April 2007


Back in high school, I entered into a few academic competitions sponsored by the UIL. I know, I was quite the jock….

Anyway, I remember this mostly when I google myself to see what comes up (who doesn’t do this once in a while?) Often this link comes up. When I was a senior I placed high enough in district and regional Ready Writing competitions to be invited to the state competition in Austin. Follow the ‘Ready Writing’ link for some recent examples. I know I still have the essay somewhere – I remember actually using examples from my philosophy class and the movie “Reality Bites”. I ended up placing 5th in the state, and yes there were more than 5 people there. I know, I know, why don’t I have that on my resume?

This last time I went to that page I wondered, what ever happened to these people? I wonder if any of these people became published writers and I could say ‘I finished right behind [enter writing prize award winner here] in a writing contest one time’. As I started looking I actually found some information on where the people who finished ahead of me went to school. It looks something like this:

#1 Yale, Stanford Law; #2 Harvard, Harvard Medical School; #3 Harvard

So how should I take this? As an optimist I think “hey, I was in good company” As I relay this story to Petie I go through the list of schools and start to say “so…you know….it makes me feel like I was…”.

She interjects, “…a distant fifth??” Ouch.

While I was pregnant with Elise, I prayed almost every day for a happy and healthy baby.  By that, God knew that I also secretly meant a chubby baby.  So far, it seems that my prayers were answered.  I’ve long held this very unscientific belief that the skinnier you are as a baby and a toddler, the more you’ll battle weight later.  I know it’s a bogus theory, but I guess I’ve grown up bitter that I was so tiny when I was little.  I didn’t appreciate it at all!  In any case, I just love chubby babies.  They just look happy. 

I might have written this before, but I have three wishes for both of my girls.  First, I want them both to find true love.  Second, I would love for them to have a true passion or a calling in life.  Third, I would be esctatic if they could both exercise and pursue athletic goals only because they like it… NOT because they have to control their weight. 

I definitely found true love and it’s possible that my passion was to have children, but I definitely didn’t luck out on #3.  Genes and luck will play out for the girls.  How frustrating as a parent that we can’t control a lot of the important things in life for our children. 

In my opinion, there are two camps of people:  those who like to see the same movies and read the same books over and over and those who don’t.  To Kill a Mockingbird was our latest Alley adventure.  Truthfully, I wasn’t that excited about seeing it.  I knew exactly what would happen and have always thought that was boring – knowing the ending before the play even began.

However, I loved it.  It was a wonderful production and I think I learned something very valuable.  These older classics can demonstrate how much you’ve changed.  I did really like To Kill a Mockingbird in high school, but it was superficial.  I liked the story and found it entertaning.  Who wouldn’t laugh at Dill?  However, I didn’t comprehend the magnitude and true meaning of the story.  I now see how losing your child(ren) is the greatest sacrafice and sadness.  I also mourned for Tom Robinson with a greater intensity because I knew what it would feel like to leave your children.  I can imagine how distraught he felt – distraught enough to try to escape prison.  I wonder what other classics would have new meaning to me?  Perhaps, I will side with the other camp and start rereading some of my favorites from high school.

People, including myself, are so reckless about backing up.  I guess we’ve all done it hundreds of times without incident, so our instinct tells us it’s going to be ok this time, too.  After dinner, our family likes to take a stroll down the block.  Last week, a car zipped out of a driveway without noticing Joelle.  Had Chris not scooped her up and moved her to the grass, she would have been hit.  He was so angry, he almost pitched Joelle’s toy shopping cart at the car.  He yelled after the car and made some gestures, but she never stopped.  She was in a hurry!  The entire scene was witnessed by Elise and I and it instantly brought back a memory of my dad protecting me from the same thing.  I recall that it was a white “boat” car (long and big).  We were at the Jumbo (now Oshman’s) picking up something and a car backed out of a parking spot without seeing me.  My dad hit the car really hard to make her stop and then he also proceeded to let her know how he felt about her almost running over his daughter.  Hooray for daddies!  In fairness to both drivers, it is very hard to see a little person behind you.  I guess it wouldn’t hurt if we were all a little more careful and I’m definitely reminded to watch out for cars backing up near my baby (soon to be babies).    

Joy is watching tiny Elise in new places.  (like Costco today).  She is hysterical.  Her body freezes.  Her eyes will slowly take a survey of her surroundings, but her body is rigid.  It’s as if she’s thinking, “wow, if I stay perfectly still nothing will note that I’m here.” 

While Joelle loved to hold on to our hands as an infant (an endearing sentiment that I didn’t appreciate enough at the time), Elise likes to clutch her onesie.  When her tiny fists do let go of the fabric, it leaves behind wrinkles because her grip is so strong. 

