Monday, June 30, 2014


How often do you mean to say one thing but something else entirely different comes out of your mouth? Better yet, how often do you mean to say A but say B and don't even realize it?

DH is notorious for the latter. He can have an entire conversation with you about one thing but actually mean another thing. Without even batting an eye. Cuz he doesn't even know what he did. Sometimes I wonder how he fares at work, speaking law lingo and having a major brain fart. Without knowing he did. 

DH: Put your shoes on. It's hot today, so just put on your flippers.
DD: Um, you mean flip flops?

Nine out of ten times, he'll miss these two terms:

DS: Can I have dessert now?
DH: Sure, you can have a Dum Dum. Go pick a popsicle flavor.
DS: You mean lollipop.


DH: It's good day for a lollipop. Go get one from the freezer.
DD: Popsicle!

How about...

DH: After dinner, we can go to Baskin Robbins to look at books.
Me: Um, Baskin Robbins to have ice cream or Barnes and Noble to look at books?


DH: Mama made lots of pancakes for your birthday party. You can have one now.
DD: Cupcakes, daddy, CUPCAKES!

Nowadays, whenever Daddy commits a Word Crime, the kiddos all scream about the List--the compilation of his crossed brain-to-speech wires. The one that will give birth to a blog post.

Me: I think we're out of tomato sauce!
DH: Look in the upper cabinets. There may be some potato sauce up there.
DD: Tomato sauce! Mama, put that on the list!

However, the apples don't fall too far from the tree.

DH: Which fruit would you like to eat?
DS: I'm not sure. I'm depending on apples or strawberries.
DD: Um, you mean deciding between?

Even Miss Word Police slips up once in a while! During a conversation where Daddy was telling about his new favorite music artist, Stromae, which is a syllabic inversion (ha!) of the word, maestro, this happened:

DD: Where's his name from again? The word maestro? Wait, isn't that a kind of soup?
DH: Uh, no. That's minestrone.

Yep, it happens even to the best of us.

DD: What's your favorite kind of pasta? Mine's penne.
DH: Yes, we know. I like all pastas except for angel hair pasta. It's too skinny.
Me: Yes, we know. That'd be why I never buy angel fish pasta.
DD: ANGEL FISH? Angel hair!

Yep, this is another example of my inheritance of DH's disorders via environmental institutionalization. Except sometimes it goes outside the home, too.

Student: Mrs. Chang, why is that word misspelled on the board?
Me: Because it's Friday and Mrs. Brain's Chang is full.

Uh, they knew what I meant.


Me: You kids hurry up and put on your flippers! We're going to the Y!

See? There's a good reason why we four peas belong in one Crazy Pod.

In our defense, DH was just talking about the process of brain expunging. We are getting on in age, to the point where when our brains have reached a maximum level of content storage, old things have to be expunged before new ones can enter. DH was telling me how he has to go review some files from a couple of years back in order to do some work for a current client. Because he had already expunged old contents to fit in new ones.

I can totally relate. On my elliptical machine, I must concentrate really hard to do everything I need to do. I need to tighten my abs or else my lower back will ache the next day. I need to keep flexing and releasing my right hand on the handle bar or else my fingers will fall asleep 10 minutes into my run. I have to keep wiggling my left toes or else they will fall asleep in the last 10 minutes of my run. Right hand, left toes, abs. Right hand, left toes, abs. Let's just say that the percentage of time that I can keep all three up simultaneously is only about a measly 10. The rest of the time my brain is too full cuz I'm either enjoying the music (too much), wondering how much time is left, or worrying about how my right fingers and left toes will be falling asleep.

So, EXPUNGE, rinse, and repeat.

But speaking of old age, this happened eighteen long years ago:

18 years and we're still on our way to becoming gray and wrinkly together. Oh wait, he's gray and I'm wrinkly ALREADY. I guess that means we still complement each other pretty well.

And we'll probably have a lot more expunging to do when we're both gray and wrinkly.

Monday, June 16, 2014

"Mine, Mine, Mine"

Week One of Summer School, DONE.

And I lived to tell!

The weekend before summer school began, I was a nervous wreck. It was all about not knowing what to expect. Sure, I was expecting incoming third graders, but I knew very little about the students' levels, compatibility, habits, and backgrounds. I did know a handful of kids from our school, which helped a bit, and I was excited to have them in my class.

