Tuesday, December 30, 2008

And so this is Christmas...

I kept forgetting to post these photos!! Geez! Here's Christmas (a little before and after) with the Platos.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fabulous at 40 Campaign

Yes, yes. 2009 is, indeed, the year I turn 40. Embracing that reality, we have decided as a family to also make it the year we look into a healthier lifestyle. I seem to have gotten my work life in check... well, in better check than it was. Now, it is time to work on my basic physical well-being.
As part of this campaign, I decided to be more realistic than any of the "food plans" I have tried in my life. They had one main focus: lose weight. Don't lose weight? You failed. Failure and I are not friends. It has been quite discouraging. My "aha!" moment came with this last bout of losing and gaining the same 30 pounds. I have reached the goal, but I have not embraced the habits.
So, throughout the next 8 months, I will post here things I have learned from past experiences, from "hearsay," and from research. My plan is to take one concept of good health at a time. If you choose to read this... fine. If you choose to ignore it... fine, too. It is important that it is helpful to my family. If it helps others, that's an extra-added bonus.
So, a happy 2009 to all! Good luck and good health in this new year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pretzel Hugs

One of my FPFA (Favorite People From Afar) is Becky Higgins. She's a contributing editor for Creating Keepsakes magazine, an author, a mother, and a designer. Her blog also shares some quick, simple, and GOOD recipes. I am making one right now from her Pretzel Hugs recipe. Mine are being baked with Rolos. I had some the other day that my friend, Krystal, made and they were sooooo good. Rolos seem to take a bit longer to melt than Kisses, however.

Gotta go check on them then commence with wrapping and card making.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Ice Ice, Baby

Ah, yes. Ice. So powerfully beautiful. Stopped us in our tracks today. Here are some photos from earlier this AM. Ignatius was given the task of clearing off the patio so Otto would actually go father than 5 paces to poop. Max was his supervisor. They did a great job!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Deep Thoughts by Ignatius Plato

Driving in the car with my eleven year old is never, ever dull. Even if you wanted a quiet moment, it would not happen. Lately, I have been "torturing" him with what he calls "vampire music," aka the soundtrack from Twilight. It's really good, but, alas, I listen to it mainly through my iphone. Scott likens the experience to an AM transistor radio. :) Hey, I'm probably getting one of those little iphone stereo hookups in my car for my perseverance! Wise move. But I digress.

So, this morning I was torturing him for saying, "I didn't know you wanted me to get in the car," at 7:25 AM. Yes, we get in the car every morning at this time, yet this was his excuse for not having his shoes or coat on as his brother fought me over a Pop Tart that he did or did not want in a Zip Lock bag. (I KNOW it sounds confusing... it's my life, people.)

So, torture, anyway... I played the song, "I Caught Myself" by Paramore. After a moment, he comes out with, "I think this is a metaphor for addiction." Just about peed my pants with glee, being the English geek that I am. We had a brief discussion on his thoughts on this. So, here are the lyrics. You decide if the prodigy has a point. I think he brilliant, but I am a tad biased.

Don't worry. His next question of, "How did you push babies out?" was far more "sixth grade." Whew.

From Metrolyrics.com:

Down to you
You're pushing and pulling me down to you
But I don't know what I

Now when I caught myself
I had to stop myself
From saying something that
I should've never thought
Now when I caught myself
I had to stop myself
From saying something that
I should've never thought

Of you, of you
You're pushing and pulling me
Down to you
But I don't know what I want
No, I don't know what I want

You got it, you got it
Some kind of magic
Hypnotic, hypnotic
You're leaving me breathless
I hate this, I hate this!
You're not the one I believe in
With God as my witness

Now when I caught myself
I had to stop myself
From saying something that
I should've never thought
Now when I caught myself
I had to stop myself
From saying something that
I should've never thought

Of you, of you
You're pushing and pulling me
Down to you
But I don't know what I want
No, I don't know what I want
Don't know what I want
But I know it's not you
Keep pushing and pulling me down
When I know in my heart it's not you

Now when I caught myself
I had to stop myself
From saying something that
I should've never thought
Now when I caught myself
I had to stop myself
From saying something that
I should've never thought of you!
I knew, I know in my heart it's not you
I know, but now I know what I want! I want! I want!
Oh no! I should've never thought!

[Those who know Ignatius, how funny is it that the lyrics of this include "I had to stop myself from saying something that I should've never thought?" Life is colored with irony.]

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Red Belt Boy

Ignatius completed his duration as a purple belt in TaeKwonDo on Saturday. He tested and is now a red belt. It's so hard to believe how far he has come. The instructors at Victory Academy are so dedicated and talented. He has learned a ton in the three years he has practiced with them. The slide show has many, many pics of his big day. Note well: He was the only purple belt testing. This meant he had to complete his purple belt form in front of everyone by himself. Those who know Ignatius know how big of a deal that was.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

November in Illinois

I awoke this morning to a tiny voice repeating, "Mommy make the waffeals?" Bleary-eyed, I ambled to the kitchen when--- what?--- snow. It was literally raining snow. So, being the crazy photog that I have become, I decided this was a photo op not to be missed. I snapped one photo that I have titled, "Irony." I'll let you guess which one that is. The others are the trees that surround my backyard.

I have to say, I have always loved freshly fallen snow, and I am having to really hold myself back from going outside and playing. I have been battling a chesty virus illness for a couple days, and I am not going to tempt fate.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A "Hopping" Good Thanksgiving

We celebrated Thanksgiving 2008 with Uncle Michael's family in Lake Zurich. Among the highlights was time on the trampoline. In the slide show, you see Max, Ignatius, and Rachel enjoying some bounce time before the turkey.

Friday, November 28, 2008

This Woman's Review

Last Saturday, I went to see the Movie adaptation of Twilight. Here are my random thoughts for those who are interested.

At first, I was scratching my head at the choice for Edward, Robert Pattinson. The still photos of him that were used to promote the movie did him no justice. Edward was the larger-than-life gorgeous vampire, as described in the book. I think I was expecting that "drop dead" quality in the photos. They need to work on that for New Moon, because the man can have these types of photos taken, most definitely.

Well, after doing some of my own cyber-stalking, I realized that Pattinson, who loses his very charming English accent for the film, was the PERFECT Edward Cullen. Believably 17, believably a vampire, and believably in love with Bella, played by Kristen Stewart. I changed my mind very quickly. I think Kristen Stewart was a believable Bella, also.
The movie itself, however, made me scratch my head. Definitely low budget. Obviously, the producers were counting on the draw of the Twilight book fans (ahem) rather than the draw for any type of decent directing. I am hoping by Breaking Dawn they will have made the money to overcome this, because that adaptation of the last in the series cannot be done badly. I guess I just don't understand why some of the scenes were altered so completely from the sequencing in the book. Also, a great deal of the plot was rushed, it seemed.

