Monday, May 30, 2011

From Bad to Good

May 17, 2011 ranks as one of the worst working days of this year and one of the best mommy days of this year.  Go figure! 

“Wow!”  You’re thinking.  It must have been really bad/good for you to remember the exact date.”

Well, yes and no.  I remember the general timeframe because it was Teacher Appreciation Week and my kids were the naughtiest they have been all year and I remember thinking, “Come on, guys, this is Teacher Appreciation Week.  Hello!  You’re supposed to be being nice to me…not totally and completely naughty.”  I mean, even the great kids were giving me a hard time…this was certainly not the way this teacher envisioned being appreciated, that’s for sure!

And I remember the exact date because it was a Tuesday.  How did you remember that it was a Tuesday?”  Good question.  I remember it was a Tuesday because Tuesday is our library day and I remember going to the library so it must have been Tuesday.  How did you remember it was library day?”  Another good question.  I remember it was library day, which means it was a Tuesday, because it took us forever to get to the library.

That’s right, my class was being so naughty that it took practically half of our library time just to walk the 20 steps it takes us to get to the library.  How do you know it takes 20 steps to get to the library?”  Wow, you guys (all three of you) sure have a lot of questions today!  Well, I know it takes 20 steps to get to the library because we’ve counted! 

Remember, it’s First Grade people, which means we have estimated and counted, and counted again, how many steps it takes to get to the library.  Learning opportunities are everywhere in First Grade folks, simply everywhere!

So I’ve had a pretty bad day at work and I’m driving home from this day spent with naughty kids, and what do I see when I turn the corner onto my street?  My son washing the car!  That simple little act simply made my day…in fact, it changed my bad day to a good day in an instant.

But wait…it gets better.  I’m reveling in the joy my son brought me by washing the car without being asked (heck, my husband may have told him to wash the car for all I know, but I didn’t even care…seeing him out there when I pulled up was just what I needed)…so I’m reveling in this little moment of joy and I realize it’s time to go pick up my daughter from the gym.  I’m so happy with my son, that having to run out yet again doesn’t make me one bit grumpy…really, not even one bit!  Honest!

And thank goodness I was the one to pick her up.  She gets in the car and we make our usual small talk, and then out of the blue she says…are you ready for this?  Wait, maybe you better sit down.  No, on second thought stand up, because if you’re sitting down then you’ll totally fall out of your chair when you hear what she says…you ready?

My 14-year old daughter…the one whom I typically annoy just by breathing…said, “I just want to thank you guys (meaning me and her dad) for raising me right.”  If I weren’t driving I would have fallen out of my chair, and then I would have collapsed into a mush of mommy pride.  It would have been ugly, so let’s just say I was more than grateful to have been driving. 

“Aww, honey, that’s sweet, what makes you say that?” I ask.

“Well,” she says (and if you knew her, then you would know that what she says next is so totally her that it makes the moment even sweeter), but anyway, she says, “Well, I look around at the kids at school and I’m not a bad kid or a kid who does drugs or anything like that, and, well, I’m not like a nerd or anything like that either.  I’m just a nice, normal kid and I wanted to let you guys know I appreciate how you are raising me.”

Though I tried to play it cool (in the hopes of garnering future moments like this, let’s be honest), I must admit I got a little teary-eyed and confessed to her how touched I was that she would acknowledge how hard her dad and I really do try to do right by her and her brother.  I left it at that because, remember, my breathing annoys her, and I knew if I went on and on then this would, indeed, be the last time she ever said anything nice to me again…ever! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Short and Sweet

Okay, I'm freaking out because the end of the school year is rapidly approaching and I really don't have time to post anything meaningful.  Oh, yeah, and did I mention that my mom is now calling practically every five minutes because she is worried about my husband?  That's right...she's not worried about me, she's worried about him.  Whatever.  It's just as well I guess, as I really don't have time for it right now...but I do have time to post this funny little kid ditty.

