Tag Archives: teaching

Summer’s End

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I always have a song running through my head.  Today’s lyrics were “after the boys of summer have gone.”  Really creative, oh brain of mine!  Tomorrow I return to my job at my wonderful school, and while I am so excited, part of me always feels melancholy about leaving summer behind.

This summer was one of extreme periods of busyness followed by extreme periods of laziness. Hubby and I took vacations to Mexico and then a few weeks later to London and Paris.  After that I visited family in Illinois for a week, and Hubby is currently on business in Atlanta. Preparing for trips takes a lot of energy, as does recouping afterwards.  Between vacations, I facilitated the remodel of our house by Arizona State University where our college-aged children lived for the last seven years (and then sold that house). I’m not sure how I had time to be lazy.  But I did.

I had goals this summer to go the gym daily, yet with my youngest son home from college for the summer, I found myself wanting to stay home to hang out with him, eating grilled cheese sandwiches while watching Games of Thrones, New Girl, and The Ranch. Isn’t it so much more fun to watch tv with friends??  I hope to find my way back to the gym once William and his girlfriend, Katherine, return to Flagstaff in a few weeks, and I don’t regret the five additional pounds around my waist from couch potato-ing with them while eating pizza and french fries.  William is my youngest, and I’m keenly aware of the fact this may be my last summer having one of our kids living at home.

Here are some of the other shows I loved this summer:

Indian Summers is a great drama set in the Himalayas in 1932.  The show focuses on the social politics of the British Empire and the birth of modern India.  If you loved Downton Abbey, you will likely appreciate this PBS mini series which has great acting, dramatic scenery, and beautiful costumes.  Watch it on Amazon Prime.

You can watch Versailles on Netflix.  If you loved The Tudors, this is right up your alley.  I was fortunate to visit the Palace at Versailles a few years ago and found this historically- accurate series to be very interesting, not to mention quite titillating with all of the sexual conquests.  Again, very beautifully filmed and wonderful acting.

I love New Girl.  I rewatched the whole show on Netflix with my kids this summer.  It’s clever and hilarious and awkward, and I love it so much.

Rectify.  OMG.  I can’t seem to talk any of my friends into watching it.  I had no idea there was a fourth season on Netflix, and since it had been so long since I watched the first seasons, I started over from the beginning.  The acting is amazing.  The pacing and tension reminds me of Six Feet Under, but I love Rectify so much more.

I re-watched old favorite movies like The Right Stuff, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, 13 Going on 30, Millers Crossing, and The English Patient.  Okay, I’ll admit I like many different genres, but I love revisiting an old favorite.

This summer may be one of the best I’ve ever had. The angsty words from the Eagle’s Boys of Summer are still playing on repeat in my head, but I’m feeling so hopeful and excited for a fabulous new school year ahead!

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

 

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Mercury in Retrograde

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What a crazy week it’s been!  Facebook friends advised, “Be kind to yourself because Mercury is in retrograde,” and wow, that is advice I certainly needed this week.

This is going to sound untrue, but I swear with my hand on a stack of Bastille albums: Monday night was the first time I’ve ever slept alone in our house.  REALLY!  Hubby is on a business trip to San Luis Potisi, Mexico and having a grand time being wined and dined by the locals (and also doing some business during the day, I presume).  He’s certainly gone on business trips before, but I always had our kids here with me.  This week William is at college, Eve is on vacation in Spain, and Patrick is in Tucson on business. It’s been very peaceful, and I’ve been happy to get those last steps on my step counter (I’ve been aiming for 15K each day) dancing to loud music in the kitchen without anyone raising an eyebrow to the noise or my terrible form.

I’m not really alone:  We’ve adopted Eve’s cat for the next six months while Eve is away for an out-of-town job, so I have four cats and one dog for company.  So much easier to live with pets than children, though their Spring Shedding certainly has caused much sneezing and vacuuming.  They are adorable, and the initial hissing and chasing has calmed down.  It’s only been a week; soon they will be BFF’s.

