Archive for September, 2007

New Orleans Trip pt. 1


Gerise and I set out for New Orleans today with a vanload of stuff, and made it as far as Winona, Mississippi.   We left tons of textbooks back at our office to be shipped down later.  The response for the New Orleans schools was awesome.  We've so far gotten over 25 boxes of supplies and well over 1,000 textbooks.  We're bringing all the supplies and samples of all of the textbooks and some sets, but the van is lowriding and terrifying to drive already.  It's a full-size conversion van and it's sort of like driving a really heavy sail.  I was white-knuckling it the whole way, when we stopped for a bathroom break I realized my whole body was completely tensed up…

We should be in New Orleans by lunchtime tomorrow!  Can't wait for some good food after the fast food we ate today…  I ate my way through New Orleans last time I was there, and Luke told me he has since found even better places to eat.  I find that incredibly hard to believe, but am willing to test that theory. 

Good news


So, I totally can't believe how generous everyone has been, and due to the huge numbers of donated stuff and commitments to donate stuff, I will be driving a van down to New Orleans full of books, school supplies, etc. with a friend on September 30th.  Hopefully the kids will have the materials by that Monday or Tuesday!  What an amazing group of people I know, I am truly moved by how quickly everyone stepped up to help.

Special thanks and recognition to Dillon & Rose's school, Maryland Avenue Montessori for donating so many books I haven't been able to pick them all up yet because I need to find additional boxes.  And to Mary Ann for mobilizing the entire Milwaukee District Attorney's office to help.  And to Joyce and her friend for getting the County's Bureau of Child Welfare involved in getting supplies together!  My boss/friend Gerise has also gotten permission from our board of directors to send a request to all of our members…

I will be trying to collect everything to take down in one trip, so if you've gotten me your stuff already, thank you!  And if you have items for me to take, please let me know.

Here's hoping we can fill that van!


Please help if you can


Most of you may know that my brother Luke went down to New Orleans to teach.   He wound up at Booker T. Washington School, which is a school for kids who have failed 8th grade twice.  Some of the youth in his school are as old as 18-21.  I am sure you can appreciate that this sounds like a difficult situation, however please consider the following additional hardships:

1.  None of the teachers or administrators have been paid yet this year.  My brother still hasn't been paid for the three months of summer school he taught.
2.  The school does not have a phone, a computer, books, or other basic supplies.
3.  So aside from not being paid, the teachers also have to come out of pocket just to have something to teach.  Teachers are literally bringing their own books to the classrooms, or photocopying pages at Kinkos (as the school has a copy machine but no paper or money to purchase it.)

So here's how you can help.  If you have old kids' books, things from a 2nd to an 8th grade reading level, if you have extra notebooks, pens, pencils, just basic school supplies, and you are willing to help Luke help these kids, he sure could use the help.

If you don't have this stuff around but would want to buy something to help, a classroom set of a book would be 10-12 copies.  You could have or eBay or Office Depot or whatever ship it directly to my brother.  (Email me or call me for his address.)

If you have stuff around and want to group it together to ship it, that's cool too, I can collect things and put packages together.  We'll send a package out every Saturday (as long as we have something to send).  You can drop stuff off at my house, or at my mom's.  Or email me and I can pick stuff up from you.

I am especially cc:ing my friends who are teachers, as maybe you might have an 'in' on where to get good discounted books or classroom sets or whatever.  I know that not everyone has tons of money to put into this sort of thing, and I know that a lot of the schools in our community are lacking some very basic needs, but it absolutely breaks my heart that here in America, we have schools with no books, no paper, no pens, and these are some of the youth who are most in need of tools to help them succeed.

I hope we can do something to help.  Please feel free to pass along.  Thanks in advance for anything you can do.


Mall Rats


So, yesterday after I pick everyone up from school we run into my sister Kate, who is read/walking down Port Washington Road on her way to the library.  I swerve into the driveway in front of her, honk the horn, and she looks up from her book.  It just so happens we are on our way to the library as well to see if my requested book has arrived, so we drive her to pick up her check.  And it is serendipitous, because our next stop was Bayshore Mall, where we need to pick up Dillon's white tux for Marcus & Nikki's wedding tomorrow, and that was also Kate's next stop. 

