Friday, October 24, 2014

New Reality

Matthew forgot to take his library books to school on Wednesday. On Thursday, he forgot to return his homework folder. Elizabeth forgot to do her homework assignment for girl scouts. Brian wisely mentioned today that he's running low on clean underwear instead of asking me when the heck I'm going to do laundry again. (Tomorrow.) As of this morning, we are out of bread, have about a cup and a half of milk in the fridge, no orange juice, and the only fresh fruit in our counter's fruit bowl are three overly ripe bananas.

Our family has some adjusting to do.

Becoming a working mom after staying home for eleven years is a big adjustment. For everyone. I'm stepping it up so everyone else has to, too. And there's no reason I should feel guilty about that. The kids are old enough to remember what they need to pack in their backpacks and what assignments they need to complete. I have to buy more groceries on my Sunday shopping trip. And maybe Brian should buy some extra underwear so we don't cut it so close. There's a learning curve, and we're all learning.

This was my first full week. I made it, yes, but I admit to feeling exhausted. My body's not used to moving at such a frantic pace all day long yet, and my peaceful alone time is a luxury of the past. Working moms everywhere are rolling their eyes, but even they have to admit that getting used to getting yourself and your kids ready for school is a daily challenge you have get used to. It goes right along with coming home and getting your kids to do their homework, cleaning out our lunch box containers, making dinner, cleaning up, and making the lunches all over again. My weekend plans are laundry and cleaning tomorrow and grocery shopping on Sunday.

It is a new reality and a big adjustment. We're finding our way. I know we'll find it, and then I might wonder how I stayed home for so long.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Another Guest Writer

Matthew brought home a writing assignment today in which he had to tell about when he acts like a beauty and when he acts like a beast. This is pretty good. His teacher says he has an excellent writing voice. "He writes it exactly like he'd say it to you." Indeed he does.

First, his girlfriend is his friend who is a girl. Second, he is never mean. Just sometimes. I love it. And I love him!

Drama Queen

It's drama club tryout time!

Elizabeth went to the introductory meeting earlier this week and now has been practicing in every spare free moment. There are few things sweeter than hearing your eleven year old daughter belting out Annie's "Tomorrow." It's the most wonderful time of the year. :-)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Balance Restored

This isn't Facebook. This blog is real. You know by now that I don't share only the good. There's the bad and the ugly, too. I'm all about the balance.

I don't think I jinxed myself the other day writing about how much I enjoy subbing; I figured I was bound to have a bad day. In fact, I've honestly been waiting for it because I understand and accept that life is filled with highs and lows. Things have been going really well on my assignments, and I knew it would not go well every single day. Today is proof. I had my first subbing low, and frankly I'm relieved to be on the other side of that milestone.

Today wasn't a bad day as much as it was a bad fifteen minutes. And the good news is that it was the very last fifteen minutes of the day. Pack up and clean up is normally the most boisterous and chaotic portion of the day, but this afternoon in first grade it was amplified because a student's behavior specialist showed up right at that moment and I felt as though I was being judged. That only led to embarrassment. I don't know what she thought of me and my abilities, but if I was her I would not have been impressed.

It was ugly. Her kid was falling apart and that set off some other kids who set off some more kids and before long everyone was loud. I wasn't sure we were going to be able to hear the bell. I quieted them long enough to make a few announcements and let them know how disappointed I was in their end-of-the-day behavior but as soon as I stopped talking, they started talking. Loudly. I really just wanted to run away.

But I didn't. And no one got hurt. It was loud, yes, but it was not unsafe. That's what I keep reminding myself. What I'm most upset about is that the behavior specialist saw what she saw and didn't see the rest of our day. And she might tell all her friends I didn't have control of the class. And her friends might think I'm an ineffective sub. And they won't call on me. And, and, and. But maybe she won't. And maybe they won't judge me. That's not up to me. All I know is it happened and I need to move on. It doesn't help to dwell on it. I think of it as a lesson. Though I can't immediately think of any classroom management skills that I learned from this episode, I did learn that I should not worry about what others think of me so much, especially when what they see is 1/28th of a full day in the classroom.

