Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry Christmas

Our Christmas letter went out a little late this year. I'm guessing many of you received our photo card and letter a few days after Christmas. This year's photo card required more schedule coordinating than I imagined. Both boys had jobs and were either working evenings or weekends.

Dugger was hired at Taco Bell this fall and works several evenings a week. T-Man was hired at a local nursery as a Christmas temp. This entailed working the day after Thanksgiving and all the weekends leading up to Christmas. (At Thanksgiving, I was immensely thankful that both boys were gainfully employed.) T-Man predominately helped people select Christmas trees. We're hoping this was good training for one day heading to Washington State and helping his uncle and aunt sell Christmas tree from their Christmas tree farm.

Our photo idea for 2010 was to take a picture outdoors at a picturesque site on our local walking trail. I had the bright idea of us each wearing a sweatshirt that represent our schools. I even thought that T-Man could unveil his college selection by announcing it on his sweatshirt. His college decision-making process has been a lengthy up and down journey and he's still mulling over his options, alas no unveiling. With our days together sparse and frigid temperatures dominating, we were struggling to get our photo taken.

So with Christmas right around the corner, a new idea had begun to take shape in my mind. What is the absolute one thing all the Hatches love to do? READ! How about an indoor picture by the Christmas tree with each of us holding our most favorite book. However, I have lots of favorite books. Just ask my kindergartners, "Ms Hatch yesterday you said that book was your favorite."

As four of the five Hatches were riding in the van headed for the last day of school before Christmas break. The question of when, where, and by whom are we going to get our Christmas card picture taken. I mentioned the book idea. Doug thought of the favorite Christmas book idea. In posing the question, What is your favorite Christmas book? Doug, T-Man and Mimi answered, "The Year of The Perfect Christmas Tree". I was thinking this isn't going to be too good if we all have the same book. How will that represent a wealth of Christmas memories?

Yet in some ways this answer was not surprising since Doug and I have been reading this book to the kids since Dugger was a toddler. It has been a family tradition to read this story during the Christmas season. For several years Doug would go to Mimi's class at school and read the story to the class.

Doug and I know the author; Doug having worked with Gloria Houston for many years at USF and it's a wonderful story. The story is based on Gloria's family and is set in the Appalachian Mountains. Before the father goes off to war, he shows his daughter, Ruthie, the tree their family will provide their church with for Christmas. He ties her red hair ribbon to the top of the tree so they will recognize it later. It was the tradition that a member of the congregation would provide the Christmas tree. With dad off at war, Ruthie and her mom trek off to chop down the tree and take it to the church. Ruthie's mom makes Ruthie an "angel" dress for the Christmas Pageant from her wedding dress. In true Christmas style many blessing are bestowed on the family that night.

When Mimi was going to be the angel in our "Instant Christmas" at church, she crawled into my lap on December 23rd and asked if I would make her a dress just like Ruthie's with long flowing sleeves. I almost said yes. I yearned to say yes, but as I looked up from our mother-daughter cuddle I could see Doug shaking his head and mouthing, " Are you crazy!". I got the point and didn't make the dress. Luckily the church committee had a lovely costume with long flowing sleeves perfect for an angel.

With excitement brewing, Doug asked if I could get four copies of the book (We have our copy at home, making five.) I thought I could round up four copies between the librarian and other teachers. Now where to take the photo. Duh... Where else but a library! I envisioned one of those READ posters. The Hatches own READ poster.

Our librarian at school has painstakingly decorated our library for the Christmas season for more years than I've been at the school. She calls it the Enchanted Forest. Among other books she reads another of my favorites, The Polar Express to the children each year and gives them a sleigh bell. Another wonderful tradition. This would be a great setting for the photo.

Hopping out of the van on the last day of school, I ran down the hallways hunting for those early arriving teachers. Two rooms down I found two teachers each with multiple copies of The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. I then began my hunt for the librarian to make sure we could take our picture in the library after school that day. With my mission accomplished, I called Doug and told him we were a go. Round up the kids, grab our book, bring me some make-up, and meet me in my room at 3:30.

I forgot that I had a meeting right after school. The meeting was wrapping up as the family arrived. They headed to the library with my friend and teaching assistant who would take the picture for us (as she's done for the last eight years). As I was running late and didn't want to keep my friends after school too late (especially on the last day), I let go of my vanity and dispensed with make-up. So what you get is our most impromptu and au natural state of being. This is a true glimpse of life with the Hatch family.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mimi's Room

As my summer came to a close with the return to school, I surveyed my accomplishments for the summer. While many left me with a sense of pride and satisfaction, I realized that once again I had failed to accomplish all I hoped. In recent years I have parred back my summer to do list with the hopes of having a list that can be realistically completed. Alas, not so for this year.

I made a new resolve to try to spend a bit of time each evening working on some of those incomplete or no-start projects. It's that idea of taking baby steps instead of moving full force day and night to complete a project. I would just dedicate a little bit of affordable time each day until the task was completed.

The one unfinished project closest to completion was Mimi's room. I needed to finish redecorating it. In the summer of 2009, as Doug headed out of town, I threw open the windows and pulled out the paint. To paint I had packed up all of Mimi's knick knacks and remove the shelving. I took down the curtains and drywall patched a hole left from repeated curtain rod hanging. In two or three days I had her walls painted. The boys helped me rearrange the furniture so many times that they actually had the audacity to tell me they would move stuff only one more time, so I'd better make up my mind. That was the end of the redecorating for 2009.

With renewed vigor in the summer of 2010, I thought I'd get Mimi's room finished. I'd bought curtains in the winter that needed tweaking, needed new rods (as I had mixture of metals on the original set), and the light blue wave shelves that hung on her wall did not match her new decor; so yes in true HGTV fashion I decided to repaint the shelves. This way I could get the two boxes of knick knacks up off the floor of Mim's room. At least painting is an area for which I have much experience. I sanded the shelves, primed them, and began their finish coat. Then the summer heat came bearing down and the dust flew as road work commenced outside our house. So the shelves were shelved so to speak.

So with cooler temperatures in September, I pulled the shelves back out and turned the garage into my work room. I re-sanded the shelves and continued with the finish coats of paint. Once dry they were ready for the wall.That led to placing Mimi's wall decorations back on the wall. She and I also had a fun evening adding wall clings that we had bought on T-Man's college visit to Michigan State. With curtain rods ordered we were well on our way to finishing off her room. Ready for the big reveal....

The comforter doesn't exactly fit the design, however I like the green stripes with all the other color. I debate between ordering a duvet cover or not. I plan to make her a quilt in the near future with fabrics that will complement the room color. We'll see what happens.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Leading Two Lives

In August I was offered the opportunity to teach a course at our local university. With one child in college, another heading off to college in the fall, and a dancer with competitions, private lessons, costumes, and shoes I couldn't ignore this offer. In addition this course covers just the type of information I enjoy teaching, Human Growth and Development. In my excitement to earn extra money and work with adult learners, I had forgotten how rigorous and time consuming it is to prep a course you have never taught before. Although the subject matter was very familiar the course structure was new.

Instead of teaching college courses the last several years, I was paid to offer technological delivery advise, design, and build web based courses to professors' specifications. While this offered it own challenges it was vastly different from teaching a class to adults. I found myself working hard to to stay ahead of my college students.

I was fortunate to have some very generous professors share their textbook (until I got mine), assignment ideas, requirements, and PowerPoints. Even with all that help from August through the end of October I spent time every evening working on my course or working on my kindergarten class and professional demands.