I downloaded the soundtrack before I saw the movie, as the soundtrack was getting great reviews. They were all well-earned. I typically buy and play and soundtrack until it's a little maddening. Always have. I was fairly unfamiliar with the bands, except for Linkin Park. I thought the songs were great, particularly "Bella's Lullaby." Rob Pattinson even had a couple of songs on the album. He sounded... pained... and might want to just stick to acting. However, Muse is a band I have grown to love ("Supermassive Black Hole" is a great song). Just some good, alternative-like tunes for those who like that genre of music.
I also read Stephenie Meyer's manuscript draft for Midnight Sun, which is basically Twilight from Edward's perspective. VERY interesting read. It was sad to read on her blog that the manuscript somehow "got out there" and was being illegally distributed, but it figures with the popularity of her series that this occurred. Anyway, I had heard in an interview that Robert Pattinson read the manuscript as he was preparing to play Edward, and reading it made a lot if his acting decisions make sense to me.
Lots of craziness for a great set of books and an interesting series of movies (I hope). In all, I don't mind being wrapped up in the madness. It's so much more interesting than reality.

Monday, November 17, 2008


More and more, I lean toward a self-diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Now, laughing at me is not nice, for those who know me (and are probably screaming "YA THINK?!").

Seriously, lately, I just am able to clear up my mirror image of myself. There are some things that I am clearly not compulsive about (anymore). Laundry, for example, or keeping an overly-tidy house. School is also taking a back seat in my compulsion list. However, food and these stinking books by Stephanie Meyer...crazy compulsive.

On the food front, I finally realized that I am battling something far larger than just needing to diet. I have dieted, and dieted, and dieted. Over and over to no avail. I have been doing a lot of reading about compulsive overeating, and how a diet will not help. It seems especially related to PCOS, which I have. Anyway, more on that as I obsessively search the Internet.

What is with these Twilight books? At first, I scoffed. There was no WAY I was going to read a 500 page book for "fun," and there was NO Bleeping WAY I was going to read four of them. Lo, and behold. I just finished Eclipse tonight. That leaves Breaking Dawn. I will not open that thing tonight, I SWEAR.

SPOLIER ALERT. Do not read on if you intend to read the series.

So seriously, these books. They revolve around a main character, Bella, and her love interests. Her main love is Edward Cullen, your modern-day "good" vampire. She has some latent feelings for her "friend," Jacob Black, a vampire-loathing werewolf. Now, right there, reading the plot, one would think, "Why would JoLynn read this crap?" Seriously, I reread the sentences above, and they sound ridiculous. I think two vital elements bring these books to the level of addiction for me. First, I think all grown women like to think back to when they were 17-18 and had the whole world ahead of them. If there were love interests in their lives at the time, most women can really identify with Bella and her angst. Well, sort of, in a non-vampire way. Second, I keep shouting at the books. Meyer makes me mad with the plot in New Moon. Oooh, I was so mad. The depth of Bella's pain at being left by Edward... anyone who experienced a breakup when young knows the depth of that pain. Plus, it was Edward! He was not supposed to leave the love of his existence! I recall reading this late at night and just being ticked that I would not be getting any sleep. I could not "leave" Bella that catatonic. She had to dig herself out of this. Enter Jacob Black.
Poor, used Jacob. Bella... love the beautiful vampire or love the dorky werewolf... why was this a choice? Yet, in Eclipse, she claims her love for Jacob... and Edward? She made me so mad. BUT, that's the beauty of this writing. She's 18, not 39. She is seeing life as an 18 year old. And she's ticking me off.
Edward, on the other hand, has become my favorite character. He is the king of cool. Truly. I don't know if that was Meyer's intention, but she definitely makes Edward an absolute treasure of a guy. He is devoted to Bella to the point of being willing to give her up to Jacob if that's what she truly wants.
In Eclipse, Edward proposes to Bella... and she makes this whole big stink about not wanting to get married. Again, I am 39, she's supposed to be 18. What an idiot. Yet Edward is so patient and protective of her, killing an evil vampire who seeks her death. She is so not worthy.
OK, done with my fantasy world. Glad I got that off of my chest. What a nutcase!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Very interesting

Well, as of this afternoon, www.change.gov, has... changed. The Agenda items that were posted this weekend have disappeared. Very interesting, I have to say. Perhaps someone believed the wording needed a little "tweak." Makes me happy. :)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

An effort to educate, part 1

As of last Tuesday, a majority of the Electoral College and American voters chose Barack Obama as the President-Elect of the United States with Joe Biden as his Vice President-Elect. Since then, a site has been posted with the Obama-Biden philosophies of governing the country. When I entitle my blog "An effort to educate," I will try to take a vignette of the policies and ideas posted, give the direct quote, and share some of my feelings. I encourage you to share yours by commenting as well. The only censorship I will do with my comments are profane ones, as judged by me. This is about talking politics, not shoving views down people's throats. If you would rather not read about this, as our President-Elect says, you have a choice. Read or don't read.

My need for this comes from what I believe was the biggest uninformed electorate in United States history. This has nothing to do with race. This has everything to do with ideology. Read on if you wish.

Agenda Item #1: Faith

Quote from http://change.gov/agenda/faith/

Reconciling Faith and Politics

“(Obama's speech on faith) may be the most important pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F. Kennedy's Houston speech in 1960 declaring his independence from the Vatican...Obama offers the first faith testimony I have heard from any politician that speaks honestly about the uncertainties of belief.”
— E.J. Dionne, Op-Ed., Washington Post, June 30, 2006

In June of 2006, Senator Obama delivered what was called the most important speech on religion and politics in 40 years. Speaking before an evangelical audience, Senator Obama candidly discussed his own religious conversion and doubts, and the need for a deeper, more substantive discussion about the role of faith in American life.

Senator Obama also laid down principles for how to discuss faith in a pluralistic society, including the need for religious people to translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values during public debate. In December, 2006, Senator Obama discussed the importance of faith in the global battle against AIDS.

JoLynn's take: What does it mean to be a "pluralistic society?" I view it as the same as "moral relativism," a term which I consider to be a glaring oxymoron. A pluralistic society is where no train of thought is valued above another and every train of thought is considered equal.

I find it interesting that Senator Obanma has laid down principles about how we should discuss our faith. To my knowledge that is directly against my freedoms of both speech and religion, guaranteed to me by the First Amendment. I am permitted to have my views. I am also permitted to think some views are right and others are wrong. For example, I find that there is no middle ground on abortion. It is wrong to kill our youngest and most vulnerable citizens. I believe that there is a soul joined with each new baby from the moment of conception. I get to believe that. I get to believe I am right and others who believe otherwise are wrong. That is what this nation is about. Not making everyone feel good.

Under Senator Obama's position, we should allow people to spread lies. Will we be giving Ahmadinejad the benefit of Obama's pluralism? Is he right that he wants to obliterate the country of Israel? Is he right that he spreads this idea that the Holocaust did not happen? Do we get to say he is wrong or must we accept his views with the equality of a pacifist's view?

If you think I am being extreme, consider this quote from the Associated Press: Hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congratulated Obama on his win — the first time an Iranian leader has offered such wishes to a U.S. president-elect since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. I think we will be hearing and seeing a lot more from this Iranian leader than any of us might wish to.

Bottom line: Mr. Obama does not get to dictate to anyone how public debate in this country should be held. Considering the company he has kept before, during, and after this election, he should think long and hard about stating "principles" to anyone.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Here it comes...

