The Spider Prank

The Spider Prank

When our boys were smaller we had small several cheap remote control animals. One was an ugly spider with beady red eyes. It was a source of bad jokes, like the time it was put in their Aunt’s bed, under her comforter, when she was visiting.  The boys got a kick out of scaring her or at least trying to scare her!  Over the years, the spider was misplaced, being put in various different locations after being used to try to scare an unsuspecting visitor or family member.

It, or a spider very much like it,  made an appearance again this morning! My husband came out of the laundry room where he showers and asked, “did you put that spider in there?”

“What spider? What are you talking about?” I said in return.

“That big, black fake spider, it’s on the floor and I stepped on it! It scared me!” he replied.


Still somewhat confused, I asked, “The one the boys used to put in your sister’s bed when she came to visit?”

“Yeah, that one!” I heard him say as I went into the laundry room to take a look.


Sure enough on the floor, near the dryer, was the fake black spider with the beady red eyes! I laughed. “It must be Matt trying to prank us. He must have found it while he was packing his boxes for school. It’s kind of funny actually!”

“Well, it scared me! I just stepped on it without my glasses on and didn’t know what it was!” I chuckled and thought to myself, well, that is kind of the point, isn’t it?!

Arriving in the kitchen for a quick breakfast before heading to the YMCA, Matt appeared. “Hey – did you put that spider on the floor in the laundry room?”

Bored and sleepily he answered, “What spider, Mom?”

“Go look,” I said.

Reluctantly, he went around the corner to the laundry room to look. Next, I heard, “It wasn’t me! I didn’t put that there!”

“Oh, sorry!” I told him. “You got blamed for it! I though maybe you found it while packing and put it there to scare me!”

“Nope. It wasn’t me!” and with that he left for the Y.

My youngest came home from soccer practice. I asked him about the spider. He denied it as well, stating that it was there in the morning when he showered at 6:15. He didn’t know where it came from.

Okay. So, it wasn’t there at 10:30 last night when I went to bed. It was there this morning when my youngest showered at 6:30. Hmmm?! Well, it is a fake spider, so it didn’t walk into the laundry room on its own, I thought to myself.

I’m guessing the prank’s on me! I had a bad day yesterday and am thinking this is the way my 18-year-old and his friend were trying to make today a little brighter! Ah, you have to love a good prank! However, it is still being denied.  But, to whoever is responsible, just so you know, you did make my day much brighter than the darkness of yesterday.  Thank you!


And, now, I’ll go put the spider away, until it’s time for to play another prank!




First Jobs: What do you remember?

First Jobs: What do you remember?

What do you remember about your first job? My first job was as a sales clerk at our local JCPenney store in the early 80’s. I remember when I interviewed and was hired, the manager said, “I have just the place for you!” Waiting to hear what he said, I heard “the lingerie department!” I was a little shocked, but that is in fact where I was sent and worked for several years. We had a big, 2 story Penney’s that was an anchor store in our mall. I worked at least several Christmas Eve’s right up until close (6pm) when I had to rush off to church to meet my family there for the 7pm service. I think I preferred an opening shift rather than closing because at closing we had to empty our cash drawers, count it, put in a record of our count, and take the cloth bag of money to receiving which was upstairs.  Still, I learned a lot about inventory, mark-downs, sales, and customer service. We also had our share of kooks that would call the department to “discuss” lingerie.

My youngest just finished his third week of work at his first job. He is a stock boy at one of our local grocery stores. Last night I surprised him by showing up in the store where he worked to pick up a few items. He just happened to be the first person I ran into upon entering the store and was less than thrilled to see me! I got, “really mom, you had to come here?!” Yes, I told him. This store is the only place I can get my decaffeinated tea bags! I was amused. He was not. But, by the time I finished, I had run into him at least twice more and he was smiling by the time I left! The next time I see him “at work” won’t be so awkward!

First jobs are important.  I believe that they tone set for expectations that can influence the rest of your working life.  Obviously, one of the most anticipated benefits for young people is to be paid some money for their hours worked. This naturally leads to the application of any money management discussions that might have come before working commenced. Most of us work to pay our bills. When you are a young teen, you do not have many of those, but enough to get one started saving and making decisions on what to spend some of your hard-earned dollars on purchasing. In this day and age, most likely that is going to be smart phone bills, gas money, and paying for dates and/or entertainment. The expectation in our house is that most of the money earned will be saved.