While juggling a college course and my kindergarten class, I had one of those moments that transported me back to my teaching days at Georgia Southwestern State Univ. (GSW). In those days I was a half-day preschool teacher, college professor (teaching two classes), and an academic advisory to elementary education majors. I was often frustrated in those early days when I had one aspect of my professional life organized, prep work ready for class, and knew just where I was headed and the other areas was in disarray and I struggled to stay ahead of the game. As frustration mounted I would switch my energies to the somewhat neglected area and get that running smooth to the distraction of the other part of my work.

I often felt that I lived two lives. The pre-school teacher organizing centers, playing with children, band-aiding the occasional boo-boo and the college teacher preparing PowerPoints, providing interesting active learning opportunities, and offering advise to students dealing with the everyday stress and frustrations of college life. On one hand I was the teacher who communicated regularly with parents and on the other the teacher who by law could not disclose information to parents without their child's consent.

So this fall as I was working at my list of to do's, I breathed a sigh of relief as I had finished grading the last paper of the most recent assignment and had half the week of college classes were planned. I then remembered that I had a second list, pulling it out made me face the reality that lesson plans weren't finished and I needed to go back to school to pull out my math resources for the week. Aaah the double life and double lists.

Although stressful at times, I managed to really enjoy teaching my college course. Doug was a great help as he reminded me of old resources that either he or I had used in the past. He often ran back to his office at night to bring me a hand-out or a book to consider incorporating in my class. And I have to say that I had one of the best groups of college students ever. They ranked right up there with three of my most favorite groups at GSW.

Friday ended the college semester and I've posted final grades. The kindergartens are bouncing off the walls, humoring me with tales of Santa, and my assistant is wearing a "tacky" Christmas sweater and decorative headwear each day. With two days of school left before the break, I have plans that will keep the most bouncy child engaged and enthralled. My reward today was pajamas till 10:00 while lounging on the couch with a diet soda and HGTV. ...and blogging.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Setting Down The Phone

I had another dream that seems to be plaguing me. I've already had the bagworm and Rick Springfield dream. I really don't need more. When I had this particular dream two months ago, I thought I could just let it go. Chalk it up to bizarre dream stuff that doesn't mean anything. Right?? I'm embarrassed that I'd place any stock in my dreams and for this particular dream I'm ashamed of my behavior. I'd like to think the behavior is not indicative of me; but as the dream pops in my head day after day (like my conscience talking to me) I'm beginning to wonder.

Here is the dream. I get a phone call from a long ago/long time friend. This is a friend that I have not seen or spoken to in twenty-something years. We do exchange Christmas cards and this person now lives in closer proximity than before. Yet I've never taken the time to arrange to see my friend.

I answer the phone and my friends says, "Hello, Aggie. Do you know who this is?" In my dream I can really hear the tone and rich timber of my friend's voice. It's a goose bump feeling to be able to close your eyes and hear the exact sound of your friend's voice. I immediately know who is calling.

In my dream, I say that of course I know who's calling. I'm giddy with excitement and we begin a conversation. I don't remember the exact conversation. It seems that we are just catching up on each others lives. During the conversation exchange, while my friend is talking to me, I set the phone down on my desk and walk off to do stuff. We're talking land line phone, not cellular or blue tooth. I'm wandering around my house while my friend is presumably still talking to me on the phone.

I come back and pick up the phone and try to act like I never walked off in the first place. Obviously I failed at that, but my friend is too kind to call me out on this behavior. We continue to talk some more and once again I set the phone down and walk away. I have no idea why I've done this. I care greatly about my friend and I know I would love to talk to and listen to my friend for hours. I'm positive we'd never run out of conversational topics. What's wrong with me??

When I come back and pick up the phone, my friend say, "It's obvious that I've called you at a bad time so I'll let you go." Immediately it clicks with me that my friend needs me. A friend that I look up to and admire, that I'd never think would need me, does in fact need me. I can now hear what sounds like weariness, sadness, or loneliness in my friend's voice. My friend needed me as someone who knows him and accepts just as he is, not seeing him as an extension of his life's work .

In my dream I redeem myself (somewhat). I exclaim,"No, no, no don't go." At that point I sit down and really listen.... and my dream ends.

I woke up feeling out of sorts and worried that my friend in real life was in need of my support or help, that something was wrong. Then I thought oh sure Aggie, it's all about you. Why would this friend NEED me? So I worked hard on letting the dream go and not giving yet another dream too much importance.

Then because it is my dream and hey isn't it all about me anyway. I began to look at my dream not as my friend needing me but the message being that I have figurative set down the phone and walked away from those reaching out to me. How many times have I set the phone down on my children, husband, parents, and siblings? Life pulls me in one direction and I just half listen to their communication, try to mulit-task and communicate, or bury my head in the sand and not communicate, because sometime it's hard. To be honest, I'm not dealing very well with this self-interpretation of my dream. I'd like to shelve it to the back recesses of my brain. Unfortunately that little voice keeps bringing it back to the forefront.

In September one of my dear friend's mother died. This is a friend that I have not directly kept in touch with over the years. It was good that my parents and sister could be there for my friend at her mom's wake and funeral. Well, my friend mailed me a wonderful letter after her mother's death and I've carried it around with me for weeks (setting down the phone, instead of making conversation). Every day I think today I've got to stop (pick up the phone) and make the time to write my friend a note. It's not that I don't have a card. I have a basket full of all kinds of perfect cards. It's not that I don't have great stationary. I have a file cabinet full of great paper, thanks to my Office Depot cravings. It's not a matter of want. I want to reach out to my friend, reconnect, and be a part of each others lives.

Then my dad e-mailed me this weekend and said that another one of my old FL friends called my parent's house and was looking for me (in GA). She wants me to call her. Now, I did e-mail my dad right away. But did I grab my phone and call my friend.....

You have to understand that I like these friends. I'd even go so far as to say that I love these friends. They've been integral parts of my life. We parted on good terms and I don't think we ever intended to lose touch of one another. But I'm finding it hard to "pick up the phone". I have convinced myself that there is a better day or time to "pick up the phone". On that magic day the words will flow easily and they will be the perfect words (maybe I'll be cuter and skinnier too).

Today I've finally decided that I won't procrastinate my way into believing that perfection will come. So I've just decided to do it (thank Nike)! Before finishing this blog which took two days and contemplations of leaving it in the draft pile, I wrote my friend and addressed the envelope. Perfect or not off it goes. And I'll call my FL friend tomorrow or the other tomorrow.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Poor Baby

I left my daughter at outdoor education in tears last night. I swear my kids sure know how to pull at my heart strings and make me worry more than a normal person should. I had already had a couple of restless nights worrying about her falling off a horse and breaking something (o.k. her neck), flipping the kayak and drowning, or getting the West Nile virus. Need I go on with my irrational thoughts. Then I get to outdoor education to see a perfectly healthy child who wants to go home where more often than not she is soooo bored.

Outdoor education is a program that started forever ago at our school. Fifth and sixth graders stay with their classroom teachers, a couple of P.E. teachers, and an art teacher at a campsite with cabins and a lodge for several days and do all types of outdoor educational activities. (photo from 5th grade.) The seventh and eighth graders along with their teachers stay at a state park in tents, cooking their own food on Coleman stoves, and expand on those outdoor learning experiences.

In the weeks leading up to the four day and three night stay, the students choose tent mates, plan menus, assign cooks, and go on a shopping field trip to price the cost of their planned meals. In Mimi's seventh grade year she practiced, at home, cooking her favorite breakfast of bacon and hash browns and she cooked pancakes. These would be the meals she would prepare for her tent mates. This year she did not practice. I think her cooking job was cinnamon sugar toast.

