Category Archives: teaching

Ditch Day

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We woke on the last morning of November to gray skies, a welcome change after the endless summer we are enduring here in Tempe, Arizona.  It’s still warm, but waking up that morning to the absence of the sun made my whole world look different.  I felt like pulling a “ditch day.”  Maybe it’s because it’s finally cold enough to wear boots, and wearing my boots makes me feel sassy (even though after a few minutes on the school playground they are covered in a fine layer of dust).  Maybe it’s because I was wearing a new blouse with a bold pattern and gypsy sleeves?  Maybe it’s because Christmas is just around the corner, and I’m filled with excitement and anticipation for all of the holiday fun coming our way!

Of course, I did not call in sick to school.

Upon reaching school, I chatted with a friend on the playground.  I asked her, “Did you ever ditch school?”

“Yes,” she said.  “In fact, I was thinking this morning how great it would be just to stay in bed.  I think it’s because of the cloudy sky.”

I shook my head.  “When I ditched class in high school, it was after second hour Humanities, a class I had with my best friends, or sometimes we’d go out to lunch and decide not to go back.  It was the BEST feeling to leave school during the middle of the day and not go back.”

She smiled, and I whispered,  “Let’s ditch.  C’mon . . . let’s go!”

“It would be great to go home and get back in bed,” she mused.

“Think bigger!,” I said.” We could go to the Farm at South Mountain!”

Her eyes got big. “Oh!  A chai latte and a big breakfast!”

I nodded vigorously. “And walk all around the gardens and look in the gift shop! It would be so relaxing!”

Then the bell rang, and all the teachers and all the students went inside to our separate classrooms.

I did not ditch school.

We all love working at our school . . . but something in me that morning made me feel like doing something wild and crazy and spontaneous.  Lucky for me, working with three-year-olds makes EVERY DAY wild and crazy and spontaneous. I had a fabulous day at school, and afterwards did errands and googled Christmas gift ideas and texted with my lovely auntie in Illinois and played Words with Friends and picked up my Christmas cards from Costco.

On that note:  Why can’t we take a good picture?  Hubby and I are standing in strange poses, and there is a hand on Patrick’s shoulder that looks creepy. Is it William’s? Whose hand IS that???  I’m seriously not sure what happened there, but when I look at our photos from all the previous Thanksgivings, I laugh remembering all of the moments that lead up to the picture that is chosen for the Christmas card.

Happy December to all of you.  I hope you will keep in mind it’s okay to “ditch” every once in a while.  My December calendar is packed with social gatherings, and I’m quite certain I will “ditch” one or two of them, just to stay at home, start a fire in the fireplace, and bake cookies while singing badly to my favorite Christmas song and my favorite winter song.

Cheers,

Mary

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Gratitude

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Tonight I’m watching the final game of the World Series, and during one especially long commercial break, I went out with Ruby (our wonder dog) and Cosmo (our cranky old cat) to look at the moon.  Most days, I do my gratitude list while getting our preschoolers to sleep at nap time (my class is Preschool Threes, and I find that if I am in an attitude of peacefulness, the children fall asleep more quickly).  (And listing the things I am grateful for makes me feel centered and content.)  So under the moon tonight, I thanked the Universe for these things:

Thank you for baseball.  (TheAstros are up!)

Thank you for happy hour with old friends tonight at Teakwoods . I love you guys!  (And also thank you for hoppy IPA beers.)

Thank you for my pets, who keep lonliness at bay.

Thank you for my wonderful best-friend husband (who is currently getting a haircut).

Thank you for my grown children (who I worry about way more than I should, but who are doing well in their lives).

Thank you for elastic-waisted skirts which hide my chubby tummy.  Which leads me to:

Thank you for breaded shrimp (cooking in the oven and stinking up the house). (And not helping with my weight-loss plan.)

Thank you for the joy we felt when wee children came to our door last night trick-or-treating on Halloween. (Additionally, thank you for Heath bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, Mounds bars, and Almond Joys).

Thank you for my school and for all of the sweet teachers I work with.  I have such great affection for them all! What a gift this school experience has been in my life!  I look forward to going to work each day because of the fabulous teachers/parents/children I see there.