But, there are so many more intangible benefits to holding a job. They include being told what to do by someone other than your parents, being held accountable to the expectations set forth at the place of employment, being prompt, working when scheduled, and learning to interact in a polite, socially acceptable way when customer service is the priority.

Yes, as adults, we work our whole lives. But, I  do think it is important to have a first job when you are young enough to help you form some idea of what you’d like to do (or not  do) with your life. There is incredible value in that experience. So, while we don’t expect our youngest son to work a lot once school starts in a few weeks, we do expect he will continue to work, learn to manage his money, and look towards his future, just as our other two sons have done.

What did you do for your first job? What do you most remember about the experience?

Hot Soccer in the City

Hot Soccer in the City

Sitting in 95 degree heat at the National Sports Center near the great city of St. Paul Minnesota, parents were finding creative ways to stay cool. Within minutes of sitting next to the field we were assigned, watching the game before us, the sunscreen was pulled out and slathered on any exposed skin. Next, a trip to the car was necessitated to retrieve my lightweight, white, FILA ball cap, and large, although fully school prideful, umbrella. No we were not getting rain – that would have been a relief. My accessories were needed to block the sun. Seriously, it was so hot! Over 95 degrees and humid.

Soon, we saw that one family brought two huge tents one each for the players and parents. I stayed in the sun with my umbrella and ball cap and sunglasses with a couple of other team moms that had similar accessories. It was bearable – barely – although the company was nice.

We talked about taking refuge in the air conditioning of our cars and how smart it would have been to park where we could have watched the game from inside our cool vehicles. But, the environmentalist in me put that idea to shame. So, we stayed in the hot, hot summer city sun, soaking up our soccer players moves and mistakes all the same. If we thought we were hot, they were hotter.

We had options. Our players did not. For more than an hour an a half, this team of 16 and 17 year olds played U19 soccer in blistering heat. My son admitted he didn’t have enough water – which of course was partially my fault, supplying him with only 32 ounces before the game. He drank fluids most of the day, however, so while he was hot and thirsty, he was not dehydrated.  We knew we had to rectify that today by getting a larger thermos for him, as ours is sitting in our basement at home. It is supposed to be 95 again today. Blisters formed on heels from new cleats only arrived by mail the day before our trip to this tournament.  This was not totally unexpected. But, earlier in the week, old cleats were painted by my soccer playing artist, only to have the paint wear off during Thursday morning’s practice. Thankfully, I put those cleats in the car yesterday, right before we left. As ugly as they are now, they’ll be worn today.


Currently, it is 68 degrees with thunderstorms. Have you ever been in the mid-west during a severe thunderstorm? It can be quite intense. But, the weather is slowly calming. A morning trip to a Super Target – satisfied our bandage and thermos needs and game accommodations have already been set. I’ve been glad for the late start and reprieve that has allowed us to just relax.



Sweltering Soccer,

Oppressive Heat,

Intense Rain,

Blinding Flashes of Light,

Rumbling of Thunder and also

Traffic, as it rolls past us at an

intersection. Things

familiar yet strange.



in the




A Fun Trip Memory

A Fun Trip Memory

Cinderella’s Castle, Magic Kingdom, WDW, Florida, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2010

“Who are you again?”

My three-year old asked my sister-in-law while sitting on her lap on a ferry at Walt Disney World ushering them from the Animal Kingdom to Epcot Center in the early evening. It was a mild October night and they were off to meet my husband and oldest child who were already in the Disney Park that was the designated destination that night. I was back at the hotel with our youngest – who had the croup. He was just over a year old.

Naturally, the other people on the ferry stared at my sister-in-law who was holding a child that asked who she was! Was this a case of abduction? Why didn’t this child know who he was with on the ferry?

Well, firstly, you need to realize this WAS a three-year old. Three year olds are pretty concrete and smart ones ask an awful lot of questions. Secondly, my sister-in-law lived in Buffalo, New York and met us in Florida for this trip. We live in Wisconsin.  She was (and still is) our most constant visitor, but still, weekly visits with her nephews were something that just did not happen in our family. To top it all off, our three year old had mistakenly called her “Grandma Mary” during a prior visit, and the nickname stuck – even though he had two “real” grandmas. So, Aunt Mary was often referred to, and reacted to, the Grandma Mary nickname.  Thus, some confusion ensued when he went with Aunt Mary on the ferry to meet his Dad and brother while I stayed back at the hotel.  On this trip, we had started to correct him and tell him that this was Aunt Mary not Grandma Mary. We think that what he was really asking her was, are you Grandma Mary or Aunt Mary? But, when the strangers on the ferry heard, “Who are you?” I am sure it piqued some well deserved concern and curiosity.

