Title I

Andy's job at the charter school in Whittier pays an excellent wage, but it's been a struggle to collect enough hours to make ends meet. Thus it was a huge answer to prayer when Andy's boss told him that through Title I, the school had funds set aside for remedial tutoring for students with low test scores. In all, his boss estimated that there was probably around four hours a week of semi-private math tutoring for Andy to do--at $30/hr. that's a sizable chunk of rent!--and sent him to talk to The Title I Guy. But the Title I Guy had a few reservations. Andy hadn't been there too long... wouldn't want to pile on too much responsibility all at once... maybe he should wait until he'd settled in a month or two...

<>So Andy waited a month or two, and got himself thoroughly settled in, as the students got further and further behind, and parents began to wonder where the promised tutoring was. Finally Andy's boss had a little chat with The Title I guy, and with great hesitation, he at last relinquished The List. This was a list of epic proportions. Five pages long, and nearly as wide, it contained the names, contact information, and test scores of every underachieving student in the great state of California who was, or ever had been, enrolled in the Gorman system. Our eyes grew wide as we gazed upon The List--a veritable gold mine brimming with gainful employment. All we had to do was sort through and find the students who lived near the Whittier site, and then sort them into groups of 2-4 students at the same level, coordinate everyone's schedules, and we would be all set.

In other words, all we had to do was endure a nightmare of logistics. But the first step was simple enough. Armed with the Thomas Guide and a compass, we made a list of all the cities within a reasonable radius of Whittier, and then made another list composed of the intersection of The List and our list.

<>Once we had compiled our list of potential tutees, Andy picked up the phone.
<>"Hello, this is Andrew Johnston from the Gorman Learning Center. May I speak with Mr. or Mrs. Smith? ... I'm calling to let you know that Alisha is eligible for some free math tutoring through Title I. ... Well, it's a government program for remedial students ... Oh, I see. ... well, then, in that case there must be a mistake. ... I have no idea, I'm just working off a list my boss compiled from test scores ... well, I guess the list is wrong. ... All right. Sorry to bother you. Goodnight."

<>We hadn't reckoned on the inherent diffiulty of tactfully informing parents that their children need academic help.
I tried the next call.

"Hello, this is--"

"Dad! I've got it!"

"This is Elena Johnston, and my--"

"Dad! Would you get off the phone?! I said I've got it!"

"My husband Andrew is a math teach--"

"Oh! Is this Mrs. Johnston? Are you Mr. Johnston's wife? I'm Amanda. This is so exciting! Mr. Johnston is my favorite teacher in the whole world! I've heard all about you and the twins... I bet they're cute."

"*chuckle* Yeah, they're a lot of fun. Maybe you'll get to meet them sometime when I bring them by. It was good to meet you, Amanda. Is your mom or dad around by any chance?"

"Oh, sure! You wanna talk to my dad?"

"That'd be great."

"Da-ad! It's for you!"

<>Some weeks later, Andy's boss told him about another boy who qualified for Title I. She said that this boy was working at the same level as one of the girls he was already tutoring, so it would work perfectly to put them together. That night Andy called the boy's parents. "Well, Mrs. Davis, if Thursday at 4 works with your schedule, I'm tutoring another third grader at that time, and I'd like to put them together."

"Uh... Jimmy's in fifth grade."



Home fragrances

The romantic sweet-almond aroma of amaretto is wafting through our apartment. I do generally like the smell, in smaller doses, but it's rather overpowering. And the floor is enormously sticky.

Looking on the bright side, the wuggies have acheived that important developmental milestone of unscrewing bottle caps.


To tutor two tooters to toot...

Natebug, our resident musical prodigy, has learned to play the recorder at the ripe old age of one year and two days. We've been trying to teach him for some time, but though he would dance when we played, and chew upon it merrily when we handed it to him, the other day was the first that he actually blew. Sometimes he hums while he blows (a very sophisticated, avant-garde technique, that!) and sometimes he just blows a loud, clear, note. Of course, he doesn't quite have the fingering down. As he was blowing, I covered and uncovered one of the holes to change the pitch, and he imitated me. But with his whole paw... the pads of his fingers aren't quite large enough to cover them all by themselves.

In case you haven't noticed, I'm rather proud of my little son.

