Wednesday, July 29, 2009


and Bear Gryls both cover their skin with mud to ward off mosquitoes.

So does today's photo subject:

Overthinking School, Bus Accidents, and Other Thrilling Moments in Parenting

And so back to our regularly-scheduled examination of my navel, or, more accurately, an update on how I am doing micro-managing the lives of my overly-blessed and overly-mothered children.


The school dilemma got more complicated yesterday, folks. Well, the decision to move the boys got easier, but I don't want to rely on what happened yesterday as grounds to make the decision, so then again it didn't. Get easier, that is.

Allow me to 'splain.

Yesterday in the mail we received One's packet from private school with details on his upcoming field trip. We've known this trip was coming since we enrolled him two years ago, but somehow seeing the package with our first bits of information freaked me out completely. Details are pretty much as follows:

  • Two day bus trip there and back again, totalling 2400 miles.
  • Ten days away from home.
  • Gone over a holiday weekend for which we already have excellent and fun family plans involving close relatives not seen in almost two years.
  • No identification of parent chaperones - just the names of the two teachers
    accompanying the children.
  • Three pages of rules, including gems such as "keep feet on the floor of the bus" (for 48 hours?!), "be gracious to everyone", "no snacks unless you have eaten something from every food group that day", "maintain quiet conversation in vehicles", and "stay in sight of the adults at all times".
  • A $1700 fee on top of tuition.

Hmm. Well, let's start with the bus company. One fatal accident in the past ten years, in the same state as One's destination. I saw the pictures of the bus on the NTSB website, showing how it ended up 1/3 shorter than it began - nightmarish. Then, the rules: he doesn't follow any of these particular rules at home, and I'm not sure how he's going to pick them up on this trip. And, the fee: did I mention we're already behind in tuition payments for this year? And that this "switch to public school" discussion arose not our of a dissatisfaction with our private school but out of financial concerns? I thought so.

Despite all this, I don't want to use this trip as the straw that breaks my camel's back. Why? Because if it's going to happen I want the school switch to be about positive reasons and not about "mommy is too frightened to be without her 'ittle sweet baby for a week." Because part of me is, and if I use this as part of the decision, I know it will be unhealthy for both One and me.

So if we move the boys, and anyone asks, remember: the move had nothing to do with this trip. I promise.

If I have to pray for weeks solid to make that a true statement, I will. I promise.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Big Birthday

Husband is now officially 40. He has slept his first night as a 40 year old, and the news is as old and stale as a three day old baguette. I avoided blogging about his birthday over the weekend, since we were actually having his birthday, for real, and I preferred to participate in it. Even writing as little and as poorly as I do, there's something about writing about an event (especially as it happens) that turns you into a total spectator and not a participant. It's like being the one with the video camera at the birthday party: you can't help your child blow out his candles with that thing pasted to your face.

So the day was filled with peace and harmony, presents and food. The most amazing man I've ever met is officially a year older, and I love him 20 times more than I did when I met him 20 years ago. Life is good.

May God grant you many years, my dear one. I love you.

Mark Steyn is Funny, and Other Deep and Important Truths

I've avoided wading into politics lately - helps with the blood pressure, don't you know - but I have to hop off the wagon long enough to share this Mark Steyn piece on the Henry Louis Gates to-do. As always, as funny as they come.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Help in the Wrestling Pit

Here's an email from my friend Kelly, posted here with her permission as a "guest blogger", in response to my public vs. private school post below. Isn't it great to have such wonderful friends? When she gives in and starts a blog of her own, and becomes famous and all that, remember you read about her here first.

"I think we expect an awful lot of ourselves. Fact is, I KNOW I overthink the hell out of every decision I make. The kids are going to remember the play doh and the coloring you do with them. They will remember frisbees thrown and fish caught. They will not remember how many hours you spent beating yourself with wet noodles over the relative value of private vs. public education. You feel like you are quitting because you are making a decision about money. Perhaps if you changed your point of view to the other side of the river and looked back over it would help.

