Thursday, September 19, 2013

Savor

I've been getting to work long before dawn.  Yesterday, having arrived in the dark of night two hours or more before the kids would come in, I was surprised at their shouts and giggles about seeing a double rainbow.  In my little corner classroom, my nose to the grindstone, I hadn't even realized it had rained.  And I had missed the rainbow.  A double.

I rush home after school to my amazing family.  I want to sit for hours on the deck, knowing our remaining nights out there are few in number, but grad work demands my attention, and so I reluctantly go inside, forsake further conversation and read outdated materials about issues still unresolved in our schools.  

I head to bed far too early, but sleep and I haven't been getting along, so I will be awake far too soon.  My husband is asleep, but he wakes and listens to me vent about the nonsense that compiles my every day right now.  I talk too long, I keep him up too late.  I solve nothing.

This morning I wake too soon, but I linger.  I offer Flash a ride not just to the bus stop, but all the way to school.  He thinks it's just because it is on my way, but truth is, he will be gone so soon.  I need these moments.

I stop at the coffee shop, for our favorite fall treat, and buy mom sister a hot caramel apple cider.  Her days have been like mine lately, she could use a smile.  I stop to drop it off, give her a hug, share a laugh and pull out of her drive.  The most beautiful sunrise awaits me at the end of her drive.  I pause and watch for a moment.  Around the corner, the view is idyllic-cattle in the field, barns in the background, the sun painting the sky.  I pull my car over and savor.  

A favorite song plays on the radio as I drive the few remaining blocks to school.  "Waited all summer for the time to be right just to take you along..."  As I pull in to the parking lot, the sky still hazy and sleepy-eyed, rain starts to fall on my windshield.  I get out and let the sprinkles fall on my face, searching the sky for a rainbow.

I didn't find one today, but I know it was somewhere.  And just knowing that I was present in the same moment, slowing down to savor the morning, it is enough.

It is more than enough. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mechanics: Just Out to Screw Ya

My car had to get worked on today.  Brakes.  Ugh. I had to get a loner car to take to work and I couldn't figure out how to unlock the doors, or how to set cruise control in the dark.  The worst part is always the bill.  Their is no such thing as a car repair bill under $250.  I dropped the loaner off and some kid was pulling in with my car, having taken it for a test drive to check out the new brakes, I guess.

"Well?" I asked.

"They are amazing!" replied Flash, getting out of my car.  

"I hope so.  You came in the drive a little hot, and I was worried about the garage remaining intact."

"Oh please.  The Mister did an awesome job on the brakes, Mom.  You should have seen the pads he took off.  You definitely needed new ones!"

"Another amazing thing about being married, Flash.  The Mister is sure helpful, isn't he?"

"Hey, Mom, did you get to school okay in the Jeep?  Did you figure out the cruise control?"

"Finally, yes.  I knew where it was located, just took me awhile to figure out if I pushed the lever up to set, or down, or pushed the button, or what.  I got it now."

"Good, cause the door locks sure had you confused at the bus stop."

"Yeah, I know.  Some day I will have the Jeep all figured out.  I better go in and thank The Mister."

New brakes.  By The Mister.  For $35 and an hour of his time.  Seems like a great deal, but why do I always get screwed by the mechanic?!?  (That is so funny in my head, I had to put it.  But I know my dad reads this.  Sorry, Dad!) 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Why it is So Frustrating

Beyond the thousands and thousands of dollars that I am spending for a grad degree I do not want but have to get to keep my teaching certificate, my frustration grows with every assignment I complete.   As I learn more and more about how to manage people, lead meetings, involve my staff, develop collaborative spirits and foster effective communication, teaching and learning, my professors demonstrate less and less of these traits.  

My latest assignment is a great example.  I have spent much of this past week, reading the articles, sorting through ideas, planning a presentation.  Mind you, my presentation was required to be a PowerPoint emailed to my professor, there is no actual "presenting" going on.  But even the idea that I could creat the plan she desired, demonstrate it in PowerPoint and never have real or imagined input from the staff I am leading goes against all we are supposedly demonstrating we've learned.  So I stress.  

