Saturday, October 26, 2013

Day Off

It was an odd week. The whole week was "off" in that we only had students for two days. The district-wide parent conference day was on Tuesday. Then, we had a staff development day on Thursday, and Friday was the official celebration of Nevada statehood and so all schools in the state were closed for the day.

Tuesday meant that I sat and held conversations with 20 of my 24 parents--the others were held on different mornings or after school to accommodate parent schedules. Each conference is very intense. I didn't realize, until I became the teacher, how intimidated many parents are when they come into your classroom. School has been a life-long positive event for me: as a student, as a parent, and now as a teacher. But, many people have had a far different emotional experience with school. So, a parent conference is a balancing act between reassuring adults that I'm actually a kind, caring person who is  partnered with them in helping their child succeed, and in being the authority figure who insists that their child accept responsibility for his/her own education and quit being a pain in the classroom. By the end of that very long day (it lasts from 8:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M.) I was done...wiped out...exhausted. I went home and fell into bed.

For Wednesday, we learned about how Nevada became a state---Battle Born is our motto. Lincoln needed this new state for three reasons:  the votes from a Union supporting territory to ensure re-election; additional Congressional votes for the 13th ammendment battle; and the silver from the enormous Comstock Lode to support the war effort. [maybe a myth....] So, statehood was pushed through as quickly as possible and Nevada became #36 on October 31, 1864. But modern life has moved the celebration to the fourth Friday every October and so we get a day off from the grind. After we read and learned a little about the why, I passed out something to do that everyone was delighted to work on and they eagerly partnered up and put their little heads together and stayed on-task for the rest of the class period. What is this academic wonder? A word search of the cities of Nevada, with a color-by-number state flag on the reverse side. I realize that word searches are universally condemned by curriculum gurus, but students LOVE doing them. Actually, I mostly worked with the last group of people who were typing their final draft of an elaborate paper we'd been writing for a week, and I needed all those who were finished to be engaged independently. Then, they could take their paper home and tell their parents all about Nevada statehood day.

Thursday: teacher meetings. We generally have well-planned and useful staff development meetings, so I won't complain. And they are legislatively mandated, so I know why we have them. And, seriously, there must be time to plan and talk to the other adults in the building, or we tend to just focus on our own routines. It's just that it is hard to sit all day when our job usually entails a lot more action. One of my co-workers pointed out that the true value of staff developments days was to show teachers how it is to be a student:  Sitting all day with someone up there talking at you. helps us to teach our students in a more active and involved way.

Friday! Even though I had to set my alarm for the same time because I'd scheduled an early doctor appointment, it was just exciting to know that I was going to get to do what I wanted to all day. After the doctor appointment, I searched out a place that cleans oriental rugs and reassured myself that they would do a good job for the very large amount of money it will cost to clean my beautiful, but filthy, rug. Then, I found the location of the yoga studio where I am going today to start a beginner class and found where I can park. (It's a tricky part of town.) Then, I went to the Cowtown Boots store, and (finally) found a pair of new boots that my revised feet can fit into comfortably. It was a sad, sad day when I realized that my repaired feet could not fit into my dear, dear cowboy boots who had been my constant companions for more than 20 years. They'd been re-soled and re-heeled, and I loved wearing them. But...sadly, the feet are different. It was an interesting experience at the store since it is just a short taxi ride from the Strip: I was one of the few English speaking customers there. Most of the other shoppers were exclaiming over their new boots in Portuguese or German or French or some other language I didn't recognize. Apparently, buying cowboy boots is a uniquely American experience.

Then, after I scrubbed the kitchen floor and did a lot of laundry and had a little nap with Kit-Kat---we got on the motorcycle and drove down to the Crazy Part of Town and ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. CoolGuy was craving their hot-wings. It's fun to dip into some of the iconic Vegas-y parts of life now and then. This is definitely one of them. It is an anthropological event to watch people in this city.

