Saturday, February 28, 2009

column and article

I have two pieces in today's Patriot Ledger:

Here's my Just a Minute column, about my recent road trip with the kids.

And here's my article on Tommy MacDonald, a local furniture-maker who is exhibiting at the New England Home Show this weekend.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Abby's essay

Abby brought home a writing assignment the other day. I love this because it not only shows her ability to use her imagination, but also highlights the things she likes, including some things that were surprises to me.

Here it is.
If I Had a Million Dollars
by Abby Fay
If I had a million dollars, I would buy an oven for making delicious treats. I would make chocolate and M & M cookies. I would also buy pink curtains so that my room will look nice. I would also buy clothes for my family, and new earrings for my mom because she is nice. I would also go to Disney World so that I could go on rides that spin around very fast. I would buy pink high tops because I think they look really pretty. I would buy a Snow White princess bed for beauty sleep. It will have sparkles. If I had one million dollars, I would love to get all of these new things.

I wonder what I would do with a million dollars. Of course, a million isn't what it used to be, but it could come in handy for paying off the mortgage, adding to the kids' college funds, and saving toward retirement.
I like Abby's thoughts, though. Of course, we have an oven (and bake treats) and she has curtains in her room, but I think the difference would be that they would be hers. Her ideas, her purchases. Her dreams coming true.
I honestly don't know what she'd do with a princess bed for beauty sleep, however. I don't think she could be more beautiful, no matter how much she slept.

Mommy's little dreamer

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Earl is in Florida on business this week. He left on Monday morning, and will return late Friday night.

So far it's not been too bad. The kids have risen to the occasion and have been very good. There's nothing to complain about, even though I worried about my little taste of single parenthood this week. It's busy, but not the disaster (so far) that I had feared.

But I miss my husband. For a day or two, it's nice to have some space. Time and room to think; undisturbed sleep; sole control over the remote (if I ever watched TV.) But it's getting old, now, and I just want him to come home. I'm lonely, once the kids go to bed, and all the cliches about the big, empty bed are true. Yes, it's nice to spread out, but the bed doesn't fit one like it fits two.

It's just tonight, and tomorrow night, and then, God willing, he'll be home. And I can go back to getting aggravated when he wakes me up to ask what time it is. I can growl when he leaves dishes in the sink, and shake my head at his stubborn refusal to do everything my way.

I've been doing things my way for two days, and it's been fine. But it would be better to have him home.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Old friends

Old friends are the best. I've been catching up with several of them on Facebook, of course, but also had a chance to see a couple this week in Rochester, my hometown. What a joy to reconnect with people from a shared history, and to discover that they were the same as ever, and better.

My heart is full, but my writing words are few right now. I will just say that it's been a very good visit this week. Back to Boston tomorrow, assuming the weather cooperates.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Choppy waters

We've had relatively smooth sailing with Abby for some time, but ran into rough seas last week. On Thursday, she was making inappropriate noises in school, and had to be reminded to be a good listener during a group lesson.

This may not sound like a big deal -- almost every kid has to be reminded to pay attention now and again -- but it set Abby off into sobbing and saying that she was a bad listener. She was so upset she had to be excused from class to go see M., her wonderful in-school ABA support person.

M. was able to help her calm down and put things into perspective, using social stories and other ways she helps Abby get control of her emotions. The rest of the day, according to her teachers, was fine. Friday went well, too, including a celebration of Abby's half-birthday in school. She asked me to come into her classroom to be a guest reader, which was my pleasure to do. (Incidentally, she and her little friend T. held hands the entire time I was reading her favorite story, Pumpkin Soup.)

The past few days have been pretty rough, though: Abby has voiced self-deprecating and self-destructive thoughts on more than one occasion. These have ranged from Abby saying that she was going to put herself in the recycling, to her threatening to go deep into the woods, where no one would ever find her, and drown herself.

Where does a 7-year-old get these thoughts? Why does my sweet baby girl say such things? My blood washes cold over my broken heart.

Alarmed, we reached out to her developmental pediatrician, her therapist and her team at school. After emails, phone conversations, a long session for Abby on Tuesday with her therapist and a team meeting this morning, we now have a plan in place to address this self-directed negativity and, hopefully, help Abby change her thought patterns before they spiral out of control.

Never in my life did I envision my second-grader in need of such intensive emotional assistance. Every day I pray for wisdom to help her navigate these treacherous waters, but lately the GPS is down and the clouds cover the stars. The best we can do is aim for the right course, and hope.

T.T. a lotta T.

Things Take Time. I get it. But they're taking a whole lot more time than I like.

I lost about 1/2 pound this week. This is progress. It's better than gaining. It's better than staying at the same weight. I'm moving in the right direction. (Like the T: "We are moving, but we are moving with delay." Do those announcements ever get played on the Red Line any more?)

I really didn't try all that hard last weekend, truth be told. I don't remember too much about the specifics, but I know I didn't stick to my low-fat diet very well. I've been on the straight and narrow since Monday, however, so 1/2 pound is actually pretty good.

