Mother's Day has become a day to center my mind on what is important in my life. It is a day that doesn't celebrate me, but celebrates what I do. I have never been very comfortable in my "mother-ness". I seem to lack the cautious, careful and protective behavior that I thought was natural for mothering. Instead I yell and scream independence! Still, my three daughters are my duty, they are my joy, and they will be who I cannot become.
Absorbs the rain in laughter
Endures the snow with resistence
Sings a song of Joy
Heals the heart like an Angel
Petals that kiss the Sun
As fragile as any flower is
As sensitive as all petals are
She closes out the coldness
And awakens to the warmth of the Sun
Rich in color
Rich in food
Rich in silent beauty
The last to bloom may be
The most difficult of all to pluck
Not until I started teaching did I become aware of this whole March Madness stuff. Not growing up around or marrying into a sports crazed family, it has taken me a while to learn that there are certainly a lot of others out there quite sport crazed around this time of year! Madison was host to a bunch of games. However, I couldn't tell anything about the teams or the games, but I could tell you about the traffic!
Anyway, the Fords may not do basketball but in March we do a lot of other stuff. This month started with a party for Monika at Chuck E. Cheese, thanks to Jim. I thought a party every 4 years for Monika was fine, but somehow Monika didn't feel that was very fair and she somehow talked her dad into feeling the same way! Erika had a huge strings concert this month, which doesn't excite her at all. As our school district is way under budget this year, they are looking at cutting the strings program out of the Elementary school. I have mixed feelings about this. Although I totally hate the idea, I am a bit relieved they are not cutting art out at all! (I am so self-centered at times!) Erika really enjoys "veg-ing out" at the computer. Our new game of choice is SNOOD!
This month I finished a portrait of Jessika (see image). I would like to do one of each of the girls eventually. We also put on our very first dinner party. It had a German theme (thus the black, red and yellow table decor). No pictures this year of girl scout cookies. They are here but well hidden! 600 boxes were stashed in the garage away from hungry hands. We have sold over 400 (only 200 more to go). Let me know if you would like any. Erika is signed up to go to a Girl Scout photography camp this summer as part of her reward for selling so many boxes.
We girls are currently enjoying Easter/Spring Break sleeping in and catching up on stuff. Jim had his break earlier in the month. He was able to visit a friend in Arizona with sun. We hope to celebrate Easter in the sun, but with a high of barely 50, we won't be out in it for long. Until next month...
In January I got my first student teacher. This is the first time I have been put into a "mentor" situation professionally and I have been constantly looking back to my own time as a student teacher, wondering how did I manage to reverse my role. It has been fun but challenging at times. I have been analyzing what I do, how I do it and why I do what I do at work more than ever.
February was fun here in Wisconsin as we finally got a bit of snow for sledding (not for me, but the kids!) and Valentine's Day, as always, was blast for the girls. Erika played in her first jazz concert this month. She plays the bass in her 6th grade orchestra at school and in January she was asked to join the school's jazz band. Although she was "forced" to join (one of the down sides of having a mother who knows the band teacher), she wasn't all that reluctant. Her enthusiasm to learn the bass is by far heaps and heaps greater than when she was playing the violin.
After Christmas I started taking Karate after my kickboxing class. I did this in part so that Jessi and I could have something special to practice together. I also hope it will help with my lack of coordination, my constant need for physical activity to keep me from becoming a fat whale of woman, and give me a sense of physical accomplishment. Last spring I complained to my physician of several ailments he chalked up to stress. Well, after another complete examination this past month due to added bodily weirdness I was diagnosed with being peri-menopausal. I am reluctant to share this so openly but it has been on my mind so much lately. It certainly explains many of my questions these past months but… it is at times difficult to face. I am only 36 and yet I still feel so much like 16 at times it scares me. I hope to face forty post-menopausal with black belt!
Jessi & I passed our yellow belt test. It was difficult for both of us and something we are both very proud of!!
Well, we made it to California and back in our Nissan with no trouble and lots of fun. The girls only fought once or twice each way and I learned not to give them a timeout, but instead the toy or shoe that they were fighting over. Somehow we clocked approximately 5000 miles onto the car. We went through New Mexico on the way to and through Wyoming on the way back, traveling into 13 states! Believe it or not the girls are excited to do it all again in the summer!
Our Christmas was wonderful and warm. I got the yoga ball I wanted (my brother is playing on one in the photo above). The girls got loads of gifts even though I prepared them to expect nothing. After all, Christmas isn’t about getting gifts, right? My family was all together not just on Christmas but also on Ventura beach several days later. My dad organized a camping trip for us all. The girls wore wet suits and made it in the water! Although the sun was very warm the ocean water and air was very cool. This Christmas was the first time the Parris clan had all gathered in at least five years. For some reason Monika and Emma (my brother's daughter) switched places for the photo. When I offered to make it a permanent switch, only Monika was eager for the change!
Seeing my grandma Emma was so nice but seeing so many of her great grand children playing and having fun together is the best. Erika spent New Year’s Eve celebrating with her 2nd cousin, Sarah (once removed?- that would be my cousin’s daughter). Jessika and Monika went with my parents to a church celebration, while Jim and I celebrated swimming and sitting in an out door spa - of course we were in Southern California! Although no one woke to watch the Rose parade this year, aunt Linda took the girls over to Pasadena to see the floats. I am afraid Linda will remember Monika’s puking up her Krispie Kreme in her Lexus most even after all the photos are developed.
The year started off with Jim driving 34 hours straight from LA to Madison. Two days later he drove non-stop to Boston for an interview. After the interview he drove back to Madison. While in California, he picked up a christmas gift from my parents -- a second car. This helped ease the difficulty of dealing with our family's many different schedules. Since jim worked and taught most evenings, he was available to do a lot with the girls during the day. he spent the school year home-school Monika half time while she wet to kindergarten the other half of the day. In February Monika turned 5. She is strong minded, wants to do everything for herself, and loves to collect paper, money and coins. She often reminds me of my dad with her golden hair, her grey-blue eyes, her big boots and quiet disposition.
The spring was a stressful time for me at work, with the girls and with my University classes. I questioned my sanity for the first time in a long time, but ended up creating a pretty cool piece of artwork through it all. Eating hundreds of girl scout cookies didn't help the situation. Wile I studied to coach a team of students in black history, Erika studied to compete in her school's "battle of the books" program. Although neither of our teams took first place, we both gained a lot through the experience. She turned into quiet a good reader in 2001, finally giving in to reading the Harry Potter series.
Over the Summer we finally moved out of University housing and into a townhouse. We all have our own space. Jim has a small studio in the garage and I have sewing area in the laundry room. Erika got her own room, which gave Jessika mastery over the top bunk. Monika, who loves having a bed that doesn't need to be put away every morning, squirrels away worksheets, money and toys behind her bed, knowing it won't be moved for at least a week. I sat at a computer for most of the summer, with only occasional breaks to supervise the girls at the pool or the lake. I actually completed my Master's Thesis and was able to defend it in August. Jim was supportive and proud of my accomplishment. I am glad that I can now focus more on my children's education, although I am still not sure I am completely finished with my own.
The start of school is a very exciting time at the Fords. Jim began teaching as an asst. professor during the day, which he enjoys. Monika started full day kindergarten and Jessika began first grade. Erika began her first year of middle school, wile I started my fourth. Erika acclimated herself to her new school and has only made one visit to the principal's office so far. Erika celebrated her golden birthday in November (turning 11 on the 11th of the 11th month) and got to be a disco queen for the evening. Erika's social nature amazes me. Jessi was the star player on her soccer team and also started karate. She plans to kick and punch her way out of a white belt. Monika, on the other hand, wanted little to do with soccer and even less with karate. My girls, blessed with beauty and health, differ as do the seasons.
As I sit typing to recall for you the happenings fo the year, it is difficult to remember all the hardships and yet so easy to pinpoint the many joys and blessings. The year was full and fast. I ope as you remember your year, the first of a brand new millennium, that you can be thankful also for the many joys and blessings. We have so much to be thankful for. We plan to drive to California after December 21st and hopefully arrive by Christmas. I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.
This year's Thanksgiving was perfect... gravy and all. We kept nearly all of our Thanksgiving traditions this year. The five of us sat down for an early dinner at 1:30 with so much to be thankful for. We went around the table sharing our blessings.
Starting with Erika-- she thanked God for her friends at school. She is pictured below with her school chums in the school gym during her birthday party. It was Erika's golden birthday this year and we had quite a bash for her. A real disco party complete with a DJ playing plenty dance tunes. She invited about 32 girls and 4 boys. These brave boys not only attended but danced along to the Electric Slide, the Macarena, and the Cha-cha.
Jessika was thankful for her best friend, Rose Whitehead.
Although Rose is no longer in her class (I made sure of that!), the two of them manage to find time on the playground, at Girl Scouts and on weekends to make as much trouble as two 1st graders can possibly manage! Rose's family is from Great Britain and yet these two girls seem to have everything in common.
Monika who in years past has been sent to her room for refusing to be thankful decided on a different approach. She quietly whispered in my ear because she was too shy to say she was thankful for school aloud. Mind you there were only 4 others at the table, yet she seemed earnest her shyness. If any of our three will follow in Jim's footsteps academically, it will be Monika. She loves to learn, loves to write and is teaching herself to read.
Jim shared his of thankfulness for those who are fighting abroad. My thankfulness this year is for my job security and incredible benefits. Especially as I hear of others near and dear to me who are unsure of how long their jobs will last, I feel so blessed to be not only secure but comfortable. It has been a good school year!
And of course, in keeping with tradition, we went to the movies. This year though, we did not see a Disney film. Harry Potter was the movie to see. We caught a 4 PM matinee and enjoyed every 150 or so odd minutes of it. Erika sat between Jim and I and commented on missing elements or scenes every 5 to 10 minutes. Monika and Jessika asked to be held during the real scary parts (in the forest and at the end in front of the mirror), but both thoroughly enjoyed it and asked for the video as soon as it is out.
As usual October has brought regularity to our family and Halloween rituals. Although we are supposed to be doing less, life continues to be busy. Jim is teaching five history courses which only becomes problematic when he has exams or papers to grade. He continues to play with his band, MINE, and started this Fall coaching soccer for the girls. I started taking kick-boxing for fun, fitness, and self-defense this past month and enjoyed it so much I have started the girls in Karate at the same studio I attend. It won’t be long until we girls will finally be able to over power Jim!
Madison made the national news last month over a controversy on whether to allow the pledge of allegiance to be said over the school PA system. There was a segment on the CBS morning news show that interviewed several of my students and showed Erika’s class participating in the pledge. The whole debate became pretty ridiculous, especially when the girls’ elementary school played the Chinese anthem instead if the US one a morning I happened to be there. Their school is one with many teachers refusing to do the pledge (some calling it fascist!). This provoked me to write a letter to the Editor of the WI State Journal that made the paper the following morning. So I supposed I have added a few more minutes to my 15 of fame.
For Halloween the girls dressed up for a neighborhood party. Jessi was a ninja; Erika, an elf; and Monika, a cowgirl. Jim had a gig with Mine on Halloween evening so I made him a custom cape to go with his leather pants (shown below). This year the girls each went out trick-or treating with different friends while Jim left to set up for his gig. I stayed home alone waiting for someone to ring for candy. Not a one trick-or-treater came! Finally Jessika and Monika rang and I treated them. Erika got to stay out late with her friends roaming the neighborhood without adult supervision. I insisted she be home by 9pm while she claimed most kids would be out past 10. Of course I gave her the line, "if most kids jumped off buildings that doesn't mean you have to, too!"
On September 11th my mom called me a bit after 8 am. She knows we don’t have a TV and she had just witnessed on a live news morning LA show something I am sure she will never forget. I was on my way out the door. With the kids in the backseat, I drove hurriedly, changing channels on our car radio. Nothing. No one was doing news yet, until I heard the guys on JJO screaming. JJO is a metal station. I didn’t realize Jessi and Monika heard them too. I listened with my hand on my heart, ready to cry, as they relayed what they saw on CBS. (I could heard Bryant Gumball screaming in the background also.)
Suddenly Monika butted in, "Mom, are kid’s in that building?" I turned off the radio and proceeded to answer their questions. "Mom, were kids on the plane?" I lied… "Nope," I replied. "No kids killed, just one very bad man on a couple of planes and maybe a few business men in the building." By this time, I am in the drive way of their school. I hugged and kissed those two girls with more safety assurance than I ever had, "Your school is safe, your city is safe, shoot, even your state is safe! Nothing in Wisconsin but a bunch of cows, bad guys won’t fly any planes near us."
By 10 am I was given the opportunity to share with a sixth grade class what was happening. I drew a sloppy map of the United States on the chalk board. "Look how far New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania are from us?" I assured them, "Nothing in Wisconsin but a bunch of cows, bad guys won’t fly any planes near us." A few kids laughed… then they asked about Chicago or Milwaukee? They knew better…
That night our family prayed for our country for the first time. Jim straightened out the facts for the girls. "Lots of people died today and we will remember." We continue to pray for our country and we should never forget what happened. The kids forget though. My girls didn’t watch the gory details on TV, so it was easy for them to forget. We hung an American flag up in the living room to help us remember-- all around Madison there are flags hanging on porches and in windows of nearly every home. Are they there to keep them from forgetting too?
Ah… it is the start of a new year, a new school year, that is. I love this time of year. It is so refreshing, so fun to start over. In Wisconsin, it means the start of more colorful and less humid weather. This year there seems to be so many beginnings to celebrate…
Today, the 27th of August is the first day of school. Monika begins Kindergarten, Jessi starts first grade and yes, Erika is now in Middle School. It is true. Everyone seems dumbfounded when I remind them Erika is starting 6th grade. The three all have very full backpacks and new lunch boxes (except Erika who refuses to carry a lunchbox, she will eat only hot lunch). Monika went to bed last night with the same butterflies in her stomach I used to get when I was young.
Today Jim began commuting as an ASST. PROFFESSOR. He has a 90 minute drive each way to Marian College in Fond Du Lac. Jessika is letting everyone know that her dad is a professor. She told me last week that now we will be rich, because Rose’s dad is a professor and they are rich. I had to burst her bubble a bit by telling her a professor at the U.W. makes a lot more than a professor at the small catholic college daddy works for. Too bad for Jessi , but great for Jim.
As of today, Jim and I will begin our 14th year of marriage. The changes we have made the last 13 years at times surprise me, and yet we are still so much the same silly kids who had a crush on each other at 13. I still get an occasional zit and he still has the same hair tweak on one side of his head. He still can’t pull his fingers through my hair and I still can’t get over how fast he can play the piano. We still get a kick out of each other…
Well finally, I started out teaching school today no longer a "probationary" teacher. I now have tenure! And as of Wednesday I will have my master’s degree. I defend it at 4 p.m. Should you like to comment on my work, you are welcome to view it (click here). It was a relief to have it finished in time.
The month of June brought much needed changes to the Ford family. We have moved at last. We are no longer living on camps anymore. University living has been a way of life for Jim and I since we were married. We have moved "up" into a nice townhouse located very close to the school I teach. Since Erika will join me there next year we decided to get as close as possible, so now our back yard is the school yard (maybe that is too close?). My mother joined me during this transition in order to help with the kids, but she ended up helping more with the cleaning --she is the expert! I was so glad to have her here.
The girls are all enjoying the new space with a nearby beach and playground. The move was most difficult for Monika as she had so many friends at Eagle Heights and really never lived anywhere else. There are not as many young kids around our new place, but I am seeing her play with Jessika more frequently and more harmoniously, so it isn't as bad for her (or me). Erika got the best deal in our move-- her own room and new furniture (a gift from her grandpa Jim). I got the bummer of finding my own queen size bed foundation would not fit up the 2nd set of stairs, so I am back on the floor like a college kid again. It makes "rolling out of bed" all the more easier, though.
With the onset of summer the kids are all out of school but Jim is teaching summer school adn I am taking it. I am planning to finally finish my masters in art education. It will be very difficult to get it done by August 20 but I will just have to do it. I should be working on it now. Once it is done I will share more about it. I am eager to have it finished at last, bu oh, the precess... so very time consuming. Those lazy summers that lasted forever as a child are gone for me.
I did make time for relaxation after a most hectic school year. I took the girls to a water park resort with Erika's girl scout friends, I took my mom for her birthday to Ohio for a quick trip to Longaberger headquarters, and I just got back from a camping trip with the same bunch of girl scouts. My troop co-leader, in two weeks time, had a head-ache, found a tumor, had brain surgery and was home convalescing. The experience was difficult for me (obviously worse for her!) as I had a lot of slack to pick up, but what perspective it gave me on life. After a very painful spring, learning about he difficulties in adult responsibilities, I found myself "forced" to sit back and relax with the girls. My time with my mom was wonderful too. As I age, I see relationship around me are changing. My perspective is changing and my role is changing. It just seemed like I wet through so much change in so short a time. Not something I recommend.
I recently joked with a friend that 2001 is turning out to be the second worse year of my life; second to 1977, the year I was in seventh grade. I suppose 1985 would be a runner up. As I pondered these years I saw clearly why they were so bad. These were years in my life where my own expectations were pulled out from under me. Falling on my face and knowing not who I was, I was faced with the awful task of reinventing myself.
It is the process that is painful. I feel now that I am in that process. I feel helpless at times and unable to see the outcome, still I know God is able to use all things for good. Funny how in the midst of trial there can still be joy. I had a wonderful Mother's Day yesterday. I thought it must have been one of the best. I got gifts and real ones, not just the cute stuff kids make in pre-school. Jim insisted we spend that afternoon in the park enjoying each other and the sun.
In 1977 I was forced to move far away from all my childhood friends and faced with making new ones. One of those new friends was a boy next door. In 1985 I was on academic probation, I lost most of my church friends and I could see no prospects for a husband. A year later I began to date that guy next door, who had just gone back to school and could get me back on track academically, changing my entire outlook. This year, well, all I know is that the outcome will have my husband involved somehow. As I flounder to reinvent myself one more time, I know he is here supporting me. He is changing with me, aging, knowing that life sucks sometimes. My struggle is in hating this aging process but having no other options in front of me. Teri needs to grow, grow up and grow old. Oh, it is painful...
Thinking of the past month or so, I have been overly stressed at work, at home, and at school. Spring Break came a bit late, but at last it is here and nearly done. The weather cooperated this past week with spring-like rains, wind and a little more sunshine. Thank God for small miracles. We celebrated Jim's birthday, the warming of temperatures, the start of the baseball season, the death and resurrection of Jesus all in the last week. The girls look forward to Easter as eagerly as they do Christmas in our home as I have implemented the same lavishness to Christ's resurrection as I do for His birth. The girls got new outfits, beanie babies and skateboards or roller blades this year, as well as the typical stuffed bunnies and chocolate eggs.
Having finished the taxes on Good Friday, I finally felt "caught up" with life and ready to face the rest of the school year at a quickened pace. Plans are already being laid down for summer and our thoughts are quickly turning toward the end of school, (only 7 weeks left) and losing all the weight we gained from eating too many Girl Scout cookies! Many thanks to all of you who participated in our cookie sale. Yes, we got rid of all 600 boxes and Erika will be spending a week at Girl Scout camp in August for free.
All my students want to watch "the game"during class! What game? Oh yeah, it's that time of year when everyone is talking about basketball. The Spring Harbor Middle School girls team actually won a few games this year, and even I handed out a few high fives. In general though, the (Parris-) Fords don't do sports. We do cookies, we do history, and we do books...
I have 600 boxes of Girl Scout cookies & know what they look like, that is 50 cases. Not too bad. If you haven't ordered any from us, PLEASE do so now! We need you to buy them and get them out of our living room. I am surrounded and Jim has announced he will eat them at will. I may be in financial trouble. I have had them for one weekend and our family has gone through a case. That is only $36, that is all. Just think your family could have the same opportunity! (see photo above of our girl scout troop!)
Last month was Black History Month and I was in charge of the coaching and contest at our school. On the 31st of March my team will compete at the City Challenge Bowl. If we win I will go to Atlanta to compete with other Middle School aged kids across the nation on the subject of Black History. It has kept me busy, but wow, have I learned a lot.
Erika joined battle of the books for the first time in her Elementary career. Battle of the books is a book reading contest where teams are made to read 10 books each and the team with the best knowledge of the books read wins. She competes on Thursday. It hasn't been easy, but without a TV this past year, reading had become a bigger part of Erika's life. It took that much.
Wednesday is the day we celebrate love and friendship. After spending a nice icy "snow day" with my family. I thought about the love the five of us have for each other, its strength and its source...
Monika is by far the quietest, slyest and the most stubborn, but bright. Last week while Erika was working on her Language Arts homework, she asked Monika in her teacher's voice, "How do you spell post office?" I stood in front of the stove, cooking and thought to myself, "Why is she asking her that?" Then to my surprise Monika answered… correctly up to the second "f". I felt dumbfounded. Who taught her that? Not me… okay, I guess Jim works with her. Then Jim tells that the other day he went to the gas station after picking up Monika and realized he didn’t have his wallet. He stopped pumping and began looking throughout the car for change to cover the $2.03 he had pumped. Monika pulls out of her pocket a load of laundry quarters she had snagged with a smile. How can you not love a kid like that!?
Jessika has a sensitive and tortured soul for a child. She screams, yells, cries and laughs deeply everyday. How do you harness all that emotion? She is beautiful yet already shares with me her broken heart. Several days ago at the dinner table, Monika was sharing her cheese puffs with Erika while the two of them were being quite sisterly, then suddenly Jessi dropped her head onto my lap and wept. I was thinking, "What is it now?" She lifted her eyes and sniffled, "Mom, look how they like each other. I don’t have anyone." I suppose it doesn’t matter how many kids you have, someone is going to feel left out sometime, but what could I do right then? I just wanted to squeeze all the hurt away. It is those times you sense how deeply you love your child.
Erika must be a somewhat typical eldest child, mature and brave. Except for her forgetfulness, she is nearly perfect. She forgets everything though (yeah, I know… adolescence) except perhaps the things I’d hoped she would. She is nosey too, listens in on my phone conversations, looks over my shoulder while writing the Ford Crier, and even peeks in on me while I do my hair or fix my face. Always learning that girl is. The world is big and wonderful and filled with possibilities. She asks often, "So, what do you think I will be when I grow up?" Of course, I have to answer, "What ever you want to be, my dear, whatever you want."
When I married Jim I feared for the day we would run out of things to talk about. Well, having kids fixed that. Now we don’t have enough time to talk about them, let alone all the other things we need to discuss. Still I am truly amazed how the love doesn’t fade, it just gets deeper and deeper. Where does it come from?
So today I asked my family, "Who do you love and why?" Their responses-
Monika: "I love grandma Ofelia because she can have puppies."
Jessika: "I love you, mom, because you change the rules."
Erika: "Oh, I love everyone (then after being told to choose just one), okay I love my dad, because he is funny and loveable."
Jim: "I don't know. What do you mean? You need to define your terms."
The year has gone by quickly as I have been busy trying to finish up my MA in art education by the end of next summer. Most of my free time is eaten away working on my thesis, writing papers, or creating my own art. I love being a student and can see myself continuing my education for years to come but I am eager to finally reach this next goal. I continue to teach middle school art with great enthusiasm. Although they can be emotionally taxing at times, I love my students. I often bring the girls into my artroom and my students love to play with them and often argue over opportunities to babysit. Erika and I are still doing girl scouts together.
Since he got off his medication in November, Jim has been doing nothing but watching tv and playing Nintendo games. The other day he was making strange noises by cupping his hand under his armpit and then vigorously moving his arm to and fro. He just smiled, looked at me, and said: "Wir sind Pettler. Hoc verum est." Needless to say he’s back on the medication.
Our girls continue to change as they grow. Erika is deep into early adolescence. She received a boom box for her 10th birthday, and all she wants for Christmas is money for clothes. She loves to discuss politics with us and has opinions about how everything could be better. After participating in a Shakespearean play for her 5th grade class, she fell in love with acting. This Christmas she wrote and directed a holiday production using her Beanie Kids as the actors. She supplied all the voices. It was quite eintertaining and I hope it will become a Christmas tradition for our family. She also continues to swim, play violin, paint her nails and draw. And after a year of braces, Erika will be appliance free next month!
The younger two are both in Kindergarten but at two different schools learning much of the same things, yet they have as much in common as Yin and Yang. As much as they play together they also fight over everything. Their relationship is very bipolar. Monika celebrated her first birthday this past year, turning 4 on Leap Year Day. She has a very serious nature, even stoic at times, and refuses to be crossed. Jessika on the other hand is all emotion. She loves to sing, play with friends and just run wild. Jessika took her first "solo" vacation with Jim to California last June while Erika and Monika stayed in Wisconsin with their aunt Linda and I attended summer school.
May the new millennium bring you encouragement, love, fellowship and grace from God on your spirit.
Last holiday weekend we started in our normal family Thanksgiving traditions but after a couple mishaps throughout the morning we ended up with no gravy for our meal. The meal was good but just in lacking gravy there was a dryness, not just in the meal but to the day. Having over planned my life this semester, instead of having the long weekend off, I needed the days to catch up with grad work. I realized that day there has been a dryness to our lives all semester long. Ill planning on my part. I planned my life like a man, instead of a mother. One can hardly complain in front of a bounty of blessings but it is amazing how special a little gravy can be. I can't wait 'til next year.
We have begun to celebrate Advent these past few years. It has been the gradual influence from our Reformed, Catholic and Lutheran friends. Today (12-03-00) is the first of four advent Sundays in the Christmas season. Last year I made an advent wreath with the girls that we are using again this year. Each week a candle is burned to celebrate the coming Christmas day. Each Sunday becomes nearly as special as Christmas, only without all the presents. It will take us a few more years to get into celebrating with an Advent calendar, where the kids get a small treats and read a special passage every day in December before Christmas.
Last night we got our tree and had a decorating party with the girls. We put it up a bit slanted but thought it would be fine and continued to decorate the tree. After it was completed, Monika was playing with our Christmas manger scene under the tree, while I sat reading and Jim washed dishes. Suddenly without anyone having touched it, the tree fell over onto Monika. It was quite hilarious, but only because we purchased the long soft needle type (is that a White Spruce or Pine?). After putting the girls to bed Jim and I stayed up re-setting the whole thing up again. It was a wonderful evening…
Post Election Thoughts- After my last political input in the Ford Crier I promised myself to refrain from such controversial items. Not having a television, we are, no doubt, missing out on an "OJ crazed" media blast of information. I can’t say I feel like I am missing out on anything. But I will share that I am annoyed. As a public school teacher I am surrounded by Gore supporters who tend to lament for the bleakness of days that are ahead if Bush wins. Come on! I can’t see much difference either way. Bush wins and half the country hates him. Gore wins and the other half will hate him. We are in for "bleakness" either way, or are we? I am struck by the helplessness of man in this election. We are a nation obviously divided. Yes, we learned that every man and woman’s vote counted (and in Florida still being counted), but now, no man or woman is in control. We can only pray that God will continue to bless this country as He has, for truly only God is in control of who will become president. I find great comfort in that and will rejoice in any outcome simply because it will be over.
The tradition continues. It's all American and the kids love it as much as Christmas and Easter. I labored over whether to celebrate it when Erika was young but Jim and I came to the decision it was as Christian as Christmas. Jim knows all the church history, but to me it is more about the American tradition. This year our real pumpkin rotted before Halloween came due to the wonderful weather we have had, so we made due with a few plastic ones.
This was Erika's first year to trick or treat without her sisters and without adult supervision! She went out with a group of girls. They left at 5:30 pm and returned home at 9! I gave her my cell phone, just in case. She didn't use it nor did she lose it! Wow! She is getting soo responsible. She got a huge bag full and she isn't sharing! The photo (left) is of her with her friend Caitlin from Girl Scouts.
Monika and Jessi went out with neighbors while I manned the home front handing out treat bags to all the Eagle Hts. kids. Jessi was a queen while Monika changed costumes several times throughout the day. Starting out as a Ladybug for school we had to make a change when Jim left with her costume still in the car. For part of the night she was Minnie Mouse and then as it grew colder she wore a Mexican poncho (no sombrero though).
Of course when it was all over we had to lay everything out, count it, divid it up into good, bad, save and eat now. Erika is keeping her stash in bed with her. I am not sure how healthy that is but we can deal with it tomorrow....
Normally on Tuesdays we have a babysitter as Jim teaches and I have a class. I had to tell my professor that I would need to take the day off to supervise the Trick or Treating, not to mention that I couldn't get a babysitter even if I wanted one. As the only student in most all of my classes with children I am often given special treatment, as if motherhood was a handicap. As a grad student I suppose it is. Priorities sure are different. I'll take dressing up my kids over just about anything in life... especially homework!
Note: The new Ford Crier look is the beginning of new look for my web site. I am still experimenting...
My favorite season of the year now that we live in Wisconsin has got to be Autumn. The leaves turning golden oranges are like medicine to my hurried life. The weeks buzz by so fast lately, I hardly know the date anymore. I have my school, work school, Jim’s school, and 3 girls in school, not to even mention Sunday school. So life is just about school these days! I assume as the girls get older their school will begin to take more of my time, so it’s a good thing I am planning to be done with grad school by the end of this year.
Erika, who will be 10 next month is in 5th grade and is proud to be the one who has the longest nails in her class and most likely her whole school. She has begun taking a great interest in make up and nail painting. And those of you who know me most are chuckling now because it is doubtful you have ever seen me with my fingernails painted (unless you were at my wedding and happened to notice). I used to force Erika to cut her nails by actually sitting on top of her and pinning her hands down and cutting them myself. Well, it dawned on me this summer that most moms don’t do that to their 9 year olds. So while in California I had my mom (one time beautician to the stars) teach Erika to take care of long nails. Erika is now more proficient in nail care then most adults, certainly the adults in our household!
Other than kids and school, you ask? Well, there’s rock and roll. Jim’s band continues to play live in many of the local venues. His gig success with MINE has surpassed the old Hundredfold days luckily and I am at nearly every gig snapping pictures and enjoying the music. The guys in the band are all so nice and have gotten used to my budding in to help Jim with sound check, to take photos, or to roll up cords at the end of the session. I have volunteered to make a website, of course.
As we mark the end of summer vacation this Labor Day weekend, I am sitting here wondering how it all happened so quickly. I can recall thinking as a youngster how do adults stand living the boring lives they all seemed to live. I now know the answer from experience. Time goes by faster the older you get, and I am starting to feel "older". This was the very first summer in my whole entire life that I felt as if perhaps it could have lasted a few weeks longer. I have always been so eager for school to start and this year I felt different.
I felt ambivalent, not as enthusiastic. Several years ago three weeks in California with my parents was too long, this year it was perfect. It was also the first visit I had where I didn’t feel like reverting into the little girl I still carry inside of me. I continued to feel (and hopefully act) like a mother. My mother’s house was never left as clean after a visit of mine as it was this year. Not to say that I left it immaculate, it just wasn’t trashed! Anyway, any mess that was left I can now blame on the "children" she has living there fulfilling her need to continue caring for irresponsible, slightly neurotic little people.
