Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Program

The school's Christmas program is officially over!  After weeks of laboring over costumes (did I mention I don't know how to sew?) and countless hours of being trapped in a basement with six year olds, I can finally look back at time I have invested and begin to look at the fond and funny memories made.

1.  Kindergartners are just cute.  They may not remember the words.  They may not remember the actions.  But whatever they do, they are just so darn cute doing it.

2.  I have answered the question as to why my kids are having so much trouble tying their shoes this year.  Apparently, the PE teacher told them they couldn't go to first grade until they learn to tie their shoes.  My creative thinkers seem to think they have found a way to stay in the land of glitter and happiness.  (For the record, the PE teacher denies ever making this statement.)

3.  Dressing up for a performance means you have to stand in the corner and compare outfits.  Girls in one corner, boys in the other.  All dresses must be tested for their twirling ability.  All shirt tails will become untucked with ten minutes of arrival.

4.  No matter how much they have driven their teacher crazy singing the same songs over and over again at the top of their lungs, kindergartners will suddenly be come shy and quiet in front of a group of people.

5.  Every time they leave the risers, their little eyes shine with pride.  I'm just lucky to be the one taking them back to the basement where their excitement takes on the form of hugs.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cheese Soup Thanksgiving

I come from a family full of love.  They are strange, rarely make sense, and are rather indecisive, but there is little doubt about the love within the family.  Fortunately, they also have a sense of humor which is why I know they will be perfectly comfortable with me sharing the story of the Cheese Soup Thanksgiving.

Many years ago, my parents divorced.  While my brother and I were shielded from as much of the icky-ness associated with the event as possible, there was little doubt that the commuincation between my mother and father left a lot to be desired.  Somehow, it was determined that Thanksgiving would be a "dad holiday."  It bothered me to think of my mom alone on the holiday, but I was a kid.  There was very little I could do.

One year, we went with my father to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family.  There always seemed to be a bit of akwardness in any family gathering in those days.  It seemed as though our extended family was never quite sure of how to treat my brother and I.  Apparently, the akward feelings were not only directed towards us, but to my father as well.  For some reason, our Thanksgiving celebration ended earlier than expected and we were dropped off at my mother's house. 

Now, my mother had fully expected her two children to be with their father for the evening.  She had plans for dinner at the country club.  There was no time to change plans.  (For the record, there were also no ill feelings on the part of my brother and I.)  She tried to hide the frustration she was feeling toward my father, kissed us goodbye and went out the door.

There was just one, small problem.  We were hungry.  Yes, we had eaten, but it had been hours before.  Being the incredibly independent child that I was, I was determined I would make dinner for my brother and I.  We scoured the kitchen, but my mother wasn't one to have a well stocked kitchen.  At last, we found a can of nacho cheese soup in the cabinet.  That, combined with the chips or crackers we also found, became our Thanksgiving feast.

Thanks to my family's sense of humor, we have been able to look back at this event and laugh.  The first time my mother went out of town for Thanksgiving after I was an adult, she brought me a can of cheese soup.  She wanted to make sure I was covered for Thanksgiving, just in case my other plans fell through.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Family Gatherings

When you are young, you assume that the way your family does things is the way all families do things.  As you get older and begin to venture into the outside world, you begin to realize this is not always true.  Take, for example, a typical family birthday.

On Friday, my family gathered to celebrate my brother's birthday.  The plan was to meet at 6:00 at my parents' house, have appetizers of veggies, dinner, and birthday cake.  Those in attendance were my parents, the guest of honor and his wife, their four beautiful children, and myself. 

Here is your play-by-play:

6:05 The arrival of the guest of honor.  (He was lucky.  Once I arrived a little late for my birthday dinner to find everyone already eating!)  The munching of veggies is already in progress.

6:10  Dinner is served.  There is a table in the kitchen and one in the living room, however only eight of nine diners have seating.  No worries, Dad will sit at the counter in the kitchen.

6:35  Dinner is over.  25 minutes is a bit longer than normal for the main course, but there was a fight over remaining broccoli amongst the children.  Apparently, it is a family favorite.

6:45  Candles are lit.  It's time to sing Happy Birthday.  Unfortunately, some of us forgot to save our forks from the dinner course causing a delay as more forks are found.  We will all try to do a better job of remembering on Christmas Eve.

6:55  Cake has been served and consumed. 

Traditionally, this would be the signal to grab coats and head to the door.  The two youngest nieces, however, are still learning the process.  (They are only 4 and 6 after all.)  They begin to pull out games to play.

7:00  Game time.  Being the productive family we are, we have three games going at the same time.  Tic-Tac-Toe is happening on the couch,  Old Maid by the stairs and Dominoes in the middle of the floor.