Our school decided to have a dance a couple of Friday's ago and they (the Student Council) billed it as a Sock Hop.  Well, on the following Monday, one of my little guys wrote this in his journal:

On Friday there was a sock hop but I didn’t go because I thought it was the thing where you get in a bag and you hop.  So then my mom told me what it was and I said, “Oh, I thought it was something else.”  And then I wanted tickets but they were sold out.  And my mom said, “You had a chance to go but now you can’t.”  I was sad I couldn’t go.

Too funny!  Well, a little bit sad, too, because he didn't get to go, but let's face it, it's mostly funny.  Oh, yeah, and are you impressed with his use of dialogue?  Well, if you're not, you should be!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sit a What?

I know it sounds dumb, but the thing about working with little kids is that sometimes you have to remind yourself that they are, well, kids…little kids…little six-year old kids…who don’t have the same experiences that us old folks have and who aren’t familiar with many of the terms and expressions we old folks throw at them on a daily basis.  Just the other day something happened that reminded me of this little factoid.

While on yard duty…can I just stop and say that I heart with a big fat red line through it yard duty…anyway, I’m on yard duty and I hear a kid crying pretty loudly so I rush over to see what’s going on.  He’s not one I usually see having any troubles so I rush over extra quick like. 

Doubled over, he can’t really talk so his friend explains that he (the friend) had taken off his shoe (his own shoe) so that he could throw it to his friend (the one now doubled over) and apparently he threw it (his shoe) too hard.  Hello?!  Since when do we take off our shoes and throw them at people…especially at our friends? 

Anyway, the shoe-throwing friend had that remorseful look in his eyes that you hope kids have when they realize they have hurt someone, so I didn’t come down too hard on him.  Hallelujah, Amen, some kids still have empathy! 

So the kid is crying and I ask if he needs to go to the nurse.  He says, “No.” 

So I say, “Would you like to go to the bathroom and put some cold water on your face?”  (This, by the way, is usually a one-size-fits-all cure all.)

Not this time though because, again, he says, “No.” 

And I say, “Well, is there anything I can do for you?  Do you need help with anything?” 

Once again he says, “No.” 

He’s still pretty upset so I ask, “Would you just like to stay here and sit a spell then?” 

He looks at me like HUH?  And I can tell by the look on his face that he’s thinking, “I’m crying my eyes out here lady and you want me to spell something?!  What the heck?!” 

I turn on my heel and leave.  Clearly, he’d have been much better off without my “help.” 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Email Gone Wrong

A while back I saw Cybill Shepherd on The Oprah Winfrey Show…wait, did you hear that sound?  That was my husband clicking the heck out of here…Cybill and Oprah in one sentence…he’s gone. 

Anyway, as I was saying, Cybill was on Oprah’s show, and in her very Cybill way she was talking about how much better sex was when a woman was in her 40’s.  Without going into too much detail…after all, I do like to keep things PG around here…let’s just say that I totally agree with her.  (This really has nothing to do with anything, but it’s kind of, sort of, well…minimally, really, related to this post.  Oh, well.)

So anyway…I’m at work the other day and we’re working on the –or family.  As in for, corn, store, morning, etc.  To amuse myself (and because, you know, I’m in my 40’s now and I’m finding myself feeling more “frisky” than usual lately), I started thinking of words like horny and fornication (I know, I know, TMI). 

Then I thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny to send my husband a naughty email?”  So at lunch time I did just that.  In the subject line I wrote “word families” and in the email I wrote,
“-or:  I am horny for my gorgeous husband.”

I anxiously awaited a funny response from him…I waited and waited and waited…no response.  (I know I sent it to the right address because I triple checked!)  Oh, well, I didn’t worry too much about it because my “smart” phone isn’t always all that smart, so I just figured the email didn’t go through.  No biggie. 

At home later that day, I said,

“Hey, I sent you a naughty email but it must not have gone through.” 

