Thursday, November 27, 2008

Can I Make a Decision? What Do You Think?

Some of you are aware of my analytical side. This served me well as a literature student as I was able to look at all the possible meanings of a poem or take different theoretical approaches to novels. But when it comes to making a decision, I am completely paralyzed by this trait. When I look at a question from one angle I'll think a certain answer makes sense, but then when I look at another angle (which I cannot stop myself from doing), I change my mind. This can go on endlessly, especially at night.

Over the past few nights, I have been unable to sleep AT ALL because I have a very important--but so far unsolveable--problem on my mind: Where should Ben go to kindergarten?

Now that I've got you laughing, I have to tell you that I am SERIOUS. Kindergarten registration happens in January, and I have to decide where Benjamin should go. This will affect the kind of education he receives (not just in kindergarten but throughout elementary school and beyond), the kinds of friends he will have, and--ultimately--the type of education and friends Janae will have, too.


Last night I was online researching the options until I was so tired that, as Jason put it, "the hamster was falling off the wheel." Then I proceeded to lay awake and worry about it some more.

So, here they are:

1. French Immersion
We have two French immersion elementary schools pretty closeby. One of them is quite familiar to us because it is where Ben's cousins go--so we feel comfortable there. It is within walking distance and seems to be a really nice school. I just feel sad for Ben when I picture him in a classroom where the teacher is speaking French and he doesn't have a clue what's going on. I also LOVE English (in case you haven't heard!).

When we looked the French immersion program up on the school district website, a woman dressed in a red hockey jersey holding a Canadian flag popped up. This just doesn't seem to be "us" (and it gave Jason some pretty disturbing flashbacks to his education in Quebec).


But this is the school where Ben wants to go, and--probably because it's the only one we've actually visited--the one I feel most comfortable envisioning in Ben's future.

2. Fine Arts
Our town has a fine arts elementary school where drama, music, dance, and visual arts are integrated with the academic curriculum. This sounds fun, and I think Ben would enjoy the variety and the physical movement (he's kind of a hands-on learner, I think--he loves acting out stories, dressing up, etc.), BUT whenever I think about this option I picture THIS




Not really what I had in mind for my boy. And then when he goes to high school, will he be the "fairy from the fine arts school"?

3. Traditional
This would be a school with a dress code/uniform and strict academic standards. I like the idea of an emphasis on academics, but will my little Benjamin be able to have any fun? I read the list of school clubs--Recycling, Office Monitor, Chess--and had to wonder. I also picture an ultra right-wing militia-type environment where Ben will be scolded for mispronouncing a word or not tucking in his shirt. I don't think they're using the strap anymore, but you never know. The parent testimonials on the web site were glowing, but at the same time, scary.

I guess I have problems with both the extreme right and the extreme left.

Anyway, "traditional" is Jason's vote.

4. Our Local Ghetto School
This one is pretty much out of the question. We have nice neighbors, and they have great kids who Ben plays with outside, but when you go beyond our complex into the surrounding area, things get kind of scary. I might sound severe in my judgement, but I don't want to send my little Benjamin into an inner-city school (not my term) filled with serious social problems. It might, however, have some fun clubs (street fighting, anyone?)

5. Ben's Preschool Kindergarten
I love Ben's preschool (and hear it has an outstanding board of directors), and it does have a kindergarten, but this option would be expensive and also put us in the same situation next year (i.e., of having to choose our type of education for the rest of elementary school). Ben would also be the "new kid" in Grade One; whereas in kindergarten they're all new to the school.

So, I don't really like any of the options, but I know I have to choose one. I could always home school, but then Ben would miss out on the social aspect of school--not to mention the motivation a passionate teacher outside the family could bring.

If you have any insights, feel free to call any time day or night--I'll be awake!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Birthdays, Butterflies, and . . . Wiggles

Now that you've heard about Benjamin and his Santa obsession, let's move on to Janae :)

Most of you know about Janae's strong interest in birthdays, or--more specifically--birthday cakes and blowing out the candles. Whenever she sees anything even remotely resembling a cake and candle (such as a sippy cup with a straw, for example), she will say, "BIRTHDAY . . . HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!" This has been the case since she celebrated her own birthday, almost 9 months ago.

I think "Happy Birthday" was the first song she learned to sing, before she could even pronounce the words. (I tried to include a video of Janae singing "Happy Birthday to Candles" to two tootsie pops but couldn't get it to work.)


