Friday, March 16, 2018

Ready to Go - Slice of Life Challenge, Day #16

March 26, 2018

I titled today's post "Ready to Go" ironically.

I'm not ready to go anywhere.

Today is Day #2 of parent-teacher conferences and we don't have to be there until 11 AM, which is heavenly, so I'm taking my time. I was able to get up AFTER the sun! I hand fed my dog (he has a weird thing where he randomly decides the only way he wants to eat on certain days is by hand). I made a pot of coffee.

I forgot to turn it on.

No biggie - weird - but I have time. So I turned it on - thankful I at least didn't ruin the coffee somehow like I did last week. Still don't know what happened there.

Pretty soon I'll need to start getting ready, because I'm acutely aware that I tend to run late on days when I have the most time.

But I'm not ready to go yet, and I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Conference Night - Slice of Life Challenge, Day #15

March 15, 2018

Tonight was conferences, and the end of a long day. So long, in fact, that when parents come in at 7:30 and tell me how nice it was outside, I can't remember when I was last outside (12 hours ago). It was, by all accounts, a lovely day.

I always dread conferences, because the day is so long - this round we had a half day until 11:40, then lunch, then worked until 3, at which point conferences began until 8 - and I worry about what I will say and what parents will do.

At the end of the night, however, I'm always pleasantly surprised by the parents that show up, discuss their children honestly (I love when they recognize the behaviors I'm seeing in class), and share their concerns with me. I think I've been lucky in my career, and perhaps since I was in a different role in the past it affects my perspective, but I usually leave conferences feeling that my students are pretty lucky. I definitely have had parents that need a lot of attention and have concerns or complaints, and not all my students come from perfect homes, by any means. Some have it really hard. But I'm really thankful for those that show up every fall and again in spring.

Let's see if I'm feeling the same way after day 2 tomorrow! Hopefully, I will!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Dogs and Neighbors - Slice of Life Challenge, March 14, 2018

March 14, 2018

I am generally not a great neighbor. I live alone with my dog, and, while I try to be friendly, I'm not super outgoing. I've chatted with the grown daughter of the neighbor to the right of me, had a little conversation with a neighbor across the street, and occasionally smile if I pass others. But I don't know them, and they don't know me.

To be fair, none of them have made an effort, either. I would help them out if I could.

In any case, a few weeks ago, I was about to go for a run and the woman who lives to my left was coming back from a walk with her dog. The dog started barking and yipping at me and wouldn't move along with her. Since I was waiting for them to pass, the dog wanted to see me, and I knew it wasn't really a scary dog, I asked if it was a nice dog.

My neighbor said "Yes, but we're trying to get her to stop jumping up on people." We exchanged a few more pleasantries about dogs and then she went along and I went on my run.

Now, these neighbors have lived to my left for maybe 2 years now. It's a young couple, but they've really kept to themselves and so have I. I noticed when they got their dog, some sort of Staffordshire terrier or pit bull mix, because I have a clear view to their backyard from my TV room. My dog also noticed it. Recently, they've also had a doberman around, so I asked her if they got another dog. They didn't; they were watching it for a friend.

This was a few weeks ago. Today, I let my dog out and heard a deep-throated bark. My dog couldn't really figure out where it came from, as he's recovering from a middle ear infection and he's a bit off. All of a sudden I heard a voice.

It was the husband of the woman I had talked to a few weeks ago.

"She knows he's here, but he doesn't seem to notice her." (He was referring to his dog and my dog).

Then he double-checked the gender of my dog, to be sure. I told him Arlo was a boy but that he had been sick recently, so his bark was quiet and he was a bit off, still. He mentioned his dog had been sick, too. They took her to a doggie daycare for the weekend, and she was having stomach issues since then. She's on medicine now. We talked a little about the different reasons dogs get stomach issues and then I went inside, wishing him a good night.

This isn't a bit story, a life-changing story, or really that notable, in general. The reason I'm writing is to just take a moment to recognize the role my dog (and a lot of our pets) play in our lives - helping start a relationship, break the ice, maybe introduce some neighbors to each other. I've never talked to my neighbors before, but I love dogs, and so do they. It's a good start to being a better neighbor.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A confession (that includes Doritos) - Slice of Life Challenge, Day #13

March 13, 2018

In my post yesterday, I wrote about having a "case of the Mondays." Well, today, I'm going to write about the ramifications of my mood.

I AM one of those people that eat when I get stressed or feel down. I think it goes back to my very strict healthy upbringing until I was about 13 (otherwise known as "when mom went back to work"). When I was growing up, my lunch was always some sort of grainy Adele Davis bread and natural peanut butter sandwich (maybe with cream cheese), homemade cookies (usually chocolate chip - and very, very hard and thick - probably made with whole wheat), an apple, and a juice drink, like Capri Sun. Every day, unless it was something special for hot lunch.

