Know Better, Do Better

Eddie, Charlie, and Alice,

By the time you are old enough to read these posts, you will already be fully aware of this: The school you attend where we live is very different than the school I commute to each morning to teach. At least at the time of my writing this they are very different.

Daddy and I grew up in your same school district. Back then it was even whiter than it is now, and I would argue that it is even more affluent now than it was then, although we weren’t doing so badly for ourselves then either. Living and going to school in such a district comes with lots of privilege.  Because the majority of you and your classmates come from homes with two parents, post-secondary education, and good careers (notice I didn’t say “jobs”), you all have the fortune of having resources like being read to, an adult home with you, a meal without thinking about where it comes from, a steady place to live, and so much more.

This is how I grew up too.

Grandpa and Grandma were not super wealthy by any means, just like your dad and I are not wealthy or part of the 1%. Your uncles and I were not the kids with the latest brands or the latest technology, but we definitely didn’t want for much. Just like you three.

In school we learned about slavery and segregation and how it was all over. We learned that it was done. In our super white community, in our school where I could count the number of kids of color on my hands, we were taught that segregation and racism were a thing of the past, thank Martin Luther King, Jr and Jesus. We were told “don’t say the “N” word,” and “It doesn’t matter what color your skin is.”

This is what we were taught at home too. Grandpa and Grandma grew up during segregation. They grew up with people who were overtly racist, but they learned better and they did better by teaching your uncles and me about it.

They knew better, so they did better.

Fast forward to me as a high school kid in my 98% lilly white affluent school. If someone from a different school that had more minority students than we had told me that some of our traditions or school spirit was racist, I would have told them to quit being so sensitive. We weren’t racist. We weren’t calling any teams the “n” word or burning crosses or using hateful language. We were just having fun.

I was the student who thought that “others” were trying to find racism and hate in innocent things. That because my intentions weren’t to hurt, then they were wrong to feel hurt.

I’ve lived a lot of life in the twenty years since I graduated from that school, and guess what. I know better now. I know better than to point at a person and say their feelings are wrong.

I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut and my mind and ears open when others are saying that something makes them uncomfortable or fearful.

I’ve learned not to brush off someone else’s experience because it is not mine.

I’ve also learned that I can’t be quiet now that my eyes have been opened. Now that I know better, I have to also do better. I have to help others know better so they can do better.

Our extended family is filled with people of color. My students and their families and the staff I work with are filled with people of color. As someone who loves them I simply cannot stand silent if I see people continue with the same mindset I once had. I know better, I need to say something so they can too.

My dear children, it will be easy for you to shelter yourself in your privilege. To remain silent when a comments or actions don’t seem intentionally racist, but are. To shut your eyes to what is happening “out there” and let yourself believe it’s not right here too.

But your dad and I can’t let that happen. Racism in all it’s forms need to not just make you uncomfortable, but make you furious. If you hear someone put down a school district, like the one I teach in, you need to say something. If you witness a tradition in your school that seems like it might make your cousins uncomfortable, you need to say something. If you notice yourself having a judgment about someone and you realize it’s because of the way they look, you need to stop and readjust your thoughts.

You need to do better.

Because now you know better too.

Sluiter Cousins at Justice's Baptism

Sluiter Cousins at Justice’s Baptism

Disney and Netflix

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I have a confession: I love Disney. I do. I know I am not a typical “Disney Mom,” but some of my fondest memories of growing up involve Disney productions. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that my kids are also drawn to anything associated with mouse ears too.

When I was in elementary school, VCRs were the new big technology thing, and my family didn’t have one. It’s a safe statement to say that my parents are not technology bandwagon jumpers. It is 2016 and they both only have flip phones. And my mom has one reluctantly–we had to give it to her for Christmas and switch their landline to it for her.

So in the 80’s the Riemersma family did not have a VCR of their own. However when my parents wanted to treat us to something special, we would go to the local rental shop and rent both a VCR and a few family-friendly (G-rated) videos.  Remember those little local video stores? Not the big box ones, but the little mom & pop ones? The one in our town was actually a repair shop that started renting videos and VCRs on the side. When you found a movie you wanted, you took the little circle tag off the hook in front of it and brought it to the shopkeeper. He would get it for you from the back and you would pay your rental fee.  They also sold microwave popcorn at the counter. But of course, we didn’t have a microwave either.

Anyway, my family always got a few Disney movies. Always. One cartoon and one non-cartoon. Always. I still sing “First you take a rag, put in the bag. BUMP BUMP!” when I am picking up after the kids.

First you pick it up, put it in the bag. Bump Bump!

My kids love Disney too. All three have gone through the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse stage. Alice is in it right now and I admit to loving watching her do the hot dog dance. Eddie has found all the old Mickey cartoons on Netflix and watched them a zillion times. His favorite is the Three Mouseketeers. He once told me that he loves it because “they always work together and the good guys always win….every time I watch it, Mom!”