Lately Janae has also become very interested in butterflies. This started with a kids' science video Ben borrowed from the library called Butterflies and Moths; now Janae sees butterflies everywhere--and when she does, she is as enthusiastic as she is with birthday cakes. She'll say "BU-FLY . . . with WINGS" and start flapping her arms like butterfly wings. Luckily Grandma had a pair of dress-up wings that Janae could bring home. (Unfortunately, we had to make a special trip back over to Grandma's to pick up a second pair for Benjamin, because he wanted to dance around like a butterfly, too.)


Janae has us sing a Wiggles song about butterflies as she dances around the room--we can't wait until she is old enough for dance lessons, because--like most little girls--she is a natural :)


And finally, the Wiggles. A list of Janae's obsessions could not be complete without them. Her favorite is Jeff--I know this because she brings me Wiggles video covers and points him out several times a day. A week or so ago I found a pair of Wiggles pajamas in a tub of clothes Janae had inherited from her cousins, and Janae insisted on putting them on overtop of the PJs she was already wearing.


Since then, she has put the top on over her shirts almost every day, and when she doesn't have it on she'll stop and say, "Wiggles shirt." It's definitely on her mind. (It's in the laundry right now, because she's been asking for it since Friday when she got chili all over it!)

I don't know how we got such obsessive kids . . . they certainly don't take after either of their parents :)

Little Santa

I am happy to announce that the Christmas season has arrived--at our house, anyway! Benjamin has been putting up "one Christmas thing a day" since we took down our Halloween decorations. And on Saturday he had his first visit of the year with Santa at the mall. This, of course, has inspired some dressing up.


Today we made a new beard and added some cotton to one of Ben's red shirts. Benjamin pulled out a pair of red pajama bottoms and some black dress shoes one of the families from church had given us (for when Ben gets a little bigger). He even insisted on changing into red underwear (I considered taking a picture to post but then thought the better of it!).

He's using his red wagon as a sleigh, Janae as a reindeer, and me as an elf! (Jason, of course, is limited to the role of donkey, as prescribed by his nieces!)


Ben has also made up his Christmas list--he refused to put more than one item on it (Lego), because he is paranoid that Santa will think he's being "too greedy." (He got this idea from a Berenstein Bears book--I swear it was not from me!) He would also only allow one item on Janae's list :)

He is planning a Chrismas party at our house for sometime early in December.


We've managed to keep from putting up our tree so far, but I don't know how much longer we can hold out. When we got to Ben's preschool this morning there was a decorated tree in the reception area and one in his classroom, too (complete with little armchairs facing it so a couple of the kids could sit and look at the tree--so cute!).


Ben also tried to purge our video/DVD collection of anything not Chrismas, but Daddy put a stop to that :) Still, when Benjamin chooses what to watch, it's ALWAYS something Christmas!

So, if your kids don't want to wait in line at the mall--or you're wondering where to send those letters to Santa--you might want to stop by over the next few weeks!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Meet the New Board Member (And join her in some over analyzing . . . )


Yes, as of Tuesday night I am officially a member of the Board of Directors for Benjamin's preschool. I was voted in (without opposition) at the annual general meeting and now enjoy all the perks and benefits you might expect membership on a preschool board of directors would bring (i.e., none). But the question that has been on my mind--and keeping me up at night--is HOW did I arrive at this position of power and prestige? Yes, the school's director specifically asked me to join, but why? Why me? Out of over a hundred parents who pass through the school, why was I selected? I thought I'd dedicate this post to getting to the bottom of this mystery. As usual, I do have a few theories. . . .

Theory #1: Have I Mentioned My Master's Degree?

This may be a well-kept secret (despite what Jason would say), but I do have a master's in English and a background in education. And really, how different are a preschool and a college?

Theory #2: Kid Magnet/Threat to the Preschool's Future

It is no secret that I love being around chidren. I have the social skills of approximately a two year old (minus the biting, smacking, screaming, and snatching of toys--so I guess that might bring me up to a three-year-old), and consequently I am often surrounded by a group of young children. Whether I am at the park, store, swimming pool, or just playing outside at our complex, children come up and talk to me as though I was one of them.

Ben's preschool is no exception. Before and after class, I sit on the floor and play with the younger siblings of Benjamin's classmates. It is to the point where at least four children look for me as soon as they arrive, smile their big toddler smiles, make their way over to me, and spend the next 10+ minutes giving me toys, having me read them books, telling me about their days, etc. It is as though I am running my own pre-preschool. Last week I overheard one of the moms comment to another, "Look at the way they all flock to her!" I, of course, kept my head down and continued playing.