We weren't allowed dessert any time except after Sunday Dinner at my Grandma's. My Grandma was the BEST cook and baker, so it was divine. Even just her mashed potatoes were famous in our family. The other time we got sweets (on non-holidays) was every Saturday when we had to drive an hour both ways to go to violin group lessons. We studied Suzuki method and had to go to Wheaton College to take Saturday lessons, so we had to get up early, and never got to watch Saturday cartoons. To appease me, my parents would let me get one candy bar from the college store.

So I associated sweets with a reward for dealing with something I hated (violin lessons) and also my grandma (who I miss every day).

Cut to yesterday - I had a trying day at work. I went out and bought myself McDonald's for lunch, even though I had a salad to eat in the lounge refrigerator. (But I didn't have soda, so I feel good about that).

Then I went to visit a friend, who lives near a Dairy Queen, and...

One chocolate dipped cone, please!

Then I got home and didn't feel like cooking or having something big, so....

Many bowlfuls of Doritos sound good!

But then I needed some protein, so....

Let's add some pretzels filled with peanut butter!

And tomorrow is recycling, so...

I'd better have the one glass of red left,  so I can recycle that bottle!

Oh, also, I have some black and white cookies from the store! Gotta end on a sweet note!

About midnight, I woke up.

Heartburn. Stomachache.

Chiding myself for my poor food choices, I drank some water and ate about 4 Tums.

In the morning, I felt slightly nauseous until I drank a lot of water and had some yogurt. Ate that salad for lunch. Had more yogurt. (Did have some chocolate during my plan, though). Ran 3 miles just barely.

Hopefully, this confession will serve as a record of my poor choices, so I don't make the mistake of eating Doritos for dinner EVER AGAIN!

Monday, March 12, 2018

A case of the Mondays - Slice of Life Challenge, Day #12

March 12, 2018

I have a case of the Mondays today. I'm just going to accept it. It started when I allowed my students some extra time on Chromebooks this morning and they still complained (one near melted down) when they had to put them away. 

A coworker of mine comes in to work with specific students during my reading time. From the beginning of the year, she has mentioned the lack of urgency of my students when moving from the rug to their desks, or getting out a journal. And she noted it again today.

I set a timer for them. I give points for the first students who follow directions. I remind them verbally of what they need and expectations. Still, we're in March, and they have no sense of urgency when given directions. It is frustrating, to say the least.

In fact, what they do is start conversations, walk over to their friends, break pencils, and tell me they've brought something to share with the class.

Each one of them seems to think they are the only student in the class, as evidenced by papers stuck in my face when I'm in the middle of a conversation. Or that they're the teacher in the class, as evidenced by the students who created their own version of my "Behavior Think Sheets," which they renamed "How I Acted."

It's humorous to an extent. It was recommended to me that I read books that have the theme of empathy for read aloud, since they seem to be lacking in that area. It breaks my heart when they laugh at the part that is supposed to develop empathy.

So I have a case of the Mondays. It wasn't even that bad. I just wish I spent more time teaching today than I did trying to make sure no one hurt each other, offended or hurt feelings, melted down, refused to work, or just stay in their seat during work time (and when I say "stay in their seat," I just mean in their working area and not coming up to tell me every they can't work because the person across from them was breathing too loud).

Let's just hope it doesn't become a case of the Tuesdays tomorrow. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Of skunks, squirrels, and cardinals - Slice of Life Challenge, Day 11

March 11, 2018

I have a bird feeder in my backyard. It's hanging from one of those double-hooked iron stakes, about 4 feet above the ground. This winter, I didn't keep up with it so much, because I was COLD. I've secretly felt guilty about not supporting birds through the cold months, so finally, about a week ago, I filled it up with some of the sunflower seed I have in the garage.

Needless to say, I've welcomed more than birds into my yard.

The past few years, we've had somewhat of a skunk boom in my area. The last few winters were rather warm (for Chicago) and fools like me seem to be supplying them food, so the population has expanded. This is a fact. My village has put out announcements about the problem and what they can do about it (basically, just rehome skunks and wait for more to move in to the old homes, I guess).

Also in the last few years, specifically two years, to be exact, I adopted a dog, Arlo Guthrie (I gave him the name, and it works). He is a mix of many types of terrier, beagle, Pomeranian and poodle, though he looks mostly like a schnoodle. The result is a sweet, fluffy dog who hates all sort of rodent and loves to bark. He is particularly good at finding skunks in my yard. He's been skunked 3-4 times since I've had him. NEVER AGAIN, I SAY!

Over the winter, I've not had to worry about the skunks because they aren't so active. I've been wondering when my brief reprieve would end.

Last night, I went out with a friend and came home about midnight. I was feeling pretty tired and since DST starts today, I wanted to get to bed right away, so I just left the dog leash on Arlo (I had picked him up from my mom's, who watches him if I'm away for a long time). It was the best decision I've made in a while.

