Friday, March 27, 2015

on substitute teaching and time travel

coming home from my first day of kindergarten
field day!
over-under with my matching shades and scrunchie and my bestie behind me
my third grade teacher, Mrs. Brown, was one of my favorites
fourth grade I think?
after 5th grade graduation



So... I mentioned that I've done a little substitute teaching lately... Did I mention how much I love it?  I just told Ben that I want to become a professional substitute.  Maybe once they catch on to how amazing I am they'll double the pay and then that might be feasible.  But honestly I'd pretty much do it for free because it's that fun for me.  (And honestly they've already caught on to how amazing I am.)

My very first day could not have been more perfect.  I took a job at my own elementary school; I ended up being assigned to cover third, fourth, and fifth grades, in three blocks.  The way the schedules were arranged I ended up having six different classes, so I met a lot of kids that morning.  And I happen to really like kids, so I really liked them all.  Or most.  There was the one kid who spun his computer around until it came unplugged and insisted he typed better with his keyboard in a vertical position.  (Luckily I'm accustomed to dealing with technology shenanigans since I'm currently raising my second three year old.)

Some of the kids were pretty funny; this one fifth grader, a black boy who already had about a foot on me in height, was asking me, "Are you from the 90s?  Were the 90s cool?  What music did you listen to?  What did you watch on tv?"  After a good class conversation on those topics, I tried to get him to hone in on finishing his work and he said, "I just really like talking to you.  You seem like a really good and cool person."  Gee, thanks -- right back at ya!, I told him.

Just being in that school building again, for the first time in so many years-- it was like a time machine.  Ben and I read this weird novel a while back, Time and Again, actually I didn't even read the whole thing because I just found it so ridiculous and storyless... basically these people would go into an old building dressed in period clothing and just act old fashioned by smoking a pipe or eating gruel or whatever and somehow they would travel back in time for real.  I don't know, like I said I didn't even read the whole book, but the point is, I almost want to check it out from the library again because that's almost like what I experienced.  Dudes, I traveled back in time.

I got to sit in on part of a music class with my elementary school music teacher, and she remembered me and I hugged her and when I left to cover my next class I sang, "Goodbye, everyone," and they sang, "Goodbye, Mrs. Burgess!"  (The music teacher got married back when I was in elementary school and became Mrs. Burgess and now I'm Mrs. Burgess and it was just crazy.)

I touched the worn wooden doors to the wardrobes where I hung my coat and backpack every single day.  I hadn't thought about those coat hanging areas probably since I left fifth grade and moved on to the much more sophisticated world of lockers.  And standing there in the same spot some twenty years later, a flood of moments rushed my mind; I was my eight year old self again.

I went through the backstage door at the top of a wheelchair ramp which used to be a set of steps and out onto the stage and looked out over the empty gymnasium and I was transported -- to my kindergarten play, my fifth grade play, the roller skating dances, basketball gym class.  The time travel sensation was so real it took my breath away.

Oh, and to cap off the first day: there were boxes of withdrawn library books in the computer lab and I scored some serious gems, including Encyclopedia Brown #6, a book I most definitely borrowed myself back in the day.  There are still cards in the books -- the public library has done away with them and I had all but forgotten how we used to write our names in the spaces and give them to the librarian to file away after she'd stamped the card pocket with the book's due date.

My next day was with sixth graders at my old middle school.  I traveled the hallways a little; I went up the brick-lined stairwell to my class.   Before I left I went into the auditorium and onto the stage and played a little ditty on the marimba.  I felt almost like I would time travel again, but the conditions we're quite right.  I think I realize now that it's not enough to survey a room; transcending time requires you to stand in just the right spot, your conscious halfway between the present moment and a daydream.

One day I covered for first grade where my niece goes to school and got to have lunch and recess with her.  That was the day a first grader complimented my hairstyle and I realized, This six year old is the only person who has ever complimented my hairstyle.  I think I belong here.  Another day I did elementary school music where I sang songs and played the recorder, and during my "lunch" I had a solo jam on the xylophone.  I was so awesome that they keep calling to try to get me back.