Thank you for my students who make me feel loved and needed (even when they have so many potty accidents, and I have to put on their stinky shoes a million times a day).

Thank you for the cool temps in the 80’s this week (summer is finally packing her bags and heading South).

Okay, the baseball game is back on.  Thanks for all of you who read my words.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

My New Green Tutu

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I’ve heard that one sign of having a job you enjoy is that time flies by quickly while you’re at work. I love my job, and definitely the days pass so quickly that I’m not sure where the time goes.  Today, too much of my time was spent in the bathroom, but our three year old students are still working on “control” (if you know what I mean).  One particularly stinky incident this afternoon activated my gag reflex—oh my goodness, I’m so glad I did not barf on our wee student!  (Enough about that.)

After school, a lovely gentlemen from Ideal Energy came to my house to conduct an energy audit.  My brother and sister-in-law had one performed at their house recently with great results, and after a recent summer family dinner here where everyone was gleaming with sweat even though our AC was blowing full blast, I thought it was either time to give up summer parties . . . or get the danged AC fixed.  The energy audit results will be emailed soon, but apparently we have lots of duct work problems.  GOOD GRIEF.

When our auditor first arrived, he explained the process, then I allowed him to proceed through the house.  He’d been up and down the stairs twice before I realized there was a bad smell coming from that area.  Upon closer inspection, I found a HUGE cat poop mixed with dog kibble right in the middle of the landing.  UGH.  I was so embarrassed.  I’m certain Ruby the Wonder Spaniel is the culprit . . . and just eeeuuuuwww.  I got to be embarrassed again a few minutes later when the auditor pointed out the large pile of ashes in the fireplace and asked if I could cover them so as not to make a mess when he did the pressure testing.  Clearly these ashes were from last winter (January to be exact) since the temps here in Tempe, Arizona are still in the 90s every day.  I paused and thought about making up something about celebrating Fall early or some such BS, but instead just turned pink and covered the mess.  (Cleaning the fire place is a dreaded task.) Then, as I walked the auditor out, I noticed the body of the ginormous scorpion I killed last night on the front door mat.  Nothing says “Welcome to our Home” like a dead scorpion, right?  Add onto all that the fact that I got really excited opening my Amazon package and yelled, “MY NEW TUTU IS HERE!!!”  (I was sharing the good news with Eve, who was here doing homework.)

It’s a weird world out there, and I’m counting on the fact that the energy auditor has seen way stranger households than ours.  And I’m truly very excited about my tutu:  It’s forest green and super fluffy.  It fits perfectly.  It’s part of my Halloween costume!  I’m dressing as a flower garden, or maybe Mother Nature, or perhaps a character from a Midsummer’s Night Dream.  I don’t have to decide yet and am excited to have something new to wear to the school carnival.  I’ve been the Tooth Fairy WAY too many times.

The auditor is gone.  Eve went home.  Hubby has happy hours every day this week due to a local conference.  The house is very quiet.  I decided I’m gonna bake some pumpkin muffins in my new tutu and singing loudly to my favorite tunes.  Best Tuesday ever.

Cheers,

Mary

 

An Even Pelican Kind of Day

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

I am in Mexico.

I’m grateful to have two days off for our school’s Fall Break, which gives Hubby and me FOUR WHOLE DAYS at the beach. I have grown so attached to my young students and just when I was starting to miss them, I ran into one of them in a restaurant in town!  How fun to compare stories of our day at the beach! (Over the years I have come to believe that many times the Universe gives you what you need.)

One of the favorite books in our class of three year olds is about Pete the Cat. When he has problems (like stepping in mud in his new white shoes) the book asks us, “Does Pete mind? Goodness no!” and then a picture shows Pete saying “Groovy!” or “Rock and Roll!” or “It’s all good!” This weekend I’ve been channeling our friend Pete the Cat.  The wifi in our condo is down and at first I was anxious about not having 24/7 access to the world, but it’s turned out to be a really good thing.  I’ve read half a novel, four magazines, and taken two really great naps. Rock and Roll! Groovy!

