Showing posts with label updates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label updates. Show all posts

Friday, March 29, 2013

ghost writer.

Was it really November 2012 when I posted last? I'm surprised I didn't post in February. Usually each February I try to commemorate my dad, who died February 12, 2001, as well as mourn that entire frickin' month. Nothing good ever happens in February, is my personal motto. Besides my birthday, of course. Which I'm considering switching to March simply because of February's reputation.

Thirty-ish days of this school year are left. I am glad. I am also detached. I really, deeply love my class--they are good, sweet children, for the most part, and appear to love me back. But many of them and their families are exhausting me; this school year has exhausted me. This is not something unique to me; I'm not some martyr over here. I have spoken at length with teachers at other schools, in other districts, in all socioeconomic areas. Exhaustion is the Word of the Day for public school teachers all over America.

Can I be very frank and honest for a moment? Do you have a moment?

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. Actually, all year long I've been thinking. I've been considering this, and considering that. I've done a little networking. I've had good days and thought: this is all right. I've had bad days and thought: really, wouldn't Barnes & Noble be awesome to work at, even if they are slowly shutting down all their stores? I've spent a lot of time thinking and considering.

I've thought about and considered going back to teach ESOL, except I don't want to go back to teaching that right now...people (other teachers) think I'm crazy, because it has its stresses but hey: no grading! But it is increasingly becoming something I can't agree to do. I do miss teaching it, but only for the relief of not having to be responsible for raising other people's children, and that's no reason to teach something. More and more, I feel that is exactly what is being asked of me, to raise others' children for them. I simply do not feel up to this task. I have a Bachelor's of Science in Elementary Education and a Master's of Arts in Early Childhood Education. I know Reading, Writing, Social Studies, Science, and Math. I am not a social worker. I do not possess a psychology or a counselor background. I have taught children for 18 years, and I'm a parent now, and so I try to draw on that experience to help parent other people's children, but because of political correctness often feel my hands are tied to really give them the help they are looking for, on top of the fact I suspect they don't actually want help; they simply want someone else to be responsible. And I am finding I don't want that kind of responsibility. I would just like to teach children how to read, write, and add/subtract. If I could just do that every day, I'd be happy as a pig in mud on a cool Spring day.

I am increasingly frustrated. My house looks like an episode of Hoarders. My husband spends a lot of time worrying (often out loud) about my mental and emotional state. My own child is getting less from me than other people's children, and I will be brutally honest: I am growing resentful.  I have no energy when I get home--I would like to take my child to the gym or the park every day, or read with her or finger paint or teach her sight words or play with play dough or just laugh and have fun. I am too tired--I cook dinner, clean it up, do bath, and then sit on facebook or pinterest because facebook and pinterest are two mindless, numbing things I can do to unwind. I am beginning to suspect classroom teaching is turning into a single, childless person's game.

The easy answer seems to be: just don't do it, Amy. Don't go to school at 7:45 and leave at 5:30/6:00 every day. Do what you can and go home and forget about it. But I don't operate that way. Quality matters to me, and if I don't deal with Project X or Y right now, tomorrow it will eat me alive because I won't have a planning period due to this meeting or that one or I won't get to Project S or T and that will cause even further stress than I already have, and I won't have that, concerned friends. I won't have it.

So I'm slowly and reluctantly starting to wonder if teaching may not be the right career for me. Isn't that crazy sounding? Because it's something I really love. Because I got into teaching because I'm a helper and I wanted to help children. Because people say I'm good at it--I'm never going to win Teacher of the Year, but if you stick your kid in my class? I work my butt off with them. Because I've done it for 18 years. But 10 of those 18 years were in a support teaching role, and support teaching kind of, I don't know, lulls? you into a sort of complacency.

On a positive note, going back into the classroom this year was like having cold ice water thrown on me repeatedly. This was good, because it taught me some important things--about human nature and what poverty and powerlessness--and, yes, maybe a slight touch of psychosis--can make people do to one another. It taught me some things about me, like I genuinely like children in spite of some of their home situations. I mean, God bless them, they've got a lot on their plates and they don't even know it. I am crossing my fingers and sending powerful prayers to all the Universes out there, begging these Universes to pull these children out of their lives, to help them defy their odds and the growing, enormous chasm between the classes I'm watching good people in this country (myself included, because you won't see me at any Occupy Something events) allow to happen.

But it has also taught me this is one goddamn exhausting, thankless job. If I were getting paid 6 figures, I'd probably just deal with it for another decade or two. I mean, there are summers off for the love of all--who wouldn't just go find their happy place when needed, for $100,000 a year and decent health benefits? However, I am not getting paid 6 figures. I am getting paid in the mid 5's. And I am not being respected by the very people I'm attempting to help, and I spend a lot of time confused and frustrated and angry about that. And crying. I cry a LOT when I'm at home, because I'm desperately worried my own child isn't receiving what she needs from me. Realistically, I know she will most likely turn out okay--she is deeply loved and hears that all the time. She has two supportive parents who will gently express concerns to her future teachers, not make angry demands. Melissa doesn't need a teacher to send desperate prayers for her out into the Cosmos. But I'm also painfully aware of what schools are expecting from and doing to children these days (another angry rant for another frustrated day), and I need to help my child meet those expectations, to the best of her ability. I need to serve and protect my own child, as much as I love and want to serve and protect other children. I owe that to Melissa.