In other news, and speaking of first kisses, not only is my firstborn prodigiously musical, but he is very cute and extraordinarily kissable. This is not just the opinion of his biased mother.... last night my opinion was quite corroborated by the lovely Brigid Elizabeth. Beautiful Brigid was enthralled with Nathan, grabbing his nose and kissing his forehead. It was very sweet.

I do hope Autumn won't be too jealous.

I found ink.

I even found where I had misplaced the pen.

Now if only I could find the nib that I dropped in the ink...


A Remarkable Discovery

I really enjoy being organized.

Moreover, I am getting a big kick out of my new job as secretary to Andy's tutoring business.

Anyone who knows me moderately well will immediately brecognize just how remarkable this discovery is.

Who'd'a thunk it?

First Kiss

Isaiah had managed to squeeze through all my barriers into the computer corner, and was playing with extension cords. Instead of marching over and pulling him out as I usually do, this time I simply called to him and told him to come to me. Grinning, he toddled over to me, wrapped his arms around my neck, and gave me a big sloppy kiss.

I'm as thrilled as a giddy 16 year old... He loves me!

Happy Birthday!

One year and two hours ago....

God is faithful.


After months of slow preparation, all at last was in place. The time had come to strike back against the encroaching shadow. The first skirmish at the bedroom closet was a swift victory. Our forces were fresh and well-rested, and we caught the enemy unprepared. We quickly cleared the area, stuffing the suitcases one into the other, reducing a hideous mass into a single, well contained corner.

The battle of the office supplies was less successful. We sustained heavy losses, though minor in comparison to those we inflicted. As we beat back the hordes, more kept appearing. For every pencil we subdued, a dozen paper clips appeared. We were a small band against a multitude, and this ongoing battle was tying up much-needed resources at a tactically insignificant outpost. Eventually we were forced to make our retreat.

All day we pressed on, imposing order upon the unyielding masses. Our dungeons were filled with prisoners, box upon box of pre-pregnancy clothes and craft supplies, nevermore to menace the Shire. Some we destroyed, but most we preserved, treating them generously in the hope that they would eventually turn from the darkness and enter into the service of order and light.

The enemy proved fey indeed, piercing our hearts with despair, but our captain is a man of great valour, and even as our spirits failed us, he led on, inspiring us with courage to face the darkness.

Night fell, and the land was strewn with carnage. Our hopes for swift victory were crushed. We had made great progress, but our foe was far more formidible than he had seemed. We were weary to the bone, and could hardly move, but to clear space for an encampment would take hours. At last our fearless captain hung his head in despair.

His courage had girded me up throughout the day, and now, as defeat was upon him, I rose up with a daring and foolhardy plan. There was only a fool's hope, but it was our only hope--we would sleep on our own bed, and the wuggies would sleep in their own bed... alone. It was a small matter to clear a path through the bedroom, revealing an emerging order within the gloom. I spread our bed with a gorgeous new quilt--the last of the many given to us as wedding gifts. I gently rocked Meepo and sang to him, laying him in his crib just before he went to sleep. He started, and began to whimper, but as I stroked his back, he began to relax again, and eventually went to sleep. Wuggidy had already fallen asleep on the living room floor, and we left him there, covering him snugly in a blanket, until such time as he would awaken. Then, basking in the magnitude of even this partial victory, we slipped between the sheets and fell asleep.

Several times Nathan woke and began to cry, but each time, after a breathless, agonizing moment, he put himself back to sleep, face pressed against the mesh walls of the wuggy bucket. Hours later, Isaiah woke up, and I brought him to bed and laid him between us. I gave him the breast and he was quiet, and did not significantly disturb our sleep. Eventually Nathan awoke in earnest, and would not console himself. I thought it best not to press the issue, and allowed him to join us. With battles behind and battles before, we could not afford to waste our precious hours of repose seeking yet more battles. Nevertheless, when we awoke the next morning, we found that although they slept with us, the night had passed in relative peace, and we were refreshed.

The second day progressed in grim silence. Every step was dogged by piles of boxes, crates, and high chairs, but we pressed on. We paused for refreshment in a small clearing in the office corner, and gathered around a large dish of chocolate chip muffins. There was plenty to go around, but the muffins are always chocolatier on the other side of the fence, and quarrels broke out amoung the hobbits in our ranks. Eventually they were content to sit quietly, crumbling their own muffins, and of the pieces I gathered twelve basketsful.

