Friday, December 16, 2011

My A Game

When I started teaching at my current school, I was a little nervous about the open space floor plan. We don't have walls. We don't have doors. We may as well have microphones, because everything we say is broadcast to at least three other classrooms. My principal described it as teaching in a fishbowl, and that's how it felt at first. I was intensely aware of everything I said, especially if I said it in my mean teacher voice.

Over time, I've stopped focusing so much on what I say, and instead, started paying attention to what I hear: the teacher next door. In an open space school, I'm not just a teacher; I also get to be a student. All day long, I have the opportunity to learn from a master. I'll admit, she sets the bar so high, sometimes it's a real challenge even trying to keep up. But it's the trying that's making me better. Every day, I have to bring my A Game. I'll still never be as good as she is, but every day, I'm better than I was before.

Here are a few of the new and improved things I did this Christmas.

Classroom Project

Presents for Mom and Dad

Presents for the kids~handmade, personalized capes. Yeah, I would have done that on my own.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Please Pass the Sugar

If your child's a picky eater like mine, I have a recipe for Thanksgiving turkey that is guaranteed to be a big hit at the kids' table. And it only requires one ingredient: sugar.

Thanksgiving Turkey Pops


Lollipop-shaped Sugar

Barrel-shaped Sugar

Fruit Slice-shaped Sugar

Worm-shaped Sugar

Mix all ingredients well.


They'll gobble them up.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Practice What You Preach

Starbucks is big on Community Service. They say so right on their website:

We believe in being good neighbors.

Every Starbucks is a part of a community, and we’re committed to helping neighborhoods thrive wherever we do business. It’s a commitment rooted deep in our heritage and the belief that we can use our scale to be a catalyst for positive change.

Now, more than ever, communities are relying on the private sector to share resources and help drive meaningful change. At Starbucks, we’ve always valued community service, and our partners have been fostering this “culture of good” since we opened our first store in 1971.

But when I walked in today and asked them to donate 20 little paper cup sleeves so my kids could make these cute ships, they said something else.

They said no.

I wonder if they've read their website?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where the Sidewalk Mends

When school was over today, instead of their usual playground fun, my son and a couple of his friends got down to work. On their hands and knees, they clawed at the gravel like dogs burying a bone. Pebbles rained down into holes in the sidewalk, patching the path till the surface was smooth—more or less. I asked them why they were working so hard instead of playing.

"So nobody's wheelchair gets stuck in there."

It's Grandparents' Week at our school and the grandparents we've seen run the gamut. Some are smoking hot grannies, owning the halls in tight jeans and high heels. But others are very, very old, making their way to their grandbaby's classroom only with the help of a wheelchair—and three sweet little boys.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Good Hair Day

I wasn't in my classroom five minutes this morning before my students' behavior had me in tears. In this case, it was a very good way to start the day.

One of my little princesses was having a hair emergency. This is more common than you might think among four-year-old girls. It's important that one look one's best for a full day of nose picking and Barbie playing. And this little girl did not have what she deemed an adequate hairstyle for her agenda. When Dad brought her to the classroom, it was evident that she had made her dissatisfaction clear on the drive to school. Apparently, very clear.

I wanted her to be happy, so I did my best to find a ponytail holder to solve her problem, but I struck out. I needed to move on with our day, so she was going to have to wait.

But not for long.

Another little girl in our class, let's just call her My Favorite, was paying attention. Without being asked, she took the ponytail out of her own hair and used the holder to take care of her friend. Gently, she smoothed her friend's hair into place and, without a word, returned to her seat.

I wish I could teach them half as much as they teach me.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Putting My Big Girl Panties On

My bedroom has a built-in state-of-the-art security system. If anyone heavier than Stuart Little tries to enter the room, the floor CREEEAKS so loudly that it not only wakes us, it wakes everyone within a three house radius.

And that is why I went commando today.

It was 6:30 this morning when I was tippy toeing around in the dark, trying to piece together a decent outfit to go garage saling in. My only real criteria was that everything be close enough to reach in three creaks or less, and clean enough that it passed the sniff test. In only two creaks, I managed to dig a skirt and bra out of the dumping ground I have created on the top of my husband's dresser. Three creaks later, I scrounged a shirt off the floor of my son's closet. One more creak, and I was slipping on a pair of shoes waiting by the door.

I was fine with the fact that my naughty bits would be getting a breath of fresh air. Anything that helps keep me cool on an Arkansas summer day has to be a good idea, right? Well, you'd think so. Except for one critical garage sale design flaw. When they run out of tables, they just stack stuff on the ground. And unless you're Sharon Stone, do you really want to be caught in that position?