We made great time on the road and arrived at our beach condo Saturday at 2pm. We’d anticipated huge crowds of folks on Fall Break at the border, but for whatever reason, there was no line at all and very little traffic. We arrived to see a very pleasant group on the beach—nobody blasting stereos and everyone cleaning up after themselves.  We’re always disappointed to see a large group set up on the beach RIGHT IN FRONT of our place, and sure enough:  There was a large group of guys with umbrellas and a big pop-up shade.  I took a deep breath and channeled Pete the Cat and shrugged to Hubby, “It’s groovy.”  And it was–it turned out the the group of 14 guys were very quiet. In fact, they seemed downright bored!  I know if it were a group of women, Hubby would dub them a “Hen Party” so I searched my brain for a male equivalent. I settled on “Buddy Fest.” Bachelor party?  Church group?  Gay choir vacation?  Fraternity reunion? They politely sipped their canned beers, standing and chatting in the tide. One man flew a kite.  They packed up at sunset, and we never saw them again. (I love to make up stories about strangers, don’t you?)

If you’ve read this blog before, you know one of my favorite things to do at the beach is count pelicans. Over the many years of vacationing at this beach, I’ve come to believe that the Puerto Penasco pelicans travel in groups of odd numbers most of the time.  Well.  Yesterday ALL the groups of pelicans flying overhead were in groups of EVEN numbers.  I tried to skew the data by counting 18 pelicans, then adding the one guy flying solo about 30 seconds behind. This happened over and over again, until Hubby stated (in a wise voice), “I guess it’s just an Even-Pelican Kind of Day!”  All I know is I think I saw more pelicans Saturday than I have during the whole rest of the year!  We literally saw thousands that afternoon. Where are they going?  What will they do there?  Why are they in such a hurry?

Ruby the Wonder Spaniel is not at the beach with us.  Her hips have grown too painful for her to easily come up and down the stairs to our tiny beach condo.  She loves the beach so much that I’m thinking we will bring her next time, perhaps dragging her down on a blanket and at the end of the day, Hubby could carry her back up the stairs. I am missing Ruby and our cats, but how lovely for the two of us to have a short respite in this beautiful place where the sound of the ocean lulls us to sleep, and there is nothing much to do but enjoy each other’s company, read a good book, and appreciate the fantastic beauty of this Sea of Cortez.

Cheers,
Mary

Boogers, Band Aids, and BVDs

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As most of you know, I am a preschool teacher.  This job is perfect for me because a) it does not involve sitting in a cubicle at a desk b) there are lots of snacks and c) we have nap time every afternoon from 1-2:30.  My job this year is to assist my lovely lead teacher, Andrew, while together we teach our class of Three Year Olds everything from letters and numbers, to manners, to how to say sorry, and explaining in a Very Patient Voice why even though it IS so much fun to watch a plastic lizard fly across the room, it’s not a safe thing to do when it lands on a friend and makes them cry.  It’s a very nuanced job, with lots of action.  I would not be wrong in stating that every week we have blood, sweat, and tears (sometimes theirs . . . sometimes mine).

Today started out cheerily with Music Class, everyone’s favorite.  During the ten minutes in which Jay taught us the Halloween song, Five Little Pumpkins, I was handed two boogers, two used band aids, and helped one poor friend whose BVDs had rolled over several times at the top (OUCH).  I chuckled thinking about how fun it would be to have a “Mary Cam” attached to my forehead so you could smile along with me when a small friend sings Juice Box Hero in the bathroom or another friend insists their shoes are on the correct feet—even when they are not.  I am in love with every one of my students and am excited to see how wise and caring they’ve become in just seven short weeks.

(This just in from Wikipedia: BVD is a brand of men’s underwear, which are commonly referred to as “BVDs.” The brand was founded in 1876 and named after the three founders of the New York City firm Bradley, Voorhees & Day (thus “B.V.D.”). The term came to be used, however incorrectly, for any underwear in the style popularized by BVD. The BVD brand, originally produced for men and women, is now produced solely for men by Fruit of the Loom.  I knew you’d want to know.)

