Scholastic, I Don’t Know If We Can Be BFFs

21 Feb

One of my favorite things about elementary school, besides the fact that the paste in the ’70s tasted like mint, was getting the Scholastic book order forms. I would pore over the catalog, optimistically marking a dozen books. My parents would wheedle me down to two or three favorites, and then, we would wait.

Book order day was like having Christmas in the classroom. Nothing smells quite like a new book — scented with just-dried ink and a whiff of adventure.

As a teacher, I still love the Scholastic order forms. My students can’t all afford to buy books, but every month, Scholastic catalogs offer a $1 book, and I always buy a class set so we can explore a new book together.

This month, I was especially excited to get a catalog  featuring just books on math and science.

Until I saw this:

Girls who like math are nwe

Girls who like math are nerds. Girls who twirl batons are ditzy!

“The Clueless Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Genius.”

Because, you know, the way we need to market science and math to girls is by offering not an experiment kit or a calculator, but two sparkly  “BFF” necklaces.  And the girl who is into math is a “nerd,” while the girl who twirls batons is a “ditz.” Because apparently smart girls are unattractive nerds and pretty girls are stupid.

(I did find part of the advertisement helpful, though — the warning about a choking hazard. Because I was like, totally fighting a gag reflex.)

An educational publishing powerhouse like Scholastic can do better for our girls.  Better than a catalog that only offers biographies of Einstein and the Wright Brothers. Better than the book and LEGO sets for boys “teaming up to save the world,”  while the ones for girls invite you to “adopt a pet, go camping, plan a surprise party.”

The catalog offers plenty of great books to stir interest in STEM for boys and girls. I’ll still spend way more money than I should, and I will still think “new book day,” is the best day of the month.

But Scholastic, if we’re going to be BFFs, maybe you need to read “The Clueless Publishing House’s Guide to Being a Genius,” and give girls something challenging to wrap their brains around instead of something sparkly to wrap around their necks.

“Into the Woods” Definitely A Trip Worth Taking

18 Feb
Full disclosure: we are a family of musical theater nerds, and were delighted when the Woodlawn Theatre invited us to be their guests at a showing of “Into the Woods.”
Photo credit: Siggi Ragnar

Photo credit: Siggi Ragnar

Tight musical harmonies, magical sets, and one of Stephen Sondheim’s most accessible works come to life in San Antonio’s historic Woodlawn Theatre — and they all add up to a don’t-miss local theater performance.

The story pours the traditional fairy tales of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Rising Hood and Jack in the Beanstalk into a witches cauldron, and stirs them up with a hearty shaking of social commentary and adult humor that looks at the dark side of happily ever after.

All the actors’ performances are solid, but Megan DeYoung’s turn as the Wicked Witch was truly spectacular, and had the audience laughing during her cleverly subversive rap of the “Witches Entrance,” while sighing at the emotional punch of  “Stay with Me,” and “Children Will Listen.” Trevor Chauvin hits the perfect note as Jack, and his “Giants in the Sky,” was a definite high point.

The Woodlawn Theatre itself is rich in history — John Wayne himself hosted the premiere of “The Alamo” there in 1960, and this gem of San Antonio’s Deco District is being lovingly restored bit by bit to its former glory. If you haven’t been down yet to see a show, make the trip for this one.

Into the Woods  runs this through March 16. Tickets are on sale now at or by calling the box office at 210-267-8388. Show times are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sundays 3 pm. Tickets cost $15 – $23 with discounts for students, military and SATCO members. Go on a Saturday night, and hang out in the lobby lounge afterwards for “Broadway Nights,” featuring local singers taking their turn in the spotlight. Feel brave enough, and you can bring your own sheet music and sign up for a turn at the mic.

Lee Ann

31 Jan


The first thing you should know is that she would be really mad at me for posting this picture.

She was so reticent about sharing pictures that our circle of close friends, who first met on a cooking website, had a running joke that all this time we were picturing her as a genteel blonde New Englander, she was probably really a sassy black soul-sister. I’ve known her more than a decade and I have seen exactly six pictures of her, and four of them were taken with my camera.

The second thing you should know is I will never not miss my friend Lee Ann.

In all the years I have known her, talking almost every day, she has made me laugh more times than I can count. She has prayed with me, cried with me, cussed with me, rolled her eyes with me, had my back, set me straight, listened to my stories, shared hers, given me advice, told me I didn’t need advice, asked me for help, offered me help, and gotten dinner on my table by sharing her recipes.

If you know Lee Ann from her blog, Elle’s New England Kitchen, you already know she can cook. She would do her own “Chopped” challenges, and I would have loved to see her on the show, all gentle sweetness and light and brilliance until someone crossed her. Then, she would unleash one of her completely unexpected zingers that would leave her opponent shell-shocked and everyone else rolling on the floor.

