My Daughter

My daughter came out yesterday with some of her camping supplies that she is letting me borrow for my upcoming trip to Death Valley.  This trip has been part of my year of personal growth, and I wanted to do as such of it independently as I could, but I appreciate her expertize as she has offered to help me shop for hiking boots, and the clothes that I will need for the camping and hiking experience.  It is such a luxury to have someone running sizes for you!  After we got all my things talked through and organized, we went out to dinner and chatted. My thoughts and the conversation wandered back to her childhood and to watching her grow into the amazing woman she is today.

We had a little rocky start.  I was nervous when I was pregnant because I didn’t know what it would be like to have my life changed so radically.  I found a strange change in me though, as I became unable to even kill a fly, trying instead to shoo them out of my house.  I wondered if it was because I was carrying life inside of me.

The time for her birth arrived, and it was difficult.  Those were the days of Lamaze, and no pain medications.  Sometimes I ask people how much pain do you think you would have to be in to be screaming and not even realize you were until someone (in this case a nurse) told you to stop it because you were upsetting the other patients?  After a long, long exhausting labor there she was.  There was not a magical motherhood moment for me.  I refused to look at her and told my husband “Don’t you ever ask me to do that again!”  Understandably he was upset.  They took her to clean, weigh, check and measure her, and I was taken back to my room.  Shortly later they brought my daughter to me.  They put her on my chest and she curled up in her little baby ball and snuggled down.  “She likes me!”  I thought, amazed.  And I was filled up with a love so strong as I had never felt.  I knew I would die for this little stranger if necessary.  And I was filled with another feeling too–fear.  I thought “What have I done?”  because I recognized that I was completely without defenses and if something were to happen to this daughter of mine it would kill me.  I felt so vulnerable in  my love.

I was keenly aware that this time with her was temporary and passing.  Through the months I would hold her and immerse myself in my love for her and her perfect adorable baby self thinking “I will never think that I failed to appreciate the transient gift of this moment because in this moment I am doing everything possible in my power to feel it and to acknowledge it’s perfection.”

And just as much as I treasured those sweet baby moments, I now treasure the moments I am blessed to spend with this incredible miracle of a strong woman that she has grown into.

Rainy Days

Ever since I was a little girl I have loved being inside, in my case then it was inside my classroom, while it was raining outside.  There was such a peaceful, self-contained feeling, like being in a ship sailing along on the seas. Inside all was bright and cheerful, filled with the happy sound of learning, and best of all was when we had projects we were busy working on.   I felt so safe.  I still feel that way to this day.  Rainy days make me very cheerful when I am at work.  It would be difficult to be outside in the rain, so we hunker down inside where it is dry and cozy.

It has to be just the right kind of rain.  I do not like thunderstorms and lightening.  All of my peaceful feeling disappears as I nervously scan the sky to see what is coming next.  I suppose you could compare the feeling more to being on a rollercoaster full of scary little screamy moments, but I do not like rollercoasters.

Some people may feel the same about a grey day when it is quiet, with sounds muffled by fog, and you are busy inside working.  There is no sadness about being out and missing a sunny day and you might as well be at work, but I abhor grey days.  They are neither here nor there and make me feel so blah. If they would just muster up enough oopmph to give us a nice soothing steady rain, or blow away entirely and leave us with a sunny day that would be perfect!

Tick Tock

The clock was not my friend tonight. All day long I raced through my daily activities with the pressure of thinking about writing today’s slice of life blog. My mind has been blank, refusing to  cough up the smallest inspiration. I commented on a lot of wonderful blogs that I read today, and some of my comments triggered memories for stories of my own but I did not feel it would be right to write about those here. Today was the last day of school  before break and the children were surprisingly calm and hard-working. Maybe I just have spring fever. It seems that no amount of caffeine can recharge my battery lately.  Well, as they say, tomorrow’s another day.

Observation Jitters

It’s quiet in my house with just the dishwasher keeping me company as it helps me get ready for tomorrow.  I feel I can use all the help I can get at this point.  All day long I’ve had pre-observation jitters.  For days I have been carefully contemplating what I will teach and polishing it up.  There are no  dress rehearsals; only the ones in my mind that keep playing over and over.  I have read that it is helpful to visualize success before a performance, but I need a rest.  My friend, who also has her formal observation this week, and I wonder why if we have been doing this teaching for so many years does this seem so intimidating?  We should be able to pluck a successful idea out of our heads, tie it to the Common Core Standard we need and think of I Can statements while we are walking in from the car, whip up wonderful student engagement pieces while we are taking off our coats, and run over all of our formative assessment and exit ticket ideas while we are multitasking; greeting colleagues and checking e-mail.  And we probably can!  But teaching is an art which means that what we have done in the past will always be tweaked, adjusted and polished for this particular group of learners we have in front of us.  It will always have room for improvement, but when I am being observed, I want perfection.  It is like trying to walk through the inside of a pinball machine carrying a cup of coffee and avoiding the little ball ricocheting around without spilling a drop.  A nice thought, but unlikely in the real world to happen.

But I love my job.  Tomorrow I will be excited and happy to see my kids.  It will be “Lights, camera, action!” as it is every day.  And it will be perfect, whatever the outcome.

Cheesesticks and Brofists

Yesterday I was standing outside on recess duty keeping an eye on the children skittering and scattering across the playground in an ever-changing mosaic.  I found myself looking at the plain brick wall of the school building, and I was suddenly surprised by a spreading feeling of peace.  I felt that I was exactly where I belonged, and that it was home to me.  As I enjoyed that unexpected gift I started remembering some of the funny kid stories I have seen, and I thought I would share a few with you here today.