Upon the ferry’s arrival at dockside in Epcot, my husband was waiting and was greeted with an excited, “Daddy!” as my sister-in-law and three-year old exited the boat. Still, to this day, she can recount the relieved faces in the crowd that had over heard the concerning remark of “who are you again?” while traveling on the ferry.

This story has been a family favorite for years.

Today, it is appropriate to share as this same pair of traveller’s – my sister-in-law and former three-year old son, who is now 18 years old – are traveling together once again.  Their travels will be farther and more exciting than a mere twenty-minute ferry-boat ride as they will jet across the ocean to visit a foreign country – a place of his choosing – as her graduation gift to him.  I am sure he will not ask, “Who are you again?” but, instead be comfortable in his conversation with his beloved Aunt who has been a constant presence in his life – even if he was not quite sure what to call her when he was three!

A Stay at Home Mom’s Admission: I Might Be Looking For a Job.

A Stay at Home Mom’s Admission: I Might Be Looking For a Job.

My husband and I had a long serious conversation yesterday morning. It was a good conversation, one in which he really listened to me through my choked up sobs and crocodile sized tears. I have learned that having someone to really hear you, listen intently, and give well-considered feedback is so important. The upshot of our conversation was that he thinks I need to get a job!  You know, he’s probably right.

But, here’s the thing. I have been a stay at home mom for the last 20 years. In that time, I moved my family half way cross the country, settled in a new community where we knew no one, but built friendships with other families one by one, contributed well to that community by volunteering at the children’s museum, our local schools, and as a master gardener volunteer. I’ve kept busy by running our house, being a good friend, doing good deeds, and going back to school. I  am almost done with my second, yes second, Master’s degree.  It cannot be said that I let grass grow under my feet during these twenty years. I have always needed a lot on my plate and was good at finding things to sustain me.

Now, our lives are different. Our boys are almost grown. Yes, they still need me, but in a different way. I was used to being master of our domain, making most of the parenting decisions, helping my oldest through virtual high school, and confident that the decisions I made were good ones. Now, I am questioning it all. I don’t seem to be an authority on anything, anymore.  Just kooky mom, who likes plants, teaching kids about butterflies, and making jewelry.

You know, I could have been great at a lot of things! I could have been a great nurse, a great teacher, a great administrator, and a great author, among other things. I do have a lot of interests.  I chose to be a great mother and I am proud of that choice. My family always came first for me. And, while never, in the last twenty years, have I had any regrets over that decision, I am beginning to now. Maybe they aren’t truly regrets but I am starting to see the ramifications of my decision.  My husband said all the right things, that I did a good job with our boys (they are all great people), and our home, and with basically everything I’ve tackled over the last two decades.  That says a lot because I know some of the things I got myself involved in, he questioned – like forming a TAG parent group in our district, wanting to run for school board, and even being a substitute teacher.  I am an intense person and those activities just made me more agitated because I could see what needed to be done, but had no avenue to do it.  I can see that we still need a well-formed strategic plan in our school district to guide our future.   I can see that TAG students still need special attention and services.  I see that we are not paying our substitute teachers enough. I see that we need term limits on our school board members.  But, few see the same things or dare to change them – with the exception of one brave mother-substitute who brought the pay issue to the attention of the board of education.  So, I backed off on issues that mattered to me. They still matter, but I never made any progress; so I needed to leave the issues alone.  Instead, I chose to go back to school.  If I couldn’t make a difference for others, I could make one for myself.

I love learning and I am a great student!  I do not think I have missed a point in any of the last five classes I’ve taken.  I am not telling you that to brag, just let you see the way it is. I also know that I’ve had more time than most to really focus on learning the material. Perhaps, it’s been too much time.

But, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I will not be able to get a job with this new degree – it’s an applied Master’s degree in Environmental Education and Interpretation. I pursued the degree to give my teaching as a non-formal educator some legitimacy. So, if I wanted to publish the curriculum I’ve written (yes, something else that has kept me busy), people might buy it due to recognizing that I had specific training in the content area on which I was attempting to publish material.  But, it seems that I am over-educated at the wrong time in my life.  And, while I possess the experience many of the jobs in EE/EI need, it has all been volunteer experience.  Essentially, I gave my time and talents away for free – for years – for the last twenty years. FREE.

I know that there are activities in our community that I could be more involved in, that would get me out of some of the social isolation that comes with online or distance learning. But, I don’t want to do it for FREE anymore.  I guess I thought (erroneously) that if I did a good enough job with my volunteer activities someone would come along and offer me a job. Surely, they’d have a position for me, validating my years of work and talents. I don’t know when I realized it, but I finally woke up and realized that was delusional thinking! After all, when you give something away for free, no one turns around and offers to pay you for your time.

I tried to rectify this. I have applied for a couple of local jobs in EE/EI. One was a federal job at our local USFWS location as a Visitor Center employee. I do not think they hired a person from our area for that position. All I know is that my application never even made it to the facility itself, where it could have been noted that a local person was interested. It got stuck in the regional office a couple hundred miles away!  More recently I applied for a state consulting job, teaching other schools around Wisconsin how to use and create outdoor learning spaces and curriculum. After three weeks, I had not heard from them and had to send a follow-up email. It seems places of prospective employment do not even bother to let people know that their application was received. This is frustrating, and, as I understand it, not uncommon.  Still waiting. Maybe forever.

With all these factors combined, I seem to be experiencing an identity crisis.  Yes, I think I do need to get out of the house. Yes, there will still be time to finish my degree. Do I want to be employed in a job I have an invested interest in? Absolutely! Is that going to happen? I do not really know. But, I can tell you this. I am starting to look more seriously for some employment that will take me out of the house for a few hours every week. Would I like to teach? Absolutely. But, alas, I still have no license. And, I am so used to teaching informally, I honestly don’t know if I could deal with the restraints put on teachers by all the new effectiveness and testing standards. I am a passionate teacher and kids do learn from me – that I know. But, I also am nearing the end of my tolerance for another “system”.  I need to just get my degree and get on with life, which might just mean getting a job.

And now, it is somewhat ironic that I need to focus on writing a paper that is due later this week that will explore the use of Place-Identity Theory in Place Based Education. Finding my identity in this place – that’s what I’ve been working on for a very long time. The paper should be easy. The determination of identity? Not that much.




Day Off From School? Go Buy Books!

Day Off From School? Go Buy Books!

Last Friday we did not have school in our district. It wasn’t even a staff development day, just a planned day off for everyone, including staff. The month of January was a little weird with both of my high schooler’s missing days of school for the flu. So, having them home for another day was not something to which I was looking forward. But, my youngest surprised me by asking if we could go to the bookstore. Sure, was my too quick response! He is a very able but unfortunately somewhat unmotivated reader, so I was pleased to hear him ask to go to purchase a book. Our high school works on a block schedule. He did not have ILA in the fall semester, so he has his English class now. Apparently, the book he chose for independent reading was not holding his attention, and he wanted to find another.  Apparently, there is a project associated with the independent reading book that he felt would not be well suited by the one he chose.

So, by 10 a.m. on Friday we were at our local Barnes and Noble store. I was so excited  that I told him I would buy his book for him and even a second one if he wanted to get two. But, you know, book stores can be somewhat overwhelming. I know I often have a hard time getting exactly what I want. So I was not surprised when he found me after a few minutes and said that he hadn’t found anything yet. I was getting my requisite caffeine for the morning, so I told him to keep looking and I would help him look as soon as I had java in hand. Part of the problem, or so he told me, was that the bookstore had re-organized recently and where he usually found “his” books turned out not to be the “place” anymore.

I had trouble finding him after I got my coffee and must have looked like I needed help because a young book store employee asked me if I needed help. I quickly explained that it was not I that needed help, but my son was looking for a book for a school project. She suggested a couple of books. But, unfortunately she tried to sell me both on by telling me that either a movie was being made or a television show already existed based on the book. Not really what I wanted to hear. I found my son in the “Teen” stacks where he was still looking. The books suggested by the bookstore employee were both rejected (much to my relief) by my son.