I took Ruby in for a teeth cleaning on Tuesday and got a call mid-day from the vet explaining that the bill would be doubled because she had two rotten teeth needing extracting.  She was a sad mess the first night, but after 24 hours, she was doing very well. I’m eager to look in her mouth, but I like having fingers so have not tried to peek (she is very growly when I want to examine her).  Why do we always end up with such expensive pets???  Ruby is such a good girl; she is worth every penny.

I had two fun days subbing at my school with lovely young teachers who never make me feel old and are always so welcoming.  The kids are adorable, hilarious, hate nap time, and wake up all warm and snuggly.  Best job ever.

Back to Mercury being in retrograde:  Each day I’ve forced myself to drive the 20 minutes north to our house near ASU which we are prepping for sale.  All renters and Eve have moved out, yet they left behind a full household of belongings.  It’s overwhelming.  We’ve had ten different people live there over the course of 7 years, and each person left a little something or other that now I have to find a place for.  The walls need painting.  We need new carpet.  Tomorrow I will fill my car with paint cans and other haz mat items and take them to the Tempe Recycling Center.  I’m hoping students in the neighborhood will be happy to get free old couches and bookcases and chairs and a kitchen table, and OMG, I’m trying so hard to remain calm.  FIRST WORLD PROBLEM has been my mantra this past week.  Each day I’ve filled my car with boxes of stuff I think our daughter will still be able to use (pots and pans and silverware and room fans and lamps and her bed etc., etc.) because to buy all new is pricey.  Our garage is filled to the brim, as is Eve’s old room upstairs at our house.  I’m placing no blame on anyone, and I have no regrets. Stowing our college-aged kids away from our own home was good for them and for us. Out of sight and out of mind is one of my favorite mottos.  Please send me positive energy since I have a lot to do there before we can list our charming little built-in-1955 house for sale . . . and hopefully we will find a new owner who will love this house as much as we have.

With Hubby out of town, I’ve not cooked at all. He’s leaving Mexico at 4am tomorrow and arriving here at noon.  He’ll likely be hungry.  I always have leftovers or cold cuts and right now . . . nada!  I planned tonight to make a favorite recipe, chicken with red pepper cream sauce with pasta, but ACCKKKK, what I thought was an almost-full jar of marinated red peppers in the fridge was actually a jar of maraschino cherries.  I honestly considered it for a moment—sort of like sweet and sour chicken (?)–but YUCK.  I can’t let the poor guy arrive home with nothing in the fridge but approximately 100 bottles of condiments and no real food.  Eggs are always good, right?

It’s all good: I’m smiling after a fun happy hour with good friends this afternoon after work and am now listening to the soothing music of Brandi Carlile.  Tomorrow Hubby will be back from his business trip, and William will be home from Flagstaff to take his best girl to Prom.  Life is good.

Cheers,

Mary

Gum on My Shoe

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The smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in my oven is making my mouth water.  I love the dough more than the baked product, don’t you?  I already ate one uncooked cookie, so NO MORE for me!

Last night was magical . . . Eve and I saw my favorite band, Bastille, in downtown Phoenix.  We had decent seats, and Dan (the lead singer) is great about walking through the audience—so exciting to see him standing in our aisle!  They played most of my favorites, and it was great to see my best band with my best girl.  I was shocked Eve didn’t want me to buy her a beer—she’s 21 and I remember what I was like at 21, anyway, I’m proud of her that she was being responsible about getting up early for work next day.  I was not the oldest person there, the crowd was so pleasant, and not one person held a phone up to block my view.  The only negative is I somehow stepped on a huge wad of gum . . . so dancing along with the music was, well, a bit sticky.  I sighed because I knew it was karma paying me back for taking the stale piece of gum from my mouth and throwing it out into the pristine desert on a hike last week.  Well played, Universe.  Well played.

(Excuse me while I go take the cookies out of the oven.)

(Uh-oh, I just ate another cookie.  That’s two.  UGHHH.)

Part of our concert adventure was I had my very first Uber ride to the venue. I felt like a movie star being let out at the front door of Comerica Theater, and not having to park in a stinky parking garage a mile away was a huge perk.  But when it was time to go home after the concert, the rate had increased from $12 to $40!  YIKES.  Eve uses Uber all the time and suggested we walk away from the venue. Half a mile and 15 minutes later, the rate was down to $17 so I grabbed it.  Poor Eve got home at midnight and had to be at work at 6am.  She said it was worth it.  I was so jazzed from the concert, I stayed up until 2am replaying the concert in my mind and playing Words with Friends on my phone.