The night before the trip we helped Mimi pack her gear in a large rubber maid tub. In true Girl Scout fashion we pack with an eye towards being prepared for just about anything. Beyond the basic clothing needs we packed good quality rain gear that consists of a rain jacket, rain pants, and rubber boots. Over the years the groups have camped in the rain and I mean rain storms with blowing wind!!! The kids would come home so muddy parents would just throw their camping gear away.
Mimi's weatherproof tub of camping gear. The Kleenex were for nosebleeds (allergy related) not tears.

Even though or because it is October we pack sweatshirts, winter coat, gloves, a stocking cap, and these hand and feet warmers that are chemical gel packs. T-man's eighth grade outdoor education year (see photo) had teachers allowing kids to use the teachers' cell phones to ask their parent to bring coats and socks. They had had days of rain and then the tiniest amount of snow flurries, enough to make them cold and miserable. What else did we pack?... flashlight, batteries, garbage bags, towel, soap, toothpaste and brush, hand sanitizer, fry pan, bike helmet (bike and horseback riding), sleeping bag, camera, and mom's treasured West Point army blanket, and books. Can't go anywhere without a good book.

Mimi's eight grade class left on a Tuesday morning after loading their personal gear and team gear in a U-Haul truck. They headed to Wal-mart to purchase their food before heading to the wilds of the state park. Thursday night we would get to see her and Friday they would eat breakfast (cooked by the teachers) break camp, load the U-Haul, and arrive back home (school) around 1:30.

As Doug and I drove out to the state park for parent night, I felt that maternal tug on my heart of another milestone passing by to quickly. This would be our last outdoor education event, as Mimi will be heading to high school next year. I also said a prayer that she would not cry to go home like last year. When we arrived for parent night, Mimi was thrilled to see us. Giving us exuberant hugs that about knocked me off my feet.

Parents brought side dishes and dessert. Campfire roasted hot dogs were provided. I brought two batches of Mimi's favorite Spanish rice. We had fun chatting with her and her friends. As dusk began to fade into night the tears and complaints arose. Outdoor education was terrible. They don't learn anything. The toilets are horrible. The food is bad. Take me home!!!

I asked about kayaking, oh yea that was fun. How about getting water samples? She was looking forward to that. Oh yea that was fun too.
Mom: I'm guessing you (Mimi) didn't ride a horse since you don't like horses and have never ridden one.
Mimi: Oh no, I decided to ride one. It's part of the experience mom!! I rode a wonderful sweet horse.
Mom:What about astronomy? The star are gorgeous here. Did Mr. B bring the big huge telescope this year.
Mimi: Yea we did that last night. Oh and we had night hikes but they were too short. Sniffles and more tears.

We walk her down to her tent to check that out and get her in closer proximity to her friends.
Mimi: We hear wolves at night.
Dad: I think those are coyotes.
A few more tears and then she remembers that she left her book at the group gathering site. She heads back to get her book leaving Doug and I by her tent. I'm think can I run to the van now and escape the water works and pleas as we leave. But no I tough it out.

Mimi returns. I hug her and say we need to leave. She hangs on and again pleads her case to go home. In my heart, I know she's a picky eater and probably didn't each much. I know that she is a picky sleeper but she had my Army blanket. And I agree the bathroom facilities are horrible when you camp. I have exhausted the calm gentle reasoning of consoling, finding the silver lining, speeches of best experience of your life, this will make you stronger. Doug just jumps in and says we're not taking you home. With that we give her a hug, Doug promises lunch at her favorite restaurant, and we leave.

In the van I console myself. I remind myself that she loves the outdoors. This is the best weather you could have on a camping trip. Her tent group consists of her best school friends and they really get along well. Having been one of the outdoor education teachers in years past, I know that this is a wonderful, enriching, safe experience. The biggest caveat that I remind myself of is that she is a teenager, likes to complain (can we say spoiled), and loves to push mom's buttons.

She arrived at school Friday afternoon and dragged me outside to help carry her gear. She called her dad, and skipped off to lunch leaving her fire smoked, sweaty gear in my classroom.
The main camp site for the group, which includes a campfire.

The girls' horseshoe tent area. The center of the horseshoe has a campfire.

The tent buddies.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Our Babies

On Tuesday, after I finished teaching my college class, I rushed the kids (human kind) over to the vet's to see the new family members. We will bring our baby girls home Friday. Life has been a whirlwind (that's the positive spin) without Doug here so waiting until the start of the weekend to bring Nimbus and Nova home was one of my better decisions.

Nimbus is a little more skittish than Nova. Nimbus liked to snuggle and does not like being moved from person to person. Both kittens purred like crazy.

Nova was a little more adventurous, moving about on T-man's lap. She didn't mind being taking turns being held and loved on by each of us. She also batted her paw a bit like she wanted to play.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Adding To Our Family

In the last month Doug has been throwing out little hints about wanting to add to our family. I've been ignoring him!! I think our family is more than complete. Shh... Although in the quietest moments of the night I too wonder about just one more little one, then the glaring light of day brings me back to my senses.

Even though my common sense tries to reigns, its hard to resist the whispers of your partner. Thursday, Doug called me at school and asked if I could go to lunch with him. Now that my kindergartners are acclimating quite well, I don't need to go to lunch with them. Our lunchroom helpers and teaching assistants can manage them quite well. So I was able to go off campus to lunch with Doug.

Doug confessed that he had put out feelers about adding the perfect baby to our family. He had gotten a call that a baby was available and did we want to meet her. So after lunch I reluctantly agreed to see this newborn, thinking that this would get "babies" out of Doug's system.

When we arrived at the doctor's office the assistant brought us not just the one "perfect" baby but two babies. When they put the second baby in my arms and she nuzzled against my chest it was all over. Doug got me. How can you resist such a tiny, warm, fuzzy, mewing baby? Then the question is which do you take into your home and heart. Dare we contemplate two babies, essentially twins.

Because babies whether you give birth biologically or adopt, they cost money right up front (Never mind the continual costs.). So we asked for a two for one deal, handed the babies back as I had to return to work. The assistant promised to call us with the doctor's answer. On the way back to work still enjoying the afterglow of sweet babies Doug and I named our two girls.

The doctor called Doug and offered a two for one and a half deal. Doug indicated that sense we had already named them; we would accept that deal. When I got Doug's call the glow had worn off and the what in the world are we doing set in. They'll be poopy and messy for awhile. They'll cry a lot. Will they be afraid of Amber? Will Amber behave with babies? We've never had babies in the house with Amber. What if the these babies don't get along with our biological children. What if they have development difficulties?

With a big leap of faith we share our news with our children to mixed results. We are now the proud family of two adorable kittens!!! The calico kitten was the one Doug was on the lookout for. The vet assistant handed me a white kitten with a touch of gray on the top of her head. We named the white one first, calling her Nimbus for cumulonimbus (storm cloud). Then as we wrestled with just the right named for the calico, Doug suggested Nova. Baby girl number two is Nova, a cataclysmic nuclear explosion caused by the accretion of hydrogen onto the surface of a white dwarf star.