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This past summer I took Eddie to see Zootopia. We both loved it! And guess what! As of September 20 it’s available on Netflix! I know what we are doing this weekend.

If that news isn’t big and exciting enough, maybe this will knock your socks off (it did mine): Netflix is now the exclusive place to stream Disney (THE JUNGLE BOOK!), Lucasfilm (ZOMG STAR WARS!), Marvel (Netflix original shows!), and Pixar (FINDING DORY IS COMING!). THESE ARE ALL OF OUR FAVORITES!

Just in time for the weather to turn cool and to bust out the cuddly blankets for a good movie night! So grab some popcorn and start streaming!

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Disclaimer: I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam. I receive free Netflix streaming and a device to watch it on in exchange for a post once a month. All opinions are my own.

 

And Then There Were Two School Kids

I thought I was ready. I though this year would be much easier, and I suppose in a way it was. At least with Eddie.  I have to say I was super prepared as far as supplies go. I had everybody’s supply lists filled before August even hit since I knew I had surgery and then a bunch of other busy things going on in August.

New lunch box and a backpack full of supplies for Eddie and a new backpack for Charlie Bird.

I started back the week before Labor Day for staff things and getting my classroom ready. Eddie had open house for 2nd grade–the Turtle Room.

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I asked him if he was nervous or excited. He shrugged and said, “well, I know everyone in my grade, so I guess I am just okay. A little excited to see everyone, but not too much. I like summer.”

On Tuesday the 6th, I kissed my not-so-little guy goodbye and told him to have a wonderful first day, and we both headed off to our first days of school.

This is where I get to say how much I hate missing every single first day of school for my own kids. Yet at the same time I am so grateful Cortney can be there to at least bring Eddie to school…even if it is to the before school program and not right to the classroom. With Eddie, this is his third year in the same school and the same before/after program. He knows how it all works.

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He even has that first day of school pose down. Cortney didn’t even tell him to do this, he just did it because he knows…he totally knows what makes a cute first day of school picture. He barely said goodbye to his dad as he found his friends in the multipurpose room and went to catch up after a summer apart. He was good.

When I showed up to pick him up, he was actually bummed. He wanted to go to the after school program and play with his friends even more. But we went home and he let me take the traditional first day picture by the tree:

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Who is this big kid? The only way I could get him to stand there and smile was to promise that he could also take a picture of me after my first day of Year 14.

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Don’t judge. I looked cute when I left the house in the morning. Then it was somewhere around the surface of the sun hot and humidity was around a million percent.  And our building does not have AC. So no, by 3:45pm, I was not looking so fresh.

Before I could wrap my head around Eddie and I being back to school, we found ourselves at open house for preschool…for Charlie Bird. The Fish Room!

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I feel like this is where my back to school adventure hit a curve in the road. I knew it was coming; I mean I bought the backpack with dinosaurs all over it! But holding his little nervous hand as we looked around what will be his classroom this year, my own tummy did flip flops for him.

You see, he is my brave, courageous, tough Bird. But he is very VERY cautious about change and new things. He is careful. And he gets overwhelmed and too much at once shuts him down.  We were very close to complete shut down at openhouse. It was…a lot.

But the last thing we did was check out the playground, and just like that, his smile came back. He knew how to “do” playgrounds. He was comfortable again. And his confidence came back. And he assured me preschool would be great.

This week was his first day. I was a wreck all morning knowing I couldn’t be there to hug him before he went. Yes, he had hugged me, put my face in his hands, and said, “Mom mom it will be a great day!” But I was still so nervous for him. Again, Cortney was able to meet our daycare provider at school for drop-off to give Charlie some last-minute hugs and encouragement.

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Of course he also got a quick shot of our Bird before he went off as an official preschooler. (That is his friend from daycare. They are not in the same class, but they do get to ride to and from school together. So that is fun).

When he got home, he came in the house and the first thing he said was, “Mom mom! School is AWESOME!”  I wanted to cry I was so excited for him.

He even let me take his picture by the tree.

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Tuesday morning I told him to have a great day at school and he smiled and said, “I will have a great SECOND day of school!”

Then his teacher sent me this:

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I mistakenly thought Back to School would be easier this year because I had been through it with Eddie three times already. I thought Charlie starting Preschool would somehow be easier because we had been through it with Eddie and knew what to expect. I learned that it doesn’t really matter. Each first day is a new first day. A new milestone. For Eddie it wasn’t as emotionally difficult, but it was still an adjustment to see him so easy and relaxed about going off without us into the world.

For Charlie it was much more emotional than I prepared myself for it to be. Preschool is a big milestone. It’s the first day of all first days of school. It’s the very start. And for my Baby Bird, it means he’s now not a baby. He’s Charlie now (although at open house he did tell his teacher he likes to be called Charlie Bird).  He goes into the world and learns things without me there.