Luckily, there is a law of garage saling that is as steadfast as gravity: If you need it, it will be there. And today, I needed undies.

Yes, they do go up to my armpits and make me feel about as sexy as Andy Rooney, but they're new and they fit and they were only a buck. I would have preferred something a little less Victorian and a little more Victoria's Secret, but you can't always get what you want. You get what you need.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Changing of the Guard

Today is the last day of summer vacation.

More to the point, today is the last day I get to share all my time with my boy. He's been my shadow all summer long—like a puppy, following close on my heels. It's been indescribably sweet, and I'm savoring the last hours.

Good puppy. Sit. Stay!

I could get good and sad about this special time coming to an end, if it weren't for the fact that all my days are filled with special time just like this. Only the faces change.

Who says teachers aren't paid well? I'm rich, I say, rich!

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Penny $32.60 Saved

Author Kyran Pittman isn't just a talented writer, she's also a genius couponer. And what's more, she's generous enough to share her secrets. After every major score, she rushes to Facebook and shows us all exactly how to join her in the game. Sometimes, if you're really lucky, she even comes to your house and hand delivers a detailed game plan.

a detailed game plan

Like a good straight A student, I followed her instructions obediently. As directed in Step #1, I went to Walgreens and purchased four of the six specially marked items.

Already, I'm doing pretty well, since cereal is up to about $20.00 a box these days. Scoring my favorite brand for $2.50 is a great way to start. But it's only the start, because Walgreens then gave me back $5.00 in a lovely little thing called Register Rewards.

Following Step #2 in the plan, I combined a handful of store coupons, graciously supplied by my mentor, with my Register Rewards to buy this—

Yes, you are reading that right—all those school supplies cost me .47 cents. Which is especially awesome, because I would have paid $47.00 for that KISS notebook. But wait! There's more! They gave me back another $2.00 in Register Rewards, which I used to buy these treats for my boy—

That smile was my best Reward of all.

(What are you just sitting there for? Get thee to Walgreens!)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Big Love

I thought you should be the first to know.

I have a new boyfriend. And it's serious.

Don't worry. My husband knows all about us. In fact, he introduced us. And he completely understands my attraction.

Meet Paulo.

He's beautiful, no?

You must understand, this is no casual affair. It's destiny. Our new house has forty pairs of shutters, you see.


I spent three weeks painting the first pair by hand one day.


At that rate, it was painfully clear that the house would be finished just in time for us to move into assisted living. So my husband invited Paulo home for a threesome.

It was love at first spray.

Me and Paulo, getting it on

It didn't surprise me much to discover that Paulo, in the end, turned out to be quite high maintenance. All the great beauties are.

But I don't mind taking good care of him. He's totally worth it. I have a feeling we're going to be very happy together.

Den, before

Den, happily ever after

Friday, July 22, 2011

Smoke and Mirrors

Remember when I told you how much I love the new paint color I chose for my office? Well, I'm not so sold on the paint I chose for the dining room. The color is so safe it hardly even counts as a color. Because I'm too lazy and cheap to just pick another color and paint again, I'm trying to make it work by adding so many extra colors to the space that people become too confused to notice the walls. Smart, right?

So I found this fabric remnant at an estate sale today. I think it may have come from circus folk.

I decided to use it to cover these bland old dining room chairs of ours.

The first step in this process was to gently pop the seats out. Once that was done, my next step was to break my stapler. Because breaking an essential tool is ALWAYS step 2 in my DIY instructions.

After trying every tool I could think of to fix the jammed stapler, I came back to my old standby—cussing. Why I don't try it sooner I don't know, because it always works like a charm.

VoilĂ !

Boring walls? Where?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Don't Try This At Home

Remember that old ad campaign, Take the Nestea® Plunge?

The premise is that if you're lucky enough to have a cold, quenching glass of Nestea Iced Tea in your hand, even the harshest environment magically transforms into cool, refreshing water.

My husband decided to try the plunge in our pool a couple of days ago.

Our pool, a couple of days ago

Unfortunately, he wasn't lucky enough to have the tea. In which case, even the harshest environment just stays harsh, and instead of getting refreshed, you get a broken shoulder.

Oh sure, you can all lavish sympathy all over him—poooooor baby—but I'm the one you should be feeling sorry for. All he has to worry about is a lousy six to eight week recovery period, constant pain, almost complete loss of the use of his dominant hand, and an awkward, hot, uncomfortable sling for two months.

