Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Hunting We Will Go

We've got plane tickets plus a car and hotel booked because we're headed to the London 'burbs on a house hunting trip in a few weeks. We've been snooping around at available houses on the net in our preferred neighborhoods, but who knows what we'll really find once we get there. Some of the listings have a pool, which seems to me to be a total waste since you might be able to swim in it without catching a case of pneumonia maybe one month out of the year. If it's in direct sunlight all day long. And they're having a heat wave in the British Isles.

The husband and I have booked a car so we can do a bit of looking on our own, but I must admit I'm a bit nervous about returning to life on the road over there. It's just so danged foreign, with the wheel on the *wrong* side of the car while you're forced to drive down the incorrect side of the road. 

And don't get me started on the roundabouts. Just stay left will be my mantra once again. I hope I'll be able to talk to passengers and even listen to the radio straight away. That was strictly forbidden when I first got behind the wheel on our previous expat stint. I smashed the side mirrors into a variety of things. And got honked at quite a bit for going too slow, not using my blinker on the traffic circles and driving in the bus lane. 

The good news - my UK driver's license is good for another six years and I have no points on my record. Plus I plan to purchase an SUV that doesn't rival a Sherman tank in size. Last time I was all cocky and got a model closer to the size of my then Yukon I was driving here in Texas. I confess - learned my lesson the hard way. So yeah, looking forward to house AND car shopping in the coming weeks. I'll keep count of how many Brits give me the finger as evidence of my less than stellar driving skills when we're over there for house hunting and report back to you.

Isn't that a great idea?

The girls have hatched this scheme. It includes input from the daughter that doesn't even live at home anymore because she's off at college. So anyhoo, the girls got this great idea that we need to get another dog once we move back to England.

They try to play it off like it's in the best interest of our current dog, Ollie, the blonde Cairn Terrier. He'll like a buddy. He probably wants another dog to play with him. They'll keep each other company when you're not at home. 

They've even gone so far as to pick a name for this dog they believe we need - Jaffa. For the non-Anglophiles out there in my vast audience on the blogosphere, Jaffa Cakes are a type of English biscuits (in American English speak, that's cookies). It's this not-so-tasty combo of orange and chocolate, which totally isn't my cup of tea. But the girls think it's the perfect name for our own future dark gray colored female Cairn. 

We all know what would happen in this little scenario. We'd visit the breeder and fall victim to puppy fever. Then I'd be the one stuck walking and feeding and house training the latest furry member of the family. And who knows how Ollie would feel about some other dog getting all of the attention. So yeah, I'm passing on the second dog idea right now. Let's get ourselves moved to the UK before we start piling more responsibilities on mom.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Totally Appreciated

The phrase is "killing them with kindness", but the PTO at my school is killing us with coronary heart disease and diabetes. Brownies, cookies, cakes, candies, sodas and cinnamon rolls swimming in frosting for breakfast, with more on tap for the next few days. It's a deliciously yummy list of treats they've plied us with this teacher appreciation week, and I have very little willpower when it comes to sugar.

I'm hoping they roll out something savory tomorrow so I won't be tempted. At this rate, I'll be wearing my stretchy waist exercise pants to school by Friday if I don't push away from the dessert laden table in the teacher's lounge. I'm loving the goodies, but can feel the fat cells multiplying with every bite I take. Somebody please put me in sugar time out or send me to detention in the gym where I'm forced to do a bit of cardio.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Back to Britain!

Who woulda thunk?! We're moving back to England this summer. Talk about a surprise. This is how it all went down. 

The day we returned to school and work after our great spring break trip to Italy, the husband found out there was a good chance he'd have the opportunity to move back to the London office as president of Europe. Lo and behold, that's exactly what happened. We've been sitting on this HUGE news for about six weeks.