It's been a while since I've done a #TopTen, so here's my list of the Top Ten Things I Learned from the first week of teaching summer school:

10. It gets easier. If the Sunday night before summer school was a total blank slate, then by Monday after school, the slate was 80% filled already. By the end of the first week, I've pretty much GOT THIS. And I just met a new student on Friday who is joining us on Monday, but even that's no biggie now.

9. Planning. I realized that I was trying to squeeze way too much into a 4-hour day, so I swiped a few lessons or simply pushed them back into the days ahead. The thing about summer school is that it is pretty much up to the teachers what to teach, so I tried my darnedest to find appropriate, common core standard-aligned, and interesting materials to teach. It's like pulling things out of thin air if you ask me. But I've got my resources (teachers and internet), and I thank them very much. Last week I was planning day by day. This week, I'm pretty much all set.

8. Kids need to move. When I student-taught back in the days, my cooperating teacher did daily exercises with her class. The kids loved it and always looked forward to it. Now, we have a sleuth of technology for everything, so instead of simple squats and leg lifts, we now have YouTube. We've been doing the Sid Shuffle for days, and the kids are enamored with it. Three minutes is all it takes!

7. Daily Read-Aloud. We are reading the book, The World According to Humphrey, a chapter a day. It is about a classroom pet hamster named Humphrey, told from his point of view. I am surprised at how much I'm enjoying reading this to the kids, as I do my squeaky impersonation of Humphrey while the kids LAUGH-LAUGH-LAUGH at me. And I am surprised at how well-behaved the kids are during the readings. They do crack up whenever Humphrey talks about his "poo," though, as one would expect from goofy 8-year-olds.

 Go to

6. Nostalgia. I did these Pasta Art Butterfly Life Cycle with my first class of second graders 15 years ago. So of course I wasn't going to give up the chance of doing it again with these summer school kids! First we read nonfiction texts on life cycles, compared life cycles of salamanders, frogs, and butterflies, and then concluded the lesson with the Pasta Art Butterfly Life Cycle. I colored the pasta shapes the night before (ditalini, rotini, shells, and bow tie) in half-alcohol-half-water and food coloring, and the kids used them to create a life cycle of egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly. This isn't a rare or extraordinary project by any means, but it's one very close to my heart. And it's colorful and informative, no?

Click on photo to see details.

5. "How many more minutes?" And always followed by the words, "until recess." (In summer school, the most popular question is not "Can I go to the nurse?") At which time I just produce my most innocent look, break into my my biggest smile, and say, "I have no idea!"

4. Encouragement. A little encouragement goes a long way. Finding something positive--however minor or trivial--to say to kids really makes a big difference. It's hard to do for some kids who aren't apt to finish their work or follow directions, but I believe that the students most difficult to say positive things to are the ones who need it the most.

3. "Mine." I haven't been able to say this for a while, but this is my class and these are my students. Their well-being is my responsibility. Their achievement is my pride. And their laughter is my smile. Just take it from these seagulls from Finding Nemo:

2. Reward. I grew up immersed in the Confucian mindset of humility; the proper Asian way of responding to compliments is to deny them (confidence-boosting much?). But I've also lived in this culture long enough to have learned to simply say "thank you" when someone says something nice to me. I've had several compliments come my way since summer school started, from students and parents alike. It's just a wonderful feeling to know that my effort is paying off. Coincidentally, I've also learned that my perfectionist instincts prove to be no more than superfluous, time-wasting feats that can be quite unnecessary. But baby steps. At least I have the luxury of time to waste this summer <blush>.

And, finally,

1. That this is SO my thing. It's taken some time to get back into the act of teaching--standing in front of kids and presenting academic materials. But now I find it inexplicably comforting to be in a classroom full of kids, to be the facilitator of learning, the setter of examples, and the mother hen of these wide-eyed children. Don't get me wrong--it's not all always easy; there are excruciating times, challenging kids, and moments where my blood pressure is in danger zone. But among these little (most-of-the-time) kindred spirits, it's really my privilege. Especially when I'm given the gifts of smiles, achievements, and flowers.

One week down, two-and-a-half more to go.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


My hands are gripping tightly on a rope, and I feel the rope slipping. My mind anticipates each slip and prepares for the sharp pain of rope burn that accompanies it. 

