Happy Holidays!

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Merry Christmas to my friends who celebrate. Happy Vacation Time and Chinese Food Day to my friend who don’t.

We’ve been cooking and shopping since 8am. It’s a small gathering of 14 this year, but we’re still having a dozen different dishes. I’ll share pictures later. DSC_0013.jpg

After Christmas, we’re going to one of these ski/water park places in Pennsylvania for three days. I might work when I’m there, because I have a deadline and don’t really enjoy skiing. I like the idea of skiing, but I didn’t learn until I was in my twenties, so I have “the fear.” This place is great, because they offer adaptive ski lessons, so even Ian can ski better than I can.

I think I’ll be back and forth here during the next week, but there’s no guarantee.

Thanks, all, for visiting this little blog over the years. You’re the only reason I keep it going. Hugs to all! Laura

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Hunting Sweaters

Beyond some boring paperwork (Gah! I hate invoicing) and a review of the education newsletters, not much work happened today. I did a weight lifting class at the local gym, which I hated. Give me some loud nasty music and a bike, and I’m happy to exercise as long as you like. Planks and barbells are the worst. But they tell me that after 50, it’s super important. Sigh. So, I forced myself to get there this morning.

Then I met up with my 83-year old mom at the mall with stops along the way at the Post Office to mail out a used book and the gas station. Well, I attempted to meet up with my mom. She was waiting for me at a Starbucks at a different mall. Because in Jersey, there are a bazillion malls with nearly the same name.

No worries. I had a lot to do without Sylvia slowing me down.

I first went to Macy’s and Sephora looking for gifts for my three teenage nieces, specifically affordable make-up kits that weren’t marketed by a former stripper. I was going for light pinks and blushes, rather than black smoky eyes and gold glitter and thigh high boots. Didn’t find what I was looking for, so I’ll have to go out again tomorrow.

J. Crew is having a big sale. If you get their credit card, it’s 70 percent off everything. So, I got this blouse, buttoned sweater, v-neck sweater, one for Steve, and a scarf for him.

Next up is some computer clean up, which I suppose counts as work, and then getting Ian ready for his holiday concert. He’s a percussionist. We’ll leave with his concert outfit on, pick up Wendy’s, and drive to my folks who live near his school. I need my Dad’s help with Ian’s tie. I’ve tied Jonah’s tie before using a YouTube tutorial, but my dad’s home and can do it better. Somewhere in there, I’ll eat dinner and meet up with Steve at Ian’s school.

Thoughts and prayers for Jonah who is taking his last final this evening. He’s doing very well in his humanities classes, but taking a thumping in his STEM classes this semester. Let’s hope the gods are with him this finals week, or he’ll be picking a new major over break.

Hunting Stories

A website that I occasionally write for asked me to do something on special ed. They are particularly interested in the urban school district that I taught at 25 years ago. So, I had to track down possible interviewees who weren’t afraid of a media exposé and were interesting. No biggie!

Also, this outlet likes upbeat stories that highlight innovations, which is cool, so I had to track down someone who had inspiring stories to tell about kids who are desperately poor, probably homeless, possibly abused, with intellectual disabilities, maybe physical disabilities, and definitely emotionally disturbed.

Took a few weeks to find the right person, but I did it. She’s a principal of a public school in the South Bronx that is the home of 600 kids who have gotten kicked out of regular schools, because their needs are so great. She called her students as “her babies.” Woot!

I might have to ask for hazard pay for this article, because I could get assaulted by the students, and my car might get stolen, when I go there to do interviews. (Not joking.) But it sounds fun, so I don’t care.

Because I started work at 7:00am today, I was all done by noon, so I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to get my mother a hard-boiled egg cooker for Christmas. It’s not exciting. But she’s 83 and that’s what she wants. I’m supplementing that gift with some cute dessert plates in a cobalt blue.

Christmas decorations are smeared all over the house, so I tried to neaten up the boxes and ribbons. It was too big of a mess to finish in an hour though, and I had to move on to the next chore… Dinner.

I had some leftover chicken stew, but not enough for a full meal. So, I made some fresh mashed potatoes and added it to the leftover stew along with some frozen peas to make a Shepard’s pie. I’ve got a salad, too.

On Tuesdays, I have to make dinner in the middle of the afternoon, because Ian has a drum lesson between 4:30 and 5:15. Lou the drum teacher just prepped Ian for his audition for the winter musical. I think he’s going to make it. The timer on oven just went off, so I should go and feed him before Kristina does reading tutoring with him at 6:30.

Well, this is a rambling “day in a life of a freelance writer/mom/blogger” blog post. Hope to be back later.

Car Crisis

We are not car people. If I have a choice of spending $30,000 on a car or on five cool vacations, I’m going to pick the vacations every time. That’s why our cars suck.

We have a 2008 Subaru Outback with 135K miles that we bought used about ten years ago. The was the first and only car that we ever purchased. Our other car that Steve drives a mile to the train station every morning is a 20-year old Toyota Camry with $155K miles. It’s a hand-me-down from my parents. There are rust holes in the trunk and deep gouges in the hood of the car from when the basketball hoop feel on the car about ten years ago.