As always, leaving family, friends and all things familiar will be bittersweet. It's England, so of course we're thrilled at the thought of living abroad and seeing lots more of the world while we're on that side of the pond. But I had landed my dream job for next year, teaching 6th gr history at the middle school. And the 8th grader made JV cheerleader. So yeah, it's hard to leave when you're really happy with where you're at and what you're doing. But the closing of this chapter means another door has been opened wide for us and we plan to take advantage of this second-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Needless to say, the travel bucket list will be getting some additions. It will be a fast and furious summer once school ends for me and the almost high schooler that first week of June. Mimi will be moving out of the MIL guesthouse to a new freestanding home we're purchasing for her, just six doors down from my sister and her family. Gotta keep that in-state residency in place for the coed at a major Texas college, as well as for the one we still have to launch to university in four years. 

Then the whole house has to be sorted - put on the ship to England, put into storage here in Texas or put into the dumpster. I do some of my best purging when the husband and daughters with their hoarding tendencies are otherwise occupied. This sorting also includes my classroom things. We're putting our house up for sale, getting rid of our vehicles, and figuring out how to get our British born Cairn terrier Ollie back to his homeland. 

Lord have mercy - makes me tired just thinking about everything that has to get done by the third week in July when me, the daughter and dog will board the big BA bird to hop the pond once again. It's exciting to contemplate, beginning with a house hunting trip to our old stomping grounds in Surrey later this month. This blog, which had been put on the back burner with my return to teaching a couple years ago, will once again be filled with expat antics. And I think that's kinda cool.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

High Stakes Testing Stinks!

The state of education is a sad, sad affair these days for my special ed students. They have a variety of differences - learning disabilities, ADD, ADHD, behavioral issues, dyslexia, autism, processing and memory problems, etc - and yet the state and federal government lets us take virtually none of that into account when we assess them with state testing. Here's your cookie cutter, one size test that is supposed to fit pretty much all of the kids who fall under the special ed umbrella. How are we NOT leaving kids behind when we blithely give them tests that don't adequately measure their annual progress.

If they all read on grade level, they wouldn't be classified as special ed. If they could comprehend concepts after they're presented a couple times, then of course they'd be expected to take the state tests. If they weren't worried about a parent going to jail, where the next meal will come from and if they'll get kicked out of the trailer park for an inability to pay the rent when it's due, then of course they'd be more apt to absorb the lessons presented to them. Of course they would get their homework done if they had parents who could comprehend 5th and 6th gr materials. They'd all show up to school well fed and rested, rather than dozing off in class and asking me repeatedly when it's time for lunch.

I try to do what's best for my students, but I can't do enough to get them to pass the state test. So they fail, and this chips away at the little bit of self esteem they possess. By the time they're in 5th and 6th grades, the ages I serve, they know they're different. They've known for several years that school is hard and they don't "get it". Why must we beat them down further with this test that shows us nothing but their shortcomings.

I teach because I enjoy the challenge and joy of working with children. I give the test only because it's the law and I have no other choice. And I loathe seeing the defeated looks on their precious faces because we're demanding something of them that they're incapable of giving us. Our education system is failing them in myriad ways and there's not a thing being done to rectify this injustice. I don't think they should get special dispensations. But at least level the playing field, for Pete's sake.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Change is in the Air

There's a big family announcement coming soon, something we've been keeping under wraps for close to a month now. It's exciting and I can't wait to share it with everyone. Lots of changes in store, but we're ready to take advantage of this opportunity we've been given as a family. Stay tuned...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hip, Hip Hooray!

Lord have mercy, the 8th grader made high school JV cheerleader tonight. It has been a try-out week filled with anxiety and lots of practice once she arrived home from two hours of work at the high school. Chants, a dance routine, tumbling… it's all part of the cheerocracy. Needless to say, she's over the moon, and one of only two freshman to make the squad. I didn't get a pic of her next to the board with her number on it, mainly because she was bouncing around squealing in delight. So proud of her and her hard work, willing to put herself out there and risk failing for something she really wants. Job well done!