Tag Archives: teaching

The Return of the Scorpions (and Other Stories)

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It’s Wednesday evening at 6 pm, and I’m making soup while listening to Lyle Lovett.  I’m always telling people I hate country music . . .  and I’m hoping Lyle doesn’t fall into that category since I love him so.  He sings so many amazing songs, and they always lift my spirits.

So tonight I was singing along with Lyle and getting out ingredients for my soup when I soon realized I’m talking to the vegetables.  “Tomatoes–you are positively squishy! You are definitely going into the soup!  Old onion, you smell terrible.  Hmmm, we’ll have to think about you.  Carrots, you are extremely long in the tooth, but I think you’ll do just fine.  I have my eye on you, red potatoes, haha!  Get it, eye??  I’m sorry, broccoli, I don’t think you’ll be a good choice for this particular batch.  Hope you don’t rot before someone eats you.” Then I made a sad face and placed the broccoli bag back in the crisper.

Should I be concerned about my mental health? I guess I should start worrying when the vegetables start talking back to me . . .  I’m just glad the family is not around tonight so I can chit-chat with my soup ingredients without being mocked.  With two adult children living with us this summer, I have to walk a fine line or else I find myself being teased by my wise-ass kids.  I guess evidence of their snarky humor just shows we raised them right.  (I feel it’s served me well in my own life.)

You may be asking, why is Mary making soup when today’s high temperature was 101 degrees?  The answer is I was feeling guilty about all the veg going bad from the lovely fruit/veg box I picked up at Clark Park a week ago.  What a bargain for only $20, but next time I will most definitely share it with a friend!  I’ve taken some fruit to school for our preschool snack, and gave a huge bag of Brusell sprouts to our friend, Chuck. (We are anti-cabbage here in the Vaughan household.)

In other news is the Terrible Annual Return of the Bark Scorpions.  I take my black light and an old flip flop out back every few days for a scorp hunt, and so far this Spring the grand kill total is 38.   We  had one in the house last week which Hubby decided to kill by squishing it  in a paper napkin. Let’s just say that didn’t go well, and he had a numb thumb for three days.  Another big number in my life is FIVE.  As in, FIVE DAYS LEFT OF SCHOOL!!!!!  Woot woot.  I’m really not sure what I’ll do with myself, but I know I’m looking forward to getting more sleep.

Lastly, I believe it may be time to take a break with Words with Friends since I’ve been playing the game in my dreams.  That can’t be good.  Some of my favorite, long-time WWF opponents have seemingly dropped off the planet.  To me it’s more fun to play the same people (all strangers) day after day.  For example, I try harder after Chocolate Thunder (this is a real person) has beaten me four times in a row!

My (mostly) carrot soup is now happy and is ready to be blended (recipe below).  Tonight I added an old jalapeno and two extra tomatoes.  Goodnight!

Do you Carrot All? Soup
2 teaspoons butter
5 large potatoes, skinned and chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 large carrots, skinned and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
32 ounces vegetable stock
1/2 cup chicken shmaltz

In a big-ass soup pot, melt butter and stir in vegetables. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add shmaltz and vegetable stock.  Cover and cook for an hour, or until potatoes and carrots are soft.  (Sometimes I precook the carrots and potatoes in the microwave to speed up the process.) Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

 

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That Day a Dog Ran into my Car

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You will not believe what happened to me yesterday:  I left the house for work at 8:00 and made an easy left onto Warner Road.  Two minutes later, driving west, I saw a golden retriever (off leash) run into the road heading straight for me.  I braked, and felt the loud thud of the dog hitting my right side door.  Panicked, I pulled off onto the nearest side street, grabbed my phone (to call someone to help me get the dog to a vet), and ran towards the site of impact.

I scanned the five-lane road.  No dog. I ran to the canal path where the dog had run from.  No dog.  I flagged down an elderly woman on a bicycle.  I was shaking and trying not to cry and explained what happened.   She pointed to three women walking north and away with a golden retriever and said, “It looks like it’s okay. ”

Well.  The dog could certainly NOT be okay.  I wondered if the women even saw their dog get hit?  It felt like so much bad karma to leave without talking to the owners, so I got back in my car and drove down the residential street that runs parallel to the canal, but I could not find them.  At this point I was shaking so much that I could barely call my school to tell them I would be late.  I drove the 20 minutes to school dripping tears, wondering if that beautiful dog was okay and wondering if there was something I could have done differently.  One might say I overreacted, but I live in a city where we do not run over live animals on the roads on the reg.  I posted about it on the Nextdoor website, saying if the dog had been on a leash, that never would have happened. It kinda ruined my day . . . and the dog’s.