Yeah, it doesn’t get easier.

But here we go…two kids in school. And one mom.

National Book Awards: The Next Bracket

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In June, I posted about a project that I am doing with a group of other educators. Dr. Steven Bickmore (you should go read his YA blog, by the way) gathered a bunch of us together to read all of the National Book Award winners and runners up since the award for YA turned twenty this year. We divided up the books by year (there are five books per year); my year was 1996 and I posted about those books here.

We each chose a “winner” from our year to move on to the next round. I chose A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer (a finalist in 1996; the winner that year being Parrot in the Oven by Victor Martinez).

From there we were put into groups of five to read each other’s picks and work together to nominate one from our group to move on. These are the next four books I read (in addition to A Girl Named Disaster):

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan (2000 National Book Award Winner)

Maybe it’s my historical fiction kick, but I really loved this book. In fact, this is tied for me with A Girl Named Disaster to move on to the next round.

So what is the book about? Koly is only thirteen years old when her parents arrange a marriage for her. While an arranged marriage is typical in India, Koly’s takes a tragic turn and she is left to fend for herself in a large city. The book is a quick read and appeals to all levels. It’s set in India and asks the reader to wonder about family structures, cultures, and traditions while also addressing the idea that the individual does not have to fit a mold to be a happy part of society.

Godless by Pete Hautman (2004 National Book Award Winner)

While Homeless Bird was my favorite of the four new books I read, this was my least favorite. I wanted it to be my favorite. I wanted to fall into it and find a bit of myself in it. The book is narrated by teenager Jason Bock whose family is very Catholic. Jason identifies as a “agnostic-going-on-atheist”. His parents try to get him into the fold of religion by sending him to a class at church for teenagers to talk about issues. The class only solidifies Jason’s apathy toward organized religion. In a moment of boredom and, according to Jason, clarity, he decides to create his own religion–one that worships the town water tower.

I really wanted this book to push the envelope and dig into the questions many teens have about religion and God. I was one of those teens and I craved books that showed others feeling and questioning as I did. This book fell short and only seemed to graze the surface. I was disappointed.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (2008 National Book Award Finalist)

This was another one that I loved. I almost put this as my vote to move on, but didn’t just because I think Homeless Bird appeals to a larger range of students than Chains does.

Chains takes place just as the Revolutionary War is about to begin. Isabel is a 13-year old slave in Rhode Island whose mistress dies. She and her sister are to be freed according to their mistresses will, but that does not happen and she is sold to a cruel New York City couple who side with the King and not with the American Revolution. Isabel finds herself befriending a slave boy who works for the Rebels and delivers messages and makes other dangerous errands that could get her beat…or worse.

This book was brilliant. It was long, and took a bit to get into, but the way Anderson wove both history and fiction together was flawless. Anderson has a follow up novel, Forge, and also a third, Ashes. I think students who love American History and have more reading stamina will fall in love with this series.

Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (2012 National Book Award Finalist)

I don’t read a lot of nonfiction and what I do read is usually memoir, and I definitely don’t read books about science, war, or bombs, so I waited to read this one until the very last. Where Godless disappointed me, this one thrilled me. Bomb is written as a narrative of how the nuclear bomb was imagined, theorized, tested, and finally created. It also weaves in Russia’s attempts to steal the bomb using primary source quotes from American and Russian spies. It’s a real-life story of war and espionage. While I know what happens in the end–we make the bomb before he Germans and bomb Japan–I was still on the edge of my seat for the personal stories of the scientists who worked on the bomb…and those who leaked information to the Russians. The photos throughout were also a wonderful addition to the book. I want a separate category for books like this, but I feel like maybe this is one of a kind.

Overall I think the books I can see my 8th graders picking up and reading on their own are Homeless Bird and A Girl Named Disaster. Those are tied for me and I would be happy to move either on to the next round!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

A Year and a Half

My dear Alice,

This week was so very busy with Eddie and me starting school and getting Charlie ready to start next week. Cub scouts started up again for Eddie as did bowling for daddy. Things were so, so crazy. But I didn’t forget you. I didn’t forget your milestone this week.

Tuesday you turned 18 months.  A year and a half. More toddler than baby now.

You are the absolute sunshine of my soul, my love. Your personality is really starting to develop while you find your place in this crazy family of ours. You are SO expressive! Both your laugh and your cry are LOUD, but you can also do the cutest little soft whispery voice.

You are a lady of few words, but can say “Mama,” “Dada,” “please” (peez), “thank you” (thack uuuu), “shoes,” “juice” (which sounds exactly like”shoes” but we know what you want because you are standing next to the fridge when you say it), “no,” “yes,” “uh uh” (for no), and “bop” (for your pacifier).