The best part, though, was the motorcycle ride. Beautiful night, fabulous weather, new boots, wind in my face. It's weird that I like it, in view of the fact that usually I am too afraid to do things like roller coasters and skiing--both of which involve speed and sense of impending doom. But, somehow, I still just love riding the motorcycle. I think it because of my confidence in CoolGuy's driving skills. He's learned to be very vigilant and drive offensively (not even defensively) and I think that here, especially, that is a good concept. The weather is going to be excellent for riding for the next seven months and we'll be out there on the road.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Alone in the Grocery Store

I went to the store late this afternoon. It's Saturday, I needed a few things, and I like this one store that has a lot of produce that is specifically for people who cook authentic Mexican food. So, there were a fair number of mothers shopping with their kids. I noticed the carts with a little one sitting in the seat, with a cluster of "helpers" milling around as the mom toiled up and down the aisles. Occasionally, one of the littler ones would perch on the side or front of the cart for a ride. The "big" sister ---maybe eight years old---would help get some of the cans or boxes that mom needed, and also help to wrangle one or both of the little brothers that would wander off or start running around. One of these groups had the little brother looking over his shoulder as he tried to run off, and he ran right into the back of me. I turned and laughed as I helped him up. The mom looked appalled and my smile helped calm her down. But we didn't share a language so I couldn't tell her that--"Don't worry---been there! Done that!"

I was that lady with the three or four or five kids accompanying me to the market. I sometimes got two carts--one to corral kids and one for the groceries. I actually left a grocery store once (it only took once) when someone was pitching a fit about something and I took everyone home. Later, I had to go back, but I waited until CoolGuy was home so I could go alone. One memorable day, I was waiting to pay at the check out when the woman in line behind me asked, "Are these all your kids?" (and I think I only had four at that time) I replied, "Yes." And apparently my youthful appearance in my late twenties made her assume something because she countered with, "Well! I hope you're married!" The clerk and I exchanged astonished looks and I don't even know what I said to the lady. But later, I thought up a great answer:  [Said with laughter and a toss of my hair] "Oh, heck no! If I was married to any of their daddies, I couldn't get my county checks!"  Yeah...

So, to the ladies in the grocery store with your small or large group of children: don't even sweat it. Just teach them to try and have good manners while walking around with you. It is truly one of the most boring things you have to do with your poor, frazzled mother. At least I didn't have to go shopping after spending a long day at a low-paying job like I suspect some of the women I saw today were doing. My day with my children was my low-paying job! (low-paying if you only count money) Just spend time with your kids where ever you can. Let them learn the realities of where that food comes from that they gobble down every day. Have them help you figure out the best price and look for the sales and the coupons. Let them practice their reading by finding things on the shelf for you.

But, just know that these days of cooking and shopping and feeding your children will come to an end. And it will be sad. Someday, you, too will be all alone in the grocery store, buying just three bananas because the fourth would get brown before you got it eaten. You too, will be cooking only for two people (if you're lucky) or just one. Enjoy those frantic days of motherhood, or at least don't hate them. They'll be over before you know it and you will be the one looking at the busy mothers in amusement and empathy, and just a little bit of nostalgic envy.
   Five kids---eight years

Monday, October 07, 2013

Weekend Nuptials

What a fun trip! It was pleasant all the way out there, and all the way back, and everything in between. CoolGuy is a good person to fly with--we cashed in his frequent flyer miles and we traveled in first-class. That is a very nice way to fly all the way across the country. I recommend it.

I also recommend New England in October. It was very beautiful! The autumn leaves were about halfway turned, and every now and then there'd be a group of trees that turn absolutely fluorescent orange--they glowed! There are beautiful old houses everywhere, with lovely landscaping and brick walls, and superb old barns that were surrounded by rolling verdant pastures speckled with picturesque cattle. Each little community is so traditional, with the brick buildings and little businesses lining the main street. It was almost like a series of calendar photos.

But, you didn't click into this website to see autumn leaf photos, did you??   How about this topic:
Is this more what you were hoping to learn about?
Yes, the wedding!! It was just wonderful. Everyone was there who needed to be there--both bride AND groom. He flew into Boston from Japan/Guam on Friday evening and we all met up at a nice Irish Pub restaurant. The parents, the best friends, some brothers and sisters of both the bride and the groom were all there, laughing, talking, eating.
Then, the next afternoon, we rendezvoused at the bride's home, where that photo was taken on the deck, among others. Then, we went to a nearby town, where the wedding and reception were to take place and had some more photos taken. The location for the following pictures was an historic mansion in that town, and we had permission to use it for photography. (There was another wedding being prepared inside the mansion as we were taking pictures outside.)
Here is the lovely couple with the groom's parents. The bride was going for a '40's look, to complement the groom's dress blues. She rocked it...The professional photog got a great shot of them replicating that famous scene of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square.

