Saturday, September 27, 2008

One of the Greatest Stories Ever

My husband shared a story with me today when we heard that Paul Newman had passed away.  A guy with whom my husband attended a training seminar told the story of how (years before) he and his wife had heard that Paul Newman was in a small northern town filming a movie.  They drove north to the town hoping to catch a glimpse of the actor, but he was nowhere to be found.  

On the way home, they stopped at a small cafe, and the wife went in to get two ice cream cones.  She purchased them at the counter and turned around and was face to face with none other than Paul Newman.  He signed an autograph for her, and she went back out to the car all excited to tell her husband about meeting Paul Newman.  After listening to the story, the husband asked what had happened to the ice cream.  In all the excitement, she couldn't remember what she had done with it, so she went back into the restaurant.  Once inside, she again saw Paul Newman who asked her, "Are you looking for your ice cream? . . . It's in your purse."  


Sunday, September 21, 2008

My Biggest Fan

I took the kids to Sunday School today. The other team teacher showed up today to teach my group. I had tried unsuccessfully to contact her this week to get a schedule together, but she showed up today and wanted to teach, so I explained it to the kids and went to service.

This whole deal made me late, and I got a seat in the back row just as service was starting. Nearly an hour later, when it was almost over, I looked out the doors right behind me, and there was my Isabelle clutching a coloring sheet and looking around. An older girl about 11 or 12 had seen her wandering and had followed her down the hall to the church. When she saw me, she smiled and ran and gave me a big hug and asked if I could please teach next week. I walked her back to the classroom and saw the other teacher, and we put together a schedule where we would each teach every other week. The other teacher was a bit cool toward me, so I'm not sure what the kids said to her or why Isabelle was able to leave and wander around this huge church campus by herself. Anyway, the schedule is set now, and Isabelle and I are both happy that we will be able to spend time together next Sunday.

And I wondered as I gave her another hug goodbye if we were meant to cross paths for a reason. I certainly needed the feeling of "being needed" today. And she seems to feel some sort of connection to me. She started out being my biggest challenge, but I'm thinking that she will end up being one of my biggest rewards.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Canary in a Coalmine

"First to fall over when the atmosphere is less than perfect. Your sensibilities are shaken by the slightest defect. You live your life like a canary in a coalmine. You get so dizzy even walking in a straight line." "Canary in a Coalmine" by The Police

This is how I feel today.

I'm spending more and more time at home; and the more time I spend here, the more I just want to stay inside away from everything and everyone. This is not like me at all. I was always one to go places - even if I was alone.

When I got married, I moved away from all my family and friends and didn't have a job. I would get all dressed up and go to a mall just to interact with people. Needless to say, you meet a ton of freaks this way, but at least they were interesting.

When I was home on maternity leave with my son, it was the dead of winter. I would wait for the mailman and then run out and talk to him just to have someone to talk to. I'm sure he thought I was a complete nut job.

So, when I just want to be home staring at the walls, it is a bit disconcerting. Hopefully, this is just a passing "blue funk" and I'm not becoming some weird hermit who sits in a corner and eats her own hair.

I'll check back in when I'm feeling more social . . .

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sunny Days

This week my son had his first visit with the school principal because he was having a hard time keeping his hands to himself and sitting still and listening to the teacher. I don't know what the principal told him at their meeting, but he has been completely reprogrammed into a sweet, mild-mannered, well-behaved kid . . . at school anyway. I will have to call and talk to the principal about it because: a) I need to know her secret to dealing with this problem behavior; and b) I would like to ask her if she can move in with us so he will be better behaved at home. Whatever she did, it certainly can't be as bad as my grade school principal and her ear pulling and hairbrush. Catholic school was harsh. Kind of like the television show "Survivor" with nuns.

My son's kindergarten class has now adopted a new "classroom behavior philosophy" and a "classroom management plan". The plan is based on weather symbols: sunny, partly cloudy and rainy. Each child begins with a sunny card in a pocket chart. If behavior expectations are not met, the first consequence is a verbal reminder from the teacher.

The second consequence is that the sunny card is removed and replaced with a party cloudy card. The behavioral expectation is stated, and if the child's behavior again meets expectations, the sunny card is put back in the pocket.

The third consequence is that the partly cloudy card is removed and replaced with a rainy card. Behavioral expectation is restated and "think time" is given. A note is sent home or a phone call is made. If the behavior improves, the teacher puts the sunny card back in the pocket.

The fourth consequence is that the rainy card is removed and the child conferences with administration and a phone call home is made. If the behavior improves, the sunny card will again be put back in the pocket.

Whatever your child's behavior was that day, a "sunshine ticket", "partly cloudy ticket" or a "rainy ticket" will be sent home in their folder. We are supposed to give praise for a good day or encouragement for a difficult day.

