Monday, March 29, 2010

The hazards of walking.

The city of Dunwoody has some marvelous concepts in its long range plan, including more pedestrian and bike friendly paths. Since I live tucked against Dunwoody Village, I'm particularly eager to see and enjoy a more iconic and engaging city center.

Until those sidewalks and lanes are a reality, walking in Dunwoody is quite an experience. My daughter and I walked to Michael's the other day to pick up some supplies for a school project. Walking down Mt. Vernon Road (then Highway) from Dunwoody Village, the sidewalk is wide and easy to traverse. But, just before the shopping center, pedestrians are forced to cross busy Mt. Vernon Road via a crosswalk because the sidewalk ends well before the traffic light.

For a time, there was a nice marker in the middle of the crosswalk reminding drivers they need to stop for pedestrians. But, naturally, someone has driven over it. We found the marker tossed in the grass and leaned it against a telephone pole.

I counted 32 cars roaring past us as we waited for a break in traffic to cross. When the near lane emptied, I stepped into the crosswalk to alert drivers we were ready to come across. They SPED UP. So we jumped back. Finally there was a big break in traffic and we scampered across.

On the return, we decided to walk the uneven natural area on the opposite side of the road until we reached the Ashford-Dunwoody Road intersection because then we'd have a traffic light to assist us in our crossing.

My daughter wants to ride her bicycle all over Dunwoody. But I'm forced to talk to her about her route because the availability of sidewalks and traffic lights dictates whether it's safe enough for her to go solo. The library or her friend's house in Mill Glen? Yes, but only if she rides on the sidewalk (contrary to courtesy and rules).  Anything along Ashford-Dunwoody or Mt. Vernon Road? No!

I hope the replacement of the crosswalk marker comes soon. And I pray that none of those impatient drivers hits a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bless your heart.

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and
I'm not sure about the former."
- Albert Einstein

"Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt."
 - Abraham Lincoln

I call my moments of complete idiocy "brain freeze" or "mom brain." Like the time I pushed and pushed the entrance to a restaurant until my eye-rolling daughter said "Mom, you PULL."  Fortunately, I'm not a public figure, where some cell phone camera is recording my every dumb move. Or twittering it to the world.

What happens in our brains that makes normally thoughtful people do stupid stuff? Are we just so darned busy all the time that, every now and then, common sense takes a holiday?

Like my friend's son telling the traffic cop that it makes no sense to do the speed limit when the road is empty of other cars.

Like the headline writer who recently wrote this gem:  Cost Of Being Poor Rising. 

Like the resume that included this skill:  "I have a keen eye for derail."

Like the warning label on a drain opener I opened this week:  IF YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND OR CANNOT READ ALL DIRECTIONS AND WARNINGS, DO NOT USE THIS PRODUCT.

Like the survey line for the stream buffer behind my house that suddenly moved farther away from an office building. Bet the judge will find that one really funny.

Like the mom who called the Nature Center four times this week to find out if her six year old child is too old for a preschool class (3 and 4 year olds). (If you don't like the answer the first time, try, try again!)

Like our top-heavy school administration that includes well paying positions like GRADUATION COACH or ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT TO THE ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL (I made up that latter one, but it isn't far off the reality!)

Like the support desk person who begins the scripted help protocol with "did you reboot the computer, ma'am?" after I said "I've rebooted the computer."

Like the hospital technician who flips on the overhead light at 3 in the morning, asks brightly, "how are you sleeping?" and proceeds to take those well timed vitals.

There's a little Forrest Gump in all of us.  As a child of the South and operating at a significant cognitive disadvantage, Forrest has a refreshing acceptance of his imperfections as he tries to do the right thing.  "Are you stupid, son?" "Stupid is as stupid does, sir!"

Perhaps innate kindness and some humility prevent us from saying, "that's stupid!" But we Southerners have a perfect response that means exactly the same thing:

"Bless your heart."

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Did I mention I have two teenagers in the house?