You shrug your shoulders if we ask you a question, which is especially funny because you do it even when you know the answer. You put your hands out when you want something. For instance if you see I have my phone you will put your little hands together. Sometimes you will even add “pees” and tilt your head to the side because you know I am weak for your cuteness.

You love baths, but hate water in your eyes. You love the beach, but hate the sand. You love to be outside, but do not enjoy grass in your toes.

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You love to be busy and helpful. When daddy makes a meal, you want your apron on too! When we pick up toys, you are quick to help. When I wipe you up after a meal, you want to wipe too. You put your dirty clothes in your basket every night, throw things away that you find on the floor (usually crumbs and bits of things your brothers have left behind), and you bring people their shoes. You know where things go and do not like then to be out of order. Just like your Mama.

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When your brothers were little (and even now to some degree, especially Charlie), they shadowed daddy all the time. Wanting to help fix things and wear a hat. Charlie still helps daddy mow the lawn and put things together. But you are my little shadow. Watching how you comb your hair, or play with the old makeup brush I gave you, or even wear my slippers around the house is like holding up a mirror to myself.

When I scold your brothers, you stand next to me with your little hands clasped behind your back like you are my wing woman. When I am in the bathroom doing my hair and makeup, you stand on the other side of the gate demanding a comb and makeup brushes and jewelry too.

You carry your baby the way I carry you. You give her kisses and giggle the way I kiss you until you giggle.

You throw all your things in your little purse, put it over your arm, and wave bye bye the way I do each morning before heading to work.

And while you’ve been doing this awhile, it still surprises and delights me everyday. After momming two little boys, having a little girl who wants to do what I do is lovely every day. It’s also a giant responsibility. I think more of the words and tone I use. About the way I talk about myself. Of course I think of these things with the boys too, but raising a girl who already wants to be just like me…well, it makes me think of what I hope for you and how I can model that in my own life for you to see.

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You are cute. You are the littlest. You are the only girl. And let’s face it, you may be a bit spoiled. You are used to getting your way. So when the answer is “no”? It doesn’t go over well.

The lip comes out, the brows furrow, and sometimes there are even tears. You will cross your arms over your chest, and at times you will stop your little feet. Daddy and I don’t give in, but sometimes your brothers do. They love you and think you are just the best thing. Eddie even calls you “Sweetie” more than he calls you “Alice.”

Charlie almost exclusively calls you “Beans” or “Beansy”. Both both refer to you as “Beansy Girl” when they are calling for you. I guess your nickname of “Alice Beans” has stuck.

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You love girly things in a way that actually surprised me. We have lots of “boy-type toys” in this house. Eddie would play with whatever when he was little, loving both dolls and trucks, the play kitchen and blocks. Charlie is a poster child for the boy stereotype with his obsession over dinosaurs, blocks, and trucks. You are my little girl stereotype. You have access to any toy, and over and over you gravitate toward the pink things: dolls, strollers, purses, tea set.

But that doesn’t mean you leave your brothers and their toys alone. Oh no.

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You have mastered the art of “Little Sistering”. If Eddie has his DS out, you need to sit and watch…which means you will eventually put your feet on him, touch the screen, and annoy him until he puts it down and play with you or he gets mad and leaves you.

If Charlie is building something with mega blocks, you have the notion that it is your job…your duty, even…to knock those creations down. Because clearly Charlie can’t be having fun if you aren’t there to destroy what he as built so he can start all over again. I think you think you are doing him a service.

They love you so much, Alice. You will find that Eddie is your confidant. He will listen to you and be by your side always. He will try to cheer you up and be there when you need a hug.  Charlie will be your defending. Not that you won’t be able to fight your own battles, but Charlie will have your back. He will be prepared to jump in whenever you need him. You have the two best big brothers a girl could ask for. You will always be loved, heard, and protected when you need it.

My sweet Alice…having you as my daughter is one of the biggest honors I have ever been given. You are my joy. I just love watching you grow and learn and be your biggest cheerleader.

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So my beautiful blue-eyed girl, never stop staring down new things. Don’t let the world tell you that you can’t be serious and that you have to smile all the time. But don’t be afraid to laugh and cry and stay expressive because it’s what makes you so very lovely.

I love you more than words could ever express.

Momma

All You Need is Love…

I don’t think it’s a secret that we love music in this family. Months and months ago, Cortney said, “hey…did you know there’s a new show coming to Netflix with Beatles music and Eddie Vedder sings one of the songs?”

Usually I am the one giving the first-to-know Netflix news, but when it comes to Pearl Jam/Eddie Vedder, Cortney is usually the one in the know first.

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We sort of forgot about it until a big box came in the mail the day I had my hernia surgery. Inside was a tambourine, harmonica, hats, and a microphone. I wondered for a moment if Netflix was trying to kill me, but then remembered that Beat Bugs was now available to watch!

