Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I don't know what it is, but this year, a lot of kids are having a hard time pronouncing or remembering my name. It could be that I deal with a lot of kids this year (like the whole school) and that this includes the kindergarten. And in kindergarten, everything is new.
I have heard all variations of my name, from "Mrs. Einstein" to "Mrs. Einsteinhauer" to "Mrs." (just plain Mrs.) to "Miss S". Today someone asked me my name, so I told him. He said, "That's a nice name, but it's really hard to remember." "Thanks?" I mumbled in return. I'm surprised that I haven't heard "Mrs. Steinhouser" as most people like to say when they are soliciting something over the phone.
I wonder how long it will take for kids to learn how to spell my name? Oh, now that's a whole other story. Baby steps, right?
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Because I've only been attending Michigan games for a short time, I'm still trying to grasp the whole concept of Michigan football. It is obviously a team steeped in history. When I mention casually to people outside of the state that I live in Ann Arbor, a lot of times they'll look at me in awe and say, "Oh, have you been to the big house?" I feel spoiled. I've been there many times. And because we live near it, I see it almost every day.
But the mystique of Michigan football still eludes me. Maybe because most of the sports teams I follow have not been winning teams. Being a Cubs or Bears fan, you learn early that you shouldn't have very high expectations. "Next year's the year" is heard after every Cubs' losing season. "Next year is here" is heard at the very beginning of every Cubs' season. It just becomes a way of life. Low expectations. Hopeful, but realistic. (And we're not going to talk about this year's season. I don't want to jinx anything.)
So when people talk about this year's Michigan team, the long-time fans are bewildered. They don't know what to say, they don't know how to act. This year, there's a new coach, and a new way of playing offense. The talk started well before the season began this year. How will they do? Will this new offense work? What about this coach? What about the tradition? Let's not forget the legacy of Bo Schembechler, the tradition of "Hail to the Victors", or the long line of players going on to the NFL. All of this is intertwined into a Michigan fans' psyche. And this year, it's just being rattled.
I noticed it for the first time at yesterday's game. The usual stuff was there - the band high-stepping at the opening, the smell of sausages and candied almonds being sold by the vendors, the long lines to get into the stadium. But when the game started and Wisconsin pulled ahead, the normally quiet crowd (I know, hard to believe with 107,501+ people, but it's true) got quieter. Most people sat with their hands holding up their heads, and were more interested in a fight in the stands than what was happening on the field. They just didn't know what to do.
I felt at home. My days of rooting for the underdog have prepared me, I guess. Sad to say, fans like Stein are not prepared. Michigan football teams don't do this. Michigan football teams don't allow a team to get that far ahead. Michigan football teams don't depress us this much.
But then we got lucky.
At the end of the 3rd quarter, Michigan came back. They scored, and intercepted, and scored, and scored. The crowd came alive, stood on their feet and cheered. I'm glad that I didn't leave at halftime or the beginning of the 3rd quarter like I wanted to. It was exciting to be there to witness it all first hand. On the way out of the stadium, people exited quietly with smug looks on their faces. One woman kept saying, "I can't believe it. I just can't believe it." I don't think any of the fans could.
If only this luck could continue. Or maybe the fans could adopt the hopeful but realistic attitude that I'm so used to. Maybe not.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
A big relief was felt this week when I was able to put the kindergarten and 1st graders on the computers. Before, I had to figure out something to do with them in the library for 2 class periods. Y'all know how that goes. Or went.
I think the most rewarding part of the job is the comments I get from some of the lower el kids, and also the "aha!" moments I see in some of their eyes when I'm reading a story or helping them do their math on the computer.
I really need to start writing some of these funny moments down. There are probably about 3-5 things that happen everyday that make me laugh or realize just how young these kids are. I'll try recall a few of them this week:
- The first day that one of the kindergarten classes visited the computer lab, I talked to them outside in the hall first. I wanted to give them a little prep about what we were going to be doing in the lab. All of the prepping in the world couldn't have prepared them enough for the overwhelming sight of seeing 25+ computers in one room. When one boy walked into the room, he screamed at the top of his lungs while shaking his whole body, "THIS IS COMPUTER LAND!!"
