Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Stretching thinner and thinner here. A long, cloudy winter with mediocre snow and frigid temps has everyone acting snappish. Mr. T has rubber bands on his braces now and I seem to find those blasted little circles every two feet.  Mr. B is wrestling like a boss this season, and because of back to back meets this week and nobody around to do his laundry in a timely manner, his singlet will be stinky tonight.  I still cannot quite get used to the "required uniform" (fellow teens from the 80's, did you get that clever reference? I say it constantly these days), it's so tight and, well, clingy.  However, he's way more comfortable wearing it than Mr. T ever was. Mr. G is his typical rubber self, bouncing from activity to activity with more vim and vigor than a room full of toddlers drinking Mountain Dew.  I wish I could bottle whatever he's got running through his veins and take a swig twice a day.

Teaching pulls every last ounce of energy out of me. Can blood vessels be tired? Toenails? Eyebrows?  I believe so.  Happyland High is a good school.  A bit understaffed and underfunded (I know! Shocking to hear about a public school lacking!) but my co workers are phenomenal, supportive people. My students are mostly good, though verging on apathetic as they reach the end of their senior year.  I'm pleased with the amount of freedom I have to develop a curriculum and we've had more hits than misses so far this year. But oh dear did I forget how emotionally tapped out the gig makes me feel.  My students aren't even particularly needy or weird, but teaching 6.5 out of an 8 period day makes me really sick of answering questions and responding and even talking. Then I come home and Mr. G needs help with homework and Mr. T is bored (which makes me annoyed and point out to him all the possible things he might do to be helpful, but none of them are fun for a teenaged boy, you know). I drop my bag, kick off my boots and roll up my sleeves for the second shift--the dinner and dropping off at practice and dishes and such.

That last bit explains the silence around here lately.  Plenty is going on, but I haven't a whole lot to say.  I'm still tethered to Henry David Thoreau for a couple more weeks with the AP students, trying so hard to get them to appreciate solitude and silence and nature (incidentally, three things I wish I had more time to enjoy). I kicked the tires on a few seed catalogs but haven't ordered anything yet. I went to the big gala fundraiser for the boys' school last weekend and failed miserably and utterly at getting any auction items I bid on--except for a cedar bench. My knee is still somewhat inflamed and a recent attempt at upping the dose of my meds went badly.  It seemed to be improving, but not anymore. My hair needs a trim. The clothes dryer is making a wretched sound when we use it. Rose is into everything--houseplants and dirt and toilets and garbage, making her one of the worst free-range pets in the history of all pets.

Mr. D and I have had a few skirmishes. Nothing major, just sniping at each other about politics and youth sports and how we should spend our limited free time. In so many ways these are glory years, three kids who are pretty responsible and easy to raise, no health concerns, some money in the bank and gainful employment that makes us both feel useful. We shouldn't bicker, instead I need to stop and be grateful for the good stuff and shut up about the rest.

I'll end with a few more things that spring to mind:
Mr. G's fantastic fourth grade teacher
a friend's child healing after a horrible accident
Saturday morning yoga
a 3-day weekend coming up
Mr. T getting within shouting distance of his Eagle Scout award
good friends who say the right things and make me laugh and feel accepted
apple bread

Spill it, reader.  What's stretching you lately? 

Friday, February 13, 2015

number of the week: 9

Finally it's Friday, sweet Friday.  I spent Monday night at a wrestling meet an hour away to watch my kid wrestle one match (Mr. B got a pin!) and have two byes.
I got home at nine. 
Then I spent Tuesday night teaching at church and then drove home at 35 mph because the roads were slow with fresh snow.
I got home at nine.
Wednesday night I had book club, which was good in that I always enjoy the Bumbles and the book was fabulous.  The venue, however, was not so nice.  My overpriced food was mediocre and the service lousy.  The wine was fine, but by midweek I'd drink Boone's Farm and feel pleased.
I got home at nine.
Thursday I shuttled kids to and from practices and spent the remainder of my night glued to my ipad where a basketball game played out with much intensity. (We'd have gone to the game except for the practices on our schedule.) Mr. G and Mr. B and I sat on the couch and held our breath through the second half of a live stream, we didn't even get commercial breaks. Our team lost and we were crushed.
The game got done around nine. 
All week long I've been busy from six in the morning until nine at night.  I'm tapped, shellacked, wiped and zonked.
Tonight I came home after work and dashed out twice to pick up children (one my own, two belonging to other people). I ordered pizza to be delivered. I read a week's worth of blogs, cleared up some bill-paying and paperwork, wrote two letters, tidied up the piles and ran a load of wash. I'm ready for bed and guess what?
It's not even nine yet.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