In other news, I made the most delicious, mouth-watering stew over the weekend.  Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon (not easy to spell) was a cinch and is melt in your mouth.  I found the recipe online and made it easier by taking out the deglazing of the pan (is that EVER really necessary??).  I think this beef stew is company worthy.  Serve it with crusty bread and a big salad.  (Can anyone tell me why we can’t call them crock pots anymore???)

Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon

Get out your slow cooker.  In a large pan, cook five slices of bacon.  Using scissors, cut cooked bacon into small pieces and place them in the slow cooker.  Without cleaning the bacon pan, brown the beef for a few minutes so the beef chunks are browned on all sides.  Dump those into the slow cooker.  You are done with the pan.

Into the slow cooker, place the remaining items. Cook on medium for six hours, or until the beef is tender.  Bon Appetit!!!

  • 5 slices bacon
  • 3 lbs. boneless beef chuck, cut to 2 inch chunks
  • 1 cup red cooking wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • small can tomato paste
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons thyme
  • 8 Medium Carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 pound potatoes, cleaned
  • 8 ounce fresh mushrooms, sliced

Cheers,

Mary

It’s Not My Dog

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Saturday morning, Hubby and I loaded into his SUV these things: our suitcase, our weekend reading, a bag of snacks, a jug of water in case of a car breakdown, and a large dog named Baxter whom we’d never met before.  And thus, we began our three-hour journey to my sister’s cabin situated high on Mt. Lemmon, NE of Tucson.

Let me explain the dog:  Baxter is a lovely mixed beast, part Lab and part German Shorthair.  Aside from being in desperate need of a bath, one couldn’t have asked for a nicer dog to travel with.  My sister had agreed to dog sit for a friend who lives near us.  It was easy for us to transport Baxter south to his ward for the week while his owner was on a vacation.  He was nervous in the car, so I sang a favorite song to him, which made his tail wag.  When we stopped in Summerhaven for a restorative coffee and cookie, people admired him and asked about his breed.  We had no answers, replying with a shrug, “He’s not our dog.”  We got giggling remembering a favorite similar scene from a Pink Panther movie.

Getting to Peg and Dean’s cabin is not for the faint hearted:  Their’s is the second highest on the mountain (elevation 8200) and is accessed by a series of rocky, hairpin, unpaved, steep roads.  Each time we visit I’m terrified on the journey up the mountain, certain we’ll end up in a flipped car with our lives flashing before our eyes.  This did not happen.  We arrived safe and sound to good food, interesting conversations, and I can quite safely say I made a few new friends (Baxter promises to write, lol).  We took several long walks through the woods, spotting fluffy squirrels, soaring hawks, and picking up all sorts of unusual rocks.  I’m currently in the process of trying to identify the minerals so I can share them properly with my students.  I’m also very curious about the swarm of small black butterflies which flitted about us at a look-out point on our ascent.  I can’t find any info on them online, but am eager to identify them.  I have to say after a weekend with highs in the 70’s, it’s hard to return to 110 degrees at home.

In other news:

William has settled in well to his college apartment near NAU.  He is very happy with several of his professors, something I never heard from his older siblings during their college careers.  This is a good thing!  He is catching the bus outside his apartment and has a 20-minute-ride to the “science side” of campus.  William is excited be studying Organic Chemistry, Physics, and is taking a biology class called Unity of Life II: Lives of Multicellular Organisms.  While I have a natural curiosity about my environment, I will say he’s definitely his father’s son in that he is eager to study these sciences and learn very comprehensively about how things work.  Go, William!

This afternoon, Hubby and I went refrigerator shopping.  The one we bought in 2004 has an ice maker problem that created a glacier in the entire upper half of the freezer.   After chipping at the glacier with a small red-handled pick for weeks, we decided it was time to replace the dang thing.  The plastic is cracked throughout, and the door seals are worn.  I feel comfortable with the number of years we used it before replacing it (don’t you hate sending things to the landfill?). We set off to Home Depot resigned to stainless steel even thought I really hate it, and it doesn’t match anything else in my kitchen.  I like soft warm colors, like bisque.  (Hubby teased me they probably didn’t have appliances in avocado or harvest gold either.) But can you believe our luck, that after choosing a fridge, we discovered it was $100 cheaper in BISQUE!  We were so excited that Hubby and I high-fived, shouting “Bisque!  They said it couldn’t be done!”  (I am no longer bothered by what folks think, one of the advantages of being the advanced age of 53.)  The young Home Depot clerk did not appear to share in our joy, but I’m excited about our new fridge, which arrives next week.

