Monday, February 28, 2011

Three Ditties…One Day…One Kid

It’s no secret that funny lives in my First Grade classroom, and probably in First Grade classrooms all over the country…all over the world even!  I’m telling you, if you’re ever having a bad day, find a First Grade teacher and ask if you can spend the day with her.  You will LOL all day long….well, actually, you’ll bite your tongue or turn your head to hide the fact that you’re LOLing all day long (or, if you’re like me, you’ll run around the classroom looking for paper to write it all down).  The point is, you’ll laugh, and the best part…the kids have no idea how funny they are. 

Typically, funny will be spread pretty evenly among several children throughout any given day.  On this particular day, however, funny lived in one kid…he had his funny on and I have the following ditties to prove it.

Ditty #1
It was the 106th day of school and I was a bit frustrated with my class because, on this 106th day of school, they are still not starting their sentences with capital letters.  Grrr!  (In case you’re wondering, I really don’t obsessively count school days…we do it as part of our Calendar routine, so in the primary grades it’s kind of a big deal.)

I give the kids my best (and very well worn) “It’s the 106th day of school, and I’m still seeing sentences that don’t begin with capital letters” lecture (cue Charlie Brown’s teacher).  The kids are looking at me like they are just as shocked as I am that on the 106th day of school their classmates are committing this heinous crime against punctuation, when the fact of the matter is that most of them are totally guilty!

About two whole minutes after this lovely lecture, I find myself working with a student who…no surprise…has not a single sentence on his paper that begins with a capital letter.  Grrr again!  I point to his first sentence and say, “Buddy, how do we start a sentence?”

He looks at me like oh, oh, oh, I totally know this, and says, “At the beginning.”

Doh!  Now how am I supposed to argue with that? 

Ditty #2
Fast forward about an hour.  We are in the middle of a Language Arts lesson about animal action words.  You know…how animals move.  We are discussing how, instead of just saying “The bird flies” we could say “The bird soars” and instead of saying “The cat plays with yarn” we could say “The cat wrestles the yarn.”  This is a bit hard for them, but they’re doing okay. Then my friend raises his hand and says, “A pig makes bacon” and he starts giggling…and then everyone starts giggling.  He’s totally cracked himself (and everyone else) up and, needless to say, our animal action words lesson was OVER!

Ditty #3
Fast forward another hour. It’s after lunch now and we are engrossed in our lesson.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I was engrossed in the lesson, though about five kids, bless them, were at least humoring me by pretending to be engrossed in the lesson.  The rest?  Well, let’s just say they were, well, not engrossed in the lesson.  However, the room was quiet, very, very quiet.  It was, that is, until my friend pulls something out of his pocket, holds it up like a prize, and says, “Look what I found!”  Now, this is not a teacher’s favorite thing to hear because it typically involves something gross, but this kid’s on a roll, so I bravely look his way to see what he’s got and he’s proudly displaying an orange.

In all my years, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a kid “find” an orange.

Me:  “Hmm, an orange.  Where did you find it?”

Him:  “At the lunch tables.”

My mind goes straight to picturing some poor kid who quickly went to the bathroom and then came back to find part of his lunch gone!  Though you know what?  I kind of like the way this kid thinks, so consider yourselves warned…if you see me coming your way, I highly recommend putting all of your food away because I just might “find” something I like! 

Times like this make me wonder if kids like this leave all their funny in the classroom, or if there’s even more funny at home.  And, boy oh boy, would I ever love to hear the funny they save for home!

Friday, February 25, 2011

He Did NOT Just Say That…Did He?

After work yesterday I went for a run and then stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things (it’s an exciting life, I know).

My wonderful husband met me at the door and said, “Can I help with anything?”

I jokingly groped the girls and said, “Sure, there are a couple of milk jugs in the back, can you please grab those?”

He looked me up and down, paused at the girls, chuckled, and said, “Jugs?  Don’t you mean cups?”

My jaw dropped…did he really just say that?!  Not to be outdone, I said, “You can call them whatever you want, but you’re never seeing them again, that's for sure!”

Happy Friday y'all…from my cups to yours!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Poor Ego

Last week, as you know, marked our 100th day of school and, of course, we had to write about it!  It went down like this:

Me (in my most enthusiastic voice):    “Boys and girls, today we will be writing about what we’ve learned in First Grade now that we’ve been in school for 100 days!  Wow!  Won’t that be fun?!”

Student (in his best ho-hum voice):  “Well, Mrs. J., you see, I don’t really know what I’m going to write about because, well, I haven’t really learned anything in First Grade.  You see, everything I know, well, I knew it coming in to First Grade, so I really have nothing to write about…you see, you haven’t really taught me anything.”

Thanks, kid!  Would you like to insert the knife in my heart before or after you trample all over my ego? 

Luckily I’m quick on my feet in situations like this (good grief, I have to be) and I was able to point out a couple of things that my dear, sweet, Mr. Know It All has, in fact, really and truly, whether he wants to believe it or not, learned right here in First Grade…with me!  

So that was last week…then today this happened:

The students were reading their journals to me and one boy had written about how Calendar is his “third favorite part of the day.”  Of course, I then had to ask him what is first favorite part of the day is.

Me:  “So, what’s your first favorite part of the day?”

Him:  “Recess.”  (Duh!  How could I have even asked that?)

Me:  “Okay, then, what’s your second favorite part of the day?” 

Him:  “Lunch.”  (Duh, again!) 

For me though, in case you're wondering (and I know you are) lunch would definitely trump recess, probably because I loathe yard duty and I love food!