I think what I'm saying is: my plate isn't just full, it has become completely overloaded. For some people, this would be A-Okay. For some people, overloaded is a challenge, and dealing with angry people is no biggie and besides they love getting punched in the gut; it builds character. This is not me. I do not do overloaded, angry people, or gut punches. And my plate has been overloaded since August, and I have been talk therapy-ing out the angry people and gut punches as much as possible, all the while continuing to reason that it's just a learning curve and if I just move this roll to this side of the plate and push this pile of potatoes over here and push this angry person under the table for awhile....but the moving and pushing and hiding never seem to end. I mean, it will end: Summer will come, and Melissa and I will read books and visit the library and go to the pool and eat ice cream and paint our horrified HOA neighbors' sidewalks with rainbows and unicorns and giggle ourselves silly as Mr. F glares at us through his window, frantically making notes in his little neighbor spy log.

But eventually August will arrive, and the plate juggling will begin again and I find I am dreading that. Really, really dreading that.

Please know: I am not frustrated about my school--I love my school, and my administrators have been nothing but kind and helpful to me and incredibly supportive with some of the gut punches I've taken this year. I am thankful to and for them. And I am deeply in love with all of my coworkers, and think the Supreme Court ought to pass gay marriage just so we can all marry each other and live in one giant teacher commune together. And I am not frustrated about the students--I love the students, kids are kids and I love helping them work on/work out their ridiculous kid issues, as long as I'm not hormonal or ravenously hungry at the moment. Also, when I shut that door and get on the floor with them and read or write, I am completely in my element. I love that feeling. I love sharing books with them and reading their bad writing and showing them a Youtube video about using periods and then dedicating it to the one boy in class who refuses to acknowledge punctuation but is really good-natured about having a punctuation video dedicated to him because he's the class clown and likes that kind of attention. I love that, and if I could do that all day and have time to make lesson plans and grade and not worry about unhinged parents coming up to the school to sue me or beat me up, I'd practically work for free.

However, this is not Reality for public school teachers anymore, no matter where you are in America. And I am really beginning to wonder if the Universe didn't have A Big Plan for me back in 2011, when I volunteered--sheerly on gut instinct--to leave ESOL teaching and take on a different kind of support teaching which then landed me back in a classroom in the very kind of school I said I'd never (never say "never"!) want to teach in a classroom at. Because sometimes the Universe does stuff like that--takes you over here to get you over there which takes you here so you can land there, which is where you were meant to be at this part of your life all along. I find that's the only consistency the Universe has about it--Its inconsistency.

And it is not lost on me at all that certain emails and events may have been rained down upon me this year in order to jerk my complacent butt out of its chair of comfort and get it moving.

So I will spend this summer getting ready for another school year but also working on changing careers. Having talked to some savvy Corporate America People Who Know (C being their spokesman), it's been suggested to me for every $10,000 you wish to earn per year, it takes 2 months of work and dedication and making contacts and finding leads and etc and so forth to find a job making that. C would like to see me make $75,000 per year, because he thinks I'm worth that (which uh, hello, I think he and I need to talk about--clearly I'm worth $12 million, but at 2 months per $10,000 I just don't have that kind of time. If only Charlie Sheen would read this! I know he'd cut me a check). I'd be pretty happy with far less than $75,000, and at this point I think C would be too--he has said on at least 100 different occasions he'd rather see me happy than continue to witness what he's witnessed this year.

Which all brings me to my point: upon examining my educational background and current set of skills, I think I'm good at a handful of things (besides eating chocolate at night and googling Jason Isaacs and Gerard Butler and Clive Owen). I love children and story telling. I like to write. I like to read. I like to do research. I like coffee houses and singing birds and waking up with the sun, not before it.

So this is where I've decided to start: I'm exploring freelance writing, which can be slightly lucrative (though far less now, with all the blogs permeating the atmosphere and bad journalism being the rule of the day) but take awhile to break into. Ditto getting a novel/short story published. JK Rowling did not happen overnight--JK Rowling had talent and also timing and luck and Jason Isaacs in the wildly successful movies based on her books. I just want to be able to afford to eat out once in awhile, not sit on piles of Potter-like money. So I'm exploring writing articles and children's books and story telling and writing a novel and short stories on the side. It sounds like a lot, but compared to the enormous stresses I've been dealing with this year, that's a cakewalk in the park.

If anyone knows anyone, please point me in their direction. If anyone needs a storytelling researcher willing to freelance write with children while Jason Isaacs, Gerard Butler, and Clive Owen are in the audience, let me know that, too. If anyone wants to write me a check for $75,000, I will write an entire novel about why it's a travesty you are not Emperor of the World (Charlie Sheen, I'm looking in your general direction).

Sunday, November 25, 2012

midwestern people, writing, schedules, proof of heaven, with an abrupt ending.

C, Melissa, and I just returned from a Thanksgiving Day/week visit to see his father, sisters, and other relatives in St. Louis, MO. I like St. Louis, MO for a few reasons:

1a) Midwestern people, or at least those residing in the Kirkwood-ish area of St. Louis, do not seem to be in total control of their cars. At least 3 times I or Melissa were almost run down in a store parking lot; C claims he was able to escape this potential fate because he's just naturally more "specialer" than us and people not in control of their cars manage to steer clear of him in a magical way.

1b) In spite of this (or maybe because of it), Midwestern people are decent, down to earth, friendly folks. Here in the metro Atlanta area, I sometimes feel like I'm more of New Yorker than a Southerner. People cut you off in traffic, stand in front of you in the steak section of the supermarket utterly oblivious to the fact other people actually exist in the world around them and may need to gain access to your area of the steak section so freaking move OKAY??, and just generally get in the way and don't seem one bit apologetic about it. Just like pre-schoolers in Toys R Us.