As an educator, I've studied the stages of learning and development. I understand the physiology of the brain, the transition from concrete to abstract thought, the madness of hormonal fluctuations, the long period of narcisissm before the frontal lobe develops the ability to think about consequences and other people, and the significant impact of sleep cycles that don't conform to the traditional school day.

Nonetheless, I get blindsided nearly every day by my kids' erratic jumps from eye rolls to loving hugs to secretiveness to telling me WAY too much.

When our children were babies and preschoolers, we parents shared and learned from each other. We talked incessantly about hand-eye coordination, separation anxiety, sleeping through the night, learning to read, first steps toward independence, and important details like the way little boys like to turn EVERYTHING into a weapon of some sort. (I just never expected that a banana goes bang-bang.) Mom to mom chats were my best source of reassurance and validation.

Now that our children are teens, suddenly all I hear is perfect people in training. The ones who take a dozen AP classes at a time, hold down a part-time or volunteer job, have a large circle of equally well adjusted friends,  get early admission into top tier colleges, are pillars of their church or temple youth groups, and get along splendidly with their parents. "I thought these years would be challenging, but we have the BEST relationship!"

What did I do wrong?  I have to physically drag my sleep-deprived teens out of bed. The alarm clock is a joke - it's blasting through the house, but the only ones hearing it are the parents. One loves school, the other hates it, and both would far rather do games or texting or Facebook or AIM than do homework. Their emotions give me whiplash. One moment things are peaceful; the next they're roaring with anger or pushing family buttons just to see what kind of reaction they get. Every single A on the report card comes at a tremendous cost in terms of my foot in someone's derriere. Their bedrooms look like some crazy person decided to empty every drawer and wallow in the chaos. Chores are done reluctantly and with the most minimal effort possible.  Showers take up to half an hour and every outfit rejected that day as not-cool ends up in the laundry hamper. 

I love my kids, completely and unconditionally. But boy, some days that love is really, really hard work. I head to work on those days with gratitude that I get a few hours off from my job as the family ringmaster.

Could it be that I  hear only from the parents who are wiping their brows in amazement that their teens are on autopilot to success? And that everyone else is just like me?

Oh please let that be true!

Because misery does indeed love company.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rainy Days and Fridays.

There is an inverse relationship between a rainy day and the amount of wiggles, shrieks, and tears found in the average preschool classroom.

Every preschool teacher out there knows exactly what I mean.

Teacher has erased playground time and fresh air from the day's schedule. If the school has a large gym or great hall, that will be where the kids will run around for fifteen minutes some time over the next four hours.

They make it through the morning, have some lunch . . . then come to me for Preschool Phonics.

I love these kids. They're bright, loving, eager to share the minutae of their lives (including some things I'm sure their parents would be appalled they tell me), and greet me joyfully each week.

But if it rains, all bets are off. I resort to theatrics, goofy faces, songs, jumping up and down, and anything I can think of to get their attention. Oh, they want to work. But they just can't contain themselves. Because they haven't had playground time. Or fresh air.

Lesson: long vowel /o/ with silent /e/ at the end. "Phonics Friends, how do we know this is a long o?"

"It's funderin, Mrs. Naw," says precious girl in sparkling pink shoes. We take a two-minute pause so everyone can shriek and wonder if it's going to "funder" again.

I'm looking for one of them to notice the silent e at the end of the word. I'm pointing to it. I'm making my goofy face. They KNOW this - we're merely reviewing a concept they have engraved on their brains.

"My feet aw wet - I don't like wet feet." Monkey boy who never met a dirt pile he didn't like does not feel the same way about rain.

Okay, then. Let's start our centers. They love centers. Open an easter egg, pull out the letters, and create a long vowel word for the picture card inside (a kid favorite - who doesn't like seeing what's hiding in a plastic egg?). Who can make the most three-letter words with the What's Gnu game?  Sort the words according to long vowel and short vowel sounds.

Because it's raining outside, children who can usually spend five minutes in each center are wriggling and restless after just 2 minutes. Hello, Short Attention Span Theater.