Anyway, the thought occurred to me that--being this strong of a kid-magnet--I might be perceived as a threat to the school's future. After all, I could lead these potential students away, forming a splinter group of the preschool. Enrollment would dwindle, along with enrollment fees. But put me on the board, and I might have the school's best interest in mind. Very crafty.


Theory #3: Maintain the Status Quo of the Board by Adding Another Lisa

Once I arrived at Tuesday's board meeting (just prior to the general meeting), I realized that I was the fourth person named Lisa to be added to this exclusive group. The school's board of directors is made up of only NINE individuals, and FOUR of them (including me) are named Lisa! The other three Lisas are returning board members. So the school's director, believing that women named Lisa tend to make excellent board members, might have selected me simply because of my first name.


Theory #4: Everyone Else She Asked Said No

I have to admit it is possible that I was not the first or only parent to be invited to join the board this year. It could be that I was the director's last resort, and the only one who would actually be willing to attend the meetings. After all, I had the annual general meeting marked on my calendar, and I was planning to attend--but nobody else (except the eight other board members) showed up. In other words, if I hadn't been on the board, I would have been the only non-board member there!


So, in conclusion, I suppose I was destined to become a board member at Ben's preschool. I possess not only the love of meetings, but also the correct name, the outlook of a preschooler, and the educational credentials necessary for success in such an appointment. I know what you're probably thinking, though--"I hope they don't ask her to write any memos. . . "

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Any Skeletons in YOUR Closet?


I just had the--ahem--interesting experience of re-reading all the old letters I'd sent to one of my BYU roommates. My good friend, who I will refer to only as "E," came across this collection, which she'd kept for several years, and thought I'd enjoy having them back to read. She packaged them up, complete with a pink ribbon, and sent them in the mail (By the way, have any of you ever wondered about the security of our mail system? I hadn't thought much about it before now. . . ).

Anyway, I was anxious to read the letters, and when they arrived I was really excited. My first impression was, "Wow--I've gone downhill in my writing ability--I used to sound so much more intellectual." My next impression was, "Oh dear. . . "


The letters contained not only a record of EVERY interaction I'd had with EVERY guy I'd EVER liked (For example: "This week I saw so and so on campus three times--the first time he was wearing . . . ), but also other instances of scandal, disappointment and heartache--many of which I'd long forgotten.

I quickly had to stop Jason from reading the letters out loud, and I'm seriously thinking about burning them before he can read them at all.


By far the most alarming part of this little trip down memory lane was the level of detail I'd included in the letters. It was downright embarrassing to think I'd written such lengthy descriptions of such trivial encounters that I could re-live them so many years later. I can assure you, I left NOTHING out. Poor E. I felt so sorry that she'd had to read this pathetic drivel.

After reading my old letters, though, I do have a couple of observations that I'd like to share:

1. I am incredibly lucky to have such a good friend who has stuck by me through all my sad times (loves lost, more loves lost, and even more loves lost).

2. E (and the rest of the world, for that matter) is incredibly lucky that Jason found me and put me out of my misery.


I also realized once again--as I re-lived some of the deeper and more complex emotions of the past--that the person who I am today has come from the experiences I wrote about in those letters.

I guess we all have a few skeletons in our closets, and most of the time they're best left there, but it's interesting to drag them out once in a while to see how far we've come and to try to come to terms with how we've arrived here.

I'm really grateful to E for that experience . . . and also relieved that if I ever become famous I will not have to buy her silence--or at least the documentation of all the embarrassing stories she might--ahem--"invent" about me :)

Quite Possibly the Worst Picture Ever Taken

Once again I have been trying to take pictures of Ben and Janae in an attempt at getting something that would work for our Christmas cards. I have had absolutely no success. I think this picture from our last photo shoot may be the worst one that's ever been taken--it is so bad I just had to share it.


Ben was trying really hard to smile for the pictures, but he was so cold he couldn't stop shivering--then there was Janae who would not sit down or stand still--I finally gave up.

I used to do a "bad writing contest" with my freshman English students--maybe I should try to enter a bad photography contest. Anyway, don't have too high of expectations when it comes to our Christmas cards this year!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Who REALLY Won the Beardoff?

Well, those of you who have seen Jason lately know that the beard is OFF--he doesn't have a hair on his head, let alone his face or even his chin. It's as though he wants everyone to know FOR SURE that he is no longer in the beard-growing competition (either that, or he's also bowing out of a Chia-pet competition that I didn't know about. . . .). Some of you might be blaming me for what happened. Let me set the record straight.


