that some sympathy corn syrup wasn't the worse parenting decision I've ever made. And yet, here is the conversation that followed:

Cashier: Is the Hi-C for him? (Gestures to Michael in the back seat)

Me: Yes.

Cashier: A medium?

Me: Yes.

Cashier: I just didn't think you'd want him to have so much this early in the morning.


I'm sure there are all kinds of cashiers who are judgmental about what people are purchasing, but I'm also pretty sure there is an unwritten social contract that suggests they keep it to themselves.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

I Went to See Rachel Platten and Came Home Without My Shoes

Earlier this week we took the children to a Rachel Platten concert, which was just as much fun as you'd expect it to be. But what I want to write about tonight is not what happened at the concert, but what happened on the way home.

We left the venue, it was dark, and we were walking back toward the car. The street we were walking down was a boulevard, with a grassy area in between the traffic moving in either direction. We crossed one part of the boulevard and ended up walking in the grassy median for a bit. I was wearing sandals and, as we walked, a leaf slid between one of my right toes and my sandal. I tried to shake it out, but it just didn't want to move and it was bothering me. I did a quick maneuver, not wanting to hold up people walking behind me, to free the leaf with my thumb. Instead of finding a leaf, my thumb sank into something soft...

You guys, there was poop in my shoe. And then, there was poop all over my thumb.

I'm not proud, but I started yell/shrieking, "It's poop! There's poop on my foot! And on my hand!" And the people around me, my family included, were understandably confused.

The next few minutes, in my mind, were frantic as I tried to fish wipes out of my purse without spreading the poop from my thumb to anything else. By the time we got to the car my hand was clean, but there was still poop in my shoe. I sat, without putting my legs in the car, removed my sandal, and cleaned my foot while the children gagged in the back seat. Once all traces of fecal matter were removed from my actual foot, I still had the problem of poop in my sandal.

You should know two things. One, Matt is driving a fairly new car. Two, the sandals I was wearing were not of the "hose it off" variety. I could not see a way to get the mess and smell out of the soft insole of the sandal.

Matt looked at me and said, "Leave it."

So I did. I left my poop shoe by the side of the road, with its partner, for good measure, and rode home barefoot.

That, my friends, is why I went to see Rachel Platten and came home without my shoes.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016


It is a time of transitions, large and small, in our household. 

We changed our TV service today, which was both a small transition and a colossal pain in the rear.

Harper is getting ready to transition to middle school.

Michael is getting ready for his first stint as a bus rider, to be part of a new after school situation, and to go to elementary school without his sister.

I am getting ready to start at a new school. I'm also working on leaving things at my former school in good shape for a new person to take over. As I mentioned before, at the end of the year I didn't know I'd be leaving that library. Things weren't in bad shape on the last day of school, but they weren't left the way I would want a new person to find them, especially if he or she isn't hired yet and school begins in about two weeks. I thought, perhaps, that new librarian might not want to walk into a pile of books that need to be repaired! 

Matt isn't in the middle of any particular transition (other than learning the new TV channel numbers), but he does have to deal with all of us as we adjust.

There will be new teachers, new schedules, a new dance season (5 out of 7 days of the week someone will be at the studio), new homework expectations, new bosses, and new colleagues to get used to.

One of my favorite musicians, Dar Williams, once said, "I don't like change, but I'm good at it." 

I'm trying to be good at it, too. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Back to School Panic Organizing

In this part of the country we are already staring down the calendar at the first day of school. My children have almost four weeks of summer break left. I go back to work, gulp, three weeks from tomorrow! 

I love the library job I have done for the last two years. It has been a near perfect fit for my skill-set, my interests, and the amount of time and energy I want to give to a job considering the phase our family is in currently. I said, MORE THAN ONCE, at the end of the last school year, how happy I was to be coming back to the same job for the third year in a row. For one reason or another, including a break to be a stay-at-home parent, I haven't worked the same job for more than two years, ever. Unless you count babysitting gigs from my high school days. As much as I love my job, I also love summer break and mourn it as it draws to an end. I miss reading by the pool, waking up later than 6 a.m., impromptu ice cream runs, etc. When I'm at work, I rarely wish I was anywhere else; but when I've had a break from work, the thought of reentering the grind makes me want to hide under my covers, or maybe under a beach towel.

As it happens, I'm not returning to the same job in the fall. I'm still going to be a librarian, but at the other middle school in our district. Applying for that transfer was a difficult decision. Transferring means I will be at the same middle school Harper will attend. She's... not thrilled, but this will infinitely simplify our daily lives. Still, I loved the people I worked with and the space I worked in and I'm sorry I didn't get to say a proper good-bye, as the transfer didn't happen until after the school year had ended. Now, in the little amount of summer I have left, I'm trying to leave my old job space the way I would have wanted to find it as a new person coming to work there. I also need to get oriented in the new space. Needless to say, this year's back to school panic has been magnified.

Every year, when back to school panic mode sets in, I am consumed by an intense need to organize everything in sight. The efforts of this labor will undoubtedly be undone by the second week of school, but seeing order around me helps a little when my psyche is rattled.

And now... evidence of The Back to School Panic Organizing Event of 2016:

Fresh pencils, ready for the homework that will take place at the kitchen table. This shelf used to hold two plastic cups with broken colored pencils and eraser-less #2s. 

The bin holding other art supplies... now featuring items sorted into labeled containers. Micheal helped me test all the markers and every colored pencil has been sharpened. I even cleaned the sticky residue from the outsides and caps of the glue sticks. 

Here you see the ruthlessly weeded toy closet. Half of what was in there has been moved to basement storage or into bags for donation.

This is the magic binder that aims to tame the schedules, lunch menus, directories, and the thousand other pieces of paper that come home from school and activities. This week I emptied it of last school year's papers, which were either filed (report cards, some samples of the children's work, class pictures) or recycled (most of it).

The same binder: it has space for emergency information, allergy information, 6th grade information, 3rd grade information, and a few tabs for various activities. It lives in the kitchen next to the phone. In case you're wondering, there is a three-hole punch in the cabinet, right next to the casserole dishes.

Some of the home organizing spills over into work as well. Here are two of my binders for the upcoming school year. The binders with the plastic cover you can slide paper into might be my most favorite school supply innovation of all time.

Sorting, organizing, labeling - these are my grown up version of sucking my thumb - I find them soothing. To quote Rizzo, "There are worse things I could do..."