We left with a book he chose called The Prey. He read it over the weekend, finishing it yesterday, two days before it needed to be completed for the class assignment.  But, I had an itch for more books. Before we went to the bookstore, I had visited the Barnes and Noble website and saw an advertised sale – Buy 3 specially designated books for teens for $30.00. Wait! What? Wow!  Well, I bought six, and one I had wanted to purchase as well. (You can tell which one it is by the extra cost – a whopping twenty-three cents!) Now, our at home shelves, which I recently cleaned out, are restocked with some newer, hopefully more inviting, titles!

The sale goes through March 2nd. I would recommend you visit! I laughed at myself as we left the bookstore last Friday because I actually said out loud – “I love books.” And, I do. I think you can tell! Oh, and what is my hubby getting for Valentines Day? Shhhhh, don’t tell him but it’s a book!

Item Qty Price
Invictus 1 $10.00
Overturned 1 $10.00
Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Mayb 1 $10.23
Runebinder (The Runebinder Chronicles Series #1) 1 $10.00
Item Qty Price
Shatter Me (Shatter Me Series #1) 1 $10.00
We Were Liars Deluxe Edition 1 $10.00
Otherworld (Otherworld Series #1) 1 $10.00

This post was inspired by the wonderful educators I am able to connect with through the blog forum, Slice of Life Tuesday.

Thank you for stopping by.

The Gift That I Needed

The Gift That I Needed

Yesterday, I was doing some work for school, and the phone rang. The caller id said, “Janesville”.  There is not anyone in Janesville that we know, so it was probably a solicitation, but I picked it up anyway.  I have been getting better at saying no, no thank  you, to solicitors, but am also guilty of just letting the call go to voice mail. But, for some reason I answered.

The voice was familiar, “Mom, Mom, is that you? I am calling from Building Wealth. I forgot my phone at home today, so I am using Sully’s. I just need to read you something I wrote for an assignment.” His voice was deep and gravely, cracking as his spoke in a slightly rushed cadence.  Sully was the nickname for his teacher.  Matt really liked him and seemed to be getting a great deal out of this class called Building Wealth.

“Matthew?” I replied.  “You scared me! I wondered what you were doing in Janesville, because that is what the caller id said.”

“No, mom. I am at school. Like I said, I am using Sully’s phone since I forgot mine at home today.  We had an assignment where we had to pick someone who has influenced our life the most, and write about it. I picked you and dad.” Again, his voice cracked. He was very emotional. “Now, I am supposed to read you what I wrote.”

“Uh, okay. Is your whole class doing this right now?” I asked him.

“Yes”, Matt replied. “We are all on phones talking to the people we wrote about. “We are all emotional. It was kind of the point of the assignment.”

So, for the next several minutes – at least five – I just listened as my son, a senior in high school, read his passage to me through tears, with a cracking voice. He thanked us. He told us how he appreciated what we have been able to give him through our hard work. He told me how he knew I had sacrificed a career to stay home.  He hoped he could do as good a job as we have done when “his turn came.”  He had learned from us. He loves us. He was grateful to have us as parents.  I was speechless, and just listened, soaking in each word, and every sentence, as silent tears of joy and gratitude streamed down my face, leaving wet dots splashed on the couch.

By the end, we were both blubbering fools.  What a gift we just received!  It was exactly what I needed to hear, at exactly the right time. For we all know parenting, at times, is very difficult. Recently, it had been one of those times for me.

Later, he told us that the Building Wealth course, has not really been about getting rich, like all the students thought when they signed up for it.  It is about finding what makes you happy, about gratitude, about living with tolerance and not making assumptions about others. It has been about values, and belief systems, and a self-examination for each student about what makes them tick. It is about making choices, preparing for college and/or the work force through things such as mock job interviews. It has been one of the best courses my son has taken in high school. And, it is not only because he likes the teacher; it is because it is filled with critical thinking, and thinking about intangibles – not just content. The course is applicable for all students and helps them to apply what they have learned, both at school and at home, to their future selves. It is a course about thinking. Thinking about life.

Yesterday, I got the best present a parent could ask for – words of love, gratitude, and respect from one of our children.  Yes, we are wealthy, indeed! We all know parenting is hard. This validation, especially coming from a teen, has warmed my heart in ways he will not understand for many years. But, I am deeply grateful to him and to this class for helping students to focus on long-term, healthy habits of adulthood.