This sounds like a good system to me. However, I think the best part is that the teacher has also decided that the kids need to work together to reward positive individual and class behavior. If the entire class stays on a "sunshine ticket", they earn a "link". When they have 10 "links", they get a reward like "game day" or "free choice time".

My son is so psyched about this, he is almost killing himself to be good so he gets a sunshine ticket each day. So far, he's gotten a sunshine ticket two days in a row. He doesn't want to let his class down. He's cool like that.

The only bad thing about it is that he is working so hard to be good at school, when he gets home, he has a complete meltdown. Living in this house is kind of like being on a wild rollercoaster ride that just never ends.

I've got no choice but to hang onto the rollercoaster and hope and pray for sunny days.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

In the Beginning . . .

There was a woman who thought she would try her hand at being a Sunday School teacher . . .  

I arrived at Sunday School today feeling very prepared.  I had the Theme.  I had the Lesson Plan.  I had the coloring pages and snacks and activities.  Out of eight children, four showed up today.  A little smiling girl was there before my son and I arrived.  She had short hair and was in a t-shirt and jeans.  She told me all about herself.  Another girl arrived.  This one was a little fashion plate wearing pink leggings with lace under her dress and a hairband and bracelet that matched.  She had big brown eyes and a head full of wildly curly hair.  The last student was a little boy with white blonde hair, and he decided that he didn't want to talk today.  

As I introduced myself, my son would step forward and point at me and say, "She's MY Mom" very proudly.  He is very happy that I am his Sunday School teacher this year.  

The lesson was "God made everything."  We went over the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest.  We played counting games.  We colored pictures.  We danced.  We played a game about the four seasons.  

The little girl with short hair is named Isabelle.  Isabelle makes my son look quiet and well-behaved.  She is a wild thing.  Every other minute, I was having to say, "Isabelle, that is NOT okay."  "Isabelle, use your 'inside' voice."  "Isabelle, please stop drawing on your clothes with crayons."  "Isabelle, please don't step on the animal crackers."  

She calmed down as the class went on, and I could see her looking at me out of the corner of her eye.  I asked her what her favorite thing was that God created, and she said "flowers in a garden."  So, I got her busy "creating" an imaginary flower garden.  She was very happy to be doing this.  

The little boy who wouldn't talk was very captivated by my son who talks constantly.  My son got him involved in coloring and then rolling up the coloring sheets like a telescope and playing pirates.  

The little fashion plate girl was watching people out the room's window and commenting on things she saw that were "pretty".  

Finally, the hour had passed, and the parents came to pick them up.  Isabelle came up to me and said, "You're very nice.  You don't look like you're nice, but you are."  Then she gave me a big hug and ran to her older sister.  I considered that to be mighty high praise from Miss Isabelle.  I think we'll get along just fine now that she has decided that I am, indeed, a nice person.  

I returned the little fashion plate to her Mom, and the little boy who doesn't speak to his Dad.  

I survived the first day.  I'm glad there were just four kids today, I don't know that I could've handled seven AND Isabelle.  I did enjoy teaching today.  It should be a very interesting nine months with these little ones.  

"And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."  Genesis 1:31

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And So It Begins . . .

The fourth day of kindergarten, my son's teacher emailed me that my son was having trouble keeping his hands to himself and listening.  He had a meeting with the school guidance counselor because he was rough with another child at recess.  His teacher had three "chats" with him this morning.  And she emailed me for my "thoughts" on the matter.  

My thoughts actually consist of a plan to gas up my van, hit the highway and keep driving until I "disappear".  However, since that is not an option at this point in time, I explained what I had put on the school's intake form and her class questionnaire - the kid does not transition well.  When he feels out of control of his environment, he acts up.  She wanted to give him the consequence of having to miss recess when he misbehaves, and I agreed.  I also tried to solicit any ideas for helping him learn to control his aggression, but she didn't have any.  She doesn't want the other children to start avoiding him because he is trouble.  Her heart is in the right place.  

His misbehavior continued into the afternoon.  He refused to line up after recess.  His teacher asked him what happened to his "listening ears".  He told her that "the electricity went out."  He also went on to explain that he "called the man to come fix the electricity, but he hadn't come yet."  

And someday, far in the future, this will all be worth it when I watch him doing comedy routines on television.  

I'd love to tell you that I didn't expect this to happen, but the kid comes by it honestly.  I've got three nuns and a Czechoslovakian lunch lady (who once chased me around the school cafeteria with a wooden spoon screaming "You no damn good!" and swearing in Czechoslovakian) who would testify that the apple does not fall far from the tree.  