Nova and Nimbus had surgery Friday so that they will be ready to come home soon. They were spayed, declawed, and each received a microchip. They will stay with the vet this week since Doug is out of town and we want someone to keep an eye on them the first few days that they are home. Mimi and I will visit them Tuesday and I'll bring them home Friday. I think I can manage with babies for a few days until Doug gets back. Maybe we can get pictures of Nimbus and Nova Tuesday.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pictures Of My Classroom

I've gone on and on about my room and life at school; so at my friend's request I'm posting some pictures of my space. Don't be fooled my the cleanness of the room. Remember this was only week one. This is the view you would see as you enter my classroom from the hall. Note the shiny waxed floors.

This picture spans the tiled area at the front of the classroom. This tiled area is great because we can keep the messy stuff off the carpet making clean-up much easier. What's messy stuff? Things like eating snacks, playing with play-do or clay, painting, building sand castles, and using any kind of liquid would be considered messy stuff in kindergarten.

Notice the section of white tiles in front of a door. Right beside the door (hidden by the shelf) is a water fountain. When I began teaching in this room the water fountain would spray water onto the floor when you turned the handle. It would over shoot the basin. The floor tiles were warped and popping up. My assistant and I tried unsuccessful several time to get the water faucet fixed. For some reason being part of the university makes it harder to get things fixed or changed than even the public school bureaucracy. So then we tried to get the tiles replaced. We were not allowed to remove the tiles ourselves.

Finally after I tripped on the tiles I called our school secretary and asked her to relay the following message to the university maintenance group. A student had tripped on the tiles and had needed first aid. (Not quite lie as I believe myself to be a life long learner and I did get myself a band-aid.) I said I was concerned that the tiles were a safety hazard and a lawsuit waiting to happen. Guess what! That day some men arrived. They told me they couldn't match the tile and we couldn't afford to re-tile the whole floor. I told them that I could care less if the tile matched or not. I just wanted the floor fixed. Because of asbestos concerns there was a debate about how to remove the tiles that were flopping around on the floor.

Finally work began on the floor. Once the flooring was completed one of the guys told me, "You know the problem is the water fountain overflowing onto the floor. It's going to ruin the floor again." I explained that I realized that but hadn't been able to get anyone to fix the handle so the water would not shoot out over the basin. The next day the tile guy sent someone over to fix the fountain handle.

This is the larger portion of my classroom and it's carpeted. The carpet is great for reducing the noise of people moving around . If you look to the left edge of the picture you'll see lattice in what appears to have the shape of a doorway and to the right you'll see a apple w/ a worm flag design in another doorway. Those are indeed doorways. I'm told that long ago the tiled area was an observation area. They could view the school aged children whose class was on the carpeted area. The open threshold was a wall with observation glass.

Now for the thrilling part, my office. On my door is the only cling to survive my remodeling cleaning frenzy. I snagged this cling at the tux place while renting a tux for my son for prom. I actually got two of them and placed the other one on someone's office door as a surprise.

The plastic photo sleeve is one of my favorite things. I put photos of the students in it during the year. As it fills up I often switch out the old photos and add new ones. Once the door is opened you can see my new and improved office space.

The entire tiled floor in here is waxed. The first in eight years. In honor of the beautiful floors I bought blue chairs and the carpet. I removed Coach Levitt (former USF football coach) from my back closet door. It was time to let go of the old era. I bought great scrapbook paper that coordinated with the carpet and framed class photos of my kindergartners from the past eight years. My first group of babies are now eighth graders.

That's my daughter's blue three-ring binder on the floor. She thinks my office is her locker.

Here is the office from the closets looking out towards the classroom. My teaching assistant's desk is to the left by the red, white, and blue bulletin board. I'm getting us new decorative wrapping paper for our bulletin boards. I just have to find the right design and colors to coordinate with "the rug".

Here is my desk and the(three) bookshelves that flank the sides of my desk. These are the three shelves where I spent countless hours parring down books and filing papers that I never filed last year. It appeared that after the first month of school I must never have put away any of the papers and forms I used because I spent three days cleaning up that mess.

To continue my remodel transformation, I need new magazine holders. Pink and black just don't do it and I need to transform the drab brown garbage can. My Bulls posters have survived the first cut. We'll see if they last the year.

A bathroom is a must have in a kindergarten room. Don't know what happened to the toilet stall door. When I moved in there was never a door just this curtain. When storage is at a premium, the bathroom floor works great for additional storage. A teacher can never have too much storage space.

The kitchen/storage area is a nice bonus as well. All you need is a sink, small refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven, and an electric skillet and you can cook just about anything.

Finally, I have a great playground right outside my exterior classroom door. The bonus to an exterior classroom door is that now with our security upgrades this door has a coded entry system. When I lock my purse with my keys in my classroom, like I did last week, I can go around to the front of the building. Then go to my door, try to remember the code and enter my room without a key or fob.
I hope you enjoyed the 2010-2011 kindergarten classroom tour. Come and visit me in action sometime.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

School's Out Forever

It turns out that school's out for the summer (darn that Alice Cooper) and my summer is over. One sure sign summer is over is when I being to feel that instinctual pull back to my classroom. I began to feel that pull the first of August and valiantly resisted until the ninth. I did have a two hour non-paid workshop on the 5th and kept insisting that I was not going to it. I left at the end of the school year more than a little mad (furious) about an unfair situation. But the do-gooder and the can't miss out person in me had me dragging my sorry self to the meeting. As I left the house whining that I didn't want to go, my husband was talking to a friend. This friend's wife is also a teacher and he was more than ready to have her go back to work. I shut the door to the sounds of my husband shouting, "Go to work you big baby!"

The second sign is when our local pool closes and the pool water is drained. This happened Monday. As I have driven past the pool this week, I've had the big sigh thinking where did the summer go. Can I have just one more day reading romance novels while laying in the kiddie pool?

The final sign is when the roads become congested, routes are diverted, the restaurants and stores are packed, and college boys are waving signs for parents to drop their freshman girls off at their apartment complex. This is the annual college move-in week.

Leading up to move-in week I've been going into school almost daily to get organized before we report back. It always takes me more than the two paid work days to get everything just right for the new school year. One would think that after eight years in the same room, teaching the same grade it wouldn't take me so long.

This year our custodian asked that the teachers move things off the laminated floors if we wanted the whole floor waxed otherwise he would wax around the stuff on the floor. I have had this happen in the past. The crew will move the desks/tables and chairs but leave everything else and wax around them. The problem is that the larger tables, bookshelves, and boxes tucked under the tables get waxed to the floor. It takes super human strength to get them unstuck if you want to move them at a later date. One year several floor tiles came up from the floor when I attempted to move the large wooded art table.

So with the advanced notice I enlisted T-man's help in moving all of the furniture out of the laminated floor tile area. I also picked up the items stored along the floor of the kitchen. Since I had a helper, I then decided to clear out my office so the floor in there could be waxed. The floor in there had not been waxed in years. We removed a low shelving unit, all the baskets of books I had on the floor, my basket of emergency clothes for Mimi and myself (don't ask), computer and technology equipment. That left us with two desks, a file cabinet, and three huge shelves. Those would have to stay. We rolled the area rug towards the back of the office since I could not get it completely out from under the desks. I hoped that the custodian would at least wax the front half of the office.

I notified the assistant principal that I had moved stuff from the areas I wanted waxed and was ready to have the floors cleaned. When I returned to my room two days later every laminated flooring area was waxed to a shiny smooth sheen. The custodian had removed the rug from the office and a few other items leaving the floor cleaning seamless. The custodian later told me that because I moved so much stuff he took the time to finish moving stuff out of the office and waxed the whole floor. He also said that he waxed my room first.

Inspired by the gleaming floors,
I carried the home cleaning, purging, and organizing frenzy over to school. I once again notified my assistant principal to let the custodian know that I was going to redo my entire room so he did not need to move any furniture back to it's original location. I would do that.