The first day I was home with the kids after my surgery (which was 5 days post-op), I busted out the box of noise because I thought it would keep them occupied. I was right. Naturally they loved it. Naturally.

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He is singing, “I LOVE MY DAD EVEN WHEN HE IS MAD AT ME I LOVE MY DAD DAD!!!” in the most metal voice…so funny.

It was only after the kids put on an epic rock n roll concert that we settled down and found Beat Bugs on Netflix. Eddie was all like, “hey, they sing a song in every episode. That’s neat.” And Charlie was like, “I love songs!” And Alice just shook her booty.

I was like ZOMG THE BEATLES!  AND EDDIE VEDDER JUST SANG “MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR!” And is that P!nk singing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”? SHUT UP!

I mean, the show is cute. Yeah.

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Do you want to hear something funny? Cortney was actually a little mad we watched the show without him!  Ha!  We are usually late to the new shows, but we jumped on this one because it has everything we like: cute characters (look at Buzz! Just look at her! She is adorable!), great music, and umm…that’s it. That is all we require in a great show. It’s surprising how few shows meet these qualifications, really.

The only draw back (other than the fact that Netflix sent noise to our house via FedEx) is that Eddie keeps arguing that one really does need more than just love. “Love will not fill your tummy with food mom, even if you DO say the secret ingredient in your ice cream is love. I’m pretty sure it’s not.”

Rock on, fellow Netflix watchers!

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This post is not sponsored. Netflix provides free streaming and a device to watch on. I provide my own opinions.

Pearl Jam at Wrigley Take Two

Three years ago, in 103 degree heat, while rocking a UTI, and then being evacuated for three hours due to a wicked lightning storm and high winds, Cortney and I saw Pearl Jam at Wrigley. It was epic for a number of reasons. Clearly. In fact it took THREE blog posts to write all about it.

Things went much more smoothly this year, but not at first.

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We were about an hour or so into our drive in pretty stormy weather (my weather app told me Chicago would be done with rain that night for the show, but we would have to drive through some gnarly stuff), when my phone blew up with tornado warnings. Um. Apparently there was a tornado sighted just east of where we were driving. Since the weather was moving quickly to the east, we decided to stay on the road and keep driving (sorry, mom!). Then I checked Facebook and saw that my parents’ (who had the kids) were also under tornado warning, so I texted my mom to make sure everyone was in the basement.

Everything ended up fine; no one was swept away in a tornado, and in the end we had one of the quickest trips into Chicago we have ever had despite the severe weather.

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We got to our hotel right at 3pm for check in and then headed to the closest train station to get our tickets so we wouldn’t get stuck in the mad rush before and after the show. Then we decided that since we skipped lunch and it was close to 4:30pm our time (3:30 local), we would grab burgers at the Weber Grill.

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After dinner we were super full and had some time, so we headed up to the room to refresh from the drive and get ready to head out to the show. When we left the hotel for the train, the sun was shining and we were super excited.

As soon as the train came out into the open, it was pouring rain. Thankfully, it only last a minute and by the time we found our way to the Will Call line, it had passed. Good thing because it took almost an hour in line at Will Call to get our dang tickets.  Longest line EVER.

But it meant there was lots of time to people watch. Before we got there, my brother and his friend saw the drummer, Matt Cameron, walking around with his little kid. We were not that lucky, but I did see a LOT of beards and undercuts.

I also listened to a bunch of conversations because, well, it was crowded and everyone was very close. Lots of talk about the last time PJ played Wrigley and we were all evacuated for 3 hours due to the storm. Most of those stories had a lot of “dude!” in them.

The couple behind us made me realize how long we have been journeying to these shows. The guy was on the phone with what I assume was one of his parents. I heard snippets of “when you get there she will probably have to go pee pee or maybe some poops” and “at bedtime just read her a book and sing her a song. You can just make it up, but put her name in it. She will probably go to bed then, but if she says no, just say, ‘one more song and then you have to go to sleep’ and that will usually work.”

I chuckled to myself as I calculated that it had been eighteen years since my first PJ show (Alpine Valley, WI in 1998), and those were NOT the conversations I was hearing back then. At all.

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One in we quickly found our way to the field where we had 4th row tickets (think right field) behind the general admission people. So, excellent seats, basically. This friends, is why Cortney keeps his fan club membership current. It pays off awesomely for shows.

My brother and sister-in-law were also there and we found them before the show. My brother, Chris (the older of my two younger brothers), was with me when we both saw our first PJ show. Again, eighteen years ago. We both confirmed that at 38 and almost 36 we were too old for general admission tickets and needed a seat for our aging booties.

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They also had 4th row seats, but in left field. After the show we met them back at the Weber Grill (because it’s attached to our hotel) for drinks and snacks. It was fun to be able to have a little adult time with them since between us we have six kids.

The show started shortly after 8pm and went until just after 11pm.

