Monday, October 29, 2012

Memories That Last a Lifetime

Back in 2011, I wrote about the power of the Gyro-Bowl.  Yes, it's fun.  Yes, it holds delicious treats.  Yes, spilling your delicious treats is a challenge.  But more importantly than that, it had the power to bring a smile to a teenage girl's face on a particularly challenging day.

This weekend, I found this particular item on the clearance rack.  How could this be???  An item that holds such precious memories on the clearance rack???  Obviously this must be a mistake! 

After the initial shock wore off, I realized that perhaps I was over reacting.  Ok, so it's really just a piece of colorful plastic.  Not everyone knows the magical powers it has.  It couldn't be manufactured forever.  The fact that I was taking this moment particularly hard was probably a sign that I need to relax more.  Maybe I was being overly sensitive.  But it still felt wrong. 

And then I texted my niece--the same niece who was with me on the day we discovered this wonderful yellow and blue giggle-inducing item.   She was a little calmer than her aunt, but this was our conversation via text:

Niece:  I bet they won't make anymore!!!!!  AHHHHHH
Me:  Does your's need to be replaced?
Niece:  Or just added to :)

The next day, I sent her a picture of the precious item I had purchased for her and received the following response:

Niece:  YAY!!!!  Love you bunches!

So, you see.  One impulsive purchase over a year ago provided a shared memory for my niece and I that will last a lifetime.  Life is like that.  You never know when the "little moments" in life will be the ones that are remembered the most.  The meaning of these little plastic bowls will be different for each of us, but it is something special between the two of us.  No one will ever understand the power of that moment, but I will always remember that day.

And, yes, I bought one for myself, too.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Last Year/This Year

Last year, I started a theatre class for our middle school students.  I had 30 minutes a week to pull off a one act play with 10 sixth grade students.  I was told not to attempt it. I was told it couldn't be done.  I did it anyway.  The kids worked hard.  They learned new things.  They had fun.  I would call it a success.

This year, I have 17 sixth and seventh graders for 60 minutes a week.  In addition to acting this year, they will be responsible for set design, props, lighting, sound, some costume work, and anything else that pops up along the way for our two one act plays this sememster. 

Last year, I pulled off what they said couldn't be done.  This year, I double my time but multiplied the goals by four. 

What can I say.  I love a challenge.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Family Lessons

Ahhhh....Saturday.  After the long week (who decided having our back to school night and our fun run back to back was a good idea anyway!), I had planned on devoting the day to as little movement as possible.  And then I was invited to go on a hike with the two little gals pictured above. 

I got dressed and followed them through the wooded area.  They were full of sassiness and giggles.  They had stories and jokes.  They turned a simple walk into an adventure.  And the lead the way the entire time.

It's impossible to describe how much I love my three nieces and my nephew.  Being their aunt is truly the most important, most rewarding, most fulfilling role I will ever have in my life. 

It also makes me a better teacher.

I have pictures of my nieces and my nephew in my classroom.  They aren't there to make me think of them.  I think of them all the time.  They are there as a reminder of the person I need to be. 

Every second I spend with kids in my classroom with kids, four of the most important people in my world are in classrooms with teachers.  I want those teachers to love them when they are hard to love.  I want those teachers to see the looks in their eyes and know what they need.  I want those teachers to embrace the quailities that make them special.  I want those teacher to know that every story (true or not) is important.  I want those teachers to just make them feel loved and respected. 

I look at their pictures and I am reminded of all the things I want for them.  I think of the two special boys in Colorado.  The sons of two of my cousins who are in kindergarten.  I become inspired.  I try each day to be the teacher that I want for the members my family.  There are days when I'm not going to succeed.  But my nieces and my nephew, the boys in Colorado, and the 35 individuals in my classroom help me to strive to be more.

So thank you, E and little b, for leading the way today.  No one loves you like I do!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The First Two Weeks

I've been back in kindergarten for two weeks.  Two very exhausting, very trying weeks.

The first morning brought me 17 little darlings.  They came in with their smiles, their excitement, and their take on the world approach to life.  They were followed by 18 equally wonderful bundles of energy in the afternoon.  And they all looked to me for everything.  The "where is" questions, the "how do I" questions, the "when can I" questions, and the "how come" questions.  I did my best to answer each and every one, but I'm sure some went unanswered.