It's going to be a long school year.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Debate Team

It has been a bad morning in this household.  The kind of bad morning that leaves me drinking gallons of coffee and searching the cupboards for anything chocolate.  

It started right away when both kids woke up crabby.  There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over having to eat scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast.  There was even more wailing and weeping over their wardrobe.  Their mother hasn't gotten all the back-to-school purchases washed and ready yet.  "Why didn't you get that done?" screamed my son.  "I can't wear anything I've worn before!" screamed the daughter.  "Fine.  Go naked." replied their harried mother.  They did end up finding suitable clothing though the son changed shirts a couple of times.  

This was followed by arguments over which TV show to watch.  I shut off the TV.  Then there was a fight over some toys in the bedroom.  And then the daughter wanted to wear flip-flops and the son refused to wear a coat.  It is 44-degrees outside this morning.  We debated about what would make sense for awhile.  (I just never learn.)  This ended with my daughter telling me that there wouldn't be any problems if I would just drive them to school instead of making them take the bus.  I resisted the urge to scream like a banshee.  My son did decide to wear a sweatshirt, but my daughter clung to her flip-flops in defiance.  

The bus has picked them up.  No doubt they are hitting and picking on each other all the way to school.  I feel bad about unleashing them on an unsuspecting world today.  I doubt that the day is going to go by without some sort of phone call/email about someone's behavior.  

I'm going to my happy place now.  

Friday, September 5, 2008

Letting Go

"I'm sad to see a new horizon slowly coming into view." Lyrics from "For the Love of You" by Hil St. Soul

My baby started kindergarten today. I've dreaded this day for at least five and a half years now.

He started his day off in winning form. He refused to wear the new red polo shirt I bought him (the very one he wanted when we were at the store). He refused to wear a different polo shirt, and he finally settled on a too-small old t-shirt with a picture of a motorcycle on it. He picked on his sister and pushed her down on the sidewalk causing her to cry because her new skirt now had dirt on it. My husband and I stood at the bus stop with them and gave hugs and kisses goodbye. If my son was nervous, he didn't show it. He walked right up onto the bus and never looked back.

I had fought back tears all morning. My neighbor came up to me after the bus left, and we chatted for awhile. I did some yard work. I came in the house and helped my husband get ready for a trip. I sat and drank coffee and read the newspaper uninterrupted. Every once in awhile, I'd stop and pick up a truck or a toy sword off the floor, and felt a pang of sadness that my little guy wasn't hanging around me asking to go to the park or play a game or read a book. I always thought I needed to do more things with him one-on-one, but in reality, we did quite a bit together.

I had volunteered to help the kindergarteners in the cafeteria at lunchtime. My little guy saw me all the way across the cafeteria and gave me a huge smile and waive. I am so happy that I helped out today. Quite a few of these little ones were scared stiff. Several were in tears. They had no idea how to put in their lunch code, how to take silverware or napkins, and they didn't know where to sit or where anything was. I watched my son sitting with his best friend - who happens to be in the same class - eating his pizza dippers. He was chatting up a storm. He even engaged the principal in conversation about the food. I helped the kids take their trays to a cart, empty them and put the silverware and trays in a stack. One little boy dumped the contents of his tray on my right shoe. My shoe will probably smell like pears for awhile. One little girl walked up to me and said she was done and pointed to her tray on the table. I told her she had to bring it up to the cart, and she looked at me in complete surprise. She brought the tray up to me and held it out and smiled. I had to show her how to do the whole process. (I feel very sorry for whoever her maid is.) Several of the little ones knew me from my son's preschool, and they seemed relieved to see a familiar face.

My son went out to the playground without ever saying goodbye to me. I thought about how he is the complete opposite of his sister. I could only go eat lunch with my daughter a couple of times a year because she would cry and put up a fuss when I would leave. I thought about how independent he has always been. He took his first few steps toward me, and then he's walked away from me ever since. I watched him on the playground for a minute and then went to sign out at the office and leave. He was fine.

Now I'm hanging out at home, putting on music and dancing around just because I can. No one is here. There are still pangs of sadness, but there's a feeling of freedom too. I had looked forward to this time. Finally, time to clean out closets, cupboards, basement, etc. However, now I find myself as busy as ever with volunteering at the school. I've even taken training to be (gasp) a Sunday School teacher at our church. I can just see several of you falling off your chairs as you read this. I know, it's an odd vocation for someone who is as fond of the F-word as myself, but I think I may have a lot to learn from these little ones (I'm teaching the kindergarten-age kids).

And right now, I'm hanging around waiting for the time when the bus comes and brings my kids back. I've got eyes as dry as marshmallows and a headache from crying this morning. I could run errands, but I've decided to stay in the house today. You know, the school might call me for some reason . . .