Whatever. The garbage isn't going to take itself out for two months.

Man. This really sucks for me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Office

With the exception of the kitchen and dining room, which fell victim to the tragic wallpaper plague of the '70s, every wall in our new house is white. And not hip, modern white, either. Dingy, old lady white.

Like this—

We've lived here nine months. While some women piss away nine months making people, I used my time to make something really important—my first paint decision.

Morning Fog—Blue and Gray's Beautiful Love Child

I was so happy to finally have a can of paint in my hand that I sprinted to the checkout before that temptress Martha Stewart could lure me back down the aisle with her siren song of samples. I was halfway home before I realized that I might need some way to actually apply my beautiful new color to the walls. Details. I figured I must have some crusty old brush lying around a closet floor somewhere, maybe a roller that didn't have too many chunky bits.

And then I found this—

♫ Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah! ♫

I'd forgotten all about it. My husband's sweet nephew drew my name for the Christmas gift exchange. He knows me well enough to understand what my idea of a perfect present is. He also knows me well enough to anticipate that I'd be too cheap and/or flaky to remember to buy this kind of stuff myself.

Thanks for a great present, Joe. I love my new office. And now that the old lady white is gone, I swear my husband looks ten years younger in there.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Fourth of July Miracle

I'm not exactly what you would call an especially rational person. I'm more of what you might call a recreational worrier. When things go wrong, only the worst possible ending seems plausible. I find a wet spot on the floor, and I'm SURE the roof not only has a leak and needs to be replaced immediately, but probably is in fact dripping some highly toxic poison into our home which will kill us all by dinner. It could happen. My seven-year-old gets a strange bump on his genitals, I'm convinced it's fatal scrotum cancer. Even after my husband shows me the tick writhing in the tweezers. Ticks can cause fatal scrotum cancer, you know.

I have a word for this kind of thinking. That word is "pragmatic."

My husband has a different word.

So this morning, when we woke to a hot house, dread began swirling in the pit of my stomach. We'd need a new unit for sure, maybe two. Certainly all new duct work. Probably months of expensive labor. We'd have to find somewhere to stay. It was going to be a nightmare. There'd probably be locusts!

But then, something crazy happened. Not two hours after we noticed the house was hot, it was cool again. My responsible husband called our reliable AC guy and he fixed it. Just like that. All it was was this little old part.

A part which cost $41.00.

Then he stayed and tuned our son's guitar.

I'm sure we'll have a disaster for me to worry about soon enough. But it looks like today's not the day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

. . . and justice for all.

Even though my HUGE teacher paychecks just keep rolling in all summer long, I still like to supplement with a little extra income when I can. Summer nanny gigs are the perfect solution, mainly because I'm way too lazy to get a real job, but also because it keeps my only child out of my ass for a few hours a day. (I mean that in the nicest way possible.) For me, it's a part-time job; for him, it's a part-time brother.

Because I'm such a quick study, it's only taken me two weeks to get to the heart of the strange dynamic between my child and my charge. They aren't so much acting like friends; they're acting, well, like brothers. After two solid weeks of bickering and pissing contests, I've got them figured out. They don't give a hot damn about happiness or fun. They are completely unimpressed by even the most ambitious attempts at entertainment. The ONLY thing they are interested in, in fact, are obsessed with, is justice. I could lock them in a room full of snakes and rotting meat and all they'd care about is that they each got equally poisonous snakes and exactly the same portion of rotting meat.

"His meat is stinkier than mine!" I can hear them complain.

"He got more maggots than me! No fair!"

But now, I've got their number. I know where it's at. Screw fun, they just want fair. So today, we baked cookies. And not just any cookies—peanut butter cookies. We made chocolate chips last week, and it didn't go well. The randomness of the chips led to anarchy and near mutiny. But with peanut butter, I had some control. I explained to the boys that each and every one of these cookies belonged to both of them. They were going to work together, side by side, equally. They took equal turns with the beater, and got equal licking rights.

Notice my son, reaching for the other child's beater. Punk.

Next, I rolled the balls and handed them to the boys, one at a time, to roll in sugar. Even Steven. I had one boy press in all the vertical fork prints and the other, the horizontal. What could be more fair? There was only a brief uprising when vertical boy yelled, "Hey, he's smashing MY cookies!" Old habits die hard.

They'll probably continue to fight like brothers for the rest of the day, but who cares. I intend to eat the entire batch of cookies and be drunk by supper.