I spend much of The Mister's birthday and several hours today putting the final product together.  I mumble the whole time because I don't know how to demonstrate my learning in a medium that directly contradicts my learning.  But, I finally cry, "Uncle!" and turn it in.  I remark to The Mister that despite my streak of perfect scores, this one is going to bomb. 

Within a couple hours, my professor has emailed me back.  I needn't worry, apparently.  Her comment was, "What a great job! From the cool blue background and the great and unusual font to quotes that really said what you wanted, you set a tone that would be great for the rest of the year!"

So, nothing about the communication plan I laid out?  Nothing about the steps necessary for building a collaborative team spirit?  Nothing about whether I was on track or not with my role as facilitator?  Nope.  Cool background.  Unusual font.  Great.  

While it would seem another A will be in store for me for this class (and next, I have the same professor again) I wish these people would just let me write them a check and give me a degree.  Clearly all it takes to be a good principal is to use outdated presentation tools with basic templates that come with the program and infuse your presentation with quotes about communication and conflict that you got from a Google search.  The rest?  Unnecessary.  

So Happy Together


Year 12


I still remember the K for Kindergarten.  I cannot believe how fast the years go!
Happy Senior Year, Flash!!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Happy Birthday to The Mister!!

  The Mister was pretty excited today to open his new Keurig! 

He filled it with water, chose his first flavor carefully,

...wait for it...wait for it...

I think I heard a chuckle of delight when it started to brew...
...from The Mister, and Flash (who was next in line!)

Ahhh!  Now that's a cup o' joe!

In honor of the day, we have ribs on tap for dinner and we'll enjoy the Tigers game from the comfort of our couch, but any day with the Mister is reason to celebrate.
I'm so glad you are in my life!!
Happy Birthday, Chief!

Just Call Me Murphy

The first few weeks months of school are a bit stressful for me.  Having The Mister around has been a true Godsend.  He has figured out dinner every night;  he has taken over paying the bills and he has done everything conceivable to ease my load.  While it has been truly wonderful to stay in the same classroom and teach the same grade this year, new curriculum in several content areas and adding graduate school classwork on top of my regular classroom responsibilities, I'm pretty useless at home.  In a nutshell, my brain is complete mush. 

Flash and I headed out the other morning with full intentions to drop him at his bus stop (now located nearly a mile from home) and for me to get to school even earlier than usual.  I headed out to the car a few moments before he did, hit the button to raise the garage door and was greeted with a screech and a clang.  The door had opened about six inches and stopped in a rather caty-whampus manner.  I hit the button again, allowing it to go back down, and then hit it again to go up, while providing meager assistance in the lifting, thinking it was just chillier than normal and the door was being stubborn.  No such luck.  I set my keys, phone and iPad on top of the car and tried again with more effort on my part.  No dice.

By this time, Flash had emerged and immediately realized the predicament.  The stubborn garage door was not unusual for us; The Mister had temporarily fixed it several months ago, addressing this same issue.  But now, just three hours after The Mister had successfully opened this same door and extracted his Jeep, we were stuck inside with a door that no longer seemed to be in the mood to cooperate.

Flash and I both tried several options.  We tried the red handle to disconnect the opener and allow us manual operation of the door, but to no avail.  So, we banged on this part, we shoved that part, we hoisted and pulled and pushed and negotiated, but it was clear, the door was not going up.  While I texted The Mister, looking for suggestions, Flash, with some difficulty, disconnected the opener from the door, hopefully allowing us to get the door up. 

Knowing our window of opportunity to get the car out might be extremely limited, I reminded Flash before we even began lifting the door, that if we got it up, he needed to KEEP IT UP until I got the car out.  With greasy hands, high blood pressure, worries about being late to school and a staff meeting, we both hoisted the door with all our might and it went up.  Flash vigilantly held the door while I ran to the car and backed it into the drive way.  Within minutes we were on our way to school. 

Heading straight to his school now, as the bus had long since gone, we were just turning the corner from our house when I heard something off the back of the car.  Realizing something must have fallen off the vehicle, I stopped the car and Flash jumped out with his flashlight app and looked in the road behind us.  Still black as night outside, he came back finding nothing.  We sat for a moment on the deserted road, conducting a quick inventory of our belongings.  Cell phone? Check.  Obviously we have the keys.  He clearly had his phone.  No clue what it was.  Maybe we had set the hammer or one of the pieces from the door on the car?  No clue, but we weren't too concerned any more.  I had just put the car back into drive when my mush-filled brain realized the catastrophe at hand.  THE IPAD!!  The school-issued iPad to be precise.  Flash leapt out of the car and ran back looking frantically all over.  With a car now approaching behind us, I put on my flashers, put the car in reverse and began slowly following Flash hoping to provide additional light to the problem at hand.  Within mere seconds he bent over and picked up the aerodynamically-challenged iPad and ran back to the car.

