Saturday, May 31, 2008

After the Storm

We got our thunderstorms last night. And I loved every minute of it. The kind of thunder that booms in the distance initially, then moves closer as the clouds get closer. Stein and I counted after the lightning to tell where the storm was. There was much discrepancy about the distance. He always said it was much closer. Details. When the storm reached our house, the rain came down in droves. And the thunder cracked and boomed even louder.

I love thunderstorms. They force you inside, usually under a blanket, and make you slow down. I am suddenly not interested in TV, and want to pick up a book. It just sets the mood for hunkering down, slowing down, and relaxing. And they only happen in spring in summer. Have I told you how I love spring and summer?

Today the sky is full of sunshine and clouds and blue. The plants look happier having soaked up all that rain. I am looking forward to digging in the dirt and planting some more plants.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Snooty Librarian

Oh, where is Marian the Librarian when you need her?

Yesterday I took the kids to the public library as part of their special reward activity. I first thought about taking the public bus, but the thought of wrangling 15-20 kids on the bus seemed way out of my comfort level. I decided we would walk. I clocked the distance on my car's odometer: just under 2 miles. No problem, I thought. We should make it to the library in about a half hour.

More like 45 minutes.

I didn't realize that some kids would be extremely slow (and complaining) walkers. As many of them ran to the front of the pack, it became obvious which kids were going to slow everyone down. I tried to keep my cool as a walked/ran between the two now-distant groups. I had everyone at the front of the line wait at each intersection for the whole group to catch up. Luckily I had 2 other adults with me, so it was easy to gather the troops. As the last straggler reached the group, the front sprinters would take off again.

When we finally arrived at the library, I gave them all the typical teacher talk. "We are in a public place. We are going to respect all the other people who are using the library. We are not going to talk loud or run around." It turns out that the person who I should've given the talk to was the librarian.

The kids were great in the library. A lot of them went straight to the areas that suited them. My rough boys stayed at the CD listening station the whole time. My comic kids went straight to the graphic novel section. My girly-girls picked out DVDs that suited their pre-teen tastes. All was right with the world.

Until I heard, "Where is your teacher?"

I looked up and saw one of my comic kids trying to use his library card. I asked what the problem was, and she started in on this snooty lecture: "Is this a spontaneous trip to the library, or did you arrange this in advance?" she barked at me. "Well, no it's not spontaneous," I explained. "I called this week and explained to the woman on the phone that we would be here this afternoon. But there are supposed to be thunderstorms this afternoon, so we switched it to this morning." She didn't even look at me when I was explaining. She just stood there with pursed lips staring at the computer screen in front of her. "Well," she added, "We can't process all of these library cards today, you know." "Yes, I'm well aware of that. I explained to the person I talked to on the phone that we would be bringing in applications, but I understood that they wouldn't be processed right away. The kids all know that they can come back in a week to pick them up." Again, without looking at me, she gave a little "hmm".

I was dumbfounded. I couldn't believe that I was getting an attitude from the place where I thought the friendliest people worked. I love going to the library because it feels like such a privilege to me. All the books, CDs, and DVDs you want, for free! Can't read them in the time allotted? Well, renew them! And the people there have always been so knowledgeable, courteous, and laid back. I guess we just threw this woman's day for a loop.

But that wasn't the end of it. While I was checking out some books using the self-checkout computers, I noticed that another one of my kids was trying to use his library card. He ended up innocently talking to Snooty herself. She shot me a look and said with a haughty laugh, "Why are all of these children trying to use expired library cards?" I looked at her with the most appalled expression. Trying to use expired library cards? I thought. Like they're trying to get away with something? I tried to remain calm and used my "low voice" as Mickey and I like to call it. "We didn't know they were expired. When the kids showed me they had library cards, I figured that they were valid. There is no way that I would've known that they were expired," I explained. "Well, you know that they need to have a parent present in order to get the card renewed, don't you?" she added authoritatively. "Okay," I said. "If that's what they need to do, they will do that, no problem." I swallowed hard and gave her a syrupy, "I apologize if this has been a problem." Again, she gave me a "hmmm" without looking at me.

Again I was dumbfounded. And really ticked off. I am still mad as I write this. I think I'm going to call the library and try to speak to someone about her. I don't think the kids were phased by it, but it really put a bad taste in my mouth. I don't want to have a bad taste in my mouth about the library. I love the library.

And I don't want to leave this post on a sour note, either. So I give you the lyrics to Marian the Librarian, sung by Prof. Harold Hill in the Music Man. Oh Marian, please come to Ann Arbor and give this woman a lesson in customer service and class.