We came to rue having left the office supplies unsubdued. Small and insignificant though they seemed, items of great power hid among their midst, and the hobbits, ever with a keener eye to mischief than to sense, found them and began to toy with them, oblivious to their potency. As Andrew swooped down to their rescue, I built a strong fortress to keep the indomitable horde at bay, and all was well.

Slowly peace and order spread throughout the Shire, and our hearts sang as we saw the black shadow that had oppressed us for so long lifting away. All that was left was to clean up after the battles. In jubilant celebration, we turned on the CD player.

The introduction of Aeolian music lifted our spirits, but weakened our resolve. The move was not an utter mistake, however. As the hobbits merrily danced and clapped their hands, there were fewer domestic quarrels to distract us. If only we could remain undistracted by the unquenchable rhythm of our own dancing feet.

The great battles were over, but the small battles yet to come were intense indeed. We marched in and aroused the dormant horrors that had haunted us for so long, facing them at last so that we could vanquish them once and for all. The nauseating stench rose about us, but we pressed on, steeling ourselves.

At last, we were finished, and we were free. But before we could rest at last, there was one final battle to be fought.

It was time to put Mr. Wuggidy in his jammies.


Fountains of Ink

My sister gave me a fantastically wonderful Chrismas present--a music-writing caligraphy pen. In addition to a normal nib, the pen also has a special 5-pronged nib with which to create staves. I am extremely excited about this, since staff paper is absurdly expensive, and printing paper with rows of underlines, while quite convenient, is decidedly unromantic. A spiffy staff-writing caligraphy pen will be just the thing to get my creative juices flowing.

But I don't have any ink.

I didn't think this would be much of a problem, but it turns out neither JoAnns nor Staples carries bottled ink. When I was in Wal-Mart the other day, I searched high and low among the pens, with no success. I did, however, find an employee--a miraculous occurence in a SoCal Wallies. Even more miraculously, she was quite willing to help me, even though she was presumably headed on break with her blue vest tucked under her arm. I probably shouldn't have bugged her... but seeing an employee is such a rare occurence, you can't afford to quibble about whether or not they're actually on duty.

In any case, this young woman was quite friendly and helpful. Did I need refill ink cartriges for a pen? No, bottled ink, like you'd use for a fountain pen.

She paused for a moment, then said "I'm not sure if we have any in yet, but if we did, they'd be in the garden department."

The garden department? Why in the world would it be in the garden department?

She shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. That's just where we keep them."

Suddenly, recognition flashed across her face. "Oh! You mean for caligraphy!"

She then directed me toward the scrapbooking and crafts section. Which didn't have what I was looking for, either, but at least it made sense.

Looks like I'll have to make a trip out to Michaels.


There's a hole in my bucket...

I wanted to make bananna muffins this morning, but everything was going wrong, and after a very bad night's sleep, I was too hungry and tired to deal with it. Thus I decided that this was a morning for cheerios.

There was just one problem.

In order to eat cheerios for breakfast, you must have clean bowls and spoons.
In order to have clean bowls and spoons, you must do the dishes.
In order to do the dishes, you must have a clean dishrag.
In order to have a clean dishrag you must do the laundry.

You know... bananna muffins are sounding really good right now...


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Back to the Pickle-Pad!

Ah.... It's good to be home. We had a wonderful vacation, renewing relationships with all the dear people in Andy's family, rediscovering just how blessed I am with wonderful in-laws. But now we are back again, and it's good to be home. LA is not Vacaville, instead of gently rolling green hills we have smog and graffiti, instead of magnificent ancient oaks, we have sterile little suburban trees planted at regular intervals along the median. We dreaded the return to our dreary little world... but as soon as we walked in the door late last night, we realized just how sweet it is to be home. This place, this life is ours, and I'm glad to be living in it.

The wuggies feel it, too, and they relish their mobility. At last, they are back in doopah-land, land of the free and home of the brave, where no china sits on low shelves, and the Christmas tree is wired to the wall. There is freedom in babyproofing. For the boys... but mostly for mom!