- As I stood in the middle of a class of kindergartners, I felt something on my shoe. It was one little girl just rubbing her hand back and forth across my smooth clog. She was mesmerized.
- It continues to amaze me how everyone has a story to tell, regardless of the topic being discussed at the time. I can be in the middle of talking about pumpkins, or leaves, or whatever topic we're reading about, when I hear, "I have 3 grandmas." or "I have Star Wars figures at home." or "I like your necklace and earrings." or "This weekend I'm going to my cousin's house."
I still continue to grapple with the logistics of the library. It became more challenging this week as books were coming in and books continued to go out. Some days I felt like Lucy in the candy factory, trying to get the books checked in and shelved before the next class came into the library. I did have a parent volunteer one morning, which helped a lot. I hope to find more parents who want to help.
What isn't different about this teaching job is the thoughts that continue to run around my brain as if they're running a marathon. Plans for lessons, kids' names, library processes, computer program issues, helping teachers with curriculum supplement, etc., etc. I don't find myself up at night as much as I did last year, but the thoughts are there when I wake up.
I hope everyone is enjoying fall. We have been lucky here in Michigan (I think all of the Midwest) with beautiful fall weather. Cool nights, sunny days, and the changing colors on the trees. Enjoy!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Oh, the half-aisle with Christmas stuff. Seriously.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Anyway, I've been craving comfort foods and I've been wanting to just stay inside. I know being a teacher puts you on the academic calendar, and you fall back into doing "school" things like buying school supplies, or new clothes or new shoes. So I'm sure starting school has also thrown me into fall mode. The days are shorter, the nights are cooler, and I've been craving meat. Thankfully, Stein has too.
So last week, he made this meatloaf (which I've swooned about before), and this past Sunday he made this pot roast. Yum. Just what this comfort craver needed. Reason #783 why I married this man.
Monday, September 22, 2008
I first noticed the hiding game, as I call it, when I worked at Einstein's. Email messages to and from bosses or colleagues could say almost anything, and we assumed it wouldn't be taken half as seriously if those same words were said in person or on the phone. It was as if people used the label of email to cover up any harsh words or comments. I got caught up in that game, wordsmithing until the cows came home in order to get my message across, regardless of how it was said. A friend of mine said it perfectly a couple weeks ago when she said, "Email doesn't have a specific tone, nor can you create one, so you can never fully understand the message. You can never truly understand what someone is trying to say." I was thrown back to that first communication course I had in college, when I learned about the messages and how they are interpreted. I never knew that I would use that information again.
I have noticed the hiding game more and more in the last few years. Cell phones and text messages are the newest tools. I like text messages, especially when I'm at a place like a noisy restaurant or watching a sporting event. But what I don't like is when people can easily dial your number and call you instead of texting you. It's like they want to say something, but don't want to say it to your face. Call it being a coward, call it being passive-aggressive, call it being lazy. Whatever it is, I think it's hiding. (And don't think I'm immune from this, oh yes, I do it too.)
And now that I'm on Facebook (which is a whole other post in itself) I notice that people are hiding all the time. My neighbor said Facebook is kind of like reading Us magazine, only the people are your friends. You want to see the pictures, read the latest, and gossip about those people without them seeing you do it. It's so true. So we become "friends" with all these people who have been in our lives at some point, but don't maintain the friendships in the traditional sense. We don't call, we don't meet in person. We just send occasional notes to let them know we're reading their information, but it stops there.