Madam Librarian
What can I do, my dear, to catch your ear I love you madly, madly Madam Librarian...Marian
Heaven help us if the library caught on fire
And the Volunteer Hose Brigademen
Had to whisper the news to Marian...Madam Librarian!
What can I say, my dear, to make it clear I need you badly, badly, Madam Librarian...Marian
If I stumbled and I busted my what-you-may-call-it I could lie on your floor
'Till my body had turned to carrion....Madam Librarian.
Now in the moonlight, a man could sing it
In the moonlight
And a fellow would know that his darling
Had heard ev'ry word of his song
With the moonlight helping along.
But when I try in here to tell you, dear
I love you madly, madly, Madam Librarian...Marian
It's a long lost cause I can never win
For the civilized world accepts as unforgivable sin
Any talking out loud with any librarian
Such as Marian.....Madam Librarian.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Day in the Life

I was telling Mickey about the day I had last week and I realized just how many unexpected twists and turns my days can take. I don't know each morning I wake up what kind of day it's going to be. Sure, no one really does, but I remember when I worked at my last job that the days would go pretty much the same from start time until finish. Here's the play-by play of my day last Friday:

5:30 am: Alarm clock sounds and Stein turns it off. I groan as I pull myself out of bed. "Why did I agree to run with my sister-n-law?" I asked myself.
5:50 am: Walk outside and realize the shorts I'm wearing may be a little too chilly for the cold morning.
6:30: Arrive back home after huffing and puffing my way through almost 3 miles.
7:30: Leave the house and think, "It's going to be a great day. Kids have art first thing, then we have a field trip this afternoon."
7:45: Arrive at school and put on some happy, groovin' music in my classroom. I say my usual good morning pleasantries with the custodian and the other early arrivers.
8:46: Put on piano music for kid's arrival. Post myself at the door.
8:48: The bell rings and kids start flooding into the school. I tell the same kindergartners that pass my door on the way to their classroom to "Please slow down, stop running." I should really just play a recording at this point, I think.
8:52: I hear the kids in my room getting into mischief, so I go in and firmly tell them to get in line for art.
8:55: Deliver the kids to the art teacher, say hi to a few friends on the way back to my classroom, and breathe a sigh of relief knowing I'm free for a whole hour.
9:00: Realize that I have a few copies to make. Go to the office and exchange pleasantries with the admin staff.
9:05: While making copies, the English as a Second Language teacher comes up to me and introduces me to one of the rough boys' mom. "Remember the meeting we have this morning?" Meeting? Ah yes, I'll be right there.
9:07: Meet the ESL teacher and rough boy mom in the teacher's lounge. We go through the process of having the ESL teacher translate the entire conversation. I say something, it's listened to, then the ESL teacher tells the mom, and then the mom says something back. I make a note to self: brush up on your Spanish. It would be so much easier.
9:30: Look at the clock. Make another note to self: Brush up on Spanish NOW. I would be out of here by now if I knew the language.
9:45: Look at the clock. Realize my whole hour without kids was instead filled with talking about kids.
9:55: I cut off the ESL teacher mid-sentence and tell her I have to pick up my kids from art. She tells me that she and the mom are going to "spy" on the rough boy through the window in my classroom door.
10:00: Pick up the kids from art class and realize that I have 40 minutes to get through the math lesson before we have our special reward activity. I have confidence I can do so.
10:10: As I am instructing the class on factor trees and common denominators, I notice the ESL teacher and rough boy's mom peering through the classroom window. As do other kids who quickly tell the rough boy that his mom is in the hall. Rough boy looks humiliated. Success, I think.
10:12: The phone rings. It's a parent calling to tell me that her daughter just text-messaged her and said that a boy in the class hit her and she was fed up so she hit him back. She wants to know the background and why this was allowed to happen. She wants to set up a meeting with the boy's parents.
10:15: I politely try to end the conversation and ask her if I could call her back while I wasn't instructing. She lets me go.
10:16: As I hang up the phone and turn around, the principal is standing next to me with the fighting girl. She is questioning the girl on why she had a cell phone in school, why she was texting, and what happened. The principal tells the boy who hit her to come to her office. He leaves.
10:18: I realize I only have about 20 more minutes to complete the lesson. I reassure myself that the kids are familiar with the lesson and this is just a review.
10:20: The ESL teacher asks if she can take rough boy out in the hall and talk with him and his mom. Have at it, I think.
10:40: Tell the kids to put away their math materials and line up for the special activity. The kids who don't qualify are sent to the Principal's office.
10:45: Breathe another sigh of relief when we're outside in the warm sun, flying kites, playing with sidewalk chalk, and blowing bubbles. Success with the activity.
11:40: Go back inside and get ready for lunch. Have a few minutes to scarf down my lunch and get the kids from the lunchroom.
12:10: Get the kids from lunch, meet in Laura's room to give last minute instructions, and board the bus for the field trip.
12:20: Join Laura in repeatedly telling kids to sit down and face forward on the bus.
12:45: Arrive at the field trip and allow the people in charge there to handle the kids.
1:00: Take pictures of the kids as they do science activities. Realize the pre-picked groups are working like clockwork.
2:00: Board bus to go back to school.
2:05: Join Laura in repeatedly telling kids to sit down and face forward on the bus.
2:20: Arrive back at school and have all kids sit in one room to get a talking to. The principal joins us and Laura goes over the new behavior policy.
2:45: Take the kids out for a short recess.
3:00: Switch classes with Laura's class and attempt to teach her kids the math lesson in 30 minutes. Well, I did it in about 25 minutes this morning, so 30 minutes will be a luxury, I think.
3:30: Switch back with my class and get ready to end the day.
3:35: Darling from Laura's room races into my room and asks if there is homework for math, and could I also hand out the family letter for the new unit?
3:38: Hand out homework and family letter to kids in my room. Dismiss the safety patrol kids to go to their posts.
3:42: The bell rings. I say "Have a great weekend!" to each one of the students as they leave the room. I walk down the hall and breathe a big sigh of relief.