Monday, October 20, 2014

How the Other Half Lives

A few months ago, Brian was at Home Depot and a radio station was broadcasting from the site. He threw his name into a raffle and a few hours later he drove back to Home Depot to collect a $100 gift card to Donovan's Steak and Chop House that he had won. Since his mom was here visiting last week and willing to babysit, he and I went out for a fancy steak dinner. And that is something that we usually do not do.

What else don't we usually do? Well I probably sound like a hillbilly when I say I've never used valet parking. It's true; I've never handed over my keys to a stranger so he could go park my car. It just feels so silly. And in this case, it was our 1997 Honda Accord. Good grief. That felt really silly. They were very kind and opened my door for me, but I couldn't help but giggle inside because it was so ridiculous.

Once we were inside, it only got more humorous. Our reservation was in ten minutes so they had us sit at the bar. No, nothing yet. Thank you. As we sat there, I noticed the wine lockers along the wall with last names or law firms or investment firms engraved on the nameplates. Classy. When our table was ready, the hostess walked us to our table, making sure to provide me with a play by play of the turns we would make along the way. We'll go straight through here. We'll turn left up here. We're making a right here. Here's your table. Does it suit you? Uh yeah. Sure. Looks great! Oh what the heck. I played along with, "Of course. Thank you."

We made our wine and beer and dinner selections pretty quickly as the menu is not grand. Of course, that didn't stop the maitre d' from reading the entire menu to us a few moments later. After patiently listening to his insipid humor delivered in a French accent, "au gratin is French for au gratin," and politely smiling at "smashed potatoes is similar to mashed potatoes but it has an S," he left us to ponder the menu one last time before coming back to collect our order. He was charming, but charming turned to trite after I heard him repeating that same spiel to another table. Also, I have my doubts that he's French. 

About forty minutes later (not a bother, we were in no hurry) Brian and I had a delicious, rich, and very filling meal that we enjoyed together in a quiet, dimly lit restaurant with tasteful decor. It was very pleasant even though we also enjoyed it with the four members of the table across from us who were drinking several bottles of wine, cocktails, and then finally coffee cocktails. They were clearly living it up and having a fun Saturday night on a Monday, so we quietly observed and chuckled. They were like the entertainment.

We declined dessert, settled our bill, and then waited for our car. "Did you tell him to be careful with it?" I asked Brian as we stood by a new Mercedes and then watched an Audi drive up. The valet opened my squeaky door for me (thank goodness we didn't have another couple with us because the rear doors are even louder!), and we headed for home.

We are not the kind of people who are used to such pampering, and we felt almost guilty for being taken care of so well. We certainly don't expect to be treated that way all the time. Well, I guess if we're paying for it, okay then yes; they should be overly polite and helpful. But I think I'll stick to the casual and comfortable restaurants we normally patronize. For one, comfortable trumps swanky. Second, I'd like to go out to dinner more than once a year.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Backyard Glamping

The other night, Elizabeth and some friends had a backyard campout to celebrate her birthday. She asked just a few girls and we grilled hot dogs, had a campfire with s'mores, and they slept outside in the tent. As far as birthday parties go, this might be considered a dud to most. I can't keep up with those Pinterest moms out there, so the most elaborate decoration was a candelabra my mother sent for the occasion. I bought some glow sticks and a variety of bulk bin goodies so they could make their own trail mix, but I mean there wasn't even a cake! I was relieved that they had a good time for such little effort, and the fact that the girls enjoyed a party of such simplicity makes me hopeful for all our futures.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

On Top of the World

I'm really digging this substitute teaching gig. For one, there's plenty of work. Though I could have worked on Wednesday, I had to mark myself as unavailable because I kept receiving calls for kindergarten. There must have been some District training that day--which I have to say would be oddly timed. It's not that I don't like kindergarten; in fact, I have a kinder assignment scheduled in two weeks. But Wednesday was the first day back from fall break, and I pictured a lot of little kids crying and not wanting to leave Mom. So after hitting the decline button quite a few times, I realized I didn't want to teach any grade that day and my house could use a good cleaning. That's another perk of this job. I work when I want to and don't have to work when I don't want to. Sa-weet! However, I do want to work a lot, and next week I'm working Monday through Friday. It's like I have a real job! I have fourth and first grade at one school on Monday and Tuesday, and then Wednesday through Friday is a three-day assignment in third grade at our school. That will be my first multiple day assignment so I'm hoping it goes well at least the first day so I don't dread returning. It's for one of our best teachers, so I'm confident her plans will be thorough and she'll leave enough work for her students.