First off, why haven't any of you mentioned how terrific Liane Moriarty is? I'm almost done with Big Little Lies and I want to read everything she's written now.
Big Little Lies
Read this right now.  Skip reading the rest of this post and go read this funny, brilliant book!
Still reading this post?  I'll try not to disappoint.  I'll share a heartwarming tale of a mother and son.  I've been spending a lot of time with Mr. T lately.  He's not wrestling or playing basketball, basically he goes to school and then comes home.  He's not terribly interested in a social life after the last bell of the day, and he's okay with that.  (I've asked around, this is apparently pretty normal for boys his age.)  I take him out to practice his driving.  He goes grocery shopping with me. Sometimes he gets on my very last nerve (mostly because I need my alone time and lately I haven't had hardly any), but generally we get along well.  We talk about school, politics, Dr. Who, gadgets, music, books, and nothing in particular.

This weekend he tagged along when I brought Mr. B to his basketball tournament. We spent a mind-numbing evening bored out of our wits together watching really bad basketball.  I love my kid, but it was one of those painful days as a  mom in the bleachers. Plus I was a little crabby.

Anyway, Mr. T and I sniped a bit back and forth, sometimes the very reason he gets on my last nerve is because he is exactly like me. Argumentative, quick to argue, a bit of a know-it-all.

Between games we sat at a table in the high school cafeteria chewing on walking tacos and this woman walked past with frosted eighties hair that looked like this, except without the mullet back and with even MORE Aqua Net holding it vertical:

Her hair was this big.  Even bigger. 
Actually this is more like it. Only frosted blonde.

We simultaneously gawked and snickered.

It's a splendid thing to realize your kid carries your traits.

Today he accompanied me on a mission to the mall.  I never, ever go to the mall.  It couldn't be helped, however.  I had to purchase a birthday gift certificate, a pot of age-defying moisturizer only sold at Sephora (damn you, Sephora, you and your irresistible promises of beauty and smooth, line-free skin) and the monthly necessities from Target.  The only way to do this efficiently was to shop at mall. Ugh. Once a year. Ugh.

As we parked and entered, Mr. T remarked that this was only his second trip to the mall.  No, you've been here before as a baby, I reminded him.  I waited to see how he'd react to it.  The previous trip he remembered was over Christmas, shopping with his dad.  Would he be impressed?  Want to shop at The Buckle for new jeans? Ask to venture further in, past Sephora, into wings of the mall he'd never explored? I had a vision of him asking me to drive him back to the mall next weekend, to hang out with other teenaged friends wearing skinny jeans and apathetic stares.  Maybe he'd be smitten by the glamor of working at Brookstone, surrounded by gadgets (he never met a gadget or gizmo he didn't love).  The kid does have a knack for sales.  I really, really hoped he didn't like the mall very much, but I determined to keep that opinion to myself.

We walked past the stores, our eyes assaulted by light and color.  I made a single snide remark about my senses being overstimulated. He was silent as we were suddenly assaulted by the cloud of perfume wafting out of Hollister. Gasping for fresh air, we advanced another hundred feet, only to be hit by the fruity-flowery attack of Bath & Body Works.  By the time we reached Sephora, Mr. T expressed concern that he might suffocate.  Are we ready to leave yet, he asked.

I hurriedly purchased the vital anti-aging face cream and we beat our retreat towards Target.  Are you sure you don't want to stop anywhere and get anything? No, I do not like the mall, my son said decisively.  My heart swelled with pride.  I hate that there's no windows.  I could never work here, I confided. It's worse than at school, he agreed.  I'm in one room all day that has windows.  But the smells.  Yes, the smells.  And the people. It's all so wasteful and pointless. There's nothing you even need here.

Anti-aging moisturizer.  For old skin, I pointed out, holding up the box in my right hand.  Well, yes, he agreed, and your skin is old. But besides that, there's like no reason to be here.

Ah, my son. You're turning out wonderful.  You're turning out to be just like me.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

looking forward to bedtime

You know your heart's not in the game when you only look up during commercial breaks. Let's talk about other stuff besides football. I've got a couple hours until Downton Abbey starts.