However, whenever I am in the Midwest--be it Oklahoma or Illinois or Missouri (really the only 3 Midwestern places I've been that I have any real knowledge about, so I don't know...maybe this opinion just reflects those Midwestern locations and the rest of the people in the Midwest are complete nincompoops) (no! no, they are not--I am kidding: I know wonderful people from Kansas and Iowa, and they are lovely). Where was I? Oh yes, Midwestern people are lovely and polite. They say "Excuse me," and "I'm sorry," when they have to pass in front of you in a store or realize they're in the way...and they often realize they are in the way, because they are not under the impression they're the only ones on planet Earth. Midwestern people are lovely, friendly, sweet, and just NICE.

2) We stay at a Marriott-run hotel when we go, the same one each time. It is near the airport, and very nice. We found it several years ago when we needed to stay in a hotel because C's dad's house had too many people in it...he sent us to a Super 8 motel nearby, which was just fine...there is absolutely nothing wrong with hotels that are clean and useful for their purposes: sleeping and showering. ....Unless there is a night of shooting/homicide in their parking lot. That's when we decided maybe not all Midwesterners are lovely, and we needed a place that was slightly more secure. So we went down the road a little and found a hotel pilots and airline attendants like to stay at, which is this place.

They just remodeled their lobby and so now when you walk in, you feel like you're walking into a really swank hotel any D-list celebrity would stay in (we won't discuss the conditions of the rooms' tubs and the fact that rich people no longer need cord phones in bathrooms to make important business important business people often make important business phone calls while sitting on the toilet? I wonder). So you feel very swank and important until night falls and you look outside your room's window and see the Hustler Hollywood Emporium across the street, all lit up like a sleazy all-year-round Christmas tree. It really puts vanity into perspective, and I love that.

3) St. Louis just feels less ostentatious than Atlanta and, I suspect, it's easier to maneuver. The Monday before we left, Anne Lamotte came to town to give a free book reading/talk about her new book. I love Anne Lamotte, and fervently wish we at least lived in the same town and went to the same church. She is funny and honest and really real. However, I had schoolwork to do so I wouldn't have to think about it when we got back, and I had to make a decision--drive 40 miles in freaky Atlanta traffic to hear one of my writing heroes speak? Or do some lesson plans and pull some other school stuff together? My priorities won this time, but only because of freaky Atlanta traffic. I'm sure if I lived in St. Louis this would not have been an issue.

So, anyway. St. Louis is nice. And it also kept me off the internet (mostly) for several days. What a nice break--do you ever think the internet, facebook, pinterest, etc. are time suckers eating our brains? Honestly, they're starting to make just quietly watching TV (TV, the 20th century time sucker/brain eater) feel like completing a Harvard course in the History of Medieval Law.

What I discovered while not consumed with mindless, brain eating internet tom foolery: I can finish reading a 400+ page book AND still be a semi-competent mother, wrote at least once in my journal (and I NEVER write in that thing--years of dust fell off it when I opened it and it gave a delighted yet shocked squeal of delight when it realized it was getting written in), and Melissa had my fullest attention ever--she was no less hyper, but far more entertaining than usual. My patience (which is never very big) grew in gigantic proportions, in mere days.

Which is why I've concluded the internet is eating my brain (yet here I am, writing on a blog....I know. But I'm writing! And writing is something I have let fallen on the wayside for far too long, so any writing--even rambling, incoherent blog writing--is healthy).

I've decided I need to get myself a schedule. I am a person who needs lists--otherwise, I can't remember who or what I am. And my child, I can tell, will also be a person who needs lists and schedules...we are both easily distracted people who prefer mindless, wasted activities to productive, creative ones. So schedule and lists it is.

On a sad note, Tasha died before we got her to the vet to put her to sleep. Several important things about this, that my soul did take note of:

*I asked God to take that decision off my plate. Because God isn't on my schedule, and doesn't act as fast as I think God should, I assumed God wasn't listening to me at all (never, ever assume God isn't listening) and so I said fine, that's how You want it? I'll go ahead and make the damn decision. I went ahead with my decision.
*I began talking to Tasha about my decision, that I was reluctant to help her move on but that she was incredibly sick and old and there was little we could do to help her get better, but that it was okay for her to let go herself. I told her I didn't think whatever is waiting for us after this is scary at all, and that she would be young and happy again, but that we would miss her so much over here on this side of the veil.
*Tasha began letting go. I noticed in small ways, but assumed (because God never listens to me) that we'd still take her to the vet on Saturday as planned.
*Melissa got sick on a Wednesday, and I stayed home on a Thursday to take care of her. Tasha started going rapidly downhill that night--so much so that I woke up C to ask if we should go ahead and take her to the vet the next morning, though I really didn't think she'd even make it through the night.
*The next day, instead of just taking care of sick Melissa, I helped sick Tasha die.
*Tasha died at 10:15 am on Thursday, November 15, 2012. 

I think events like these are spiritual mile markers; events the Universe puts us through to shake us up and make us see what matters. God did take the decision making off my plate. But God also let me see why we should always be careful about what we ask for--watching Tasha go through her dying process was terrible, for her and for me. However, she has gone onto be part of God's peace, and I am left with wrenching memories of watching her die and incredible guilt that I didn't help her go over sooner so she didn't have to go through that...I won't do that again with another aging animal. Lesson learned, the hard way (as I usually like to learn all my hardest lessons, which I suppose God is already quite aware about me). But God also made sure I was there to be with her when she died, and I am thankful to him for that. And she did die at home, with someone petting her head telling her it was okay to go, just let go, until she finally did. I just wish it had been much more quietly, in her sleep (I think that's what I was thinking/hoping it would was the opposite).