School is over, it's Friday, and we have 3 days ahead. Hallelujah.

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Hey Sister...

whatcha doin'? Hey Sister, barbecuing. Hey's Memorial Day!"

-Pat McCurdy (Karen describes Pat in her blog here.)

I hope everyone is enjoying their 3-day weekend. We sure are. It was so nice to think that we had just one more day when I was going to bed last night. So far, the weekend has been full of lounging, planting, eating, sleeping, cleaning, relaxing, and sunning. And beautiful weather to boot! Very unusual for a Memorial Day and we're loving every minute of it. Gotta run - it's time to go outside and play.

Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

What's Making Me Happy Right Now...

  • Newly planted flowers in pots in the backyard and on the front porch.
  • Basil and tomatoes ready to grow and flourish and be made into pesto and tomato salads.
  • Another day after today to relax and get some more things done.
  • Friends coming over tonight to eat, drink, and laugh.
  • Having the time to blog and surf the internet.
  • A beautiful morning that will turn into a beautiful day (75 degrees!).
  • A restful night free of thinking and worrying about school, kids, and things needing to be done.
  • Seeing green leaves on trees as I look out my back window.
  • Getting caught up on laundry and other house stuff.
  • Knowing there are only 13 1/2 more days of school left.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Blanketed in Buildings

Aahhhhh. The weekend. I don't think I have ever cherished my weekends this much. Ever. I count the minutes, the hours, the days, and the weeks before school is out. I know the kids are doing the same. At this point I think it's just a matter of tolerating each other for the next 3 weeks. I can do it. But 3 weeks has never seemed this long.

Before I forget, I wanted to tell you about our trip to Chicago last weekend. We really didn't have plans beyond the Eddie Izzard show, so the world was our oyster. Friday after the show, we decided to check out the new Trump hotel downtown. We went up to their bar on the 16th floor to have drinks. The view was pretty cool, but the bar/restaurant itself wasn't extraordinary. We all were expecting something more unique. But like I said, the view was cool. It felt like you could reach out and touch the Wrigley building and the Tribune tower. Here's a picture I tried to snap. I think it turned out pretty cool, even if you can't see what it is (it's the Wrigley building):
Saturday morning, we met our friend Julie and her cousin for breakfast. We went to one of our favorite places, Tweet. Chris and I love one of the waitresses there, because she's really friendly and upbeat. We were so excited when she was our waitress. Yes, I know, it's the little things.
After breakfast, we headed to the lake to meet Patty at her boat. Stein went to watch the Red Wings game, but hung out with us until he had to go. For a day that was supposed to be rainy, it turned out to be a beautiful day. Perfect for being outside. And unfortunately, as you can see in the last few pictures, perfect for a sunburn too. Here's a shot from the dock while we waited for Patty to come:
After hanging out on the dock for a while, we headed out on the lake. If you have never seen Chicago from the water, you should try it. It's such a different view that you get, and one that I don't get tired of. There are only a few places in the city where you can see buildings and the lake, usually it's one or the other.
I love this picture because it captures the sky, the water, and the buildings. This is Patty and some friends on the bow of the boat. We were cruising toward the river where we would go through the locks and up the river.