He then asks if I want to know what his fourth favorite part of the day is.  I just know he’s going to say something like, “Going home,” but I’m hopeful that there will at least be something else in his top favorite parts of the day that will include me, his most beloved teacher.  I hold my breath, await his response, and am completely relived when he says, “Centers.”  Whew!  I wasn’t sure my ego could take another blow like the one it suffered last week.

It totally cracks me up how some kids are like, Oh, teacher, you’re so pretty.  Oh, teacher, I love you so much.  Oh teacher, how high can I jump for you?  And other kids are like, Who the heck are you?  Why do you keep giving me all this work?  Would you please just get out of the way already so I can go to recess?

Never a dull moment, people, never a dull moment!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Black vs. Plum

I’m not kidding, or feeling one bit sorry for myself, when I say that if you put me in a room with any given group of people, in any given situation, on any given day, I will have the dubious distinction of having the ugliest feet in the room.  Please, don’t feel sorry for me.  I accepted it long ago…and since I’ve been told I have a winning smile I think it’s a pretty fair trade. 
So the feet are ugly, and to add insult to injury, as they say, all the running I did last year made these ugly feet o’ mine even uglier.   Hardly seems possible, but it’s true…along with my God-given bunions and knuckle toes, I also sport black runners’ toenails.   Nice!
This means that instead of pedicures in the summer, I now have to make sure my toenails are covered at all times.  Not such a horrible problem to have I know, but it can be kind of a pain, not to mention expensive, so for the most part I do my nails myself.
Occasionally though, I do treat myself to a real pedicure, as was the case a couple of weekends ago.  I go to one of those places that’s pretty much, “Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.”  I like it though because, as you can imagine, they’re quite speedy…plus you can get a manicure and a pedicure at, like, the exact same time.  Yeah, that’s right…simultaneously.  (Though I really don’t recommend it because part of the fun of getting a pedicure is being able to read all those trashy magazines that I pretend I’m too much of a snob to read, and, well, if your hands are being worked on at the same time as your feet are being worked on, yes, simultaneously, then you can’t read.)
Anyway, I walk into the place, tell them I want a pedicure, a guy hollers, “Happy Feet” and within a minute a very nice lady comes over to help me.   She asks me to pick out the color first, and while I’m typically a conservative, pale pink kind of gal, I have to cover up my gross black toenails so I go for it and pick out a deep purple color. 
The soaking and massage part of the pedicure are over and she starts to apply the polish.  Hmm…it’s looking really dark, so I say, “Um, wow, that’s pretty dark.  What color is it?”
“Plum,” she says, “pretty plum.”
“Hmm,” I say, “are you sure it’s not black?”
“No, plum, pretty plum,” she repeats.
I take her word for it that it’s plum and not black.  She finishes her job and I pay her.  I then wait a while for my nails to dry (and maybe to finish the trashy magazines, maybe not, I’ll never tell), and then I leave.  When I arrive home my husband takes one look at my feet and says, “Wow, that’s some black polish.  Are you going Goth on me now?”
“It’s not black,” I reply, “it’s plum, pretty plum, can’t you tell?”
He gives me his best ‘She’s wrong but I’m going to agree with her’ smile and walks away.
I head upstairs to show my teenage daughter.  Surely she’ll know the difference between black and plum.
“Wow, mom,” she says, “black nail polish, huh?  Wow, that’s dark!”
“No honey,” I say, “it’s plum, pretty plum, the lady said it’s plum.”
“Whatever, mom, it’s black.”
Of course, they’re both right; the label might say plum, but it’s totally black.  And as I’m realizing that calling it plum doesn’t make it not black it occurs to me that if you’re trying to cover up the fact that you have black toenails, um, you should probably pick a color other than, well, black.  Because now, instead of 4 black toenails, I have 10!  
(If you’re thinking ‘Wow, did she really just blog about her toenails?’   Why, yes I did.  It was either that or share with you my first attempt at a letter to the editor and I figured, hey, ugly toenails are probably much easier to stomach right now than more talks about cuts to Education.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Gyrator

We’re getting ready for recess one day last week and the kids are standing behind their pushed-in chairs like little angels waiting for me to dismiss them.  Funny how the closer it gets to recess, the more perfect they all become.  Well, most of them anyway…

A kid in the front row (the closest kid to me as a matter of fact) is gyrating away like I’ve never seen a kid (or anyone for that matter) gyrate before.  I mean, I’ve seen my share of first-grade moves, but this kid’s seriously going to hurt himself if he keeps it up.  Elvis would be so proud!

He’s gyrating away, and he’s cracking himself up.  Gyrate, gyrate, gyrate, laugh, laugh, laugh.  Noticing that no one is watching him and appreciating his moves, he turns to his seat partner and throws some gyration her way.   More gyrate, gyrate, gyrate, laugh, laugh, laugh.  Only, guess what?  She’s not having it.  She looks at him and says,

“You know…that’s not funny.  Did you hear me?  That’s not funny.  It’s creepy.”

She’s right, of course, and I wish I could say so, but I have to play it cool.  

I quickly dismiss them, mostly to put her out of her misery, and as they walk out the door I start to wonder if he’ll be sore tomorrow.  Nah, he has youth on his side.  Now if it had been me showing off moves like that, I’d be sore for at least a week!  Of course, that would be impossible because I no longer have moves like that!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Trio of T-Shirts

The son recently needed some new clothes, and since he’s a boy, and a teenaged boy at that, he, of course, hates to shop.  Online shopping to the rescue! 