My most recent gig was as middle school gym coach, in my old stomping grounds at Reid.  Down the steps, into the locker room-- I was time traveling again, to those awkward days of training bras and first periods and changing clothes for gym.  And then I got to spend the day playing badminton with seventh and eighth graders.  Seriously, what could be more fun than that?  How could you possibly beat making a living playing middle school PE class badminton?  It was so fun, I was genuinely disappointed that Ben got called into work and I couldn't go back the next day.  I was so ready to take some more kids down on the court.

But honestly, as much fun as I had, I love being home with my own kiddos even more.  Today (day before yesterday now because that's how it goes with getting things finished around here) was like the first day of spring (despite the foot of snow still covering the ground!)  Ben was off working so I was home, and we were out walking and riding and playing in puddles and it was good to be in the sun!  I made a periscope with Bob; I had a dance party in the kitchen with Owen; I snuggled my baby to sleep for her nap.  I gave them all a bath after they got good and muddy.  I read poetry by A.A. Milne aloud to the boys.  I kissed hurt spots and hugged away sad feelings.  I encouraged my littles to work out their disagreements together.  I took deep breaths when my patience was tested.  I tenderly changed dirty diapers and underwear.  I've totally loved my teaching experience, but home is definitely where I feel most needed these days, and I am totally happy with that.

Now for some photos from our first two days of spring, which were wet and muddy for sure.  At first Maisy was content in my arms and in the stroller, but then she was doing the dive and crawling off the picnic blanket (first picnic of the year!)... I ended up putting her in an old snow suit of the boys' so that she too could get down in the mud.  This girl is going to have quite a summer trying to keep up with her brothers!

Happy weekend, happy spring!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

february.

January took a bit of a nasty turn on us at the very end -- some kind of bug which I'm guessing originated with the boys licking chip crumbs off the tray tables on our flight home from California and ended with rough times around here.  I had plans for a friend meet-up and I was not going to let a little puking stand in my way again, so Maisy and I headed off for New York and had a great time catching up with the college crew.  (Except that the bug did catch up with me, on the drive home.  Picture yours truly throwing up on the side of the off ramp at one AM in the middle of nowhere.  Margaret, I will not be needing the recipe after all because that soup is ruined for me.)
February was a good slow cold cozy month -- a nice change of pace and needed family staycation.  It was a lot of the same on repeat... some days spent at home hibernating indoors and never changing out of our pajamas, other days venturing out to the library and the grocery store or a stray appointment, or sometimes playing out in the snow but to be honest not all that much because Feb's temps were a hard sell for the little boys and the parents that have to dress them.

Here's regular old everyday February, in photos (a lot of them, just to warn you) and words (which may or may not make sense because this post was written in about forty five separate sittings and proofreading has gone out the window and I'm running on less than optimal sleep and I think maybe a part of my brain is frozen.)