Where is all of this going? I'm not so sure. But I know by the feeling that I have right now that the tone isn't so good. Maybe you could sense that, maybe you couldn't. Regardless, I'll have a more upbeat post tomorrow. but for now, I just needed to get on my soapbox. And use technology to do so.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Regardless of the reasons, one way (among many) that they're trying to jump start the economy is by encouraging movie makers to film in Michigan. Lately, there has been a flurry of action around the Detroit area. Drew Barrymore filmed a movie here in Ann Arbor, Clint Eastwood filmed one near Detroit, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. is currently filming one near Detroit. Clint Eastwood even filmed a commercial promoting Detroit as a good place to film movies, and the state is giving extra incentives for film companies coming here. I hope it works. The state definitely needs the boost.
Just a few words of advice to all those people coming to visit the state: there are a few things that you have to know about this place. A few things that only happen in Michigan. It's taken me a while to understand some of these things, but here they are:
- Party Stores. Growing up in Chicago, a store which sells alcoholic beverages is logically named a "liquor store". Here in Michigan, that store is called a party store. I always thought a party store sold plates and cups and balloons for parties. But here, there's beer, wine, and liquor.
- The Michigan Left. On many four-lane streets around Michigan, in order to go left, you need to go through the intersection, do a U-Turn in the designated place in the middle of the road, and then turn right at the street you want to go onto. Sound strange? It is, but I guess it decreases the amount of accidents of people going left.
- Coney Island. Here in Michigan, there are diners that are mostly owned by Greek families called Coney Islands. The signature meal at these diners is the Coney Dog, which is a hot dog with chili, onions and mustard on it. But besides this, the menu is basically a diner breakfast/lunch menu. I guess the name started with the hot dog? So you'll see all kinds of Coney Island restaurants around: Main Street Coney Island, Frank's Coney Island, etc. They all have the same food, don't worry.
I'm looking forward to seeing all the movies made here. Maybe they'll film in front of a coney island or party store and you could see them for yourself.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
So last night when my friend Linda asked me to go see this show, I was really excited. I am ashamed to say that I have never been to the Power Center, and was interested to see what it was like. The Power Center was very cool. The show, however, was not.
I learned very quickly that I am not a modern dance fan. The show consisted of 4 opera singers, 2 pianists (who played on the same piano - very cool), and a dance troupe of 12-14 dancers. In the first part, I was constantly trying to figure out the theme of the dances, trying to put order where there was none. I told myself to just watch and don't try to figure it out. But that bothered me. I wanted there to be some organization, some purpose. My friend Linda succumbed to her exhaustion after the intermission and was lulled to sleep by the music.
It was last night that I realized that I like structure and meaning in the performances I watch. I LOVE Broadway musicals, where the dancers are choreographed perfectly. I like ballets like The Nutcracker or Swan Lake, where the dancing reflects the theme of the story.
The operatic part of the show was phenomenal. The four people had amazing voices, even if I didn't understand the German language they were singing. At times I felt myself mesmerized by the musicians and singers, and ignored the dancers who squeaked across the stage (they were barefoot).
Call me old-fashioned. Just give me a classic ballet or musical and I'll be happy.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I read a book about pumpkins and talked about some of the pictures and words, then we sang "Ten Little Pumpkins" (sung to the tune of ten little indians) with hand motions and body movements, and then we colored pictures of pumpkins. At that point I looked up at the clock and expected it to be time to line everyone up. We still had 10 minutes to spare. Remember what I said about extra time, and kindergarteners, and the library?
"Okay," I said confidently, "Everyone on the rug." As all the little cherubs bounced over to the rug, I thought to myself, okay Kelly, what the heck are you going to do with them now?
Out of my mouth came the following words: "Okay, are we pumpkins today?" When the kids replied no, I said, "Well, today we can pretend. And we're going to have a jumpy bumpy ride just like the pumpkins in the story. Spread out so you don't knock into your neighbor."