7:10  Gathering of personal items.  Time to get those coats, shoes, purses, and anything else you may have carried into the house. 

7:15  Hugs and kisses and out the door.

That's right.  An entire evening completed in just over an hour.  I believe my parents are considering installing a drive thru to make the process even faster.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Changing Seasons

After neglecting things around the house for the past few weeks, I took advantage of the wonderful weather to go outside and survey my surroundings. 

The trees once that once provided shade have lost their greenery leaving a full view of the sky.

Those same leaves that once filled the trees have turned brown and now make haphazard designs on the ground.

The flowers that once provided such beautiful colors struggle to find the warmth of the sun despite a visit from Jack Frost.

All the signs point to the fact that winter is indeed on its way.  And then I found this.

One almost perfect gerber daisy.  Despite the fact that these particular flowers have not bloomed in my backyard since May, this little darlin' decided to share its color one more time before saying goodbye. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Change of Season

For me, winter started yesterday.  It was gray and gloomy, the trees were basically bare, and I had to break out my winter coat for recess duty.  It was not a happy day weatherwise.

Growing up in the midwest, you would think I would be prepared for such changes in weather, but I'm not.  I don't enjoy cold weather.  Cold weather brings extra layers.  Cold weather brings children who can't zip their coats.  Cold weather brings runny noses pressed up against the classroom windows looking longingly at the empty playground equipment.  It can be a sad time of year.

So I went home yesterday (after being eaten by plastic dinosaurs--occupational hazard) determined to break the beginning of winter blahs.  I started my little wood stove and watched the flames dance.  Suddenly, all the fun aspects of winter came flooding back.  The "special" toys reserved for the endless days of inside recess.  Baking bread in the classroom and filling the entire school with the smell.  Trying to catch the first snowflakes of the season on our tongues.  So many opportunities for new things.

So, maybe I won't have to hibernate until spring returns.  And, who knows, maybe I'll get a snow day or two .

Monday, November 15, 2010

House Warming

One of the features I love about my house is the little wood stove.  It's tucked away in the corner of my dining room waiting patiently to fill my house with warmth this winter.  Sitting near it is a little stool.  My grandfather made it when he returned from World War II.  It was used in his house by my mother and her four sisters.  They would sit on it by their woodstove during their days on the farm.  It is now my favorite spot during the winter.

When I moved into my house, a friend of mine filled my woodshed as a house warming gift.  I couldn't think of a better or more appropriate house warming gift.  It went a long way to warm my house and make it feel more like a cozy home.

So, imagine my surprise when his truck showed up in my driveway filled with wood again this year!


I was responsible for creating a Photo Story to kickoff our school's major fundraiser.  I took my job very seriously working for 12 hours to create this four minute display that would melt the heart of anyone with a child in our school.  And then I tried to test it.  I opened up my laptop only to discover I was no longer a recognized user on the computer where my masterpiece was stored.  Kiosk was the user. 

Now, Kiosk is not a friendly user.  He doesn't like to share.  He was determined not to let me through the walls where he had locked away all my work.  He only laughed that silent laugh of a computer and continued to greet me with countless error messages.  Yes, Kiosk knew my limited knowledge of computer work was no match for his mighty fortress.  Thankfully, my white knight of technology came to the rescue and was able to find Kiosk's weakness.  All was well...or so I thought.

Guess who greeted me this morning. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thanks Kids

For years, my only friends were my co-workers.  They are truly lovely people, but let's face it.  When your co-workers are you friends, you never really get away from work. 

But how do you make friends as an adult?  I looked at the kids in my classroom.  The answer became clear.  All you have to do is play.  You don't have to ask if you can play, too.  You just play and somehow the invisible walls crumble and suddenly you have a new friend.

I took a page from my kids' playbook and I went out to "play."  I revisited an old interest and started helping out backstage at the local community theatre.  I was scared and nervous, but I took a deep breath and did it anyway.  I didn't really have a clue what I was doing, but sometimes "playing" is the best way to learn.

That was a year ago.  Tonight, I was at a reunion party for a show I helped out with this fall.  As I sat there around the fire pit, I was glad I found enough courage to play.  So many people have entered my life during that time.  People I would never have met otherwise.  Some are friends, some are on their way to becoming friends.  But now I have a little refuge from the job I love allowing me to recharge my batteries. 

So, thanks kids, for reminding me to play.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Advice for the First Time Homeowner

As a single gal with a less than substantial income, owning my own home was something I never thought would happen.  I had made peace with a life of renting apartments and dealing with the sounds of the always heavy steppers who would live upstairs.  Sure, I may never get through a night without hearing the sound of my neighbors from above flushing the toilet, but at least the smells of their food could possibly help me decide what to have for dinner.