The most surprising parts of this new job are how much I'm enjoying being in the classroom with the students and how much the teachers appreciate the work I'm doing. Yes, I'm a guest in that class for that day, but I seemingly have no problem running the show. I don't know where the appearance of confidence comes from (though I theorize it's because I'm dressed up after having not been for ten years) because I don't feel all that confident. At times though, the words and tone come out like I know what the heck I'm doing, and it's quite shocking to me and probably most others who know me well.

Here's an example. Yesterday was my first PE assignment, and thirty seconds into the activity of kooshball throwing, first grade girls were crying from getting hit. With kooshballs! First I let them sit out, but within minutes I had four girls sitting down behind me and I'm thinking, This is ridiculous. It's a kooshball. It doesn't hurt. They're just trying to get out of playing. Well, this is PE class not lazy time. So I spun around and said, "Hey girls. Stand up and let's shake it off like Taylor Swift," and I did a little dance. They all giggled, stood up, shook it off, and joined the game. After that, every time someone got hit, I told them to shake it off. Laughs ensued and the game continued. What can I say? I'm a genius. I'd never do that for fifth graders, but first graders have no idea how uncool I really am. Fourth graders, on the other hand, are borderline. We did longer warm ups yesterday than what they were probably used to, but my strategy was to take our time on that part as well as the cool down so that the rather wild activity lasted about fifteen minutes. I didn't want anyone to get hurt on my watch. While we were stretching, a fourth grade boy shouted, "Hey this isn't yoga!" I calmly said, "Oh no. Because of that outburst, we're going to have to hold this stretch for another fifteen seconds. Let's count by fives to 75." I may not be a drill sergeant at Camp Lejeune, but that kid didn't complain anymore and neither did his friends. I learn something every single day, and when I'm not able to figure out what to do or what to say, it's refreshing to remember that my time in that class expires in a few hours or minutes and I don't have to go back the next day. Or ever.

Despite my sterness and high expectations for good behavior, I think most of the kids like me. However, I'd rather be respected than liked by the students, and I do feel respected. I figured out that part after messing it all up with my girl scouts five years ago. Sure they had fun, but I got no respect and ended up having very little fun. That's no way to lead. As for the teachers for whom I sub, I really do want them to like me so I follow their plans and do what they say. I don't want to brag (okay maybe a little) but from the feedback I've received, I am doing well at following their instructions. It's no secret that I'm needy and like to be validated, so when teachers call me to thank me for getting their class to be so productive, I appreciate it and will work hard to get more of that. I subbed in fifth grade this week at a school in which all the fifth grade teachers were in a training that day. A volunteer who floats among the fifth grade classrooms told me that my class was the quietest and best behaved. "I don't know what you did, but you really have a grip on it. Does Mrs. M know you? Does she know how to reach you to come back? Because I'm going to tell her to ask you back." Maybe the joke's on me and she told that to every sub, but I felt she was being sincere. That's one of my favorite schools to go to, so I really hope she meant it and shared her opinions with others. Another teacher called me out of the blue asking if I was free for three days because I subbed for her friend and "she was very happy with what you left for her." Wow. Huh. Really? No kidding! I guess I'll just keep doing what I'm doing then.

I don't know how long I'll do this, but I plan to do it until it's not fun anymore. I'm not the kind of person who wants to do something for forty years and retire. I like to try and learn new things, and I realize I'm fortunate to be able to live and work that way. So right now, I'm on top of the world and hoping I don't fall off it anytime soon.