Normally we’ll sit down at the computer together, look at a few sites, make a few clicks, and…voila…shopping’s done!  This time, though, I was in the middle of something else (probably sitting right here writing something) and, being’s as he’s 16-years old and all, I figured he’d be just fine doing it himself. 

(Those old apron strings have to be cut sooner or later, right?  Though, really, I’m not one of those helicopter parents, right kids? ‘What’s that, mom?  We can’t hear you…you’re smothering us.’  Ha, ha, ha, good one, kids!) 

So the son needs new clothes, I’m busy, he’s not, and so he goes into the office.  He’s on the computer for about 15 minutes, comes back over to me, and says, “Okay, I’m done.”  (What would have taken me at least three days, and would have certainly involved at least that many full shopping carts, he did in a snap.  Aren’t boys wonderful?!)

I was ready to hand him my credit card then realized I’d have to give him my passwords and such and I’m just not ready to “go there” with him quite yet.  Thankfully, too, because as it turns out he had missed the bright red “Save 20% AND Free Shipping” button, so  I’m glad I was there to oversee at least this part of his first solo shopping experience…totally worth the $30 savings.

Fast forward a few days…His new clothes arrive and I let him deal with it…Yay, me!  He unpacks them, throws away the trash, and places them in the hamper to be washed.  I must confess I do my kids’ laundry.  Mostly because I try to do my environmental part by running the largest loads possible (that’s my story anyway, and I’m sticking to it). 

As I’m putting the laundry away (yes, I do this too…I am so busted), I notice three gray Quiksilver T-shirts.  These are the new shirts he ordered and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, three gray shirts, how boring.’  Then it gets worse…not only did he order three gray shirts, but he ordered three IDENTICAL gray shirts.  As in, it’s the EXACT same shirt, only there are three of them. 

I race downstairs, call his name, and with my hands on my hips I look him straight in the face and say,

“You ordered three identical shirts!  How could you order three identical shirts?” 

He looks at me like I have three heads and he says, “So? What’s wrong with that?”

”So? So?” I say, “It’s going to look like you don’t change your clothes, that’s what’s wrong with that!”

He echoes his earlier response, “So?  What’s wrong with that?”  (Forget what I said earlier about boys being wonderful.)

What’s the big deal, you ask?  It’s just a bunch of shirts, who cares?  Well, I care.  You see, my kids have two main jobs in life:  1. They are to get stellar grades and 2.  They are to go out into the world and present themselves in a manner that does NOT suggest that their parents are asleep at the wheel.  As far as I’m concerned, wearing the exact same shirt three days in a row is in direct violation of Job #2!

I try to explain this to him by saying, “Son, you have to remember that how you dress and how you act reflect upon your father and me, and no son of mine is going to go out in the world wearing the same clothes every day!”  Yes, I know that, technically, they are not the same shirts.  Yes, I know that they are three different shirts, and that they will be freshly laundered prior to each wearing.  And yes, I know that there are people out there with bigger problems than this.  I know that there are people out there who would be thrilled to have three clean shirts, period.  But the point of this blog is not to save the world; rather, it’s to make people giggle every now and then (well, that, and to allow me a place to clear my head, but that’s all beside the point right now).  The point right now is that for all intents and purposes my son is wearing the same shirt every day and I’m not having it!

We go round and round a few more times but he clearly does not see my point at all.  And really, should I even be one bit surprised?  After all, hanging in his father’s closet is not 1, not 2, not even 3, but 10…yes, 10…pair of khaki-colored pants!  Why should the son be any different than the father?  And don’t you dare point to the bottom of my closet and say, “But, but, but…you have at least 10 pair of black shoes.”  That’s different and you know it!

Now…who’s in need of a gray T-shirt?  Seems I have a couple extra!  And, what the heck, I’ll even throw in a pair of khaki pants to go with it!

Friday, February 18, 2011

I Guess It’s Good To Be Needed

As is the case with most families in which both parents work, my husband and I do the tag-team thing with the kids – he takes the morning shift and gets everyone fed and off to school on time, and I take the afternoon shift and get everyone to and from all of their various after-school activities.  It’s a system that works beautifully in our home.

Now that the kids are a little older though, and especially now that my son is driving, there’s not that frantic sense of urgency in getting everyone up and at ‘em anymore.  The kids now kind of get up on their own and start getting ready by themselves...they even start their own breakfasts most days…oh, my babies are growing up!

I leave pretty early so I typically say good morning to everyone in their various stages of rolling out of bed and then I head on out to work.  The husband, though, is a pretty early riser so he’s usually up by the time I leave.  Except for the other morning…

He’s still in bed and I go to kiss him goodbye and wish him a good day.  He rolls over and says, “You can’t leave.”  Aw, shucks, how sweet, I think, he doesn’t want me to go.  “If you leave,” he says, “who’ll make the bed?” 

Making beds and changing paper towels…I guess it’s good to be needed…I think!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Would You Rather...Be a Louse or a Wimp?

I’ve got this kid in my class, as all teachers do, who’s basically a good kid, but every now and then he gets a little squirrelier than he should.  My sense is that he wants to do the right thing, but sometimes he just can’t help himself, and sometimes he just gets caught up in what the “naughty” kids are doing, and instead of doing something different, he chooses to go along with them.  But basically, his heart is in the right place and I truly think he means well.

Lately though, things have started to escalate and I’ve been wondering if it’s time to contact his parents.  He’s starting to really rush through his work, turning in “slip slop” as I call it, and his behavior is going downhill as well (during our recent field trip to the Post Office he was one of the four kids I had to keep in my “hand-holding rotation” because he just couldn’t keep it together).

