Saturday, August 31, 2013

First Week of School, Structure Again & Blog Themes

Every year I can't wait for the school year to end so that I don't have to wake up so early every morning all stressed out in the rush to get the kids to school on time. I look forward to the summer break. But as I get into summer I start to long for the structure that the school year provides. I look forward to Fall and Winter!

(Photo borrowed from Manteca School District)

This year the summer flew by. It seemed like I always had something going on and I rushed forward to reach our family vacation to the East coast right before school started. We had a good time and we had some challenging times but I'm sure it will be a vacation we will remember for a long time. Next one is to the West Coast.

I came back to the "Back to School" rush, buying them their uniforms and school supplies and suddenly here we are. They started this past Monday. I woke up at 6:30 every morning for a week and this evening I finally crashed and burned. I fell asleep for about 2 hours.

I crashed because of the structure. Every day I stayed up all day and I worked. I had a couple of meetings and I worked on a project that I'm finishing up. I didn't come home and take naps like my friends may have thought. I'm not going to say I wasn't tempted, but I didn't do it. The results were that I got a lot of stuff done but my fuel ran out around 8 tonight.

Now here I am awake at 2 a.m. and I realized that I started this blog a few days ago and forgot about it. I'm kind of tired but I took a shower and my hair is still wet so I'm going to wait a little longer.

One of the cool things I did this week was to go hear Gwendolyn Zepeda read her poetry. She was awesome as always and extremely entertaining. Whenever I listen to people like her and like Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess, I'm always struck by how funny they are and I wish I could be funny like that. But being funny isn't that easy. You either are or you aren't and sadly I'm not really. At least not like them.

And I've said this before. I'm not brave like them either, especially not brave like Jenny Lawson who will say ANYTHING and I do mean anything. I want to blog like that. But I don't. I blog like this because this is who I am and I can't blog like Loida Casares pretending to be Jenny Lawson. It just wouldn't work. All of you who know me would be all, "Why is she talking like that all of a sudden." Yeah, that's not good.

Here lately I've also been hearing about how a blog should have one theme. Like Julie & Julia's blog was all about cooking. Then there are crafters and sex writers. I don't have ONE solid theme. I'm all over the place, but I kind of like that because really, that's who I am. That's why at the top of this blog I list all the things I'm passionate about. I like to blog about all these different things.

But I still worry that I'm supposed to be blogging about one certain theme and that if I did I would have millions of followers. What do you all think? My lovely readers who never leave me any comments. I know y'all are out there even if you don't comment. My Google Analytics tells me you are. Unless you just all happen to come across my blog because of my awesome Nike quotes and then leave.

So if you can, drop me a comment and give me your opinion. Should I stick to one topic, like the kids, the challenges of HISD, the challenges of having a son with Asperger's, my daughter who has been part of the Vanguard program in HISD since Kindergarten. There are a lot of things I can talk about or I can just stick to an education theme. Decisions, decisions....

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cleaning My Childhood Home

The summer didn’t go at all as planned. I quit my job and planned to relax the whole month of May until the children were out of school. First things first, I put myself out there and I let people know that I had quit my job and that I was going to start my own business. The calls and the requests for meetings poured in. I was flattered but also a little overwhelmed.
In June my father threw a big curveball at me when he decided to move in with me. I wasn’t prepared and I’m still not organized. He had been living with my sister since January after a serious illness at the end of December 2012.
He wasn’t getting along very well with my sister. He was only allowed to walk in the house and the back yard. So one day in June he decided to sneak out, jump the low end of the back fence, and he walked to the donut shop all alone. Not a good thing, but I think he had reached the end of his rope. He felt like he was confined to her house, which who are we kidding, he was. That was the beginning of a 2 day downward spiral that resulted in him calling me and asking me to go get him.

So that’s how at the end of June I found myself taking care of him.

He had only been here for a couple of weeks when in early July we received an unexpected request to rent his house. We were not prepared for this in the least.

My mom passed away in 2000 and at that time the sisters had all taken different knick knacks of my mom’s and my eldest sister’s that we cherished. My sister had passed away in 1995 and my mother had many of her things, including her jewelry.

Other than the jewelry and a few things, we didn’t really go through the house and we didn't give it a good cleaning. Except for that one time when my dad cleaned out the attic and he asked each of us to come by to review the boxes and to take what belonged to us. That’s when I found my Kindergarten workbook.
But to clean the house, really clean the house, room by room, to empty it out and to prepare it for someone else, wasn’t something we had done.

