Friday, November 26, 2010

Not So Black Friday

Sorry about the last blog, where I should have invited you to have a little cheese with that whine. (Or as my second graders would say, "Why don't you call the waaaaaaambulance?") The codeine in my cough medicine made the filter on my publish-button pushing finger a little too hasty.

So, here is a view from my happy chair this morning. A cold front blew through central Texas during the Thanksgiving festivities yesterday, and the 85 degree weather plummeted to near freezing. (It is no surprise we deal with upper respiratory conditions in my neck of the woods, no?) I cancelled my early morning shopping trip with my favorite shopping buddies to continue to let the antibiotics do their magic. I'll catch up with them for a late lunch at their Memaw and Pawpaw's house, amidst a multitude of their (I am told) crazy relatives.

A day of rest. I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks for the Z Pack and Codeine Infused Chaser

Thanksgiving Holiday. Five days planned to the hilt to include family, food and fun. And shopping. Except I find myself in the waiting room of my arch-nemesis family doctor. More on that little description later.

For the past few days I'd been feeling a little achy; a little warm. Oh, the many things we can write those symptoms off to: Lots of activity in the second grade classroom. Abnormally hot central Texas weather. A long to-do list. But last night, as I lay on the couch with the air conditioning on, watching a much too long version of the Dancing With the Stars finale (Come on people! The show was TWO hours for a 10 second announcement…), I realized this malaise might be a little more than tiredness.

Upon waking today, I was achy from my forehead to the bottom of my feet. Drat. This I have learned in the twenty-two years that I have spent in the incubator known as a classroom: any germ that can break my built-up immunity is particularly fierce.

So, here I wait, writing this on Word, because the doctor's office will not share their wireless code. Why am I so snarky about this place? (Besides the fact that I feel like a puddle of aches and fever…) Well, here is a little of my history with this office:

  • They buy all manner of expensive machines, and constantly find/manufacture reasons to use them. To pay for them, I assume. I know if I say my chest hurts or feels full, they will want to perform a lung x-ray on their in-house machine. That's a little extreme, in my mind. This is not the ER. I have also learned I can say "no" to this procedure.
  • When my then high-school aged daughter came in for a simple college physical, they kept her here for three hours running every test known to man. Or woman, as it were. Some of which should not have been done on an 18 year-old female with no prior experience to such procedures. I have since taught her the power of "no" in a doctor's office.
  • When my husband had the CT scan that revealed his brain tumor, we were sent through this office for the results. The way the doctor revealed the news was to face the wall and say, "You have a brain tumor. It is very bad. My nurse will set you up with a brain surgeon." He left immediately, and said nurse burst into tears. I'm not sure if it was because she was sorry for us or embarrassed to be working with a man with such poor "bedside" manners. Probably both.

Oh, I could continue because I have a 15-year war chest of these stories. I see in the local paper that this office has a continual turnover in doctors and nurses. I also see there are many, many investigations by the state boards brought on by patient complaints. I was not surprised at all when I called for an appointment to hear that the office now also has a Weight Loss Clinic included in its name.

Why, you ask, do I continue to come here? Because they can always fit me in. I figure patient complaints are between the state, the doctor and God. As a teacher who is around small children, speed in antibiotics is of the essence. I also only come in about once a year when new strains of germs pass my Super Teacher Firewall of Immunity. And I never think about seeking out a new doctor on my once-a-year visits until I am Really Sick.

So, here I sit. Awaiting the results of a swab stuck up my nostrils into my brain. And for extra fun the nurse twisted it. Kind of a lower lobotomy. I'll do anything if it produces the Rx for antibiotics that will kick these aches out of my body.

The results? Not flu, but a bad upper respiratory infection. Given two shots, two prescriptions and an inhaler, with a reminder to schedule a come-back visit in a week for another check. I decline on the double dip of insurance funded visits. I'll be back in the land of the classroom by that time. (I will have to give them props for no chest x-ray today. Maybe they sold the machine.)

Monday? I'm totally shopping for a new doctor's office. That sees patients same-day. Fingers crossed.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

In my second grade classroom, the students love when I read "circle" books. You know: books that end like they begin, with everything tied into a nice neat bow. Like the book that begins when you give a mouse a cookie. At the end? He is going to get another cookie. A full circle in life.

This weekend included a full circle experience for me. Exactly a year ago, I attended a seminar put on by my grief class on surviving the holidays after the loss of a loved one. I just reread the blog I posted about it (found here). Because, guess what I did this weekend? I attended the same seminar on surviving the holidays. Except this year I was a facilitator.