Whenever I find myself in situations like this I always ask myself if the student’s behavior is such that I would want to know about it if I were the parent.  Last night I decided that yes, I’d want to know, and that yes, I would, in fact, email his parents today and let them know.

Let me back up just a teeny tiny smidge here before I continue.  Remember how just the other day I was feeling nostalgic for letter writing, and how I told you how dear I hold all my cheesy high school letters I have in my garage…you know, the ones written on notebook paper?  Well…

Today, the very day that I’m going to contact this kid’s parents, he marches in with a huge smile on his face and guess what he’s got in his hand?  You got it…a letter!  And guess what kind of paper the letter’s written on?  Yep again…notebook paper!  And guess who the letter is for?  Righty-o…me!

And here’s what the slightly-crumpled, written-on-notebook-paper letter said:  “Dear Mrs. J, I like you being my teacher.  I like when you read to me.  I like when you let me have extra recess.  I like you being my teacher.”

It’s got hearts all over it; in fact there are hearts within hearts, and he’s even drawn an adorable frog at the bottom with a huge smile on its face. 

So now what am I supposed to do?  I really do need to inform his parents of his behavior, but I’m going to feel like a total louse if I do it today.  (Mind you, lots of kids give me little notes and pictures and such, but this kid has never done anything like that before.)  Why, oh why, did he have to do it today?!

It’s like he’s read my mind…and my blog!  I suppose it won’t hurt if I wait one more day to tell his parents, will it?  Hey, better to be a wimp than a louse…that’s what I always say!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How About We Declare a Cease Fire on Finger Pointing?

The saying, “There are two sides to every story” is so true; particularly when it comes to teachers and parents.  Luckily, I have been very fortunate in my career in that I have had a lot of wonderful parents.  Oh sure, I’ve had a clunker or two here and there, and one who truly gave me a run for my money, but focusing on them takes away from the vast majority of the others who were, and are, truly wonderful, supportive, helpful, kind, and generous people. 

However, even with the very best of parents, I sometimes find myself feeling like we teachers are on one side of a fence pointing our fingers at them, and they’re on the other side of the fence pointing their fingers at us.  Thankfully, this doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.   

Take, for example, the whole Healthy Schools movement.  Now this is an idea I wholeheartedly support, despite the fact that I sometimes look at what’s being served in the cafeteria, shake my head, and think, ‘Really, that’s healthy food?!’ But I think the intent is there, and each year I do see improvement, so I try my best to be supportive.

The Healthy Schools movement started in our district at the district level, of course, and then it trickled down to the schools (via the cafeteria), and it has now made its way into the classrooms.  Because I am not a teacher who does any type of food rewards, and I certainly never give my students candy, I figure this really shouldn’t effect me.  Yet, it does.

I am one of the Teacher Representatives for our school’s Parent Teacher Organization, and at the beginning of this school year there was much ado about treats at school, mostly via classroom celebrations (birthday parties, holiday parties, etc.), but there were also concerns about teachers who use candy as an incentive.  I listened with respectful interest to what the parents had to say, which was basically that teachers were “serving our kids too many treats.”  Thankfully, a parent who does quite a bit of volunteering at our school raised her hand and said, “Well, it’s all well and good to blame the teachers, but let’s remember, it’s the parents who provide the treats for the parties, not the teachers.”  I gave her my most charming smile and she instantly became my new BFF!

Of course, another involved parent brought up the very valid point that while the parents may be the ones providing the treats, it’s the teachers’ classrooms and ultimately it’s the teachers who can control what’s being served, right?  Well, yes and no.  I now offer two scenarios that happened in my class recently, and I’ll let you be the judge about who’s to blame for treats at school.

Scenario #1

Last Thursday we took our annual trip to the Post Office to mail letters to our parents in honor of Valentine’s Day (a great trip except for the fact that I had four naughty kids and only two hands, but that’s another post).   We return to campus just in time to start lining up for lunch, and as I’m waiting for the kids to get their lunch boxes, get in line, etc., I notice that some of the kids have M&M’s.  At first I thought that maybe they had brought them themselves as part of their lunches, but there are simply too many kids that have them for it to be a mere coincidence. 

I put on my detective hat, look around, and notice that sure enough, a parent is passing out bags of M&M’s (mind you, they’re the small bags, but still…that’s treats in school and they are being handed out on my watch).  So what am I supposed to do?  I don’t feel it would be right to just go around and start grabbing M&M bags.  I mean, some of the kids have already gobbled theirs all up, and I didn’t think it would be fair to the kids who hadn’t already chowed them down to get theirs taken away.  Also, I didn’t want to cause any hard feelings with the parent who was passing them out.  I mean, it’s only February…we still have another four months together and I certainly don’t want there to be any tension between us. 

It just doesn’t seem worth it to throw away a solid parent relationship over M&M’s…and yet...these kids will likely go home and tell their parents not about the great field trip and all they learned, but about the M&M’s they received at the end (in case you are rolling your eyes right now, a parent did, in fact, mention the M&M’s to me).  If I’m lucky, the kids will remember that the M&M’s were given to them by a parent, not their teacher…but that’s a long shot with most of these kids.  They got a bag of M&M’s, they got it at school, which means that I, the teacher, gave it to them.  That’s just how these things work.

Scenario #2

As I said, I am supportive of the whole Healthy Schools thing, and while I don’t give my students candy, I do allow treats for birthdays and for parties.  However, I always ask that the birthday treats be small, and that the party food always include fruit and/or vegetables. 