...Parent-Teacher Conference week! Non-stop work for four straight days. Well, only because I am scheduling it that way. I am "flexing" my time, so I will be able to have Friday off. That means Monday through Thursday are jam packed.

We had Ignatius' conference on Thursday, and we will have Max's this Wednesday. Ignatius did a fabulous job first quarter with all As and Bs. The big deal with that is that we really let him fly solo more than any other year. We said we would only step in if it seemed like his ship was sinking. I am relieved that his ship sailed!

Speaking of Ignatius, he is finally scheduled for his evaluation with the Autism Program in Springfield. In December, we will finally have some feedback on whether or not he, like his brother, is on the spectrum. I am pretty convinced he is, but I must wait to hear it from people who are trained. One year later... things move so slowly when you are awaiting information.

Finally, I leave you with Max on a "big boy bike." He is a crazy man, I tell you. Scott finally put a helmet on him, and he has NO FEAR. He whips around corners. If he falls off, he just gets back up. Such a stark difference from his brother who, once he fell, he was DONE. Alas, he gets that from me... never much of a biker.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Am I right or just old?

So, my friend has a student teacher this year with a few characteristics that I find disturbing:

1. She has to be told what to do. Everything. This is a person who expects to hold, and keep, a teaching position in less than a year. And sometimes, she clearly does not do what she is instructed to do.

2. She texts in the classroom. Constantly. She stopped helping a student so she could answer a text.

3. She is on the Internet constantly. She gets on You Tube and or EBay and allows the children to watch her.

So, what's my problem? I mean, she's not MY student teacher, right? Here comes the soapbox.

Why isn't it common sense that these behaviors are COMPLETELY inappropriate? Why must someone, who is offering her time, talents, and (way too much) patience be in a situation where she must discipline this young woman like she must discipline her middle level students? HOW IS IT that ISU (sorry guys, you had this coming) allows people with this lack of adequate judgment into the classrooms? I wish I could say she is the only one doing this, but, apparently, several student teachers this year have these issues.

Now my question is... did someone redefine "work ethic" while I was sleeping? I am not ignorant enough to try to hold ANYONE to my work ethic... it's not healthy. Mine is... work supersedes all. Someone is paying me, and I owe him to do my job the best way I am able. That has led me into depression. It is not what I am espousing.

What I am espousing is an honest day's wages for an honest day's work. Yes, student teaching is one of the "internships" in life that is not compensated through a paycheck. Get used to it. You are a public servant. If that bothers you, seriously consider another, more lucrative, career. And best of luck in the current economy. If teachers were driven by money, NONE OF US WOULD DO THIS. Case in point, if my husband (in the corporate world) has one, hour-long presentation to give, he takes sometimes several days to prepare. On a Friday, I have 30 minutes of "prep" time for an entire day. I "give" myself 40 more minutes because I choose to work through my lunch. I am prepping for five times as much as he, yet my prep is EXPECTED to take place outside of my contractual day. If it wasn't, there is no way I could do it. And that does not include maintaining contact with parents, which must also take place when I am not teaching their children.

So, if you are 21 years old and already coming in to the profession already lazy as hell, would you do us all a favor and please leave? We don't need you. We don't want you. Kids DESERVE better.

End of soapbox. Thanks for listening! So am I right, or am I sounding like an old fart? You decide.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Yes, today was Columbus Day. I decided to keep Max home from day care, since he did not have "school" today.

Now, I'm beat, but I have some grading yet to do. I just finished typing a test by hunting and pecking with one hand while he fell asleep on my left shoulder. I was thrilled to have him home, but I sure didn't want to do any school stuff. Now, I'm pooped. Ah, well. One of those days when I wish I was home all the time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Elie Wiesel

I never read the morning paper. I am typically too rushed, or I just do not care to start my day in that way. This morning, for some reason, I got it off the porch and read it during my breakfast.

There was an ad for a speaking engagement for Elie Wiesel (pronounced ellie vee sell), Nazi death camp survivor, author, teacher, and Nobel Prize winner. He was set to speak at Illinois State University at 7 PM tonight.

I was beyond excited. I had heard him speak when he was on Oprah. That compelled me to read his book, Night, chronicling this horrific time in his life. This seemed like it was too good to pass up.

So many things got in my way today. Students testing my last available nerve, helping my son with his homework, a rainy night. When I finally convinced myself that I had NO other option than to go, despite what else was happening or what my mood was, I was stuck in crazy traffic and parking conditions at ISU. Apparently, they had not prepared for how popular this particular speaker would be. I was about to turn around and go home, when, there, about three blocks from Braden Auditorium, was a parking space. Another sign? I'll let you decide.

When I finally entered Bone Student Center, people were filing up to the third floor mezzanine. When I got there, the word was... no seats. I wasn't surprised... another road block in my day. It was becoming pretty typical and almost comical. Having gone by myself, however, was very beneficial, because I was able to secure a seat.

For the next 45-50 minutes, I was able to hear Mr. Wiesel speak. That is when I knew why I was there.

He got me. He understood me. He would not be dismissive of some of the things that people so easily dismiss about me. A validation moment. Here are some notes I took on the back cover of my copy of Night. [I was in line to get it signed when he had to stop. That part was not meant to be.]

~He identifies with victims. He feels he is called to turn their tears into tales.
~Violence begins when language fails.
~Racism is stupid.
~He was never ashamed of being Jewish. When he visited the South in 1956, he was ashamed of being white.
~Much of the German military was composed of degreed men. Where did education fail in Germany?
~Without education, we forget the meaning of our endeavors.
~Religion is not the cause of the ills of the world. If you look at Stalin and Hitler, neither included religion as part of his campaign.
~Fanaticism is dangerous in any area.
~What do we do when a fanatic gains power?
~Current example: Iran's leader, Ahmadinejad. Mr. Wiesel believes he should be shunned. No university should have him as an honored guest. He is the epitome of fanatical evil.
~As long as someone is not free, my freedom is in danger. (This reminded me of one of my favorite MLK quotes: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.")
~One should not stand idly by.
~He made a strong point that indifference is not an option. He called it the opposite of love, the opposite of education, the opposite of beauty.
~There is a shame of hunger... if someone is hungry, I should feel ashamed.
~We have the right to doubt.
~Information must be translated into knowledge. Knowledge must be transformed into sensitivity. Sensitivity must be transformed into commitment.
~His left us with two things: Think higher. Feel deeper.

Two standing ovations. What an outstanding man. I am honored to have been in his audience.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Autism Walk

We were very fortunate to have a rain-free Autsim Walk on Sunday. What a crowd, too! The McLean County Autsim Society was able to raise almost $30,000, which surpassed their goal by almost $10K.

I owe a great deal to my friends who came out and walked with Max and me. Jessie and her family, Karen (the amazing photog) and Maddie... all there in support of the cause. Michelle... there for her child in union with those of us dealing with the special needs of children with communication disorders. Good times.