On the public side of the river there is a check for 20K, arguably more interesting kids, probably more diversity, your kids suddenly have the best study skills and attention in the class, they will have the benefits of the top 10% rule (or 7 or whatever), you will feel good about actually getting some value out of the property taxes you pay. (tuition plus property tax is a more accurate description of the cost of private school). And, your kids are well travelled and get to enjoy a new enrichment activity like tuba, or whatever.

Now look back over the river. It is safe. It is very costly and it is stressing your sweet self out completely. It has you wondering if you are a good mom. It has you giving up every extra bit of what you earn.

All of a sudden I want to go tour my local public school. You wouldn't even be considering this if it wasn't a perfectly good choice. You'll probably end up being one of those public school champions who reinvigorate the whole school. Go for it!!!"

Thanks Kelly.

Wrestling with Big Decisions

Well, all of a sudden it seems like Husband and I are wrestling with a big decision about the boys. No, it's not the choice between whether to give them to the circus or the gypsies - it's about school. And actually, it's not all of a sudden, because the difficulty we're having keeping them in private school has been brewing for quite a while. I think it was the chance to unwind in Colorado and think important thoughts that has brought this to the fore, and all at once we're looking at our budgets and wondering how much difference there is between what they are getting now from private Montessori school and what they would get at our neighborhood school. Wondering what it would be like to not worry about how we're going to pay for emergencies (what is that noise my car has been making, anyway?). Wondering what we could do to further enrich the boys' lives with some of that extra money every month.

I don't have any answers - just the eternal questions of every parent: am I doing things right? Could I do it differently and would they be fine - even better off? Is it better to pay for private school and barely have enough money to take a family vacation once every two years? Or is it okay to choose public school and have enough money to spend 10 days in Ireland next summer, or visit DC over Spring Break, or send One to Outward Bound in a few years? What benefits them most, and what makes Husband and my lives less stressful? I don't know - your guess is as good as mine, friends.

It is so hard to prioritize, especially when it's not just about you. I can tell fairly easily that I'd rather drive a minivan and have kids than drive a Mercedes convertible and be childless - that's about me and my wants, and I know those intimately. But when I have to choose this or that for my children, that's when the headaches (and heartache) begins. And frankly, I'm not choosing between throwing them to the lions at some horrible public school and keeping them in splendor at private school - that's what makes this so hard. Both schools are good. Both schools are fine. I like Montessori better: it works for both boys very well. The boys have formed good friendships at school - not something that's particularly easy for One, I might add. Neither boy likes change, and if we switched it would be school #4 for both of them (if you count One's year of homeschooling). That's a lot at their ages. But is their comfort worth $22,000 a year? Someone else has to do that math for me: it's above my pay grade.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ups and Downs

Barbara Curtis at Mommy Life posted this recently, and after watching it 4 or 5 times there, I thought I would share it with you over here.

I need to remember that life is a roller coaster, and that I'm glad I'm on it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Moral Dilemma

I have a small moral quandry to place before you dear friends. Husband's 40th birthday is this Sunday, and I am planning things to perfection. Sunday morning we will do presents here, breakfast will involve bacon, and then we will trot off to church. After church we will meet up with his mother and her travelling companion at Husband's favorite restaurant, followed by cake at his mother's house, where she will give him his present. After that, the rest of the afternoon will stretch before him in lazy, humid, cigar-smoking leisure. By 3pm he will have no responsibilities, I will make a light dinner, we will put the boys to bed early, and all will be well. Perfection, I tell you, perfection.

Now here's the fly in the ointment: his mother just called, and can we possibly re-arrange all of Sunday, turning lunch into dinner, cake after that, cause ourselves to get dressed up in our nicelies twice, squash his long relaxation into two hours, keep the kids up late, and generally give everyone in this house a headache? Why, you ask? Well, she and her travelling companion have nicer seats than usual to the Astros game (Club seats, she says) and that, of course, is at 1pm or some such time. So while she's dying to celebrate her precious son's birthday with him, can we please do it after her baseball game?