What's new?

We've got a full slate of activity around these parts.  Our weekends mostly involve basketball or wrestling, some church and making the rounds visiting friends, which is fine since we barely have any snow which makes winter a bummer. I wish I could pull on my cross country skis or snowshoes and head into the woods, but there's not much point.  And it's been a bleak winter with so many overcast days. Thank goodness for yoga every Saturday and indoor exercise equipment.

I've been reading like a fiend.  My English 12 students are about to start their science fiction unit and we have a half dozen young adult dystopian novels for their reading pleasure.  Since they'll split into "book clubs" for this unit, I'm reading them all in case they have questions.  I've got two left to read, but the last one I'll read along with my classes, so that gives me a little breathing room. In AP we're about to launch into Walden.  You know how I feel about that. On the YA front, I recommend Legend by Marie Lu as my favorite so far. As a palate-cleanser between these depressing books I've got Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks, really ripe stuff!

On a related note, we saw a lot of people pulled over by police this weekend while driving through town. I felt my gut clenching and began to worry that the police state is taking over, proof that reading too much dystopian lit. can increase paranoia.

When I'm not reading and planning the next chunk of curriculum, I'm grading papers in my spare time. Mr. T is learning to drive and we've spent some quality time together on the road.  He's gradually getting the hang of braking and determining when to turn at an intersection and when to use his directional signal. I keep my mouth shut and only mention the occasional pointer (like, "You want to stay off the shoulder, that's for bikes and people on foot"). He's begun helping with dinner prep during the week, which adds to how much I value him. He's a crackerjack chef when it comes to meatballs and tacos.

We got a new bed. A real bed. An actual bed with a foot board and headboard all properly connected together and a brand new mattress.  We used to have a metal frame with a flimsily attached headboard. If Mr. D or I rolled over, the other person felt the whole bed shake.  The mattress was springless and offered no real support. It looked ugly and cheap and worse than that, it felt ugly and cheap. You know it's bad when you can't wait for one of the kids to be gone on a sleepover so you can take their mattress. Or get all excited about sleeping in a hotel because of the nice mattresses.  So two weeks ago I grabbed husband and wallet and we drove to our furniture guy. Yeah, I have a guy for that, too. And his name is Guy.  Guy had bought the clearance stock of a Canadian furniture company and had king-sized beds in his warehouse on sale.  What we spent on our pretty new bed, we saved on not having to buy box springs.  Can you believe that kind of luck? Now every night when I sit on this amazing bed I feel like a queen.  The luxury of it!

That's not a picture of our actual bed, but it's pretty darn close. (I'm too lazy to get up and take a picture and upload it. Plus you know I'd never put tea on the bed where it would probably tip over and spill.) We even have two drawers in the foot board like you see above, which forced me to clean all the crap from under our original bed after this fancy new bed arrived.  Then I get rid of a bunch of junk I'd been hoarding--old picture frames, old t-shirts, a sh*t-ton of karate belts, that kind of crap.  The whole business resonated so deeply with reading Thoreau and "Economy." One of the two drawers is still empty as I type this. I plan to keep it that way.

A new bed, dystopian fiction, teen driver, economy. Spill it, reader.  What's new in your neck of the woods?

© 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 16, 2015

slam books

We're reading The Crucible in English 12.  I have 30 copies.  A classroom set.  This means all the reading takes place in class because with 96 students there aren't enough copies for each student to have their own.  It's a play.  That's fine.  We're reading it out loud anyway.  Besides, the school board in the Happyland School District is all about thrift and frugality so 30 copies is what you get, and that's 10 more copies than the other plays sitting in the book cupboard.  (Seriously.  Thrift and frugality are the baseline for 99.3% most of the decisions they make.)

In previous years students must have had their own copies when reading The Crucible.  Their names are written on the inside cover, in cursive, in print, in ink, in pencil.  I didn't ask my students to write names in the books because:
a. I don't have a seating chart
b. Two of the six hours I teach are not reading The Crucible, so they get stacked to the side throughout the day which means they move around the room
c. They can't take the books home anyway.

But a few students did write their names in the books.  And then a few other students added their opinions of these students and within a couple days I noticed a trend of kids eagerly opening their books to the inside covers to read what had been added or written.  They showed each other.  They laughed.  Some of the kids wrote more stuff (presumably).  Some took pictures with their gaming /phone/camera/bane of my existence devices. Today I heard people reading out loud what had been written in some of the books.