I teach in a rather small school.  I am the only kindergarten teacher.  I am the only one who interacts with these kids daily.  I know they depend on me for all of their school needs, but I don't know them yet.  Unlike the other teachers in my school, I can't go to the teacher before me and get infomation about my kiddos.  More than the academic stuff.  The important stuff like what can turn tears into a smile and what makes them giggle. There is so much to learn about each and every one of those 35 kids.  I know it takes time.  I know it takes work.  But I want to know now. I don't want to waste a day.

We've learned a lot during the first two weeks.  They know my name.  They can now find their favorite toys.  They know where their math journals go.  They know what to do when they finish their work.  I know what books are their favorites so far.  I know who needs more time.  I know who needs help but won't always ask for it.  I know what some of the looks on their faces really mean. 

So, I've been back in kindergaten for two weeks.  Two very exhausting, very trying weeks.  And now the foundation has been set for a fantastic year.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

little b

One evening not so long ago, the nieces and the nephew stayed at my house.  As I was tucking the youngest two in bed, little b decided the jammies she packed were too hot.  I gave her a freshly laundered t-shirt to wear.  Her response was, "This smells so good. It smells like you."

Since then, I can't do laundry without thinking about my little b.  Those same smells of laundry detergent and fabric softner that made her think of me now makes me think of a spunky little girl who can torment her siblings, who can wear out the adult around her, who can think way out side the box, and who can melt your heart with a smile.

No one loves you like I do, little b!  No one ever will.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Roller Coasters

Less than two weeks ago, my grandmother was admitted to the hospital.  Things didn't look good the day she was admitted.  And then she rallyed and returned to the nursing home.

Yesterday, she returned to the hospital.  The same infection took it's toll, but to a much greater degree.  They couldn't get a blood pressure reading.  She was in pain.  She couldn't speak.  She didn't recognize anyone. 

Today, I went to visit her.  She was tired and slept most of the time, but she was responsive.  She was alert.  She was feisty.

And so the roller coaster continues.  We wait.  We watch.  And we wonder what's coming up ahead.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Always a Silver Lining

Life has been busy this summer.  Despite having time off from my "real" job, I have managed to fill the time with two jobs and a volunteer position.  This week was crunch week.  My two jobs overlapped and needed to be finished while my real job began calling me back.  I told myself I had to put my head down and go into survival mode.  Surely I could do it for one week.

And then, plans took an unexpected turn.  I received a call that my grandmother needed to be admitted to the hospital.  With that one call, all the spinning plates I had balancing in the air came crashing down.  Painting, furniture moving, and all the other tasks that filled my days were forgotten. 

My mother was taking care of my nieces and nephew.  I took the kids so she could be with her mother.  In a lot of ways, being with those four not-so-little-anymore people was exactly what I needed.  Not just to distract me from what was going on at the hospital, but to give me the time I wanted with them instead of working.  Here is the shortened version of what I got from the overnight experience:

1.  A teenage girl can have her difficult moments, but family still matters most.  She offered to finish dinner while I took a shower and got a bit teary-eyed when I told them all about what was going on with their great-grandmother.  She even slept on the floor so her siblings could have the more comfortable spots.

2. My boy has the biggest, most giving heart.  Oh, how I love that boy!  There was no hesitation when I needed his help with various tasks.   And despite reaching the age where he no longer wants to be hugged, I was on the receiving end of a giant hug.

3.  My little Missy-Moo is growing up way too fast.  At seven, she thinks she is too big for bedtime stories and wants to be with the "big kids."  That being said, I was able to read to her before bed and got some serious snuggle time in first thing the next morning.  She even did her creepy playing with my elbow thing she has done since she was a baby.  I absolutely hate it, but who knows when the last time is coming.

4.  Our little b.  Most of the time little b is under the impression that she is really an only child.  That being said, it was more than a bit moving to see her clean off the table and then set the table for dinner.  I also got some one on one snuggle time with her as I had to read three bedtime stories. I'm pretty sure it's the longest the child has ever been still in her life.

