Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Weekend of Walking

We continued to have a great weekend with Sara. The weather cooperated and we were able to be outside for a lot of it. The temps were a little cool, but they didn't keep us from sitting outside for lunch on Saturday, or walking around downtown on Sunday. It was just right for exploring Ann Arbor in the spring. Something I love to do, but this year I haven't taken the time to do it. That was another good thing about Sara coming - I was able to slow down and take in the scenery. Scenery like this:

This is probably one of my favorite things to see in spring. New leaves that have just unfurled from their buds, with a bright green color that just screams, "We're new! Look at us! We're so glad to be here!"

We were told on Saturday when we went for a walk to steer clear of the diag (the main part of U-M's campus). But after a visit with Anne and Matt and the kids, we took it as a challenge. We wanted to see what all the hullabaloo was about.

You see, it was graduation weekend last weekend. But because the stadium is currently under construction, graduation was not held there. It was big news when it was decided. Students complained. It was on the front page of the paper. How did the university respond? They threw 1.8 million toward the effort to have it on the diag (normally it costs about 400,000 at the stadium). Here's how it looked (these were taken after the graduation took place):

In this last picture you can see the plastic tiles that they put down over the grassy parts and near the trees. I guess this made it easier to walk with heels on, or easier to get solid footing. I'm glad they had good weather, because otherwise it would've been a muddy mess!
Sara and I were able to walk through the diag, take some pictures, and walk downtown to a restaurant. Stein joined us there for some food and drinks. We followed it up with a nap, a movie (Freedom Writers - how appropriate for 2 teachers!), snacks, and a good night's sleep. Sunday we went for a run (after Sara insisted - ugh, I'm out of shape) in the morning, made breakfast, walked around downtown to look in a few shops, and then we went to the airport. A great weekend with a great friend.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sara's Here

I know I've said it before, but there's something about old friends. The comfort, the history, the easiness, the stories, the laughter. Although I've made a lot of friends since I moved to Ann Arbor, I treasure the friends who knew me when and continue to know me.

Sara was one of my roommates from college. I'm sure I wrote about the apartment we all shared our senior year in some other post, but I'm not sure which one. Anyway, it was a 4 bedroom apartment with 5 girls living there. Oh, and one bathroom. Looking back, the bathroom was never an issue (aside from some plumbing woes). Looking back, those 4 other women are still my closest friends.

Sure, distance has separated us, but when we get together or talk on the phone, we just pick up where we left off. In the time since college, we have shared the joys of weddings and births and the pain of disease and death. Through all of these times, I have relied on these women for advice, support, and an ear to listen. I know that whatever I need, including a good joke, they will give to me.

Sara and I met our sophomore year in college. We ended up living together junior and senior years. We instantly hit it off. Sara is a positive person regardless of the circumstances. She has a knack for talking to people, networking for herself and others, and creating laughter from the simplest of topics.

When her husband Joe emailed me about a month ago to see if he could surprise her with a plane ticket, I was thrilled. Sara has never been out here, and I was excited for her to see where I live. Stein picked her up from the airport, so they were already at the house when I got home from school. We didn't miss a beat. From the time I walked through the door, the conversation flowed. Not even pausing for trips to the fridge to grab more beers, a ride in the car to the restaurant, or the time right before saying goodnight. We shared stories from college, pulled out an old photo album, and talked about what's going on with us right now. Some stories dealt with dysfunction (we laughed about the fact that every family has dysfunction, it's all relative). Some stories were hysterically funny. You know when you're with a good friend when you laugh until your face hurts.

Stein was a trooper through the whole night. He endured this old-friend talk and contributed his own sarcasm and humor. It's so great to have him come to know and love my friends too.

Right now Sara is still sleeping (or lounging). She deserves this. With three kids and a husband who travels a ton, she needs a break. Today we're going to take a long walk (I hope the weather holds out) and talk and catch up some more. What a treat to have her here all to myself.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Gig is Up

The whole kissing operation got busted today. Laura and I were at a meeting this morning, so we planned that we would stall letting kids go to the bathroom this afternoon. It would throw the whole timing off, we thought.

I had her kids for math in my room. It didn't take long for one of the girls to start the process. This is how the conversation went:

Girl: Can I go to the bathroom?
Me: Not right now, hold on a minute.
Girl: Okay. (She's a good student and didn't push the issue.)
Then she started bouncing in her seat like she really had to go.
Girl's friend: You really have to go, don't you?
Girl: Yes!
A few minutes later...
Me: Okay, go.
The girl high-tailed it out of the room. She was late for her date!

Meanwhile, in Laura's room, the same conversation was taking place with a boy. She finally let him go, waited a while, and then walked out into the hallway. Then she saw the girl from my room heading toward the boy's bathroom. When the girl saw Laura there, she made a nonchalant u-turn and headed toward the girl's bathroom. Laura said, "Oh, is this the time you were supposed to meet ____ in the bathroom?" "No," the girl muttered as she stared down at the ground. (Not even a cover-up like "What are you talking about?") When the boy came down the hall, Laura said, "Oh, isn't this the time that you were supposed to meet____ in the bathroom?" "No," he also said looking at the ground.