Cruel things.
Mean things.
Vulgar things.
Unimaginative things.

It made me think of those slam books from my youth.  The slam books documented by Judy Blume.  The slam books I figured were long gone and the only harassment I needed to keep a vigilant eye out for was the online kind. I did NOT expect this.


I spent 20 minutes today during my only prep period erasing and whiting out inside covers.  They're seniors, immature and stupid, senseless and self-absorbed.  With the books moving around the room it's impossible to track down the offenders and I'm not about to start witch hunt (although, it would be fitting, no?).  Instead I'll have to verbally warn each class and check the insides of the books each hour to make sure nothing new gets written.  I guess I'll treat the situation like graffiti.  Scrub out every shred of it so no one feels empowered to add to it--that's usually the best approach.

Inside I'm groaning, though.  It pisses me off to deal with something so stupid and dumb and petty and hateful when I have a million more important ways to spend my time lately.  I feel bad for the kids who got "slammed" but I think the damage was minimal--the comments were generic enough that it doesn't qualify as intentional harassment. 

So, the frazzled lady in Room 212 working overtime with a stack of papers to grade, a final exam to write, two units of curriculum to plan, and a mound of red tape paperwork to file so she can prove she's an effective teacher?  She'll be opening 30 book covers at the end of first, third, fifth and sixth hours to prevent future harassment and keep the school district's property in good shape for years to come. 

If I wrote a slam book it might read like this:

The senior class is:
mostly funny
sometimes stupid
very irritating
not as clever as they think they are
likeable (usually)
too loaded with boys

Ugh.  What a cruddy grumpy post after a two-week hiatus!  Let's try this again with something cheer-inducing.

This year's Oscars:
biased towards the Brits (but they totally deserve it)
mostly white
annoying because The Lego Movie got snubbed
funny because my secret gay boyfriend is hosting!
better not run late because I'll have to work in the morning

Spill it, reader.  Write the slam book entry with me. 

© 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 4, 2015

fluffy stuff

At last we got the snow we needed around here.  After Saturday morning yoga, I commanded Team Testosterone to shovel the driveway and then asked who was coming to the woods with me. Thirty degrees, no wind, fresh snow--seriously, who would miss out on that trifecta of winter awesomeness?

Mr. G and I bundled up and flew out--we've been cooped up too long.  We ran and tossed snowballs at each other with abandon until we hit the treeline.  The rain we got in November never soaked into the ground, instead it flooded the creek and the surrounding woods.  Now that water is frozen solid, the entire woods has become a skating rink. It's the most terrific and terrible thing we've seen back there.  Terrific because we have a 20-acre skating rink!  Terrible because we don't really skate.

In a strange turn of events, Jax followed us on our hike and since his hips are bad (and he's fat), we tried to find a path that wasn't too slick.  When that dog loses his footing, he's down for the count and the only way he's getting up is if Mr. D comes along to lift him back onto all fours--and that's no treat since a dog in pain is unpredictable and a little scary with its yelping.

Of course poor Jax went down just before we reached the grassline where it would be safe for him to walk.  Mr. G ran back up to the house to find Mr. D while I sat comforting our moaning mutt.  Our boy is 15 pounds overweight and lazy, so he's just begun a diet and we set up a walking schedule.  Jax hasn't willingly followed us too far in about a year, the trick is to put him on a leash and sort of drag him for his daily exercise.  I have to confess, I was surprised he followed us to the woods in the first place!  Here his compensation for voluntary exercise was to slip and land sprawled out, unable to get up. 

After a couple tries, Mr. D got Jax on all fours and we v e r y  c a r e f u l l y stepped our way to less treacherous turf.  Mr. D and Jax continued back home while Mr. G and I ventured further into the wilderness.

Glorious winter!  We knocked through some thin ice and discovered the most beautiful crystals beneath the smooth, glassy side.  A herd of six deer raced across the field.  We identified mice, raccoon, deer and turkey tracks in the snow.  We made snow angels and attempted a snow T-Rex (looked more like a snow blob) and we admired the patterns in the branches above our heads.  Mr. T came out for a while, too, and remarked on the perfection of the trees, the creek and the snow.  We skated, skidded and slid across the endless ice in our winter boots.