In other news, I’ve been interviewing for a new school job.  I love my school sooooooo much—but I just don’t dig working full time. I’m still subbing about once a week and love love love my time there (it’s all good).  Today I interviewed for a 20-hour gig as an instructional assistant at an elementary school one mile from my house.  I was so awkward.  I parked in the wrong parking lot and had to walk all the way around to get to the office.  As I was asked into the office by the principal, we were chatting and I didn’t pay attention to where we were going . . . so when we were finished talking, I tried to exit through the closet door (which was right next to the correct door) and then turned the wrong way down the hallway.  On the way home, I checked my eye make up in the mirror and was dismayed to see a very long hair protruding from my left nostril. Really??  Seriously?? (I need to get better bathroom lighting.) When discussing the candidates, I will likely be referred to as “Chubby Lost Woman with Nose Hair”. I don’t have high hopes for landing that job.

There goes my oven timer again.  I’m going to eat another cookie.  Cookies for dinner—there are worst sins (but it explains why my figure has become so matronly in the past few years).  And with that, I will stop here, because my oldest son told me he tends to read the first few paragraphs of my posts but does not finish (said with a very serious look in his eye), “Because, Mom, you know, you DO tend to go on and on.”  Sweet boy.

Cheers,

Mary

Singing the Blues

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I’ve been fighting a bad case of the blues.  I spent almost two weeks laying on the couch in my jammies, binge-watching Netflix or reading whole novels in one day.  I drank too much coffee, nibbled potato chips all day, and by the end of two weeks, I’d practically eaten my own weight in cheese.  (What kind, you ask?  Mostly brie, blue, and cheddar!)  I had post-vacation blues, loneliness, and a lot of anxiety over soon becoming “emtpy nesters” when William leaves for college later this month.  He’s not ready!  I’m not ready!  Can’t I home school him through college?

I tried to cheer myself up with a little Harmonica Therapy.  I keep a harmonica in the kitchen (doesn’t everyone?) and when things get rough, I pull it out and sing the blues.  Two years ago, when I turned 50, it got a lot of play, and then it mysteriously disappeared until the blues had passed.  I’ve never had a lesson, but basically you just blow into it and make up sad lyrics which you sing in a loud, angry/sad voice.  You know, like Bad to the Bone played by George Thorogood and his boys.  On the harmonica, create this rhythm: “Ba ba ba-ba BA BA!  Ba ba ba-ba BA BA!”  Then sing:  ” On the day we left Scotland, I cried so bad, saying bye to those castles, well that made me so sad.” (More harmonica here.)  “Oh my baby William, he’s leaving for school, taking my heart with him, Oh man I’m a fool!”  (More harmonica here, with a key change.)  “I ate so much che-ese, and I got really fat, but who really ca-ares, since my friends are all cats.”  (Grand finale on harmonica–rock out!!!  Then take a bow. And hide the harmonica before your family takes it from you.)

Well, the Harmonica Therapy didn’t work.  Nothing worked!   Not the gorgonzola, not singing the blues, not New Girl on Netflix (well, a little bit) and not treadmilling while looking at cute boys at the gym.  I felt like I’d never be happy again.

But then, Hallelujuah, school started!  We cleaned approximately 20 pounds of dirt from our classroom and then, hip hip hooray, the Kindergartners arrived. They are shy, they are happy, they are artistic, they are loving, they are hilarious, they smile at me angelically and give me hugs. Each one is only about 40 inches high, but in my eyes they are like giants . . . because they were the only things big enough to scare away my bad case of the blues.

Cheers,

Mary

Lazy as Pie

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I am in Mexico.

Our journey here was an easy four-hour drive.  We set out early expecting crowds at the border due to the Roger Clyne concert happening in Rocky Point this weekend (which I’ve been referring to as Clynapalooza–I’m not a fan).   But the roads were empty and we rolled through the border, got the green light, and didn’t have even one angry truck trying to mow us over in their rush to get to the beach.

We’re feeling golden.