Despite the scale's slow progress, I do feel more compact. I have been faithful to my workouts, and it's starting to show in how I look and feel.

There's not much else to report regarding my other T.T.T. resolutions, other than the launch of my Facebook writer page. There have been many other family and work issues to deal with this week, but that will have to be another blog post.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I'm on Keith Lockhart's web page!

This has been up for some time, apparently, but it's still pretty cool to have my review of a Holiday Pops concert on Keith Lockhart's web page.

Calling all fans

For those readers of this blog who are Facebook users and feel so inclined, you can now officially become a fan of my writing. I'll be posting my columns to that page as they are published.

It's a delicate line to walk between encouraging a buzz and excessive self-promotion; between reaching out to readers and self-aggrandization. I hope regular readers can understand that my Facebook writer page is simply another tool my disposal to take my writing to the next level. As always, thank you for your your interest and support.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Date night

Earl and I went out to dinner yesterday. We usually try to go out every other weekend, but wanted to avoid going out next Saturday (Valentine's Day). This time, we actually thought ahead and made reservations at Legal Seafoods at South Shore Plaza.

I generally hate South Shore Plaza, but Legal's is the exception to the rule. Our table was ready right on time and I barely needed to look at the menu, since the crab cakes had been calling my name all day.

Dinner was wonderful, and our water was refreshing. We noticed the price increase on the wine list, and decided we'd rather have an appetizer (Thai-style calamari) enjoy a glass at home after the fact.

How wonderful it was to be able to eat a meal while it was still hot, and to actually sit the whole time. No kids asking for more milk, or dropping their forks, or needing a washcloth. Just grown-up conversation, which we took for granted before children but have to make an effort for now.

We stopped at Barnes & Noble, where I exercised restraint for myself (with difficulty) and just picked up a birthday present for one of Brian's friends, whose party he is attending today. Earl found his coveted Peterson's Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America. We have an abundance of birds at our feeder this year, and Earl is getting all orinthological on me. I recognize the cardinals and the chickadees, and am happy with that, but he needs to know more.

We came home, poured ourselves a glass of Trader Joe's three-buck chuck chardonnay (we figure it's about $.75/glass) and toasted our night out. A good date, all around.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Earl's letter to the Massachusetts School Building Authority

Below is the text of the letter Earl sent to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The Milton School Committee has approached the School Building Authority about closing an elementary school, given that Milton received 90% financial reimbursement from the state when it rebuilt all six of its public schools a few years ago.

Katherine P. Craven
Executive Director, Massachusetts School Building Authority
40 Broad Street, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02109

February 4, 2009

Dear Ms. Craven:

Recently, the Milton Public Schools Superintendent and the Milton School Committee delivered a letter to you seeking permission to close one of Milton’s Public Elementary Schools. It is the position of MPS that closing an elementary school would be required if additional funds were not made available through successful passage of a Town override. It has been disclosed that either the Tucker School or Cunningham School would be closed.

During a public budget presentation on January 14, 2009, a question was raised regarding the cost savings of closing the Cunningham School. The School Committee has posted questions and answers on its website. I would like to quote the response:

Q. If Cunningham were to close, you still have the energy cost of operating that
building. What is being saved?
A. Partial savings based upon decreasing ventilation in unused portions of the building. If
we were to close an elementary school whether it is Cunningham or Tucker, we are
considering the option of moving pre-school classes into that building. It is important to
note that the “school closing” is considered more of an administrative closure than a
physical closure. We would be changing the use of a building.

MPS has disclosed a limited amount of information to the public regarding the choice of closing the Tucker School or the Cunningham School. The answer above however, clearly indicates that there would a very limited difference in cost savings by closing one school verses the other. Given the minimal budgetary savings between the two choices, one must give greater weight to the educational and social implications of closing a school.

The Tucker School has a disproportionate number of minority, low income, and students with Limited English Proficiency, or LEP. The Massachusetts Department of Education tracks the student population of these at-risk sub-groups in order to measure MCAS performance. Consider the following from 2008:

Fourth Grade, Tucker: 52% African American/Black, 38% low income, 20% LEP.

Fourth Grade, Cunningham: 12% African American/Black, 6% low income, zero LEP students.

Third Grade, Tucker: 55% African American/Black, 29% low income, 7% LEP.

Third Grade, Cunningham: 13% African American/Black, 12% low income, 1.5% LEP.

Tucker has the largest population of students of color, low-income families, single moms, and families whose primary language is not English. Tucker has many important programs designed to target minority performance. It is a public obligation to support at-risk students. Extensive educational research proves that if we disburse these students to other schools, academic performance will suffer.

Many Tucker families walk their children to the before-school and home from the after-school programs at Tucker. The neighborhood around Tucker has the largest number of families who rely on public transportation. Milton might bus these students to Cunningham, but how will these families drop off and pick up their children from before-school and after-school programs? Closing Tucker puts an undue burden on Milton’s economically struggling families.

The enormity of the social impact of closing Tucker, a Title One School, must be given careful consideration. Furthermore, detailed information must be disclosed as to why the Glover or Collicott Elementary Schools are not being actively considered for closure.