Today I'm achy and bruised a bit from falling on that ice.  I even bumped the back of my head when crossing the creek on a downward slope  (Mr. G and I actually had to crawl back up to get home, it was that slick!).  Jax has also recovered, he bounded up to greet us when we returned to the house.  I've no idea if that ice has any chance of melting before winter's end, but perhaps we'll get enough snow layered atop the ice to make it easier to move around back in our woods.  Whatever happens, it's a guarantee that spring will be a sloppy mess back there.

All said, we had a blast in the fluffy stuff.  I felt lucky to enjoy it with my sidekick. 

Spill it, reader.  Any winter trekking in your neck of the woods?

 © 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 1, 2015

taking stock

Did anyone make it to midnight?  I almost did.  Curled up under the sheets, half asleep, book tumbling out of my hand I believe I turned off my light around 11:49. This morning I have my 2014 bucket list* beside me.  Last year was a mix of success and failure. In the interest of full disclosure, here's the lowdown on last year before I write my 2015 bucket list:

I published Kicks Like a Girl,and despite not marketing it (due to working full-time--which you'll soon see is a Major Theme and Excuse for 2014), sold a reasonable number of copies. The book turned out well, I'm proud of the quality and the reader response was enthusiastic.  I didn't finish edits on another manuscript as I had intended. Getting hired full-time (see?) put a cramp in my writing time, so I should be gentle to myself on that count, right?

Speaking of failures, I didn't complete my plan to run around our country block.  I trained and nearly got to that point, but knee issues knocked that goal off the page.  I did participate in a 5K--the Dirty Dog Mud Run with Mr. T (which barely counts, but I DID finish it).  Shed Yoga continues, that's something affirming on the fitness end of life.  In fact, a few new people plan to join our little Saturday morning yoga class this weekend.

The fix-it list got knocked down to one item (pesky doorknobs!).  I repainted two rooms, fixed broken stuff and got the greenhouse going. I haven't given the greenhouse project the attention I'd like, something that should change next year when I'm done working overtime (more excuses), but at least it's functional.  Team Testosterone took a couple of road trips and we managed to squeeze in four cultural experiences, including their first musical--Bye Bye Birdie.  I got to visit Concord, Massachusetts and take a dip in Walden Pond but I didn't get far north enough to meet Jocelyn. I DID get to Skype with Cheri, Suzanne, and Stephanie, so that was pretty cool--and I'd met Mary IRL but got to Skype with her, too.

2014 is the first year I didn't accomplish my bucket list, but I got hired out of the blue to teach again (I know--shut up about that already), we added a kitten to our household and I continue to put my editing skills to work on a wonderful project--the Discovery Land Global curriculum is teaching kids about Jesus in dozens of churches both stateside and worldwide.  As I finished edits on the spring installment Tuesday, I appreciated how awesome that project is--both in its impact and its quality. That involvement is a huge blessing that I often forget to count.

Now it's time to begin my 2015 bucket list. 

*  Earn my mandatory 6 credits by the end of June so I can keep my teaching license (and, consequently, keep my job).
*  Finish editing my YA novel and come up with a good title.
*  I hate adding this one--it's so cliche and I NEVER like writing items that sound like self-improvement resolutions, but working full-time has really skewed the balance:  exercise more so I can stay strong. My weight is fine--but FEELING energetic, that's another story.  I have to get my rear in gear more often than twice a week.
*  Repaint two more rooms.  (We're down to just four rooms needing paint here!)
*  Landscape around Mr. D's ginormous shed.  It must be done.  Plus, planting is FUN!  And there will be blackberry bushes involved in this endeavor.
*  Get in the woods at least three times a month.
*  Take Team Testosterone on at least five adventures.

I'm getting started on that last one this morning when we pack the Momvan and head to the Dells for some indoor waterpark action--water slides, laser tag and a lazy river. 

Happy 2015!

Mr. G and I took a blurry Christmas Eve selfie.
Spill it, reader.  Do you write bucket lists, resolutions or just keep rolling one year from the next?

*I don't do resolutions.  Self-improvement isn't fun, but bucket lists are, so I make a list each year of what I want to DO.  My list might include things that are good and useful and helpful, but they can also include enjoyable things.  Really, anything that makes me feel accomplished in any sense of the word can end up on my annual bucket list.

© 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved