Round and round we go

This week is spiraling out of my control. I had close to 100 assignments to grade on a very strict timeline (the penalty of teaching online from home), a virtual field trip to finish organizing and then lead tomorrow, a new employee that I need to meet with and mentor through the process of becoming comfortable as an online teacher, a new data project that needs daily monitoring and documentation, a rapidly approaching deadline for documentation of all goal related activities for my annual review (and completion of the goals and objectives that I am documenting), a mandatory team meeting, a mandatory Advanced Placement teacher training meeting, ongoing software problems with Microsoft Office, without which I cannot do my job, a doctor appointment for my asthma, helping my son (who is 7 and has no concept of deadlines) finish all his school projects before the end of the trimester on Thursday and the school’s big learning celebration (which happens in the middle of my work day) and the onset on Friday of a prolonged 2 weeks of spring break which I, as an online teacher, do not get off of work. Oh, yes, and I also have a cold and all the normal household things to take care of (who keeps wearing all these clothes and using all these dishes anyway?). This is not a month’s worth of work, or even a week. This is what I have to accomplish between now (Wednesday night) and Friday afternoon. So, to say that I am a bit busy and a bit stressed out is a massive understatement. And, of course, we all know that in these situations, everything always goes smoothly and turns out to be easy to accomplish, right?


That is my trumpet fanfare, as I present to you, summing up my entire day so far, my 6 word memoir…

“So much work…NO! NOT PINK EYE!”

And my rebuttal, “Oh, @#*&”. 😡



A cold lament

Today I have a cold. Springtime is very annoying, because I am allergic to practically everything, and despite a stack of allergy and asthma medicine, I can walk around for weeks feeling like I am coming down with something, except without the happy thought that I will eventually get well again. However, yesterday, despite largely goofing off and doing not much all weekend, I felt really crummy and finally realized that I ought to take my temperature. Presto! I had a fever! That explained a whole lot.

Today, I have that weird scooped out feeling where your head is some sort of escaping helium balloon that is very far away from your body and trying to work is utterly pointless because all the words in front of you are just wiggling squiggles and you cannot tell if the student writing genuinely makes no sense, or if it is just you. (If you are still expecting my slice to be somewhat coherent today: you have been warned!)

Today, I think of the spring cold as another manifestation of the last gasp of winter. Reading slices from all over the country and talking to my online colleagues, who are also all over the country, I know that even with spring springing to life tomorrow, people are still being hit with late snow, and deep snow, and unseasonable snow, etc., etc. I always consider the first week of warm sunny days in spring as the unofficial end of cold and flu season, and heave a sigh of relief (the depths of which can only be achieved by teachers and parents who are sneezed and sniffled on all winter) that finally the germs will be gone and we might get through a few months of pink-cheeked health – instead of green-tinged, red-cheeked feverish ill health.

Today, though, like winter, the germs are having one last gasp.

A Currently… Post for Sunday

Earlier in the week, I wrote a Before that… post, so when I stumbled across another Currently post… today, I thought I would try that format.

Currently, I am: 

Reading: The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley. Plus, lots of slices! I am really enjoying this commenting challenge.

Drinking: a nice cold glass of lemonade.

Planning: a virtual field trip to MoMA on Wednesday, for a group of 6-12 graders nationwide in our online education program. I have so many ideas, and so little time to formalize all the details.

Thinking: that I wish I had more weekend, because I am coming down with something, and I need some more rest before tackling the work week.

Feeling: anxious. Online teachers do not get spring break, and small boys do, so I have to try to juggle the two. This is not easy. I am also preparing to try to re-enter the world of classroom teacher now that my son is 7 1/2 and that is a whole can of anxiety worms all to itself. Also, a fire engine just went flying down my street and that is just alarming.

Listening to: “Twilight Zone.” I’ve loved to watch “Twilight Zone” since I was a little girl, and it is sometimes soothing to have on in the background while I do some work.

Loving: having had a quiet weekend to just hang out. Too often, we try to do much too much.

Looking forward to: curling up in bed tonight with a novel and maybe some hot herbal tea with honey.

Hooray for Playdates!

A couple of weeks ago, we had our son’s best friend over for a marathon playdate. It was not a big deal, because the boys have been friends since preschool and get along really well together, but the parents felt very bad about asking us. The dad had to be out of town, and the mom had a ticket to the final performance of a six hour play. We all had tons of fun, and both picky eaters ate dinner, and today, the other family reciprocated, and we had “the massive playdate, part 2.”