This seemed to send a wave through the whole underground operation. No one in the whole bathroom brigade asked to go for the rest of the day. I thought one of the rough boys was attempting to stir something up when he asked toward the end of the day. I let him go, but called Laura to make sure no one was doing the same in her room. I guess he really had to go.

It still baffles me that this whole thing was planned and executed. Actually, it doesn't. These kids are capable of anything. Even though they're only 10 or 11. If I only knew then what I know now...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My, How 5th Grade Has Changed

Or I was really that naive. The kids in my class are 10 or 11 years old. 10 or 11. What were you thinking about when you were 10 or 11? I was probably thinking about that Cabbage Patch Doll that I really wanted, or that real sweatsuit with the Adidas logo on it, or maybe the next sleepover party I would attend. Regardless, I wasn't scheming with my friends to do stuff during school. Call me a goody-goody. But really, I wasn't unlike most of the girls in my class. (Except the "not-so-goody" girls who now look like angels compared to my current class).

I have been noticing that the kids in my class have been going to the bathroom a lot. When I student taught and this would happen, Linda told me that I should start timing kids when they went. After timing one particular boy, he hurried up the times after that. Today I had a thought that I should start timing my kids. Turns out, they were timing themselves.

Laura told me after school that both of our classes were in cahoots. A boy in one room would scheme with a girl in the other room to both go to the bathroom at the same time. Once there, they would kiss. I'm picturing the conversation going something like this: "Meet me in the bathroom at 2:10 pm. Don't be late." As Laura added, "What a romantic place for a rendezvous!"

Thinking back to today, I remember one girl impatiently waiting for me to finish instructing. (A rule in my class is that the kids can't leave or get up until I'm done with my instructions. Without that rule, the room would be chaotic.) When I finally let her go, she pretty much high-tailed it out of the room. She was late for her date! Then, toward the end of the day, one of my rough boys asked to go to the bathroom for a second time. "Didn't you just go to the bathroom before?" I asked him. "Yeah, but I have to go again," he said. "Are you okay?" I said to make him feel a little guilty. Oh, the boy was okay. He was on a mission.

So tomorrow Laura and I have to meet with the principal to discuss our scheming, pre-pubescent kids. And to think that spring has only just begun. We're in for a long season.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Arizona Revisited

As I uploaded these pictures, one thing came to my mind: I wish I was there. Actually, the weather here has been really nice this week. Spring is definitely here. You can see buds on the trees, flowers are popping up through the soil, weeds are growing in our lawn, and ants are starting to make their way into the house. I'm so glad it's here.

Here are some pictures I took while in Arizona. I told the kids at school that I would take pictures so they could see the landscape, and these are a handful of them:

My Mom and I took a hike at the White Tank mountains near their house. The wildflowers were at their peak the week before I was there, but the hike was still so beautiful. Here is a quintessential picture of a tourist (me) and a saguaro:
The kids specifically asked me to take a picture of a lizard. So here is the token shot:Many plants were still in bloom. This cactus was in front of a house near my Mom and Rich's house:

My Mom and I went over to my Aunt's house one day to go hiking. This is Lost Dutchman, which is really close to my Aunt's house in Mesa. The wildflowers were still in bloom there. You can see all the yellow in this picture:
After we hiked, my Aunt suggested we go to Saguaro Lake for lunch. It was great. After riding through the desert and seeing all the rough and dry terrain, we turned into this spot and saw this:
There is a great restaurant that overlooks the lake. The highlight of lunch was the dessert. My Aunt had heard that they had really good strawberry shortcake, so we ordered one. The waitress told us that it definitely was big enough for three people to share. Yeah, more like three families:
When she set it down on the table, the three of us simultaneously said, "Oh my God." Then, as if on cue, the table next to us said it. Then the table next to theirs, and on and on. People around the restaurant were pointing and talking about us. It was actually a little embarrassing.
Here is one of the the cacti that my Mom and Rich have in their yard:

This is a view from the golf course in their community. It's what I would look at every morning when I took my walk:

Here is the palm tree that is in their backyard. It was unusually windy when I was there, so the palms would sway and flap in the breeze. It made such a loud sound!:

Ah, Arizona. Only a memory now. And what a wonderful one it is.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

End of Vacation Blues

Back to work, back to reality. Monday came way too soon for my liking. I had my typical "departure depression" on Saturday night and Sunday which occurs on most vacations. The night before leaving a place, I get really sad. Leaving Arizona is always harder because I'm leaving my Mom and Rich too.

I got on the plane in Phoenix on Sunday afternoon where it was 95 degrees and sunny. When the captain came on the loudspeaker to tell us our flight time, etc., he said, "And the weather in Detroit is 35 degrees and snowing." I almost cried right there on the plane.

I (hopefully) dodged the stomach flu bullet too. My poor Aunt Connie didn't, however. She came over to my Mom's to visit on Saturday, and jokingly wore a mask because she didn't want to get the germs. Apparently she came down with the bug on Sunday night. My Mom called me yesterday to see if I was sick too. I'm still being careful about washing my hands. Maybe I have built up some immunities already being around the kids.