What is the difference between being an attendee and a facilitator? Well, this year I listened instead of talked. I handed out the Kleenex instead of using it. I patted and hugged. And I gave out the most precious commodity of all: hope.

Hope that the pain does lessen; that the cloud of grief does dissipate. Hope that life as you know it is gone forever, but that the new life replacing it can slowly begin to contain some joy. Hope that the brittle-as-glass heart will keep beating, the knot in the stomach will loosen, and the eyes will not always leak... as much.

Last year I was 4 months from loosing D; this year I am 16 months. Far enough down the road to still have a tender scar, but wanting to help others instead of being the one in need of intensive help. My heart ached for these people, but I knew this for sure: God was walking near enough to hear their words in His ear, and that He would bring about their healing in His time.

"Return to the stronghold, you prisoners who have the hope, even today I declare that I will restore double unto you." Zechariah 9:12

I do have the hope. But have I seen double restored to my life yet? Not exactly. But I have enough to share with others in need.

And for now? That is enough.

But I am holding out for the full circle in life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Not the Village People Version

I may have mentioned a time or a million that I teach the most wonderful second graders on the planet. (Top that). I may have also reminded you ad naseum that I followed my first grade class up to second grade this year. The same students in bigger bodies and smarter brains.

Anywho, last year my class wrote and performed an assembly for our school's BookSpring kick-off. (This is an organization that puts books into the hands of children that would not normally have them in their homes.) Our school has won the city competition for five years in a row as the school that raises the most money for this organization through a Read-a-thon.

The performance of my classroom's tour de force can be watched on this link. (Scroll down and the video is on the right side of the page.) It will fill you with The Happy, and remind those of us who know these children personally how much they have grown in a year!

Enjoy the film. Then go R-E-A-D. And see if you can get that tune out of your head in the next week or so.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Trip to Wally World

When I began teaching five years ago at my present elementary school, there was a huge flap about growth in the neighborhood. Seems developers wanted to turn a former mall into an Upscale W*lm*rt. Can we just pause here and appreciate that little oxymoron? Upscale. W*lm*rt.

The parents at my school are highly educated and savvy. They took to the streets to protest this endeavor in many forms and fashions. This loyal bunch did not want the mom-and-pop stores in the neighborhood to be challenged, and it seemed that the Big Guys blinked. The building was delayed, and the size of the W*lm*rt was greatly reduced.

This week I saw in the paper that the neighborhood W*lm*rt was open for business. I didn't really intend to shop there. Loyalty, and all. But I discovered I needed brown paper lunch bags for a classroom turkey art project, and dropped in after school today.

And there it was: newly opened in the neighborhood that was not exactly welcoming it with open arms.

May I stop to say a few things here? This store is located in the greater Austin area, which has a population of 1,700,000 people if you include the surrounding cities. But look how empty the parking lot was at 5:00 pm today:
I remember one of the main concerns of the Neighborhood Association was that this business would bring too much traffic into the area. I'm thinking that may not be a problem if local people keep voting with their presence...
...or not. This is a picture of the produce department. You may notice one thing missing in this well stocked section. Customers. The store was a veritable wasteland of people.

I found my brown paper bags and walked around for a bit. The departments are very tiny and only offer a fraction of what you would expect to be sold. In the women's department, unless you were there for fleece and jogging suits, you would find little to buy. In fact, I thought of a few more things I needed while there. Not one of them was stocked at this miniature Big Box store.

The lady at the checkout chirped out, "Did you find everything you needed?" and was surprised to hear me say no, that in fact I'd found very little that I needed. "Oh. I can call another W*lm*rt and you can swing by there for your other needs." (Yes. Just what I want to do after 10 hours in second grade: "swing by" another large store.)

Will I return to this store? Well, since they only stocked the 200-bag size of brown lunchbags, I'm probably good on turkey-making art supplies until 2021.

Neighborhood Davids: I think you won this round. Goliath may be coming down.

Or at least heavily discounting large quantities of unpurchased produce.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I have decided that any extra money I have will be spent on travel and musical entertainment. Those are two interests I love the most.

Today, I went to see Broadway Across America's "Shrek: The Musical" with sweet friend, S. We clapped, we laughed, we sang along. And a good time was had by all.

We decided to memorialize the afternoon with a snapshot. Taken by a stranger. Who kept saying, "It's so good! It's so good!"

Ahem. I think she must have been talking about the musical.

Next up? "Radio City Christmas Spectacular: The Rockettes".