I’ve successfully completed my second  nap of the day, and for that I blame the unusually loud ocean and accompanying winds.  The waves are roiling and crashing and the resulting sound is so hypnotic that truly, the napping was out of my control.  In my swim suit with my feet up on the beach patio, I’m reading To Kill A Mockingbird for the second time (the first being 30 years ago) and am quickly being sucked into Scout and Jem’s world.  Hubby is working a Sudoku puzzle and helping me count pelicans (I believe they fly in odd-numbered groups and am constantly trying to prove this theory).  A cool breeze wafts over us, and I’m feeling glad I packed a pair of jeans and a jacket at the last minute.  At home, it is hot hot hot, but our favorite beach here in Mexico has not heated up yet.  The ocean is warm, though the huge waves prevented us from doing much more than “wallowing” in the low tide pools. I can’t wait to swim in the morning when the waves will be calm!

In other words, we are being lazy as pie.  (“If pie is lazy, then what is cake?” Hubby asks.)

We thought our children would join us here at our favorite place, but in the end, they did not want to.  This is the story of my life.  Fine.  I can wait patiently until there are grandchildren, when our offspring will be happy to join us so we can help watch their small children.  It truly seems like just last year that Patrick was a baby not wanting to put his feet in the sand, that Eve was afraid of the “big byack fyies” buzzing about, and William crawled down the hill to the ocean so quickly it scared me half to death.  We are so blessed.

Wednesday was my last day assisting in our Kindergarten class for the semester.  Job well done, all of us.  While my teacher friends at public school finished weeks ago,  I cannot complain about having to go two weeks longer since I simply love my new school, the teachers, the parents, and of course, the children.  I will miss everyone over the summer, but I plan to make the most of my six weeks off so I will be fresh and bright when the new semester begins.

Life is good.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

 

Message in a Bottle

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It’s been an interesting week.  I subbed as lead teacher in our Kindergarten classroom two days, and it was fun to choose the books for our afternoon story time.  One of the favorites from my childhood is called The Secret Three  and tells the story of two boys who find a message in a bottle at the edge of the ocean–a message written in a secret code. Spoiler alert:  It turns out the message is from a boy who has just moved into the lighthouse across the bay, and the boys end up forming a club called The Secret Three.  I had fun looking up facts about messages in a bottle to share with the class.  Our six year old students are interested in EVERYTHING and were intrigued by the idea of messages in bottles. Here are some quick facts from Wikipedia:

  • The first recorded messages in bottles were released around 310 BC by the ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus, as part of an experiment to show that the Mediterranean Sea was formed by the inflowing  Atlantic Ocean.
  • On his return to Spain following his first voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus’ ship entered a severe storm. Columbus threw a report of his discovery along with a note asking it to be passed on to the Queen of Castile, in a sealed cask into the sea, hoping the news would make it back even if he did not survive. Columbus did survive and the sealed report was never found, or, at least, its discovery never reported.
  • In the 16th century, the English navy, among others, used bottle messages to send ashore information about enemy positions.Queen Elizabeth I created an official position of “Uncorker of Ocean Bottles”, and anyone else opening the bottles could face the death penalty.
  • In 1914, British World War I soldier Private Thomas Hughes tossed a green ginger beer bottle containing a letter to his wife into the English Channel. He was killed two days later fighting in France. In 1999, fisherman Steve Gowan dredged up the bottle in the River Thames. Although the intended recipient of the letter had died in 1979, it was delivered in 1999 to Private Hughes’ 86-year-old daughter living in New Zealand.

After school, I shared with William about my day and told him I’d read this book.  I said, “Wouldn’t that be a dream job being the Official Uncorker of Bottles? ”  But William just frowned, groaned, and clutched his head (in that order).  “Argghh, why do you people DO this to us??  This happened all the time when I was little!  You teachers tell us something so cool, like messages in bottles washing up on the shore, and you as a little kid believe it! You think it’s going to be a big part of your life . . .  or else why would they teach you this stuff? Have YOU ever found a message in a bottle??  Because I haven’t!   Mom, don’t DO that to the kids.  Don’t tell them about cool stuff that will never happen.”