Here's Patty on the bow of the boat as we went down the river (the Wrigley building is behind her). I joked with her and asked if she thought the trip was 'blogworthy'. She said it was. Oh yeah, it was.
Here are a few more pictures from the trip:

Because Chicago is my hometown, I feel a sense of comfort when I'm surrounded by all the familiar sights: the skyline, the lake, the river. I was "in my glory" as my mom would say, being on the boat. It was a beautiful day, I was with my friends, and I was blanketed in buildings. Nice.

That night we went to a bar that just opened near Chris' house. It's funny because the restaurant that used to be there was the place where my family and I would go for ice cream. They had the best hot fudge according to my mom, who is an expert in such things. Anyway, we had to take some more pictures. These are the ones where you can see our sunburn: The next morning, we out to breakfast at Orange with Rick and Monik. This restaurant now has a couple locations in Chicago, and has received some mixed reviews. They don't have traditional breakfasts, but a twist on normal things. Here is one of their specialties, "Fruishi". They arrange fruit and fruit-flavored rice to look like sushi:

After breakfast, we were riding home, and noticed (how could you not?) this outside the Buddhist Temple:
It was Buddha's Birthday! I don't know if you can see in the picture, but Chris pointed out that Buddha was doing the "we're number one!" sign with his finger. We had never seen that on Buddha.
"...One town that won't let you down, it's my kind of town."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Still Here

Just really busy with school and getting back into the swing of things after a short trip to Chicago this weekend. We had a great time, and I have lots of pictures to post from the festivities. We went in to see Eddie Izzard, but also enjoyed a trip out on Patty's boat, and some great food and drinks with friends. I'll write more and post pictures as soon as I have a minute to sit down. Oh yeah, and when I get better. I got another cold. Darn kids.

Hope all is well with everyone!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Morning at the Dairy

It's not what you think. I didn't spend the morning at a dairy farm. I stopped by the local dairy in town, in the middle of a neighborhood. Other than the sign on the outside of the building which reads "Washtenaw Dairy", you would never think it was a dairy. Then again, what does it need, a cow, to tell you that?

Stein and I have been there for ice cream before and it's really yummy. The place is packed on summer evenings. In fact, in real estate ads, the houses that are listed nearby usually mention something about being close to the dairy. It's a walking destination for anyone within a mile radius. The rest of us just have to drive there.

Oh, and they have donuts. Donuts that I have smelled in the mornings when I'm running (oh yeah, running. I must get back to that soon). Donuts that are kind of on the small side, but oh so yummy. They're cake donuts, and they have a crispy outside. They frost them with chocolate, or vanilla, or sprinkles, or coconut.

I have never bought donuts there before, I have only been on the receiving end at offices where I've worked or at school. Today when we were having a breakfast in honor of a recently married teacher, I decided donuts would be best. It was about 7:30 when I went. As soon as I opened the door, the people at the 5 tables there turned their heads. They gave me a once-over look and then went back to their conversations. I was clearly not a local in the local hangout. There was one large table with 10 men, drinking coffee and gossiping. I'm sure I became part of their conversation too. I like to think I was the "mysterious girl". When I placed my order for 2 dozen donuts, the woman who helped me went to the back. That gave me time to look around at the other people there. More locals. I overheard conversations about people going up north, golf outings, and slot machines. (Trips up north can typically entail golfing and playing slot machines). Aside from the party of 10 men (wearing lots of U-M gear, by the way), there were some couples, a small group of retired friends, and the owners (father and son?) who easily drifted among the tables.

Not having been there before in the morning, I was really surprised by what I found there. I didn't think people hung out there, other than at night while finishing their ice cream cones. I mentioned something about this to another teacher this morning, and she finished my sentence. "You mean all the old men drinking coffee and talking?" she affirmed. Yep, that was it, I thought.

Who knew that the dairy in the middle of the neighborhood would be such a popular hangout? Maybe I need to go there more often. But then again, I wouldn't remain the mysterious girl.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mom is Wow Upside Down

Wow. I do think that when I think of my mom. Not only because she endured raising 5 kids while working as a teacher and then as a principal, but because she did everything (and still does) with a positive attitude. Even when something doesn't go her way, she takes it in stride. She knows everything will work out eventually. She doesn't stress about things too much. Unless it's about her friends and family. Then she gets stressed.

I've been really appreciating her lately while I've been teaching. She was a teacher, but then she would also go home and be a mom. Did I mention to five kids? I can't imagine how she did it (or how my sister Mickey does it). Some days I literally eat dinner and climb into bed. I don't have other people relying on me to be fed, cleaned and clothed.