(Truth be told, and I’ll probably lose my primary teacher card for this, but I’m really not a fan of birthday celebrations in school.  Call me The Grinch, that’s okay.  But here’s the deal:  The kids get so caught up in what they’re getting that they totally lose sight of the fact that they’re supposed to be celebrating someone else!  Nothing turns my stomach more than a bunch of 6-year olds with a bad case of the “gimmies.”  If it were up to me, we’d sing the birthday kid a song, let her pick a book for me to read during Story Time, and we'd call it good.) 

But it’s not up to me; therefore, as I mentioned above, I try to take a common sense approach to our classroom celebrations.  And this is the approach that I took when planning our Valentine’s Day party.  I figured the kids would be getting candy as part of the valentines they exchange, so I decided that our classroom party would be a “no food” party; instead we would do a craft and play some games outside.  My room parents were totally on board and we were all good to go. 

That is, until a parent shows up with not one but two ooey, gooey chocolate treats.  His daughter’s birthday was Saturday so they were birthday treats, but neither he nor his wife mentioned a single word to me about them bringing in treats.  Once again, I am put in a tricky situation.  Here I am trying my very best to respect my district’s and my school’s desire to “do things healthier,” yet there’s no way I am going to refuse to let this student pass out her treats.  I mean, really, what would you do? 

I don’t quite know what the answer is here but I do know one thing:  The next time you see parents pointing their fingers at the teachers, please encourage them to get their facts straight first.  I promise to do the same.  In fact, with regards to the “surprise” birthday treats, I went back through my emails from this family just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and nope, there was not a single mention of bringing in treats. 

My point really is that we teachers are faced with things like this all the time.  Whether it’s treats in school, or kids who are struggling, or any number of other things that people think it’s okay to blame us for.  And I’d just like to set the record straight that just as the vast majority of parents are trying to do the right thing in raising their children, so too are the vast majority of teachers in educating their students.  I guess I’m just getting a tad bit tired of teachers being blamed for every obese child in America, for every failing child in America, and for every other problem, real or imagined, that a child can possibly have.  Do the math:  We spend less than half of a year with a child…who’s responsible for the rest of that time?  Instead of pointing our fingers at each other, how about we try pointing our ears instead and truly listen to what each of us has to say?  I think we'll find that we actually have the same goal:  Doing the very best we can for our children.

Now...where did I put those M&M's?!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy ‘Oh-My-Gosh-Can-We-Cram-Anything-Else-Into-This-Day’ Day

Yesterday was the 100th Day of School, along with, as you already know, Valentine’s Day.  The fact that I still have any energy left to write about it simply proves how truly “I am woman hear me roar” I really am!
In the interest of sharing (hey, I’m a giver that way), I thought I’d post a few of yesterday’s funniest funnies here for you to enjoy.  I hope you get at least a giggle or two.

First off, it always amazes me how competitive some kids can be, especially over the most ridiculous, inconsequential things.  Take this little exchange that happened yesterday morning as we were lining up to “snake” through the other First Grade classrooms to check out all of the 100’s Day Collections.

Kid 1:  “Look how big my socks are today.”  He proudly displays them as he laughs.  “See, I’m wearing my dad’s socks today.”  He continues laughing…

Kid 2:  (In his best “big deal” voice):  “Come on, I’ve worn my dad’s socks before.”

Kid 1:  (He could really care less; he’s having a grand old time showing me his dad’s socks and he doesn’t even bother to respond to Kid 2…yay, Kid 1!)

Kid 2:  (Never one to be ignored, or one-upped for that matter): “I’ve worn my dad’s socks two times.”

I have no doubt that if Kid 1 had said he had worn his dad’s socks 10 times that Kid 2 would have said he had worn his dad’s socks 11 times.  I always feel a little bit sad for kids like this, but it sure was funny seeing how amused Kid 1 was to be wearing his dad’s socks.

After we snaked through all of the First Grade classrooms and admired everyone’s collections, it was time for First Grade Rotations (each teacher leads a 100th day activity and the classes all rotate through). 

One of the activities was making a pair of glasses (you know, your basic construction paper dealy-o where the zeros in the number 100 are cut out for the eyes…the kids loved it).  Anyway, my class is heading back toward me all aflutter in their excitement over their new glasses and Kid 2 (yes, him again) is getting very frustrated because his glasses are not staying on his face.  After a few grunts, groans, and on the brink of tears, he finally gets them to stay on.  He’s all proud of himself and starts doing his best look at me dance as he says, “Hey, I got them to work!”  This was instantly followed by, “Oh, crap” because, of course, all that moving around made them fall right off!  No, I didn’t tell him that “Crap” is not a school word.  He knows that “Crap” is not a school word!  I am merely relieved that he didn’t end up in a puddle of tears, and the fact that he said “Crap” is really the least of my worries.  I’ve got 23 kids on Hundred’s Day and Valentine’s Day steroids and the only goal I have for the day is to survive it!

In addition to the glasses, with another teacher the kids participated in a “100-year-old” writing assignment with the following prompt:

“When I am 100 I will…”

Well, you know the responses to this were hilarious, and here are a few of the best in case you need proof.

“When I am 100 I will grow wrinkles all over my body, face, and legs.”
(Do I dare tell her that this will happen long before she hits 100?)

“When I am 100 I will need a cane.”

“When I am 100 I will have glasses and have a lot of gran childerin.”
(So sweet!)

“When I am 100 I will be flexabol.”

“When I am 100 I will need a dog to hlep gide me.”