"Please, please, PLEASE tell me it's not crushed!" I yelled.  The case, a wimpy, cheap, not-impressive-at-all case, seemed completely intact.  Flash opened up the cover while I held my breath awaiting cracked glass and professional humiliation as the "techie" teacher is the first to destroy her school iPad.  There wasn't a thing wrong with it.  Flash and I both exhaled a great proverbial-but-true sigh of relief and proceeded down the road to school.

Upon closer examination later, under sunlight and fluorescent lighting, there are a couple scratches on the corners of the cover that might allude to an altercation, but the iPad itself is in perfect working order.

My heart, however, is now about as useless as my brain after that near catastrophe.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

This Is My Classroom

My classroom is one of the smaller classrooms in our building.
My classroom has 27 second grade students this year.
My classroom has 15 boys and 12 girls.
My classroom has one diabetic child.
My classroom has one child on crutches after breaking both legs this summer.
My classroom has four students who spend portions of the day in the resource room.
My classroom has three students who receive speech therapy, and three more who need it.
My classroom has one student who receives weekly occupational therapy, three more who are "monitored" and two more who need it.
My classroom has two students who have behavior charts for every activity.
My classroom 11 students who are not academically at grade level.
My classroom has two students who spend time with the district social worker.
My classroom has more than one student who has seen a parent get arrested.
My classroom has more than one student who does not live with a biological parent.
My classroom has 5 computers and 24 reading books.
My classroom has push-in parapro support for one hour each day.
My classroom has a teacher who is fulfilling certification requirements by taking graduate courses that cost more than half her annual salary.
My classroom does not have one hour of uninterrupted time in the school day.
My classroom has a teacher who leaves the house at 6:30am and returns at 5pm.
My classroom is expected to implement new math stations this year.
My classroom is expected to implement new reading comprehension techniques this year.
My classroom is expected to implement new writing curriculum this year.
My classroom is expected to implement new reading stations this year.
My classroom has a teacher who has already spent more than she can claim on her taxes on her classroom.
My classroom has a teacher who will be evaluated based on student growth.

My classroom has a teacher who spent significant time this summer thinking through her schedule, her daily goals, her approach to curriculum, only to realize a week into school how futile a dream it is to think the teacher has any say or control over the logical order, timing or scheduling of academic subjects. 

My classroom has a teacher who wonders how on earth teachers in less fortunate districts ever teach anything at all.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Nothing Like It


There is nothing that can compare to dinner on the deck in September.  The Mister is home, the boy was home from work, and we all gathered outside on the deck for dinner, fresh from the garden.  


There were more tomatoes and cucumbers on the plate, but in the ten seconds it took me to get my phone to take pictures, the boys had taken their shares (and then some!) 



We are so excited about our potatoes this year!  We love the color and flavor of the red/red ones as well as the russets!  Needless to say, there weren't any leftovers!


Okay, so the chicken wasn't fresh from our garden or even raised by anyone we know, but we talked about how much we'd like our own chickens, and with a year left until Jacob is gone, that dream has the potential to become reality soon!

Saturday, September 07, 2013

How to Earn Wife Points


Step #1:  make sure your secret Saturday destination is full of tractors


Like this one


Or this one


Or even this one that I dubbed "the racing tractor".


Step #2: tell your husband he can have the one with all the bells and whistles. (That joke was for you, Dad.)


Step #3: make sure there is good food there, like amazing steamed, butter-dipped corn-on-the-cob.

Step #4: be willing to get dirty.  A tractor show is no place for prissy wives.  Returning home in desperate need of a shower but without complaint earned extra points. 

Step #5: remind The Mister that he is, if only on occasion, a man on a tractor and keep the dream alive that someday he will have his own hay field.