Stein and I went to brunch this morning with his parents and his sister's family. While we were there, his mom gave me a little gift. When I asked her why I was getting a gift, she said, "It's for being a mom to all of those kids in your class." I laughed, because it's true sometimes. I assume so many roles throughout the day. Doctor, nurse, therapist, cook, mechanic, warden, advisor. And I do think about the kids when I'm away from school. Sometimes I'm up at night thinking about them. Just like my mom did when she was teaching. I used to laugh at her that she couldn't sleep the whole night through. I thought she was crazy. Now I know exactly what she went through, aside from tacking five kids of her own on to her worry list.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there. You deserve a beautiful day doing something you love to do. You make me say wow.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Nurtured By Nature

Yesterday was a really nice day at school. It started when 2 of my students brought flowers to me. While this was "recommended" in a letter sent by the PTO for Teacher Appreciation week, it was still really sweet. I also received some assorted picked flowers earlier in the week. I love how kids gravitate toward dandelions. There is always an abundance of them, and they're bright and cheerful. (They don't know that they're weeds and someday when they own a house they will be their lawn's enemy.)

I love that the boy who brought these tulips to me put them in this Ragu jar. There was still some remnants of the sauce on the jar. He also told me that he couldn't give me the orange one he had because his mom thought it was too pretty and kept it for herself. So cute.

In the afternoon, we headed over to the woods that are right behind our school. Whenever I go there, I realize that we need to get over there more often. I mean, how lucky are we to have woods with a trail right behind our school? The trip was part of the reward system that I have in my class. The kids have to earn enough points (by behaving properly) in order to be able to participate in the special activity planned each week. I have to admit, for this outing, it was nice not to have the rough boys to worry about (they didn't earn enough points to go). There were only 13 kids with me, and they were good about staying with the group and helping me find our way through the woods.

Last night Stein and I went out with my friends from school. We went bowling. Since the league that some of them belong to is over, we decided that all of us would bowl. Stein and my friend Katie opted out, and judging from the results of my games, I should've too!

After bowling, we went over to one of the bowler's house for a bonfire. It was a beautiful night for a bonfire. Clear, and barely no wind to blow the smoke into people's faces. It was so nice to be sitting around the fire, telling stories and laughing. We also got to try a potato gun, powered by ether. Seriously, it was pretty entertaining. I mean, when do you get to shoot potato pieces into the air and hear them hit the ground yards away?

Have I told you how happy I am to have spring here? Oh yes, I am.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

27 More Days

But who's counting?! I said to my friend Mandi at school today that we have 27 more days. She said, "We can do anything for 27 days." She's right, we can. But for some reason, I can't put the days ahead of me into perspective. I keep thinking that it's going to be a LONG time until June 13th. A long time of waking up early and staying up late, all the while thinking about school, and kids, and lessons.

I keep trying to think about how many days I've been in this position. It's been a lot longer than 27 days, that's for sure. I can do a fraction of that time, I know. I think my bad attitude has to do with squirelly kids who are excited about spring, graduating, and new loves (yes, the bathroom lovers are still so googly-eyed, it's ridiculous). The other thing is that we have a lot of fun things planned for this summer. Besides me teaching summer school, we are planning on going up north with my Mom and Rich, and we also have my reunion at Marquette (has it really been 15 years?)

I am tired, and the kids in my class are tired (of me, I'm sure!). I look forward to each week when we have something special planned. Next week it's a guest author, then there's a few field trips too. I think I can, I think I can...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Celebrating Cinco De Mayo

We had some friends over last night to celebrate Cinco De Mayo. It ended up being a relatively small group of people, but it was really fun. After we have dinner parties, Stein and I always say to each other, "We need to do this more often." Then months go by, and we don't plan anything. The other good thing about having people over is we give the house a good cleaning. You can't go wrong with that.

The menu was pretty easy to prepare. Stein made his now famous enchiladas, I made a Mexican rice dish with chorizo and pork, and then we made a bean salad with black beans, tomatoes, and corn. We also had sangria, margaritas and Coronas, of course. For dessert, we had cheesecake bites and ice cream bon bons from Trader Joe's. Not going with the Mexican theme, but still good.

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Daintiness of Spring

I love tulips. They are a sure sign of spring, when along with their sisters the daffodils, pop up through the dirt even before winter has left. They give us hope, especially when we can't bear to think about another day of cold and grey.

I had these tulips in the guest room while Sara was here, and then Stein moved them to the dining room table. They were definitely ready for the trash, but I thought they looked so pretty in the afternoon sun streaming through the windows. Like they were dancing and celebrating in the light.