“When I am 100 I will need a weel cher.”

“When I am 100 I will need a cane.  And then be ded.”
(Gotta love a kid who gets straight to the point!)

With yet another teacher the kids read that book about one million cats, and then they did a quick writing response to the prompt If I had a hundred cats to choose from I would pick a cat that…

 Two funny responses were:

“…I would pick a cat that would pull my tooth.”

“…I would pick a cat that has $1,255.99.” 

Hmm…tooth-pulling, money-carrying cats…very interesting!

And the funniest thing of all:  We were having a sack race (okay, that whole event was hilarious), but one kid…you know…the one who’s totally uncoordinated…well, he falls down, picks himself back up (after rolling around for a while, of course), picks up his sack, puts it in his hand, and finishes the race carrying it!  Now that's what I call problem solving!

So, tell me folks, what did you do yesterday?!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day…Blah, Blah, Blah!

I’ll probably have to turn in my girl card for this…though if you knew how much damage I can do at Nordstrom you’d give it right back…so, I’ll put my girl card (and my Nordstrom card for that matter) back in my wallet for now and issue the following true statement:  I’m not really a fan of Valentine’s Day.  There, I said it…whew!

Why not, you ask?  Well, it just seems a tad bit too contrived for me.  Like here’s this one day we’re supposed to be really nice and loving to each other, but the other 364 days of the year? Eh, who cares?  No, I don’t like that at all. 

And what’s with all the gift giving?   Don’t get me wrong, I love a good gift and all, but really, what is an appropriate Valentine’s Day gift?  I mean, it’s Valentine’s Day for crying out loud.  If ever there were a fake holiday, it’s Valentine’s Day.  Just look up the history of Valentine’s Day…it’s totally obscure and, at times, even gruesome.  Yet, it’s second only to Christmas in card-giving.  If you ask me, Valentine's Day is nothing more than a fake, greeting-card-company holiday, that's for sure! 

Even Apple is vying for its share of the Valentine's Day gift-giving pie (like that company needs any more business).  A couple of weeks ago I received an email from them about “An iPad for your sweetheart” or some other such nonsense, and I thought, Seriously?  Do people really give each other such extravagant (and totally unromantic) gifts like iPads for Valentine’s Day?  I mean, an iPad out the door is probably, what, like $700?  For Valentine’s Day?!  That just seems weird to me…and really, nothing says romance like a gadget, especially a gadget that you won’t be able to drag your loved one away from, right?  Nah, I think I’ll pass on that.

Then there’s all the usual stuff:  Cards, flowers, and candy.  Those are all okay, I guess.  But really, I can do without them.  Every year I try to tell my husband not to bother with Valentine’s Day, that I truly think it’s the lamest holiday ever invented, and his response is always the same:  “There’s no way I’m going to be the guy not getting his wife anything for Valentine’s Day.”  So, in reality, he’s not getting me something out of his deep love and affection for me (though I know he loves me…good grief, he’s put up with me for close to 20 years now…if that’s not love then I don’t know what is), but really, the real reason he gets me a gift is so that he can save face.  How romantic!

To me, the real romance happens with the day-to-day, ho-hum ness of life.  When my husband looks at me at the end of the day, sees how tired I am, and says, “I’m making dinner.”  When he says, “Hey, let’s go for a walk.”  When he looks around and sees that the kids are occupied and says, “Meet me in the hot tub.”  Those are the things that make me happy, and really, they’re not things at all now, are they?  They’re small gestures that come from having built a life together, and I’ll take them any day over the traditional fare that the greeting card companies, along with everyone else it seems, are peddling these days in the name of love.

So for those of you who really enjoy Valentine’s Day, I hope you have a wonderful day, truly I do, and I hope I haven’t rained on all your lace and doilies.  And for those of you cynics out there like me who thinks it’s a waste, join me in pretending it’s just February 14, the day between February 13 and February 15, a day of no significance whatsoever…except for the fact that it just so happens to be almost exactly a month away from St. Patrick’s Day…now that’s a holiday I can get into!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Letter Writing 101

One of the very best things about my job is reading what my students write.  No matter what, I always make the time to read everything they write.  Even if I have to weed through and “round file” other assignments (hey, there really are only so many hours in a day), I always read every writing center assignment, every journal entry…every single word of every single thing they write.  And I am always well rewarded.

We have recently taken on the challenge of writing friendly letters.  We start by writing them to each other (the students pick a stick and write a letter to whoever’s stick they pick…this way they are forced to write to someone other than their BFF and it’s an easy way for me to make sure that everyone gets a letter). 

Here are some sentences from our first couple of attempts that made me laugh out loud.  I hope that you, too, get a good chuckle out of them.

“I think you are a good friend because you sometimes make me laugh.”

“You know your prayers at church.”

“The special thing about you is that you share!”

“You are asoum at the computer lab.”

“This morning I had fun playing with you even tho is wasint really a game.”

“You have a very good maner.”

 “I noticed that you are fabulous at playing around the world.”

“What kind of work do you do at home?”

“You are good at howling.”

“You are a silent person.”

“You have sellf cuncherill.”  (self control)

“You list in to the teacher.”  (listen)

“You know me very well.”

“You are my 1st best friend.  I’ll be playing with you every 3rd recess from now on.”

“You always let me play with you sometimes.”

“You are really fast at running.”

“You are beautiful, sweet, and sometimes funny.”

“You are a trific friend.”

“I like your righting.”

“I like your smile.”

“You are butiful.”