After mastering essential skills (pooping, smiling and eating, in no particular order), Elise has been exclusively working on getting her thumb to her mouth.  She sighs and makes due with the binky, but her true desire is to suck her thumb.  Joelle never had any interest in her thumb!  Ever.  I have mixed feelings about the thumb sucking.  It’s so much easier for a parent to not have to keep up with the binkies, but binkies are much more hygienic.  The thumb sucking is also harder to stop when it’s time – binks you can conveniently lose. (Or, have a bink fairy come take them away, as we did for Joelle.  The “fairy” left a gift!)  I think my brother sucked his thumb a long time.  In the end, we’re rooting for Elise to get it.  She wants to do it so badly.  When she does get her hand near her mouth, she makes this little sound of bliss.  Her bliss is my joy to watch.

Our tiny dancer, as Poppy likes to call her, is having her first big recital this May.  The outfit (black and white polka dot tutu) is enough to make any heart melt, but I’m wondering when recitals became such big money makers.  It’s not like her dance studio is a public school or library.  It’s a privately funded studio where Nana pays quite a bit each month for her to go.  So, why the need to raise so much money at the recital?

Here’s the breakdown:  t-shirts (with all the dancers names listed like my sorority party event shirts) – $15, tickets to performance – $5 each (the first two are free, how generous), recital fee – $50, trophies – $10 each, medals – $8 each, dvd (NO recording devices or cameras will be allowed in the auditorium.  Aside, of course, from the professional dvd creator) – $25, roses for performers – $5 each, studio pictures – $?, snacks and beverages sold during intermission – $?, personal ads for the program – $ varies per ad size, and the costume – $45.

But the costume really is the most adorable thing ever and Joelle really will love it.  How can parents and grandparents resist?  We’ll be hooked and that’s how they can get away with it.

This article caught my eye because the neighborhood involved (Northgate Forest) is similarly named to our old neighborhood (Northgate Crossing). When you say “Northgate” in Houston people usually assume Northgate Forest. When I would tell someone we lived in Northgate Crossing people would give me a look like “la-te-dah” because it is a nice neighborhood.

Anyway, this article is about people in Northgate Forest who think they are better than everyone else and can just choose whichever school district they want. Petie and I moved partially because we didn’t like the Spring school district – maybe we should have tried to have the neighborhood annexed by The Woodlands (Conroe ISD) instead. 😉

Full article is below (for when the Chronicle archives it)

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Spring ISD refuses to cut Northgate loose

Homeowners in a posh Spring subdivision have lost round one of their battle to join the wealthier, better-performing Klein Independent School District.

The Spring school board on Thursday unanimously rejected a petition signed by 190 Northgate Forest residents to separate the area from the predominantly minority district and be annexed to Klein ISD.

The board’s attorney, Janet Horton, ruled the petition did not meet the requirements of a little-known provision in state law that allows detachment.

The assessed value of the relatively small subdivision — $92.5 million, about 1 percent of the district’s tax base — was too much for the district to lose, especially considering that only seven students from Northgate are currently enrolled in Spring schools, according to the district.

Another option

School board President Mel Smith blasted the petition’s chief supporter, Tom Matthews, for wasting the district’s time, belittling its teachers and pitting rich against poor.Matthews agreed the petition did not meet legal requirements, but said that parents in the subdivision simply don’t want their children to attend Spring schools.

After the vote, Matthews said he’s unsure whether he’ll pursue his fight by asking the Klein school board to vote to accept Northgate Forest.

“I may not want to bother Steve,” he said of Klein’s board president, Steve Szymczak.

If he does, and Klein rejects the petition, the issue is dead. But if Klein approves, the petitioners can appeal to State Commissioner of Education Shirley Neeley.

Larry Allen, vice president of the Klein board, said this week that he was unsure how he or his colleagues would rule.

”Whatever Spring does, Spring will do,” Allen said. ”Klein will make its decision independent of what the Spring board does.”

Rulings can vary

Neeley’s eventual ruling is also unpredictable. The Texas Education Agency typically hears one detachment and annexation case a year, and the rulings vary, according to spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe.Matthews, a 63-year-old businessman whose youngest child graduated from Spring ISD about 15 years ago, also led the effort in 2005 that defeated Spring’s $385 million bond referendum.

Over the last decade, more minority students and more children from low-income families have moved into the Spring area.

Today, about 23 percent of the students in Spring are white, compared with 49 percent in Klein.

And more than half the students in Spring are low-income, compared with 30 percent in Klein.

W. Robert Houston, who directs the Institute for Urban Education at the University of Houston, said Spring’s approval of the petition would have set a bad precedent.

”It sends the message that any other subdivision, any other block, maybe any other family, could move to another school district with impunity,” he said.

ericka.mellon@chron.com

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