One day in the late Fall this year when I went to pick up one of my 4th grade boys at 8:30 in the morning, he was wearing his jacket.  “Are you cold?” I asked him, a little surprised.

“No,” he answered.  “Today is cheese sticks for lunch in the cafeteria and every time we have those we have to go outside and it’s cold today!”  Recently we had several times when the fire alarm sounded due to smoke from the cafeteria oven.  He had put two and two together and noticed that it appeared to be the cheese sticks causing the smoke!  I loved the reasoning skills!

Several years ago my weekly spelling test was enlivened by a very unexpected discovery as I was correcting them.  The last word on the test had been “I’m” but this second grader  had a few more to add.

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Yes, he was!  This same second grader illustrated a realistic fiction narrative he was writing with a picture that left me grinning:

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As teachers we know how difficult the grading is, and how difficult it is when you are absent and have to catch up.  One day as I was plowing through a stack of papers to correct I found the following sweet and startling surprise among the papers:

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Back on the playground yesterday a first grade boy pulled me away from my reverie.  He was sitting on the ground with one pants leg pulled up.  “Do you want to see my knee dance?” he asked

“Sure, ” I said.  It sounded like the offer of a lifetime.

He proceeded to sing Yankee Doodle while twitching the muscle of his knee to make his knee cap jump in time to his singing.

“It’s funny, right?” he asked.  Yes, it sure was!

We spend so much of our lives at work and I am lucky to have it feel so comfortable for me.  I hope you all have the same wherever you may work.

 

Butlers, Hobbits and Talking Rabbit Gentlemen

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I’m trying to decide which book I should take with me on my camping trip to Death Valley.  Although I probably won’t have much time to read because of visiting with the other members of the group and the lack of electricity,  I cannot imagine being bookless for a week.  I love to read.

My father told me that he thought I would never learn to read.  I don’t remember if I was slow to learn or not, but I do remember the evening I was reading for my Grandfather and he told me that “i-n-g” would always have the “ing” sound.  What a revelation!  It was like magic.  Meanwhile, while my dad was waiting for me to learn to read, he read to me every night, and to any of my younger brothers who also may have been interested.  I was fascinated by Uncle Wiggly books for some reason and still treasure my very old copy of the book.  He would love to tease us by reversing the first sounds of the words–he would sail into “The Pea Little Thrigs”, blithely ignoring my protests: “Daaaaaddy!!  Read it right!!!”

In 2nd grade my teacher could not convince me that color was spelled “color” and not “colour” because I had seen it written that way in books.  My dad had spent some of his early school years during the Depression in Canada, and still had some of his books which he would read to us.

Every time I needed a book to read he would disappear down into our unfinished basement where the walls were lined with shelves holding paperback novels.  Sooner or later he would emerge with some books for me to try.  He was a huge book collector, and for me a good book always had that slightly mildewed basement smell.  On and on he read to me, reading his way through “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  Those thrilling and magical tales took on a peaceful life when heard in my father’s steady tenor voice.

The summer that I turned nine I accompanied him to his parent’s house in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky.  If my father was a big reader and book collector, his father was an even bigger one!  I spent the week reading Bertie Wooster and Jeeves stories by P.G. Wodehouse.  He has remained one of my favorite authors to this day.  Whenever life gets to be too stressful I like to disappear in one of his novels.  They are one of the few that I have read over and over.  I didn’t inherit the book hoarding gene (dodged a bullet there!), but I do buy and collect any P.G. Wodehouse book I can get my hands on, and some of my other favorites.

This has been one of my favorite blogs to write.  I have really enjoyed remembering my favorite books, and those moments of my dad reading to me.   What are your favorite memories around reading?  I bet we could sit and talk all day about reading and books!

 

Hiking Death Valley

 

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It seemed like a good idea in January.  When I was sitting with my notebook brainstorming and planning things for my new year, month by month, determined to have a year of personal growth.  I wanted to go on a trip.  Anywhere in the world, really. I researched and researched.  I wasn’t even sure what would interest me.  Then I found the perfect trip to Iceland this summer.  I was so excited and then I found out that evidently many other people also considered it the perfect trip, and it was sold out.  Back to the drawing board.  Eventually there was only one trip that fit into my schedule and my interest–a week hiking and camping in Death Valley over spring break!  I had been briefly in Death Valley this last August and I absolutely loved it.  I had hoped to come back, perhaps in the springtime when I might see flowers in bloom, and the temperature wouldn’t hit 120 degrees as it did when I was there.

 

I leave next Monday for Las Vegas.  On Tuesday morning I will meet a group of ten strangers and two guides and we will pile into a van for the three hour drive to Death Valley.  One week!  I have one week to get ready!  I have been trying to lose wight, and rehab some injuries all the while exercising to get stronger.  I am biting my nails with nervousness now.  My daughter, who last summer backpacked the Kerry Way in Ireland, assures me that I will probably never feel really ready.

My mind races–what if this, what if that?  Do I have enough socks?  How about first aid supplies?  What if I sit on a snake?  What if they are all men and I have to keep sheepishly asking them to wait while I trot (yet again!) off to relieve myself?  And no cell phone service for a week!  No being able to share pictures and thoughts with my loved ones at home.

 

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I tell myself to calm down.  I’m sure it will be a transformational experience. If I am lucky they will still be having a super bloom when I arrive. I expect to feel culture shock when I return to civilization.  Meanwhile, excuse me while I sit surrounded by my gear I am trying to figure out: my hiking poles, my day pack, my hydration system, how to layer successfully for 96 degrees in the day and down to the 40s at night, my new watch with its alarms I must set, and my camera.  As the shirt that they sent me says “Dream big, then go.”  One more week…

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