This Friday past marked the end of my third week back to school.  Our students are delightful and give us so many smiles throughout the day.  They are like little sponges, eager to learn about anything and everything!  This job is so rewarding but is a definitely overstimulating and physical . . . and at this point is still kicking my ass.  I need to get more sleep; I’m like a child at bedtime: “I don’t wanna go to bed!  I wanna watch more tv!”  I’ve never been good at transitions but am tired of, well, being tired.  I have new bedtime goals, as well as new “remember to take your vitamins” goals— and am excited to get back to work tomorrow.  I hope all of you had a lovely Labor Day weekend!

Cheers,

Mary

August

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A lot’s happened at our house in the last two weeks.  I returned to my job at my wonderful school, this year assisting in the Threes class with a lovely new teacher. Already I know it’s going to be a fabulous year.  Hubby has been working his arse off to get the IT running at a new business site in Atlanta, often working 12-14 hour days. Patrick got a promotion and due to people quitting, at 26 years old, he is now the senior premium auditor in the State of AZ for the insurance company he works for.  Go, Patrick!  Eve is looking forward to finishing the last two years of her Biology degree while working part-time in a doctor’s office.  We were sad for her that the summer job in the mountains being an EMT for the fire fighters didn’t work out (she couldn’t pass the physical test), but she picked herself up, dusted herself off, and made a new plan.

And William?  William seems to be in a state of denial that in six days we will be moving all his worldly belongings up to Flagstaff to settle him in for another year at Northern Arizona University.  He and his girlfriend lounge about binge-watching tv, stopping only to get fast food or a pizza or sweetened coffee drinks.  I’m glad they’re not starving students like I was back at ASU in the late ’80’s (I once sold my textbook a week before finals so I could go barhopping with friends), but I know that my lean years have made me appreciate that nowadays I can order pizza any time I want.  William’s summer job money will be running out soon, and he will be on a strict school budget come next week.   And I’ve warned him that either he packs stuff from home . . . or he will be scrounging at garage sales and Goodwill for the stuff he forgot.  He is a man of few needs, so I’m sure all will work out.  My urge to “mom him” is very hard to suppress, so I’m grateful to be back at work when else wise I might be sorting through extra boxes of dishes and pots and pans to see what he needs.  Our renters at our house near ASU left EVERYTHING, so we own all one would need to furnish a kitchen.

Hubby and I are sad to have William leave.  I’ve never been good at transitions.  While my heart knows it’s time to move forward, my body seems to fight me all the way.  I find myself feeling awkward and in the way. Words are hard (anyone who has ever met me is frowning at this because I am typically very verbose).  I am clumsy.  On the second day of school I was wearing my skirt inside out—luckily Hubby noticed the tag hanging out before I left the house.  Another day I had a pimple coming up on my nose (SO not fair in my fifties!), and another day I spilled my entire cup of coffee into my purse on the drive to school.  I thought the large, squat cup was secured between my purse and lunchbox but when I turned a corner it dumped (nothing was ruined).  Yesterday I washed William’s new bed sheets with a few eye glass cloths from my purse, and some gum was apparently caught on one, so his new sheets ended up with gum on the hem.  GOOD GRIEF.

But all in all, I think we’re doing okay.  Sometimes change hurts, but in this month of August in the year of 2017, I feel like the pain is worth the eventual progress.  I believe my family of five is all moving forward in great ways, even though we’re not getting enough sleep, we’re feeling anxious, and we’re feeling a bit clumsy.  August is a month of great change for many of us with school starting, kids going off to college, and recently, huge political unrest that makes all of us feel uneasy.  Take care of yourselves.  Listen to that inner voice.  I listened to mine tonight which said stay home and make Chicken Makhani and watch terrible Marvel shows with your youngest son and your husband.

Cheers,

Mary