A big thanks also to those who sponsored team Rent A Tech. You added to that amazing total and helped to make some lives around here a bit easier.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stranger than fiction

OK, those who know me well know that I am not an avid reader of fiction. I am a non-fiction-aholic. In an effort to expand my horizons, and make sure I regularly see my buds, I have decided to join a book club. Our choices involve books that seem fun, lighthearted... I guess we have made a few weird choices so far, but I have liked them.

We are now reading Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes. I absolutely love her writing. Lots of sarcasm. You can "hear" the characters (several of whom are Irish) and you can "see" the plot. Alas, as funny as it is, there is a VERY serious part to the plot. One that makes one cry... a lot. That's all I am going to say.

So... I am reading fiction. I hope my non-fiction books don't get jealous.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We Remember

We remember...
...the firefighters
...the police officers
...the veterans
...the civilians
...the innocent victims
...the sadness
...the horror
...the strength
...the American spirit to overcome
...September 11, 2001

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Time flies

My students and I were looking at the September calendar and writing down important events for September. There was a red, white, and blue ribbon on September 11, and they were asking me why. It hit me like a brick wall. They were two and three years old when 9/11 occurred. What a responsibility I have!

I had one book on my shelves. Unfortunately, it was a Life magazine book. The pictures were incredible and horrifying. Way too much for fourth grade digestion. So, I am on a quest to find or create a way to commemorate 9/11 at this grade level. I truly think, like the attack on Pearl Harbor, it should never be forgotten. However, they do not need to see pictures of people jumping out of the Twin Towers. I know when I looked at those photos, it brought a lot of the emotion of that day back. Each year on or around 9/11, I take time to speak with my classes. I share what I was doing the day it occurred and how scared everyone was. They need to know. They need to remember. They need not be frightened, just vigilant.

But that's an interesting shift in our society as well. When I was 9, I knew what had happened at Pearl Harbor and why December 7 was significant. I did not know all the details, but I was not completely ignorant of it. I see our generation as one that is neglecting oral tradition, letting the mass media "create" history, and raising large amounts of children who are destined to "repeat history." So, off I go to Google!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sixth Grade Begins... for another Plato

I have been taking "first day of school" pics of Ignatius since Kindergarten. This year... I actually forgot! So these are his second day of school pics. He said it's OK, as he is in "junior high" now, so we can just take them on the second day of school. Such an easy-going lad at times, isn't he?

So, here he is, my growing-like-a-weed eleven year old, on his second day of sixth grade (technically, August 22, 2008).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

No, JoLynn, they are NOT sixth graders!

What a great morning! Teaching fourth graders is definitely a different experience. I have 28 students in my class. I got a glimpse of all their little personalities today.

I planned way too much, so tomorrow we are SLOWING down. The multiple steps that sixth graders tried to accomplish takes twice as long with fourth graders. A lesson well-learned.

We started the day with an optional faculty prayer time, which was a terrific way to start. Then, we went outside to the children. My partner, Randy, and I definitely win the prize for the longest lines on the playground. We are hoping that they won't accept any more 4th graders, but we shall see.

Ignatius had his first full day of sixth grade. I neglected to get my traditional first day of school photo, so we will have to snap one tomorrow. He loves sixth grade. He is in a class with lots of great, affirming kids. Can't ask for anything more.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Keeping us on our toes

More change. I think God is afraid I will get bored.

I was informed yesterday that I will be moving to a fourth grade position, as enrollment has shifted in the district. I am very happy to be staying at the elementary where I was going to be a Title 1 interventionist. I wasn't really aware that shifts like that happened and there could be upheaval so close to the beginning of the school year.

I feel bad for the person who is leaving the school. He will be teaching first grade elsewhere. I know he is probably feeling unsettled right now, too.

I really am quite calm amidst the chaos. I am grateful for a chance to spread my wings in a lower grade. Fourth grade is absolutely a perfect age of child. My departed friend, Marita, was a fourth grade teacher for a long time, so I have someone to watch over me in my transition.

So... onward to fourth grade! A fun year it shall be. I think I will learn as much as the kids!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


As I was packing my room, I came across a card game called "Security" that I had received for, I believe, my sixth birthday, maybe? I was (and still am) a ginormous fan of Peanuts. The game basically plays a lot like "Uno" or "Crazy Eights." The Security card is your wild card.

As I got older, the game has been close by and has taken on other meanings. I have done quite a few things involving risk in the last 20 years. I have moved far away from my family. I have taken on jobs, gotten degrees, had children. Now, here's another risk... leaving the level of child I have adored teaching for a younger level in a different school.

There are times when I would rather be Linus... curled up with my stuffed animal of choice and pretending that anything is possible as long as that animal is in my hands. An occasional thumb-sucking isn't so bad, either.

As you open the deck, the other cards convey a certain meaning, too. Snoopy, the penultimate "cool dog," is sitting back and fishing in his food bowl. The ever-frustrated Charile Brown is wearing his baseball manager's uniform and is looking, as always, downtrodden. Schroeder is chillin' on the piano. Lucy, mouth wide-open and hand on chest, is angrily arguing. Sally has her hands over her mouth and is trembling. I think I have been every one of these characters in the past several years.

I prefer Snoopy, who does not allow much to ruffle his fur. Schroeder is my second choice, as he chills to music and tunes out other distractions.

So often, however, I find myself being Lucy. Luckily, I have found only a few moments where Charlie Brown or Sally's expressions fit the situation. More often than not, I see those expressions on others.

Now, my "Security" pack will come with me to my new workplace. We will see which character this new venture brings out in me.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Six Flags St. Louis

Ignatius, his friend Mark, and I went to Six Flags St. Louis on Saturday. It was sad to see its decline in cleanliness and service. I will try to balance the positive with the negative, if I can. I think, however, we will be going to Six Flags in Gurnee, IL, from this point forward. We usually pick St. Louis as warmer weather can consistently be found there.

Our drive was uneventful. We left in the wee hours of the AM for two soon-to-be sixth graders (7:30) after a delicious McDonalds breakfast. We made it to Six Flags by about 10:30. We waited to get into the parking lot for about a half hour.

When we finally parked, we all had to hit the bathrooms... our first sign of how the day would be. I waited for another 20 minutes in the ladies bathroom. We went to have our bags checked. The person who checked mine didn't even look... just stuck a stick in a couple of times. She was more interested in the woman arguing about her Sharpies being confiscated (that happened to me last year with the little ones on my keyring... a sad day, indeed). The ticket counter was easier. Then to the lockers and off to the rides.
I must say, I felt the benefits of my recent run/walk routines. I had very little trouble at all with the walking. I can't say that for my two comrades, who were both dying trying to walk uphill. We first waited in line for the Screaming Eagle roller coaster... a favorite of mine. That line took about 30 minutes. When we were about to load, the ride closed down because a deer was spotted in a restricted area. The boys were pretty disappointed, but we stayed put, and the ride was back up in about 10 minutes. It was great. Being medicated helped with the uphill climb, which usually turns me into a crazed lunatic. I hate feeling as though I am being pulled up a hill by a thread of twine. I LOVE the downhills, though. It was awesome.