Well.  I’m still pondering on this little outburst . . . because there is a nugget of truth to it. By introducing new concepts that are perhaps unique, random, or fantastical, do we lead our students into thinking their lives are going to be more exciting than they truly will be? Or do they inspire the kids to lead magical lives?  I like to think that stimulating the imagination is always a good thing.  On the other hand, my life is 100% more boring than I thought it would be when I was in elementary school.  For me, the jury is still out.

I will finish up here because the family is giving me that sideways look that means, “You promised enchiladas, but we don’t see any enchiladas . . . and we’re hungry.”  Hubby is wound tighter than the girdle of a Baptist minister’s wife at an all-you-can-eat Pancake Breakfast.  The reason?  One week from TODAY he is flying to India and then Shanghai for a two-week business trip.  He is not ready.  In fact, at one of the graduation parties we attended yesterday, our friend Pam “schooled him” about traveling in India.  Apparently the water is so full of bacteria that she told Hubby to take with him two Z-Packs (antibiotics) because it’s not a matter of “if” you get ill, it’s a matter of when.  She got sick simply from shower water accidentally flowing into her nose while rinsing her hair! Also Hubby somehow missed the memo that he is supposed to be taking anti-malaria tablets. He is super excited about his travel plans, and I am trying my best not to mom him, but if he comes home with malaria, I swear to God I will be madder than a full moon dog and he WILL be sleeping on the couch. Truly, I’m so happy for him to have his Grand Adventure. We are the generation that grew up on Disney’s Jungle Book. . . so in a way this trip is fulfilling our childhood fantasy of traveling to the land of Mowgli, Kaa, Bagheera, and Shere Khan; a land we dreamed of as children and hoped we would explore one day.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

A Wild Kindergarten Wish

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As our school year winds down for the semester (only three and a half more weeks!), I’ve been feeling melancholy. Assisting in our Kindergarten class has been a wild ride, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.  I honestly feel like I’m the “best me” when I’m around these wee folks. They shower me with love in weird ways:  licking my arm, petting my hair, feeling up my toes, putting their hands up my skirt, or catching me unawares from behind on the playground with the hula hoop (you know who you are–and I WILL sue if I break a hip!).  I love those little boogers with my whole heart.

So after hanging out with Kindergartners for 10 months now, I’m convinced that if I had a magic wish, I would wish to be a Kindergartner once again.   Here is a short list of some of the things that are great about being in Kindergarten:

You are served a yummy snack every day at 10:30 a.m.

You never worry about getting enough exercise . . . or getting fat.

Knock-knock jokes are hilarious to you.

You have so many hopes and dreams.  On Monday, you are going to be an astronaut.  On Tuesday, you tell your friends you want to be a doctor.  By Wednesday, you’ve decided on being a dog groomer.  And so it goes.  The world is your oyster–and nobody ever tries to tell you it’s not.

Everything is new:  so many foods you haven’t tried, things you don’t know about, words you haven’t heard before.  You literally learn something new every day.

Fashion is not important to you; your primary goal is comfort.   You dress whimsically matching stripes with polka dots and plaids with florals . . .  and on your feet you wear crocs, sandals, or even better, cowboy boots with everything.

You can sing a little song or hum while you are playing or doing your work in the classroom and nobody thinks it’s weird.

You never wake up thinking,  “I’m going to need a lot of coffee to get through this day.”

You do not angst over the concert ticket you weren’t able to get.   You are happy listening to the Frozen soundtrack every single day.

Someone else is in charge of your hair. Girls can wear their hair in weird braids and ponytails and decorate their hair with all sorts of colorful bows or put a big flower on top of their heads.  And it’s cute!

Play dates every Saturday!  Arranged by someone else!  And when you are with your friends, all you have to do is be yourself.

You never worry about budgets, in-laws, travel itineraries, cleaning your house, taxes, appliances, or car maintenance . . . and you never wake up with a hangover.

You can fart unapologetically.

You are not afraid of bugs, or having wet shoes, or having paint on your hands, feet, legs, and you even feel proud to wear a paint mustache  because it makes your friends laugh.

And best of all?  You are not afraid to bare your soul, to actively learn to be a better person, to tell a friend (or a teacher) that you love them, and you are never, EVER afraid to tell the truth.

Cheers,
Mary