I first started in my office by getting rid of books.
I have three huge metal bookshelves in my office full of books, with more books on the floor, and books stuffed in a closet. I have all kinds of collections for example I have the Newbery and Caldecott award winners dating back to the 1930s, books about artists, children's books in Spanish, poetry books, and children's picture books that are song lyrics. And these are just a few of my non-curriculum driven collections. My goal was to get my books down to the three bookshelves with some room to spare.

At first the purging was easy. I just started stacking books in the "out of here pile". Then I came across a few books that I use to read to my children (biological). At first I put them in the"out of here pile" then I put them back on the shelf, then I created a "maybe out of here pile". Those books tugged at my heart strings as they just emit memories. Then I came across a couple of books that I loved as a child. The same thing happened out pile, shelf, maybe. Before I realized what was happening all kinds of books were going in the maybe pile.
I removed the out of here pile from my office and then taking a deep breath I tackled the maybe pile with my reducing goal in mind. I ended up keeping the books that held the memories from my children and my childhood. The rest that I had previously convinced myself were special were moved out.

Then I tackled the nick knacks and gag gifts. I took one modest rubber maid basket to collect the best of the best gag gifts with the understanding that if someone does not get gifted with these items by the end of the school year they will get tossed in the garbage. I also kept my shopping bag of VS bras that have a life of their own as potential gag gifts. Finally, I removed much of my USF Bulls and football memorabilia.

With a nice clean slate, I headed off to buy a big, bright, loud, colorful rug and two office chairs. I took Doug and Mimi shopping with me to purchase the rug. Doug found a rug on sale (good thing as I'm on a budget) that screamed me. Mimi and Doug both said this is so you! It's very geometric with large circles in colors of Tiffany Blue, Texas (UT) Orange and tan. It even has two different textural weaves. The problem was that it was not loud or bright and it was tasteful. Tasteful is a huge responsibility. I agonized back and forth about what to do. Once Doug loaded it in the cart it was a done deal. We then bought a few Texas Orange baskets to keep the tasteful theme going.

I ended up with dark blue office chairs that seemed to go with the theme. Doug thought I should have gotten a better quality of chair but good chairs only come in black. What's up with that? I wanted Tiffany Blue chairs. I'm on the hunt for magazine holders in my themed colors and a decent sized waste basket. I got rid of the all the old faded window clings except for the lipstick kiss one. It's not old or faded. So now I need some tasteful gels or clings.

I have finally moved all the furniture back into place and have removed all the garbage. Bulletin board paper and borders are up and supplies have been purchased. My room has almost been righted. So today I had to work for real. When it is time to really work I find it hard to get started. I wasted time trying to figure out what's wrong with my office phone and who to e-mail to fix it. I tried to download drivers to my laptop for my printer and scanner. That was a waste of time since both software are not compatible with my operating system.

I'm still cleaning, as I guess, I didn't file a single paper last year and now I've spread the papers out over three table to organize and file them. There is nothing like making more of a mess two days before school starts. I also had three meetings and I played nice even when I didn't want to.

Tomorrow I'm going in super early and will file papers until 8:30. What papers are left will have to be hidden somewhere. Then I need to get about the business organizing my classroom open house, writing lesson plans, gather the beginning of the year papers, and activities I need for the first week.

The day ended with a garden clean-up gathering and
a little kindergarten boy with a Mohawk bringing me an arrangement of summer wild flowers in an Old El Paso salsa jar. I do have a knack for being irresistible to the under 8 over 70 male population.

The do-gooder overachieving kindergarten parents met the
do-gooder overachieving kindergarten teachers on our kindergarten playground and picked up litter, weeded the gardens, planted flowers, swept the sidewalks, and trimmed bushes. Trimming the bushes is a union job and tomorrow a person from the grounds crew will show up in my room, give me the annual lecture about a lawsuit for cutting the bushes, and I'll be forced yet again to play innocent. I don't know why they don't go see the other teacher. It's always me. In the words of Scarlett O'Hara, "Tomorrow is another day."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Happy Anniversary- Belonging

Eight years ago on August 5th we arrived here with a U-haul truck, our van, and my sister's truck pulling our Toyota Corolla. My dad, sister, the five of us, and two cats spent the night at the Holiday Inn and Doug and I closed on our house August 6th.

When I think about those days as we being our ninth year in the Midwest, I'm amazed that we moved into our house, Doug's office, and my classroom in a span of two weeks. Having been seasoned movers, I'd like to think we were quite organized in terms of packing our stuff and unpacking after the move. We were extremely fortunate to have had my dad and sister help us load the U-haul, help drive us up here, entertain the kids on the road, and get us unpacked. When I looked around at a house that was left dirty and smaller than I remembered, my dad tirelessly fixed the dryer and installed a line to hook up the ice maker making things more bearable.

I think Doug and I worked from sun up until well into the wee hours. We managed to arrange for a nanny to keep our kids during the day for the two weeks before school started while we worked on getting our professional lives off the ground. We were also fortunate that our sister-in-law's brother and wife babysat our kids once or twice that first month as we attended evening University functions. It was comforting to know that we had a connection to a person here in our new town.

Those months and weeks leading up to the move were exciting and tense. Doug and I had known for some time that he had been offered and accepted a teaching position at the University. We waited until the spring to break the news to our children that we were moving half way across the country. The oldest wasn't wild about the idea, although he was excited about the possibility of seeing Orioles (birds not baseball players). T-man was O.K. with the idea. Mimi got up the day after we told them of our impending move with her pillow in hand and said, "Are we moving today?"

Our house in GA had not sold and did not sell until after we moved here. Until late July I did not have a job here. Between late June and early July I flew here twice and interviewed for teaching positions. We didn't have a house here and had no idea where our children would go to school. In looking for a house we got the rude awakening that kindergarten here was a half day program, so we'd also have to find childcare for Mimi our soon to be kindergartner.

While I was here interviewing for the job at the lab school, Doug took the children to FL. My parents kept them and he flew up here to help me find a house. Over the course of two days, with a fantastic Realtor, I had narrowed the search to three houses. So when Doug arrived we were able to quickly make an offer and purchase the house that we still live in. I had thought that this house would be a transition house and we'd move to something bigger after our GA house sold. What can I say? I love where we live. I have to say that our Realtor really listened, looked out for us (as we knew nothing about the town), and found us a fantastic location with a nice house. There are times when I wish the house were bigger, more spacious, had a walk-in closet, and a huge tub in one of the bathrooms. Yet I can't give up the great neighbors, the convenience to our church, work, school(s), the trail, and pool.

I was so thankful when I was offered a teaching job. Thrilled when the new principal told me our three kids could attend the same school. Then disappointed that in her new role she had misspoken and would try to get one child into the school. Which one would I want there? Since kindergarten was a full-day program at my school, I asked that she try to get Mimi admitted. New daycare would be one less thing to worry about. The boys ended up attending the school right down the street. Luckily as they ventured into a new educational experience they were together for that first year. Mimi went with me. The next year T-man was admitted to my school and he started his fifth grade year with me. Dugger finished his K-12 education in the local school system.

When I was offered the job I immediately said yes. I knew I would have a teaching assistant, a classroom, and kindergarten students but knew nothing else. I was just grateful that I'd have full-time employment in my profession. On the long two day drive here all the fears and qualms began to set in. Having taught in a spacious room, been an assistant professor, and later having been the director of the University run preschool, I was concerned about the transition back to being a classroom teacher. I had quite a bit of professional flexibility and worried about a more traditional and restrictive environment. The University preschool in GA was a huge spacious classroom within the School of Education. We had two bathrooms, water fountains, a kitchen, plenty of classroom space, and doors that led out to a great playground. I had an office across the hall from the preschool both as the teacher and director.