Both cars have been towed to the car mechanic in the past two months. The Camry was towed away yesterday, after the brakes started failing when he and Ian were on the highway.  Jen the neighbor carried her one-year old son outside to watch the car getting hoisted up by the tow truck.

Jimmy the Mechanic said that it will cost $500 to fix the breaks. Is it worth putting more money into that hunk of junk? After some thought, we decided to pay the $500 bucks to repair the car with a plan to replace it within the next six months. We bought ourselves some time to think about what to do.

Should we buy or lease?

Eclectic Life

We’re up early in this house. Today, like most days, we were up around 6am. At 6:20, we were all huddled around the kitchen counter attending to newspapers, bowls of cereal, and deep cups of coffee. Not much talking at that point — just reminders about after-school tutoring and a warning that dinner would probably be take-out. At 6:45, Steve drove the 15-year old Toyota to the train station. 6:50, Ian gets on the special ed van to his out-of-out district high school. I stalled going to the gym for half an hour, but I got there and ran/walked for 45 minutes.

I did an amusing interview with an old coot later this morning. I’m rather proud that I got him to agree to talk with me. It took a little sweet talking, but it happened. He turned down an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Ed last week, so HA! I win.

I’m really loving my project right now, but I don’t think I should write about it here first. I’ll have 2,000 words coming out soon elsewhere. Then I’ll talk.

I just need to get the time to finish things off. The rest of the afternoon is shot. I have to go to Ian’s far away school for a meeting about his reading.

He’s never received any teaching to overcome his hyperlexia (super decoding skills, poor comprehension). I have asked every year for extra help with reading, since he was in fourth grade and the comprehension problems became evident. And they’ve done nothing. They just shove all the special ed kids in one room and then have them listen to books on tape. Special education sucks so badly.

There have been a whole bunch of new laws in New Jersey to protect kids with dyslexia. Our school district has had to spend beaucoup bucks on retraining their teacher for dyslexia. So, I’m arguing that Ian deserves the same additional instructional time for reading using specific curriculum. And I’m making a big stink about it.

They handle me and my demanding ways by testing and retesting Ian, by making me go to tons of meetings, and by stalling. Never saying no, but never saying yes. Special Education sucks so badly

I’m giving them one more chance. If this meeting is a waste of time, I’ll make a bigger stink.

But all of it takes time. Time away from my work. I’m going to have to make up those hours tonight. Sigh. That’s why dinner isn’t happening tonight.

 

The Kids Aren’t Alright

It’s definitely “Eclectic Reading Saturday.” I just skim read a library copy of Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, and liked it enough to order it from Amazon, so I could write in it. Then I finished off the latest in a long romance series, which was disappointing, but I’m so committed to the series, I’m sure I’ll buy the next one as well.

And then I finally read the cover story in The Atlantic about how the kids aren’t having sex anymore.  There are a lot of theories why – online porn, stress, #metoo movement, social awkwardness. I don’t think that that the author ultimately settled on one reason for the drop off in sexual activity, but it was still a good article. I highly suggest reading the article online, because it’s necessary to google terms from time to time.

I’ve been interviewing 20-somethings for a larger project that I’m working on. It has nothing to do with sex, but it touches on some of the themes in this article. I won’t go into it now, but I do sometimes think that I want to scoop up my children and relocate to Vermont or Ottawa and learn how to live off the land.

So, is this drop off in sexuality a good thing or a bad thing? Declining teen birth rate and abortion rates are good, but the causes of the decline in sexuality are all deeply unhealthy – online porn use, social awkwardness, job stress. And the people that the author interviews are seriously unhappy and isolated. We’re ready for a major correction.

Happy Thanksgiving!

IMG_6705.JPGSteve is drinking posca, a Roman beverage (water, vinegar, coriander seeds, and honey), which was given to Roman soldiers before battle. It is supposed to give you energy and prevent cramps. He used to prepare it for Jonah when he ran cross country. His former teammates still talk about the vile “Jonah Juice.” Steve’s drinking it now preparing for the Glen Rock 5K Turkey Trot.

I wasn’t planning on running, because we’re in the midst of a record cold snap here in the North East. It’s below freezing with cold winds. I was going to huddle in the car for the race, but then I got there and couldn’t be a coward. I think I got my best time. Woot!

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Meanwhile, Steve cooked up a batch of cranberry sauce using his great grandmother’s(“Maymo”) recipe. I roasted the pumpkins, and Steve turned them into a pie with a Martha Stewart Recipe. I’m going to make some romaine-free salads shortly. And then we’re going to my brothers’ for a warm and crowded Thanksgiving meal.

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Jonah came home last night. Yay. Miss that boy so, so, so much. He surprised us all with a college growth spurt. He’s now two inches taller than Steve.

Hope y’all are finding time to read trashy novels on the sofa and appreciating family.