A final note of concern involves the transparency of the school closure debate. Generally, the Finance Sub-Committee of the School Committee holds public discussion, but few details have been provided. I am also gravely concerned that there has been no disclosure regarding the specific contents of the letter that has been sent to you. As such, I respectfully request that your office hold public hearings regarding the School Committee’s proposed plans.

I appreciate your careful consideration of these concerns.

Very truly yours,

Earl W. Fay

Cc: Mr. Timothy Cahill, State Treasurer and MSBA Chairperson
Mr. Brian A. Joyce, Massachusetts State Senator
Mr. Angelo Scaccia, Massachusetts State Representative
Ms. Linda Dorcena Forry, Massachusetts State Representative
Mr. Beirne Lovely, Chair, Milton School Committee
Ms. Mary Gormley, MPS Superintendent of Schools

Earl's letter to the Milton Times

Seems like I'm getting more and more political these days, but this isn't about national politics. Here is Earl's letter that he sent to the Milton Times regarding the town's budget crisis and the School Committee's consideration of the possibility of closing an elementary school in town.

Close Tucker School or close Cunningham School. Without an override, that’s what the School Committee will do.

My special needs daughter was in Milton’s pre-school, attended kindergarten at the Glover School, and then was moved to Tucker where she has been a student for two years. For several years, I’ve studied the academic, social, and legal aspects of special education. I know directly and through extensive conversation with parents from various schools in Milton and other communities, that Tucker School exemplifies the way in which a public school should run special education. Tucker has the creativity to maximize special education student inclusion, create effective Sped programs with minimal resources, and fully encourage and respect parental involvement.

Tucker has the largest population of students of color, low-income families, single moms, and families whose primary language is not English . Tucker has many important programs designed to target minority performance. It is our obligation to support at-risk students. Extensive educational research proves that if we disburse these students to other schools, academic performance will suffer.

Many Tucker families walk their children to the before-school and home from the after-school programs at Tucker. The neighborhood around Tucker has the largest number of families who rely on public transportation. Milton might bus these students to Cunningham, but how will these families drop off and pick up their children from before-school and after-school programs? Closing Tucker puts an undue burden on Milton’s economically struggling families.

The Tucker School is a beacon of hope and educational opportunity for those who need it most. Close Tucker, and the burden of single mothers will increase, minorities will be pushed aside, low income families will be passed over, and the best environment to support special needs programs will be dismantled.

Shutter Tucker School? Is this the Town of Milton? Conscience must prevail.

Earl W. Fay

Earl's opinion piece

Earl's opinion piece on our town's budget crisis and what it could mean for the schools ran in this weekend's Patriot Ledger.

He's also written to the School Committee, the Milton Times (which published it last week) and the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which the school committee had contacted regarding the possibility of closing a school.

It's a good piece. Check it out.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


It's time for my T.T.T. update, and I'm very happy to report that I lost nearly 2 pounds this past week (1.8, actually.) I did try much harder this week. Here were some things I did:
  • Let Jillian Michaels kick my you-know-what with some tough workouts
  • Kicked my own you-know-what at the gym
  • Made a pan of brownies for the kids last Friday and did not eat a single one. They lasted until yesterday, a brownie-longevity record in my house
  • Brushed my teeth when the kids were having bedtime snacks so I wouldn't be tempted to have one, too
  • Cut my fat intake a lot. It was suggested to me that I cut carbs, but I'd almost rather cut off my arm, so I'm going back to the tried and true. Hopefully it will continue to work.

Some things I wished I had done differently:

  • Had smaller portions at dinnertime
  • Had less wine last weekend. Well, no, I don't wish that, because I really like my weekend glass of wine with dinner. But it would have saved some calories.

I guess that's it. I was trying pretty hard without feeling totally deprived, and I really, really hope that continues to do the trick.

Writing-wise, I've already blogged about the contact with the managing editor of Messenger-Post News, and I also landed a feature assignment for a local lifestyle magazine. So things are moving along nicely in that department.

The great thing about writing stuff picking up is that I have more work to do. The other thing about it is that I actually have to do that work. So off I go.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Doing the happy dance

I received an email from the managing editor of Messenger-Post News, a Rochester, N.Y.-area company affiliated with GateHouse Media, the parent company of the Patriot Ledger. He wrote that he had downloaded my latest column to publish in one of the dailies, and that he enjoyed it.

I wrote back, thanking him and telling him that I was thrilled that he was going to publish it. I mentioned that I grew up reading the Greece Post every week, which is a Messenger-Post paper (although I think it was an independent paper back then.) We wrote back and forth a few times, and the end result is that he's going to keep an eye out for future columns and try to put them in the Greece paper, at least.

I think the only times I made it into the Greece Post when I lived in Greece were for the Delphi time capsule story in 1981, various honor roll citations in high school, and my engagement announcement. So this is extra-exciting for me now. Maybe I'll even get to see a hard copy when I visit my mom later this month.

Cue the Vince Guaraldi music (make sure your speakers are on.)

Sunday, February 1, 2009