"Mrs. Naw, I need to go to the baffroom." This child has already gone three times, and unless we're dealing with a bladder infection, I think the bathroom has turned into his happy place.

CRASH! Shrieks of laughter reward the curly haired moppet who just took all the Boggle cubes and scattered them across the floor. So I suggest the kids make words by rolling the cubes and seeing what words turn up. An instant hit, and soon we're spelling LOUDLY on the floor.

Suddenly it's treasure box and pick up time. Parents dash in from the rain, Phonics Friends go skipping out the door, and I survey the wreckage left behind.

Another rainy day. Yet learning still happened.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Well, what do you think about that.

A few giggles.

Grande latte, Seattle style.

Nationally, reading scores are down. Spelling is a challenge, too.

Sustainable gardening gone bad.

Wait. The name's on the tip of my tongue. Yellow. curved. fruit. Sounds like . . . my Aunt Hannah.

You won't believe how many knitters like to knit . . . food. Honestly.

What my kids are getting for Christmas next year.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Writer's block. Not.

A prolonged absence from the Knitternall blog implies disinterest. Not true! So much is happening in the Knitternall world that blogging for pleasure seemed . . . well, self-indulgent.

But isn't self indulgence at the heart of blogging?

Okay, that's a conundrum I'll leave to another day's musing.

My Honda Odyssey's odometer roared past 100,000 while we were en route to Parkview High School in Lilburn for the regional Odyssey of the Mind competition. Darlin' daughter's team scored high enough for them to proceed to the State competition in Columbus during Spring Break. Awkward! Several team members had family trips that week and are now scrambling to get back in time.

The Charter for our middle school came back from the state with two pointed criticisms: not enough innovation, not enough flexibility from the county school district. Ahem. We tried in the first round to put those in, were thrwarted, and are now going back with everything we hoped for in the first place. The State Department of Education is solidly in our corner, which is a great turn of events. Actually, I think it's a blessing that the charter came back because now we can do it RIGHT.

I was following The Great Dunwoody Chicken Debate with great interest because I really, really want chickens in the back yard.

The Goddard School debacle continues in our backyard. Between Rick Callihan's jokey references to our stream as a mythological river (honestly - just not funny) and city staff working tirelessly on behalf of the private investor who bought the property and the franchisees, I feel rather put upon.

Our son's Eagle project benefiting Children's Healthcare of Atlanta continues quite productively. We're grateful to bloggers like John Heneghan and Dunwoody area Scout troops for spreading the word. He's up to 15 systems and 72 games. He hopes to get 15 more handheld Nintendo DS's and Gameboys (no PSPs have turned up, so good thing he hasn't received any PSP games!). Hopefully all this will finish by summer since his senior year will be busy enough (and he turns 18 in December).

I'm in the midst of helping my parents move to Atlanta while they're healthy and can enjoy the vitality of this place. Not easy. But very much needed.

I love Thursdays. My little Phonics Friends join me in the clubhouse at Dunwoody Nature Center for preschool phonics instruction. Okay, I know it's instruction, but they think they're coming to play with my phonics games, listen to my crazy stories, and watch me make a complete fool of myself. Being a teacher is 7 parts pedagogy and 3 parts theater.

And yes, I'm knitting like a fool. The crazier life gets, the more I need the meditative comfort of knitting. I've worked on a baby sweater for our church's youth group intern, completed a few prayer shawls, and am at the midpoint of Nora's Sweater from Interweave Knits. I'm knitting it in a deep, rich purple that gives me joy as it winds its way off the needles.

Meanwhile, as I said to John Heneghan (I'm a total fan), I've been a bit removed from my happy place thanks to "stuff," but tomorrow has lots of hope in it. The peas are peeking through the dirt in my tidy raised bed garden, I just planted some beans and placed their teepees in anticipation of a bumper crop this summer, my son is enjoying a bit of remission from Crohn's and, right now, it's quiet in the Knitternall home.