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The last time we were here, there was the most blown out couple of all time in front of us. This year we got The Pearl Jam Mega Fan. He remembered to pack not just his air guitar, but also his air drum set and air keyboards. He had a Tommy Boy hair cut and jumped around like House of Pain was giving him direct orders. You better know his favorite songs were the old ones from Ten that have been played to death on the radio. Dude almost lost his mind when they played “Alive.”

We were entertained.

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I absolutely loved the show. Loved it. They opened with “Low Light” (after the opening chords of “Baba O’Reily”) which is one of my faves and then went into “Release”. I admit to crying. That song has always been a powerful reminder to me of how hard I fight my depression and anxiety disorders.

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in the lower left corner you an see PJ Mega Fan jammin’ out.

This is the whole set list:

  1. “Low Light”
  2. “Release”
  3. “Rain” (Beatles cover)
  4. “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”
  5. “Do The Evolution”
  6. “Last Exit”
  7. “Lightning Bolt”
  8. “Sad”
  9. “Amongst The Waves”
  10. “Evenflow”
  11. “Light Years” (Dedicated to Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip)
  12. “I Got Id”
  13. “Mind Your Manners”
  14. “Unthought Known”
  15. “Masters of War” (Bob Dylan cover)
  16. “I Am A Patriot” (Little Steven cover)
  17. “Daughter” (with the “W.M.A. tag at the end)
  18. “Jeremy”
  19. “Betterman” (with the “Save it For Later” tag at the end)

Encore #1

  1. “Bee Girl”
  2. “Just Breathe” (had a couple on the stage: Amy and Kyle. Kyle is a serviceman and Amy surprised him with tickets, so Eddie Vedder had them on stage. Kyle proposed during the song to Amy. ADORABLE)
  3. “I Believe in Miracles” (Ramones cover)
  4. “Let Me Sleep”
  5. “Inside Job”
  6. “Comfortably Numb” (Pink Floyd cover)
  7. “Interstellar Overdrive” (Pink Floyd cover)
  8. “Corduroy”
  9. “Porch”

Encore #2

  1. “Go”
  2. “Black”
  3. “Surrender” (Cheap Trick cover)

Encore #3

  1. “All the Way”
  2. “Baba O’Riley” (The Who cover)

Cortney made the statement–I don’t think it was a complaint, but maybe a little?–that the show was “cover heavy”. That is true, they did eight covers (9 if you count the started the show with the opening of “Baba O’Riley too). He also mentioned it seemed “slow” compared to three years ago when he felt his face had been melted by the sheer rock n roll of it all.

I didn’t feel my face was melted, but I definitely enjoyed this show, maybe even more than last time because I wasn’t dying of heat, drenched from rain, or exhausted because it was almost 3am.

I would have liked to hear “Future Days” rather than “Just Breathe” and it would have been nice to get a few songs of No Code. They only played two songs off their latest album, Lightning Bolt, which I thought was surprising. More songs than I would have liked from Ten, but what can you do? People like the old stuff, I guess.

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I couldn’t help but think about how Eddie Vedder used to hang from the lighting equipment during “Porch” and he even reminisced about where the song “Bee Girl” came from  talking about how he used to worry about the boy from the “Jeremy” video who was only twelve at the time it came out. Lots has changed now that the band members are all around fifty instead of thirty.

And we fans aren’t teenagers anymore and have our own kids. In fact, they play another show at Wrigley tonight and my brother is bringing his eleven-year-old son with him.

pearl jam

But man, Pearl Jam can still fill the stadiums. The place was PACKED. And even though there were definitely some “interesting” people there, Pearl Jam fans are still, for the most part, super cool. People are kind and helpful and fun. They are devoted too! We met a couple in our hotel who was there from Florida!

If seeing Pearl Jam wasn’t awesome enough, the next morning we got to have brunch with my best friend and her husband and son who live in Chicago.

I went home a very VERY happy girl. It was the perfect way to kick off my last week of summer vacation before heading back to school for the year.

Thank you to Cortney for picking me as his date to the show!

Clean Up With Groupon

This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own.

groupon

Cortney and I got married just over eleven years ago. Since I cannot tell a lie, I will admit that one of the most fun things about getting married is all the showers and fun house stuff that is gifted.

I’ve mentioned before that my love language is gifts, yes? I love to give, but let’s be real…I also love to receive.

I remember the joy of opening packages with sheets and towels and dishes that Cortney and I had taken great care to choose for our registry that we thought would be perfect for our first home together. We even made a pact to wait until after we were married and back from our honeymoon to use any of it.

groupon

The joy of receiving bath towels cannot be compared.

So I moved into the house we bought and stored all the gifts in the spare bedroom. After the wedding we added more and left on our honeymoon. When we returned I giggled with glee as I opened and washed and found homes for all our beautiful new things.