I miss her deeply--people who don't get attached to animals will not understand this. If I were a witch (and I am not, no matter how many times Melissa insists that I am), Tasha would have been my familiar, and my most important, best spells would all be broken now. There are signs of her everywhere still in our house--I'll find pieces of fur every now and then, and the Friday after she died I found one of her whiskers by her favorite window spot. It's always sad to come home and know she won't come downstairs to lay on the sofa next to me, or on a chair. But I think some part of her is still here; I feel her presence everywhere. I hope she understands, in whatever form she's in now. I talk to her every day, just in case she's still here.

I've started reading a book called PROOF OF HEAVEN by Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who once thought the brain was solely responsible for Near Death Experiences of people claiming to have been to Heaven when they died. He claims he has evidence that dying is not necessarily a brain thing, and this also makes me want to raise my fist in a victory salute (remember in my last blog entry, how I was all: "Curses on YOU, party pooper brain scientists!"? Dr. Eben Alexander is officially off my Party Pooper Brain Scientist list). It's a comforting book...if you're a party pooper brain scientist, I'm sure you'll find a lot in it to do your party pooper arguing about. Party poopers usually do; it's why they're on my party pooper/not invited list. And if you're very fundamentally Christian, you may not like reading Dr. Alexander insisting on referring to God as "Om" and you might feel slighted because Dr. Alexander never ran into Jesus or Paul or anyone while he was over there. But I think there's still a lot of common ground people of different faiths can high five about, and when we do, we can all stare at the party poopers with looks of giant disapproval. Highly recommended, for both soul peace and world peace against all party pooping.

I'm going to abruptly end this blog post there and go make up a schedule for myself. Winter is knocking and I am at my laziest, least focused during Winter.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

2nd grader, at last.

Soooo....Remember way back in September when I was all: But I don't know if I can do this! Third graders seem weird and psychologically puzzling. And then I was all: No, wait. I got this. Third graders are really weird and psychologically puzzling. But all I have to do is give them my nastiest teacher stink eye and make them skittish about what I'll do next.

Yes, well, I'm done with that. I'm headed back into the classroom next year (which is exactly what I was trying to avoid when I gave up my ESOL position in the first place months ago, because I thought ESOL was headed for the big, giant Toilet in the Sky) (note: I no longer think ESOL is headed for the big, giant Toilet in the Sky; I now believe ESOL is simply headed toward a really sketchy Title & Pawn shop on that one corner by the police station all the ladies of the night traipse down at all hours in clothing of questionable taste).

Anyhoo. Due to budget cuts (shaking my fists and casting ginormous stink eyes on YOU, you scurvy, greedy Wall Street tycoons responsible for the world financial mess), we have lost 8 teacher points. Eight whole teachers! That's like one whole grade level, peeps. Which means no more Science/Social Studies model (unless 3rd-5th grade classroom teachers want 30 kids in their homerooms next year...which might put the Science/Social Studies classes up to some crazy number like 35, 40 kids in some groups depending on how they split up their classes when they do ability level) (I know that only makes sense to me and the people who taught the model, so just know: what matters most right now to you are the mind boggling phrases "30 kids in a class"!!!  and "crazy number.")

Long story short: I will be a 2nd grade classroom teacher next year. Frickin' Universe--always playing me like that. Just when I think I've outsmarted It, It throws me a wide, speedy curve ball.

I'm excited and nervous. Excited because I've missed having that ownership of a class of kids--being their mom-away-from-mom. Also, it'll be nice because I'll only have to plan for 24, not 90...there were so many cool things I chose not to do this year simply because the number of students I had made these cool things logistically (and often financially) impossible.

But nervous because I simply do not do well with aggressive, confrontational parents. And, man, I witnessed some aggressive, confrontational parent behavior this year in 3rd grade. Professionally, I can't go into fine details here on a public blog. Just know: for some individuals in the world, I'm wondering if there is just not enough Xanax or mental health professionals. (I actually don't think they're crazy. I think they're just looking out for their a really scream-y, being-part-of-the-problem-not-the-solution kind of a way. And I think they're acting from a place of love. Dysfunctional, confining, knee jerk-reactive love. But we all need to start somewhere, I suppose.)

True confession: difficult parents are why I left the classroom ten years ago. I got some doozies, three years right in a row. And it was really bumming and burning me out...I just needed a parent-on-a-warpath break for awhile. Hello, ESOL teaching for 9.2 years. Which I loved, because I love language. And hello Science/Social Studies teaching for 8 months.Which I loved, because I've decided Neil Degrasse Tyson is really hot, in a nerdy, very professional and astute kind of way.

But I was very different person back then, when I was a classroom teacher. For one thing, I had bad hair. No, seriously. I had this biscuit bang flip thing going on that was a total holdover from the late 80's and I wore tacky holiday sweaters starting the day after Thanksgiving all the way to New Year's Eve. And I thought I was swank, people. Really, really swank. I'm still really upset with people in my life who let me leave the house looking like that from 1992-2002.

Secondly, I wasn't married to C, and C hadn't worked his C magic on me yet. Honestly. If you need help setting yourself straight in some area(s), C knows how to do it. Right now, for example, I'm on something called the "30 Day C Plan," which is supposed to whip my sorry self back into shape professionally, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I think I'm at Day 15. I've done two out of ten directives. It is not going well, not going well at all. (fyi: I did the same thing with the Atkins Diet.)