And he said, “Oh, is that what that was?  I didn’t know what to make of it.  I thought you were playing Words with Friends with Amy or Tammy or something like that.”

And that, my dear friends, pretty much sums up my life lately.  I try to make a move on my man and he thinks I’m playing a word game with a friend!  Oye!

In all fairness to him, though, he doesn’t have a clue about word families so why would I even think that he would have any idea about what I was even talking about?  It was a lame idea and it was an even lamer email!  I mean, it would be like him, Mr. Geologist, emailing me something like, “I have a couple of metamorphic rocks that need to be polished!”  Would I even know what something like that meant?  You bet I would!

That’s bad, I know…I’ll  pick myself up out of the gutter now and be done with this post!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ahhh, Technology…There's Nothin’ Quite Like it to make a Gal Feel Old

During Reading Group the other day we were reading a book about a girl who was taking pictures of her science project and the next day she discovered the film in her camera was missing.  There were puzzled looks all around the table and two students said, simultaneously, “What’s film?” 

Ahh…how to explain film to 6-year olds who have, in all likelihood, never, in their whole entire lives, seen an “old fashioned” camera? 

I did my best:  “Well, kids, back in the olden days, you know, before there were digital cameras, there were these cameras and you had to put this stuff called film in them, and then, when the film was all used up, you had to take the film out and then you had to take it to the store and then you had to wait, like a week, to get you pictures back.”  (More puzzled faces.)  “That’s right kids, back in the olden days, you couldn’t just go to your computer and upload your pictures and then print them out right then and there on your very own home computer.  Nope, you had to take this stuff called film in and wait, and wait, and wait.”  (Eyes are totally glazed over by now.)  “Okay kids, enough about life back in the dark ages, how about we get back to the book and see what happens next?!”

That little ditty about the film reminded me of my first year teaching (11 years ago).  On the first day of school I was taking pictures of everyone (with my trusty old-fashioned camera) and I thought it was hilarious how the kids all tried to crowd around the back of my camera to see the pictures.  They were crestfallen when I had to tell them, “Um, kids, this isn’t a digital camera.  You can’t see the pictures right away.”  I might as well have told them there was no Santa Claus.  (Not that there’s not a Santa, mind you, ‘cuz there totally is, but, you know what I mean, right?)

And that little ditty lead me to remember the first time, three years ago, that I passed out calculators to my students.  I had to bite my tongue not to totally laugh out loud at the fact that, without exception, every single student held the calculator just like a cell phone and used their thumbs to punch the keys! 

One final trip down the road of modern technology:  About three years ago I finally decided to join the modern age and I bought a flat-screen TV AND a Blue Ray DVD player…fancy, I know!  Only here’s the deal…I had no clue how to operate the DVD player.  No joke!  And neither did my husband.  So how did we solve this little dilemma?  Simple, we have teenagers in the house, and I probably shouldn’t admit this, but my son labeled the DVD remote for us…with a silver sharpie!  Do you think telling the kids they can’t leave home because their father and I can’t operate any of the technology is a valid excuse to keep them around?  Nah, probably not. 

I only wonder what my current First Graders will be lamenting over when they get to be my age.  It’s hard to imagine technology getting any more sophisticated, but we all know it will, that’s for sure!

Monday, May 9, 2011

23 Joyful Faces

As the rest of the country debates whether or not the President should release photos of Osama Bin Laden (if you want my personal opinion, and I know you do, I think not), but anyway, as everyone else is debating this, I have some images that I do think everyone should see:  The faces of my First Grade students as they walked hand in hand with their moms into our classroom on Friday morning for our annual Muffins with Moms celebration.  The sheer joy, pride, and excitement on everyone’s faces were both palpable and infectious.

We had been preparing for this event for weeks!  Months, really, if you consider that we made our clay handprints back in March.  (As we were wrapping up the handprints earlier this week several kids commented:  “Um, Mrs. J., I don’t even remember making these.  How long ago was it?”)  As the saying goes, “The early bird gets the worm.” Or, as in my case, the early bird gets the kiln!