It’s now eleven years later and many of those things have had to be replaced…or should be. Our towels are looking ragged, we have a different bathroom color-scheme, and our scale has long since broke.

While I wish it was socially acceptable to through showers for ourselves every ten years of marriage (seriously, how great would that be???), we’ve had to suck up and purchase new things on our own. That is, after all, being an adult, right?

The good news? There is no excuse to pay a bagillion dollars for a new shower curtain or hand towels for the bathroom anymore, because GROUPON GOODS!

$300 towels for $70? Done. Bath sets that are normally over $50 for under $20? DEAL!

What were the first things you needed to replace after getting married? Pretty sure ours were the bathroom rugs (by the way Groupon has a deal where you can get those sweet memory foam ones for only $15! NICE!)

Mother Teacher

Back to school surprised me this year.

I was going along, enjoying summer, having hernia surgery, thinking everything was grand and then there it was, staring me in the face: Back to School.

It started with an innocent text to a friend, The Pastor’s Wife. We had talked about having a cocktail hour on her deck all summer and it hadn’t happened yet, so I texted to see if she wanted to put something on the calendar. The Pastor’s Wife happens to teach at the college level, and her response was: I would love to, but I go back on Monday.

I just stood staring at the text for a couple seconds. How could that be possible? It was still early August!

When I asked her as much, she said, well, students are back Aug 22, so inservices, etc.

That is when it hit me: it was NOT the beginning of August anymore, and I had to be back to school August 29…two weeks.

The spell of summer was broken and my brain officially started thinking about my classroom and all that had to be done. I couldn’t shut it down, the launch sequence had begun. So I went in and started gathering my thoughts…and putting desks in groups.

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I’ve got lists and piles and projects to tackle in the next couple weeks before a new crop of 8th graders walk through the door to room 103 on September 6.

While I prepare, I am still in the role of Stay at Home Mom for a couple weeks too. Counting today, I still have the kids all to myself for five more full days. While I am excited to start a new school year and get back to being a Working Mom, I am finding myself realizing we won’t have a summer with a 7, 4, and 1 year old ever again.

We recently finished up Eddie’s back to school shopping. We were given his supply list back in June, so as soon as I saw sales, I stocked up. Going into 2nd grade this fall, the coolest new purchase for him was a new lunch bag since his old one up and fell apart after two years of abuse. This afternoon we get to head to his school and see what teacher he will have. They go old school and post class lists on the office doors…just like when Cortney and I were little.

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My Charlie Bird is going to school this year as a big preschooler! We bought him a backpack–dinosaurs, as requested, and just received the letter in the mail telling us that his teacher is a friend of mine from high school! He will be going four afternoons a week and he is pretty excited about it. I actually am too. I remember being SO sad when Eddie was school-aged, but I am excited for Charlie! He is going to do so great!

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Alice will be back with Ms. Carolyn full-time. They adore each other, so I am not worried about that in the least, but I will miss my little shadow. It was so darn much fun watching her grow from a baby to a toddler with sass this summer. I know when summer comes around again she will be that much bigger and more independent, so I am trying to get in as many little snuggles and cuddles as I can with my Alice Beans.

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We have worn a groove into the summer: Mondays for library, Tuesdays at Ms Carolyn’s, Wednesdays to the Farmer’s Market, Thursdays at Ms. Carolyn’s, and Fridays for Free Fun. I even had laundry loads assigned to each week day so that we would be free for family time on the weekends.

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I was supposed to be keeping track for Eddie’s Summer Stretch homework of how many minutes he/we read this summer. He was supposed to do 100 minutes a week. I just told him to color in the whole chart. I’m sure we read enough. We averaged 20 books per week at the library plus the books we already have at home, plus the countless reading he does over my shoulder, on TV, on signs…it seems like if it has words, he’s reading it to me. Including a sign that said, “Bitchin’ Kitchen” while we were on vacation last month. HA!

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So the end of summer caught me by surprise. We posted a Wish List in June of what we wanted to do this summer. It included:

  • go on vacation (check)
  • go to the beach (check…more than once!)
  • go on a boat (check…thanks, grandpa!)
  • go swimming (so much check!)
  • swim in a pool (check)
  • go to the splash pad (check)
  • visit the Farmer’s Market (lots of checks)
  • play at some parks (check)
  • have a campfire (this has sort of happened, but not as a family)
  • run in the sprinkler (lots of checks)
  • play with friends we love (lots of checks!)
  • visit the zoo (maybe next week?)
  • go to the playground (check)
  • eat lots of ice cream (CHECK!)
  • Go to Sundaes on Wednesday at church (check)
  • Play on the slip n slide (check)
  • Chalk up the driveway (check)
  • ride bikes (check)
  • wash the cars by hand (check)
  • go fishing (check)
  • go to the donut shop (check…many times)
  • visit the library (check…each week)

I’d say we’ve had a pretty darn good summer. And if we can get to the zoo next week, that will be a great last hurrah before I head back to work.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the boys and I are doing some bead art stuff while watching Loony Tunes while Alice naps before we head out to see about that class list. I am required to help sort colors.