Lee Ann and I met on a cooking website when we were young moms. I went there to find out how long I needed to boil eggs. I left there with friends I know I will have for all my life.  In the years that have passed, we have been there for each other through the birth of children and the loss of them, the death of parents, new jobs, lost jobs, marriages beginning and ending. We are spread out over four countries, and if you looked at all the different life stages, personalities, political and religious beliefs you would think “no way are they friends.”

But we are, and Lee Ann was at the heart of that friendship. She had four precious children of her own, and she mothered us, too. She was the kind of friend you hope to grow up to be. When I read through our private emails and conversations with me, I realized none of them were about her. They were all about another one of our friends, someone she was worried about, hurting for, wanting to help.

With her death, I have seen this week the strength of what she has built as her friends solider up to help her family, and comfort each other. And yes, sometimes in the midst of it, we have unleashed zingers that leave everyone laughing until our sides hurt. Because above all else, Lee Ann brought joy.

She loved snow, and she gave me Sarah McLaughlan’s “Wintersong” album. As I played it yesterday, the lyrics settled in my heart like a blanket.

“This is how I see you
In the snow on Christmas morning
Love and happiness surround you
As you throw your arms up to the sky
I keep this moment by and by.”
Until we meet again, my precious friend.


29 Jan

for Elle


We had a snow day last week.

in South Texas

and of course, it did not

actually snow at all.

Just froze.

So we did, too… stopped everything.


Then, for two days, the sun came out

and it seemed winter was over.


But Tuesday, a bitter cold blew back in.

This time, I saw tiny flakes fall.

Just a whisper, then dissolving into nothing.

Like they were never there at all.

You, who loved snow, would have laughed

at our excuse for winter.

But I will never get to tell you.

And I am afraid spring will

be a long time coming.

Today for lunch…

9 Jan

First day back after break, nervous third grader reading the televised announcements for the first time told the entire school, “today for lunch the cafeteria will be serving rotten paste bake.”

I think she meant rotini pasta.

Her description did make me wonder, though — the “cheese filling” has always seemed a little gummy.

At least paste bake would stick to your ribs.

—-  rimshot —-

I haven’t eaten school cafeteria food since the New Year. My lunches have been as follows: spinach salad no dressing, tuna or chicken breast, 100-calorie almond pack. Greek yogurt with cinnamon and three dots of honey for breakfast. Banana for snack.  Eat, rinse, repeat.

I really want to end 2014 a lot lighter than I started it, but sometimes I am not so sure I can do it.

I was thinking about that as we walked into class today, and then one kid asked, “can I turn on the announcements?” Second kid, “can I pass out papers?” Third kid, “can I go fill up your water glass at the fountain?”

And I decided not to say, “no, I’ve got it.”

I said yes, yes, yes.

And I realized something this second week of January — maybe this also needs to be the year that I finally learn there is no big accomplishment in saying “no, I can do it myself.” Perhaps it also needs to be the year I give up some control over all the little things to gain it over the big things.

First week gone, 5 pounds down.




1 Jan

St. Francis

Carved into this statue at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is a prayer: “not seek to be loved but to love.”

My prayer this year, too.

Welcome, 2014.

Dancing with Hope

18 Dec

The pair of pink ballet shoes sat on the dining room table. I saw them, sighed to myself, and picked them up to return them to my daughter’s room.

Then, for the first time in 16-years, I remembered.

Off in a corner of the neonatal ICU in a Reno hospital, a the pediatric cardiologist was drawing us a picture of our daughter’s flawed heart, trying to explain the unimaginable. An hour before, we had been about to leave the hospital when a pediatrician thought she heard a little murmur, and called for an echocardiogram, just to be safe. Probably nothing, she said.

It wasn’t nothing.

The young technician doing the echo had gasped, the pediatric cardiologist came, and then, after an eternity of whispers and calls among somber doctors, he told us.

“Your daughter has a serious heart defect. Sometimes they can fix it in San Francisco, and a plane is on the way to take her there.”

Then, while the world fell apart, he tried to explain what was wrong with Madeline’s heart. He drew pictures. He talked about three surgeries she would need, about how many children survived. About how many did not.

“If she lives,” I asked, “what would her quality of life be like?”

His face shifted to a smile, the first one I had seen since our world collapsed.

“She won’t be an Olympic runner,” he said.

“But maybe she’ll take ballet.”

And just like that, the door opened to hope.

For years, the monster of hypoplastic left heart syndrome would try to slam that door shut again. Four times we would wait and pray while surgeons worked to make her heart work. But hope, bolstered by prayers and friendship and a team of medical geniuses, would fight back.

Last night, I watched Madeline dance in her ballet class open house, spinning across the floor strong and graceful. I wrote the doctor, the first to look beyond the problems and see the possible, and thanked him.

Then I went back to dancing with hope.



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