At my current school, I have a large classroom by public school standards, one bathroom attached to our classroom, a quasi kitchen, an office with a door that leads into the classroom, and a door that goes right out to a nice playground.

Although I have always had a good working relationship with my colleagues I was nervous about the personality of my teaching assistant. I remember thinking I'm glad I have a job but please don't give me a prim and proper assistant with bifocal glasses, hair in a bun, wearing pantyhose, and sensible pumps. Oh boy were my prayers answered. My assistant plays practical jokes on all of us, is often politically incorrect, wears shorts until late fall, flip flops all year long or crazy looking tennis shoes. She does wear bifocals/progressive lens and now I do too. She's been told she looks sexy wearing hers. I've yet to have that pleasure but I've only had mine since July. There are days that we laugh all day long.

Many years ago my assistant found these shirts on clearance at Wal-Mart. She thought they would be perfect for our K-2 Wild Wild West fall festival. Luckily they had two left. They go well with our headbands.

This summer it finally dawned on me that I really feel like I belong here. This is home. This summer as city workers were putting in a new waterline across the street, I ended up one day sitting in a lawn chair with my neighbors' in their driveway and with the neighbor from across the street. (And no I was not ogling the men.) We were chatting and watching the workers and I thought wow this is fun. Without a plan or invitation here I am just visiting. I can't really explain why this was a cathartic moment but it was. Construction view with the porta potty from another neighbor's house.I began thinking of the joy of interacting with my neighbors, knowing the people by name that work at the stores, planting flowers at church, taking pictures with passion, being part of something more, waving at friends as they drive by the house, seeing my students around town all summer long, and seeing prior students and my children's friends grow up. This will be the first time in my professional career that I've worked in the same school and school system for eight year. My first kindergarten class, Angelique's kindergarten class, will be eighth graders this year. I will now have taught about half of all the children attending our school this year.

If there is a drawback to belonging then I have to say that it's having to wear a helmet when I ride my bike because one of my students will invariable see me. It's feeling guilty that I haven't done more for my friends. It's squelching the urge to move on to the next place before you get too attached to your life and those around you. It's the need to remind myself that having that sense of belonging here doesn't mean that I can't value the richness of the other places where I lived. It's because of those places and experiences that I have the strength to accept, enjoy, and embrace the place where I now belong.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

So Much To Say

I have so much to say about this summer that I am going to try to post something every couple of days covering all the things I haven't blogged about from June to August. I began writing myself little notes about things to remember to blog about.

I have all kinds of little post-its and cute paper with little notes to myself. I simply love office supplies. Pens and fancy papers are the best. I can spend hours just wandering around an office supply store. When I was in my doctoral program I carpooled with three other women. One night we got out of class early and convinced our Jr. Service League (have to have lived in the South to properly understand this descriptor) buddy to take us to Office Depot. We did not have any office supply stores in the small south GA town in which we lived. My other friend and I wandered around looking at and talked about products and such. (The fourth member of the group didn't go to class with us that night.) At one point in time we sat in the office chairs they were selling and kicked back for a conversation. Our disgusted Jr. Service League buddy found us engrossed in conversation while trying out office chairs, dragged us out of the store, and swore that next time she was taking us to the mall to shop for shoes.

To return to my story: The bad thing is that I sometimes misplace these notes I write and those important items get lost. Often when I can't stand the mess in my purse I'll pull everything out and reorganize my purse. Then I'll find a note that I wrote to myself. I'll read it and stuff it back in my purse. Currently I have four, no make that five, such notes sitting around my computer desk as reminders of things to do, books I've ordered for school, phone numbers that go in my phone, blogging topics, etc.

Sometimes a note will have a phone number on it or a date sprawled in the corner. I then have to search my brain to remember who's number I wrote down and why I wrote it. Then I'll see a date and think I hope I did whatever I was suppose to do on that date. I don't know why I don't put these things in my phone and electronic calendar. For me there is just something comforting about having pieces of paper, something tangible to hold on to.

Is writing notes to yourself the same as talking to yourself? I suppose it's a moot point since I talk to myself as well. I even talk to my computer.

So check out my August posts as I hope to blog frequently. I may even blog more than once in a given day. If you don't check out my posts then I'm now blogging to myself as well as all the above. So what does that say????

I'll leave you with this quote from one of my favorite websites: Despair.com "Blogging: Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few."

P.S. Make that ten notes. I found a stack under the CD cover I'm suppose to scan for my husband.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Getting a message??

At our church we have a Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. Every day 24/7 someone is in our chapel for a one hour period of time in reverent devotion. What is Adoration? I copied the following explanation.

Adoration (in a holy hour) is a period of meditation, prayers and devotion in the presence of the Holy Eucharist exposed on the altar. There is no fixed way to spend the hour; the adorer will probably experiment with many. In a sense it is continuation in time of the moment of elevation at Mass, when the priest shows the host to the people, who pause momentarily in adoration. Our Church began Perpetual Adoration on Easter morning 2007 as a response to the Holy Father's request for greater devotion to Christ in the Eucharist. It is called "perpetual" because the Holy Eucharist is exposed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week...except for Holy Saturday.

I had long felt the desire to participate, but had managed to procrastinate in making a commitment. Then in January, a weekday slot opened up during what I like to call the middle of the night. The slot is really in the early hours of the morning of a new day. Living so close to the church compelled me to commit to an hour that might prove to be more of a hardship for others. I literally roll out of the bed twenty minutes before I need to relieve the person who worships the hour before me. This allows me the time to dress in the dark and walk to the chapel.

During our Church renovation we have been using the chapel at the rectory (priests' home). The rectory is located at the far end of the Church campus and is the farthest building from my home. It's still a very short walk. A walk with varying degrees of street post lighting and dark mostly quiet shadowy areas. The area closest to the rectory has minimal lighting and a lawn with several mature trees casting dark shadows.

I braved up and decided to walk to the chapel each week instead of driving thus contributing to the saving of the environment. The first month's walk went well enough and was quite uneventful. I've found that nobody wants to be out and about in the middle of the night in the winter. Then February arrived with a mild snow storm. I put on my warmest sweat pants, my USF hockey jersey, pulled on my snow boots, and wore my big purple Raiders car coat. I was super warm and ready to battle the elements.

Walking down the sidewalk was quite taxing. My ankles began to ache terribly and my shins felt like they were burning as I shuffled through the snow covered sidewalk. I decided that it would be easier to cross through the snow covered grass to the parking lot than to continue walking on the sidewalk. The parking lot looked to have been plowed, having less accumulated snow on the lot surface. A grassy area slopes down to the parking lot and the plowed snow had been pushed to the edge of the parking lot where it meets the grass. So I would have to get over the mound (mountain) of snow to enter the parking lot.

I made it down the slope easily enough. Then I had to get over the mound of snow. Being short and lacking any athletic ability, I decided to straddle the mound and throw my back leg over the mound (much like getting on and off a horse). It was a nice idea. As I attempted to straddle the mound my front foot sunk is the fresh soft snow causing me to loose my balance and land straddled in the mound. I did manage to get my back leg through the pile of snow and drag myself upright and onto the parking lot. At this point I had snow all over my sweat pants and in my boots. I arrived snow covered, damp, and on time to the chapel. The way home was much easier now that I had blazed a trail.

