Friday, October 14, 2016

Kid magnet (and what I like and dislike about subbing)

My theory has usually been that middle and high schoolers are like cats, and elementary students are like dogs.

Similar to cats, a middle- or high-schooler will come around on his/her own terms--if they want and/or need you.  But if you make a move toward them, they instantly flip their tails, turn on their heels and throw shade at you.

Elementary students are yippy, energetic and bound around your feet, whipping past your legs, knocking over dogs.

Elementary school kids invade my personal space to a degree that gives me a bit of the willies.  A very sweet 4th grade girl gave me approximately 4,000 hugs in the 3 hours I was with her class the other day (teachers were having meetings).  Told me she loved me more than my own children have.

It makes me think I am a bonafide kid magnet.

I like it.....and then I get another squirt of hand sanitizer.

This year, subbing has been much easier than April and May of last year.  I expected to have zero jobs in August but easily got my 5 days in at both my kids' schools.  I am learning more each time I sub and paying attention to what I see teachers do that I like and is effective.  Like a new hallway prep song I learned:  My hands are by my side / I'm standing straight and tall / My eyes are looking straight ahead / I'm ready for the hall.  Singing or saying---it doesn't matter---1st graders ate it up.

Germs aside, there isn't much I don't like about subbing.  I like working with kids, and I like walking out the door and being done.  I like the flexibility.

If there is anything I don't like, it is not knowing which kids have what needs.  I was in a 5th grade class the other day, and a kid was being challenging.  I felt like he was bucking me a bit---not attitude, but squirrelly silliness.  Class clown-type thing.  As it turns out, I later found out the child's medication was wearing off.  I don't know if having this info would have changed how I managed the child's behavior necessarily, but it would have internally changed my understanding of the child's behavior.

I don't blame teachers for this.....they have enough to worry about in leaving good lesson plans, and it likely doesn't register which kids have special needs and situations---they are used to it and it likely just doesn't cross their mind  But it is helpful to know.

I feel like I'm getting better at subbing at the elementary level, which is not my natural forte.  I feel more comfortable among people who understand sarcasm and with whom I can use the phrase "jacked up."  First graders are not those people.  But little people are very sweet (and germy) but mostly sweet.

It's that whole animal thing, I think.  I like dogs and can spend a little time with them, but I love and can live with cats.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Oh my heavens, my bonus baby is now 7!

Dear M,

Every child is a special miracle, but you are especially miraculous and always will be.  You slipped in under the wire.  You weren't expected, and you weren't planned, but you are evidence of wondrous life happening in spite of our plans and our expectations.

I sometimes consider what life would be like if you hadn't arrived.  Who would have sung us "Bring the Chainsaw Back?"  Who would be penis bros with Daddy?  Who would provide G the buddy and helpmate he needs?  Who would be the easy-going bread on the other side of N in the family sandwich that has G as the tangy middle?

You will always be my Monkey M, the baby in the monkey costume who did his monkey crawl along the sidewalks on Halloween night.  You will always be the long-term nursling I always wanted and had to wait through two kids to get.  You will always be my special bonus baby.

Even though you are a personality at home, you tend to be shy and more reserved among others.  You are my sensitive boy who cries easily when something unexpected happens or someone unexpected appears.  And you definitely keep a wary eye out for your Uncle K, who is the world's biggest tease and likes to see if he can pull one over on you.

I love it that you put your swimming goggles on so tightly that you look like a little Asian child.  I love it that you still have a squeaky little voice.  I love it that your laugh, when you really cackle, can crack anybody in the room up and still often results in you racing to the bathroom to pee.

It astounds me that 7 years have passed since we heard the doctor say, "It's a boy!"  And even though I really liked the name Maeve Catherine, I'm really, REALLY glad I had the opportunity to use M**** D****** for you.

I hope you have great fun at your party this weekend.

All my love, always,

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The lure of travel

When D and I decided to start trying for a family way back in the day, we were sort of burned out on travel.

We certainly weren't super-adventurous travelers, but we did a bit in our 8 years of togetherness before children (2 before marriage and 6 after):

Caribbean cruise (St. Thomas / Barbados / Dominica / Martinique / Puerto Rico / St. Maarten)
Grand Cayman Island
Las Vegas, NV
The Grand Canyon
Death Valley, CA
Virginia Beach, VA, including Chincoteague, VA, Assateague Island and Colonial Williamsburg
Savannah, GA
Panama City, FL
Niagara Falls
Toronto, Canada
Italy (Florence / Rome / Isle of Capri / Sorrento / Venice)
Greece (Athens / Olympia / Delphi / various islands)

Since having children, our travel has changed.  In the past 12 years, we've been to--

Orlando, FL (Disney / Universal Studios---3 times, and if I never go back again it will be too soon.)
Traverse City, MI and the UP
Gulf Shores, AL (2 times)
Sanibel Island, FL
Edisto Island, SC
and a slathering of other small, closer-to-home places, like Indianapolis, IN, Columbus, OH and Nashville, TN

The kids have gotten to a point where I'm starting to think we can travel to some more interesting places, although the way M carried on complaining as we walked through the Indy Zoo the other day leaves me wondering how rational this plan actually is.