I worked a bit this morning to get some loose ends from the week tied up while my husband ran errands, and then, after lunch, off our boy went, to explore the world with his friend. We had a unexpected 7 hours to ourselves. Like all good parents, we were completely flummoxed by the idea of free time, and no idea what to do or where to go. Having dodged the bullet of wasting childfree time running errands, we decided that it was perfectly acceptable to eat snacks and watch grown-up TV all afternoon, followed by eating something for dinner that was not customized for a 7 year old’s palate, or, alternately, complained about throughout the meal. It was heavenly. The house was quiet, the cats were un-chased and calm, and we could just chat and do not much of anything. I knit. My husband folded some laundry. (He’s a better grown-up than I am.) We read some news. We countered the news with silly TV. I put green stripes in my hair for St. Patrick’s Day. He put homemade stew in the oven. It was heavenly!

When we were childless, we were busy, busy people. I taught full time, more than an hour from home, and worked that standard teacher 60-80 hour a week schedule. My husband is an architect and also incredibly hard-working, and travelled for work and had late meetings and 10 hour work days. Still, we found time to places and do things – garden, movies, plays, the zoo, museums, hiking, events, concerts, restaurants – normal grown-up stuff. The only times we ever stayed inside and did nothing much were during the rare snowstorms that shut down the city. (During an interesting week and a half in December 2008, I made two baby blankets for a new nephew and a new niece and we watched every single thing on our DVR). And we had the option of doing that today. In fact, the playdate was extended through dinner time specifically so we could go out and do grown-up things. We talked about it. But frankly, what had the most appeal was just some time to hang out together, without being interrupted, or having to watch the John Deere video for the thousandth time, or building things with Legos, or being asked five million questions. Sometimes, just the time to be quiet and think through to the end of a thought and watch a TV show all the way through without stopping is all you need.

At 7:30, we picked up our tired boy. He and his friend had tons of fun and were not even sick of each other yet. He told us tales of his playdate adventures, and we told him about ours. We all were happy and relaxed, so I say hooray for playdates. Sometimes, doing nothing is a Saturday well spent.


Today I…just completed the tax organizer for the accountant

Before that…I went out to dinner because I was too busy doing taxes to worry about cooking.

Before that…I worked on taxes in my husband’s office.

Before that…I got an email that I need to make into a creative announcement for all the other parents in my son’s class.

Before that…I got a panicked call from my new teacher mentee, who finally had classes assigned to her and could not remember anything from her training in the fall.

Before that…I told my husband that HE got to be in charge of picking our son up from the after school playdate because I was too busy doing taxes.

Before that…I took some antacid.

Before that…I gave up on working on the taxes from home and texting my husband questions about the business records and just drove to his office.

Before that…I worked on the taxes at home- not for the first time this year, or even week.

Before that…I had a quick lunch and put my feet up to watch “The X Files.” (Working from home has perks.) But I decided that I had better make it a really quick lunch and – you guessed it – work on the taxes.

Before that…I worked on paperwork.

Before that…I had office hours for my students and worked on lessons and student engagement.

Before that…I answered email, and more email, and more email, but helped a lot of students in the process.

Before that…I finally sat down and finished my breakfast.

Before that…I got home from the school run much later than expected and fed the very hungry cats and the fish.

Before that…I looked at the beautiful view out the school window and encouraged a cranky child to work on writing out his clean copy of his informational essay, reminding him that writing was not the end of the universe, and he could do this.

Before that…I set a timer to get that kid moving.

Before that…I looked at my watch three times and sighed. Helping my son get his work done in his before school studio time was not going well.

Before that…we had to take two detours to get to school.

Before that…I scrambled around making breakfast and lunch and trying to herd a wandering child with no sense of time in the right direction.

Before that…I made a cup of tea. I didn’t drink it, mind you, but I made one.

Before that…I ate a few bites of breakfast while answering random questions from my groggy, just dragged out of bed boy. Who would win in a fight between a beaver and a cougar? Why is that book called The Death of Bees? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BEES? How do you scare a ghost? How do you kill a zombie? Who wakes up at a quarter past six and wants to know these things?

Before that…I read two days worth of daily comics sleepily on my iPad while wondering why the house was so cold. (Answer: the programmable thermostat did not know it was daylight savings time.

Before that…I woke up in the cold before dawn, not even any birdsong yet, and wondered what I would do today.


A trip to the library

After school today, my son and I stopped off at the local library. It was later than I thought because my brain is not on daylight savings time, and school did not get out until 4. After the obligatory “it is not raining so we all have to run around like crazed maniacs on the playground” time, it ended up being after 5 when we finally got to the library. This is actually a great time to go on a weeknight, because the library is very quiet and calm. We have a very small and very busy local branch in one of the busiest library systems in the country, so a calm trip is not easy to accomplish.

I stuffed the dozens of due books into the book slot while my 7 year old scampered off to the children’s section to reload. I went to grab my book from the hold shelf (snagging two more from the “Lucky Day” shelf on the way) before joining him. I found him reading a sign about the Read to the Dogs program contemplatively. He is definitively a cat person and a bit skittish around dogs, only liking Papa Frank’s dog and the “school dog” who is comes to school with the Dean of Scholars most days. However, a couple of weeks ago, our next door neighbor got a puppy, and his views began to shift. She asked him if he would like to help walk the dog, and after a tentative meeting, he surprised me by agreeing. Afterwards, he was full of puppy excitement. He got to hold to leash! And throw a tennis ball! And go to the park! After a couple of walks with Winston the puppy, he now stands watch for our neighbor in case she wants to walk the dog again. Apparently, dog acceptance has spread to the library dogs now. After looking at the sign- and the pictures of the dogs- for some time, he asked if he could sign up to read to the dogs. I agreed, and he trotted off to the children’s librarian’s desk, and, not discouraged that all the spots for the next two months were already filled, signed himself up.  He chose to read to the fluffy huggable dog who most resembles Winston. Then he asked for a book on paper airplanes, and the librarian helped him find one and put it on hold. Then he found one on the shelf to read. After me scooping up three more books for him in passing (I’m incorrigible!), he proudly used his own library card to check out the stack of books. While I checked out my stack, he politely and helpfully held the door open for exiting patrons. I made it halfway to the door before I grabbed another book for me and had to go and check out another book.

I’m glad my little bookworm did not fall far from the tree.

Currently reading:

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brusker Bradley

Tarnished City by Vic James

Just Checked Out:

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

A night of peace and quiet? Nope!

Last night, I finally got my daylight savings time (and generally sleep resistant) son into bed, reasonably settled down, and perhaps actually drifting off to sleep. I had finished work for the day and thought I could feed the cats and sit down for some hard earned relaxation and peace and quiet. Maybe a grown-up discussion? Perhaps watching some of the shows on our overcrowded DVR before it explodes and strews bits of random TV writer ideas all over the living room? Oh, it’s the season finale “This Is Us” tonight, that’ll be good. Just as I started to sit down…

“Blah-blargh-blarf!” The cat threw up in her food dish. “Blurg-blarf!” And in the other cat’s food dish for good measure!

Just as I flung my center of balance around to lurch from almost sitting to almost standing…

“NOSEBLEED!!!!!” shrieked my son, as he fled his room for washcloths and ice water in the bathroom, crimson rivulets running down his arm and droplets flying spottily behind him.

My husband ran for the cats and the paper towels and the mop; I ran for the boy. While he mopped the floor, checked on the cat, cleaned the cat dishes, and changed the blood spattered bed sheets, I spent twenty minutes in constantly rotating cold washcloths and rinsing blood out of used ones, all while trying to keep a 7 year old from jumping up and looking in the mirror and wandering around. I used my leg as a door blocker and to nudge him back to a sitting position whenever he tried to escape since my hands were continuously swapping and rinsing. After countless cries of “Hold still! Moving around will make the bleeding worse!”

the nosebleed slowed…

and trickled…
and stopped.

At which point it was an hour past bedtime and two and half hours past dinner, and someone needed a snack. Which had to be eaten sitting on the kitchen floor because snacks in bed “make too many crumbs and wake me up at night.” Then I started back at the beginning to get him back in bed, with my usual nighttime litany: no, get UNDER the covers, STAY LYING DOWN!, close your eyes, close your eyes, where did your pajamas go?, lie down!, no leave the cat alone, she’ll climb on your bed if she wants to, close your eyes, get back under the covers, no more stories, it’s way past bedtime – he settled down into drowsiness once again, and I wandered, defeated and free of all free time dreams (and of all free time), into my room and collapsed onto the bed.

My last drowsy thought?

This will make a great slice.

Nerdy bookishness

I have seen a number of slices on books in the last few days. (Yay, books!) This feels slightly like cheating. If I had known I could slice about books, I probably would have been doing that every day, all along. My secret dream job is to be able to read and write about books all day long. The problem with real jobs is that you have to read, edit, review, etc. whatever books that other people tell you to read, and where is the fun in that? (Although, given that my career as an English teacher is predicated on the fact that I tell other people what books they have to read, I realize that makes me kind of hypocritical.)