The weeks leading up this big event were spent weaving construction-paper placemats, making tissue-paper corsages, illustrating our If You Give a Mom a Muffin book, practicing songs and poems, and, of course, writing.

And oh, the writing!  My favorite part for sure.  This year, we had so much fun writing about our moms that we did it not once, not twice, but three times! Yep, three days in a row of writing center were devoted to mom.  Reading what the kids write on a regular day is one of the highlights of my job, but reading what they write about their moms is priceless.  (On Friday I shared with you some of the snippets that made me smile and laugh out loud.  If you didn’t get a chance to read them, and if you are feeling in need of a little pick me up, I highly recommended you take a moment to go back and do so.)

The kids were beyond thrilled with all of the preparations and were ready for the big day to get here already, which it did (finally!) on Friday morning.  I tell ya’, watching the kids march in with their moms was only the beginning of what I wish everyone could see. Next came seeing them pull out the chairs for their moms, followed by witnessing them trying to pin the corsages on them.  Now that was a sight to behold! 

I don’t even think I can pick a favorite moment from our morning together.  Was it hearing the kiddos reading their books to their moms with the moms’ oohh’s and aahh’s in the background?  Or was it looking at the pride on the childrens’ faces as they served their moms breakfast?  Might it have been the looks of love and joy on the moms’ faces as their children sang to them and recited our Mother’s Day poem?  Yes, yes, and yes!

Despite the headlines that say public education is in the tank and that nothing good at all is happening, I must beg to differ.  Oh sure, things are a mess, no doubt about it.  But guess what, folks?  Great things continue to happen each and every day.  Not just down here in First Grade, and not just here where I live, but in classrooms all over the country…teachers continue to inspire, children continue to want to learn, and parents continue to want to be the bridge between the two. 

So say what you want about us “greedy” teachers with our “lavish” salaries…oh, and by the way, can we just once a for all give a dictionary to those who continue to use lavish in the same sentence with teacher salaries?  I welcome you to compare the hours I work to the pay I take home.  Lavish…talk about something that makes me laugh out loud!  And let’s not forget who bought the muffins, drinks, paper goods, crafts, and everything else that was needed to make Friday such a wonderful event.  Am I tooting my own horn or complaining?  No!  Am I pointing out some simple facts?  You betcha’!

My own daughter asked me, as she saw me prepare for the big day, “Mom, what would happen if you just didn’t do anything?  I mean, do you have to do stuff for Mother’s Day?”  I so appreciated her concern for the time, energy, and resources it takes me to pull off an event like this, and I was thrilled she noticed, but truth be told I can’t imagine not doing it.  Especially now when so much threatens to be cut.  These are the things the kids will remember about their early elementary school years. 

Years from now when they no longer remember my name and the names of all of the friends they so joyfully play with each and every day, I can guarantee you they will remember Muffins with Moms in First Grade.  It is an honor for me to be a part of it.  I feel privileged that I get to bear witness to it.  And it is something I truly wish everyone could see.  You all can keep your photos of Osama…I’ll take the image of 23 joyful faces and 23 proud moms any day of the week!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Early Mother’s Day to All You Bombdiggity Moms Out There!

Here are some First Grade Funnies from our Mother’s Day writing assignments.  I hope they bring a smile to your face…and if they don’t then you need to go back to bed right now and wake up on the other side!

My Mom is The Best…

My mom is the best at changing diapers.  (Ha!  Do you think maybe dad says that to mom so that he can get out of changing those diapers?)

My mom is the best cook in the world.  She bakes so delishish I could just eat the smell.

My mom is the best decider in the world.  On her birthday she decided to go to Sea Fresh and the food was so good.  Best decider…love that!

She Always…

She always kisses me at night.  She does it so I have sweet dreams.  (Melts you heart, doesn’t it?)

She always does the dishes, but sometimes I help.