Thirdly, I hadn't met/worked with some of the most awesomest teachers on Planet Teacherdom. All decent teachers will tell you they didn't become proficient because of Dr. So and So's class at Teacher University. No, no. They'll tell you they lucked out and got put on a team with Ms. Amazing Teacher, Ms. Creative Teacher, Ms. Gutsy Teacher, and Mr. Reality-Based Teacher...who all taught them everything they know today. (Guess how many college textbooks and lesson plans I still use/own today? Zero. Big, fat zero. But I have exactly 3.5 billion files, lessons, and other artifacts I do still pull from that were given to me by coworkers along the way over the last 15+ years.)***

And last, I wasn't a mother. You don't have to be a mom to be a proficient teacher. But because I've become a mother, I can see my child in other people's children. (I mean, 3rd graders this year responded to the exact same Pavlovian techniques that work brilliantly on 3 1/2 year old Melissa.) And I'm hoping that makes me far more compassionate than I was ten years a parent, I will go to my death fighting for what's right for my child and my hope is that, should I get some boxing champ-wannabes in students' parents next year, that will translate over in parent-teacher conferences and we'll reach magnanimous understandings of great and helpful proportions.

Oh, and! I did NOT have the droll, smarmy humor about life I possess today. A sense of humor about the pure awesomeness of bizarre, dysfunctionality that exists all around us possibly could have extended my classroom teacher shelf life at least another 5 years.

So yes. I'll be a classroom teacher again next year. I'm pinning away furiously on pinterest right now, stealing ideas from teaching blogs left and right, blatantly and without regard. My 2nd grade colleagues will be bandit-ized as well, come August.

But my favorite, FAVORITE part of this whole, crazy school year was this past Wednesday.

Remember my Promethean board, the one I lovingly nicknamed %%$#@&$#@!%&$? I was lucky enough not to have to pack up my million boxes of stuff and move elsewhere, and the trailer I'm currently in (despite the fact I must continue to share it with %%$#@&$#@!%&$) is really a very nice trailer as far as classroom trailers go--a tad bit longer or wider, I can't decide which, than other classroom trailers--and it's in a prime location (practically on top of school, and some restrooms). So that is all good, and I am glad. But %%$#@&$#@!%&$ continues to take up way too much space on my white board, rendering it practically useless for classroom teaching.

And then, then! I discovered THIS while watching DIY network late one insomniac night: dry erase wall paint! You prime your wall! You paint it with 3 coats of dry erase paint! You now have a new dry erase wall, any shape, size you want! This, friendly friends, is when the craziness of 21st century living finally pays off.

So, Wednesday, last day of school for children, I primed each end wall on either side of my real dry erase board. I did not ask if I could do this because (a) I knew a teacher who'd taught in this trailer before me had painted the whole thing a few years ago...sadly, just regular paint not dry erase--which would have been so ridiculously awesome had Lowe's carried dry erase paint back then and she'd turned the whole place into one big dry erase room--I'm practically salivating right now just thinking of it, and (b) one of my life affirming, important mottoes is: Asking forgiveness is always better than asking permission. Another nugget of wisdom from a good teacher/coworker along my path years ago.

So 3rd graders were playing board games, and I was priming while insisting to several overly helpful girls that, seriously, I only had ONE paint brush roller. There would be NO fun wall painting the last day--I let them know I also knew they would probably get into some type of primer paint fight and that was NOT going to sit well with me that day. Go play Uno for the love of god.

And also I had to keep fending off K, who kept watching me prime my end walls suspiciously while asking in an accusing tone, "But did you ask first? I bet you're supposed to ask first." I taught her my important motto about forgiveness vs. permission, but I could tell: she's a total third grader version of 2002 Amy--if I'd had a couple more weeks with her, I bet I'd have had to put her on the 30 Day C Plan.

Anyway. Who should show up? My old principal. (Did you know? The principal we started this school year with, who's been our principal for the last 4 years and is quite frankly one of the kindest, best, most wonderful principals I've ever worked for, was tapped to be one of our district's new, big shot area superintendents.) (Of course you didn't know, if you don't work with me--I've neglected this blog for months.)

So she stopped by our school for a visit, saw me in the doorway, and stepped inside my room to say hello to me and all the kids. And when she saw my walls, she said, "Amy, are you painting?" And I said, all guilty refusing to look at K who I was positive was certainly gloating, "Uhh, yes? Kind of?" And she just shrugged and said, "Oh. Okay."

Man! That was a beautiful moment. I shot suspicious, accusing K a triumphant look so fast! A glorious finish to a long year: the fricking area superintendent says it's cool, K! No need to even ask for forgiveness at this point, playa! Watch and learn, grasshopper, watch and learn.

The other glorious, beautiful finish to a long, long school year? Every year as the buses pull out for the last time to take all the kids home, all the teachers line the sidewalks and wave good-bye and the buses honk and honk and pull away. So soul-satisfying. This year, the bus at the head of the line, the one that was supposed to honk and honk start the Grande Finale pull away broke down immediately when it tried to leave. All the other buses had to back up and pull out...starting with Bus 20 waaaay in the back. Took forever. So all the buses, except for Bus 1, have long gone and all these kids on Bus 1 are stuck and don't get the teacher wave...I mean, we DO wave. But only as we're leaving to head to our cars. Gotta go, Flo. Have a great summer, kids. Stay cool!