Anyway, all of this has me thinking about books. Well, I pretty much always think about books, so now I am just thinking about books more in terms of explaining my bookishness to other people.

When people find out that I am a reader (or even that I am an English teacher), they tend to ask me what my favorite book is. I long ago realized that this, for me at least, is an unanswerable question, so I am inclined to say “whatever I am reading now” or “whatever I am reading next” to make them go away and stop distracting me from reading. This annoys teenaged students a great deal though. They are genuinely curious about what I read, and why I read. Some of them even want me to tell them about the books that I am reading.

Now, of course, I am an experienced enough teacher to recognize a delaying tactic when I see one, yet, sometimes I see a genuine interest from my students. (Pro tip: If they ask you at the beginning of lunch instead of when you are handing out a test, they really want to know. 😉) As a result, I have ended up with a different question circling my mind, one that might be more relevant to what students and others are actually trying to ask, but cannot quite articulate: why do I read? What is it about reading that makes it something I want to do? In a country where researchers say the the average number of books read by American adults per year is 12 (I’ve already read 13 since January 1) and 26% of American adults have not read a book in full or in part in the past year, the fact that I am a reader is an anomaly, and asking why is a valid question.

I cannot answer that question either.

You might as well ask me why I breathe.

I read because I cannot not read. I don’t function. If I get busy and don’t read for a day, I get cranky and mean-spirited and stressed out and unhappy.  I don’t think I can live without books. I certainly am incapable of imagining trying to live without books. Just typing that sentence made my stomach knot up and I got anxious. Possibly this means that I am a book addict. If I twitch at the thought of having nothing to read, do I have a problem?

If I am reading, I will forget to eat.

I will forget to sleep.

I fall so far into a book that I do not hear anything that is going on around me.

Not even someone standing behind me,

shouting my name.

(I thought I had outgrown that, but my husband says no.)

I am not hiding from the world. I am very fond of the world. I am not reading with an agenda. I learn a ton from what I read, and I think even more about ideas that bloom from my reading, but that is not my driving purpose. I am a sucker for a challenge, especially if it has boxes that I can check off (Type A, OCD heaven!), but I cannot manage reading challenges. I do not want to read a book just because the title contains an anagram of my mother’s maiden name or because the cover is lilac, or because it is one that I always thought I should read, but did not. I simply do not function that way. If a book looks interesting, I will read it. I don’t have a list of criteria for what makes an interesting book though, much to the chagrin of anyone who actually tries to buy me a book.  If a book speaks to me, then I will read it. Some speak quietly, whispering sinuously in my ear. Others waft words from far away until I track them down. Some jump up and  down on the shelves, waving their arms and screaming “READ ME!” at the top of their little book lungs. There’s no rhyme nor reason to it. When it is right, I know, and then I read the book.

I read because it is the core of who I am, the central kernel of my personality.

I love it.

There’s no other way to explain it.



The Amazing Bubble-Man

Today, we had our first day of full-fledged spring weather. The sky was blue, the temperature was 65 degrees, and it was sunny all day, which is reasonably rare in Portland at this time of year. My son stopped in shock every time he saw the color splash of crocuses, overwhelmed with surprise (as he is every year) that they grow anyplace other than our yard. (Note to child: They grow EVERYWHERE. Every year.) We had tickets this morning for us and our son’s best friend to go see The Amazing Bubble-Man, and it was. Amazing, that is. Giant bubbles. Bubbles that enclosed an entire kid. Bubbles that enclosed TWO entire kids. Bubbles that shot like rockets. Bubbles filled with helium. Bubbles filled with stage smoke, that created the illusion of them popping in slow motion. Bubbles that shot smoke like volcanoes and bubbles that spun out inverted tornadoes. 6 foot tall bubble caterpillars and children with bubble helmets, bubble crowns, and bubble antennae. It was magnificent. Of course, there were also bubble souvenirs. 😉 We came home, and the boys practiced with their new bubble supplies, and in between scooter rides around the block, made plans for a bubble show of their own. I broke out the slotted spoons and straws, and we used them for making bubbles too. (I learned from the show that anything with a hole can be used to make bubbles “because of science.”) My son spilled grape-scented bubble solution down the front steps, so the entry to our house smells purple. The kitten got away and hid from the scary bubbles. It was magnificent. And yes, there was daylight savings time, and two hyper boys who were too excited to eat, and the work that I really should have finished on Friday, but who cares? I dare you to have a bad day when it begins – and continues- filled with bubbles.