Here are both sets of parents. We moms are both teachers, so we hit it right off.

This is the best man (also older brother) and the Life of the Reception Party (older sister.)

They dated at baseball games the summer they met. Notice the groom's his other hand is a baseball glove.

Remember that this wedding was held in the greater Boston area. And that the Red Sox are in the playoffs. And there was a game that very night. At the bar section of the reception hall, there was a flat screen T.V. playing the game during the reception. The guests were grateful. Even the bride occasionally went over to check out the progress of the game. In fact, midway into the reception, the DJ played Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" and we all stood and sang for 7th inning stretch. (No, I didn't know a thing about baseball/Red Sox before this event. I learned from serious fans.)
This is a little hard to see, but it is the "guest book." They made "baseball cards" with their important stats: their birthdays, and the date of the wedding. Then, each guest was to sign one side and leave a sentiment, and on the reverse side, draw a picture or whatever. These "guest cards" were then put into the binder you see lying on the table at the bottom of the picture, which was a baseball card collector notebook, complete with plastic sleeves for each card. Too cute!

Here is the box into which you put the gift cards.
Here is the concession could just go choose some candy.
When you came in the door, you looked for your "tickets" and then went to the table you were directed to, with the team name.
We were seated at the Baltimore table (appropriately) and we met some very fine friends of the bride at our table, and enjoyed a pleasant evening of chatting and eating. We had hors d'ouvres before the ceremony and then sat down for a meal of pasta and salad and other stuff after the wedding.

The centerpieces were peanuts and baseballs---official Major League balls, too. The napkins were made by a dear older friend of the bride, from baseball printed fabric. The bride and her friends had a lot of fun decorating the reception hall!! I had the newlyweds sign a baseball for me the next day, as my souvenir.
The bride and groom sat here to eat, but most of the night, they were on the dance floor having a wonderful time. Once the DJ played some music from "Grease" and-- since the bride had directed all her friends in this musical in college--the whole bunch of them grabbed the mic and sang along in beautiful harmony.

Party's's time to call it a day. Time for everyone to gather up their things, and head for some sleep. We'd had a tremendously joyous celebration. The bride and the groom had finally reunited in the same hemisphere and we'd had a WEDDING!! Yeah!! A good time was truly had by all--especially the energetic Older Sister who owned that dance floor! 

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Goin' to the Chapel and They're Gonna Get Married

Actually the wedding will be held at the VFW Hall, but ---[trumpet fanfare] They ARE going to get married. At last! Finally! The sea has surrendered the sailor to the shore. This wedding has had a couple of other dates when it was scheduled, only to have the plans changed by the demands of submarine life reality.

So, we're heading off to Massachusetts tomorrow. We'll be joined by another son and another daughter and we'll join those East Coasters for a grand celebration. I met the bride a year and a half ago when I went out there to see our two sons. One lives in Baltimore, and the other son was attending submarine training school in Connecticut. When I went up to New England, I was given a superb tour of the Freedom Trail in Boston, by my son's then-girlfriend who has lived her entire life in that part of Massachusetts.

Not only was the tour around Boston one of my life goals, but she was a delight! I thought to myself, "Hmmm, I hope he has enough sense to marry her." And when he got his orders in October that sent him to Guam and his first boat, he did show a lot of good sense and bought her an engagement ring. So, now, at last, several months after they'd planned it, the wedding is going to occur.

I'm delighted for both of them. We anticipate a wonderful weekend. We met her parents last winter when they visited Las Vegas, and we're in agreement that our children have chosen a fine life partner!  What more could you want?

This was at a family "meet the fiance and say farewell to the sailor" when they came west a year ago before he left for Guam.
We were on the way to the airport. He went west....really far west until it was almost east. She went east back to Massachusetts. We knew that this weekend would eventually come, but it has been a long year!