So add a dog hitting my car to the list of awkward things in my life.  Let’s just say I feel like my life needs a good shake or two, sort of like a snow globe with all the glitter stuck in one corner. I’m listening and waiting not-so-patiently for the message the Universe is trying to deliver.  Everyone and everything is just a little bit off—and it’s not even a full moon.  Everything seems to take a little bit more effort, especially at school.  Today I asked my students, “Did you have coffee before school?”  Everybody’s crying or mad, or is handing out some kind of damage.  And it’s not just the students . . .  I get home from work and my kids are angsty.  William is having weird stomach pain and anxiety (appointments are scheduled), and Eve is having terrible luck finding a good summer job.  She deals with the stress by sewing and crafting all over our kitchen.  I find it admirable that she works out her worries by making something new (I’ve always dealt with stress by administering the appropriate number of cocktails), but I must say, it IS messy.  Bits of thread and fabric on the floor, the sewing machine perched prominently on the kitchen table for days on end.  Nobody is helping with the cleaning, and our house looks like a bomb went off.

99% of the time I can turn lemons into lemonade, and today was no different. I mean, it’s my job to make sure I’m happy, not anyone else’s.  I made a plan to meet gal pals for a beer after work (laughing with friends is my favorite thing).  I smiled at my students all day and when one little guy asked for a hug, he randomly looked at my feet and said, “I like your shoes.  And I need to poop.”

Maybe I’m just making things too complicated.  I need to take that little guy’s attitude—just say nice things to people and remember to poop.

Cheers,

Mary

 

Friday Again?

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Life has been SO busy.  Every Friday, I say to my family, how can it be Friday again so soon?  The novel I’ve been trying to finish for book group sits gathering dust on the coffee table, my house looks like a bomb went off (a pet hair bomb), and the poor dog is itchy and needs a bath.  It seems either we are at work, or we’re being social, and then we’re too tired to clean the house (or the dog)!

One wonderful reason for not doing housework:  My aunt and uncle are in town from Illinois!  It was a last-minute trip, and we’re having so much fun hanging out with them.  Aunt Linda loves Changing Hands book store, so we spent an hour there, looking at every little thing.  We had long, relaxing dinners at both Pedal Haus and The Perch (I would recommend both).  If you haven’t been to The Perch, their “thing” is lots of exotic birds in cages.  They are all rescue birds cared for by professionals.  But man, they can be LOUD!  We had fun “chatting” with all the beautiful birds while waiting for our food to be served.  Due to the loud music and the loud birds, we were having a bit of trouble hearing each other.  We joked about how old we’re all getting.  I am a terrible joke teller, but managed to tell this old thing: “A woman goes to her doctor.  Doctor, she says, I’m having a terrible case of silent toots!  Can you help me?  And the doctor says, the first thing we need to do is get you a hearing aid.”  Ba-doom-cha!  (Apologies all around.)   I’m hoping we’ll see my aunt and uncle again before they had back to the chilly Midwest.

In other news, we teachers are counting down the weeks until summer vacation.  After this weekend, only EIGHT WEEKS LEFT!  I’m feeling worn down lately and am so happy when my lunch break arrives each day, when I have about 20 minutes to eat, and play Words with Friends, and look at Facebook.  Today while browsing Facebook, I almost spit out my sandwich reading a meme called,  “Name Your Vagina by using the name of the last movie or tv show you watched.”  Okay then:  Either Shameless . . . or New Girl!  LOL!  Ahhhh, the Internet.  What did I do before Facebook brought such class and sophistication into my daily life???

After lunch today, my lead teacher and I looked over photos from the entire school year to be used in the year book.  We were amazed at how much we have accomplished and how much our students have grown.  I love my job, but teaching preschool can be pretty intense mentally and physically and on some days, really overstimulating.  I can’t imagine doing anything else!!!  I’m 99% sure there’s no other job that includes as much laughter as we experience every single day, teachers and students alike.  I’m looking forward to summer travel and having time to lunch with my best gal pals, but I’m also feeling a great sadness knowing that soon my “kids” will be moving up a grade and having adventures of their own . . . without me.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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