Teaching the kids the art of letter writing made me nostalgic for all the letters my friends and I wrote to each other back in high school.  It kind of makes me sad for this generation of kids.  I mean, you can’t sit on the floor surrounded by a heap of emails and texts, can you?  There’s something comforting about that box that's in my garage…that box that’s full of memories…memories tucked securely into the folds of notebook paper…memories that are ready to be relived at a moment's notice.  Like magic, I can simply unfold a piece of paper and a lifetime ago returns in an instant. In a way, those letters give weight to my existence…they are proof of my life when I was just me.  See kids?  I really was young once.  See kids? I really was your age once.  Yes, it was a long time ago, but it really did happen, the proof is right there...on paper, which will stand the test of time.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Blurry Morning

Once upon a time there was a beautiful, young woman.  (Yeah, that’s right, beautiful and young…you got a problem with that?)  Anyway, this beautiful, young woman was getting ready for work one day.  Her world’s looking a bit blurry and she can’t quite figure out why.  If she didn’t know better, she’d think she hadn’t put her contacts in yet.  But her eye make-up is already on, so of course the contacts are already in.  I mean, who puts their eye make-up on before putting their contacts in?  Not the beautiful, young woman, that’s who (or not who...whatever).

However, things are just so darn blurry for the beautiful, young woman.  Maybe she really did forget to put her contacts in.  So the beautiful, young woman checks her contact case and it’s empty, which means, of course, that the contacts are, in fact, in her eyes.  Wondering exactly how much time she has wasted on this little, blurry contact mystery, the beautiful, young woman looks across the room at the clock, only she can’t see it.  Something is seriously wrong here. 

(At her recent eye appointment, the beautiful, young woman’s eye doctor had actually over corrected her distance vision, and up until that very moment the beautiful, young woman has not only been able to see the clock across her own room, but she has also, in fact, been able to see the clock in her son’s room…through the wall!)

The beautiful, young woman is getting frustrated, so she proceeds to pull out her contacts, thinking that if they come out then they must be in.  Luckily the beautiful, young woman is also smart, for this is all getting so complicated (not to mention confusing).  I mean, are the contacts in or are they not in?  Turns out they are in!  Yay!  But wait, the world is still blurry for the beautiful, young, smart woman.

The beautiful, young, smart woman is running out of time so she finishes getting ready and heads to work.  Don’t fret, the beautiful, young, smart woman can see well enough to drive.  Along with beauty, youth, and smarts, the beautiful, young, smart woman also has common sense and would never, ever, drive while under the influence of excessively blurry vision.

On her way to work she makes a stop at Starbuck’s.  Did I mention she was also rich?  So the beautiful, young, smart, common sensical, rich woman stops at Starbuck’s, only she can’t read the menu!  No matter, they know her well there (she’s so popular) and so she orders her usual. 

Coffee in hand (and yes, if you must know, there’s a pastry involved here too…whatever,  people...let’s just focus on the story okay), the beautiful, young, smart, common sensical, rich, popular woman gets in her car and starts to drive to work.  And that’s when it hits her.  Could it be that while the contacts are indeed in, they are, in fact, in the wrong eyes?  Could it be that the beautiful, young, smart, common sensical, rich, popular woman put the left contact in her right eye and the right contact in her left eye?  But she's so smart. How could something like this happen? 

Eager to test her theory, the beautiful, young, smart, common sensical, rich, popular woman drives to work as fast as she safely can, hops out of her car, races down the hallway, and heads straight to the bathroom.  And guess what?  She is right!  The beautiful, young, smart, common sensical, rich, popular woman had, in fact, inadvertently switched her contacts…though now that she thinks about, maybe it was her husband who had switched them and maybe the beautiful, young, smart, common sensical, rich, popular woman wasn’t one bit to blame after all!  Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s how the story goes.

The End.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Pay Off

You may recall the husband abandoning me on Super Bowl Sunday for a Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament.  What I don’t think I mentioned is that the tournament was held at his men’s club.  I know what you’re thinking…I thought the same thing…’A men’s club, how very caveman.’

When he first mentioned it to me my feminist hackles went up and I tried my best not to grit my teeth, roll my eyes, and drip with sarcasm when I said, “Men’s club…that’s great honey.”  Okay, I’ll be honest, I actually did grit my teeth, roll my eyes, and drip with sarcasm, but hey, I also said, “Great” so that’s kind of being supportive, right?

I admit I was a bit put off by the whole men’s club idea.  I pictured a bunch of rich, middle-aged, unhappily married men whose sole purpose of being in a men’s club was to escape their wives.  I mean, my husband is extremely happily married (right, dear?), so really, my concern was that he’d have nothing in common with these guys, and that when they started griping about their wives it would be awkward for him because, you know, he’d have to tell them how truly wonderful and beautiful his wife is and they might not like that…in fact, they might even kick him out!  So truly, my concerns were really, as always, for him, and not one bit for me…I swear!

Then I recalled how supportive he is of me (dang it).  I mean, he never says anything about my Book Club...well, other than, “Did you guys talk about the book, or did ya’ll just yak all night long?”  (Oh, how well he knows women.)  And really, my Book Club is basically like his men’s club, well kind of.  I think what initially turned me off about the men’s club is the exclusivity of it.  I mean “men’s club” sounds pretty snooty, right?  And we are so not snooty, “club” people…er, uh, no offense to all you “clubbers” out there.   Different strokes for different folks and all that jazz, right?