What do you think? Do I act like the gracious Southern Lady I occasionally pretend to be, or do I allow my inner Yankee to tell her to suck eggs? All advice welcome and appreciated.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

On Being Absent

Life has been happening again, and I've been neglecting to post anything. In fact, while we were in Colorado this past week I actually forgot about the existence of both blogs. We had no land line phone and no wireless service. Wow - what a treat! We stayed in a little brown cabin in the trees, between the town of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I am so tired and relaxed right now it's a wonder I can sit upright to type.

All I have to leave you with until tomorrow are two vacation quotes from Two:

On why he picked wolf slippers as a treat and not moose* slippers: "What do you think? I don't want to be at the top of the food chain?!?"

For who knows what offence on my part: "You're from New York, which is why you're SO MEAN!"

*His nickname since birth has been Moose, which is why the question arose to begin with.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Best Sunscreen

The Environmental Working Group has put together a list of the best (and worst) sunscreens out there. Read, shop, and then enjoy the beach!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Deceitful Child

I bet you're wondering what this is a picture of, aren't you? Well, the open drawer is in the hall bathroom, and it's where I found those three curious orange objects on the counter. What are they? Well, they're children's vitamin C tablets, of course. Where else would you hide your vitamins if you (A) were six (B) hated vitamins, and (C) were afraid of flushing the toilet all by yourself?

Some days I'd love to sell him to the gypsies. And I'd make a lot of money, because he's one of them already.

A Prayer for the Johnsons and for all Families

"O God, our Father, bind together in Thine all-embracing love every family on earth. Banish anger and bitterness within our homes; nourish forgiveness and peace. Bestow upon parents such wisdom and patience that they may gently exercise the disciplines of love, and call forth from their children their greatest virtue and highest skill. Instill in children such independence and self-respect that they may freely obey their parents and grow in the joys of companionship. Open hearts to hear the truth within the words another one speaks. Open eyes to see the example of virtuous parents; open hearts to complete forgiveness and understanding of all things willed by Thee, O Creator and Sustainer of families."

--- St. Augustine

Sunday, July 5, 2009

One Sentence Book Review: The Blessings of a Skinned Knee

I read a Jewish parenting book and it taught me how to not nag my children.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Jenny in China

Check out my (I'm proud to say) friend Jenny's new blog Axis of Beebles; right now she and her family are in China, meeting their 6 year old daughter Rosemary for the first time. She's also blogging periodically at Motherlode at the NYT while in China, so don't forget to read that too. Prayers for safe travel, easy paperwork, good family/Rosemary bonding, and that she somehow won't be able to see the hateful and selfish comments the NYT readers are leaving her would also be appreciated, I'm sure.

What a wonderful adventure she and her family are starting out on!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Feeling Like Failure

I'm exhausted. Ground down to a nub. I don't know how many more ways to say it, but I've had it.

If I have to listen to my children fight one more time my head is going to explode.

I know. You're laughing. You're saying to yourself, "Self, you know so much better than Tari, because you know brothers are destined to hate one another at least 75% of the time. Poor Tari - she'll get over it."

But IT'S. NOT. TRUE. They have never been so nasty, so cruel, so hideous to one another as what I've endured this past month. They can hardly speak to one another without twisting their mouths, as if to gag on their brother's name. Or without screaming. And crying. And whining.

I. am. sick. of. this. It makes me want to quit, to let them be animals to one another (and the rest of the world) if they want to. It makes me want to give up killing myself to get them to activities, to take back the money we spend on tuition and take a two week trip with it - just Husband and I - to Hawaii.

Something, or somebody, has to change. I'm just praying I figure out how to help that happen.