I hope to get all my pictures uploaded soon and then I'll post them. Suffice it to say, the trip was wonderful. Just what the doctor ordered and then some. It made me want spring even more. And thank you mother nature, for giving us a taste of it this week.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

House of Sick

Sunday morning my Mom woke up with the stomach flu. I attributed it to something she ate to save myself from thinking I was going to get it. I think Rich did too. Until yesterday. Rich woke up with the same thing.

I hate being sick, as you know. But anything dealing with the stomach and everything that goes along with it is the worst.

I'm trying hard not to let my hypochondria get the best of my thoughts. What is that little twinge of nausea I'm feeling? Maybe it was the pork chops - that's what Rich had leftover for lunch before he got sick. Maybe I have successfully disinfected all the doorknobs, computer keyboard, refrigerator handles, toilet and sink enough to kill all germs? Can my hands be washed just one more time? And on and on it goes.

I wake up each morning and think I made it through another day of avoidance. But I'm afraid that all these days are going to add up to one big whooping later this week. With my luck it will be the last day when I'll be forced to stay in. When all I'll want to do is squeeze every last drop of sun and warmth I can.

To quote Alexander from his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day: "I think I'll move to Australia."

Monday, April 7, 2008

Aaaaaah. Arizona.

Wow, did I need this. Can I say how nice it's been to sleep with the window open, smell flowers, see blue skies for days in a row, and smell sunscreen baking on my skin? Oh man, did I need this.

That nice boy Stein had something up his sleeve too. When I arrived here on Saturday, my Mom asked me if I knew what the agenda was that day. I figured it would be the same as always - a day of lying by the pool interrupted by lunch and dinner. No. Even better. Stein arranged for me to have a hot stone massage in the afternoon. What a way to start a vacation. Bless him.

Whenever I'm on vacation, my senses seem to be heightened. Maybe it's that everything is new and unfamiliar and my brain is trying to take everything in. The past 2 mornings I've gone for walks (in shorts and a t-shirt, hooray!) and have seen and smelled such wonderful things. Yesterday the only things scurrying about were hummingbirds and quails. Today the only clouds I saw were thin wispy ones that were going to evaporate at any minute. And both days I smelled fragrant plants and flowers. Ah, to be surrounded by warmth and spring and green. Heavenly.

I have been pampered and spoiled by my Mom and Rich. Gourmet dinners made by Rich every night. Chocolate chip cookies baked by my Mom. Cut-throat games of Rummy Cube on the patio. Now you know why this is one of my favorite places for vacation. It's like a resort vacation without the bill. How nice it has been to have them to myself, too. I always cherish this time that we have together. Never rushed, always fun, and just so comfortable.

Do I really need to go back to school in a week? Say it isn't so.

(And I know I still owe you a post from opening day. I probably won't get to it until next week. This week it's all about relaxing and enjoying.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

In the Meantime

I know I still owe you opening day stories, and I will get to those. Suffice it to say, the day was fun and great to catch up with everyone. In the meantime, while I get the pictures uploaded, here is something that happened today:

I went to Potbelly sandwiches after meeting some fellow teachers out after school. After ordering my sandwich and waiting for it to come out of the oven and get topped, I said to the girl behind the counter, "I have to go to the bathroom, but just go ahead and put everything but onions on my sandwich when it comes out." When I came out of the bathroom, this is the conversation that occurred:

1st girl behind counter: Sorry, did you want your sandwich for here or to go?
Me: To go.
1st girl behind counter: Okay, because I didn't know, so I just put it in a bag.
Me: You're cool. (Meaning - that's fine, no worries).
1st girl behind counter: Wow, thanks!
Me: Sure.
2nd girl behind counter: My mom would never say something like that. (Then, after looking at me and considering the comment she made): I mean, not that you look older or something, but... it's just that my mom would never say something like "you're cool".
Me: (Cutting her off before she dug deeper): That's fine, I guess that's what you get when you teach fifth grade.
1st girl behind counter: I'm going to be a teacher too!
2nd girl behind counter: I want to be a fifth grade teacher. That's cool!
1st girl behind counter: Where do you teach? How did you get the job?
Me: It's a long-term sub job at the school where I student taught.

And it went on a little from there. It's amazing. I rarely chat people up in public. I just let people live in their own worlds and mind my own business. When I traveled for a living, I never chatted with people on planes. I loathed people talking to me, and had my nose in a book or pretended I was sleeping from the minute I sat down until they told us we could unbuckle our seat belts.

The only times in the many years I traveled that I did talk to people, those people turned out to be teachers. I remember each of these three people distinctly. One was a young teacher from California who encouraged me to enter the profession. The other was an experienced education professor who encouraged me to continue my schoolwork. And the third was a special ed teacher who gave me some real-life stories to inspire me.

It's amazing how this profession touches people and connects people. Even those people who aren't in the classroom. Even those people who guess that my sandwich is to go.