This is when I laughed to myself. I laughed because they did exactly what I asked them to do. I had to remind myself that I wasn't in my fifth-grade class anymore, where I would've heard, "We're not going to do that. We're not babies." No, these kids looked up at me waiting for the next instruction. I had them. "Okay, get ready pumpkins!" I said. So we went through the whole story, where all of the kids were rolling down the hill like the pumpkins in the story, wiggling and waggling around. They loved it. I looked up at the clock and we had two minutes to spare. Just enough time to compose ourselves, turn back into kids, and line up to leave.
I did it. Now the question is: what are we going to do tomorrow?!
Monday, September 15, 2008
I digress, once again. Back to TV. Eventually a couple of shows drop off the list from lack of interest, and make room for other shows. But this year is a little different. This year, I added a show to the list in the summer. And this I blame on Anthony Bourdain. Two weeks ago, on Labor Day, Stein and I innocently sat on our couch for oh, about 6 or 7 hours straight. Purely gluttonous, we admit. But we had good reason to sit still and watch TV. There was an Anthony Bourdain No Reservations marathon on that day. That was when I added another show to my list.
I didn't like Anthony Bourdain when I first saw his show. I thought he was really arrogant and snarky. I thought he was a food snob. But now I am wooed by his vocabulary, and lulled by his sentences. He is a really good writer, and I really like his narrative style. He admits that he's snarky, which I think is admirable. He's brutally honest, which is equally admirable. He travels and talks about food, restaurants, and food people. A complete package, if you ask me.
I know I can't give up Lost or The Office to make more room, so I may have to restrain myself and just not add another new show. But then again, No Reservations is now in reruns so I'm not feeling a lot of pressure to watch. I mean, there's always Netflix, huh?
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I will be flying solo starting tomorrow. I have no doubt that I can handle this, but it's going to take a lot of planning. I can be kind of (ahem) anal when it comes to planning and organizing. It just makes me feel better when I have a plan in place. I tend to over plan, in fact. I know, hard to believe. But the worst thing is the feeling of panic that you get when you look at the clock and see that you have 20 more minutes left with a room full of kindergartners and nothing to do with them. Talk about the recipe for chaos. Do you know what 15 kindergartners can do with 20 minutes and a room full of books? Ike, you got nothing.
So where did I find myself this morning? On iTunes. No, I wasn't downloading stuff I normally listen to. I was downloading Raffi. Shake, Shake, Shake Your Sillies Out, and Bananaphone. I found myself remembering a family that Rick and I used to babysit. They listened to Raffi incessantly and Rick and I found ourselves at home singing, "Here come the horses clipping clopping," or "Who built the ark? Noah! Noah" on several occasions. Raffi's music has the tendency to stick in your head and not go away. By the way, for those parents out there, there is a cool CD by the Barenaked Ladies that is all kid's songs.
So now my quests when I'm out in stores will be books (as usual) and now kid's music. If you have any suggestions, send them my way. It's not the fifth graders who are intimidating me this year. It's the 5 year-olds in kindergarten. I'm going to need all the suggestions I can get.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
We had 2 tomatoes clinging to their vines (our tomatoes were not very good this year), and some basil that was still there. Freshly picked, and perfect to squeeze out some of the last drops of summer. And the bowl? We always put this salad (and tuna salad) in this bowl for some reason. Do you do that? Certain things go in certain bowls? (I guess we're all creatures of habit).
This bowl was one I got from my Great Aunt Ann. It has a crack in the side of it, but I just can't bear to throw it out. I silence the food safety voice in my head screaming, "BACTERIA! IT'S HARBORING BACTERIA!" when I fight the urge to throw it out. I love this bowl. It's a well-worn bowl that I like to look at and think about all the things that were made in it. I get nostalgic like that.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
The disappointing news was that I didn't get a job that I interviewed for last week. It was a job that I felt very qualified for, unlike some of the others that I felt under qualified for and had to flub my way through the interview. I felt relaxed during the interview, and was confident that I would be the one they wanted for the job. But in the end I wasn't who they wanted, so now I am Marion the Librarian.