You see, these are screen shots of my substitute teaching calendar beginning from April 28 to June 5, 2014. Blue squares are the days I worked. White squares are weekends/holidays, and gray squares are days I took off (one for chaperoning a field trip with DS, and one for a coffee/lunch date with my bloggy friends, Shannon and Kari). Today is June 4. Tomorrow is the last day of school. 

And summer school starts NEXT MONDAY. (I can't even think about all the things I still have to DO!)

Every year, the month of May is one of sheer madness. We have two birthdays, Mother's Day, violin concert and recitals, year-end school performances and events, and all the regularly scheduled activities LIKE BREATHING AND SLEEPING. 

In attempt to avoid rope burns, I grip tighter. A slipping rope would definitely cause pain.

Within eight days, DD turned eleven and graduated from her Elementary School. It is almost strange to see her feet nearly clearing the foot of her bed when I wake her in the mornings. Who is this giant child I'm looking at? Her feet are ginormous, legs long, fingers slender and delicate, cheeks twice the size of the ones I used to zerbert. Yet there she is, sleeping like a baby, so peacefully. I stare a few moments before continuing the hustle and bustle of the day, yanking her out of bed, again racing against the clock. 

For her birthday bedroom surprise this year, I went with lights again, except these ones have beautiful mini lanterns on them. They have been hiding in my closet for a few months, and I couldn't wait to put them in her room. But now that "birthday room surprise" is a thing in our family, it was not so much a surprise for her than a "wow, it's pretty!" Which is good enough for me.

Now that she is months away from middle school, we wanted to update her "girly" room with something more practical as she gets older. If you remember from last year's birthday room surprise, she still had her play kitchen, a birthday present from her auntie from when she turned two. 

That kitchen had been loved and cherished, and now has come full circle and found a new home--living with the gifter's children: my nieces. It will continue to be blessed with little hands cooking with wooden food items and plastic plates and cups. 

DH found a really nice desk/hutch that matches the white of her bedroom furniture. The entire desk weighed over 200 pounds, and I'll leave it to your imagination how we got the two pieces upstairs to her room. Think: PIVOT-shouting-matches, dripping sweat, overexerted fingers, arms, lower backs, and a snickery DS who watched the entire spectacle without having to flex a muscle. 

1, 2, 3, GO! 
1, 2, 3, PULL! 
1, 2, 3, <GRUNT>!

Two days ago, the kiddos' school had its Fifth Grade Farewell. Being the sentimental schmuck that I am, I had fully expected to be weepy. I drove to the event with a bouquet sitting in the passenger's seat, thinking about how those flowers represent all of the six years DD spent at the school and everything she has accomplished there. Where are my tissues?  

What I didn't expect was to be overcome with joyful emotions looking at all the fifth graders, because I have taught--at one time or another (and some more than others)--almost every single one of the students walking in the processional of the ceremony. Many made eye contact with me and smiled or said hello. I was so very proud of them all. To see them dressed up, not acting goofy, and embracing the celebration for them made me incredibly happy. 

DD wore her floral dress, a ladies' size 4, you guys! She played with the orchestra and recited a part of her poem. She received an award for Leadership, sang "Today is the Day," and walked the recessional. And then, she graduated from grade school. Proud Parenting Moment, I tell ya!

A sudden burst of strength surprises me. I shift and readjust my grip. 

Throughout this crazy month and the few leading up to it, I've felt like I've been slipping. Slipping from household chores, slipping from mommy duties, slipping from sanity. Which is understandable seeing those calendar pictures up there. But what was scary was the fact that I felt less and less inclined to write. I'd have thoughts about possible posts, but never having the time or wherewithal to write them. As time passed, those posts just seemed to slip away. I didn't know how to feel about that. Should I be okay with it? Should I not? 

But I do know that I shouldn't force myself to do anything. Least of all, make myself miserable.

And the answer came to me today. My first day off since FOREVER ago, I've been incredibly productive. I've put the kids on the bus, been on the elliptical for a great workout, run a load of laundry, and written an overdue, three-posts-in-one blog post. And now it's clear as day: when I can, I do. 

When Life throws me a day off, I do what makes me happiest: write, edit, and publish.

I settle in my stance. I hold my grip. With newfound power, I pull. Life is a tug-of-war, vacillating between slips and tugs. 

And, occasionally, pivots.

I came upstairs last night and saw this:

And I know that all is good in the world, and all of our tugs and pulls, slips and rope burns are all worth the fight.