My father, being elderly and not really understanding how things work acted as if it were not a big deal. I knew better.

I went to his house for eight days straight cleaning 4-8 hours a day, depending on the day and what else I had going on. My sister came in for four of those 8 days to help. We hired a woman to help us one day with some heavy scrubbing and I took the kids to help me on another day to move out all the trash.

What my sister and I found in those days that we cleaned was incredible. My mother kept everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. We wondered if she had an obsession with graduation and wedding invitations because she had so many! She had invitations from weddings from the 1960s through the 1990s. She also had income tax returns from the 1960s. She had all of those organized by year very neatly, but she had them all.

My parents were Jehovah's Witnesses so they had Watchtowers from the 1940s and almost every convention program from the 1940s through the 1990s. My father had even added some from the 2000s in there for good measure.
Among the memories that she kept I also found very touching pieces as well. She had an envelope with cards that she received when I was born. She had an envelope with a decree from our then city mayor, Louis Welch declaring February 11 Loida Day. She had my original birth certificate signed by my doctor, Dr. Boone. She had a folder with all of my report cards, first grade through fifth grade and some other grades in middle school and high school. The folder was also filled with every certificate and award I ever received.  I felt nostalgic and I missed her so much when I saw these things.

There were some items that we found that meant more to my sister, because they reminded her of things that happened before I was born and before I even existed.

My sister found a letter to my sisters that apparently my mother had written from the Valley. My sister was too young when the letter was written and she can’t remember why my mother had traveled. She said it was around the time she had lost our brother who was born premature. I wondered if she had needed an escape and had gone down there for a little while to get better. It was written when my sisters were young and a couple of years before I was born.

The letter is such a telling tale of how well my mother knew my sisters. She gives each one of them advice on how to act while she was gone and as she addresses each one she points out their challenging personality traits. For example she tells my sister, who was the youngest at the time, “don’t be jumping around like a monkey and don’t hurt yourself like you often do.” My sister cracked up laughing when she read it.
There were also many things that I knew and that I remembered more than my sister because I lived with my parents the longest. For example, when my mother died I wanted a couple of pieces of jewelry that she bought when I was with her. I remembered how she debated between the cocktail diamond ring and a sofa at the jewelry counter at Montgomery Wards. I went with her on her shopping quest for a blue aquamarine ring in Mexico. I’m happy to say I have both of those pieces.

This time as we cleaned we came across my mother’s molcajete. I told my sister I wanted it even though I knew it was actually her second molcajete and not the original one I had grown up seeing her use. I remember the day that she finally bore a hole of the bottom of the old one and how she complained about the time it would take to wear this new one down smooth enough to use.
It was a melancholy feeling as well as a victorious feeling when I finished cleaning the house on the last day that our new tenant prepared to move in. I looked around at all the empty rooms that held so many memories for me.

When my mom died my then husband and I agreed to move in with my dad for a while, until he became accustomed to the idea of living alone. They had been married for 52 years at the time of my mom's death.  We lived there for almost two years with him and my daughter was born during that time. She spent the first few months of her life in those rooms and I nursed her in the old blue chair we were throwing out.
Since I moved out eleven years ago the house didn’t remind me of my mother any more. My father had collected junk in the front room, that had been my bedroom when I was a little girl and later a dining room when my mother was still alive.

Now that the house was clean it brought back so many memories of my mother. As I cleaned each room it reminded me more and more of the feeling in those rooms when she was alive. I knew that she would have been very happy to know that we were helping my dad and I think she would have been happy that we were renting the house to our front door neighbor's daughter. She always like them a lot.  

Before she died my mother made me promise that I would take care of my dad. No doubt she knew what a challenge that would be and she had a feeling he would live a long life, unlike her.  I know I’m not the perfect daughter, but I’m doing my best, and I think my mom would be happy knowing that.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I Survived Seven Days with Two Children Under the Age of Thirteen

I'm back! And yes, I actually survived. We had a fabulous time and I only had two break-downs where I wanted to beat the kids, but didn't of course, because..... because I would never do that.

Me and Lincoln (with a little green paint) Photo by Seth

We flew into Washington DC and stayed there 3 nights and we had 2 full days of sightseeing. We arrived on Friday evening so we just walked around our great hotel near Chinatown. There was a beautiful Chinese arch down H Street. We got the lay of the land and saw a restaurant we wanted to go back to the next day.