But all that changed.  A year ago, the stars all alligned and I bought my own house.  Having reached the first anniversary of home ownership, I would like to share a few lessons I have learned along the way.

1.  Be careful who you take house shopping.  Furnaces should be functional, not cute.  Anyone who confuses these terms should not be considered the voice of reason.

2.  Expect the unexpected on moving day.  My entire family backed out of the move.  It was me, a friend and two trucks. 

3.  Live in the house before making big changes.  Sure, that paint color may not be ideal and the guest bath may be hideous, but those other expenses like lawn mowers and new garbage disposals are going to add up quick.  The paint color may grow on you and you can avoid the guest bathroom.

4.  Be prepared to do battle.  Many of the servicemen who have come to repair or look at things in my house seem to think the female brain is not equipped to comprehend certain types of information.  I have taken them on and won every time (so far!).  If all else fails, play the "Just let me call my husband" card.  For some reason, the information become so much less complicated.

5.  Do not let your house become a dumping ground.  In the interest of "helping" you, your friends and family will offer you all of the "treasures" from their homes.  You know, the same "treasures" they have tried to get rid of for years.  Stay strong and take only what you really want.

6.  Do not wait to have people over to your home.  Sure, I would love to painted the walls and scraped the popcorn ceiling before having people over, but those experiences with the people I care about are what makes a house a home.  Besides, you never know who will volunteer to help you.

So, there you have it.  My short list of advice to the first time home owner.  When all is said and done, may you be as happy in your home as I have been in mine.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Everyone Deserves a Massage

About a year ago, I began to see a massage therapist for ongoing pain in my neck and shoulder.  Spending the day with small children in chairs no taller than my knee tends to do this to a body.  There were some mental obstacles to overcome, but now it has become the one "luxury" I can not live without. 

Admittedly, I am not the kind of person who likes the thought of some stranger touching my body.  It's not so much the other person as much as it is those areas I so carefully decorate with clothing suddenly being exposed.  It's all I can do not to begin composing my letter of apology in my head as I lay there waiting under the sheet for my therapist to walk into the room!  But, once I let the bed warmer, the dim lighting and the soft background music take over,  I know I'm in for an hour of bliss.  Here are just a few reasons why:

1.)  It is physically impossible to do anything else when you are on the massage table.  You can't switch out the laundry or prep for the next day.  You have to just BE STILL.  In today's society, no one knows how to just BE STILL.  It took awhile for me to get used to this lack of activity, but now I look forward to the break from life every other week.

2.)  You connect with muscles you didn't know you had.  Sure, people say this when ever they restart some kind of physical activity, but in this case, I mean it.  I go in each time and describe to the therapist where the pain is, but always overlook something.  As she sends me into that uninterrupted daydream, she finds aches and pains I didn't know I had.  She then "fixes" them and I leave feeling oh, so much better!

3.)  I know no one is going to believe this one, but I actually feel taller when I leave the table.  No, I am not under some kind of delusion that my five foot four frame has suddenly grown three inches.  My theory is that my miracle therapist has relaxed all those muscles that have had me hunched over for two week allowing me to stand with correct posture again.  Regardless, it's an incredible feeling for someone who has gone through their whole life feeling short.

4.)  I believe the last one goes without saying--I leave the building in a state of complete relaxation.  I'm so mellow, I don't even mind writing the check for I secretly know I am the envy of everyone sitting in the waiting room!

So, do not postpone this experience any longer.  It may take a couple of times to overcome those mental stumbling blocks, but for those who are willing to open themselves up, the pay off is huge!

Monday, October 18, 2010


We all know that cans of soda that freeze often explode, but did you know that the force of said explosion can also pry open the door on little pink dorm-sized refrigerators?  I didn't know this either, so imagine my surprise when I walked into my classroom this morning.  Silver cans with their bottoms blown out sitting in puddles of brown sticky liquid surrounded by apples and cheese.  It was a mess! 

Instead of being frustrated by yet another problem to overcome in the morning, I found myself standing there in awe wishing I could have been there when the big moment happened.  Must be all the time I spend with kids.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lessons from Old Friends

I'm not a big movie person.  The mere thought of standing in line just to hand over my hard earned money to the person standing behind the glass window just so I can sit in uncomfortable seats surrounded by strangers seems more than a bit absurd. 

That being said, tonight I encountered an old friend on tv tonight.  It was total "chick flick."  One that I would deny watching repeatedly.  One that I had almost forgotten about.  Yet, I found myself tuning in at just the right time.  That moment when our heroine finds the inner strength she didn't know she had.  That moment when she develops that all important backbone and says what she really means.  That moment when she emerages as her own person.

How is it that these moments find us when we need them the most?  How is it that these old friends sneak back into our lives at those moments when we need an extra boost?  If only I could get a screenwriter for my life...