After that, they were famished, so we went to find some food. We stood in line for 45 minutes at the Mooseburger Lodge. The dude that was handing out food was perhaps the slowest fast food worker I have ever witnessed. I mean, I thought maybe we were being Punk'd. It was insane. Everyone else seemed to be working quite hard. When we left, however, the line was winding out the door. I am sure they had much longer than a 45 minute wait.

If you have totaled this up, you realize that the hours were rapidly being eaten away. We went to the train which was just leaving. Next train was in 25 minutes, so we thought we would try the Ferris wheel. It is 180 feet high. Normally, this terrifies me, but I decided to face this phobia. Again, medication was my friend. I was pretty OK in line, which is where I typically freak out. I was NOT OK being stuck at the top, and really had to work through that issue. Since the wheel is huge, you get stopped at or near the top about 2-3 times for the changing of riders. Yeah, God's little practical joke, eh? Believe it or not, we could have ridden the train twice in the amount of time this ride took.
We then decided, as it was a little after 2, to go to Hurricane Harbor waterpark within Six Flags. This used to me my favorite spot to be. However, I was sad, and a little horrified, to see the decline of its cleanliness. The park was packed. The wave pool was jammed with people and rafts and other floating things I don't want to describe. There was a line for the dressing area and the impossible task of finding a seat. The planets finally aligned and the boys were off to play. I went in the wave pool for about 5 minutes, then wandered to the lazy river. That was kind of nice, yet really icky at the place where you have to get in and out. Lots of sand and dirt. I decided to rest my eyes before the drive back. I had the pleasure of sitting next to a crying three year old whose mom kept saying, "No, you can't go in the water. You have a fever and you probably shouldn't even be here." That was the time I realized that I was, indeed, in hell.
We left around 5. I was going to get my regular funnel cake, but even that line was crazy long. Yes, I left with neither cotton candy nor funnel cake...sad, indeed. I bought a lottery ticket at the nearby MotoMart in case God was giving me signs today. Alas, we did not win. The boys were happy to stop at Denny's in Litchfield, where, for the first time all day, there was not a lot of waiting.
We arrived home, too pooped to party, around 9:30. I think we will go up to Gurnee, IL, in the future. The last time we were there it was a LOT cleaner and the workers were a LOT more efficient. We are happy to have gone, though, as well as glad to be back. Ignatius is feeling pretty punky today, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that he doesn't get walloped by whatever was lurking in that water. {cue Jaws theme song}

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Go JoLynn, It's Your Birthday!

Yes, it's my birthday. The first day of my fortieth year of life. My last year in my thirties. This decade has been a crazy one. I have had four separate positions in teaching, given birth, gotten a Master's and National Board certification, had foot surgery, wrote some grants, presented some teaching info., met a fantastic set of friends and was blessed by the births of their children, sold two houses, bought two houses, became a great aunt, went to Disney World, prayed through the diagnosis of cancer in my mother, my niece, and my good friends, sprained the tendons in my foot, been diagnosed with depression, lost a dear friend, and almost worked myself to death. Busy, busy. Thank God I also prayed, right?

As far as this day is concerned, it was a pretty good one. I started off getting up early to get in to my "old" school so I could finish packing. Five hours of packing (third day of it), and I am finally finished. I threw away a ton. Packrats out there, did you know that 8 years after you took a class, you have really no need to keep the notes? I threw away (with much trepidation) my student teaching binder and notes. I feel so liberated!

Wait, wait! I really started off last night at 11:00 when I received the cutest e-card from my friend Jen. She used the music for the Austin Powers theme song, which, for a long time, was my ring tone on my cell. It cracked me up.

Anyway, I met some good friends at Ruby Tuesdays for lunch. Gotta love the salad bar. Karen gifted me, not only with lunch, but also with one of her cards which I absolutely LOVED when I saw it on her blog (check it out). I was delighted to be its recipient... not to mention some other crafty goodies that she bestowed upon me.

I came home and found a very pretty flower cake had been delivered to my house. It was from my mother. I tried to take photos that would do it justice.
The family went to Noodles & Co. for dinner. Then, my friend Kim brought over strawberry cake and vanilla ice cream. Yum! In all, not a bad way to spend my birthday.
I also received phone calls from many well wishers, including my mother, my insurance agent, my sister, and my brother. Those, and e-mails of good wishes, made my day even nicer.
What did Scott get me? He will tell you: the Nikon with which I took my pictures. I am A-OK with that answer. Works for me. :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tyler Perry

I have to admit... I rented Diary of a Mad Black Woman because of all of the snippets that showed Tyler Perry as Medea. He is hysterical. Also, my friend and colleague, Sherri, used to say the students did not want to see "angry black woman," which always made me laugh but made them cower.

Now that I have watched two of Perry's films (I viewed Medea's Family Reunion this weekend), I realize what a huge purpose he is taking on. He is trying to transform black culture through the media of film. His films have the obvious themes of praising God, loving family, and BEING family. It is obvious through several strong male characters that he is looking to push African American youth to a higher standard than many of them have for themselves. He is looking to break the cycle of single mothers having to raise children due to absentee fathers. He compels viewers to strengthen their family ties, but has a venue of interesting "caricatures" to whom, I am certain, any family can relate one or two relatives.

Don't get me wrong. I am as far from a racist as you can get. I have been working with lower income African American youth and trying to figure a way to foster a sense of pride and self-worth in them as students. I have tried many techniques, but being a white female, sometimes I just can't reach far enough. I am refreshed and thrilled to see Tyler Perry make such intentional films. There is a message in his films for all people, regardless of background or race. He is showing the world that being black is not about ghettos and gangs and foul language. The mainstream media wishes to portray this, but Perry seems to be bucking this trend.

If you would like to know more about Tyler Perry, take a peek at his website. There are movie previews you can watch and personal messages from him. His latest film is called The Family that Preys. He is fantastic.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A New Year for All the Platos

Max starts Early Childhood at a new (closer) school in August. Ignatius starts junior high as a sixth grader in August. JoLynn starts at a new school as a Reading Specialist for K-2 in August. What a whirlwind of newness our house will be.

Max ended his summer school career for 2008 today. Many of the stakeholders involved say they have seen a lot of progress in him over the summer. I am thrilled, but not naive enough to think we are finished. We have only just begun. He is speaking, which is something I feared would not come or would come and then go. Next step: conversation. The give and take of dialogue is something that I have to say I took for granted. Ignatius has his struggles, mainly with the flow; his dad still struggles with pregnant pauses as he formulates thoughts. Me? I usually don't let people stop speaking before I begin. I will have great celebration when I can converse with Max. I am, however, thrilled at what he can do. We are blessed.

As unbelievable as it is, Ignatius begins sixth grade in August. Well, it's unbelievable as far as how fast the years have flown. He definitely puts us through the perils of parenting an adolescent. He is testing his boundaries as far as what he can and cannot say and can and cannot do are concerned. My goodness... that sounds eerily NORMAL?! If there's one thing I can say with confidence, it's that JoLynn knows sixth graders. He is, officially, acting like a sixth grader. Segue to my news...