She Never…

She never puts bugs in our food!  That would be gross!

She never wishes for a new kid because she already has five!  (This is from a little girl with three younger brothers and a brand-new baby sister…that’s five kids under six-years old, folks!)

She never gives me coffie because she thinks I will get too hyper.

She never leaves clothes on the floor, expeshily mine.

She never quits a game.  She always plays until the end.  What a great role model this kid has!

She never stops loveing me, because she’s my mom.  (Awww…)

My Mom…

My mom takes care of kids every day.  She needs a break.  (Another one from our oldest of five kids…I love how sensitive she is to how hard her mom works.)

My mom was my isistint choche (assistant coach) in soccer.  She made us kick our butts.  (Now there’s a visual!)

My mom’s favorite thing is to rest with no noise.  (Ha!  Mine too, buddy, mine too!)

My mom thinks about me and my sister.  Oh, and my dad too.  (I’m sure my husband would agree with this!)

My mom cleans up socks.  (Cute…but, um, is that all she cleans?)

My mom is good at being titey (tidy). Her room is always very, very neet. 

My mom doesn’t like playing wii because she likes acilly (actually) doing things.

And my all-time favorite from our flurry of mom writing:

My mom has been working so hard, my brother and I are going to make lunch in her bed.  (I can just picture mustard on the sheets and cold cuts strewn about the bed…what a lovely sentiment though.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The First One

From the Red Dress Club...
This week's memoir prompt was to write something about which you're proud of yourself.  700-word limit.
I’ve never been what you’d call a particularly gifted athlete.  Well, let me rephrase that to better resemble the truth...I’ve never been an athlete at all, gifted or otherwise.
Oh sure, I was on sports teams when I was younger...softball, basketball, and volleyball.  Notice I didn’t say I played on these teams...I only said that I was on them.  I rode my share of pine back in the day, that’s for sure, particularly the older I got and the more important winning became.  In high school sports, no one cares if “everyone plays.”  The kids who can win the game are the ones who get to play the game.   
I was okay with that.  Being on the team was enough for me; I didn’t care that I didn’t get to play much.  In fact, I’ll never forget the time my basketball coach wanted to start me.  You would think I would have been thrilled.  However, I was so terrified that I turned to the girl next to me and said, “Oh, coach, wouldn’t you rather start Debbie?”  “Nope,” he said, “in you go.” 
We must have been playing a horrible team for him to consider starting me...either that or we were beyond any hope of any type of championship so it didn’t matter who played.  In any event, I don’t remember much except being terrified.  I couldn’t tell you who won that game or how I played; the only thing I remember is trying to get my coach to start Debbie instead of me!
I muddled through a few years of basketball...ditto for volleyball and softball.  Did I mention the time my softball coach told me I’d have a much better chance at hitting the ball if I kept my eyes open?  Who knew?!   Despite my lack of athletic prowess, I enjoyed being on those teams. 
Fast forward 20 years to the rapidly-approaching date of my 20th high school reunion.  Like everyone else, I wanted to look my best.  I’d done a pretty good job of not letting myself go, but losing a few pounds and toning up a bit certainly wasn’t a bad idea.
At that time I was too cheap to join a gym and, as is pretty much my MO, I had completely procrastinated losing those few pounds and toning up that layer of marshmallow fluff, so I decided to try running.  It seemed like the most bang for my buck...all I needed was a pair of running shoes, even better was that I could do it at my convenience and that I could burn a decent amount of calories in a short amount of time. 
There was a brand-new park in my area at that time with a mile-and-a-quarter path around it.  Spaced at about one-minute intervals were light posts; I literally ran from one light post to the next, each time increasing light posts until I was about halfway around the path.  A friend of mine said that if I was successfully getting halfway around then I was ready to go the whole distance...without stopping!
She said, “Just keep matter how slow you go, don’t stop.”  I kept her voice in my head as I approached the halfway mark.  A whole mile seemed impossible.  Along with her voice, my own voice was saying, “Just put one foot in front of the put another one, and another, you can do slow step at a CAN do this.”  And guess what?  I did it!  I was so thrilled I wanted to shout from the proverbial rooftops...”I just ran a mile...I just ran a mile!”
It seems silly mile, big deal, but that’s only because I stuck with it...that’s only because that one joyful mile was countless 5K’s ago, two 10-mile races ago, and even one half marathon ago.  Despite successfully running these other races...despite setting, and accomplishing, new running goals, that first mile is the one I am most proud of...that first mile is the one I keep in my mind when I’m having a bad day or when I’m remembering all of the athletic failures of my past...that first mile, and the ones that have followed, are mine and mine alone. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sometimes a Gal’s Gotta’ Get Serious