On Saturday we saw several of the sights on the Mall. We saw the Washington Monument surrounded by scaffolding because it's being renovated. From there we walked on to the Lincoln Memorial, passing the WW2 memorial along the way. After the Lincoln Memorial we saw the Vietnam Memorial and then the memorial to the signers of the Declaration of Independence on our way to see the White House. From there we took a cab over to the Capitol building (yes we actually did that because we were really tired) and we looked at the Capitol, the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court building. Amazing architecture all built in the Neoclassical style.

The second day in DC we spent most of the day at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. We also went to Georgetown because I really wanted to see the town and the University but we were attacked my a mosquitoes while we were on campus so we left and went back to Chinatown for dinner.

We woke up on Monday to prepare for our first train ride together. I love trains and the kids had never been on a train. So off we went to Philadelphia on the train. Of course the DC Union train station is also beautiful. The architectural style is Classical, Beaux-Arts. It has HUGE columns in the front and an impressive main hall.

The train ride was nice and the kids had a great time on their electronics so the time passed quickly. Soon we were in Philadelphia. We left our luggage in the baggage check area of the train station and we went out on our excursions to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the first City Hall, and the City Tavern. We saw other old buildings and sites along the way.

Before we knew it it was time to get back to the train station and our trip into NYC. We arrived into Penn Station before it was dark and Seth's reaction was priceless. He came out of the station, looked around and said, "It's so beautiful and so ghetto at the same time!" What an awesome description of New York!

That night, after we checked into our tiny room and they adjusted to the change from our big spacious room from DC, we were off to ride the subway and to see Times Square at night. They were in awe of all the electronic billboards, the huge Toys R Us and the Hard Rock Café where we had dinner. It was a great first night.

On our first full day in New York we went to the 9/11 Memorial, the Upper West Side, Zabar's and Central Park. I had never walked the part of park that we walked and Seth loved the big rocks that he got to climb along the way. When we got to a big lake, which is the second largest lake in Central Park, the kids saw people boating and wanted to find the source of the boats. We followed a path all along the lake until we arrived at the Loeb Boathouse. (The boat house from 27 Dresses) There we rented a boat and I let the kids paddle me around, against my better judgment, as I kept saying.

From there we went on to American Girl where we bought Haley (Miranda's American Just Like Me Doll) an outfit and as we walked to find the Metro entrance we ran into Rockefeller Center, which the kids recognized from of course, 30 Rock. That was the end of Day 1 in NYC because we had to get to bed early to wake up super early to go see Lady Liberty.

We actually woke up in time, were able to get the kids breakfast, and we were boarding the ferry to Liberty Island at 8 a.m. This visit, unlike my last visit, the pedestal and crown were open but I was only able to get tickets into the pedestal. We actually took all 195 steps up to the pedestal and we were able to see the lady and the view of New York. I must admit it was pretty cool. We were able to visit the small museum inside of the pedestal and learn all the history about how she was built and the history of the pedestal and torch.

We were barely able to squeeze in a walk through Battery Park, and then a quick visit to the Empire State building before meeting a friend and media colleague of mine for lunch at a cute Korean restaurant where unfortunately Miranda lost her pink DSI. Because from there we took a taxi to Rockefeller Center to see the Lego store. Seth had seen the store from across the plaza the day before and we promised to go back on Wednesday.

After a short rest in the hotel room we went back out to look at the Brooklyn Bridge before it got dark. The kids enjoyed the view of New York and Brooklyn from the first arch of the bridge for a while. From there we walked to Little Italy for a great pizza at Lombardi's.

By Thursday morning we were ready to go home. We started our trek out to Newark, NJ and our long journey home. We ended up getting stuck in Dallas and we weren't able to actually fly home from Dallas until Friday morning. (I feel like I'm barely recuperated on Sunday!)

It was a great trip. Yes, I had my moments when I thought I was going to lose it, but all in all I held it together pretty well and I made it. I hope that the kids had a great time and that they enjoyed the experience.

I didn't go with any big expectations. I didn't expect them to want to look at every detail, but I wanted for them to see the main highlights of each of these cities and I wanted for them to have a history lesson about the United States. So that when they study these places and this history in school they will be able to say, "I've been there, I remember that story." I think they will.