Dates me? Yes. Do I care? Can't wait!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Screen Play

So, the craziness that is the first grading period in second grade is officially over. I've decided to move on to my Next Big Goal for my classroom: updated technology. (Those words make you want to take a nap, no?)

I've had a document camera and projector for about 9 months, that have sat lonely and dejected in their boxes. (These pieces of equipment attach to my laptop so we can use all manner of online educational resources. And watch movies about Lilly and her Purple Plastic Purse and Giving a Mouse a Cookie.) calls to the district technology people are mostly a lesson in frustration. Their first words, however jokingly, are always, "GET RID OF YOUR MACS". Dear District People: We are a Mac campus. Get over it.

I have not been able to lure anyone into my classroom from their downtown portals, but two days ago a fellow teacher came in after school and volunteered to do the job. AFTER SCHOOL. She is very tech savvy and, more importantly, is kind and gentle with those of us who are not. She makes it all sound very simple, and gives me confidence that I will not destroy the world with techno-fiddling on my computer. (I'm convinced the damage I would do would be a felony and not a misdemeanor. This may help you understand my reluctance to attach cords and electrical toggles.) She also says very helpful things as she works like "Don't use this button" (NO! I will NEVER use that button!) and "Look how this fits in right here! It needs to stay here." (YES! FOREVER! I will NEVER move it.)

She completed the job in minutes, and heaven shone on my little corner of technology. I'm pretty sure Disney cartoon animals scampered behind her as she left my room, all the while singing amidst twinkling lights. And after she left? I turned the machines off, tried to turn them back on again all by my bigself and... THEY WORKED!!! Oh, the technology that can now take place in my second grade room.

But wait; there's more: I immediately emailed my principal and asked for a screen to be installed in my room. The next day at 9:30 am, district men with ladders and drills were in my classroom with a screen.

I am going to overlook the fact that they arrived in the middle of my reading period. And that drills can be quite noisy. And drilling into concrete walls is very messy. Add that to the fact that my 18 seven year old best friends acted like they'd never seen a ladder or drill in their lives, and you'll probably understand very little actual reading went on. (It's a student holiday on Monday. Perhaps they'll catch up then.) BUT: We were getting a screen!

I explained what I needed to the district men: a screen that would work and roll all the way back up each time. (Oh, you laugh. I take nothing for granted in my classroom any longer.) This was necessary because if it didn't, it would hide parts of the alphabet and the Word Wall Words. And my students would exit to third grade not knowing how to write V, W, X, Y and Z or spell who, what, when, where, why and were. Essential Information.

No problem, these sweet workers promised! After an hour, they were done. (Yes: One. hour.)

I took the hopped-up-on-drill-noise-and-ladder class to lunch and came back to try out my new technology and screen. I pulled down the screen and...(You've probably already guessed this is not going to turn out well. May I tell the story anyway?) pulled out to reveal red capital letters that said "STOP!" and the screen was sprung for all time. On closer inspection, I realized it was probably original to the building in 1950, and the teacher's name written on it has been retired lo those many years.

Drat. I called the office to see if our Secretary in Chief could stop those men and send them back. They did return at 3:00 pm to tell me they weren't sure about a new screen. Maybe there was one someplace in the district warehouse. Right next to the box from "Raiders of the Lost Ark".

All I want to do is teach my kids. Teach.My.Kids. I have shown great restraint in not already sharing about the carpet assigned to my room. I have wrestled with it since the beginning of August. It is much too large, so I have to fold it to make it fit. The students and I have tripped all over its fold and wrinkles for 3 months. I was repeatedly told I should not fold it, but can not cut it. After the third child tripped over it last week and slammed into a desk, I enlisted another teacher to help me drag it out to the ramp. Where it remains. May it rest in peace. And carpet time is now hard floor time.

You probably came here for a witty little post and a small chuckle. Instead, you ran full force into My Crazy.

A screen and a carpet. That is what I need. And I'm going to trust the process and believe I'm getting them. Soon, even.

But tech support: we are still a Mac campus.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Happy Post

Many thanks to bloggy friends who sought me out this week after my last pitiful post. Pain endures through the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.

And what a morning this is: Happy THIRD Anniversary to Married Daughter and my precious Son-in-law.

You married and moved to Missouri, and after two years relocated to Pennsylvania. You've had two homes and two dogs; two church homes and untold new friends. I'm proud of your ability to embrace opportunities, and always be on the lookout for the next new adventure in you life.
So many changes in the past three years, but believing that all things work together for good if we love Him, and are called according to His purposes.
May you be blessed today, and in all your tomorrows.

Happy Anniversary! May you always be madly in love.

Love, Mom (YBBM)