And then? Then, I saw my two worst offenders of the whole year were on that stuck bus. And that's when I knew: the Universe really loves to throw me curve balls, but occasionally it throws me a big bone, too, just to let me know it still has my back. Awesome.

*** Side note: if Michelle Rhee and her Waiting for Superman friends are really serious about fixing public education, they should lose their lame, unhelpful anti-teacher attitudes and start with our teacher education programs...but that's another rant, for another day.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Best & Worst

Around this time of year, I like to take stock. I like to take stock of how my year went, I shaking my fists at it and stomping around, cussing like a crusty old sailor? Or just giving it the middle finger raised defiantly up high, in a really indignant manner? I'm certainly never hugging it. I don't think I've hugged an old year going out and a new year coming in since 1982. There's usually something in the past year that has really made me put my hands on my hips in a very annoyed manner and say out loud to no one in particular, "Really, Insert name of year here? Really?? What the freaking heck."(Full disclosure: I might--or might not--use much swarthier words than freaking and heck. It would just depend on the issue, and the year.)

Another thing I do is come up with Un-Resolutions. This is a very Alice in Wonderland thing to do, and I prefer it because I know I'll be 100% successful at these. For example, in 2012, I unresolve to spend less time on And, in 2012, I unresolve to spend half of each Saturday lying around staring at the ceiling feeling guilty about all the things I really should be accomplishing. Also, in 2012, I unresolve to clean my toilets more (though I did find a really earth-friendly, economical, most awesome solution of part vinegar/part water/Dawn dishwashing liquid you can make at home that can supposedly scrub blood stains off the inside of a person's body).

But I also like to review my personal year's Best & Worst. Just like they do in People magazine and on E! News, except without the paparazzi pictures:

Best Kid Moment: Potty training accomplished! No more poopy diapers, no more diaper bills, no more worrying about contributing to the land fill diaper problem in America but being too 21st century lazy and harried to actually switch to cloth diapers and do something about plus that would involve more laundry and I'm really anti-more laundry....woohoo! No more diapers!

Worst Kid Moment: Realizing potty training isn't (1) fool proof or (2) consistent. Most embarrassing example of this: the infamous McDonald's Poop Explosion of 2011.

Worst Job Moment: Volunteering to leave the dream teaching job I adored to venture forth into unknown waters. Teaching (the Education field in general, actually) seems to be in a bit of a scary and massive upheaval these days, and so who knows where I'll be at this time next year? Upheavals can be both bad and good, but I am never a fan of change. Even and especially when I instigate it.

Best Job Moment: Finding out teaching 3rd graders is surprisingly a breeze. Jolly Ranchers and lead pencils and the ability to place a "I Actually Don't Find You Funny At All" look on my face in a mere 1.5 seconds really helped that. And the change in focus turned out to be fairly good for me...after teaching 1st grade ESOL for about 10 years, I could pretty much do that with my eyes closed. It's stressful to have to locate, plan, and coordinate new lessons, and I wish I didn't end up staying until 5:00 pm most days. But it keeps me on my toes. And that's a good thing, because I'm the kind of person who really needs to be kept on her toes. Otherwise, I spend way too much time staring at a ceiling for half a day feeling guilty about all the stuff I could be accomplishing.

Best Health Moment: C got a new knee. It's a lot of work right now, and his body is still adjusting. But in about 6-8 weeks, I predict he'll be walking around like Melissa does when she gets a new bouncy ball: "Mommy! Look at meeeee! Look at me and my new bouncy ball! Look at how good I am with my bouncy ball! I can bounce my bouncy ball really, really high! No! You can't have my bouncy ball! It's MINE!" (C, of course, will not be bouncing as high as he can, but I do suspect he won't share his new knee with anyone.)

Worst Health Moment: Well, I got skin cancer. That was the worst. But it was a fortunately/unfortunately kind of thing: Unfortunately, I got skin cancer. Fortunately, it turned out to be the unscary kind, harmless little Basal Cell that can sit on your skin for years and years and never make a peep (except you should get Basal Cell off of there ASAP if you do find him sitting there, because occasionally he can turn into his big older brother, Malignant, Scary Carcinoma. Scary  Carcinoma is a really crappy bastard, and even his own mother ignores him on his birthday). Fortunately, it was an easy procedure to remove. Unfortunately, I'll be at a dermatologist's office annually for the rest of my life. Fortunately, this will quickly help us meet our insurance's out of pocket maximum so C can get another new knee next year and we don't have to pay a thing. See? Fortunately/Unfortunately.

Worst Celebrity News: The Kardashians are really getting on my nerves. I don't understand them, and I don't understand the nation's love/hate relationship and fascination with them. I'm just glad they're in cahoots with Sears. If I had to see them and their sweat shop clothing line every time I bought contact lens cleaner at Target or Wal-Mart, I really think I'd lose my mind.

...Except I have to say, I do begrudgingly like Khloe. Khloe seems like someone I could have over for dinner and laugh with. Oh, okay...and Kourtney, too. Her little boy is too, too cute. As long as she left the icky boyfriend/father at home, I think we could hang out and talk.

Fine, fine, fine. It's really just Kim I'm having an issue with. But I think everyone in America is too, and so. Good.

Best Celebrity News: Apparently, Atlanta is quickly becoming the new Hollywood. This increases my chances of bumping into Gerard Butler at Target or Wal-Mart or Kroger or Publix  by 1,000%. Obviously, in 2012, I'm going to have to never leave the house without full make up and hair, and I'll clearly have to hire a personal stylist. Oh, and the gym. I guess I'll have to bump up my gym schedule from 0 times a week to at least 1 or 2. Man. That's going to be a lot of work. I may need to set my standards a little lower and hope to bump into one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta's ex-boyfriends.