I accepted a position today as a K-2 Reading Specialist at Irving Elementary. This is a very good thing for the family... it means a later start time in the day, it means I won't be teaching sixth graders and then coming home to one with no patience left, it means I can get reacquainted with the age level that started my interest in education. Seeing as Max will need assistance with some of the very same things, I am anxious to learn everything I can to help struggling beginning readers. My friends and I often talk about the miracle of reading. As a parent, you are innocently doing your day-to-day when suddenly, almost magically, your four or five year old starts reading... really reading... decoding... comprehending... and you scratch your head and say, "How'd that happen?" So many things make that happen, and once that switch is flipped, it's like an Electric Light Parade.

For some children, though, the switch is more of a dimmer switch. They will get there, but in a slower fashion. There are many reasons for this, and many tactics that are used to intervene. So, I will be able to help move the dimmer switch, while at the same time learning how I will get Max to that miracle moment.

The staff at Irving has a wonderful reputation. I am really excited to be a part of that. However, I cannot cover up the feelings of sadness I have due to leaving BJHS. The teachers there are outstanding. Some of them are very close friends of mine. I will be in the same district, but in a different building. We will not participate in the day-to-day events... the laughter, the tears, the aggravation, the joys, the UNBELIEVABLE support of colleagues. But I know how to get in touch with them all. :) I also look forward to a new group of colleagues to help me learn and grow. So here's to "moving my cheese," again! Heck, I think someone ate my cheese about 15 years ago and just didn't tell me. :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cancer's Unexpected Blessings

Those avid readers of mine know that my friend, Marilyn, was recently diagnosed with cancer in her brain. The other day, she encouraged me to read Tony Snow's commentary on his cancer. I thought it was insightful, and that others might want to read it as well.

It can be found at the Christianity Today website following this link: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/july/25.30.html.

Monday, July 28, 2008

One more reason for me to dislike Chuck E. Cheese

A news story and my poetic response.


AS IF... by JoLynn

AS IF a child with autism needs another reason to feel different
AS IF parents of children on restrictive diets enjoy having to pack up food when they go to restaurants
AS IF Chuck E. Cheese does not service thousands of children a day
AS IF Chuck E. Cheese needed to call the police on a mom wanting to feed her child
AS IF Chuck E. Cheese couldn't come up with menu items for children with this need (1 in 150, right?)
AS IF Chuck E. Cheese pizza actually tastes good
AS IF there needs to be one more hurdle

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My Little Fish

I just can't believe how uninhibited Max is in the pool. He's one crazy dude.
Here are some photos of him from Saturday.

You will notice that he is pretty much swimming/floating to me from the side of the pool. He loves having his head underwater and kicking.

I have also included a photo that cracks me up. We were in Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and he was walking along, one hand on his hip, the other on his chin. I love my iphone for these moments.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Garage Sale Blues

We are having a garage sale tomorrow and Saturday. I think this will be our third in sixteen years. Every time I have one, I remind myself of why I don't want to have one. All depends on what you make. Last time, we made $25. That was after all the hooplah you make to get people there. I suppose it was $25 I didn't have before.

This one is particularly difficult, as I am selling a lot of baby stuff. The strollers, the infant carseat, the playpen, the crib... all up for grabs. With all of our renovating in the basement, our storage space is at a premium there. Plus, surely someone else can use what we are storing in the basement.

However, the finality of that is... it's really the end of the baby road (unless God has a strange sense of humor). I "got" that intellectually, but moving the "stuff" of infancy hammered it home.

Don't get me wrong. The thought of being preggers again sends chills up my spine. I was not a happy pregnant woman. I have never been good with nausea, and having a period of my life when a doctor says, "You need to sit and prop your feet at work," was laughable. But I think there's some trigger in a lot of moms I know that makes the realization that you are done with that part of your life a little bittersweet.

So, here marks the day that JoLynn said, "It is finished." Hmmm.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Run, Forest, Run!

Our local Autism organization, McLean County Autism Society, is hosting the 2008 Autism Walk/Run. Proceeds benefit the society, which does a lot of great things for the families in this area. For example, it was through its e-mail communication that I heard about a series of "new diagnosis" meetings through the Autism Program at ISU. I have been attending for the past two Thursdays for free, and it has been a very helpful set of meetings. They also establish things like movie mornings at local theaters and play dates and local gymnastics clubs.

The run is September 21, and Ignatius, some friends, and I are forming a team. You will hear more from me about it, I am sure.
Here is an update on "the boys."
Max continues to thrive at summer school and day care. When Ignatius and I were stretching after our walk/run tonight, he counted with us. He even stretched, too. Show-off can touch his toes. His speech continues to be delayed and give-and-take of conversation is not really there. However, he does listen to commands given to him, which is excellent. He also has become a water lover. Now he holds on to the side by himself!
Ignatius is enjoying summer doing his favorites: PC, Wii, PS2, and pool. We are reading the novel, The Giver, together, since neither of us had read it. It's fantastic so far. He sees a counselor weekly for his anxiety issues, and is still on the waiting list for further evaluation for Asperger's. The developmental pediatrician also wanted us to consider OCD once the anxiety was a bit more under control. It waxes and wanes. Lucky for him, he has two parents who are very familiar with it.
So that's their scoop. Over and out. May I be able to drag my out of shape body out of bed tomorrow. :)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Weekend Events

This weekend was a fast and fun one. Lots of goings on.

Max took his first two trips to Anderson Aquatic Center with me (on Saturday) and with me and Ignatius (on Sunday). He absolutely loved the slides in the toddler pool. He wanted to go on the bigger slides today, but I had to convince him that those were for "big, BIG boys." He has no fear... he probably would have gone down the slides. We went in the larger pool, and he was like a fish. At 3, Ignatius clung to me for dear life in a pool. Max would almost rather have me let go. He likes to kick and float. Gotta get this kid some lessons.

Ignatius had Tae Kwon Do testing on Saturday. It lasted quite a long time because they had several black belts testing. How fantastic for him to see, as he has a goal of ninth degree blackbelt. One of his instructors had to try to break 5 cinder blocks. She broke 3 the first try and 2 the second. Perhaps she wanted to NOT break her hand! The slide show shows photos of Ignatius breaking a board with a kick. He makes it look so effortless now. His first tries way "back in the day" were quite unsuccessful.

I love the shot that Scott got of Ignatius "high-fiving" through the line of instructors after he received his purple belt. Thank God for my new Nikon D60. :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Survival of the fittest

We're going in to day three of summer school with no more bus mishaps. Hooray!

Ignatius has his last day of Kids' Feast tomorrow. I get to go and watch presentations. I am pretty excited to see what the week has generated. They worked a lot in groups.

He has suddenly become quite a humorous poet. I am trying to get him to post his poems on his blog. I'll let you know if he takes me up on it. They're great, but I'm biased.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Back to Daycare

Here's today's series of events.

1. If you read previous entries, you know that I have been feeling sad about having to keep to Max's routine. I was taking him to daycare, letting him ride the bus to summer school... all to keep him in that routine.

2. Today he toddled off to daycare. All arrangements had been made. He had a change of clothes, Pull-Ups, wipes, and breakfast money.

3. I went about my morning, took Ignatius to Kids' Feast, did some shopping, got rained on, had lunch with my husband. Not a bad Monday morning.