My goal is to take them to Utah in two years to see the Mighty 5 National Parks (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef), although realistically I'd be happy to see Zion and Bryce and call it a day.

Eventually, we want to take them to Washington, DC and over to Delaware, but that will have to be when M is closer to middle-school age.  There is enough shite in DC to not have to listen to more of it coming from my complaining kids' mouths.

Next year, though, we'll probably just go to Hilton Head, SC.  All of us love the ocean, but G, especially, loves being in the waves.

My parents always talked about taking me and my brother to a dude ranch when we were kids, but we never did.  I'm not sure why.  My parents made the mistake of listening to what my brother and I said sometimes, so when we complained about the prospect, they might have heeded our fussing.  They never did this when we complained about going to church, so I suspect a dude ranch wasn't a top priority for them.

On my personal list of places to see is the following:

Key West, FL (the tentative plan is for me and D to go here next year for our 20th anniversary--hence the reason we'll just head to the beach with the kids for a "simple" vacation.)

Maine (Arcadia National Park)
Quebec, Canada
Africa (on safari)
Yellowstone National Park

Talking about travel is one of my absolute favorite things to do if I can't actually be traveling.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Blame it on James

On Saturday, I ordered a dozen cookies from a local bakery.  The cookies were to be of the sugar variety with red icing and black #9s on them (for the 9th birthday boy).

When I went to pick them up yesterday, I was told there was no order for me.
I asked, "Um, is there a James who works here?  Because James took my order."

The gentleman who was helping me scurried around a bit in the back, and then walked toward me and asked, "Was the order for 12 dozen cookies with red icing and black 9s?"

I said it was for a dozen (and we all know 12 is a dozen), but, yes with red and black and 9s.

This man, named Walt, then showed me the order form, which wasn't an order form at all.  James had written my order incorrectly on the back of a receipt.  He had failed to put my name or phone number on it.  No one paid any attention to it on the desk because it wasn't an order form.

I asked, "Can you please thunk James on the head for me?"

The gentleman called two other bakeries in the franchise to see if they could make my cookies by late afternoon.  Fortunately, one of them was able to make my order.

I told this story to D and the kids last night and said if the cookies tasted bad to "blame it on James."

N farted at the table and said, "Blame it on James."

From here on it, if it sucks or doesn't go the way we like, it is all James' fault.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

9 is so fine / You're the reason I drink wine

Dear G,

The other day I posted a photo of myself on Facebook, and I had many people tell me, including Daddy, that you look exactly like me.

I know for certain that you are much, much cuter than I ever was.

I also know that you and I are so alike emotionally.  We are both high-strung and easily aggravated.  Daddy sometimes can't stand listening to the two of us carry on with each other.  We know each other's buttons and push them regularly (hence the "you're the reason I drink wine" in the title of this blog post).

You have a special place in my heart because of your struggles---the OCD and the sensory issues and the coordination stuff.  I don't have a favorite child, but there are pockets of special love for each of my children because of their unique needs and challenges.

I love it that you have both a boy and a girl who are your best friends and whom you've invited for a sleepover for this 9th birthday.  You are an oddball, and your friends are oddballs, and I love it that you so easily recognize "your people."

You ramble on about Five Nights at Freddy's and other video game things I do not understand, and it sometimes makes me worry.  Your interest in all things macabre is a little unsettling for a mother who would sometimes like you to just like Mickey Mouse forever.  But whenever I talk about these things with you, you always say things that show me you get the deeper meaning.  Your empathy allows you to see that people are complex, that even the people we deem villainous are not wholly bad.  You are so aware that there can be sadness and loneliness and regret that lies behind their wrongdoings.  For someone who is just turning 9, I am often stunned by how mature your understanding of human nature is.

One of the reasons I love you.....your adoration of animals.  

I was so proud of you this past summer for going to Girl Scout camp with your sister so I could volunteer and just having the best, best time.  For fishing and swimming and making friends and being so much braver than I expected you to be.  And then up in Michigan, when you kayaked by yourself.  I often worry so much about you that I don't give you enough credit for being daring and bold.

I am so glad that you are my son, and that you have, even from before you were born, forged your own unique path (you remind me that you were born the "hard" way).  Your path, and my path as your mom, is not without obstacles.  But I like this saying by Frank A. Clark:  "If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere."

I am grateful for be on a path with you that is going somewhere that is almost certainly wonderful and also a little weird.