Snow, snow, cold, cold, and Owen is not a fan.  He bundles up like an Eskimo to go out and then cries because his mitten hands can't hold onto anything very well.
 I'm pretty much glad the bottom half of this already ridiculous outfit is cropped out.
 Maisy loves to go outside more than any of us; here she's all bundled and cute and ready for action.
It's funny because last winter I was pregnant and could not stop eating snow and this winter -- meh, don't even care.  But I love this shot of Pupper's little tongue licking up some crystals mid-climb.
Back inside, we warm up with hot cocoa and a little art.  Maisy loves to hang at the table with the guys.  This little seat has been great, but it gets really nasty with food mush... I think we need something easier to clean!
 Owen is usually up for any sort of table activity...
Bob is often a harder sell.  But when I'm determined I'll declare art time and coax them to the table with mini marshmallows floating in warm chocolatey milk, and let them choose their mediums, and once Bob gets started he tends to zone right in with determination that outmatches mine.
 This one particular day Bob did dot markers and Owen did watercolors, and then they swapped.  Bonus points for the daily double!
Owen focused in on his scissor skills; Bob developed his brush technique painting circles, of various colors no less!
 Triple bath time is now a thing -- pretty much Maisy's favorite thing ever.
On the really cold days, the bundling and unbundling of three kids takes more time than we actually spend outside, hence all the February days we spent in our pajamas without leaving the house. This right here sums up a lot...
On the days when the sunshine is sufficiently beckoning, though, we do have a good time.  Ben shovels the snow into paths and forts and slides, which the boys enjoy or ignore on their whims.  I carry Loutie around in the Ergo or plop her down into a little snow seat or pull her in a little sled; she loves outside time almost as much as bath time.
Can you tell I love her just a little bit?  I could hold her for a million years.  And how do you like that mother-daughter infinity scarf wrapup?
Snow land would be amazingly fun if it was just a place to go, and it wasn't your real life that you have to live every day for five months.
But even I have to admit, it sure is beautiful when the sun comes out.
I don't think the photos are doing justice to the snow features Ben has created... We've got a path leading to the main igloo complete with two slides at the back entrances, and a spiraling path which leads to a smaller igloo at the center, and most recently we had a tubing track coming off the front porch and swooping around into the big fort.  (After the weekend rain, I think we're in for some repairs.  Or better yet, spring come on down!)
Some inside days include fort building, of course -- a classic staple of childhood which brings great joy to recreate as an adult.  A fitted sheet stretched over the backs of the couches is easy to build, hard to mess up, and doubles as a little person hammock.  We're all about fun around here.
Private puzzle time has made the number two business much more tolerable for O.
Also helpful is company from baby sister, and she just so happens to love a chance to menace around in the bathroom.

It took months, but we finally filled the marble jar!
Once in while I'll send Bob up to greet Maisy when she wakes from her nap, to keep her company until I get there.  Sometimes I find them snuggling, sometimes Bob can't resist the urge for a little photo shoot.  I know the feeling, bud.
We've been trying to hang out with these two most weekends.  Isn't my little bro a cutie pie in his new glasses?
Maisy has a favorite book from the library -- Where is the Baby (by Cheryl Christian).  She loves for everyone to read it to her and it's totally sweet how she looks eagerly at your face and then at the page and then back and back again, so excited to see the babies under the flaps.
We rearranged our living room furniture in February.  It's funny how just moving some things across the room can make them more interesting.  These three, they play so nicely together most of the time.  I'm so thankful for their sibling love.
I already mentioned how much this Maisy girl loves her baths.  When she catches the bathroom door open she makes a break for it and, after a little menacing of the potty and the toilet paper stash, she pats the side of the tub eagerly like, "How about a bath, please!?"
We did a little rearranging of furniture upstairs as well -- replaced the crib in the boys' room with a reading corner and moved the crib into our room to recreate the superbed.
Owen's super serious Jedi face.
One day, we parents weren't getting on the lunch making quickly enough so Bob took matters into his own hands.
Another day playing outside with James and Bailey...
At the end of the month we went out for lunch to celebrate Ben's and Cass's birthdays and this was one of those good times.  Sometimes after eating out I get serious buyer's remorse -- we spent way too much money and it wasn't even that great -- but not so this time.  Hops & Vines in Williamstown had great food, great beer selection (I had a Glassbottom Tea-SB), great service, great atmosphere.  We happened to end up there at 2:30 on a Tuesday; I was super pleased that they were even open.  On weekend evenings I see that the place is packed; on this day it was empty, which was perfect since we brought all the kiddos.  I let Owen try a sip of my beer and when I wouldn't give him more he cried, "But it was so gooooood."

So, that was February in a nutshell.  Like, a really big nutshell.  March has been busier -- more friend time (my big resolution, remember?), some nights away, and I've started doing some substitute teaching.  That there is some good stuff which I'll have to come back to.  But for now, I'm outta here.  Hope your February was spectacular, and I hope your March is too.  Tell me: do you think spring will really come again this year?

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