4. I was sitting and crafting at home. No one around. The peace that comes from clear thinking.

5. At 1:05, my phone rings. It's the daycare. Max was supposed to be back at 12:30. Another bus dropped children off. They were contacting the transportation department at the school district. They wanted me to know.

Yes... you may pause to gasp...

So my three-year-old child with communication difficulties is "missing?" I felt as if someone was pulling out my lungs through my belly button.

6. I call the transportation department. No answer.

7. I call the school where summer school was held. No answer. (Of course not. It's been over for almost an hour.)

8. I call the transportation department again. With calmness only from God, the words come out of my mouth, "My name is JoLynn Plato, and I am trying to locate my three-year-old son, Max. He has autism and he was not returned to his day care yet from summer school."

9. I am on hold. Panicking.

10. Call waiting. The day care. They got in touch with someone... finally... who found the bus, which had broken down (including its radio).

11. Back to transportation department. I finally get off of hold. I explain that the daycare has found the bus (before the woman answering the phone knows it, apparently).

12. I call Scott, hysterical. He calls the transportation department to say all that I was unable to say as I was in some odd shock. (Me... speechless... hard to wrap the brain around)

13. Ten years have been shaved off my life.

There's so much more that could be said, but I think anyone reading this is probably already thinking exactly what has been floating in my head for the last 7 hours.

So he gets an even bigger hug and kiss before bed tonight.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

"Every Day is the Fourth of July!"

Does anyone remember that song from Rudolph's Shiny New Year? Every Fourth of July, that song goes on and on in my head. I don't know any other words. Basically, the context has Rudolph traveling through time to find the Baby New Year before the new year begins. Baby New Year was born with great big ears. When people laugh at him, he leaves that place in sadness.

One of the places he visits is a land where it is always Independence Day, 1776. They sing this song when he is there. He is having a lovely time when, alas, the flag comes down the street during the parade and everyone wearing a hat takes it off. Out come the ears, and the laughter, and poor Baby New Year is again off in sadness. However, before then, the song is so happy!

Segue to my Ode to July 4th. I love July 4th. It's the smack dab in the middle of summer holiday. Many people are either genuinely happy or drunk. The weather is ideally nice and hot. Cook outs... sparklers... fireworks. Ah.

Here are pics from our July 4, 2008. The window cleaning shows were too funny to pass up. Max wanted to help his dad. His face when he's squirting the Windex is hysterical, in my humble opinion. The rest pretty much speak for themselves. The car shots show the fam as we watch fireworks. We were at a spot in town where we could see four different huge fireworks displays. I missed the big booms (I know... knowing me as a six year old you're as shocked about that statement as you are that I actually eat onions now, too). Scott disagrees. And of course, there were the idiots, I mean, "patriots," in my 'hood who bought way too many fireworks from God- knows-where (they're not "sold" in IL). Otto was given some doggy Prozac for the night.

I hope your Fourth was at least relaxing.

Friday, July 4, 2008

"...like a big boy"

For some reason, this teaser works for many things in Max's life. Lately, it has worked beautifully for potty training. He will "pee pee" or "poopie on the potty like a big boy." Incentive enough. He has been doing a lot better with this. Also, he wants to sleep in his "ni-night room like a big boy." So, I start my Independence Day with this entry about Max's recent independence.

He starts summer school on Monday. As part of his IEP, we agreed, even before he started Early Childhood in the district, that he would attend summer school to keep that routine of going to school. It's hard, as after our trip I really just wanted to keep him home. However, it is in his best interest. Also, the kid loves riding the bus. It is in a different school with a different teacher, so I am crossing my fingers that all goes well.

He will be seeing a pediatric neurologist in September. This was in response to his learning of things and then seemingly "losing" them. In the last few days, his color recognition has flourished. He recognized that the letters on my shirt were pink. He noticed on Wednesday that not only was there a red letter on his shirt, but he could name the letter: U! It is things like this that we pray he "keeps."

He's also started a new routine. It all started with early morning brightness. Scott woke up Monday thinking it was later than it was because the sun rose with a certain brightness that day that jarred his biological clock. He decided to go in to work and come back and get Max for day care (Max loves going with his daddy. I could not intefere with that if I tried.). This has worked wonderfully. Max and I sleep a little longer, and Max is able to be slowly and playfully nudged awake. Scott can head off to work relatively stress-free for about an hour. Max's disposition since he started with this has been great. The transition at his day care has been quite calm.

As for me and my elementary job hunt, it seems to have slowed. There's really only one elementary from which I await news. The job option there is waiting on funding. So, I continue with my summer as if I will be back in sixth grade. Not such a bad gig, in my humble opinion. With this new morning routine, we might be OK with a 7:45 start time for me. We shall see. I will be where I am supposed to be. I am really happy with either prospect. I teach in a great district.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Just too cute

Here is a pic of Max and me on some playground equipment by Wilson High School when I was home. We were just driving around (kind of lost), saw this equipment, and took it as a sign to play.

Scott took this with his iPhone. We were having a pretty good time. :)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

We're baaaacccck!

We were able to spend a few days with our Pennsylvania family this week. It always goes by so fast.

We left on Sunday and stopped in Ohio, a little to the east of Columbus (Pickerington). We drove the rest of the way to PA and landed in Wyomissing, where we stayed at the Country Inn and Suites. We went over to Nan's new apartment... nice pad! We were able to help her select and start using a new printer using her wireless capabilities.

The kids loved the pool at the hotel. Max was in love with the hot tub. He also is very good in the water... not afraid to try some moves, unlike his brother and his mother when younger.

We also spent some time at my brother, Bobby's, where I got to meet my great nephew, Christian. Good food, good times. We hadn't seen their new place, either, so it was nice to be able to tour.

While introducing the kids to Friendly's, I ran in to Ann Botch. It was so strange to just look up and see each other! If I had an extended visit, I could have squeezed in some buddy time, too. It was a tight schedule as it was.

We spent some time in Lancaster, visiting Jen, Fred, and Diane. Max "found" a park at the end of Jen's street, so Diane and I (on separate occasions) found ourselves lured there by Max. Jen has a nice home as well.

On our drive back, we stopped at Fort Rapids in Columbus. This is an indoor waterpark. It is a resort with a hotel as well. We stayed in a room that had bunk beds for the kids. It was pretty cool. It was a surprise for Ignatius, and he was, indeed, surprised.

Here is a slide show. There are not nearly the number of pics I would like. I did not bring the camera into the waterpark because it was like a sauna, and the lens would have fogged up... hence, no pics would have been taken anyway. Ignatius also took some pictures (on film!), and we have to get them developed tomorrow. The stuffed elephant was a "guest" from Max's day care. She accompanied us throughout our trip. :)

Say this one three times fast

Grade III Anaplastic Astrocytoma. Right hemisphere. That is a type of (malignant) brain cancer with which my dear friend, Marilyn, was recently diagnosed.

I met Marilyn in 1992. I was 23 years old and fresh out of my first year of teaching. I had married and moved 850 miles away from most of my family. Scott traveled a lot, and I had yet to make a great deal of friends.