All my love you big 9-year-old boy,


The weirdness (and goodness) of full circle

I subbed 3 days this week, and one of those times was at the school I taught at 12 years ago.  I actually subbed for the gal who subbed for me when I went on maternity leave with N.  Her current teammates are some of my former teammates.

It felt so nice to see former colleagues and receive hugs and hear, "Oh my god, I thought I recognized you!"

Probably my favorite person to see was Mr. L, one of the security guards whom I just loved.

I was told that my reputation preceded me, which I hoped was of the positive variety.

I realized, walking through the halls, how much I had forgotten.  I completely forgot there is a third floor to the building, where the library is.  The day felt familiar, yet hazy.

There are times when I think back on my short-time in the classroom and wonder what kind of impact I had.  I can see so many mistakes, so many errors in how I taught.  Of course, if effort counts for anything I feel I can give myself an "A."  I worked so hard, and I loved those kids (mostly).

Even as a sub, I work really hard to ensure the students learn something and work hard while I'm with them.  A sub day, if I'm in the room, is still a learning day.  One of my former colleagues told the students, "Ms. V is not your typical sub."

A few weeks ago, I saw a former student, AJ....she was one of my favorites.  Just a sweet, sweet girl.  Her mother had died when she was a kid, so she didn't have an easy life.  I actually saw her about 7 years ago and wrote about the reunion then.  I was able to give her some baby boy items, and she let me know when her son was born.

I happened upon AJ at one of N's field hockey games.  She said having a baby forced her to get her stuff together---she went back to school, became a nurse, is now married, and is getting ready to buy her first house.  And I cannot express the sheer joy seeing her, and seeing her life now, gave me.  Did I have anything to do with it, really?  Probably not in any meaningful way, but on some tiny little scale, I like to think I contributed.  That I was a reminder to her that people care for her.

As glad as I am that I stayed home with my children, I'm sure there will alway be a little part of my heart that is sad that I missed out on helping other kids.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Possible karma is not lost on me

On Thursday, at 9 pm, our sewer backed up.

D and I had the sewer district people out and a plumber out and were up until 1:30 am waiting for the issue to be resolved.  I was back up at 6 am yesterday which, blessedly, did not include 7 hours of substitute teaching.  It was the first day of the cottage school, so it was mostly explaining the things we'll be studying this year, talking about independent studies, and doing a fun Shakespearean insults writing activity.

Prior to all this going down, I asked my neighbor at the 6:30 pm Open House at the boys' elementary school if I was the official "most-hated" person in the PTA because of my comments at the meeting (and my subsequent blog post, which some of them read via Facebook).

I am not without a soul, and it can be difficult for me to balance my need to get things off my chest and write on this blog with also being the type of decent human being I really strive to be.  It is for this reason that I don't write people's names or obviously identify people (the lady in the blue dress who sat 2 places down from me) who may be the focus of my frustration (ok, except for my kids).

I know I have angered people who have read my blog in the past, but I also suspect that their anger at me is, at least sometimes, because I said something they know to be true about the situation.  I find that my greatest fury is when someone says something that I know is true, but I don't like hearing the truth.  It is like the anger you feel when you are really angry at yourself, which can be far worse than your anger at other people.

And I accept the fact that I may get a reputation as being the "annoying bitch of the PTA," but I know that that reputation is done in the name of keeping meetings short and telling people when they are being cliquey and alienating other non-PTA parents.  I value the PTA because I know that without a strong volunteer network of parents, a school and its students suffer tremendously.

But even in accepting and recognizing and sorta feeling bad but also not being willing to apologize for what I said in the meeting and what I wrote on this blog, I look at the sewage backup as being a nice reminder that karma comes in all kinds of ways.  Or maybe it is completely random.  I don't think when a similar sewage backup happened 9.5 years ago when I was suffering morning sickness with G that karma was lambasting me.  I think we've mostly just got some shitty pipes leading out of our house.

I think one of the reasons people like me is because I am honest.  I say what I think, but I also try to be kind as I do it.  I say what other people would like to say but feel awkward doing so.  I say when I fail or when I think I've screwed now, even though I also can't say I'm sorry for saying what I said or doing what I did.

That isn't an easy place to feel badly for hurting people's feelings but are also not sorry for saying what needed to be said.

In writing this, I thought to myself, "Am I honest like Donald Trump is honest?" although I use the "honesty" term with the lightest of hands when it comes to him.

For all that people may say they like Donald Trump for his honesty, they wouldn't like his honesty if it was directed AT THEM.  They only like his honesty when it is directed at OTHERS.  And Donald Trump doesn't appear to be naturally self-reflective about what he has said.  If he apologizes, it is because one of his handlers has told him he must be.

Honesty, with oneself and others, can be a very complex, messy thing.