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: "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.