March arrived and I managed to get myself freaked out and scared, necessitating driving instead of walking. (There were also some rainy thunderstorm nights.) So much of March through May I drove. Finally with a new resolve, I began walking to the chapel again.

I've discovered that there seems to be more activity in the summer late nights as compared to the winter. I often see a few cars driving down the road, some people walking, and even an occasional bike rider.

At the end of June as I walked across the parking lot to the chapel, I saw a jeep parked on the edge of the lot between the school and the rectory. I didn't think much of it because there have been several occasions when various vehicles have been parked somewhere on the lot. I do steer clear of the vehicles keeping a wide berth between me and them. I did this as well with the jeep but noticed that there definitely was someone in the driver's side of the jeep. As I nervously walked by; the person in the jeep had her window rolled down and said hello to me. I said hello and kept right on moving. At the end of my hour the jeep was still there and I just hurried on home.

Last night brought me to the conclusion that I'm not saving the Earth all that much by driving less than a mile round trip to the rectory. Last night before my daughter's bedtime I asked her if she wanted to go with me for my hour of adoration. She said yes so I found her a book about saints that she could read during the hour and packed it in my prayer tote bag.

The alarm goes off and I get her up so we can head off to the rectory chapel. A few cars drive by as we walk down the sidewalk. We cross into the parking lot and I noticed that one of the cars has entered at the far end of the lot where we are headed. The car is stopped with it's lights on just waiting. I'm quite suspicious and we stop walking. Then it looks like someone is getting out of the car. I grab my cell phone, tell my daughter that we are going home to get the car, and begin to input our home phone number into the phone in case I need to call someone. As we turn to head home the car backs up and turns around to come toward us. I tell my daughter to run home and get in the house. Like a good girl she takes off unlike my boys who many years ago when we had another scary situation stayed right behind me instead of locking themselves in the house.

The car pulls up to me and there are four girls in the vehicle. They say they are not from town and they are looking for a Mc Donald's. Do I know where there is a Mc Donald's? I gave them Mc Donald directions. Then they ask if they scared me and say they are sorry to have scared me. They obviously were not that sorry since I could hear them laughing as they drove out of the parking lot.

I looked up and my daughter is down the sidewalk ready to cross the road. (She should have made it home.) So I tell her to come on back and we head to the chapel. I put my phone away and we have a quiet peaceful adoration time. We walk back home and I see the lights are on in my house. Never have the lights been on. Everyone is asleep or trying to sleep when I leave and return. So now I'm once again on full alert.

We enter the house and Doug is up working on the computer. Evidently when I input our phone number, I think that I somehow dialed the house but hung up. Doug said that right after I left the phone rang and when he scrambled to get the phone there was a dial tone. The weird thing is that when I went to put my phone away the option on the screen was dial, message, cancel and I clicked on cancel. He tried to go to bed after the phone call but was worried about us. Then the weather radio went off warning of severe thunderstorms. Those events ended his sleep and he waited for us to get back home.

I put my daughter to bed and asked her if she was alright. Evidently she had fun and enjoy the quiet reflection time in the chapel. Keyed up from the adventures of the night and knowing that sleep would not happen anytime soon, I went out to take pictures of the Church. I had been wanting to get some new evening shots now that the Church renovations have mostly been finished. In all of the excitement I noticed that the parking lot lights in front of the Church were not on. Without the extra lighting, I hoped to get some clear night shots. I didn't know when I'd ever get another opportunity to photograph the Church without the exterior lighting. As long as I couldn't sleep I was counting on the fact that one scare (two-Doug with the lights on) for the night is all one gets. So I should be fine venturing back out into the night.

The nights have been very warm and humid here with day time temperatures in the 90's. As a result of the humid night my camera lens kept fogging up and I had to clean the lens take a picture or two, readjust the tripod, clean the lens and take more photos. As I moved to another spot for a long shot of of the Church another car pulls into the lot. I noticed right away that it was a police car, so I just ignored the car and continued to set-up my shot. I couldn't take the shot because the car's headlights were coming across the lens so I had to wait for the officer to pull up beside me. When he pulled up by me I lean into the window of the car and he says so you're taking pictures.? I reply that it's great lighting for some night photos. I then tell him to have a good night. He drives off. I take two more pictures and head home.

I'm pretty sure that I will now be driving to the rectory chapel.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mitch Miller and Christmas Traditions

Today Doug told me that Mitch Miller died. Evidently he died Saturday, July 31st. He was 90 years old. I don't know about you but Mitch Miller is a part of my childhood Christmas traditions. My favorite Christmas album (yes album) is Mitch Miller & the Sing Along Gang - Holiday Sing-Along with Mitch. My siblings and I grew up listening to and robustly singing along with Mitch's many Christmas songs all December long. The coolest thing about Mitch's Christmas Sing-Along album was the album size piece of paper with the lyrics to all but one of the songs typed on it. Mitch said something like everyone knew the words to The Christmas Song so he did not include the lyrics on the page. Frankly, they ran out of room and couldn't include lyrics for all the songs on the album, but nice try Mitch.

There must have been three or four of these papers inside the album jacket. I don't remember fighting over the sheets so I think that there must have been four sheets.
Although my youngest sister is five years younger so presumably she didn't need a song sheet for awhile. Being the good child of the family, she would not have fought the other three of us for a paper. We'd sit or sprawl out across the family room floor with my parents and each of us kids would get a sheet and sing right along with Mitch. One of our favorites was Must Be Santa. Oh we loved trying to keep up with that song. I do have to say that to this day, in my opinion, no one sings Silver Bells better that Mitch Miller.

I never thought of this as a particular tradition or anything special until I met Doug. At one point while we were dating Doug was at my [family] house and we came across my family's Christmas albums. I think the albums were on a bookshelf in the living room. Anyway he pulled out the Mitch Miller album and began sharing his family memories about singing with Mitch and the sheets of music in the album. Doug also mentioned Chet Atkins and sure enough we pulled that album out of the collection too.

Then it turned out that our mutual good friend Joe Vizzi also grew up with the Christmas Mitch Miller. We all shared our memories of those family gatherings. It was very interesting to hear how similar our experience with the Christmas Mitch Miller was.
At the time I was amazed by the fact that although we grew up across the United States from each other, Doug in Seattle, WA, Joe in Tampa, FL and I in Memphis, TN, had different religious upbringings, ethnic backgrounds, and age differences we shared an almost identical family Christmas tradition. We all agreed that the coolest part of Mitch was the song sheets.

At this point in time CDs were becoming popular and Joe had the Mitch Miller & the Sing Along Gang - Holiday Sing-Along with Mitch CD. He lamented that it wasn't the same without the sheet music. I remember that we thought they should include an address on the CD where we could send away for the sheets of music to go with the CD. Keep in mind that this was in the ancient days before Al Gore invented the Internet (although, no lie, Al Gore is way older than me). It was also before scanners and copy machines were all over the place. We never thought to photocopy the sheet music. Mitch also had another sing along Christmas album and once again we all agreed that it was not a family favorite. Why? I'm guessing that it was because the songs were more traditional in nature and no lyric sheets accompanied the album.

Today we have many of our old Christmas favorites in CD form. Although with Doug and I, our children haven't grown up sitting around and singing Christmas songs like we use to. Do they get inundated with Christmas music from the day after Thanksgiving until the Epiphany? Absolutely!! I wonder what their favorite Christmas songs and artists are? What's yours?