This is not what my chicken avocado parmigiana looked like.
Worst Cooking Moment: The avocado/parmigiana chicken dish I got off It seemed like a good idea in theory. I mean, who the heck doesn't love chicken parmigiana? And avocados are just healthy for you--full of good vitamins and the type of fat your body doesn't use to make you look 6 months pregnant. But in actual practice? It did not execute well, and I apologize to all who came into contact with it (namely, C and Melissa) (C took 3 bites and Melissa declared hers "icky," dumped it in the trash can, and proceeded to demand chicken nuggets instead).

Best Cooking Moment: The fact that I cooked most nights of the week. The week right before Winter Break and the week of Knee Replacement surgery were pretty rough and full of McDonald's happy meals. But other than that, I've been a cooking fool throughout 2011. Please note: I do not enjoy cooking. Slow cookers make it a tad easier. Unless you have someone who doesn't enjoy slow cooker food, like I do, who (after 3 slow cooker meals) asks you to lighten up on the slow cooker meals. That can really throw off your whole game plan, if you have that. I also don't enjoy the following: menu planning, grocery shopping, food prep, cooking clean up, dishwasher put away, and pantry organization. But the point is, I have learned to overcome all of that, in a very Chariots of Fire kind of way. And I like looking up recipes and conducting recipe experiments. I'm a Chariots of Fire Kitchen Scientist is what I am. And C and Melissa are my lab rats.

Worst Gift of 2011: There were none. Every gift is awesome. If you give me a gift of any kind, you are permanently on my Favorite People list forever. Unless your gift is the flu or a cold. And then you're on my People to Avoid at All Costs list.

Best Gift of 2011: The Keurig. Do you know about them? Next to the Internets, these are one of humanity's most helpful and evil-at-the-same-time inventions ever. You put some water in the holder. You stick your coffee cup under the thingy. You stick a Keurig coffee cup thingy ($9 per box, more expensive at Bed Bath & Beyond) in the thingy. You press a button. Sixty seconds later? You have a coffee (in a variety of flavors, including but not limited to hazelnut, french vanilla, and fair trade decaf) or tea or hot chocolate or espresso or cappucino. It's technology magic. The evil part comes into play because the coffee maker is always right there. On your counter. And if there is water in the water compartment, in a mere 60 seconds you can have your 1,000th cup of coffee (or tea or espresso or hot chocolate or cappucino) of the day. For example, as I type this, it is 10:00 am and I'm enjoying my 6th cup of coffee (an Italian Donut Shop bold that is clearing out my sinuses in a most effective way...I predict the caffeine in this thing will keep me up well past 1:00 am).

Starbucks is also pissed at the Keurig guys. My yearly $25,000 donation to them is probably going to be reduced by about $24,990.

Worst Book of 2011: Did Kim Kardashian write a tell-all book about her 72 hour marriage yet? If not, get ready to put that on your "Worst Book" list for whatever year she writes it.

Best Book of 2011: Tina Fey's book Bossypants. I would like to be Tina Fey's friend and confidante. I would like to start a religious cult that worships all that Tina Fey says, writes, and does. (That sounds a bit stalkerish, I know. But honestly, the fastest way to become a billionaire is (a) invent the computer or facebook, or (b) start a religion and get Tom Cruise on board). I have many, many new worldviews because of Tina Fey, and many, many new awesome quotes to throw at people haphazardly when they least expect. Here's one:

But I think the first real change in women’s body image came when JLo turned it butt-style. That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of mainstream American beauty. Girls wanted butts now. Men were free to admit that they had always enjoyed them. And then, what felt like moments later, boom—BeyoncĂ© brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired. And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you. All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.

See? Ladies, wouldn't you like to be friends with Tina, too? Let's get together every Friday and pray to her. (Please bring $25 as a Fey Love "donation.")

And last (but not least):

Worst Overall Moment of 2011: The angry, judgmental Target employee and my emotional breakdown about her (including tears) in front of a store manager while standing in front of Target Cafe's pretzel machine. I've finally managed to successfully shop (tear-free) in this Target again. I've gone back to placing Melissa (in a really defiant way I must add) in the back of the cart (minus the seat belt AND allowing her to stand up). I've also managed to once run into that same angry, judgmental Target employee while Melissa is standing up in the back of the cart (mihnus cart seat belt) and look at that chick with pointy, dangerous daggers shooting out of my eyes in her general direction in a really passive aggressive way. I'm sure she senses when I've entered the store and becomes very nervous. Obviously, I've clearly won.

...Really, this experience has kind of turned into a it was the best of times/it was the worst of times sort of thing. But I'm still shell shocked about the initial experience, and so I'm making it my Worst Moment of 2011 (there could have been a worse worst moment of 2011, but my memory only goes back to about July of each year, and nothing worse happened to me from July-December than that).

Best Overall Moment of 2011:  We are all still alive. C and I both have satisfying jobs, a roof over our heads, nice clothes (Old Navy recently had a 70% off sale that I hit just right), good food in our bellies (as long as it doesn't involve chicken, parmigiana, and avocados), a sweet girl who only goes to time out 3 times a day, and we are cancer-free (knock on wood), surrounded by family we are on talking terms with who we actually find amusing and fun to be around. Is there any kind of a moment that would be better than that? I don't think so, and I'm positive Tina Fey (blessed be her name) will agree.