So I was upset for all of three minutes and then I decided that my cool, down-to-earth husband would not, in fact, turn into Thurston Howell III overnight simply because he had joined a men’s club.  And you know what?  It’s really paid off…literally!  Because guess who won that Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament?  Oh, yeah, my man, that’s who!  And, guess how much he won?  Try seven, that’s right, seven, of another very cool man…Benjamin Franklin, that’s who…plus a Ulysses S. Grant thrown in to keep all those Franklins company.  That’s right.  Seven.  Hundred.  Fifty.  Big Ones!  Oh, yeah!

I think I’ll start a men’s club fan club…who’s with me? 

Monday, February 7, 2011

On Mothering

When you grow up without a traditional mother, and when you then become a mother yourself, you feel a little bit out of sorts because you don’t really know what true mothering looks like.  Sure, you watched your friends’ moms when you were a kid, and though that was certainly helpful (and probably one of the reasons you ended up turning out okay) it’s not the same as having a normal, loving, nurturing relationship with your own mother.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t feel loved, and really, in a lot of ways I know I was lucky.  My mom was never abusive or mean to me or anything like that (the most I ever got from her was a well-deserved slap on the hand and the occasional raising of the voice), and my dad was pretty solid, but he was always busy working; he had to be…he had psychiatric bills to pay and a family to provide for.  Now that I’m a parent myself, I can only imagine how overwhelmed he must have been back then. I feel for him, truly I do, and I think he did the best he could.  But the end result was that he was busy, my mom was crazy, and I was lonely.

I guess what I’m struggling to put into words is that I never felt like I was anyone’s priority.  (I was kind of like that plant in the corner that doesn’t get watered until it’s droopy and brown.)  My dad would disagree (not about the plant, of course, though at my house it’s totally true) but about me not being a priority.  He would argue that the reason he divorced my mom was because I was the priority and he felt that the window to me turning out okay and me turning out not okay was closing quickly.  I don’t disagree with him, but I was 12 when they divorced…that’s a lot of years feeling alone.   

When I became a mom myself I vowed to do things differently, only I didn’t really know how. Therefore, I did what I had done as a kid…I watched how other moms mothered their children and I tried to be like them.

I watched “strict mom” and I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll be strict mom and not let my kids do anything and I’ll make them believe everything I believe.’  Of course, that didn’t feel right.  I want my kids to have their own unique experiences; I’m not interested in controlling their every move and thought.  I think it’s important that they figure out what’s right and wrong (not necessarily completely on their own) but certainly without their father and me cramming our beliefs down their throats.  Above all else, I want my kids to be independent and to go out into the world and, of course, to listen to and to respect the opinions of others, but at the end of the day, I want them to think for themselves and to form their own opinions based not on what their parents believe (though I hope they will always consider our feelings) but based on what they themselves determine, through their own experiences, is right and good.  “Strict mom,” needless to say, was not a good match. 

Then I took a look at “cool mom.” You know…the one who tries to be her kids’ BFF and buys them all the latest and greatest in clothes, gadgets, etc.  Not only does “cool mom”  buy her kids whatever they want, she also lets them watch whatever they want…be it movies, TV shows, video games, etc.  Whatever the kids want, “cool mom” makes sure they get.  Well, “cool mom” was a worse fit than “strict mom” primarily because I am so not cool!  But really, “cool mom” didn’t work for me because, as I mentioned above, I want my kids to be independent.  I don’t want them to grow up thinking mommy and daddy will buy them everything they want (don’t get me wrong, we buy them plenty), but, I want them to have that sense of accomplishment that comes from saving for something and then buying it for themselves.  I’m not interested in raising kids who think the world owes them.   Rather, I’m interested in raising kids who aren’t afraid to work hard to get what they want, whatever that might be.  I want my kids to find and follow their passions, and that involves hard work.  I think “cool mom” stifles her children in this regard because, by giving them everything they want, she robs them of that drive and determination that is absolutely necessary to go out in the world and stake your claim, so to speak.

If I’m not “strict mom” and I’m not “cool mom” then what kind of mom am I supposed to be?  (I realize being a mom is much more complex than just “strict” and “cool,” but for the sake of keeping this post a reasonable length I am oversimplifying…grossly so, I know, but just roll with it, okay?  We both have dirty dishes, laundry, etc., waiting for us and we can't hide from them here on the computer forever now can we?)  

As with pretty much everything else in my life, I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle.  I think at times I am strict and at times I am cool (or, at least moderately cool).  I believe in keeping a close eye on what my kids are doing and who their friends are, while at the same time giving them the freedom to figure things out on their own.  (One thing that has served me well from my “nontraditional” upbringing is that I learned long ago that if you fall down flat on your face you get yourself right back up.  No one coddled me growing up, that’s for sure, but you know what?  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.)  As for being a cool mom, I can do that every now and then.  In fact, I think the occasional splurge is not only fine, but downright fun and necessary.

So I’ll muddle through this thing called motherhood and I’ll do the best I can.  I’ll still look to other moms for tips and advice, but at the end of the day, I’ll be following my own instincts, thank you very much.  It’s too soon to say if they will end up being right or not, but so far the signs are good.  Our kids have wonderful friends, they maintain great grades, they are helpful around the house, and aside from the required teenage eye rolls and sass, they’re just plain fun to be around.   And you know what?  I’m willing to bet that even those who had the absolute very best in mothering probably feel lost and alone sometimes too.  The big difference though, and the part that I have to simply get over, is that they can share those feelings with their moms.  I don’t have that, never have, never will, and though every now and then it stops me cold, I’ve realized what I can do, and that is I can set the stage here and now to have it with my own children.  That’s all I can do.  That’s really all I can do.