On a side note, I've mentioned before Doug's tremendous enjoyment of music. Every other year my school has a big fund-raiser where they have silent auction items and live action items. The past two fund raisers we have donated a CD and I-Tunes card basket. Both years the baskets consisted of rock oldie CDs that Doug literally begins purchasing the day after the fund-raiser for the next event in two years. He gets the best of the bargain CDs. For the next fund-raiser in 2011-2012, we had decided on donating a Christmas CD themed basket. Mitch Miller & the Sing Along Gang - Holiday Sing-Along with Mitch was one of the first CDs we purchased for our future basket.

I'm sure that Mitch will continue to live on in a Guns & Roses, Lady Gaga, etc. generation.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Swim Season: Blogging on Location

I couldn't resist the opportunity to blog on location. Two weeks ago I received my new work laptop computer. I'm getting use to toting around this portable technology. Today we are sitting outside the University's competitive level swimming pool. My computer is preset for this Internet system so I'm easily getting a wireless signal. Mimi's parks and recreation swim finals are going on. We were also here yesterday afternoon for the prelims. In the prelims, Mimi swam the backstroke, breaststroke, and the I.M. She qualified for finals in all three events and she will be in two relays today. So she will swim five events by the end of the afternoon. This is quite a feat since there have been many years with the boys and Mimi that they only swam in a relay event or not at all at conference. This is a reflection of the season she has had.

Yesterday we had a strong breeze that made the ninety degree heat bearable. The drawback to the wind was that several portable awnings blew over at times crashing into kids and onto other awnings. Luckily no one got hurt but several frames were ruined. We were also entertained by the teenage boys as they "cheered" on the teenage dance teams that walked by en mass on their way to their camp competitions. At one point we saw some of our swim boys walking out of the basketball arena across from us. One mom asked me what the boys were doing coming from the arena. I was like you've got to be kidding me. They obviously were in there watching the girls dance teams perform.

Mimi has had a fantastic swim season this year. She has had several best times throughout the season and even had two best times of the three events that she swam yesterday. She has enjoyed getting up in the mornings and heading off to the pool. She seems much more willing to push herself more, listen and apply constructive instruction from her coach and her dad. I don't offer instruction.

I just help send her off to her events on time, give hugs (love getting those wet sloppy hugs on those hot sweaty evenings), give back and shoulder rubs, and dispense the snacks. I'm also the official sunscreen police. I pack the sunscreen and end up applying it on my family. Mimi hates sunscreen and luckily she is blessed with a Mexican skin tone and typically does not burn. I am still an avid sunscreener in the hopes of preventing skin cancer. I do try to slather her with sunscreen much to her protests. I have literally held her down on the ground and put sunscreen on her until she gets too slippery and wiggles away. I always slather Doug as well (Mexican by marriage doesn't give him our skin tone), luckily I don't have to wrestle him to the ground. He has had enough sunburns to appreciate my attempts at protecting his skin. He needs more coating than most. I get the ears, neck, head, and tops of toes to name a few of the places that sunscreen is needed. Oh yea, and I photograph those swim moments.

Doug helps to get us out the door on time, makes sure our van is packed with our chairs, is the keeper of the concession stand money, and helps us stake out our base at the swim meets. He can often be found by the pool deck timing swimmers. Today he will be timing during the finals.

This swim season we have enjoyed hot weather, sometimes too hot. Last year was the year that we had those unseasonably cool evenings where we curled up in towels and wore sweatshirts. It was a struggle keeping Mimi warm. We had one swim meet called due to thunder and lightning. I was glad because we were also having quite a bit of rain. We made up that meet the next night. We then had one meet that was interrupted and delayed due to thunder and lightning. We have to go fifteen minutes without hearing thunder or seeing lightning before swimmers can re-enter the pool. At this meet we had to wait about forty-five minutes. The drawback to this is that it makes for a long night at the pool. We don't get home untill after ten pm.

This season we were fortunate to have my mom and my niece attend a swim meet. Lucky them to have their vacation coincide with one of Mimi's swim meets. We introduced my niece to the all-time favorite Illinois bake sale/concession food snack called puppy chow. I had never heard of or had puppy chow until we moved here. I swear you could have a sale with only puppy chow and make a fortune.

Our regular season ended with a 7-0 record. We'll still have some tough competition at finals so we'll see if we end up as conference champs for the 2010 season. Anyway we have our spirit wear, are tattooed up, and have Sharpied fins, bubbles, and in your face inspirational words. The favorite being "eat my bubbles." My dark blue nail polish dried up and I forgot to hunt for and buy some more this season, so there are no blue finger and toe nails.

Former Coach Brandon is leading the Shark kids in cheers to get them ready for the races!!!

It's a Happy New Day! Swim strong! Swim fast!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cautionary Tale

Last summer I painted Mimi's room. I then began looking for new drapes that coordinated with her color scheme and had planned on making her a quilt. I kept carrying the paint swatches around in my purse and would compare the colors to different items. In December I found some aquamarine curtains at Target and they had the insulated lining. These would help with the heat and cold air as well as block the light. Energy efficient curtains!!

I bought one drape and brought it home. It matched well with the colors on her wall so I bought two more. Now I thought they were a bit plain and after spending years watching HGTV; I thought I could easily jazz them up. In January I bought a couple of yards of the inspirational cotton fabric we used to select our paint colors. This fabric could then be used as trim on the curtains and blocks for the quilt I would make.

January brought costume making for Mimi's dance competitions. Then in March it was time to coordinated the sewing of and help sew Spring Concert costumes for the children at the dance studio. Oh yea, I had a small break in February from ballet costume sewing and sewed circus costumes for the annual school circus.

So family sewing was pushed aside until the summer. In my home cleaning and purging frenzy this summer, I found the shopping bag with the drapes in the linen closet. I pulled them out and found the inspirational fabric in my rubber maid tub of quilting fabric. I then took a pause and organized my fabric tub and keepsake T-shirts that may one day be used in some quilts. At this point I realized I had some time sensitive deadlines such as a gift for a person who was moving onto another job and getting two wedding quilt tops and backings to the woman who does the machine quilt stitching. I need the quilts back well before the wedding so I can finish the last step in the process.

Finally this weekend I was ready to finish the curtain project thus getting Mimi's room one step closer to completion. I decided to place the trim the length of both sides of each curtain panel. I then determined the width of the trim and added an inch for seam allowances. I checked the length of the curtains so I'd know how long to make the trim. I needed to piece the trim as each cut strip was not long enough by itself to fit the length of the curtain panels.

Now I've seen Vern, Carter, Genevieve, etc. add pizazz to plain old curtains by adding trim to them. Actually they probably come up with the idea and materials and some assistant does the work. Whoever does it makes it seem easy. I'm here to tell you while it may be "easy" it takes a long time to finish.

I turned under both sides of the trim. Ironed the sides down, lined the trim up just so on the curtains so it would not be crooked, and then sewed. It took me two days to trim three curtain panels. I burned the tips of a few fingers ironing and bled a bit as I stabbed myself numerous times while pinning the trim. Now that I'm finished, I think they look cute but I'm not sure I couldn't have lived without the trim. I keep looking at them trying to convince myself that they were worth the work. I'm not there yet.

So here is the caution: Things may appear simple, easy, and fast in HGTV land while viewing them from the comfort of home, replicating them at home is different story. They need one of those don't try this at home unless you are an accomplished designer disclaimers at the end of each show.

I'll post pictures of the room once I hang the drapes, finished painting the shelves for the wall, and get her room cleaned again. It will be before the end of summer.