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ps. do you like the new header on the blog? That was done by Erin Barkel Photography. She really did a fab job!

pps. I have a project that needs funding over at DonorsChoose.Org. I need shelving for my classroom library! Can you help? Donate here.

Recovery

Be wary of anyone who tells you that recovery from any type of abdominal surgery will be “a piece of cake”.

A piece of cake is delicious and a totally good time. Abdominal surgery, and the recovery that goes with it, is neither.

My first experience with any sort of abdominal surgery was August of 2005. After less than two months of marriage, I had to rush Cortney to the hospital to have his appendix removed. Emergency surgery like that is frightening anyway, but our circumstances were complicated by the fact that I was rushing Cortney to the ER moments after he said goodbye to his dying dad.

The recovery was complicated by needing to be able to dress up in a shirt and tie, walk up a church aisle, and read scripture at his dad’s funeral three days after surgery.

My first abdominal surgery was an emergency C-section. That recovery was complicated by postpartum depression. As was my second C-section.

The recovery from my third C-section was simpler, but I would not classify it as “cake”. It still hurt. I still had frustrations and setbacks.

Hernia surgery was, by all accounts, the easiest abdominal surgery yet. The recovery was not what I expected, although it has been textbook. I wanted to be back to normal in days. I wanted to be back doing what I do with no lingering pain or other inconveniences.

But that is not how recovery generally works, is it? Recovery is usually at least a little hard. Because as soon as the initial numbness wears off, we have great pain. And that great pain can be controlled, but it’s not gone right away. Things are not “normal” just because we take some meds.

Other people are generally affected when we need to recover too. It’s obvious that when Cortney had his surgery, I took over household chores, and he took over pretty much all of life when I had all my surgeries. Once we had kids even more people rearranged their lives to help us out: people to care for our kids, help out at work, bring us meals.

And in all cases, once recovery is declared over, there are scars left to show what we went through. I have a long scar on my lower abdomen: the exit route of all three of our children. And now I have a little frowny face over my belly button (or as Charlie calls it, “a button rainbow”).

Recovery has been on my mind lately not just because of my own recent surgery, but also in terms of recovering from a pain that isn’t necessarily physical, but emotional. Which brings me back to Cortney’s abdominal surgery: his appendix.

We had been married just under two months and just left his dad and stepmom’s house where his dad lay prone on a Hospice bed, unresponsive, barely breathing, dying of lung cancer. We weren’t even out of the subdivision when I got the text that he had passed, but we couldn’t go back because Cortney was having an emergency of his own.

Once it was confirmed that he would have an appendectomy, I went to work making phone calls so everyone knew where we were and what was going on. I called my parents to please come sit with me at the hospital. I called my best friend and told her Cortney was having surgery…and that his dad died…and could she please start a phone chain to all our close friends. I ran home and threw some clothes and toiletries into a bag and grabbed my pillow in hopes they would let me stay the night with him (they did).

It was a whirlwind in every sense of the cliche.  We’ve been in recovery ever since.

I don’t think this is the kind of recovery you call call complete, although it does leave scars.

Sometimes, even after almost 18 months, my C-section scar will bother me a little. Sometimes it itches, sometimes there is a twinge. Grief is like that. Each time our children to things that make us think about what their grandfather is missing, our heart hurts where the scar of loss is. Each time I see the dimple in each of their smiles, I think of their dad’s dimple, and then I think of their Papa’s dimple. Each time Cortney has a house project to work on or tells me he is going to ask my dad’s opinion of something, the scar flares up.

I think of him at least once every single day.

Sometimes it’s a fleeting thought or a smile. Sometimes it’s a “what if he was here…” thought. And sometimes it just hurts.

Then I think about how if this is how my “recovery” is going, how much more hurt it must still be for Cortney and his siblings. For Cortney’s stepmom. For his Grandma. For his aunts and uncles.

He was my father-in-law for 57 days. The only photos I have of me with him are from my wedding to his son. How much deeper are the scars of those who had a lifetime with him?

I can’t even imagine.

With time after our surgeries, Cortney and I were finally deemed fine. And now, eleven years after Steve’s death, we are fine.  But the scars don’t go away. The emptiness doesn’t go away. The memories of the hurt don’t go away.

We will always be in recovery.

I love this picture for a thousand reasons, but one of the big ones is that Cortney now looks and acts so much like his dad then. And Charlie now, looks and acts so much like Cortney then.

I love this picture for a thousand reasons, but one of the big ones is that Cortney now looks and acts so much like his dad then. And Charlie now, looks and acts so much like Cortney then.

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