I had the pleasure of reacquainting myself with some past friends this summer. Something I have long wished to do but could never get enough of them together at once. I also attended Steve Austin’s birthday party with only one daughter, Jessika, hosted by Jennifer Van Zandt Ehlen in Canyon Country. It is so interesting to find out how much people have changed and yet are so much the same. To my delight, Mary Austin insisted I looked exactly like I did 20 years ago, and although I didn’t feel the same, I am sure I acted the same. I watched a few of the guys telling stories and heard voices and intonations that were clearly identical to those I heard 20 years ago. I was only sorry Jim could not have joined in the fun.
Jim was busy in Wisconsin being Mr. Bachelor. He recently joined a new band, MINE, while continuing his recording efforts with TWL. His desire to play live again was overwhelming. It’s like a drug for him, keeping him youthful and creative. He played two gigs with MINE while I was in California and spent a weekend doing a TWL recording blitz. I love this part of my husband. Although many may question why a man joins a progressive metal band after receiving his Ph.D., it makes no difference. Jim continues to teach several history courses at Marian college during the week.
This past week school started and it has been nearly unbearable. No matter how much I love teaching, there is nothing sadder than looking out across the classroom and seeing beads of sweat on every kid’s nose and notice streams of the stuff coming down almost every guy’s head. We were met this year with 90 degree temperatures AND 90 percent humidity.
Coming from California just weeks ago where 115 was the high for almost a week, I was surprised to feel so weakened by a mere 90 degrees. It’s all in the humidity, folks. Believe me, I wish I could have taken my class to the beach to teach them about the wonders in creative sand castle building using the power of ocean waves. As Jessika says, the ocean is a mighty friend!
As different as the seasons, as similar as the oceans, these girls have taught me more about being a woman then any book or lecture ever could. They can be pure angelic sunshine and within minutes offer up a taste of hell. What can I say? They are girls.
Erika was asked why she was acting so strange...quote: "I can't help it, look how weird my dad is."
Jessika asked to have her name changed several times. First she asked to be called "Jessa" because making a "K" was just too difficult, then it was "Alice", and once "Martha". I am not sure if she doesn't like her name or if changing it gives her a feeling of control.
Lately Monika's been wanting a baby brother. After insisting to her I could not comply, Monika asked if I would just trade with our neighbors, Jessika for their son Jonathon. It was a really good idea to her.
I received an email this past month noting my selfish antics. Selfish indeed! Of course, it got me thinking about life, friendship and Al Gore…
Assuming that my family and friends have lives that are similar to mine somehow, I suppose we all live selfish lives. A cousin deals with an autistic son, a dear friend talks of having a child, a brother works his butt off at a new job to have hope to buy a house for his family, and church friends accept jobs as missionaries to fulfill their life’s ambitions and provide for their children. All of their lives are different yet the same. They struggle through making an existence for themselves, for their families. I care about them because I love them and I feel that they care about me. But the bottom line is we live our day to day existence just surviving sometimes, reaching out to those who are closest first; God, a spouse or our mother. I often think about a saying our first landlord used to say, "All you need is family, honey. That’s all you need". It made me think that I was glad to be a Christian, because my family consisted of more than just biological relatives but also spiritual relatives.
I have seen that not only is family all you need but it is often only that family that cares. I suppose without that biological or spiritual bond there is no other reason to care. Is there? What am I missing? I feel I am lost sometimes, looking for other people to care when they don’t. Why should they when they are most likely to live lives that are at least half as selfish as I am. Love? (okay, now I am hearing Howard Jones in my head… do you hear him too?) What is love without the context of Christ? I love my students at school because Christ loved children but why in the world would they love me, if they don’t know Christ. I can have no expectations.
Is it enough to tell you I care about you, when you look at the top of this letter and note that it is mailed to a suppressed list of who knows how many. Is the Ford Crier just another practice of my selfishness? My love of talking about myself to anyone who will listen? I had to stop and think. Do you think I care? Does it even matter to you if I care for you? I guess I wanted it to.
Anyway, about Al. How can a man claim to live life to glorify God yet feel the need to protect a woman’s right to choose abortion? I like Al Gore and I think Tipper is pretty cool too, but I can’t vote for them because I think abortion is murder. I am not sure who I can vote for anymore. But let’s get back to me and my life…
For four weeks throughout most of June and a bit of July, I spent Mondays thru Thursdays in a lab
or a workshop from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. working the projects. I couldn’t have done it without aunt Linda minding the home front, washing the clothes, the dishes, and the children while Jim was in California or working after his return. I started my day in a computer lab class by 9 am and ended in the art metals workshop at 11:30 p.m. It was wonderfully intense and a great learning experience. I am lucky to have a husband that allows me to indulge myself in such selfish behavior and a sister-in-law who is so helpful! The rest of July is spent making up for lost time with my girls and in August we will spend 3 weeks with my family in California.
School’s out for Summer… school’s out forever! Does anyone else here that Alice Cooper song in their head every year at this time of year? I guess it sort of dates me. Working in Middle School, I am often reminded of my age. Having just made it into "Generation X", I often feel confused about how to act as an adult. Is it just me, or my generation, or perhaps just my musical taste?