5.  As I was getting ready to go to bed, whispering an "I love you" to each one, I couldn't help but smile.  They were all snuggling under the blankets I had made for them.  The blankets had made the cut as they rushed around gathering things for the night.

The money I was supposed to make working has gone to someone else, but I am far richer.  Being forced to slow down and see what was really important was worth far more to me than any amount of money.  The hundreds of little moments that happened during those precious hours has filled me with tremendous pride, joy and love.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Painting in a Boys World

During the school year, I'm surrounded by women.  It's what I know.  It's what I'm used to.  It's what makes sense.  But I have discovered a new world this summer.  It is a world of men.

Now, for the most part, I can hold my own.  During the long hours of painting at my two jobs, I can be one of the boys.  Want me to haul five gallon buckets of paint up the stairs?  No problem.  Need those bunk beds moved out of the way? I got it.  Want me to spend hours on the a ladder trimming popcorn ceilings and ignore the amounts of stuff falling on me? My ballcap and I can handle it.  Want to make up some lame excuse as to why I'm better qualified to do all the trim work while you take on the roller?  I can deal with it.

And then today happened.  I showed up to my apartment painting job with my bag of supplies.  Just your basics--paintbrushes, extra paint cup liners, rags, and the all important toilet paper.  (These are vacant apartments, after all.)  I walked through the apartment assessing the situation when I discovered a big problem.  It wasn't the incredible wall of odor that hit me when I walked in the door. It wasn't the fact that the windows were open on a day when the expected high was 107.  I've done this long enough to deal with these factors.  The problem was the lack of a toilet!

I remained calm.  I didn't react.  I waited to see what the menfolk had to say.  The solution was simply to use the bathtub as a toilet of the day.  What???  Use the bathtub???  Now, I can roll with most situations, but this was asking a bit too much.  Determined not to sound like the wimpy girl, I grabbed my brush and started my designated job of official trim painter.  Hour 1 passed.  Hour 2 passed.  All was well.  And then hour 6 was upon us.  It was time to face the situation.  I put down the paintbrush and grabbed my keys.  "And where do you think you're going?"  I looked at them and simply said, "To remind myself that I am still a girl.  I'll be back in five minutes."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"You Can't Do That!"

I've always been a rather independent person.  I credit my parents.  As early as kindergarten, I began staying home by myself after school.  I was perfectly fine.  I would come home, make the mandatory phone call to my mom at work, and proceed to the adventures my imagination would create.   There was never a fear of being alone.  I knew I could take care of myself.

Unfortunately, my early sense of independence has also come with a dark side.  I can not handle being told, "You can't do that!"  All sense of rational thinking goes out the window.  The mere thought of someone else questioning my ability to overcome any challenge sends me into an intense defensive mode.  I become angry and become so focused on proving others wrong at all costs.  It's not that I have some false belief that I can do anything.  I know I have limitations.  But having someone else sense those limitations in me is unacceptable.

I've been pushed into the "You Can't Do That!" corner once again.  I have the challenge of developing an enitrely new program for kids with no money and only 30 minutes a week.  An overwhelming challenge?  Yes.  One that I feel is important?  Yes.

I attempted to talk out my thoughts with two people only to be told immediately, it can't be done.  Did they listen to my thoughts?  No.  Did they hear about the prep work I've already put into it?  No.  They heard the monetary and time constraints and shut me down. 

I allowed the anger to be there for awhile, but now it has become motivation.  I don't know how yet, but I will prove them wrong.  After all, it's for my kids.  Failing them is not an option.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Goodbye 2011!

I'm baaaaaaccccck!  No excuses.  Just pure laziness on my part.  I just came to a point where I felt like I had nothing important to say.  Important or not, I'm back just the same.

I have to say, I'm glad to see 2011 go.  It wasn't that it was a horrible year filled with unhappiness or tragedy for me.  It was just a year filled with growing pains.  It was a year where I was brave enough to face some things I had chosen to ignore.  I didn't gain any huge insight or find the answers to all my questions.  But, I did learn to start putting myself first in a totally unselfish way.

So here's to 2012.  I don't have any resolutions or big dreams for the upcoming year.  My only wish is one that I hope comes true for everyone.  May this year be filled with happy surprises and unexpected opportunity.