I Am Still Laughing


Sunday, September 01, 2013

Call It the Cuervo Edition

I saw this commercial, maybe you've seen it too.  It's for some new schnazzy refrigerator.  There's some guy at a dinner party who is apparently a "rocket surgeon" who, despite his amazing intellect, has trouble finding the sparkling water in the door of the fridge, because it is on the outside of the door, where the regular water and ice usually are.  In any case, the fridge in the ad is amazing, no doubt, and probably costs more than a room full of furniture, but the thought that keeps coming to my mind is...

...if that woman can have snooty sparkling water come out the dispenser on her fridge door, why couldn't I have tequila come out of mine?  I mean, potAYto, potAHto, right?  And with the new school year starting and twenty SEVEN kids in classroom, I can see how easy-access-tequila might be a selling point for me in a fridge.

Just sayin'. 

Or Maybe He Just Wears Earplugs and Nods A Lot

It's a well-kept secret amongst teachers.  Don't let it get out that I am the one who told, but we get scared.  Or at least I do, and I'd like to believe I am not alone in this.  Every year, before school starts, we get scared.  Scared that the year will go terribly wrong.  Scared that the kids will hate us.  Scared that years from now, they'll be reminiscing and they'll say something like, "oh, I remember my second grade teacher.  She was just cold." (Like I would say if you asked me about mine.) Worse yet, we are scared that we won't like our kids.  

We end the year with heartbreak, or again, at least I do every year.  I cry.  I downright sob with heartbreak over saying goodbye to my kids.  I pour everything I have into them for 180 school days and then off they go!  But at the beginning of the year, I fear that I won't like them at all.  They will be difficult.  They will be ornery.  They will lie and be lazy and they won't get my jokes.  And they will be all those things (and more) and I will still fall in love with them.  But right now, I worry.

Worse yet, my best friend is away.  The Mister is still in PA.  Still eating cheesesteaks.  Still driving around town telling me how everything has changed.  He's not here.  And he won't be here for the first four days of school.  (I am convinced the first day is scheduled to be a half day on request of all the teachers' spouses, who have to listen for hours that night about each and every child.)  And mine will, too, but not here.  Not laying next to me in bed where the best conversations happen.  

I know he hates being gone and for his sake, I swear I am not trying to make him feel worse for being gone (he might be secretly glad to miss First Day Drama). I just mean to say how much I treasure having him to talk to.  Having him to share all the details with.  I know what it's like not to have someone to tell it all too, and I so love having him in my life, not just as Chief Listener, but because he gets it.  

Because he is here every day, because he hears it all, because he is my go-to confidante, he gets why I stress, he gets why I get mad, he gets why I sometimes cry when talking about a student.  He gets it.  Before too many days have gone by, he know all my kids as well as I do.  He knows why a particular lie from a particular student was worse than others.  He knows why a meeting has me on edge.  He knows why I am worried about Tuesday and why it matters that Devin's mom called today.  He also knows why I will pause at the store when I see fruit snacks on sale, why I have to make another trip to Hobby Lobby and why the boxes from Amazon haven't stopped coming.  He knows when to be sympathetic and when to gently point out that I need to make a different choice.  He knows when to nudge and when to just stay silent.  He knows when my silence means thereis nothing to say about my day and when it means there's too much to even begin.  Most of all, he knows when my heart is breaking and I need reassurance, and when I just need a good laugh.

He is just a phone call away, which is a far better deal than when I had no Mister to talk with at all, but talking on the phone isn't the same.  He will always know me better, advise me better and love me better because he is present for these moments.  He is here to love me through them all.  Maybe that's why God put him in such a routine, quiet career.  If we both had days full of the kind of drama that 27 eight year olds can create, there'd be too much to talk about.  

I know, come Tueday, the first day of school, that I could stop by Julie's on my way home to talk, and I know she'd be happy to listen.  But it isn't the same.  I am sure I will chat with my teacher friends before we leave school for the day, but it still isn't the same.  I will call The Mister and he will listen to every word, he will ask questions and he will feel all the things I feel.  But it won't be the same.

Not until Saturday, when he flies back home.  Not until we sit side by side and I just spew it all.  Not until he sees my face and witnesses the emotion and spends the days hearing all the stories, only then will it be all right.  

For everything is all right when my best friend is home.