When I walked in to Blessed Sacrament School to prepare for my first set of seventh graders, she was the very first teacher I met. She was her bubbly self and was working in the science lab getting ready for her year, also. I was planning my hallway bulletin board and explaining my theme for the beginning of the year. Even though she probably had her own things to organize, it was as though she had time only for me at that moment. Little did I know that this was the essence of Marilyn. Always in the moment, making you feel like what you are saying is the most important thing in the world.

I wish I could arrogantly say that she saves that side of her for me, but that would be a lie. She shares her generosity (and her opinion... see why we get along?) with those around her. She could find the goodness in dog poop... "Isn't it a blessing that the cycle of life continues..."

What you know first about Marilyn is that she is a family gal. She and Joe (Joe Lynn is her husband's name... scary, yes?) are perpetually visiting their children and grandchildren. However, many people are pulled in to her extended family. They are treated with as much care as her own blood relatives.

She is always a teacher. Everything has a lesson, and every lesson has God's hand in it.

She also matches my own sense of "righteous indignation." When things are unfair or unjust, her mouth is not silent.

When I spoke with her today, she had just come from golfing with her grandsons. She had a fantastic game. She sounded so much like herself, and it was a relief to hear her, as my mind was going in many directions regarding her health. She is ready for the battle. Still, it sucks, and I am really sad that she has this to fight.

I have seen Marilyn help at least two of our dear friends as they lost their battles to cancer. I know she has been by the bedside of others as well. She seems to have this peace that comes only from God. That grace helps her see all of life's natural hills and valleys where others (me) see only despair. She also knows how to do personal battle with cancer. She fought it and won before.

So, I shall pray, as that is pretty much all I can do at the moment. What to pray for? Strength, perseverance, dignity. That's a good start. Now maybe tomorrow I will figure out what I will pray for Marilyn (ha, ha, ha, ha).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The adolescent has returned

Despite the fact that right now he is obsessing about breathing in car exhaust (a way of getting out of helping his dad wash my car), I am quite happy to say that the Eagle has landed... Ignatius is home. I think it's time to send his behind to bed. He welcomed a shower and his toothbrush (don't ask), and we are now preparing for a trip to PA. A whirlwind June it has been!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Family Night

We went to Family Night at Boy Scout camp tonight. It was our first communication with Ignatius in 5 days. He looked great! I think his week had ups and downs, but, overall, he seemed very healthy and happy.

This is my son... we get there and he says he has things he bought for us from the camp store. Mind you, I gave him money for snacks throughout the week, and he buys US something. Hence, the cookie picture. He bought us Grandma's Fudge Chocolate Chip cookies, Twizlers, and Nerds Rope. Now, if you didn't know Ignatius well (or me) you might think these sound like his "gift" is reminiscent of Homer's bowling ball gift to Marge. Au contraire, mon frere. I love Nerds Rope and Twizlers, and Max loves cookies. So, it was really quite thoughtful.

It was sad to leave him. He was trying to keep it together, as were we. I did better than his father. However, he returns tomorrow at noon. Yeah! Below is a slide show of some of tonight's festivities. We had to leave a bit early with Max, but we were there for a nice portion of the festivities.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Get on your bad motor scooter and ride...

It's true! The Platos have succumed to the gas crisis. It was KILLING our budget, as I am sure it is with others. We could not bike as we have many places to go with our children that are not conducive to a bike. Because I would not let him get a Harley at this time, Scott compromised on a moped. Yes, a bad motor scooter. :)

Here are some first day pics. Max was very disappointed that they did not "go" anywhere. No thank you, says Mom. FYI, something I did not know... mopeds get about 130 mpg. That was the selling point. They are also tens of thousands of dollars less than getting a new car or, alas, a Harley.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A-Camping He Did Go

Ignatius got off safely today. He had a stuffed camping sack as well as a "day pack" (his bookbag) with some stuff, too. Poor kid.

Weatherman Scott said they got some pretty severe weather in the general area of the camp this afternoon. In fact, that weather is hitting us as we speak. Seventy-mile-an-hour winds and hail. I hope they got their gear to their tents before it started opening up a can of weather woop-a$$.
Well, he's in God's hands now. I hope he has a great time, and I am so glad he could have this experience.
Today, we also celebrated the second birthday of Karen's daughter, Maddie. The party was at State Farm Park, and it was so much fun for Max (Ignatius was sad to have missed it). State Farm Park is basically this huge complex with pavilions and tennis courts and grassy areas and a very, very cool pool area. Karen's husband works for "the Farm," and they have had Maddie's party there for... well, as long as she's had birthdays! It was a good time. Definite overstimulation for Max, but a ton of fun for him, also.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I Believe I Can Fly

Today at 9 AM, Ignatius got the chance to go up in an airplane as part of the Young Eagles program. I think we were both a bit nervous. It was a gorgeous day with almost no wind... a rarity around here lately.

Here are some photos, followed by an interview with Ignatius.

Mom: What did it feel like when you took off?
Ignatius: It felt like I was in weightlessness for a little bit, but then it felt like I was on the ground.
Mom: What could you see?
Ignatius: I could see a bunch of cars that looked like toys. I saw a biker. He looked like an ant. And I saw lots of lakes, buildings, and fields. Waterson Towers [at ISU] looked like a little building.
Mom: What did you hear over the headset?
Ignatius: We could talk to each other, so I heard the voices of the other people on the plane. I also heard the voices of the pilot and the people on the radio.
Mom: What was landing like?
Ignatius: It felt like the plane was about to explode, actually, but it was a little fun, too.
Mom: Are you glad you did it?
Ignatius: Oh, yeah!

Spring Review Slide Show

Enjoy! Click on any photo to see the larger image.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Happy anniversary to us!

Today is our 16th wedding anniversary (20 years as a couple in September). People asked, "So what are you doing for your anniversary?" We did the things we like best... relaxing with the family. Scott had to work, I had my hair done, Ignatius had percussion lessons. The day went on as is typical with us. We got some take out from Logan's Roadhouse, as Max is not quite restaurant-friendly at this stage of the game. It was a day in the life, and that was just fine with all parties involved.

Here is a photo of the scrapbook page I needed to do today. It focuses on Ignatius, who will be attending Boy Scout camp next week. I have been nervous for several reasons that I shall not enumerate here regarding his spending his first extended stay away from one of us. Then the paper comes with news of a camp in Iowa that has a severe tragedy. Under my scan of the front page of The Pantagraph from June 12, I have journaled my feelings about this in reference to sending my son an hour and a half away. He's terrified of tornadoes. Those who know me well know I have NEVER been a big fan of them, and the fact that I live in Tornado Central is an enigma to most. Anyway, I thought I would share my page with the world. I guess I just need to send him off and pray.
Tomorrow, he will be going up in a plane through the Junior Eagles program, so I will have more about that, and some photos, I am sure.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Family Blog

Hello to all! I decided, for as much as I am on Blogger, I might as well set up a family site to keep well wishers informed of our goings-on. So, here ya go. I have a handy little subscription box if you want e-mail alerts as to when this has been updated.

Thanks for checking in.