Jason was definitely a strong contender in the beardoff--he had a full, thick, red and brown beard that was taking over his face (not to mention his personality).

In fact, Jason's beard was so grisly, that he was starting to remind me of the BEAST from Beauty and the Beast, especially when he got angry. I was actually scared--and I think Ben was, too (but not Janae--nothing scares that girl!).


No, I didn't like the beard, and I made my views known. But whenever Jason asked me if I wanted him to shave it off, I said, "Only if you want to." (Hopefully that will silence all of you who think I am a controlling shrew of a wife, or a manipulative Delilah trying to put an end to Samson's strength.)


I just woke up yesterday morning, and the beard was gone. I had my handsome young husband back--but I had NOTHING to do with it!

I do think Jason's decision will benefit him as much as anyone, though. It improved his appearance (people who he thought LIKED the beard are now telling him how much better he looks with it OFF!), his hygiene (no more strings of pizza cheese growing moldy in the beard!), and his economic situation (he was actually using both shampoo and CONDITIONER every day to keep up his beard!).

I think Benjamin said it best, though. When Ben woke up, I was trying to get him to notice Jason had shaved, so I said, "Where's Daddy's beard?" Ben didn't know. A few minutes later when he went into the bathroom, he said, "Daddy's beard is in the garbage!" (Where it belongs?)

Anyway, now that all this beard growing is behind us, I guess we should move on to bigger and better things.


Like the family picture, for instance. . . .

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Like to Wear Snakeskin

The other day I went shopping for a couple of long-sleeved shirts. As usual, I hit the clearance racks, and I found two shirts that I kind of liked. One of them was a little "wild" for my taste, but I thought it would be something different (and--unlike most of my clothes--it wasn't brown!)

It looked a little familiar, too, but it wasn't until this morning that I realized why.


I was cleaning up toys, and when I picked up Ben's stuffed snake, I found it was the EXACT SAME color AND pattern as the new shirt I was wearing!


I guess subconsciously I must have wanted to wear snakeskin. Who would have thought? :)


The Beauties of Fall . . . Have Passed


I love fall--the excitement of kids going back to school, the crisp leaves, the deep colors. Sometimes the beauty of it all is overwhelming.


Well, that part of fall is over--at least here. Since Halloween and the end of daylight savings time, we've had dark dreary days (the picture below was taken in the middle of morning!) and early nights along with wind and pouring rain. Then there are the wrinkly-mouthed rotting pumpkins (I wish I'd taken a picture of the disgusting grey and white fuzz growing in ours), the moldy leaves, the barren bushes and plants. . . . when I say I love fall, I'm definitely talking about the first half!


Luckily I also love the first part of winter (as well as the beginning of summer and all of spring), so at least I have something to look forward to :)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Come and Gone

The big night has come and gone, but don't worry--Ben and Janae are still as happy as ever; right now they're having fun jumping in a pile of laundry that is about to be washed.

There were a few incidents that I should report, though.

At the beginning of the festivities I demonstrated my usual grace by tripping up the stairs in front of Mom and Dad's house (before the trick or treating began, luckily). Unfortunately, I was carrying Janae, and she landed face-first on the cement. She was still a cute little teddy bear for Halloween--she just looked a little beaten up. (Maybe this was one of the reasons she was mistaken for a boy all night, too.)


Ben met up with a group of witches and an angel--when I asked him what his favorite part of Halloween was, he said TRICK OR TREATING without any hesitation.


We came across one house with an extensive Halloween display, including dancing witches and a skeleton coming out of a grave. Janae made short work of this, though. She knocked down the stone and chain gate that was holding the display together, and it took me several attempts to balance it all again (of course, the woman who lived at the house came out to help!).

Janae also left her candy bucket in the driveway of this house--which we realized when we got to the next door. She was definitely "done" before any of the others.


When we got home we were surprised to find the co-op darker and even more dismal than usual, so we quickly lit up our pumpkins, and we had about three trick or treaters come by. Ben knocked at a few more doors (the two or three in the whole complex that had lights on!), and then came home to examine his candy (and Janae's too).

I'm pretty sure we are going to be "playing Halloween" for the next few days--maybe even weeks. Last year this went on until about the middle of November, when I snuck the Halloween decorations into the closet and put up a few early Christmas things.

As most of you know, Ben gets really into Christmas, too--during the holiday season, and even well into the spring, he lives in his Santa hat and often insists on wearing as much red as possible.

I think we might be able to get Janae on board for this one, though--after all, she won't have to wear a hat, go door to door in the rain, or carry a bucket. She will make a great elf!