While Jim was vacationing in California I enjoyed ONE week off before returning to the University for summer school. I am taking an art metals class and web design class that will get me 6 units closer to my MA in Art Ed. Luckily it was hot and muggy during my week off ( typical for Wisconsin), perfect weather for swimming. We joined a private pool this year for the first time ever so that the girls can all take lessons and Erika can be on a team. Monika has turned into a fish like her sisters. Her favorite activity in the pool is diving for toys on the bottom of the pool.
So are we the only place in the country paying $2 or more for a gallon of gasoline? I didn’t really pay attention to the pump price until Jim left for CA and I was the one who had to fill the tank. I was shocked when the cashier told me my total was over $34! I have never paid over $30 for a tank of gas in my whole life! While in Germany we never used a car, or else I am sure we may have paid at least a couple of deutsche marks for a liter of petrol. I loved using a the train system there but I am not sure I am ready to using rapid transit in America.
After successfully defending his dissertation at the end of April, Jim began a month long celebration that will end with a two week vacation in California. It will be his first visit since 1997. The Friday evening graduation was the beginning of a wonderful weekend.
Graduation week began with a visit from Jim's dad Frank. Poor Erika had to decide between going to a girl scout camp or going to Jim's graduation. After she decided to go camping, we decided to get a babysitter for the other two girls. So the evening was wonderfully peaceful and somewhat elegant. We went to a great reception given by the alumni association. I never so much Wisconsin cheese in one place. There was a lot of good salami too (an Adkins dieter's dream). Jim's advisor and mentor Dr. Kingdon, escorted Jim to the podium to receive his diploma. After the ceremony Frank took us out to eat at Jim's favorite Chinese restaurant.
On a personal not, tragedy hit my computer once again. This time it was avirus from a Longaberger basket enthusiast. So much for opening all my email -- never again. This happened shortlly before the "love bug" stuck, so I had already learned my lesson by then. The good thing about it all was that I had most things backed up and I got to start over again on a "new" computer. Spring cleaning really. The bad news is I lost a lot of my contacts... so send me a line with your email address.
Winter 2000; Part I
I realize two months have past since my last Crier. The Ford family has been busy... February started out with a wonderful visit from my sister-in-law, Linda. I realized for the first time why it was that I had never really gotten to know her. We moved next door to the Ford’s exactly a month after Linda moved out to go to college. I think last month was the first time I ever spent any time with Linda alone, getting to know her as a friend. It was fun to find out little tidbits about Jim’s childhood that only a sister could share! I was glad to hear that sibling rivalry was just about as bad in the Ford household as it was in the Parris household. So now I am not sure if my girls’ constant fighting is normal or just runs in the family.
I had my first student art show last month at a local mall. It was a little extra work but worth all the attention. Erika had her first orthodontic emergency last month. I am not sure if I had shared earlier that she is now in braces (something that neither Jim or I ever experienced). Her wire slipped and jammed into her cheek causing her whole face to swell up. She has been very brave about the whole braces experience, enjoying rubber band color changes and enduring wire size changes (larger, stronger wires cause her teeth to weaken and move). And finally, Monika had her first birthday! Oh, and yes, we did it up big. She had her party in a playground warehouse (Rainbow Systems, I am not sure if that is a local company or nation wide, but they are wooden playground systems often found in schools and parks). She had 14 friends for play, pizza and ice-cream cake. Just in case she forgets it, I have saved the memories for her in her scrapbook.
This month has been filled with Girl Scout Cookies. After selling as many as we could, I did an inventory last night counting the money from boxes sold ($3 for each box) plus boxes still left (mostly reduced-fat lemon cremes and frosted oatmeal, in case you are interested in a box) and found *17*, yes, seventeen boxes missing. Those are boxes that were opened when all the girls were at school, or taken to school to share with classmates because their there, but only a few were eaten as a family after a dinner for dessert. Amazing how fast it adds up. Oh, and also this month, Jim just happened to finish his dissertation.
Winter 2000; Part II
I got quite a bit of response regarding our giving up commercial TV. Well, I didn’t get quite as much as my Crier a couple of years ago about vomit, but pretty close. It seems a lot of folks really think about TV and it’s influence in our lives. So now some are asking if we are still doing it...
Okay, I have got to be honest. During Linda’s visit a bit of late night TV was watched by her on occasion. After all, we couldn’t demand our guest to refrain completely. Well, I had/have been keeping up with the news of the world via the internet and email. Peter Jennings sends me a personal update everyday. I am also on our local news station’s news alert list. I get several emails a day letting me know everything from weather to who won what game. Anyway, after Dave Letterman’s surgery I just couldn’t stay completely away. I have "snuck" in a few Late Shows. I found it interesting that it was the only show I just couldn’t stay away from! (I kissed all those primetime soaps goodbye.)
The girls miss the Simpson’s the most and still ask occasionally to sneak in an episode, but the answer is always no. We try to save videos for times when Jim and I go out or need a bit a peace. Watching videos gives us the control of keeping most of those nasty commercials out of the house (but now videos are starting to get in a few). We have gone to the movies a bit more. We saw Snow Day last Saturday and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience with popcorn (no butter for Jessi to prevent vomiting in the car on the way home) and cokes. I am such a fan of Chris Elliott ;-). The movie had a couple teen kissing scenes. After the second one, Jessi yelled out for the theater to hear, "Hey, is this some kind of kissing movie or what?"
by the way, April 22 -28 is TV Turnoff Week