When I opened the back door, he sort of rushed out, definitely tracking something. I had the light on, but didn't see any rabbits, which have been visiting every night the past week. He barked a weak bark at something. I stood still by the door, hoping he'd just wet quickly so we could go in, when I saw movement in the corner of the yard.

Movement taller than a bunny.

A fluffy tail.

With two colors.

Black and white.

A skunk!

By the bird feeder.

I bolted back inside, almost dragging my poor dog with me. You see, the skunk's tail was lifted, which means it has detected a possible danger. Danger = spraying.

Relieved that I had caught the skunk before it caught us, I tried to shine a flashlight on it through the window, to encourage it to leave. Nope. It likes the sunflower seeds. Great.

Back to my bird feeder this morning - as I just opened the blinds, I noticed I'm attracting way more than the lovely red cardinals I had planned on attracting. They're there, all right. But they're having to hover, while a posse of at least three squirrels just canvases the area, sits on top of the iron hooks, picks up the seeds that fall, and generally steals the bird seed. Oh, wait - now there are 4. It's sort of amusing watching the one on the iron hook slowly slide down as he stretches to reach the bird feeder with his front paws and hold on to the iron with his feet.

Not that amusing. Maybe the bird feeder needs to be relocated...

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A night - er, morning - at the theatre Pt. 2 - Slice of Life Challenge, Day #10

March 10, 2018

One of the fabulous things about being me (that's a joke, folks!) is that I have connections. Well, one connection. To local theatre. Mostly musicals. Anyway...

My best friend has been a working actor (pretty much nonstop) for almost the past 20 years. She performs in musicals in the area, has been on a couple TV shows, and is about to direct her first show. I'm super excited about that. In any case,  one of the perks of knowing a working actor who has been around for so long is that you get offers for free tickets to shows. I've seen so many musicals and plays for free over the years, I can't even count. Tonight, I'm going to see a show with her because her friend is in it. So I get to benefit even when she's not in a show. It's awesome.

Last week, she texted me to find out if I wanted tickets to the new children's show she is in, "The Emperor's New Clothes." She knows I am clothes with my nieces and nephews and offered us some tickets. When I called my sister, she asked my nephew, and he was up for it.

My nephew is five years old. He is very energetic (to say the least), smart, and hilarious. He's the kind of kid that says "Hello!" to everyone he sees (More like, "Hello, Worker Man!" to be honest). That is rare, especially in my family, because we are pretty stranger averse folks. This kid is not that way. He is rambunctious, silly, and sometimes a handful. And this was his first show.

I was excited to take him, but a little worried that he would be bored. We left plenty early (8:45 AM!) and I got a treat of munchkins from Dunkin' Donuts, because that's what I do - bring treats! He had some toys and books in the car to look through, but apparently, was hoping for more.

"Do you have any Dr. Seuss books?" he asked, when he saw I had put some Golden Books in the backseat. (It's a pretty long ride to the theatre from his house).

"Nope, did you want some? Sorry!" I said.

"Becki, do you know WHY I asked for Dr. Seuss books?" They all call me Becki, because that's what my family calls me - not many folks do these days.

Now, being a teacher, I had inside information. I knew that the day before was Dr. Seuss's birthday.

"Ummm, yes, because yesterday was Dr. Seuss's birthday?"

"Yeah! How did you know?" He was stunned.

As we continued to drive, we had bits of conversation here and there. He asked a lot of "What if" questions about random things. He was working in a Solar System sticker book, and then he asks:

"What planet is next to Neptune?"

I thought. "I think it's Uranus."

I kid you not, his response was, "Becki, why is there a black line around Uranus?"

I cracked up. He had no idea. I even asked if he was being serious, cause he likes to push buttons. He was. I said I'd have to look at the picture when we stopped.

We got to the theatre early, walked around a bit, got our tickets, and sat down. It's sometimes so nice to be at a kids' show or movie when you realize the whole audience will be talking the whole time and the child you brought (most likely) won't be standing out if they get antsy.

The show began and he did a great job watching it. He moved a bit, sitting on my lap halfway
through the show (because the seats kept closing on his legs). A bit of talking, but nothing crazy. And no wanting to get up and leave, even when the actors answered questions after the show.

We waited for my friend by the stage door to say "Thank you" and I texted my sister while we were waiting. She asked for a picture of my nephew and me or my nephew and my friend. I tried to get a picture with him but he was done - kept moving out of the camera. So I said "Your mom wants a picture of you and me or you and Johanna." He chose my friend.

Sure enough, when she came out, he posed for a lovely picture with her. Then he wanted to show her a pond we found on our walk outside. So we did that, then got in the car to drive home.

As we pulled up into his driveway, he said to me, "Becki, I had a lot of fun!"

Another win for the crazy aunt!