Happy 2012, everyone!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

hot snippets of bucket.

First, kind of an apology: it was brought to my attention that last time's post was far too long and a tad too political...for someone who was complaining about people being political (I blame my inner angry hippie for all moments like these). But there were a few highlights/thumbs up (for those who missed it) I've been told were effective: the online politics between my (sarcastic butthead of a) brother and myself, the naming of gay people's political protest glitter sprinkles as "Pixie Dust of Angry Love" (this actually was fairly clever, if I can say so myself), and my rock star design ideas for the Oval Office (seriously, friends, if crazed Texan/used-car-salesman-looking Rick Perry ever gets in there, I feel fairly certain he's going to be all over my electric blue/red and the silver disco ball in the middle design plan...I'll throw in some cowhide rugs and several huge ten gallon hat commissioned paintings; I am acutely aware of how over-the-top most Texans love it).

So now I've gotten that off my chest, let's move on to some apolitical general August updates:


1-It's frickin' hot, people. And I'm in a classroom trailer area, and that area is always about 120 degrees hotter than everywhere else on the planet--some areas areas of the world are wind tunnels. The classroom trailers at my school are one giant heat tunnel. Air conditioning is a human right in my area of the world. In fact, at this point, I'm way less concerned about our nation's growing debt and jobs problems than I am about the fact that we continue to insist on starting school here smack dab in the summer heat, during the most godless period of ridiculously ridiculous humidity.

I've heard insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results each time, and I'm convinced this is what continues school districts here to keep trying to start school at the end of July/beginning of August. And while I'm no internationally recognized economist (you're welcome, world economy), I'm pretty sure starting school after Labor Day or, what the heck, after Halloween, would shave off at least a gabillion dollars from the state education budget in air conditioning costs alone. It's too late for this school year, but I know we can do it for 2012-13, with proper leadership (i.e., not me: I'm just a little old worker bee who likes to complain a lot).


2-I have morning bus duty this year. It's a fairly intense duty, because of various weather-related issues (see my heat complaint above, #1) (later, in January, I will issue forth a general complaint about school being in session during icy months), but I'm starting to kind of enjoy it because I am privy to the inner mind workings of so many children exiting the buses. Just based on various snippets I've caught here and there, I really think we're going to be okay as a country if/when some of these young stars take over.

Some recent samples:
4th? or 5th? grade girl: ...all these fools talking about the end of the world. Well it better not be on a Friday. School's the last place on earth I want to spend MY last hour. (I really wanted to high five her for this because, uh heck yeah! But I'm not familiar with 4th/5th grader psychology--would that have made her terribly uncool, to have a strange teacher come up to her and high five her before class even started?)

three 2nd? 3rd? grade girls walking in row, girl in the middle speaking: ...I'm not going to have a baby. I'M going to adopt. (Girlfriend, right on! Your body will so thank you, particularly if you're in your late 30s when you do it.)


3-Melissa has learned to cuss. And, like most everything she starts doing, she doesn't go small. No, this time she's headed for the big one. The F dash dash dash word, and I don't mean Fork, Four, or Fart.

I must take partial blame for this; I had terrible road rage when she was ages 0-2. I never held back because I figured small babies have swiss cheese memories as their brains are in the beginning stages of development, and small toddlers too. But apparently I've been gifted with an obstinate, future actress who lives to shock others, and she's discovered the F dash dash dash word is just the ticket.

This morning for instance, she didn't want to take her breakfast plate into the kitchen. And so I asked her (tip #1 for new parents of overly opinionated toddlers: Do NOT ask them why not--under any and all circumstances), "Why not?"

And she replied all casual-like, "Because F dash dash dash you, mommy."

Okay, so here's where I do NOT take blame. I'm sure she knows the F word from our driving lessons over the last two years or so. That's all me, I admit it, guilty as charged, I'm sure there's a special place in Hell for mommies like my classy self. However, I know for a heck of a road rage FACT I have never, at any point, ever told another driver in another car that she or he could or should or must "F dash dash dash you."

I suspect another kid in her daycare class. I find these people are always the easiest scapegoats to point at for most everything (tip #2 for new parents of toddlers): Is your kid suddenly throwing around expletives? Daycare friends. Flinging poop on your walls? Daycare peeps. Refusing to stay in own bed at night, blaming it on fear of the Big Bad Wolf? Daycare homies.

Anyway. She said it, and I was all "(GASP!!) What did you just say??" And she giggled and said it again, louder this time, with great amounts of more confidence and self-sure emphasis.

So we're trying not to make a big deal of when she throws the word around because, first of all, words are important tools for toddlers. They're just learning to navigate Life's crazy, twisty turns and some days, "No!" and "I don't want to!" and "F-dash dash dash it!" are all the power they have to wield in a world that simply refuses to recognize their importance--toddlers are China, and we adults are like one big G8 summit refusing to let them in on the big secret.

And second of all, C and I are convinced she still thinks the word she's shocking everyone with is "bucket" or a variation thereof. In fact, I fully anticipate her exiting a school bus one day while spouting off worldly wisdom to some friends as they walk by the teachers on bus duty. And I fully anticipate her throwing in the word bucket at the end of whatever wise-for-her-age thoughtful thoughts she shares, because she'll remember that when she was a mere 34 months old, the word bucket always made her mommy's eyes get big, and so she'll be sure the word bucket makes her sound all grown up and hip. And I'm totally okay having some teacher write all that up in a blog one day.

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