So the kids and I start out with Kate at H&M, but that was severely testing my 'compacting' (see previous blog post ) ability, and the kids' patience, though they were being pretty good- Dillon just kept trying to make Kate purchase trendy short skirts and minidresses which weren't exactly her style.  Then they made faces into a mirror for ten minutes.  But when their attention turned to the escalator, I decided we'd better proceed to the tux shop, and made plans to meet up with Kate later.

Dillon looks awesome in his tux.  It's white, with a cappuccino vest and tie.  He LOVES it…  One of this kid's favorite things to do is dress up.   So he was strutting around despite not having the shiny white patent leather shoes (I tried to cram the size 11 on his feet until I realized that it was a losing battle and we had received shoes that were three sizes too small…)  But we finished much more quickly than I anticipated, despite having to re-order the shoes to arrive today, and went across the street to wait for Kate near the fountain.  

Let me explain to you about this fountain .  It is fantastic, one of those intermittent-water-shooting things that are really fun, and Bayshore has encouraged kids to play in it.  Every time we walk by there is a gaggle of little kids playing in it.  And all summer, (we made 4-5 trips to the eyeglass store, to get pictures developed, to eat, etc.) I have promised my kids that someday I would allow them to play in it.  But yesterday I truly wasn't prepared for this in any way, I had my wallet, phone, and some bubble gum given to the kids by a mall security guard.  And a formalwear bag.  

But I wanted to be super-cool, laid-back, impromptu mommy.   And so I told my kids they could take off their shoes and socks and get their feet and hands wet.  At this time please note that Charles dressed them yesterday morning, and he tends to dress them quite inappropriately and warmly for the weather, so despite the 85-degree temperature, they were both wearing jeans.  

The rest of the kids in the area are in swimsuits, but I don't care…  I am super-cool and not uptight like these other moms!  And then I realize that it takes my kids all of about thirty seconds to get completely drenched.  You see, the water lulls you into a false sense of security, staying really low to the ground so you can hop over it, then shoots out like a cannon five feet into the air.  There is really nothing funnier than seeing a little kid look into the holes where the water comes out and then catch a blast full in the kisser.  My kids repeated this mistake several times despite the fact that they both complain if you get water on their foreheads while you rinse their hair in the bathtub.  And none of the other kids seem to mind when this happens, you see them sort of step to the side and then shake it off like a puppy, and hop right back in again.

It takes me about twenty-five minutes to realize that I have absolutely no exit strategy here.  Shortly afterward, Charles and Kate show up, as the plan had been to eat dinner at one of the mall restaurants.  Charles still needed to pick up his tux, so he headed over there and Kate watched the kids while I ran home for some dry clothes.  By the time I got back about fifteen minutes later, the temperature had dropped a bit and my kids were sort of blue and shivery.   We changed them in the van and got some dinner, and Dillon asked to get back in the fountain after we'd left the restaurant.  (I didn't let him this time.)

When we got home there was a package of a lot of used kids' books I had bought for Dillon on eBay.  It occurred to me the other day that he's reading these "Magic School Bus Chapter Books," "Bailey School Kids," "A to Z Mysteries," etc. at an enormous rate.  We check them out of the library in great piles, but he needs to bring a book to school every day for "silent reading time" and I don't want to send library books to school.  (I still seem to be missing "The Littles and the Big Storm" on my library card from this summer!)  So I checked eBay and I bought 30 of these titles he loves for less than $1 each…  That should keep him busy for a month, if I can also get him library books…  

So after he got his pajamas on, I showed D the great stack of books and he was totally overjoyed.  He said it was the best present ever, except for if I had gotten him another Lego computer game.   Apparently he told everyone in his class that his two favorite things to do were reading and 'screen time."  And as my grandmother would say, he didn't get that from the stones in the street.