I know I’m supposed to be keeping it light and fluffy here on the ol’ Ruled by Bells, but sometimes a gal’s gotta’ get serious. 

It’s Sunday morning, and as I sit here at my computer typing away, I know there are many folks out there who find themselves in the place that they find themselves every Sunday morning…and that place is church.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I can literally count how many times I have been to church…and most of those times have involved a wedding or a funeral. 

I hope I’m not being blasphemous here, because that is certainly not my intent, but I just don’t get religion.  It is simply way too confusing for a simple gal like me.  For example, a good friend of ours is Catholic and believes it is a mortal sin to skip church.  A mortal sin…as in if she misses one week she is going to H-E-double hockey sticks.  I don’t get it…she is a lovely, law-abiding citizen…she is happily married and raising two great kids...she does right by everyone around her, yet according to the way she practices her religion, she will go to you know where if she misses church even one time.  Don’t get me wrong, I admire her dedication and I respect her devotion to her faith…it’s just that I don’t really understand it.   

On the other hand, though, I can see how having a strong faith like hers can help carry a person through difficult times.  Just the other day I was reading a story about a teen-age boy who was in a car accident…his passenger died…that passenger was his dad.  A couple of years ago, the young son of some friends of ours wandered upstairs into an area that was off limits due to construction…he fell to his death…he was nine years old.  When I was a young girl myself, a teenager was driving with her sister and their cousin…she was leading a caravan with her parents behind her…she crashed the car and she, along with her sister and their cousin, died…their parents bearing witness to it all.  Stories like these fill the headlines and make us wonder, Why? If there is a God, then why do these things happen?

At times like these, during tragedies in which you wonder how these people will go on, I think being able to say it was God’s will is probably extremely comforting.  In fact, I think it may be the only way that some people can move on.  When things like this happen…things that cannot be explained with logic, or common sense, or fairness, or justice…I’m sure it is much easier to turn to God and think that it was somehow His will rather than live with the guilt of feeling you could have, and indeed should have, done something to prevent these types of senseless accidents.  That for whatever reason, He wanted it that way and it is, therefore, out of the hands of the people experiencing the tragedy. 

During tragedies like these, I find myself feeling a bit jealous of people who have a strong faith.  I am jealous of people who can turn it over to God and find peace.  Personally, I get lost in the logistics of religion.  I get lost in the randomness of it.  I get lost in the Why did this horrible thing happen to this wonderful family?  Why did this horrible thing happen to any family at all?  Why is missing one day of church a one-way ticket to hell, despite of lifetime of goodness and rightness?  Religion simply confuses me.

This confusion is what keeps me from religion.  It’s not that I don’t believe in God, but it’s not that I believe in Him, either.  Does that even make sense?  What’s it called when a person doesn’t really believe, but wants to?  Agnostic with a twist?  I don’t know.  I really don’t even begin to know.

What I do know is that any discussion of religion yields more questions than answers.  What I do know is that I am not at all comfortable in churches and/or around really religious people.  What I do know is that I would love to learn about religion, truly I would, but it would have to be from someone who was willing to educate me, not change me.  And finally, what I do know is that I have been way too serious today and I promise not to do it again…well, at least not for a while anyway.