I also found out today that I won't be team-teaching with my friend Mandi after all. The principal said that she can't have 2 subs in the position, so after this week, I will be flying solo. Despite the overwhelming amount of work to be done and kept up with, I am going to give it the old college try and see if I can handle it. If it becomes something I can't handle, well, there's always regular subbing. Again, not my ideal, but it's a job.
I am feeling surprisingly calm about the whole thing. I don't know if this is the calm before the storm, or if I am just accepting it all. Either way, you don't have to be concerned about me. But I appreciate your concern, I really do.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
I've been pretty silent about my working situation with hopes that it would turn out better than it has. Before I go on, I have to say, that I need to be thankful that I am working. I am thankful. But when there were chances out there for other things, and those things didn't come through, I can't help but feel a little bitter.
As for what I'm doing? Well, I must be good at the long-term sub thing. Because that's what I'm going to be doing for the next few weeks, or months (the time frame is indefinite at this point). I have been asked by the principal at the school I've been working at to fill in for the media specialist. That means that I am responsible to teach library and/or computers to EVERY class in the school. Easy, huh? Yeah, not so much. I am currently working with a retired media specialist, so we are doing a little team-teaching to get through the schedule. In the next few weeks, the plan possibly entails my friend Mandi taking over for her, which would be great. Mandi and I have worked together in a team-teaching situation for almost a year now. We work well together and complement each other.
In the meantime, I am trying to find a balance between tying kindergartner's shoes and challenging the Fifth graders. If you ever thought that teachers wear many hats, this position multiplies those hats by about 20! It is truly a juggling act trying to plan for 6 grade levels, while keeping the curriculum, skill levels, and interests in mind.
I am excited and challenged by this new position. It is definitely not my ideal, where I would have my own classroom, but it is something that is long-term and can be added to my resume. I am grateful to be offered this position, am thankful that I know where I'll be everyday (for a while) and look forward to learning a lot along the way.
Marion the Librarian? I'm going to give you a run for your money.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Take, for instance, the sunlight. This year, for some reason more than any other year, I have been really attentive to the light as it looks during various seasons. In the height of summer, the light is bright, unfiltered, and endless. And now that fall is near? It's hazy, filtered, and is about to set when it feels like it. Stein and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast Monday morning at an outdoor table in front of a great restaurant. I noticed that the light just hung around doing its job. If it were summer, the light would've been blaring and brash. If anything, it just seemed different. I even mentioned this to Stein as we walked to our car, our bellies full of yummy breakfast. And then, days later, on Gluten-Free Girl, what do I read? Her Ode to Light, or her discussion about how the light has changed literally and figuratively in the recent months since her daughter was born. (Karen, you're right about her switch in perspective by the way...)
Then, I was listening to the reports on NPR about the Republican convention and politics in general. While I never like to talk about politics in public or on my blog, this year I have been really disturbed by some of the political agendas/motivations/messages/tactics that are out there. I was happy then to read Dooce's account of the craziness of it all and her humorous approach to it all. (Well, depending on which side you're on.)
So without writing, my thoughts have been out there. I guess sometimes the blogger's got your tongue. Next time I just need to be quicker.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Coach Calhoun (of Rydell High, of course) and a 50's girl with a twist. As I started looking for pictures of poodles on the internet to use on a skirt, I remembered that I really don't like poodles. In fact, poodles are one of my least favorite dogs (sorry to all the poodle lovers out there and yay poodles international). Anyway, I digress. I decided that a lab would be more appropriate for my skirt and shirt. Here's how the skirt turned out:
In the last picture, Eric was talking smack from the water, saying, "I already had my swimsuit on, so it doesn't matter."
It was a beautiful day to be out by the lake. We watched a great sunset progress as the evening went on:
We also had entertainment at the end of the night when the kids (and adults) danced to 50's music on the deck. What a great party to end summer. Sigh.